Lucie was to be married to-morrow. She had reserved this lastevening for her father, and they sat alone under the plane-tree.
"You are happy, my dear father?"
"Quite, my child."
They had said little, though they had been there a long time. Whenit was yet light enough to work and read, she had neither engagedherself in her usual work, nor had she read to him. She had employedherself in both ways, at his side under the tree, many and many atime; but, this time was not quite like any other, and nothing couldmake it so.
"And I am very happy to-night, dear father. I am deeply happy in thelove that Heaven has so blessed- my love for Charles, and Charles'slove for me. But, if my life were not to be still consecrated toyou, or if my marriage were so arranged as that it would part us, evenby the length of a few of these streets, I should be more unhappyand self-reproachful now than I can tell you. Even as it is--"
Even as it was, she could not command her voice.
In the sad moonlight, she clasped him by the neck, and laid her faceupon his breast. In the moonlight which is always sad, as the light ofthe sun itself is- as the light called human life is- at its comingand its going.
"Dearest dear! Can you tell me, this last time, that you feel quite,quite sure, no new affections of mine, and no new duties of mine, willever interpose between us? I know it well, but do you know it? In yourown heart, do you feel quite certain?"
Her father answered, with a cheerful firmness of conviction he couldscarcely have assumed, "Quite sure, my darling! More than that," headded, as he tenderly kissed her: "my future is far brighter, Lucie,seen through your marriage, than it could have been- nay, than it everwas- without it."
"If I could hope that, my father!--"
"Believe it, love! Indeed it is so. Consider how natural and howplain it is, my dear, that it should be so. You, devoted and young,cannot fully appreciate the anxiety I have felt that your lifeshould not be wasted--"
She moved her hand towards his lips, but he took it in his, andrepeated the word.
"-wasted, my child- should not be wasted, struck aside from thenatural order of things- for my sake. Your unselfishness cannotentirely comprehend how much my mind has gone on this; but, only askyourself, how could my happiness be perfect, while yours wasincomplete?"
"If I had never seen Charles, my father, I should have been quitehappy with you."
He smiled at her unconscious admission that she would have beenunhappy without Charles, having seen him; and replied:
"My child, you did see him, and it is Charles. If it had not beenCharles, it would have been another. Or, if it had been no other, Ishould have been the cause, and then the dark part of my life wouldhave cast its shadow beyond myself, and would have fallen on you."
It was the first time, except at the trial, of her ever hearinghim refer to the period of his suffering. It gave her a strange andnew sensation while his words were in her ears; and she rememberedit long afterwards.
"See!" said the Doctor of Beauvais, raising his hand towards themoon. "I have looked at her from my prison-window, when I could notbear her fight. I have looked at her when it has been such tortureto me to think of her shining upon what I had lost, that I have beatenmy head against my prison-walls. I have looked at her, in a state sodull and lethargic, that I have thought of nothing but the number ofhorizontal lines I could draw across her at the full, and the numberof perpendicular lines with which I could intersect them." He added inhis inward and pondering manner, as he looked at the moon, "It wastwenty either way, I remember, and the twentieth was difficult tosqueeze in."
The strange thrill with which she heard him go back to that time,deepened as he dwelt upon it; but, there was nothing to shock her inthe manner of his reference. He only seemed to contrast his presentcheerfulness and felicity with the dire endurance that was over.
"I have looked at her, speculating thousands of times upon theunborn child from whom I had been rent. Whether it was alive.Whether it had been born alive, or the poor mother's shock hadkilled it. Whether it was a son who would some day avenge hisfather. (There was a time in my imprisonment, when my desire forvengeance was unbearable.) Whether it was a son who would never knowhis father's story; who might even live to weigh the possibility ofhis father's having disappeared of his own will and act. Whether itwas a daughter who would grow to be a woman."
She drew closer to him, and kissed his cheek and his hand.
"I have pictured my daughter, to myself, as perfectly forgetful ofme- rather, altogether ignorant of me, and unconscious of me. I havecast up the years of her age, year after year. I have seen her marriedto a man who knew nothing of my fate. I have altogether perishedfrom the remembrance of the living, and in the next generation myplace was a blank."
"My father! Even to hear that you had such thoughts of a daughterwho never existed, strikes to my heart as if I had been that child."
"You, Lucie? It is out of the consolation and restoration you havebrought to me, that these remembrances arise, and pass between usand the moon on this last night.- What did I say just now?"
"She knew nothing of you. She cared nothing for you."
"So! But on other moonlight nights, when the sadness and the silencehave touched me in a different way- have affected me with something aslike a sorrowful sense of peace, as any emotion that had pain forits foundations could- I have imagined her as coming to me in my cell,and leading me out into the freedom beyond the fortress. I have seenher image in the moonlight often, as I now see you; except that Inever held her in my arms; it stood between the little grated windowand the door. But, you understand that that not the child I amspeaking of?"
"The figure was not; the- the- image; the fancy?"
"No. That was another thing. It stood before my disturbed sense ofsight, but it never moved. The phantom that my mind pursued, wasanother and more real child. Of her outward appearance I know nomore than that she was like her mother. The other had that likenesstoo- as you have- but was not the same. Can you follow me, Lucie?Hardly, I think? I doubt you must have been a solitary prisoner tounderstand these perplexed distinctions."
His collected and calm manner could not prevent her blood fromrunning cold, as he thus tried to anatomise his old condition.
"In that more peaceful state, I have imagined her, in the moonlight,coming to me and taking me out to show me that the home of her marriedlife was full of her loving remembrance of her lost father. My picturewas in her room, and I was in her prayers. Her life was active,cheerful, useful; but my poor history pervaded it all."
"I was that child, my father, I was not half so good, but in my lovethat was I."
"And she showed me her children," said the Doctor of Beauvais,"and they had heard of me, and had been taught to pity me. When theypassed a prison of the State, they kept far from its frowning walls,and looked up at its bars, and spoke in whispers. She could neverdeliver me; I imagined that she always brought me back after showingme such things. But then, blessed with the relief of tears, I fellupon my knees, and blessed her."
"I am that child, I hope, my father. O my dear, my dear, will youbless me as fervently to-morrow?"
"Lucie, I recall these old troubles in the reason that I haveto-night for loving you better than words can tell, and thanking Godfor my great happiness. My thoughts, when they were wildest, neverrose near the happiness that I have known with you, and that we havebefore us."
He embraced her, solemnly commended her to Heaven, and humblythanked Heaven for having bestowed her on him. By-and-bye, they wentinto the house.
There was no one bidden to the marriage but Mr. Lorry; there waseven to be no bridesmaid but the gaunt Miss Pross. The marriage was tomake no change in their place of residence; they had been able toextend it, by taking to themselves the upper rooms formerlybelonging to the apocryphal invisible lodger, and they desired nothingmore.
Doctor Manette was very cheerful at the little supper. They wereonly three at table, and Miss Pross made the third. He regrettedthat Charles was not there; was more than half disposed to object tothe loving little plot that kept him away; and drank to himaffectionately.
So, the time came for him to bid Lucie good night, and theyseparated. But, in the stillness of the third hour of the morning,Lucie came downstairs again, and stole into his room; not free fromunshaped fears, beforehand.
All things, however, were in their places; all was quiet; and he layasleep, his white hair picturesque on the untroubled pillow, and hishands lying quiet on the coverlet. She put her needless candle inthe shadow at a distance, crept up to his bed, and put her lips tohis; then, leaned over him, and looked at him.
Into his handsome face, the bitter waters of captivity had worn;but, he covered up their tracks with a determination so strong, thathe held the mastery of them even in his sleep. A more remarkableface in its quiet, resolute, and guarded struggle with an unseenassailant, was not to be beheld in all the wide dominions of sleep,that night.
She timidly laid her hand on his dear breast, and put up a prayerthat she might ever be as true to him as her love aspired to be, andas his sorrows deserved. Then, she withdrew her hand, and kissed hislips once more, and went away. So, the sunrise came, and the shadowsof the leaves of the plane-tree moved upon his face, as softly asher lips had moved in praying for him.