He watched his opportunity of taking Darnay aside into a window, andof speaking to him when no one overheard.
"Mr. Darnay," said Carton, "I wish we might be friends."
"We are already friends, I hope."
"You are good enough to say so, as a fashion of speech; but, I don'tmean any fashion of speech. Indeed, when I say I wish we might befriends, I scarcely mean quite that, either."
Charles Darnay- as was natural- asked him, in all good-humour andgood-fellowship, what he did mean?
"Upon my life," said Carton, smiling, "I find that easier tocomprehend in my own mind, than to convey to yours. However, let metry. You remember a certain famous occasion when I was more drunkthan- than usual?"
"I remember a certain famous occasion when you forced me toconfess that you had been drinking."
"I remember it too. The curse of those occasions is heavy upon me,for I always remember them. I hope it may be taken into account oneday, when all days are at an end for me! Don't be alarmed; I am notgoing to preach."
"I am not at all alarmed. Earnestness in you, is anything butalarming to me."
"Ah!" said Carton, with a careless wave of his hand, as if hewaved that away. "On the drunken occasion in question (one of alarge number, as you know), I was insufferable about liking you, andnot liking you. I wish you would forget it."
"I forgot it long ago."
"Fashion of speech again! But, Mr. Darnay, oblivion is not so easyto me, as you represent it to be to you. I have by no meansforgotten it, and a light answer does not help me to forget it."
"If it was a light answer," returned Darnay, "I beg your forgivenessfor it. I had no other object than to turn a slight thing, which, tomy surprise, seems to trouble you too much, aside. I declare to you,on the faith of a gentleman, that I have long dismissed it from mymind. Good Heaven, what was there to dismiss! Have I had nothingmore important to remember, in the great service you rendered methat day?"
"As to the great service," said Carton, "I am bound to avow toyou, when you speak of it in that way, that it was mere professionalclaptrap, I don't know that I cared what became of you, when Irendered it. Mind! I say when I rendered it; I am speaking of thepast."
"You make light of the obligation," returned Darnay, "but I will notquarrel with your light answer."
"Genuine truth, Mr. Darnay, trust me! I have gone aside from mypurpose; I was speaking about our being friends. Now, you know me; youknow I am incapable of all the higher and better flights of men. Ifyou doubt it, ask Stryver, and he'll tell you so."
"I prefer to form my own opinion, without the aid of his."
"Well! At any rate you know me as a dissolute dog, who has neverdone any good, and never will."
"I don't know that you 'never will.'"
"But I do, and you must take my word for it. Well! If you couldendure to have such a worthless fellow, and a fellow of suchindifferent reputation, coming and going at odd times, I should askthat I might be permitted to come and go as a privileged personhere; that I might be regarded as an useless (and I would add, if itwere not for the resemblance I detected between you and me, anunornamental) piece of furniture, tolerated for its old service, andtaken no notice of. I doubt if I should abuse the permission. It isa hundred to one if I should avail myself of it four times in ayear. It would satisfy me, I dare say, to know that I had it."
"Will you try?"
"That is another way of saying that I am placed on the footing Ihave indicated. I thank you, Darnay. I may use that freedom withyour name?"
"I think so, Carton, by this time."
They shook hands upon it, and Sydney turned away. Within a minuteafterwards, he was, to all outward appearance, as unsubstantial asever.
When he was gone, and in the course of an evening passed with MissPross, the Doctor, and Mr. Lorry, Charles Darnay made some mentionof this conversation in general terms, and spoke of Sydney Carton as aproblem of carelessness and recklessness. He spoke of him, in short,not bitterly or meaning to bear hard upon him, but as anybody mightwho saw him as he showed himself.
He had no idea that this could dwell in the thoughts of his fairyoung wife; but, when he afterwards joined her in their own rooms,he found her waiting for him with the old pretty lifting of theforehead strongly marked.
"We are thoughtful to-night!" said Darnay, drawing his arm abouther.
"Yes, dearest Charles," with her hands on his breast, and theinquiring and attentive expression fixed upon him; "we are ratherthoughtful tonight, for we have something on our mind to-night."
"What is it, my Lucie?"
"Will you promise not to press one question on me, if I beg younot to ask it?"
"Will I promise? What will I not promise to my Love?"
What, indeed, with his hand putting aside the golden hair from thecheek, and his other hand against the heart that beat for him!
"I think, Charles, poor Mr. Carton deserves more consideration andrespect than you expressed for him to-night."
"Indeed, my own? Why so?"
"That is what you are not to ask me. But I think- I know- he does."
"If you know it, it is enough. What would you have me do, my Life?"
"I would ask you, dearest, to be very generous with him always,and very lenient on his faults when he is not by. I would ask you tobelieve that he has a heart he very, very seldom reveals, and thatthere are deep wounds in it. My dear, I have seen it bleeding."
"It is a painful reflection to me," said Charles Darnay, quiteastounded, "that I should have done him any wrong. I never thoughtthis of him."
"My husband, it is so. I fear he is not to be reclaimed; there isscarcely a hope that anything in his character or fortunes isreparable now. But, I am sure that he is capable of good things,gentle things, even magnanimous things."
She looked so beautiful in the purity of her faith in this lost man,that her husband could have looked at her as she was for hours.
"And, O my dearest Love!" she urged, clinging nearer to him,laying her head upon his breast, and raising her eyes to his,"remember how strong we are in our happiness, and how weak he is inhis misery!"
The supplication touched him home. "I will always remember it,dear Heart! I will remember it as long as I live."
He bent over the golden head, and put the rosy lips to his, andfolded her in his arms. If one forlorn wanderer then pacing the darkstreets, could have heard her innocent disclosure, and could have seenthe drops of pity kissed away by her husband from the soft blue eyesso loving of that husband, he might have cried to the night- and thewords would not have parted from his lips for the first time-
"God bless her for her sweet compassion!"