At first, there were times, though she was a perfectly happy youngwife, when her work would slowly fall from her hands, and her eyeswould be dimmed. For, there was something coming in the echoes,something light, afar off, and scarcely audible yet, that stirredher heart too much. Fluttering hopes and doubts- hopes, of a love asyet unknown to her: doubts, of her remaining upon earth, to enjoy thatnew delight-divided her breast. Among the echoes then, there wouldarise the sound of footsteps at her own early grave; and thoughts ofthe husband who would be left so desolate, and who would mourn for herso much, swelled to her eyes, and broke like waves.
That time passed, and her little Lucie lay on her bosom. Then, amongthe advancing echoes, there was the tread of her tiny feet and thesound of her prattling words. Let greater echoes resound as theywould, the young mother at the cradle side could always hear thosecoming. They came, and the shady house was sunny with a child's laugh,and the Divine friend of children, to whom in her trouble she hadconfided hers, seemed to take her child in his arms, as He took thechild of old, and made it a sacred joy to her.
Ever busily winding the golden thread that bound them alltogether, weaving the service of her happy influence through thetissue of all their lives, and making it predominate nowhere, Lucieheard in the echoes of years none but friendly and soothing sounds.Her husband's step was strong and prosperous among them; herfather's firm and equal. Lo, Miss Pross, in harness of string,awakening the echoes, as an unruly charger, whip-corrected, snortingand pawing the earth under the plane-tree in the garden!
Even when there were sounds of sorrow among the rest, they werenot harsh nor cruel. Even when golden hair, like her own, lay in ahalo on a pillow round the worn face of a little boy, and he said,with a radiant smile, "Dear papa and mamma, I am very sorry to leaveyou both, and to leave my pretty sister; but I am called, and I mustgo!" those were not tears all of agony that wetted his youngmother's cheek, as the spirit departed from her embrace that hadbeen entrusted to it. Suffer them and forbid them not. They see myFather's face. O Father, blessed words!
Thus, the rustling of an Angel's wings got blended with the otherechoes, and they were not wholly of earth, but had in them that breathof Heaven. Sighs of the winds that blew over a little garden-tomb weremingled with them also, and both were audible to Lucie, in a hushedmurmur-like the breathing of a summer sea asleep upon a sandy shore-as the little Lucie, comically studious at the task of the morning, ordressing a doll at her mother's footstool, chattered in the tongues ofthe Two Cities that were blended in her life.
The Echoes rarely answered to the actual tread of Sydney Carton.Some half-dozen times a year, at most, he claimed his privilege ofcoming in uninvited, and would sit among them through the evening,as he had once done often. He never came there heated with wine. Andone other thing regarding him was whispered in the echoes, which hasbeen whispered by all true echoes for ages and ages.
No man ever really loved a woman, lost her, and knew her with ablameless though an unchanged mind, when she was a wife and amother, but her children had a strange sympathy with him- aninstinctive delicacy of pity for him. What fine hidden sensibilitiesare touched in such a case, no echoes tell; but it is so, and it wasso here. Carton was the first stranger to whom little Lucie held outher chubby arms, and he kept his place with her as she grew. Thelittle boy had spoken of him, almost at the last. "Poor Carton! Kisshim for me!"
Mr. Stryver shouldered his way through the law, like some greatengine forcing itself through turbid water, and dragged his usefulfriend in his wake, like a boat towed astern. As the boat sofavoured is usually in a rough plight, and mostly under water, so,Sydney had a swamped life of it. But, easy and strong custom,unhappily so much easier and stronger in him than any stimulatingsense of desert or disgrace, made it the life he was to lead; and heno more thought of emerging from his state of lion's jackal, thanany real jackal may be supposed to think of rising to be a lion.Stryver was rich; had married a florid widow with property and threeboys, who had nothing particularly shining about them but the straighthair of their dumpling heads.
These three young gentlemen, Mr. Stryver, exuding patronage of themost offensive quality from every pore, had walked before him likethree sheep to the quiet corner in Soho, and had offered as pupilsto Lucie's husband: delicately saying "Halloa! here are three lumps ofbread-and-cheese towards your matrimonial picnic, Darnay!" Thepolite rejection of the three lumps of bread-and-cheese had quitebloated Mr. Stryver with indignation, which he afterwards turned toaccount in the training of the young gentlemen, by directing them tobeware of the pride of Beggars, like that tutor-fellow. He was also inthe habit of declaiming to Mrs. Stryver, over his full-bodied wine, onthe arts Mrs. Darnay had once put in practice to "catch" him, and onthe diamond-cut-diamond arts in himself, madam, which had rendered him"not to be caught." Some of his King's Bench familiars, who wereoccasionally parties to the full-bodied wine and the lie, excusedhim for the latter by saying that he had told it so often, that hebelieved it himself- which is surely such an incorrigibleaggravation of an originally bad offence, as to justify any suchoffender's being carried off to some suitably retired spot, andthere hanged out of the way.
These were among the echoes to which Lucie, sometimes pensive,sometimes amused and laughing, listened in the echoing corner, untilher little daughter was six years old. How near to her heart theechoes of her child's tread came, and those of her own dearfather's, always active and self-possessed, and those of her dearhusband's, need not be told. Nor, how the lightest echo of theirunited home, directed by herself with such a wise and elegant thriftthat it was more abundant than any waste, was music to her. Nor, howthere were echoes all about her, sweet in her ears, of the manytimes her father had told her that he found her more devoted to himmarried (if that could be) than single, and of the many times herhusband had said to her that no cares and duties seemed to divideher love for him or her help to him, and asked her "What is themagic secret, my darling, of your being everything to all of us, as ifthere were only one of us, yet never seeming to be hurried, or to havetoo much to do?"
But, there were other echoes, from a distance, that rumbledmenacingly in the corner all through this space of time. And it wasnow, about little Lucie's sixth birthday, that they began to have anawful sound, as of a great storm in France with a dreadful sea rising.
On a night in mid-July, one thousand seven hundred andeighty-nine, Mr. Lorry came in late, from Tellson's, and sat himselfdown by Lucie and her husband in the dark window. It was a hot, wildnight, and they were all three reminded of the old Sunday night whenthey had looked at the lightning from the same place.
"I began to think," said Mr. Lorry, pushing his brown wig back,"that I should have to pass the night at Tellson's. We have been sofun of business all day, that we have not known what to do first, orwhich way to turn. There is such an uneasiness in Paris, that wehave actually a run of confidence upon us! Our customers over there,seem not to be able to confide their property to us fast enough. Thereis positively a mania among some of them for sending it to England."
"That has a bad look," said Darnay.
"A bad look, you say, my dear Darnay? Yes, but we don't know whatreason there is in it. People are so unreasonable! Some of us atTellson's are getting old, and we really can't be troubled out ofthe ordinary course without due occasion."
"Stiff," said Darnay, "you know how gloomy and threatening the skyis."
"I know that, to be sure," assented Mr. Lorry, trying to persuadehimself that his sweet temper was soured, and that he grumbled, "but Iam determined to be peevish after my long day's botheration. Whereis Manette?"
"Here he is," said the Doctor, entering the dark room at the moment.
"I am quite glad you are at home; for these hurries andforebodings by which I have been surrounded all day long, have made menervous without reason. You are not going out, I hope?"
"No; I am going to play backgammon with you, if you like," saidthe Doctor.
"I don't think I do like, if I may speak my mind. I am not fit to bepitted against you to-night. Is the teaboard still there, Lucie? Ican't see."
"Of course, it has been kept for you."
"Thank ye, my dear. The precious child is safe in bed?"
"And sleeping soundly."
"That's right; all safe and well! I don't know why anything shouldbe otherwise than safe and well here, thank God; but I have been soput out all day, and I am not as young as I was! My tea, my dear!Thank ye. Now, come and take your place in the circle, and let ussit quiet, and hear the echoes about which you have your theory."
"Not a theory; it was a fancy."
"A fancy, then, my wise pet," said Mr. Lorry, patting her hand."They are very numerous and very loud, though, are they not? Only hearthem!
Headlong, mad, and dangerous footsteps to force their way intoanybody's life, footsteps not easily made clean again if oncestained red, the footsteps raging in Saint Antoine afar off, as thelittle circle sat in the dark London window.
Saint Antoine had been, that morning, a vast dusky mass ofscarecrows heaving to and fro, with frequent gleams of light above thebillowy heads, where steel blades and bayonets shone in the sun. Atremendous roar arose from the throat of Saint Antoine, and a forestof naked arms struggled in the air like shrivelled branches of treesin a winter wind: all the fingers convulsively clutching at everyweapon or semblance of a weapon that was thrown up from the depthsbelow, no matter how far off.
Who gave them out, whence they last came, where they began,through what agency they crookedly quivered and jerked, scores at atime, over the heads of the crowd, like a kind of lightning, no eye inthe throng could have told; but, muskets were being distributed- sowere cartridges, powder, and ball, bars of iron and wood, knives,axes, pikes, every weapon that distracted ingenuity could discoveror devise. People who could lay hold of nothing else, set themselveswith bleeding hands to force stones and bricks out of their placesin walls. Every pulse and heart in Saint Antoine was on high-feverstrain and at high-fever heat. Every living creature there held lifeas of no account, and was demented with a passionate readiness tosacrifice it.
As a whirlpool of boiling waters has a centre point, so, all thisraging circled round Defarge's wine-shop, and every human drop inthe caldron had a tendency to be sucked towards the vortex whereDefarge himself, already begrimed with gunpowder and sweat, issuedorders, issued arms, thrust this man back, dragged this man forward,disarmed one to arm another, laboured and strove in the thickest ofthe uproar.
"Keep near to me, Jacques Three," cried Defarge; "and do you,Jacques One and Two, separate and put yourselves at the head of asmany of these patriots as you can. Where is my wife?"
"Eh, well! Here you see me!" said madame, composed as ever, butnot knitting to-day. Madame's resolute right hand was occupied with anaxe, in place of the usual softer implements, and in her girdle were apistol and a cruel knife.
"Where do you go, my wife?"
"I go," said madame, "with you at present. You shall see me at thehead of women, by-and-bye."
"Come, then!" cried Defarge, in a resounding voice. "Patriots andfriends, we are ready! The Bastille!"
With a roar that sounded as if all the breath in France had beenshaped into the detested word, the living sea rose, wave on wave,depth on depth, and overflowed the city to that point. Alarm-bellsringing, drums beating, the sea raging and thundering on its newbeach, the attack begun.
Deep ditches, double drawbridge, massive stone walls, eight greattowers, cannon, muskets, fire and smoke. Through the fire andthrough the smoke- in the fire and in the smoke, for the sea casthim up against a cannon, and on the instant he became a cannonier-Defarge of the wineshop worked like a manful soldier, Two fiercehours.
Deep ditch, single drawbridge, massive stone walls, eight greattowers, cannon, muskets, fire and smoke. One drawbridge down! "Work,comrades all, work! Work, Jacques One, Jacques Two, Jacques OneThousand, Jacques Two Thousand, Jacques, Jacques Five-and-TwentyThousand; in the name of all the Angels or the Devils- which youprefer- work!" Thus Defarge of the wine-shop, still at his gun,which had long grown hot.
"To me, women!" cried madame his wife. "What! We can kill as well asthe men when the place is taken!" And to her, with a shrill thirstycry, trooping women variously armed, but all armed alike in hunger andrevenge.
Cannon, muskets, fire and smoke; but, still the deep ditch, thesingle drawbridge, the massive stone walls, and the eight greattowers. Slight displacements of the raging sea, made by the fallingwounded. Flashing weapons, blazing torches, smoking waggonloads of wetstraw, hard work at neighbouring barricades in all directions,shrieks, volleys, execrations, bravery without stint, boom smash andrattle, and the furious sounding of the living sea; but, still thedeep ditch, and the single drawbridge, and the massive stone walls,and the eight great towers, and still Defarge of the wine-shop athis gun, grown doubly hot by the service of Four fierce hours.
A white flag from within the fortress, and a parley- this dimlyperceptible through the raging storm, nothing audible in it-suddenly the sea rose immeasurably wider and higher, and swept Defargeof the wine-shop over the lowered drawbridge, past the massive stoneouter walls, in among the eight great towers surrendered!
So resistless was the force of the ocean bearing him on, that evento draw his breath or turn his head was as impracticable as if hehad been struggling in the surf at the South Sea, until he waslanded in the outer courtyard of the Bastille. There, against an angleof a wall, he made a struggle to look about him. Jacques Three wasnearly at his side; Madame Defarge, still heading some of her women,was visible in the inner distance, and her knife was in her hand.Everywhere was tumult, exultation, deafening and maniacalbewilderment, astounding noise, yet furious dumb-show.
"The secret cells!"
"The instruments of torture!"
Of all these cries, and ten thousand incoherences, "ThePrisoners!" was the cry most taken up by the sea that rushed in, as ifthere were an eternity of people, as well as of time and space. Whenthe foremost billows rolled past, bearing the prison officers withthem, and threatening them all with instant death if any secret nookremained undisclosed, Defarge laid his strong hand on the breast ofone of these men- a man with a grey head, who had a lighted torch inhis hand- separated him from the rest, and got him between himself andthe wall.
"Show me the North Tower!" said Defarge. "Quick!"
"I will faithfully," replied the man, "if you will come with me. Butthere is no one there."
"What is the meaning of One Hundred and Five, North Tower?" askedDefarge. "Quick!"
"The meaning, monsieur?"
"Does it mean a captive, or a place of captivity? Or do you meanthat shall strike you dead?"
"Kill him!" croaked Jacques Three, who had come close up.
"Monsieur, it is a cell."
"Show it me!"
"Pass this way, then."
Jacques Three, with his usual craving on him, and evidentlydisappointed by the dialogue taking a turn that did not seem topromise bloodshed, held by Defarge's arm as he held by theturnkey's. Their three heads had been close together during this briefdiscourse, and it had been as much as they could do to hear oneanother, even then: so tremendous was the noise of the living ocean,in its irruption into the Fortress, and its inundation of the courtsand passages and staircases. All around outside, too, it beat thewalls with a deep, hoarse roar, from which, occasionally, some partialshouts of tumult broke and leaped into the air like spray.
Through gloomy vaults where the light of day had never shone, pasthideous doors of dark dens and cages, down cavernous flights of steps,and again up steep rugged ascents of stone and brick, more like drywaterfalls than staircases, Defarge, the turnkey, and Jacques Three,linked hand and arm, went with all the speed they could make. Here andthere, especially at first, the inundation started on them and sweptby; but when they had done descending, and were winding and climbingup a tower, they were alone. Hemmed in here by the massive thicknessof walls and arches, the storm within the fortress and without wasonly audible to them in a dull, subdued way, as if the noise out ofwhich they had come had almost destroyed their sense of hearing.
The turnkey stopped at a low door, put a key in a clashing lock,swung the door slowly open, and said, as they all bent their heads andpassed in:
"One hundred and five, North Tower!"
There was a small, heavily-grated, unglazed window high in the wall,with a stone screen before it, so that the sky could be only seen bystooping low and looking up. There was a small chimney, heavily barredacross, a few feet within. There was a heap of old feathery wood-asheson the hearth. There was a stool, and table, and a straw bed. Therewere the four blackened walls, and a rusted iron ring in one of them.
"Pass that torch slowly along these walls, that I may see them,"said Defarge to the turnkey.
The man obeyed, and Defarge followed the light closely with hiseyes.
"Stop!- Look here, Jacques!"
"A. M.!" croaked Jacques Three, as he read greedily.
"Alexandre Manette," said Defarge in his ear, following theletters with his swart forefinger, deeply engrained with gunpowder."And here he wrote 'a poor physician.' And it was he, without doubt,who scratched a calendar on this stone. What is that in your hand? Acrowbar? Give it me!"
He had still the linstock of his gun in his own hand. He made asudden exchange of the two instruments, and turning on theworm-eaten stool and table, beat them to pieces in a few blows.
"Hold the light higher!" he said, wrathfully, to the turnkey."Look among those fragments with care, Jacques. And see! Here is myknife," throwing it to him; "rip open that bed, and search thestraw. Hold the light higher, you!"
With a menacing look at the turnkey he crawled upon the hearth, and,peering up the chimney, struck and prised at its sides with thecrowbar, and worked at the iron grating across it. In a few minutes,some mortar and dust came dropping down, which he averted his faceto avoid; and in it, and in the old wood-ashes, and in a crevice inthe chimney into which his weapon had slipped or wrought itself, hegroped with a cautious touch.
"Nothing in the wood, and nothing in the straw, Jacques?"
Let us collect them together, in the middle of the cell. So! Lightthem, you!
The turnkey fired the little pile, which blazed high and hot.Stooping again to come out at the low-arched door, they left itburning, and retraced their way to the courtyard; seeming to recovertheir sense of hearing as they came down, until they were in theraging flood once more.
They found it surging and tossing, in quest of Defarge himself.Saint Antoine was clamorous to have its wine-shop keeper foremost inthe guard upon the governor who had defended the Bastille and shot thepeople. Otherwise, the governor would not be marched to the Hotel deVille for judgment. Otherwise, the governor would escape, and thepeople's blood (suddenly of some value, after many years ofworthlessness) be unavenged.
In the howling universe of passion and contention that seemed toencompass this grim old officer conspicuous in his grey coat and reddecoration, there was but one quite steady figure, and that was awoman's. "See, there is my husband!" she cried, pointing him out. "SeeDefarge!" She stood immovable close to the grim old officer, andremained immovable close to him; remained immovable close to himthrough the streets, as Defarge and the rest bore him along;remained immovable close to him when he was got near hisdestination, and began to be struck at from behind; remained immovableclose to him when the long-gathering rain of stabs and blows fellheavy; was so close to him when he dropped dead under it, that,suddenly animated, she put her foot upon his neck, and with hercruel knife-long ready-hewed off his head.
The hour was come, when Saint Antoine was to execute his horribleidea of hoisting up men for lamps to show what he could be and do.Saint Antoine's blood was up, and the blood of tyranny anddomination by the iron hand was down- down on the steps of the Hotelde Ville where the governor's body lay- down on the sole of the shoeof Madame Defarge where she had trodden on the body to steady it formutilation. "Lower the lamp yonder!" cried Saint Antoine, afterglaring round for a new means of death; "here is one of his soldiersto be left on guard!" The swinging sentinel was posted, and the searushed on.
The sea of black and threatening waters, and of destructiveupheaving of wave against wave, whose depths were yet unfathomed andwhose forces were yet unknown. The remorseless sea of turbulentlyswaying shapes, voices of vengeance, and faces hardened in thefurnaces of suffering until the touch of pity could make no mark onthem.
But, in the ocean of faces where every fierce and furious expressionwas in vivid life, there were two groups of faces- each seven innumber- so fixedly contrasting with the rest, that never did searoll which bore more memorable wrecks with it. Seven faces ofprisoners, suddenly released by the storm that had burst their tomb,were carried high overhead: all scared, all lost, all wondering andamazed, as if the Last Day were come, and those who rejoiced aroundthem were lost spirits. Other seven faces there were, carriedhigher, seven dead faces, whose drooping eyelids and half-seen eyesawaited the Last Day. Impassive faces, yet with a suspended- not anabolished- expression on them; faces, rather, in a fearful pause, ashaving yet to raise the dropped lids of the eyes, and bear witnesswith the bloodless lips, "THOU DIDST IT!"
Seven prisoners released, seven gory heads on pikes, the keys of theaccursed fortress of the eight strong towers, some discoveredletters and other memorials of prisoners of old time, long dead ofbroken hearts, such, and such-like, the loudly echoing footsteps ofSaint Antoine escort through the Paris streets in mid-July, onethousand seven hundred and eighty-nine. Now, Heaven defeat the fancyof Lucie Darnay, and keep these feet far out of her life! For, theyare headlong, mad, and dangerous; and in the years so long after thebreaking of the cask at Defarge's wine-shop door, they are noteasily purified when once stained red.