Many a night and many a day had its inmates listened to the echoesin the corner, with hearts that failed them when they heard thethronging feet. For, the footsteps had become to their minds as thefootsteps of a people, tumultuous under a red flag and with theircountry declared in danger, changed into wild beasts, by terribleenchantment long persisted in.
Monseigneur, as a class, had dissociated himself from the phenomenonof his not being, appreciated: of his being so little wanted inFrance, as to incur considerable danger of receiving his dismissalfrom it, and this life together. Like the fabled rustic who raised theDevil with infinite pains, and was so terrified at the sight of himthat he could ask the Enemy no question, but immediately fled; so,Monseigneur, after boldly reading the Lord's Prayer backwards for agreat number of years, and performing many other potent spells forcompelling the Evil One, no sooner beheld him in his terrors than hetook to his noble heels.
The shining Bull's Eye of the Court was gone, or it would havebeen the mark for a hurricane of national bullets It had never beena good eye to see with- had long had the mote in it of Lucifer'spride, Sardanapalus's luxury, and a mole's blindness- but it haddropped out and was gone. The Court, from that exclusive innercircle to its outermost rotten ring of intrigue, corruption, anddissimulation, was all gone together. Royalty was gone; had beenbesieged in its Palace and "suspended," when the last tidings cameover.
The August of the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety-two wascome, and ninety-two was come, and Monseigneur was by this timescattered far and wide.
As was natural, the head-quarters and great gathering-place ofMonseigneur, in London, was Tellson's Bank. Spirits are supposed tohaunt the places where their bodies most resorted, and Monseigneurwithout a guinea haunted the spot where his guineas used to be.Moreover, it was the spot to which such French intelligence as wasmost to be relied upon, came quickest. Again: Tellson's was amunificent house, and extended great liberality to old customers whohad fallen from their high estate. Again: those nobles who had seenthe coming storm in time, and anticipating plunder or confiscation,had made provident remittances to Tellson's, were always to be heardof there by their needy brethren. To which it must be added that everynew-comer from France reported himself and his tidings at Tellson's,almost as a matter of course. For such variety of reasons, Tellson'swas at that time, as to French intelligence, a kind of HighExchange; and this was so well known to the public, and theinquiries made there were in consequence so numerous, that Tellson'ssometimes wrote the latest news out in a line or so and posted it inthe Bank windows, for all who ran through Temple Bar to read.
On a steaming, misty afternoon, Mr. Lorry sat at his desk, andCharles Darnay stood leaning on it, talking with him in a low voice.The penitential den once set apart for interviews with the House,was now the news-Exchange, and was filled to overflowing. It waswithin half an hour or so of the time of closing.
"But, although you are the youngest man that ever lived," saidCharles Darnay, rather hesitating, "I must still suggest to you--"
"I understand. That I am too old?" said Mr. Lorry.
"Unsettled weather, a long journey, uncertain means of travelling, adisorganised country, a city that may not be even safe for you."
"My dear Charles," said Mr. Lorry, with cheerful confidence, "youtouch some of the reasons for my going: not for my staying away. It issafe enough for me; nobody will care to interfere with an old fellowof hard upon fourscore when there are so many people there much betterworth interfering with. As to its being a disorganised city, if itwere not a disorganised city there would be no occasion to sendsomebody from our House here to our House there, who knows the cityand the business, of old, and is in Tellson's confidence. As to theuncertain travelling, the long journey, and the winter weather, if Iwere not prepared to submit myself to a few inconveniences for thesake of Tellson's, after all these years, who ought to be?"
"I wish I were going myself," said Charles Darnay, somewhatrestlessly, and Eke one thinking aloud.
"Indeed! You are a pretty fellow to object and advise!" exclaimedMr. Lorry. "You wish you were going yourself? And you a Frenchmanborn? You are a wise counsellor."
"My dear Mr. Lorry, it is because I am a Frenchman born, that thethought (which I did not mean to utter here, however) bas passedthrough my mind often. One cannot help thinking, having had somesympathy for the miserable people, and having abandoned something tothem," he spoke here in his former thoughtful manner, "that onemight be listened to, and might have the power to persuade to somerestraint. Only last night, after you had left us, when I wastalking to Lucie--"
"When you were talking to Lucie," Mr. Lorry repeated. "Yes. I wonderyou are not ashamed to mention the name of Lucie! Wishing you weregoing to France at this time of day!"
"However, I am not going," said Charles Darnay, with a smile. "It ismore to the purpose that you say you are."
"And I am, in plain reality. The truth is, my dear Charles," Mr.Lorry glanced at the distant House, and lowered his voice, "you canhave no conception of the difficulty with which our business istransacted, and of the peril in which our books and papers over yonderare involved. The Lord above knows what the compromisingconsequences would be to numbers of people, if some of our documentswere seized or destroyed; and they might be, at any time, you know,for who can say that Paris is not set afire to-day, or sackedto-morrow! Now, a judicious selection from these with the leastpossible delay, and the burying of them, or otherwise getting ofthem out of harm's way, is within the power (without loss ofprecious time) of scarcely any one but myself, if any one. And shall Ihang back, when Tellson's knows this and says this- Tellson's, whosebread I have eaten these sixty years- because I am a little stiffabout the joints? Why, I am a boy, sir, to half a dozen old codgershere!"
"How I admire the gallantry of your youthful spirit, Mr. Lorry."
"Tut! Nonsense, sir!- And, my dear Charles," said Mr. Lorry,glancing at the House again, "you are to remember, that getting thingsout of Paris at this present time, no matter what things, is next toan impossibility. Papers and precious matters were this very daybrought to us here (I speak in strict confidence; it is notbusiness-like to whisper it, even to you), by the strangest bearersyou can imagine, every one of whom had his head hanging on by a singlehair as he passed the Barriers. At another time, our parcels wouldcome and go, as easily as in business-like Old England; but now,everything is stopped."
"And do you really go to-night?"
"I really go to-night, for the case has become too pressing to admitof delay."
"And do you take no one with you?"
"All sorts of people have been proposed to me, but I will havenothing to say to any of them. I intend to take Jerry. Jerry hasbeen my bodyguard on Sunday nights for a long time past and I amused to him. Nobody will suspect Jerry of being anything but anEnglish bull-dog, or of having any design in his head but to fly atanybody who touches his master."
"I must say again that I heartily admire your gallantry andyouthfulness."
"I must say again, nonsense, nonsense! When I have executed thislittle commission, I shall, perhaps, accept Tellson's proposal toretire and live at my ease. Time enough, then, to think aboutgrowing old."
This dialogue had taken place at Mr. Lorry's usual desk, withMonseigneur swarming within a yard or two of it, boastful of what hewould do to avenge himself on the rascal-people before long. It wastoo much the way of Monseigneur under his reverses as a refugee, andit was much too much the way of native British orthodoxy, to talk ofthis terrible Revolution as if it were the only harvest ever knownunder the skies that had not been sown- as if nothing had ever beendone, or omitted to be done, that had led to it- as if observers ofthe wretched millions in France, and of the misused and pervertedresources that should have made them prosperous, had not seen itinevitably coming, years before, and had not in plain words recordedwhat they saw. Such vapouring, combined with the extravagant plotsof Monseigneur for the restoration of a state of things that hadutterly exhausted itself, and worn out Heaven and earth as well asitself, was hard to be endured without some remonstrance by any saneman who knew the truth. And it was such vapouring all about hisears, like a troublesome confusion of blood in his own head, addedto a latent uneasiness in his mind, which had already made CharlesDarnay restless, and which still kept him so.
Among the talkers, was Stryver, of the King's Bench Bar, far onhis way to state promotion, and, therefore, loud on the theme:broaching to Monseigneur, his devices for blowing the people up andexterminating them from the face of the earth, and doing without them:and for accomplishing many similar objects akin in their nature to theabolition of eagles by sprinkling salt on the tails of the race.Him, Darnay heard with a particular feeling of objection; and Darnaystood divided between going away that he might hear no more, andremaining to interpose his word, when the thing that was to be, wenton to shape itself out.
The House approached Mr. Lorry, and laying a soiled and unopenedletter before him, asked if he had yet discovered any traces of theperson to whom it was addressed? The House laid the letter down soclose to Darnay that he saw the direction- the more quickly because itwas his own right name. The address, turned into English, ran:
"Very pressing. To Monsieur heretofore the Marquis St. Evremonde, ofFrance. Confided to the cares of Messrs. Tellson and Co., Bankers,London, England."
On the marriage morning, Doctor Manette had made it his one urgentand express request to Charles Darnay, that the secret of this nameshould be- unless he, the Doctor, dissolved the obligation- keptinviolate between them. Nobody else knew it to be his name; his ownwife had no suspicion of the fact; Mr. Lorry could have none.
"No," said Mr. Lorry, in reply to the House; "I have referred it,I think, to everybody now here, and no one can tell me where thisgentleman is to be found."
The hands of the clock verging upon the hour of closing the Bank,there was a general set of the current of talkers past Mr. Lorry'sdesk. He held the letter out inquiringly; and Monseigneur looked atit, in the person of this plotting and indignant refugee; andMonseigneur looked at it in the person of that plotting andindignant refugee; and This, That, and The Other, all had somethingdisparaging to say, in French or in English, concerning the Marquiswho was not to be found.
"Nephew, I believe- but in any case degenerate successor- of thepolished Marquis who was murdered," said one. "Happy to say, I neverknew him."
"A craven who abandoned his post," said another- this Monseigneurhad been got out of Paris, legs uppermost and half suffocated, in aload of hay- "some years ago."
"Infected with the new doctrines," said a third, eyeing thedirection through his glass in passing; "set himself in oppositionto the last Marquis, abandoned the estates when he inherited them, andleft them to the ruffian herd. They will recompense him now, I hope,as he deserves."
"Hey?" cried the blatant Stryver. "Did he though? Is that the sortof fellow? Let us look at his infamous name. D-n the fellow!"
Darnay, unable to restrain himself any longer, touched Mr. Stryveron the shoulder, and said:
"I know the fellow."
"Do you, by Jupiter?" said Stryver. "I am sorry for it."
"Why, Mr. Darnay? D'ye hear what he did? Don't ask, why, in thesetimes."
"But I do ask why?"
"Then I tell you again, Mr. Darnay, I am sorry for it. I am sorry tobear you putting any such extraordinary questions. Here is a fellow,who, infected by the most pestilent and blasphemous code of devilrythat ever was known, abandoned his property to the vilest scum ofthe earth that ever did murder by wholesale, and you ask me why I amsorry that a man who instructs youth knows him? Well, but I'llanswer you. I am sorry because I believe there is contamination insuch a scoundrel. That's why."
Mindful of the secret, Darnay with great difficulty checked himself,and said: "You may not understand the gentleman."
"I understand how to put you in a corner, Mr. Darnay," said BullyStryver, "and I'll do it. If this fellow is a gentleman, I don'tunderstand him. You may tell him so, with my compliments. You may alsotell him, from me, that after abandoning his worldly goods andposition to this butcherly mob, I wonder he is not at the head ofthem. But, no, gentlemen," said Stryver, looking all round, andsnapping his fingers, "I know something of human nature, and I tellyou that you'll never find a fellow like this fellow, trusting himselfto the mercies of such precious proteges. No, gentlemen; he'llalways show 'em a clean pair of heels very early in the scuffle, andsneak away."
With those words, and a final snap of his fingers, Mr. Stryvershouldered himself into Fleet-street, amidst the general approbationof his hearers. Mr. Lorry and Charles Darnay were left alone at thedesk, in the general departure from the Bank.
"Will you take charge of the letter?" said Mr. Lorry. "You knowwhere to deliver it?"
"Will you undertake to explain, that we suppose it to have beenaddressed here, on the chance of our knowing where to forward it,and that it has been here some time?"
"I will do so. Do you start for Paris from here?"
"From here, at eight."
"I will come back, to see you off."
Very ill at ease with himself, and with Stryver and most othermen, Darnay made the best of his way into the quiet of the Temple,opened the letter, and read it. These were its contents:
"Prison of the Abbaye, Paris.
"June 21, 1792.
"MONSIEUR HERETOFORE THE MARQUIS.
"After having long been in danger of my life at the hands of thevillage, I have been seized, with great violence and indignity, andbrought a long journey on foot to Paris. On the road I have suffered agreat deal. Nor is that all; my house has been destroyed- razed to theground.
"The crime for which I am imprisoned, Monsieur heretofore theMarquis, and for which I shall be summoned before the tribunal, andshall lose my life (without your so generous help), is, they tellme, treason against the majesty of the people, in that I have actedagainst them for an emigrant. It is in vain I represent that I haveacted for them, and not against, according to your commands. It isin vain I represent that, before the sequestration of emigrantproperty, I had remitted the imposts they had ceased to pay; that Ihad collected no rent; that I had had recourse to no process. The onlyresponse is, that I have acted for an emigrant, and where is thatemigrant?
"Ah! most gracious Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, where is thatemigrant? I cry in my sleep where is he? I demand of Heaven, will henot come to deliver me? No answer. Ah Monsieur heretofore the Marquis,I send my desolate cry across the sea, hoping it may perhaps reachyour ears through the great bank of Tilson known at Paris!
"For the love of Heaven, of justice, of generosity, of the honour ofyour noble name, I supplicate you, Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, tosuccour and release me. My fault is, that I have been true to you.Oh Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, I pray you be you true to me!
"From this prison here of horror, whence I every hour tend nearerand nearer to destruction, I send you, Monsieur heretofore theMarquis, the assurance of my dolorous and unhappy service.
The latent uneasiness in Darnay's mind was roused to vigourouslife by this letter. The peril of an old servant and a good one, whoseonly crime was fidelity to himself and his family, stared him soreproachfully in the face, that, as he walked to and fro in the Templeconsidering what to do, he almost hid his face from the passers-by.
He knew very well, that in his horror of the deed which hadculminated the bad deeds and bad reputation of the old family house,in his resentful suspicions of his uncle, and in the aversion withwhich his conscience regarded the crumbling fabric that he wassupposed to uphold, he had acted imperfectly. He knew very well,that in his love for Lucie, his renunciation of his social place,though by no means new to his own mind, had been hurried andincomplete. He knew that he ought to have systematically worked it outand supervised it, and that he had meant to do it, and that it hadnever been done.
The happiness of his own chosen English home, the necessity of beingalways actively employed, the swift changes and troubles of the timewhich had followed on one another so fast, that the events of thisweek annihilated the immature plans of last week, and the events ofthe week following made all new again; he knew very well, that tothe force of these circumstances he had yielded:- not withoutdisquiet, but still without continuous and accumulating resistance.That he had watched the times for a time of action, and that theyhad shifted and struggled until the time had gone by, and the nobilitywere trooping from France by every highway and byway, and theirproperty was in course of confiscation and destruction, and their verynames were blotting out, was as well known to himself as it could beto any new authority in France that might impeach him for it.
But, he had oppressed no man, he had imprisoned no man; he was sofar from having harshly exacted payment of his dues, that he hadrelinquished them of his own will, thrown himself on a world with nofavour in it, won his own private place there, and earned his ownbread. Monsieur Gabelle had held the impoverished and involvedestate on written instructions, to spare the people, to give them whatlittle there was to give- such fuel as the heavy creditors would letthem have in the winter, and such produce as could be saved from thesame grip in the summer- and no doubt he had put the fact in pleaand proof, for his own safety, so that it could not but appear now.
This favoured the desperate resolution Charles Darnay had begun tomake, that he would go to Paris.
Yes. Like the mariner in the old story, the winds and streams haddriven him within the influence of the Loadstone Rock, and it wasdrawing him to itself, and he must go. Everything that arose beforehis mind drifted him on, faster and faster, more and more steadily, tothe terrible attraction. His latent uneasiness had been, that bad aimswere being worked out in his own unhappy land by bad instruments,and that he who could not fail to know that he was better than they,was not there, trying to do something to stay bloodshed, and assertthe claims of mercy and humanity. With this uneasiness half stifled,and half reproaching him, be had been brought to the pointedcomparison of himself with the brave old gentleman in whom duty was sostrong; upon that comparison (injurious to himself) had instantlyfollowed the sneers of Monseigneur, which had stung him bitterly,and those of Stryver, which above all were coarse and galling, for oldreasons. Upon those, had followed Gabelle's letter: the appeal of aninnocent prisoner, in danger of death, to his justice, honour, andgood name.
His resolution was made. He must go to Paris.
Yes. The Loadstone Rock was drawing him, and he must sail on,until he struck. He knew of no rock; he saw hardly any danger. Theintention with which he had done what he had done, even although hehad left it incomplete, presented it before him in an aspect thatwould be gratefully acknowledged in France on his presenting himselfto assert it. Then, that glorious vision of doing good, which is sooften the sanguine mirage of so many good minds, arose before him, andhe even saw himself in the illusion with some influence to guidethis raging Revolution that was running so fearfully wild.
As he walked to and fro with his resolution made, he considered thatneither Lucie nor her father must know of it until he was gone.Lucie should be spared the pain of separation; and her father,always reluctant to turn his thoughts towards the dangerous groundof old, should come to the knowledge of the step, as a step taken, andnot in the balance of suspense and doubt. How much of theincompleteness of his situation was referable to her father, throughthe painful anxiety to avoid reviving old associations of France inhis mind, he did not discuss with himself. But, that circumstance too,had had its influence in his course.
He walked to and fro, with thoughts very busy, until it was timeto return to Tellson's and take leave of Mr. Lorry. As soon as hearrived in Paris he would present himself to this old friend, but hemust say nothing of his intention now.
A carriage with post-horses was ready at the Bank door, and Jerrywas booted and equipped.
"I have delivered that letter," said Charles Darnay to Mr. Lorry. "Iwould not consent to your being charged with any written answer, butperhaps you will take a verbal one?"
"That I will, and readily," said Mr. Lorry, "if it is notdangerous."
"Not at all. Though it is to a prisoner in the Abbaye."
"What is his name?" said Mr. Lorry, with his open pocket-book in hishand.
"Gabelle. And what is the message to the unfortunate Gabelle inprison?"
"Simply, 'that he has received the letter, and will come.'"
"Any time mentioned?"
"He will start upon his journey to-morrow night."
"Any person mentioned?"
He helped Mr. Lorry to wrap himself in a number of coats and cloaks,and went out with him from the warm atmosphere of the old Bank, intothe misty air of Fleet-street. "My love to Lucie, and to littleLucie," said Mr. Lorry at parting, "and take precious care of themtill I come back." Charles Darnay shook his head and doubtfullysmiled, as the carriage rolled away.
That night- it was the fourteenth of August- he sat up late, andwrote two fervent letters; one was to Lucie, explaining the strongobligation he was under to go to Paris, and showing her, at length,the reasons that he had, for feeling confident that he could becomeinvolved in no personal danger there; the other was to the Doctor,confiding Lucie and their dear child to his care, and dwelling onthe same topics with the strongest assurances. To both, he wrotethat he would despatch letters in proof of his safety, immediatelyafter his arrival.
It was a hard day, that day of being among them, with the firstreservation of their joint lives on his mind. It was a hard matterto preserve the innocent deceit of which they were profoundlyunsuspicious. But, an affectionate glance at his wife, so happy andbusy, made him resolute not to tell her what impended (he had beenhalf moved to do it, so strange it was to him to act in anythingwithout her quiet aid), and the day passed quickly. Early in theevening he embraced her, and her scarcely less dear namesake,pretending that he would return by-and-bye (an imaginary engagementtook him out, and he had secreted a valise of clothes ready), and sohe emerged into the heavy mist of the heavy streets, with a heavierheart.
The unseen force was drawing him fast to itself, now, and all thetides and winds were setting straight and strong towards it. He lefthis two letters with a trusty porter, to be delivered half an hourbefore midnight, and no sooner; took horse for Dover; and began hisjourney. "For the love of Heaven, of justice, of generosity, of thehonour of your noble name!" was the poor prisoner's cry with whichhe strengthened his sinking heart, as he left all that was dear onearth behind him, and floated away for the Loadstone Rock.
THE END OF THE SECOND BOOK.