"These words are formed by the rusty iron point with which I writewith difficulty in scrapings of soot and charcoal from the chimney,mixed with blood, in the last month of the tenth year of my captivity.Hope has quite departed from my breast. I know from terriblewarnings I have noted in myself that my reason will not long remainunimpaired, but I solemnly declare that I am at this time in thepossession of my right mind- that my memory is exact andcircumstantial- and that I write the truth as I shall answer for thesemy last recorded words, whether they be ever read by men or not, atthe Eternal Judgment-seat.
"One cloudy moonlight night, in the third week of December (Ithink the twenty-second of the month) in the year 1757, I waswalking on a retired part of the quay by the Seine for the refreshmentof the frosty air, at an hour's distance from my place of residence inthe Street of the School of Medicine, when a carriage came alongbehind me, driven very fast. As I stood aside to let that carriagepass, apprehensive that it might otherwise run me down, a head was putout at the window, and a voice called to the driver to stop.
"The carriage stopped as soon as the driver could rein in hishorses, and the same voice called to me by my name. I answered. Thecarriage was then so far in advance of me that two gentlemen hadtime to open the door and alight before I came up with it. Iobserved that they were both wrapped in cloaks, and appeared toconceal themselves. As they stood side by side near the carriage door,I also observed that they both looked of about my own age, or ratheryounger, and that they were greatly alike, in stature, manner,voice, and (as far as I could see) face too.
"'You are Doctor Manette?' said one.
"'Doctor Manette, formerly of Beauvais,' said the other; 'theyoung physician, originally an expert surgeon, who within the lastyear or two has made a rising reputation in Paris?'
"'Gentlemen,' I returned, 'I am that Doctor Manette of whom youspeak so graciously.'
"'We have been to your residence,' said the first, 'and not being sofortunate as to find you there, and being informed that you wereprobably walking in this direction, we followed, in the hope ofovertaking you. Will you please to enter the carriage?'
"The manner of both was imperious, and they both moved, as thesewords were spoken, so as to place me between themselves and thecarriage door. They were armed. I was not.
"'Gentlemen,' said I, 'pardon me; but I usually inquire who doesme the honour to seek my assistance, and what is the nature of thecase to which I am summoned.'
"The reply to this was made by him who had spoken second. 'Doctor,your clients are, people of condition. As to the nature of the case,our confidence in your skill assures us that you will ascertain it foryourself better than we can describe it. Enough. Will you please toenter the carriage?'
"I could do nothing but comply, and I entered it in silence. Theyboth entered after me- the last springing in, after putting up thesteps. The carriage turned about, and drove on at its former speed.
"I repeat this conversation exactly as it occurred. I have nodoubt that it is, word for word, the same. I describe everythingexactly as it took place, constraining my mind not to wander fromthe task. Where I make the broken marks that follow here, I leaveoff for the time, and put my paper in its hiding-place. * * * *
"The carriage left the streets behind, passed the North Barrier, andemerged upon the country road. At two-thirds of a league from theBarrier- I did not estimate the distance at that time, butafterwards when I traversed it- it struck out of the main avenue,and presently stopped at a solitary house. We all three alighted,and walked, by a damp soft footpath in a garden where a neglectedfountain had overflowed, to the door of the house. It was not openedimmediately, in answer to the ringing of the bell, and one of my twoconductors struck the man who opened it, with his heavy ridingglove, across the face.
"There was nothing in this action to attract my particularattention, for I had seen common people struck more commonly thandogs. But, the other of the two, being angry likewise, struck theman in like manner with his arm; the look and bearing of thebrothers were then so exactly alike, that I then first perceivedthem to be twin brothers.
"From the time of our alighting at the outer gate (which we foundlocked, and which one of the brothers had opened to admit us, andhad relocked), I had heard cries proceeding from an upper chamber. Iwas conducted to this chamber straight, the cries growing louder as weascended the stairs, and I found a patient in a high fever of thebrain, lying on a bed.
"The patient was a woman of great beauty, and young; assuredly notmuch past twenty. Her hair was torn and ragged, and her arms werebound to her sides with sashes and handkerchiefs. I noticed that thesebonds were all portions of a gentleman's dress. On one of them,which was a fringed scarf for a dress of ceremony, I saw thearmorial bearings of a Noble, and the letter E.
"I saw this, within the first minute of my contemplation of thepatient; for, in her restless strivings she had turned over on herface on the edge of the bed, had drawn the end of the scarf into hermouth, and was in danger of suffocation. My first act was to put outmy hand to relieve her breathing; and in moving the scarf aside, theembroidery in the corner caught my sight.
"I turned her gently over, placed my hands upon her breast to calmher and keep her down, and looked into her face. Her eyes were dilatedand wild, and she constantly uttered piercing shrieks, and repeatedthe words, 'My husband, my father, and my brother!' and then countedup to twelve, and said, 'Hush!' For an instant, and no more, she wouldpause to listen, and then the piercing shrieks would begin again,and she would repeat the cry, 'My husband, my father, and my brother!'and would count up to twelve, and say, 'Hush!' There was novariation in the order, or the manner. There was no cessation, but theregular moment's pause, in the utterance of these sounds.
"'How long,' I asked, 'has this lasted?'
"To distinguish the brothers, I will call them the elder and theyounger; by the elder, I mean him who exercised the most authority. Itwas the elder who replied, 'Since about this hour last night.'
"'She has a husband, a father, and a brother?'
"'I do not address her brother?'
"He answered with great contempt, 'No.'
"'She has some recent association with the number twelve?'
"The younger brother impatiently rejoined, 'With twelve o'clock?'
"'See, gentlemen,' said I, still keeping my hands upon her breast,'how useless I am, as you have brought me! If I had known what I wascoming to see, I could have come provided. As it is, time must belost. There are no medicines to be obtained in this lonely place.'
"The elder brother looked to the younger, who said haughtily, 'Thereis a case of medicines here;' and brought it from a closet, and put iton the table. * * * *
"I opened some of the bottles, smelt them, and put the stoppers tomy lips. If I had wanted to use anything save narcotic medicinesthat were poisons in themselves, I would not have administered anyof those.
"'Do you doubt them?' asked the younger brother.
"'You see, monsieur, I am going to use them,' I replied, and said nomore.
"I made the patient swallow, with great difficulty, and after manyefforts, the dose that I desired to give. As I intended to repeat itafter a while, and as it was necessary to watch its influence, Ithen sat down by the side of the bed. There was a timid and suppressedwoman in attendance (wife of the man down-stairs), who had retreatedinto a corner. The house was damp and decayed, indifferentlyfurnished- evidently, recently occupied and temporarily used. Somethick old hangings had been nailed up before the windows, to deadenthe sound of the shrieks. They continued to be uttered in theirregular succession, with the cry, 'My husband, my father, and mybrother!' the counting up to twelve, and 'Hush!' The frenzy was soviolent, that I had not unfastened the bandages restraining thearms; but, I had looked to them, to see that they were not painful.The only spark of encouragement in the case, was, that my hand uponthe sufferer's breast had this much soothing influence, that forminutes at a time it tranquillised the figure. It had no effect uponthe cries; no pendulum could be more regular.
"For the reason that my hand had this effect (I assume), I had satby the side of the bed for half an hour, with the two brothers lookingon, before the elder said:
"'There is another patient.'
"I was startled, and asked, 'Is it a pressing case?'
"'You had better see,' he carelessly answered; and took up alight. * * * *
"The other patient lay in a back room across a second staircase,which was a species of loft over a stable. There was a low plasteredceiling to a part of it; the rest was open, to the ridge of thetiled roof, and there were beams across. Hay and straw were storedin that portion of the place, fagots for firing, and a heap ofapples in sand. I had to pass through that part, to get at theother. My memory is circumstantial and unshaken. I try it with thesedetails, and I see them all, in this my cell in the Bastille, near theclose of the tenth year of my captivity, as I saw them all that night.
"On some hay on the ground, with a cushion thrown under his head,lay a handsome peasant boy- a boy of not more than seventeen at themost. He lay on his back, with his teeth set, his right handclenched on his breast, and his glaring eyes looking straightupward. I could not see where his wound was, as I kneeled on oneknee over him; but, I could see that he was dying of a wound from asharp point.
"'I am a doctor, my poor fellow,' said I. 'Let me examine it.'
"'I do not want it examined,' he answered; 'let it be.'
"It was under his hand, and I soothed him to let me move his handaway. The wound was a sword-thrust, received from twenty totwenty-four hours before, but no skill could have saved him if ithad been looked to without delay. He was then dying fast. As Iturned my eyes to the elder brother, I saw him looking down at thishandsome boy whose life was ebbing out, as if he were a woundedbird, or hare, or rabbit; not at all as if he were a fellow-creature.
"'How has this been done, monsieur?' said I.
"'A crazed young common dog! A serf! Forced my brother to drawupon him, and has fallen by my brother's sword- like a gentleman.'
"There was no touch of pity, sorrow, or kindred humanity, in thisanswer. The speaker seemed to acknowledge that it was inconvenientto have that different order of creature dying there, and that itwould have been better if he had died in the usual obscure routineof his vermin kind. He was quite incapable of any compassionatefeeling about the boy, or about his fate.
"The boy's eyes had slowly moved to him as he had spoken, and theynow slowly moved to me.
"'Doctor, they are very proud, these Nobles; but we common dogsare proud too, sometimes. They plunder us, outrage us, beat us, killus; but we have a little pride left, sometimes. She- have you seenher, Doctor?'
"The shrieks and the cries were audible there, though subdued by thedistance. He referred to them, as if she were lying in our presence.
"I said, 'I have seen her.'
"'She is my sister, Doctor. They have had their shameful rights,these Nobles, in the modesty and virtue of our sisters, many years,but we have had good girls among us. I know it, and have heard myfather say so. She was a good girl. She was betrothed to a goodyoung man, too: a tenant of his. We were all tenants of his- thatman's who stands there. The other is his brother, the worst of a badrace.'
"It was with the greatest difficulty that the boy gathered bodilyforce to speak; but, his spirit spoke with a dreadful emphasis.
"'We were so robbed by that man who stands there, as all we commondogs are by those superior Beings- taxed by him without mercy, obligedto work for him without pay, obliged to grind our corn at his mill,obliged to feed scores of his tame birds on our wretched crops, andforbidden for our lives to keep a single tame bird of our own, pinagedand plundered to that degree that when we chanced to have a bit ofmeat, we ate it in fear, with the door barred and the shutters closed,that his people should not see it and take it from us- I say, wewere so robbed, and hunted, and were made so poor, that our fathertold us it was a dreadful thing to bring a child into the world, andthat what we should most pray for, was, that our women might be barrenand our miserable race die out!'
"I had never before seen the sense of being oppressed, burstingforth like a fire. I had supposed that it must be latent in the peoplesomewhere; but, I had never seen it break out, until I saw it in thedying boy.
"'Nevertheless, Doctor, my sister married. He was ailing at thattime, poor fellow, and she married her lover, that she might tendand comfort him in our cottage- our dog-hut, as that man would callit. She had not been married many weeks, when that man's brother sawher and admired her, and asked that man to lend her to him- for whatare husbands among us! He was willing enough, but my sister was goodand virtuous, and hated his brother with a hatred as strong as mine.What did the two then, to persuade her husband to use his influencewith her, to make her willing?'
"The boy's eyes, which had been fixed on mine, slowly turned tothe looker-on, and I saw in the two faces that all he said was true.The two opposing kinds of pride confronting one another, I can see,even in this Bastille; the gentleman's, all negligent indifference;the peasant's, all trodden-down sentiment, and passionate revenge.
"'You know, Doctor, that it is among the Rights of these Nobles toharness us common dogs to carts, and drive us. They so harnessed himand drove him. You know that it is among their Rights to keep us intheir grounds all night, quieting the frogs, in order that their noblesleep may not be disturbed. They kept him out in the unwholesome mistsat night, and ordered him back into his harness in the day. But he wasnot persuaded. No! Taken out of harness one day at noon, to feed- ifhe could find food- he sobbed twelve times, once for every stroke ofthe bell, and died on her bosom.'
"Nothing human could have beld life in the boy but his determinationto tell all his wrong. He forced back the gathering shadows ofdeath, as he forced his clenched right hand to remain clenched, and tocover his wound.
"'Then, with that man's permission and even with his aid, hisbrother took her away; in spite of what I know she must have toldhis brother- and what that is, will not be long unknown to you,Doctor, if it is now- his brother took her away- for his pleasureand diversion, for a little while. I saw her pass me on the road. WhenI took the tidings home, our father's heart burst; he never spokeone of the words that filled it. I took my young sister (for I haveanother) to a place beyond the reach of this man, and where, at least,she will never be his vassal. Then, I tracked the brother here, andlast night climbed in- a common dog, but sword in hand.- Where isthe loft window? It was somewhere here?'
"The room was darkening to his sight; the world was narrowing aroundhim. I glanced about me, and saw that the hay and straw weretrampled over the floor, as if there had been a struggle.
"'She heard me, and ran in. I told her not to come near us till hewas dead. He came in and first tossed me some pieces of money; thenstruck at me with a whip. But I, though a common dog, so struck at himas to make him draw. Let him break into as many pieces as he will, thesword that he stained with my common blood; he drew to defend himself-thrust at me with all his skill for his life.'
"My glance had fallen, but a few moments before, on the fragments ofa broken sword, lying among the hay. That weapon was a gentleman's. Inanother place, lay an old sword that seemed to have been a soldier's.
"'Now, lift me up, Doctor; lift me up. Where is he?'
"'He is not here,' I said, supporting the boy, and thinking thathe referred to the brother.
"'He! Proud as these nobles are, he is afraid to see me. Where isthe man who was here? Turn my face to him.'
"I did so, raising the boy's head against my knee. But, invested forthe moment with extraordinary power, he raised himself completely:obliging me to rise too, or I could not have still supported him.
"'Marquis,' said the boy, turned to him with his eyes opened wide,and his right hand raised, 'in the days when all these things are tobe answered for, I summon you and yours, to the last of your bad race,to answer for them. I mark this cross of blood upon you, as a signthat I do it. In the days when all these things are to be answeredfor, I summon your brother, the worst of the bad race, to answer forthem separately. I mark this cross of blood upon him, as a sign that Ido it.'
"Twice, he put his hand to the wound in his breast, and with hisforefinger drew a cross in the air. He stood for an instant with thefinger yet raised, and as it dropped, he dropped with it, and I laidhim down dead. * * * *
"When I returned to the bedside of the young woman, I found herraving in precisely the same order of continuity. I knew that thismight last for many hours, and that it would probably end in thesilence of the grave.
"I repeated the medicines I had given her, and I sat at the sideof the bed until the night was far advanced. She never abated thepiercing quality of her shrieks, never stumbled in the distinctness orthe order of her words. They were always 'My husband, my father, andmy brother! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten,eleven, twelve. Hush!'
"This lasted twenty-six hours from the time when I first saw her.I had come and gone twice, and was again sitting by her, when shebegan to falter. I did what little could be done to assist thatopportunity, and by-and-bye she sank into a lethargy, and lay like thedead.
"It was as if the wind and rain had lulled at last, after a long andfearful storm. I released her arms, and called the woman to assistme to compose her figure and the dress she had torn. It was thenthat I knew her condition to be that of one in whom the firstexpectations of being a mother have arisen; and it was then that Ilost the little hope I had had of her.
"'Is she dead?' asked the Marquis, whom I will still describe as theelder brother, coming booted into the room from his horse.
"'Not dead,' said I; 'but like to die.'
"'What strength there is in these common bodies!' he said, lookingdown at her with some curiosity.
"'There is prodigious strength,' I answered him, 'in sorrow anddespair.'
"He first laughed at my words, and then frowned at them. He moveda chair with his foot near to mine, ordered the woman away, and saidin a subdued voice,
"'Doctor, finding my brother in this difficulty with these hinds,I recommended that your aid should be invited. Your reputation ishigh, and, as a young man with your fortune to make, you areprobably mindful of your interest. Ile things that you see here, arethings to be seen, and not spoken of.'
"I listened to the patient's breathing, and avoided answering.
"'Do you honour me with your attention, Doctor?'
"'Monsieur,' said I, 'in my profession, the communications ofpatients are always received in confidence.' I was guarded in myanswer, for I was troubled in my mind with what I had heard and seen.
"Her breathing was so difficult to trace, that I carefully tried thepulse and the heart. There was life, and no more. Looking round as Iresumed my seat, I found both the brothers intent upon me. * * * *
"I write with so much difficulty, the cold is so severe, I am sofearful of being detected and consigned to an underground cell andtotal darkness, that I must abridge this narrative. There is noconfusion or failure in my memory; it can recall, and could detail,every word that was ever spoken between me and those brothers.
"She lingered for a week. Towards the last, I could understandsome few syllables that she said to me, by placing my ear close to herlips. She asked me where she was, and I told her; who I was, and Itold her. It was in vain that I asked her for her family name. Shefaintly shook her head upon the pillow, and kept her secret, as theboy had done.
"I had no opportunity of asking her any question, until I had toldthe brothers she was sinking fast, and could not live another day.Until then, though no one was ever presented to her consciousness savethe woman and myself, one or other of them had always jealously satbehind the curtain at the head of the bed when I was there. But whenit came to that, they seemed careless what communication I mighthold with her; as if- the thought passed through my mind- I were dyingtoo.
"I always observed that their pride bitterly resented the youngerbrother's (as I call him) having crossed swords with a peasant, andthat peasant a boy. The only consideration that appeared to affect themind of either of them was the consideration that this was highlydegrading to the family, and was ridiculous. As often as I caughtthe younger brother's eyes, their expression reminded me that hedisliked me deeply, for knowing what I knew from the boy. He wassmoother and more polite to me than the elder; but I saw this. Ialso saw that I was an incumbrance in the mind of the elder, too.
"My patient died, two hours before midnight- at a time, by my watch,answering almost to the minute when I had first seen her. I wasalone with her, when her forlorn young head drooped gently on oneside, and all her earthly wrongs and sorrows ended.
"The brothers were waiting in a room down-stairs, impatient toride away. I had heard them, alone at the bedside, striking theirboots with their riding-whips, and loitering up and down.
"'At last she is dead?' said the elder, when I went in.
"'She is dead,' said I.
"'I congratulate you, my brother,' were his words as he turnedround.
"He had before offered me money, which I had postponed taking. Henow gave me a rouleau of gold. I took it from his hand, but laid it onthe table. I had considered the question, and had resolved to acceptnothing.
"'Pray excuse me,' said I. 'Under the circumstances, no.'
"They exchanged looks, but bent their heads to me as I bent mineto them, and we parted without another word on either side. * * * *
"I am weary, weary, weary- worn down by misery. I cannot read what Ihave written with this gaunt hand.
"Early in the morning, the rouleau of gold was left at my door ina little box, with my name on the outside. From the first, I hadanxiously considered what I ought to do. I decided, that day, to writeprivately to the Minister, stating the nature of the two cases towhich I had been summoned, and the place to which I had gone: ineffect, stating all the circumstances. I knew what Court influencewas, and what the immunities of the Nobles were, and I expected thatthe matter would never be heard of; but, I wished to relieve my ownmind. I had kept the matter a profound secret, even from my wife;and this, too, I resolved to state in my letter. I had no apprehensionwhatever of my real danger; but I was conscious that there might bedanger for others, if others were compromised by possessing theknowledge that I possessed.
"I was much engaged that day, and could not complete my letterthat night. I rose long before my usual time next morning to finishit. It was the last day of the year. The letter was lying before mejust completed, when I was told that a lady waited, who wished tosee me. * * * *
"I am growing more and more unequal to the task I have setmyself. It is so cold, so dark, my senses are so benumbed, and thegloom upon me is so dreadful.
"The lady was young, engaging, and handsome, but not marked for longlife. She was in great agitation. She presented herself to me as thewife of the Marquis St. Evremonde. I connected the title by whichthe boy had addressed the elder brother, with the initial letterembroidered on the scarf, and had no difficulty in arriving at theconclusion that I had seen that nobleman very lately.
"My memory is still accurate, but I cannot write the words of ourconversation. I suspect that I am watched more closely than I was, andI know not at what times I may be watched. She had in partsuspected, and in part discovered, the main facts of the cruelstory, of her husband's share in it, and my being resorted to. She didnot know that the girl was dead. Her hope had been, she said ingreat distress, to show her, in secret, a woman's sympathy. Her hopehad been to avert the wrath of Heaven from a House that had longbeen hateful to the suffering many.
"She had reasons for believing that there was a young sister living,and her greatest desire was, to help that sister. I could tell hernothing but that there was such a sister; beyond that, I knew nothing.Her inducement to come to me, relying on my confidence, had been thehope that I could tell her the name and place of abode. Whereas, tothis wretched hour I am ignorant of both. * * * *
"These scraps of paper fail me. One was taken from me, with awarning, yesterday. I must finish my record to-day.
"She was a good, compassionate lady, and not happy in hermarriage. How could she be! The brother distrusted and disliked her,and his influence was all opposed to her; she stood in dread of him,and in dread of her husband too. When I handed her down to the door,there was a child, a pretty boy from two to three years old, in hercarriage.
"'For his sake, Doctor,' she said, pointing to him in tears, 'Iwould do all I can to make what poor amends I can. He will neverprosper in his inheritance otherwise. I have a presentiment that if noother innocent atonement is made for this, it will one day be requiredof him. What I have left to call my own- it is little beyond the worthof a few jewels-I will make it the first charge of his life to bestow,with the compassion and lamenting of his dead mother, on thisinjured family, if the sister can be discovered.'
"She kissed the boy, and said, caressing him, 'It is for thine owndear sake. Thou wilt be faithful, little Charles?' The childanswered her bravely, 'Yes!' I kissed her hand, and she took him inher arms, and went away caressing him. I never saw her more.
"As she had mentioned her husband's name in the faith that I knewit, I added no mention of it to my letter. I sealed my letter, and,not trusting it out of my own hands, delivered it myself that day.
"That night, the last night of the year, towards nine o'clock, a manin a black dress rang at my gate, demanded to see me, and softlyfollowed my servant, Ernest Defarge, a youth, up-stairs. When myservant came into the room where I sat with my wife- O my wife,beloved of my heart! My fair young English wife!- we saw the man,who was supposed to be at the gate, standing silent behind him.
"An urgent case in the Rue St. Honore, he said. It would notdetain me, he had a coach in waiting.
"It brought me here, it brought me to my grave. When I was clearof the house, a black muffler was drawn tightly over my mouth frombehind, and my arms were pinioned. The two brothers crossed the roadfrom a dark corner, and identified me with a single gesture. TheMarquis took from his pocket the letter I had written, showed it me,burnt it in the light of a lantern that was held, and extinguished theashes with his foot. Not a word was spoken. I was brought here, Iwas brought to my living grave.
"If it had pleased GOD to put it in the hard heart of either ofthe brothers, in all these frightful years, to grant me any tidings ofmy dearest wife- so much as to let me know by a word whether aliveor dead- I might have thought that He had not quite abandoned them.But, now I believe that the mark of the red cross is fatal to them,and that they have no part in His mercies. And them and theirdescendants, to the last of their race, I, Alexandre Manette,unhappy prisoner, do this last night of the year 1767, in myunbearable agony, denounce to the times when all these things shall beanswered for. I denounce them to Heaven and to earth."
A terrible sound arose when the reading of this document was done. Asound of craving and eagerness that had nothing articulate in it butblood. The narrative called up the most revengeful passions of thetime, and there was not a head in the nation but must have droppedbefore it.
Little need, in presence of that tribunal and that auditory, to showhow the Defarges had not made the paper public, with the othercaptured Bastille memorials borne in procession, and had kept it,biding their time. Little need to show that this detested familyname had long been anathematised by Saint Antoine, and was wroughtinto the fatal register. The man never trod ground whose virtues andservices would have sustained him in that place that day, against suchdenunciation.
And all the worse for the doomed man, that the denouncer was awell-known citizen, his own attached friend, the father of his wife.One of the frenzied aspirations of the populace was, for imitations ofthe questionable public virtues of antiquity, and for sacrifices andself-immolations on the people's altar. Therefore when the Presidentsaid (else had his own head quivered on his shoulders), that thegood physician of the Republic would deserve better still of theRepublic by rooting out an obnoxious family of Aristocrats, andwould doubtless feel a sacred glow and joy in making his daughter awidow and her child an orphan, there was wild excitement, patrioticfervour, not a touch of human sympathy.
"Much influence around him, has that Doctor?" murmured MadameDefarge, smiling to The Vengeance. "Save him now, my Doctor, savehim!"
At every juryman's vote, there was a roar. Another and another. Roarand roar.
Unanimously voted. At heart and by descent an Aristocrat, an enemyof the Republic, a notorious oppressor of the People. Back to theConciergerie, and Death within four-and-twenty hours!