Two score and twelve were told off. From the farmer-general ofseventy, whose riches could not buy his life, to the seamstress oftwenty, whose poverty and obscurity could not save her. Physicaldiseases, engendered in the vices and neglects of men, will seize onvictims of all degrees; and the frightful moral disorder, born ofunspeakable suffering, intolerable oppression, and heartlessindifference, smote equally without distinction.
Charles Darnay, alone in a cell, had sustained himself with noflattering delusion since he came to it from the Tribunal. In everyline of the narrative he had heard, he had heard his condemnation.He had fully comprehended that no personal influence could possiblysave him, that he was virtually sentenced by the millions, and thatunits could avail him nothing.
Nevertheless, it was not easy, with the face of his beloved wifefresh before him, to compose his mind to what it must bear. His holdon life was strong, and it was very, very hard, to loosen; bygradual efforts and degrees unclosed a little here, it clenched thetighter there; and when he brought his strength to bear on that handand it yielded, this was closed again. There was a hurry, too, inall his thoughts, a turbulent and heated working of his heart, thatcontended against resignation. If, for a moment, he did feel resigned,then his wife and child who had to live after him, seemed to protestand to make it a selfish thing.
But, all this was at first. Before long, the consideration thatthere was no disgrace in the fate he must meet, and that numberswent the same road wrongfully, and trod it firmly every day, sprang upto stimulate him. Next followed the thought that much of the futurepeace of mind enjoyable by the dear ones, depended on his quietfortitude. So, by degrees he calmed into the better state, when hecould raise his thoughts much higher, and draw comfort down.
Before it had set in dark on the night of his condemnation, he hadtravelled thus far on his last way. Being allowed to purchase themeans of writing, and a light, he sat down to write until such time asthe prison lamps should be extinguished.
He wrote a long letter to Lucie, showing her that he had knownnothing of her father's imprisonment, until he had heard of it fromherself, and that he had been as ignorant as she of his father's anduncle's responsibility for that misery, until the paper had been read.He had already explained to her that his concealment from herself ofthe name he had relinquished, was the one condition- fullyintelligible now- that her father had attached to their betrothal, andwas the one promise he had still exacted on the morning of theirmarriage. He entreated her, for her father's sake, never to seek toknow whether her father had become oblivious of the existence of thepaper, or had had it recalled to him (for the moment, or for good), bythe story of the Tower, on that old Sunday under the dear oldplane-tree in the garden. If he had preserved any definite remembranceof it, there could be no doubt that he had supposed it destroyedwith the Bastille, when he had found no mention of it among the relicsof prisoners which the populace had discovered there, and which hadbeen described to all the world. He besought her- though he added thathe knew it was needless- to console her father, by impressing himthrough every tender means she could think of, with the truth thathe had done nothing for which he could justly reproach himself, buthad uniformly forgotten himself for their joint sakes. Next to herpreservation of his own last grateful love and blessing, and herovercoming of her sorrow, to devote herself to their dear child, headjured her, as they would meet in Heaven, to comfort her father.
To her father himself, he wrote in the same strain; but, he told herfather that he expressly confided his wife and child to his care.And he told him this, very strongly, with the hope of rousing him fromany despondency or dangerous retrospect towards which he foresaw hemight be tending.
To Mr. Lorry, he commended them all, and explained his worldlyaffairs. That done, with many added sentences of grateful friendshipand warm attachment, all was done. He never thought of Carton. Hismind was so full of the others, that he never once thought of him.
He had time to finish these letters before the lights were putout. When he lay down on his straw bed, he thought he had done withthis world.
But, it beckoned him back in his sleep, and showed itself in shiningforms. Free and happy, back in the old house in Soho (though it hadnothing in it like the real house), unaccountably released and lightof heart, he was with Lucie again, and she told him it was all adream, and he had never gone away. A pause of forgetfulness, andthen he had even suffered, and had come back to her, dead and atpeace, and yet there was no difference in him. Another pause ofoblivion, and he awoke in the sombre morning, unconscious where he wasor what had happened, until it flashed upon his mind, "this is the dayof my death!"
Thus, had he come through the hours, to the day when the fifty-twoheads were to fall. And now, while he was composed, and hoped thatbe could meet the end with quiet heroism, a new action began in hiswaking thoughts, which was very difficult to master.
He had never seen the instrument that was to terminate his life. Howhigh it was from the ground, how many steps it had, where he wouldbe stood, how he would be touched, whether the touching hands would bedyed red, which way his face would be turned, whether he would bethe first, or might be the last: these and many similar questions,in nowise directed by his will, obtruded themselves over and overagain, countless times. Neither were they connected with fear: hewas conscious of no fear. Rather, they originated in a strangebesetting desire to know what to do when the time came; a desiregigantically disproportionate to the few swift moments to which itreferred; a wondering that was more like the wondering of some otherspirit within his, than his own.
The hours went on as he walked to and fro, and the clocks struck thenumbers he would never hear again. Nine gone for ever, ten gone forever, eleven gone for ever, twelve coming on to pass away. After ahard contest with that eccentric action of thought which had lastperplexed him, he had got the better of it. He walked up and down,softly repeating their names to himself. The worst of the strife wasover. He could walk up and down, free from distracting fancies,praying for himself and for them.
Twelve gone for ever.
He had been apprised that the final hour was Three, and he knew hewould be summoned some time earlier, inasmuch as the tumbrils joltedheavily and slowly through the streets. Therefore, he resolved to keepTwo before his mind, as the hour, and so to strengthen himself inthe interval that he might be able, after that time, to strengthenothers.
Walking regularly to and fro with his arms folded on his breast, avery different man from the prisoner, who had walked to and fro atLa Force, he heard One struck away from him, without surprise. Thehour had measured like most other hours. Devoutly thankful to Heavenfor his recovered self-possession, he thought, "There is but anothernow," and turned to walk again.
Footsteps in the stone passage outside the door. He stopped.
The key was put in the lock, and turned. Before the door was opened,or as it opened, a man said in a low voice, in English: "He hasnever seen me here; I have kept out of his way. Go you in alone; Iwait near. Lose no time!"
The door was quickly opened and closed, and there stood before himface to face, quiet, intent upon him, with the light of a smile on hisfeatures, and a cautionary finger on his lip, Sydney Carton.
There was something so bright and remarkable in his look, that,for the first moment, the prisoner misdoubted him to be anapparition of his own imagining. But, he spoke, and it was hisvoice; he took the prisoner's hand, and it was his real grasp.
"Of all the people upon earth, you least expected to see me?" hesaid.
"I could not believe it to be you. I can scarcely believe it now.You are not"- the apprehension came suddenly into his mind- "aprisoner?"
"No. I am accidentally possessed of a power over one of thekeepers here, and in virtue of it I stand before you. I come from her-your wife, dear Darnay."
The prisoner wrung his hand.
"I bring you a request from her."
"What is it?"
"A most earnest, pressing, and emphatic entreaty, addressed to youin the most pathetic tones of the voice so dear to you, that youwell remember."
The prisoner turned his face partly aside.
"You have no time to ask me why I bring it, or what it means; I haveno time to tell you. You must comply with it- take off those boots youwear, and draw on these of mine."
There was a chair against the wall of the cell, behind the prisoner.Carton, pressing forward, had already, with the speed of lightning,got him down into it, and stood over him, barefoot.
"Draw on these boots of mine. Put your hands to them; put yourwill to them. Quick!"
"Carton, there is no escaping from this place; it never can be done.You will only die with me. It is madness."
"It would be madness if I asked you to escape; but do I? When Iask you to pass out at that door, tell me it is madness and remainhere. Change that cravat for this of mine, that coat for this of mine.While you do it, let me take this ribbon from your hair, and shake outyour hair like this of mine!"
With wonderful quickness, and with a strength both of will andaction, that appeared quite supernatural, he forced all thesechanges upon him. The prisoner was like a young child in his hands.
"Carton! Dear Carton! It is madness. It cannot be accomplished, itnever can be done, it has been attempted, and has always failed. Iimplore you not to add your death to the bitterness of mine."
"Do I ask you, my dear Darnay, to pass the door? When I ask that,refuse. There are pen and ink and paper on this table. Is your handsteady enough to write?"
"It was when you came in."
"Steady it again, and write what I shall dictate. Quick, friend,quick!"
Pressing his hand to his bewildered head, Darnay sat down at thetable. Carton, with his right hand in his breast, stood close besidehim.
"Write exactly as I speak."
"To whom do I address it?"
"To no one." Carton still had his hand in his breast.
"Do I date it?"
The prisoner looked up, at each question. Carton, standing overhim with his hand in his breast, looked down.
"'If you remember,'" said Carton, dictating, "'the words that passedbetween us, long ago, you will readily comprehend this when you seeit. You do remember them, I know. It is not in your nature to forgetthem.'"
He was drawing his hand from his breast; the prisoner chancing tolook up in his hurried wonder as he wrote, the hand stopped, closingupon something.
"Have you written 'forget them'?" Carton asked.
"I have. Is that a weapon in your hand?"
"No; I am not armed."
"What is it in your hand?"
"You shall know directly. Write on; there are but a few words more."He dictated again. "'I am thankful that the time has come, when Ican prove them. That I do so is no subject for regret or grief.'" Ashe said these words with his eyes fixed on the writer, his hand slowlyand softly moved down close to the writer's face.
The pen dropped from Darnay's fingers on the table, and he lookedabout him vacantly.
"What vapour is that?" he asked.
"Something that crossed me?"
"I am conscious of nothing; there can be nothing here. Take up thepen and finish. Hurry, hurry!"
As if his memory were impaired, or his faculties disordered, theprisoner made an effort to rally his attention. As he looked at Cartonwith clouded eyes and with an altered manner of breathing, Carton- hishand again in his breast- looked steadily at him.
The prisoner bent over the paper, once more.
"'If it had been otherwise;'" Carton's hand was again watchfully andsoftly stealing down; "'I never should have used the longeropportunity. If it had been otherwise;'" the hand was at theprisoner's face; "'I should but have had so much the more to answerfor. If it had been otherwise-'" Carton looked at the pen and saw itwas trailing off into unintelligible signs.
Carton's hand moved back to his breast no more. The prisonersprang up with a reproachful look, but Carton's hand was close andfirm at his nostrils, and Carton's left arm caught him round thewaist. For a few seconds he faintly struggled with the man who hadcome to lay down his life for him; but, within a minute or so, hewas stretched insensible on the ground.
Quickly, but with hands as true to the purpose as his heart was,Carton dressed himself in the clothes the prisoner had laid aside,combed back his hair, and tied it with the ribbon the prisoner hadworn. Then, he softly called, "Enter there! Come in!" and the Spypresented himself.
"You see?" said Carton, looking up, as he kneeled on one knee besidethe insensible figure, putting the paper in the breast: "is yourhazard very great?"
"Mr. Carton," the Spy answered, with a timid snap of his fingers,"my hazard is not that, in the thick of business here, if you are trueto the whole of your bargain."
"Don't fear me. I will be true to the death."
"You must be, Mr. Carton, if the tale of fifty-two is to be right.Being made right by you in that dress, I shall have no fear."
"Have no fear! I shall soon be out of the way of harming you, andthe rest will soon be far from here, please God! Now, get assistanceand take me to the coach."
"You?" said the Spy nervously.
"Him, man, with whom I have exchanged. You go out at the gate bywhich you brought me in?"
"I was weak and faint when you brought me in, and I am fainter nowyou take me out. The parting interview has overpowered me. Such athing has happened here, often, and too often. Your life is in yourown hands. Quick! Call assistance!"
"You swear not to betray me?" said the trembling Spy, as he pausedfor a last moment.
"Man, man!" returned Carton, stamping his foot; "have I sworn byno solemn vow already, to go through with this, that you waste theprecious moments now? Take him yourself to the courtyard you knowof, place him yourself in the carriage, show him yourself to Mr.Lorry, tell him yourself to give him no restorative but air, and toremember my words of last night, and his promise of last night, anddrive away!"
The Spy withdrew, and Carton seated himself at the table, restinghis forehead on his hands. The Spy returned immediately, with two men.
"How, then?" said one of them, contemplating the fallen figure."So afflicted to find that his friend has drawn a prize in the lotteryof Sainte Guillotine?"
"A good patriot," said the other, "could hardly have been moreafflicted if the Aristocrat had drawn a blank."
They raised the unconscious figure, placed it on a litter they hadbrought to the door, and bent to carry it away.
"The time is short, Evremonde," said the Spy, in a warning voice.
"I know it well," answered Carton. "Be careful of my friend, Ientreat you, and leave me."
"Come, then, my children," said Barsad. "Lift him, and come away!"
The door closed, and Carton was left alone. Straining his powersof listening to the utmost, he listened for any sound that mightdenote suspicion or alarm. There was none. Keys turned, doors clashed,footsteps passed along distant passages: no cry was raised, or hurrymade, that seemed unusual. Breathing more freely in a little while, hesat down at the table, and listened again until the clock struck Two.
Sounds that he was not afraid of, for he divined their meaning, thenbegan to be audible. Several doors were opened in succession, andfinally his own. A gaoler, with a list in his hand, looked in,merely saying, "Follow me, Evremonde!" and he followed into a largedark room, at a distance. It was a dark winter day, and what withthe shadows within, and what with the shadows without, he could butdimly discern the others who were brought there to have their armsbound. Some were standing; some seated. Some were lamenting, and inrestless motion; but, these were few. The great majority were silentand still, looking fixedly at the ground.
As he stood by the wall in a dim corner, while some of the fifty-twowere brought in after him, one man stopped in passing, to embrace him,as having a knowledge of him. It thrilled him with a great dread ofdiscovery; but the man went on. A very few moments after that, a youngwoman, with a slight girlish form, a sweet spare face in which therewas no vestige of colour, and large widely opened patient eyes, rosefrom the seat where he had observed her sitting, and came to speakto him.
"Citizen Evremonde," she said, touching him with her cold hand. "Iam a poor little seamstress, who was with you in La Force."
He murmured for answer: "True. I forget what you were accused of?"
"Plots. Though the just Heaven knows that I am innocent of any. Isit likely? Who would think of plotting with a poor little weakcreature like me?
The forlorn smile with which she said it, so touched him, that tearsstarted from his eyes.
"I am not afraid to die, Citizen Evremonde, but I have done nothing.I am not unwilling to die, if the Republic which is to do so much goodto us poor, will profit by my death; but I do not know how that canbe, Citizen Evremonde. Such a poor weak little creature!"
As the last thing on earth that his heart was to warm and soften to,it warmed and softened to this pitiable girl.
"I heard you were released, Citizen Evremonde. I hoped it was true?"
"It was. But, I was again taken and condemned."
"If I may ride with you, Citizen Evremonde, will you let me holdyour hand? I am not afraid, but I am little and weak, and it will giveme more courage."
As the patient eyes were lifted to his face, he saw a sudden doubtin them, and then astonishment. He pressed the work-worn,hunger-worn young fingers, and touched his lips.
"Are you dying for him?" she whispered.
"And his wife and child. Hush! Yes."
"O you will let me hold your brave hand, stranger?"
"Hush! Yes, my poor sister; to the last."
The same shadows that are falling on the prison, are falling, inthat same hour of the early afternoon, on the Barrier with the crowdabout it, when a coach going out of Paris drives up to be examined.
"Who goes here? Whom have we within? Papers!"
The papers are handed out, and read.
"Alexandre Manette. Physician. French. Which is he?"
This is he; this helpless, inarticulately murmuring, wandering oldman pointed out.
"Apparently the Citizen-Doctor is not in his right mind? TheRevolution-fever will have been too much for him?"
Greatly too much for him.
"Hah! Many suffer with it. Lucie. His daughter. French. Which isshe?"
This is she.
"Apparently it must be. Lucie, the wife of Evremonde; is it not?"
"Hah! Evremonde has an assignation elsewhere. Lucie, her child.English. This is she?"
She and no other.
"Kiss me, child of Evremonde. Now, thou hast kissed a goodRepublican; something new in thy family; remember it! Sydney Carton.Advocate. English. Which is he?"
He lies here, in this corner of the carriage. He, too, is pointedout.
"Apparently the English advocate is in a swoon?"
It is hoped he will recover in the fresher air. It is representedthat he is not in strong health, and has separated sadly from a friendwho is under the displeasure of the Republic.
"Is that all? It is not a great deal, that! Many are under thedispleasure of the Republic, and must look out at the little window.Jarvis Lorry.
Banker. English. Which is he?"
"I am he. Necessarily, being the last."
It is Jarvis Lorry who has replied to all the previous questions. Itis Jarvis Lorry who has alighted and stands with his hand on the coachdoor, replying to a group of officials. They leisurely walk roundthe carriage and leisurely mount the box, to look at what littleluggage it carries on the roof; the country-people hanging about,press nearer to the coach doors and greedily stare in; a little child,carried by its mother, has its short arm held out for it, that itmay touch the wife of an aristocrat who has gone to the Guillotine.
"Behold your papers, Jarvis Lorry, countersigned."
"One can depart, citizen?"
"One can depart. Forward, my postilions! A good journey!"
"I salute you, citizens.- And the first danger passed!"
These are again the words of Jarvis Lorry, as he clasps his hands,and looks upward. There is terror in the carriage, there is weeping,there is the heavy breathing of the insensible traveller.
"Are we not going too slowly? Can they not be induced to go faster?"asks Lucie, clinging to the old man.
"It would seem like flight, my darling. I must not urge them toomuch; it would rouse suspicion."
"Look back, look back, and see if we are pursued!"
"The road is clear, my dearest. So far, we are not pursued."
Houses in twos and threes pass by us, solitary farms, ruinousbuildings, dye-works, tanneries, and the like, open country, avenuesof leafless trees. The hard uneven pavement is under us, the soft deepmud is on either side. Sometimes, we strike into the skirting mud,to avoid the stones that clatter us and shake us; sometimes, westick in ruts and sloughs there. The agony of our impatience is thenso great, that in our wild alarm and hurry we are for getting outand running- hiding- doing anything but stopping.
Out of the open country, in again among ruinous buildings,solitary farms, dye-works, tanneries, and the like, cottages in twosand threes, avenues of leafless trees. Have these men deceived us, andtaken us back by another road? Is not this the same place twiceover? Thank Heaven, no. A village. Look back, look back, and see if weare pursued! Hush! the posting-house.
Leisurely, our four horses are taken out; leisurely, the coachstands in the little street, bereft of horses, and with nolikelihood upon it of ever moving again; leisurely, the new horsescome into visible existence, one by one; leisurely, the new postilionsfollow, sucking, and plaiting the lashes of their whips; leisurely,the old postilions count their money, make wrong additions, and arriveat dissatisfied results. All the time, our overfraught hearts arebeating at a rate that would far outstrip the fastest gallop of thefastest horses ever foaled.
At length the new postilions are in their saddles, and the old areleft behind. We are through the village, up the hill, and down thehill, and on the low watery grounds. Suddenly, the postilions exchangespeech with animated gesticulation, and the horses are pulled up,almost on their haunches. We are pursued?
"Ho! Within the carriage there. Speak then!"
"What is it?" asks Mr. Lorry, looking out at window.
"How many did they say?"
"I do not understand you."
"-At the last post. How many to the Guillotine to-day?"
"I said so! A brave number! My fellow-citizen here would have itforty-two; ten more heads are worth having. The Guillotine goeshandsomely. I love it. Hi forward. Whoop!"
The night comes on dark. He moves more; he is beginning to revive,and to speak intelligibly; he thinks they are still together; heasks him, by his name, what he has in his hand. O pity us, kindHeaven, and help us! Look out, look out, and see if we are pursued.
The wind is rushing after us, and the clouds are flying after us,and the moon is plunging after us, and the whole wild night is inpursuit of us; but, so far, we are pursued by nothing else.