A Tale of Two Cities  双城记

All the people within reach had suspended their business, or theiridleness, to run to the spot and drink the wine. The rough,irregular stones of the street, pointing every way, and designed,one might have thought, expressly to lame all living creatures thatapproached them, had dammed it into little pools; these weresurrounded, each by its own jostling group or crowd, according toits size. Some men kneeled down, made scoops of their two handsjoined, and sipped, or tried to help women, who bent over theirshoulders, to sip, before the wine had all run out between theirfingers. Others, men and women, dipped in the puddles with little mugsof mutilated earthenware, or even with handkerchiefs from women'sheads, which were squeezed dry into infants' mouths; others made smallmud-embankments, to stern the wine as it ran; others, directed bylookers-on up at high windows, darted here and there, to cut offlittle streams of wine that started away in new directions; othersdevoted themselves to the sodden and lee-dyed pieces of the cask,licking, and even champing the moister wine-rotted fragments witheager relish. There was no drainage to carry off the wine, and notonly did it all get taken up, but so much mud got taken up alongwith it, that there might have been a scavenger in the street, ifanybody acquainted with it could have believed in such a miraculouspresence.


A shrill sound of laughter and of amused voices- voices of men,women, and children- resounded in the street while this wine gamelasted. There was little roughness in the sport, and much playfulness.There was a special companionship in it, an observable inclinationon the part of every one to join some other one, which led, especiallyamong the luckier or lighter-hearted, to frolicsome embraces, drinkingof healths, shaking of hands, and even joining of hands and dancing, adozen together. When the wine was gone, and the places where it hadbeen most abundant were raked into a gridiron-pattern by fingers,these demonstrations ceased, as suddenly as they had broken out. Theman who had left his saw sticking in the firewood he was cutting,set it in motion again; the women who had left on a door-step thelittle pot of hot ashes, at which she had been trying to soften thepain in her own starved fingers and toes, or in those of her child,returned to it; men with bare arms, matted locks, and cadaverousfaces, who had emerged into the winter light from cellars, moved away,to descend again; and a gloom gathered on the scene that appeared morenatural to it than sunshine.


The wine was red wine, and had stained the ground of the narrowstreet in the suburb of Saint Antoine, in Paris, where it was spilled.It had stained many hands, too, and many faces, and many naked feet,and many wooden shoes. The hands of the man who sawed the wood, leftred marks on the billets; and the forehead of the woman who nursed herbaby, was stained with the stain of the old rag she wound about herhead again. Those who had been greedy with the staves of the cask, hadacquired a tigerish smear about the mouth; and one tall joker sobesmirched, his head more out of a long squalid bag of a nightcap thanin it, scrawled upon a wall with his finger dipped in muddy wine-lees-BLOOD.


The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on thestreet-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there.


And now that the cloud settled on Saint Antoine, which a momentarygleam had driven from his sacred countenance, the darkness of it washeavy- cold, dirt, sickness, ignorance, and want, were the lords inwaiting on the saintly presence- nobles of great power all of them;but, most especially the last. Samples of a people that hadundergone a terrible grinding and regrinding in the mill, andcertainly not in the fabulous mill which ground old people young,shivered at every corner, passed in and out at every doorway, lookedfrom every window, fluttered in every vestige of a garment that thewind shook. The mill which had worked them down, was the mill thatgrinds young people old; the children had ancient faces and gravevoices; and upon them, and upon the grown faces, and ploughed intoevery furrow of age and coming up afresh, was the sigh, Hunger. It wasprevalent everywhere. Hunger was pushed out of the tall houses, in thewretched clothing that hung upon poles and lines; Hunger was patchedinto them with straw and rag and wood and paper; Hunger was repeatedin every fragment of the small modicum of firewood that the mansawed off; Hunger stared down from the smokeless chimneys, and startedup from the filthy street that had no offal, among its refuse, ofanything to eat. Hunger was the inscription on the baker's shelves,written in every small loaf of his scanty stock of bad bread; at thesausage-shop, in every dead-dog preparation that was offered for sale.Hunger rattled its dry bones among the roasting chestnuts in theturned cylinder; Hunger was shred into atomies in every farthingporringer of husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctant drops ofoil.


Its abiding place was in all things fitted to it. A narrow windingstreet, full of offence and stench, with other narrow windingstreets diverging, all peopled by rags and nightcaps, and all smellingof rags and nightcaps, and all visible things with a brooding lookupon them that looked ill. In the hunted air of the people there wasyet some wild-beast thought of the possibility of turning at bay.Depressed and slinking though they were, eyes of fire were not wantingamong them; nor compressed lips, white with what they suppressed;nor foreheads knitted into the likeness of the gallows-rope they musedabout enduring, or inflicting. The trade sips (and they were almost asmany as the shops) were, all, grim illustrations of Want. Thebutcher and the porkman painted up, only the leanest scrags of meat;the baker, the coarsest of meagre loaves. The people rudely picturedas drinking in the wine-shops, croaked over their scanty measures ofthin wine and beer, and were gloweringly confidential together.Nothing was represented in a flourishing condition, save tools andweapons; but, the cutler's knives and axes were sharp and bright,the smith's hammers were heavy, and the gunmaker's stock wasmurderous. The crippling stones of the pavement, with their manylittle reservoirs of mud and water, had no footways, but broke offabruptly at the doors. The kennel, to make amends, ran down the middleof the street- when it ran at all: which was only after heavy rains,and then it ran, by many eccentric fits, into the houses. Across thestreets, at wide intervals, one clumsy lamp was slung by a rope andpulley; at night, when the lamplighter had let these down, andlighted, and hoisted them again, a feeble grove of dim wicks swungin a sickly manner overhead, as if they were at sea. Indeed theywere at sea, and the ship and crew were in peril of tempest.


For, the time was to come, when the gaunt scarecrows of thatregion should have watched the lamplighter, in their idleness andhunger, so long, as to conceive the idea of improving on his method,and hauling up men by those ropes and pulleys, to flare upon thedarkness of their condition. But, the time was not come yet; and everywind that blew over France shook the rags of the scarecrows in vain,for the birds, fine of song and feather, took no warning.


The wine-shop was a corner shop, better than most others in itsappearance and degree, and the master of the wine-shop had stoodoutside it, in a yellow waistcoat and green breeches, looking on atthe struggle for the lost wine. "It's not my affair," said he, witha final shrug of the shoulders. "The people from the market did it.Let them bring another."


There, his eyes happening to catch the tall joker writing up hisjoke, he called to him across the way:


"Say, then, my Gaspard, what do you do there?"


The fellow pointed to his joke with immense significance, as isoften the way with his tribe. It missed its mark, and completelyfailed, as is often the way with his tribe too.


"What now? Are you a subject for the mad hospital?" said thewineshop keeper, crossing the road, and obliterating the jest with ahandful of mud, picked up for the purpose, and smeared over it. "Whydo you write in the public streets? Is there- tell me thou- is thereno other place to write such words in?"


In his expostulation he dropped his cleaner hand (perhapsaccidentally, perhaps not) upon the joker's heart. The joker rapped itwith his own, took a nimble spring upward, and came down in afantastic dancing attitude, with one of his stained shoes jerked offhis foot into his hand, and held out. A joker of an extremely, notto say wolfishly practical character, he looked, under thosecircumstances.


"Put it on, put it on," said the other. "Call wine, wine; and finishthere." With that advice, he wiped his soiled hand upon the joker'sdress, such as it was- quite deliberately, as having dirtied thehand on his account; and then recrossed the road and entered thewine-shop.


This wine-shop keeper was a bull-necked, martial-looking man ofthirty, and he should have been of a hot temperament, for, although itwas a bitter day, he wore no coat, but carried one slung over hisshoulder. His shirt-sleeves were rolled up, too, and his brown armswere bare to the elbows. Neither did he wear anything more on his headthan his own crisply-curling short dark hair. He was a dark manaltogether, with good eyes and a good bold breadth between them.Good-humoured looking on the whole, but implacable-looking, too;evidently a man of a strong resolution and a set purpose; a man notdesirable to be met, rushing down a narrow pass with a gulf oneither side, for nothing would turn the man.


Madame Defarge, his wife, sat in the shop behind the counter as hecame in. Madame Defarge was a stout woman of about his own age, with awatchful eye that seldom seemed to look at anything, a large handheavily ringed, a steady face, strong features, and great composure ofmanner. There was a character about Madame Defarge, from which onemight have predicated that she did not often make mistakes againstherself in any of the reckonings over which she presided. MadameDefarge being sensitive to cold, was wrapped in fur, and had aquantity of bright shawl twined about her head, though not to theconcealment of her large ear-rings. Her knitting was before her, butshe had laid it down to pick her teeth with a toothpick. Thus engaged,with her right elbow supported by her left hand, Madame Defarge saidnothing when her lord came in, but coughed just one grain of cough.This, in combination with the lifting of her darkly defined eyebrowsover her toothpick by the breadth of a line, suggested to herhusband that he would do well to look round the shop among thecustomers, for any new customer who had dropped in while he steppedover the way.


The wine-shop keeper accordingly rolled his eyes about, until theyrested upon an elderly gentleman and a young lady, who were seatedin a corner. Other company were there: two playing cards, two playingdominoes, three standing by the counter lengthening out a short supplyof wine. As he passed behind the counter, he took notice that theelderly gentleman said in a look to the young lady, "This is our man."


"What the devil do you do in that galley there?" said MonsieurDefarge to himself; "I don't know you."


But, he feigned not to notice the two strangers, and fell intodiscourse with the triumvirate of customers who were drinking at thecounter.


"How goes it, Jacques?" said one of these three to Monsieur Defarge."Is all the spilt wine swallowed?"


"Every drop, Jacques," answered Monsieur Defarge.


When this interchange of Christian name was effected, MadameDefarge, picking her teeth with her toothpick, coughed another grainof cough, and raised her eyebrows by the breadth of another line.


"It is not often," said the second of the three, addressing MonsieurDefarge, "that many of these miserable beasts know the taste ofwine, or of anything but black bread and death. Is it not so,Jacques?"


"It is so, Jacques," Monsieur Defarge returned.


At this second interchange of the Christian name, Madame Defarge,still using her toothpick with profound composure, coughed anothergrain of cough, and raised her eyebrows by the breadth of anotherline.


The last of the three now said his say, as he put down his emptydrinking vessel and smacked his lips.


"Ah! So much the worse! A bitter taste it is that such poor cattlealways have in their mouths, and hard lives they live, Jacques. Am Iright, Jacques?"


"You are right, Jacques," was the response of Monsieur Defarge.


This third interchange of the Christian name was completed at themoment when Madame Defarge put her toothpick by, kept her eyebrows up,and slightly rustled in her seat.


"Hold then! True!" muttered her husband. "Gentlemen- my wife!"


The three customers pulled off their hats to Madame Defarge, withthree flourishes. She acknowledged their homage by bending her head,and giving them a quick look. Then she glanced in a casual mannerround the wine-shop, took up her knitting with great apparent calmnessand repose of spirit, and became absorbed in it.


"Gentlemen," said her husband, who had kept his bright eyeobservantly upon her, "good day. The chamber, furnishedbachelor-fashion, that you wished to see, and were inquiring forwhen I stepped out, is on the fifth floor. The doorway of thestaircase gives on the little courtyard close to the left here,"pointing with his hand, "near to the window of my establishment.But, now that I remember, one of you has already been there, and canshow the way. Gentlemen, adieu!"


They paid for their wine, and left the place. The eyes of MonsieurDefarge were studying his wife at her knitting when the elderlygentleman advanced from his corner, and begged the favour of a word.


"Willingly, sir," said Monsieur Defarge, and quietly stepped withhim to the door.


Their conference was very short, but very decided. Almost at thefirst word, Monsieur Defarge started and became deeply attentive. Ithad not lasted a minute, when he nodded and went out. The gentlemanthen beckoned to the young lady, and they, too, went out. MadameDefarge knitted with nimble fingers and steady eyebrows, and sawnothing.


Mr. Jarvis Lorry and Miss Manette, emerging from the wine-shop thus,joined Monsieur Defarge in the doorway to which he had directed hisown company just before. It opened from a stinking little blackcourtyard, and was the general public entrance to a great pile ofhouses, inhabited by a great number of people. In the gloomytile-paved entry to the gloomy tile-paved staircase, MonsieurDefarge bent down on one knee to the child of his old master, andput her hand to his lips. It was a gentle action, but not at allgently done; a very remarkable transformation had come over him in afew seconds. He had no good-humour in his face, nor any openness ofaspect left, but had become a secret, angry, dangerous man.


"It is very high; it is a little difficult. Better to begin slowly."Thus, Monsieur Defarge, in a stern voice, to Mr. Lorry, as theybegan ascending the stairs.


"Is he alone?" the latter whispered.


"Alone! God help him, who should be with him!" said the other, inthe same low voice.


"Is he always alone, then?"




"Of his own desire?"


"Of his own necessity. As he was, when I first saw him after theyfound me and demanded to know if I would take him, and, at my peril bediscreet- as he was then, so he is now."


"He is greatly changed?"




The keeper of the wine-shop stopped to strike the wall with hishand, and mutter a tremendous curse. No direct answer could havebeen half so forcible. Mr. Lorry's spirits grew heavier and heavier,as he and his two companions ascended higher and higher.


Such a staircase, with its accessories, in the older and morecrowded parts of Paris, would be bad enough now; but, at that time, itwas vile indeed to unaccustomed and unhardened senses. Every littlehabitation within the great foul nest of one high building- that is tosay, the room or rooms within every door that opened on the generalstaircase- left its own heap of refuse on its own landing, besidesflinging other refuse from its own windows. The uncontrollable andhopeless mass of decomposition so engendered, would have pollutedthe air, even if poverty and deprivation had not loaded it withtheir intangible impurities; the two bad sources combined made italmost insupportable. Through such an atmosphere, by a steep darkshaft of dirt and poison, the way lay. Yielding to his own disturbanceof mind, and to his young companion's agitation, which becamegreater every instant, Mr. Jarvis Lorry twice stopped to rest. Each ofthese stoppages was made at a doleful grating, by which anylanguishing good airs that were left uncorrupted, seemed to escape,and all spoilt and sickly vapours seemed to crawl in. Through therusted bars, tastes, rather than glimpses, were caught of thejumbled neighbourhood; and nothing within range, nearer or lowerthan the summits of the two great towers of Notre-Dame, had anypromise on it of healthy life or wholesome aspirations.


At last, the top of the staircase was gained, and they stopped forthe third time. There was yet an upper staircase, of a steeperinclination and of contracted dimensions, to be ascended, before thegarret story was reached. The keeper of the wine-shop, always goinga little in advance, and always going on the side which Mr. Lorrytook, as though he dreaded to be asked any question by the young lady,turned himself about here, and, carefully feeling in the pockets ofthe coat he carried over his shoulder, took out a key.


"The door is locked then, my friend?" said Mr. Lorry, surprised.


"Ay. Yes," was the grim reply of Monsieur Defarge.


"You think it necessary to keep the unfortunate gentleman soretired?"


"I think it necessary to turn the key." Monsieur Defarge whisperedit closer in his ear, and frowned heavily.




"Why! Because he has lived so long, locked up, that he would befrightened- rave- tear himself to pieces- die- come to I know not whatharm- if his door was left open."


"Is it possible!" exclaimed Mr. Lorry.


"Is it possible!" repeated Defarge, bitterly. "Yes. And abeautiful world we live in, when it is possible, and when many othersuch things are possible, and not only possible, but done- done, seeyou!- under that sky there, every day. Long live the Devil. Let usgo on."


This dialogue had been held in so very low a whisper, that not aword of it had reached the young lady's ears. But, by this time shetrembled under such strong emotion, and her face expressed such deepanxiety, and, above all, such dread and terror, that Mr. Lorry felt itincumbent on him to speak a word or two of reassurance.


"Courage, dear miss! Courage! Business! The worst will be over ina moment; it is but passing the room-door, and the worst is over.Then, all the good you bring to him, all the relief, all the happinessyou bring to him, begin. Let our good friend here, assist you onthat side. That's well, friend Defarge. Come, now. Business,business!"


They went up slowly and softly. The staircase was short, and theywere soon at the top. There, as it had an abrupt turn in it, they cameall at once in sight of three men, whose heads were bent down closetogether at the side of a door, and who were intently looking into theroom to which the door belonged, through some chinks or holes in thewall. On hearing footsteps close at hand, these three turned, androse, and showed themselves to be the three of one name who had beendrinking in the wine-shop.


"I forgot them in the surprise of your visit," explained MonsieurDefarge. "Leave us, good boys; we have business here."


The three glided by, and went silently down.


There appearing to be no other door on that floor, and the keeper ofthe wine-shop going straight to this one when they were left alone,Mr. Lorry asked him in a whisper, with a little anger:


"Do you make a show of Monsieur Manette?"


"I show him, in the way you have seen, to a chosen few."


"Is that well?"


"I think it is well."


"Who are the few? How do you choose them?"


"I choose them as real men, of my name- Jacques is my name- towhom the sight is likely to do good. Enough; you are English; thatis another thing. Stay there, if you please, a little moment."


With an admonitory gesture to keep them back, he stooped, and lookedin through the crevice in the wall. Soon raising his head again, hestruck twice or thrice upon the door- evidently with no other objectthan to make a noise there. With the same intention, he drew the keyacross it, three or four times, before he put it clumsily into thelock, and turned it as heavily as he could.


The door slowly opened inward under his hand, and he looked into theroom and said something. A faint voice answered something. Little morethan a single syllable could have been spoken on either side.


He looked back over his shoulder, and beckoned them to enter. Mr.Lorry got his arm securely round the daughter's waist, and held her;for he felt that she was sinking.


"A- a- a- business, business!" he urged, with a moisture that wasnot of business shining on his cheek. "Come in, come in!"


"I am afraid of it," she answered, shuddering.


"Of it? What?"


"I mean of him. Of my father."


Rendered in a manner desperate, by her state and by the beckoning oftheir conductor, he drew over his neck the arm that shook upon hisshoulder, lifted her a little, and hurried her into the room. He sather down just within the door, and held her, clinging to him.


Defarge drew out the key, closed the door, locked it on theinside, took out the key again, and held it in his hand. All this hedid, methodically, and with as loud and harsh an accompaniment ofnoise as he could make. Finally, he walked across the room with ameasured tread to where the window was. He stopped there, and facedround.


The garret, built to be a depository for firewood and the like,was dim and dark: for, the window of dormer shape, was in truth a doorin the roof, with a little crane over it for the hoisting up of storesfrom the street: unglazed, and closing up the middle in two pieces,like any other door of French construction. To exclude the cold, onehalf of this door was fast closed, and the other was opened but a verylittle way. Such a scanty portion of light was admitted throughthese means, that it was difficult, on first coming in, to seeanything; and long habit alone could have slowly formed in any one,the ability to do any work requiring nicety in such obscurity. Yet,work of that kind was being done in the garret; for, with his backtowards the door, and his face towards the window where the keeperof the wine-shop stood looking at him, a white-haired man sat on a lowbench, stooping forward and very busy, making shoes.