A TALE OF TWO CITIES - 1 - 6 in English Social Stories by Charles Dickens books and stories PDF | A TALE OF TWO CITIES - 1 - 6

A TALE OF TWO CITIES - 1 - 6

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

A STORY OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

By Charles Dickens

Recalled to Life

(6)

The Shoemaker

“Good day!” said Monsieur Defarge, looking down at the white head that

bent low over the shoemaking.

It was raised for a moment, and a very faint voice responded to the

salutation, as if it were at a distance:

“Good day!”

“You are still hard at work, I see?”

After a long silence, the head was lifted for another moment, and the

voice replied, “Yes--I am working.” This time, a pair of haggard eyes

had looked at the questioner, before the face had dropped again.

The faintness of the voice was pitiable and dreadful. It was not the

faintness of physical weakness, though confinement and hard fare no

doubt had their part in it. Its deplorable peculiarity was, that it was

the faintness of solitude and disuse. It was like the last feeble echo

of a sound made long and long ago. So entirely had it lost the life and

resonance of the human voice, that it affected the senses like a once

beautiful colour faded away into a poor weak stain. So sunken and

suppressed it was, that it was like a voice underground. So expressive

it was, of a hopeless and lost creature, that a famished traveller,

wearied out by lonely wandering in a wilderness, would have remembered

home and friends in such a tone before lying down to die.

Some minutes of silent work had passed: and the haggard eyes had looked

up again: not with any interest or curiosity, but with a dull mechanical

perception, beforehand, that the spot where the only visitor they were

aware of had stood, was not yet empty.

“I want,” said Defarge, who had not removed his gaze from the shoemaker,

“to let in a little more light here. You can bear a little more?”

The shoemaker stopped his work; looked with a vacant air of listening,

at the floor on one side of him; then similarly, at the floor on the

other side of him; then, upward at the speaker.

“What did you say?”

“You can bear a little more light?”

“I must bear it, if you let it in.” (Laying the palest shadow of a

stress upon the second word.)

The opened half-door was opened a little further, and secured at that

angle for the time. A broad ray of light fell into the garret, and

showed the workman with an unfinished shoe upon his lap, pausing in his

labour. His few common tools and various scraps of leather were at his

feet and on his bench. He had a white beard, raggedly cut, but not very

long, a hollow face, and exceedingly bright eyes. The hollowness and

thinness of his face would have caused them to look large, under his yet

dark eyebrows and his confused white hair, though they had been really

otherwise; but, they were naturally large, and looked unnaturally so.

His yellow rags of shirt lay open at the throat, and showed his body

to be withered and worn. He, and his old canvas frock, and his loose

stockings, and all his poor tatters of clothes, had, in a long seclusion

from direct light and air, faded down to such a dull uniformity of

parchment-yellow, that it would have been hard to say which was which.

He had put up a hand between his eyes and the light, and the very bones

of it seemed transparent. So he sat, with a steadfastly vacant gaze,

pausing in his work. He never looked at the figure before him, without

first looking down on this side of himself, then on that, as if he had

lost the habit of associating place with sound; he never spoke, without

first wandering in this manner, and forgetting to speak.

“Are you going to finish that pair of shoes to-day?” asked Defarge,

motioning to Mr. Lorry to come forward.

“What did you say?”

“Do you mean to finish that pair of shoes to-day?”

“I can't say that I mean to. I suppose so. I don't know.”

But, the question reminded him of his work, and he bent over it again.

Mr. Lorry came silently forward, leaving the daughter by the door. When

he had stood, for a minute or two, by the side of Defarge, the shoemaker

looked up. He showed no surprise at seeing another figure, but the

unsteady fingers of one of his hands strayed to his lips as he looked at

it (his lips and his nails were of the same pale lead-colour), and then

the hand dropped to his work, and he once more bent over the shoe. The

look and the action had occupied but an instant.

“You have a visitor, you see,” said Monsieur Defarge.

“What did you say?”

“Here is a visitor.”

The shoemaker looked up as before, but without removing a hand from his

work.

“Come!” said Defarge. “Here is monsieur, who knows a well-made shoe when

he sees one. Show him that shoe you are working at. Take it, monsieur.”

Mr. Lorry took it in his hand.

“Tell monsieur what kind of shoe it is, and the maker's name.”

There was a longer pause than usual, before the shoemaker replied:

“I forget what it was you asked me. What did you say?”

“I said, couldn't you describe the kind of shoe, for monsieur's

information?”

“It is a lady's shoe. It is a young lady's walking-shoe. It is in the

present mode. I never saw the mode. I have had a pattern in my hand.” He

glanced at the shoe with some little passing touch of pride.

“And the maker's name?” said Defarge.

Now that he had no work to hold, he laid the knuckles of the right hand

in the hollow of the left, and then the knuckles of the left hand in the

hollow of the right, and then passed a hand across his bearded chin, and

so on in regular changes, without a moment's intermission. The task of

recalling him from the vagrancy into which he always sank when he

had spoken, was like recalling some very weak person from a swoon, or

endeavouring, in the hope of some disclosure, to stay the spirit of a

fast-dying man.

“Did you ask me for my name?”

“Assuredly I did.”

“One Hundred and Five, North Tower.”

“Is that all?”

“One Hundred and Five, North Tower.”

With a weary sound that was not a sigh, nor a groan, he bent to work

again, until the silence was again broken.

“You are not a shoemaker by trade?” said Mr. Lorry, looking steadfastly

at him.

His haggard eyes turned to Defarge as if he would have transferred the

question to him: but as no help came from that quarter, they turned back

on the questioner when they had sought the ground.

“I am not a shoemaker by trade? No, I was not a shoemaker by trade. I-I

learnt it here. I taught myself. I asked leave to--”

He lapsed away, even for minutes, ringing those measured changes on his

hands the whole time. His eyes came slowly back, at last, to the face

from which they had wandered; when they rested on it, he started, and

resumed, in the manner of a sleeper that moment awake, reverting to a

subject of last night.

“I asked leave to teach myself, and I got it with much difficulty after

a long while, and I have made shoes ever since.”

As he held out his hand for the shoe that had been taken from him, Mr.

Lorry said, still looking steadfastly in his face:

“Monsieur Manette, do you remember nothing of me?”

The shoe dropped to the ground, and he sat looking fixedly at the

questioner.

“Monsieur Manette”; Mr. Lorry laid his hand upon Defarge's arm; “do you

remember nothing of this man? Look at him. Look at me. Is there no old

banker, no old business, no old servant, no old time, rising in your

mind, Monsieur Manette?”

As the captive of many years sat looking fixedly, by turns, at Mr.

Lorry and at Defarge, some long obliterated marks of an actively intent

intelligence in the middle of the forehead, gradually forced themselves

through the black mist that had fallen on him. They were overclouded

again, they were fainter, they were gone; but they had been there. And

so exactly was the expression repeated on the fair young face of her who

had crept along the wall to a point where she could see him, and where

she now stood looking at him, with hands which at first had been only

raised in frightened compassion, if not even to keep him off and

shut out the sight of him, but which were now extending towards him,

trembling with eagerness to lay the spectral face upon her warm young

breast, and love it back to life and hope--so exactly was the expression

repeated (though in stronger characters) on her fair young face, that it

looked as though it had passed like a moving light, from him to her.

Darkness had fallen on him in its place. He looked at the two, less and

less attentively, and his eyes in gloomy abstraction sought the ground

and looked about him in the old way. Finally, with a deep long sigh, he

took the shoe up, and resumed his work.

“Have you recognised him, monsieur?” asked Defarge in a whisper.

“Yes; for a moment. At first I thought it quite hopeless, but I have

unquestionably seen, for a single moment, the face that I once knew so

well. Hush! Let us draw further back. Hush!”

She had moved from the wall of the garret, very near to the bench on

which he sat. There was something awful in his unconsciousness of the

figure that could have put out its hand and touched him as he stooped

over his labour.

Not a word was spoken, not a sound was made. She stood, like a spirit,

beside him, and he bent over his work.

It happened, at length, that he had occasion to change the instrument

in his hand, for his shoemaker's knife. It lay on that side of him

which was not the side on which she stood. He had taken it up, and was

stooping to work again, when his eyes caught the skirt of her dress. He

raised them, and saw her face. The two spectators started forward,

but she stayed them with a motion of her hand. She had no fear of his

striking at her with the knife, though they had.

He stared at her with a fearful look, and after a while his lips began

to form some words, though no sound proceeded from them. By degrees, in

the pauses of his quick and laboured breathing, he was heard to say:

“What is this?”

With the tears streaming down her face, she put her two hands to her

lips, and kissed them to him; then clasped them on her breast, as if she

laid his ruined head there.

“You are not the gaoler's daughter?”

She sighed “No.”

“Who are you?”

Not yet trusting the tones of her voice, she sat down on the bench

beside him. He recoiled, but she laid her hand upon his arm. A strange

thrill struck him when she did so, and visibly passed over his frame; he

laid the knife down softly, as he sat staring at her.

Her golden hair, which she wore in long curls, had been hurriedly pushed

aside, and fell down over her neck. Advancing his hand by little and

little, he took it up and looked at it. In the midst of the action

he went astray, and, with another deep sigh, fell to work at his

shoemaking.

But not for long. Releasing his arm, she laid her hand upon his

shoulder. After looking doubtfully at it, two or three times, as if to

be sure that it was really there, he laid down his work, put his hand

to his neck, and took off a blackened string with a scrap of folded rag

attached to it. He opened this, carefully, on his knee, and it contained

a very little quantity of hair: not more than one or two long golden

hairs, which he had, in some old day, wound off upon his finger.

He took her hair into his hand again, and looked closely at it. “It is

the same. How can it be! When was it! How was it!”

As the concentrated expression returned to his forehead, he seemed to

become conscious that it was in hers too. He turned her full to the

light, and looked at her.

“She had laid her head upon my shoulder, that night when I was summoned

out--she had a fear of my going, though I had none--and when I was

brought to the North Tower they found these upon my sleeve. 'You will

leave me them? They can never help me to escape in the body, though they

may in the spirit.' Those were the words I said. I remember them very

well.”

He formed this speech with his lips many times before he could utter it.

But when he did find spoken words for it, they came to him coherently,

though slowly.

“How was this?--_Was it you_?”

Once more, the two spectators started, as he turned upon her with a

frightful suddenness. But she sat perfectly still in his grasp, and only

said, in a low voice, “I entreat you, good gentlemen, do not come near

us, do not speak, do not move!”

“Hark!” he exclaimed. “Whose voice was that?”

His hands released her as he uttered this cry, and went up to his white

hair, which they tore in a frenzy. It died out, as everything but his

shoemaking did die out of him, and he refolded his little packet and

tried to secure it in his breast; but he still looked at her, and

gloomily shook his head.

“No, no, no; you are too young, too blooming. It can't be. See what the

prisoner is. These are not the hands she knew, this is not the face

she knew, this is not a voice she ever heard. No, no. She was--and He

was--before the slow years of the North Tower--ages ago. What is your

name, my gentle angel?”

Hailing his softened tone and manner, his daughter fell upon her knees

before him, with her appealing hands upon his breast.

“O, sir, at another time you shall know my name, and who my mother was,

and who my father, and how I never knew their hard, hard history. But I

cannot tell you at this time, and I cannot tell you here. All that I may

tell you, here and now, is, that I pray to you to touch me and to bless

me. Kiss me, kiss me! O my dear, my dear!”

His cold white head mingled with her radiant hair, which warmed and

lighted it as though it were the light of Freedom shining on him.

“If you hear in my voice--I don't know that it is so, but I hope it

is--if you hear in my voice any resemblance to a voice that once was

sweet music in your ears, weep for it, weep for it! If you touch, in

touching my hair, anything that recalls a beloved head that lay on your

breast when you were young and free, weep for it, weep for it! If, when

I hint to you of a Home that is before us, where I will be true to you

with all my duty and with all my faithful service, I bring back the

remembrance of a Home long desolate, while your poor heart pined away,

weep for it, weep for it!”

She held him closer round the neck, and rocked him on her breast like a

child.

“If, when I tell you, dearest dear, that your agony is over, and that I

have come here to take you from it, and that we go to England to be at

peace and at rest, I cause you to think of your useful life laid waste,

and of our native France so wicked to you, weep for it, weep for it! And

if, when I shall tell you of my name, and of my father who is living,

and of my mother who is dead, you learn that I have to kneel to my

honoured father, and implore his pardon for having never for his sake

striven all day and lain awake and wept all night, because the love of

my poor mother hid his torture from me, weep for it, weep for it! Weep

for her, then, and for me! Good gentlemen, thank God! I feel his sacred

tears upon my face, and his sobs strike against my heart. O, see! Thank

God for us, thank God!”

He had sunk in her arms, and his face dropped on her breast: a sight so

touching, yet so terrible in the tremendous wrong and suffering which

had gone before it, that the two beholders covered their faces.

When the quiet of the garret had been long undisturbed, and his heaving

breast and shaken form had long yielded to the calm that must follow all

storms--emblem to humanity, of the rest and silence into which the storm

called Life must hush at last--they came forward to raise the father and

daughter from the ground. He had gradually dropped to the floor, and lay

there in a lethargy, worn out. She had nestled down with him, that his

head might lie upon her arm; and her hair drooping over him curtained

him from the light.

“If, without disturbing him,” she said, raising her hand to Mr. Lorry as

he stooped over them, after repeated blowings of his nose, “all could be

arranged for our leaving Paris at once, so that, from the very door, he

could be taken away--”

“But, consider. Is he fit for the journey?” asked Mr. Lorry.

“More fit for that, I think, than to remain in this city, so dreadful to

him.”

“It is true,” said Defarge, who was kneeling to look on and hear. “More

than that; Monsieur Manette is, for all reasons, best out of France.

Say, shall I hire a carriage and post-horses?”

“That's business,” said Mr. Lorry, resuming on the shortest notice his

methodical manners; “and if business is to be done, I had better do it.”

“Then be so kind,” urged Miss Manette, “as to leave us here. You see how

composed he has become, and you cannot be afraid to leave him with me

now. Why should you be? If you will lock the door to secure us from

interruption, I do not doubt that you will find him, when you come back,

as quiet as you leave him. In any case, I will take care of him until

you return, and then we will remove him straight.”

Both Mr. Lorry and Defarge were rather disinclined to this course, and

in favour of one of them remaining. But, as there were not only carriage

and horses to be seen to, but travelling papers; and as time pressed,

for the day was drawing to an end, it came at last to their hastily

dividing the business that was necessary to be done, and hurrying away

to do it.

Then, as the darkness closed in, the daughter laid her head down on the

hard ground close at the father's side, and watched him. The darkness

deepened and deepened, and they both lay quiet, until a light gleamed

through the chinks in the wall.

Mr. Lorry and Monsieur Defarge had made all ready for the journey, and

had brought with them, besides travelling cloaks and wrappers, bread and

meat, wine, and hot coffee. Monsieur Defarge put this provender, and the

lamp he carried, on the shoemaker's bench (there was nothing else in the

garret but a pallet bed), and he and Mr. Lorry roused the captive, and

assisted him to his feet.

No human intelligence could have read the mysteries of his mind, in

the scared blank wonder of his face. Whether he knew what had happened,

whether he recollected what they had said to him, whether he knew that

he was free, were questions which no sagacity could have solved. They

tried speaking to him; but, he was so confused, and so very slow to

answer, that they took fright at his bewilderment, and agreed for

the time to tamper with him no more. He had a wild, lost manner of

occasionally clasping his head in his hands, that had not been seen

in him before; yet, he had some pleasure in the mere sound of his

daughter's voice, and invariably turned to it when she spoke.

In the submissive way of one long accustomed to obey under coercion, he

ate and drank what they gave him to eat and drink, and put on the cloak

and other wrappings, that they gave him to wear. He readily responded to

his daughter's drawing her arm through his, and took--and kept--her hand

in both his own.

They began to descend; Monsieur Defarge going first with the lamp, Mr.

Lorry closing the little procession. They had not traversed many steps

of the long main staircase when he stopped, and stared at the roof and

round at the walls.

“You remember the place, my father? You remember coming up here?”

“What did you say?”

But, before she could repeat the question, he murmured an answer as if

she had repeated it.

“Remember? No, I don't remember. It was so very long ago.”

That he had no recollection whatever of his having been brought from his

prison to that house, was apparent to them. They heard him mutter,

“One Hundred and Five, North Tower;” and when he looked about him, it

evidently was for the strong fortress-walls which had long encompassed

him. On their reaching the courtyard he instinctively altered his

tread, as being in expectation of a drawbridge; and when there was

no drawbridge, and he saw the carriage waiting in the open street, he

dropped his daughter's hand and clasped his head again.

No crowd was about the door; no people were discernible at any of the

many windows; not even a chance passerby was in the street. An unnatural

silence and desertion reigned there. Only one soul was to be seen, and

that was Madame Defarge--who leaned against the door-post, knitting, and

saw nothing.

The prisoner had got into a coach, and his daughter had followed

him, when Mr. Lorry's feet were arrested on the step by his asking,

miserably, for his shoemaking tools and the unfinished shoes. Madame

Defarge immediately called to her husband that she would get them, and

went, knitting, out of the lamplight, through the courtyard. She quickly

brought them down and handed them in;--and immediately afterwards leaned

against the door-post, knitting, and saw nothing.

Defarge got upon the box, and gave the word “To the Barrier!” The

postilion cracked his whip, and they clattered away under the feeble

over-swinging lamps.

Under the over-swinging lamps--swinging ever brighter in the better

streets, and ever dimmer in the worse--and by lighted shops, gay crowds,

illuminated coffee-houses, and theatre-doors, to one of the city

gates. Soldiers with lanterns, at the guard-house there. “Your papers,

travellers!” “See here then, Monsieur the Officer,” said Defarge,

getting down, and taking him gravely apart, “these are the papers of

monsieur inside, with the white head. They were consigned to me, with

him, at the--” He dropped his voice, there was a flutter among the

military lanterns, and one of them being handed into the coach by an arm

in uniform, the eyes connected with the arm looked, not an every day

or an every night look, at monsieur with the white head. “It is well.

Forward!” from the uniform. “Adieu!” from Defarge. And so, under a short

grove of feebler and feebler over-swinging lamps, out under the great

grove of stars.

Beneath that arch of unmoved and eternal lights; some, so remote from

this little earth that the learned tell us it is doubtful whether their

rays have even yet discovered it, as a point in space where anything

is suffered or done: the shadows of the night were broad and black.

All through the cold and restless interval, until dawn, they once more

whispered in the ears of Mr. Jarvis Lorry--sitting opposite the buried

man who had been dug out, and wondering what subtle powers were for ever

lost to him, and what were capable of restoration--the old inquiry:

“I hope you care to be recalled to life?”

And the old answer:

“I can't say.”

The end of the first book.

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