A TALE OF TWO CITIES - 2 - 6 in English Moral Stories by Charles Dickens books and stories PDF | A TALE OF TWO CITIES - 2 - 6




By Charles Dickens

The Golden Thread


Hundreds of People

The quiet lodgings of Doctor Manette were in a quiet street-corner not

far from Soho-square. On the afternoon of a certain fine Sunday when the

waves of four months had rolled over the trial for treason, and carried

it, as to the public interest and memory, far out to sea, Mr. Jarvis

Lorry walked along the sunny streets from Clerkenwell where he lived,

on his way to dine with the Doctor. After several relapses into

business-absorption, Mr. Lorry had become the Doctor's friend, and the

quiet street-corner was the sunny part of his life.

On this certain fine Sunday, Mr. Lorry walked towards Soho, early in

the afternoon, for three reasons of habit. Firstly, because, on fine

Sundays, he often walked out, before dinner, with the Doctor and Lucie;

secondly, because, on unfavourable Sundays, he was accustomed to be with

them as the family friend, talking, reading, looking out of window, and

generally getting through the day; thirdly, because he happened to have

his own little shrewd doubts to solve, and knew how the ways of the

Doctor's household pointed to that time as a likely time for solving


A quainter corner than the corner where the Doctor lived, was not to be

found in London. There was no way through it, and the front windows of

the Doctor's lodgings commanded a pleasant little vista of street that

had a congenial air of retirement on it. There were few buildings then,

north of the Oxford-road, and forest-trees flourished, and wild flowers

grew, and the hawthorn blossomed, in the now vanished fields. As a

consequence, country airs circulated in Soho with vigorous freedom,

instead of languishing into the parish like stray paupers without a

settlement; and there was many a good south wall, not far off, on which

the peaches ripened in their season.

The summer light struck into the corner brilliantly in the earlier part

of the day; but, when the streets grew hot, the corner was in shadow,

though not in shadow so remote but that you could see beyond it into a

glare of brightness. It was a cool spot, staid but cheerful, a wonderful

place for echoes, and a very harbour from the raging streets.

There ought to have been a tranquil bark in such an anchorage, and

there was. The Doctor occupied two floors of a large stiff house, where

several callings purported to be pursued by day, but whereof little was

audible any day, and which was shunned by all of them at night. In

a building at the back, attainable by a courtyard where a plane-tree

rustled its green leaves, church-organs claimed to be made, and silver

to be chased, and likewise gold to be beaten by some mysterious giant

who had a golden arm starting out of the wall of the front hall--as if

he had beaten himself precious, and menaced a similar conversion of all

visitors. Very little of these trades, or of a lonely lodger rumoured

to live up-stairs, or of a dim coach-trimming maker asserted to have

a counting-house below, was ever heard or seen. Occasionally, a stray

workman putting his coat on, traversed the hall, or a stranger peered

about there, or a distant clink was heard across the courtyard, or a

thump from the golden giant. These, however, were only the exceptions

required to prove the rule that the sparrows in the plane-tree behind

the house, and the echoes in the corner before it, had their own way

from Sunday morning unto Saturday night.

Doctor Manette received such patients here as his old reputation, and

its revival in the floating whispers of his story, brought him.

His scientific knowledge, and his vigilance and skill in conducting

ingenious experiments, brought him otherwise into moderate request, and

he earned as much as he wanted.

These things were within Mr. Jarvis Lorry's knowledge, thoughts, and

notice, when he rang the door-bell of the tranquil house in the corner,

on the fine Sunday afternoon.

“Doctor Manette at home?”

Expected home.

“Miss Lucie at home?”

Expected home.

“Miss Pross at home?”

Possibly at home, but of a certainty impossible for handmaid to

anticipate intentions of Miss Pross, as to admission or denial of the


“As I am at home myself,” said Mr. Lorry, “I'll go upstairs.”

Although the Doctor's daughter had known nothing of the country of her

birth, she appeared to have innately derived from it that ability to

make much of little means, which is one of its most useful and most

agreeable characteristics. Simple as the furniture was, it was set off

by so many little adornments, of no value but for their taste and fancy,

that its effect was delightful. The disposition of everything in the

rooms, from the largest object to the least; the arrangement of colours,

the elegant variety and contrast obtained by thrift in trifles, by

delicate hands, clear eyes, and good sense; were at once so pleasant in

themselves, and so expressive of their originator, that, as Mr. Lorry

stood looking about him, the very chairs and tables seemed to ask him,

with something of that peculiar expression which he knew so well by this

time, whether he approved?

There were three rooms on a floor, and, the doors by which they

communicated being put open that the air might pass freely through them

all, Mr. Lorry, smilingly observant of that fanciful resemblance which

he detected all around him, walked from one to another. The first was

the best room, and in it were Lucie's birds, and flowers, and books,

and desk, and work-table, and box of water-colours; the second was

the Doctor's consulting-room, used also as the dining-room; the third,

changingly speckled by the rustle of the plane-tree in the yard, was the

Doctor's bedroom, and there, in a corner, stood the disused shoemaker's

bench and tray of tools, much as it had stood on the fifth floor of the

dismal house by the wine-shop, in the suburb of Saint Antoine in Paris.

“I wonder,” said Mr. Lorry, pausing in his looking about, “that he keeps

that reminder of his sufferings about him!”

“And why wonder at that?” was the abrupt inquiry that made him start.

It proceeded from Miss Pross, the wild red woman, strong of hand, whose

acquaintance he had first made at the Royal George Hotel at Dover, and

had since improved.

“I should have thought--” Mr. Lorry began.

“Pooh! You'd have thought!” said Miss Pross; and Mr. Lorry left off.

“How do you do?” inquired that lady then--sharply, and yet as if to

express that she bore him no malice.

“I am pretty well, I thank you,” answered Mr. Lorry, with meekness; “how

are you?”

“Nothing to boast of,” said Miss Pross.


“Ah! indeed!” said Miss Pross. “I am very much put out about my



“For gracious sake say something else besides 'indeed,' or you'll

fidget me to death,” said Miss Pross: whose character (dissociated from

stature) was shortness.

“Really, then?” said Mr. Lorry, as an amendment.

“Really, is bad enough,” returned Miss Pross, “but better. Yes, I am

very much put out.”

“May I ask the cause?”

“I don't want dozens of people who are not at all worthy of Ladybird, to

come here looking after her,” said Miss Pross.

“_Do_ dozens come for that purpose?”

“Hundreds,” said Miss Pross.

It was characteristic of this lady (as of some other people before her

time and since) that whenever her original proposition was questioned,

she exaggerated it.

“Dear me!” said Mr. Lorry, as the safest remark he could think of.

“I have lived with the darling--or the darling has lived with me, and

paid me for it; which she certainly should never have done, you may take

your affidavit, if I could have afforded to keep either myself or her

for nothing--since she was ten years old. And it's really very hard,”

said Miss Pross.

Not seeing with precision what was very hard, Mr. Lorry shook his head;

using that important part of himself as a sort of fairy cloak that would

fit anything.

“All sorts of people who are not in the least degree worthy of the pet,

are always turning up,” said Miss Pross. “When you began it--”

“_I_ began it, Miss Pross?”

“Didn't you? Who brought her father to life?”

“Oh! If _that_ was beginning it--” said Mr. Lorry.

“It wasn't ending it, I suppose? I say, when you began it, it was hard

enough; not that I have any fault to find with Doctor Manette, except

that he is not worthy of such a daughter, which is no imputation on

him, for it was not to be expected that anybody should be, under any

circumstances. But it really is doubly and trebly hard to have crowds

and multitudes of people turning up after him (I could have forgiven

him), to take Ladybird's affections away from me.”

Mr. Lorry knew Miss Pross to be very jealous, but he also knew her by

this time to be, beneath the service of her eccentricity, one of those

unselfish creatures--found only among women--who will, for pure love and

admiration, bind themselves willing slaves, to youth when they have lost

it, to beauty that they never had, to accomplishments that they were

never fortunate enough to gain, to bright hopes that never shone upon

their own sombre lives. He knew enough of the world to know that there

is nothing in it better than the faithful service of the heart; so

rendered and so free from any mercenary taint, he had such an exalted

respect for it, that in the retributive arrangements made by his own

mind--we all make such arrangements, more or less--he stationed Miss

Pross much nearer to the lower Angels than many ladies immeasurably

better got up both by Nature and Art, who had balances at Tellson's.

“There never was, nor will be, but one man worthy of Ladybird,” said

Miss Pross; “and that was my brother Solomon, if he hadn't made a

mistake in life.”

Here again: Mr. Lorry's inquiries into Miss Pross's personal history had

established the fact that her brother Solomon was a heartless scoundrel

who had stripped her of everything she possessed, as a stake to

speculate with, and had abandoned her in her poverty for evermore, with

no touch of compunction. Miss Pross's fidelity of belief in Solomon

(deducting a mere trifle for this slight mistake) was quite a serious

matter with Mr. Lorry, and had its weight in his good opinion of her.

“As we happen to be alone for the moment, and are both people of

business,” he said, when they had got back to the drawing-room and had

sat down there in friendly relations, “let me ask you--does the Doctor,

in talking with Lucie, never refer to the shoemaking time, yet?”


“And yet keeps that bench and those tools beside him?”

“Ah!” returned Miss Pross, shaking her head. “But I don't say he don't

refer to it within himself.”

“Do you believe that he thinks of it much?”

“I do,” said Miss Pross.

“Do you imagine--” Mr. Lorry had begun, when Miss Pross took him up

short with:

“Never imagine anything. Have no imagination at all.”

“I stand corrected; do you suppose--you go so far as to suppose,


“Now and then,” said Miss Pross.

“Do you suppose,” Mr. Lorry went on, with a laughing twinkle in his

bright eye, as it looked kindly at her, “that Doctor Manette has any

theory of his own, preserved through all those years, relative to

the cause of his being so oppressed; perhaps, even to the name of his


“I don't suppose anything about it but what Ladybird tells me.”

“And that is--?”

“That she thinks he has.”

“Now don't be angry at my asking all these questions; because I am a

mere dull man of business, and you are a woman of business.”

“Dull?” Miss Pross inquired, with placidity.

Rather wishing his modest adjective away, Mr. Lorry replied, “No, no,

no. Surely not. To return to business:--Is it not remarkable that Doctor

Manette, unquestionably innocent of any crime as we are all well assured

he is, should never touch upon that question? I will not say with me,

though he had business relations with me many years ago, and we are now

intimate; I will say with the fair daughter to whom he is so devotedly

attached, and who is so devotedly attached to him? Believe me, Miss

Pross, I don't approach the topic with you, out of curiosity, but out of

zealous interest.”

“Well! To the best of my understanding, and bad's the best, you'll tell

me,” said Miss Pross, softened by the tone of the apology, “he is afraid

of the whole subject.”


“It's plain enough, I should think, why he may be. It's a dreadful

remembrance. Besides that, his loss of himself grew out of it. Not

knowing how he lost himself, or how he recovered himself, he may never

feel certain of not losing himself again. That alone wouldn't make the

subject pleasant, I should think.”

It was a profounder remark than Mr. Lorry had looked for. “True,” said

he, “and fearful to reflect upon. Yet, a doubt lurks in my mind, Miss

Pross, whether it is good for Doctor Manette to have that suppression

always shut up within him. Indeed, it is this doubt and the uneasiness

it sometimes causes me that has led me to our present confidence.”

“Can't be helped,” said Miss Pross, shaking her head. “Touch that

string, and he instantly changes for the worse. Better leave it alone.

In short, must leave it alone, like or no like. Sometimes, he gets up in

the dead of the night, and will be heard, by us overhead there, walking

up and down, walking up and down, in his room. Ladybird has learnt to

know then that his mind is walking up and down, walking up and down, in

his old prison. She hurries to him, and they go on together, walking up

and down, walking up and down, until he is composed. But he never says

a word of the true reason of his restlessness, to her, and she finds it

best not to hint at it to him. In silence they go walking up and down

together, walking up and down together, till her love and company have

brought him to himself.”

Notwithstanding Miss Pross's denial of her own imagination, there was a

perception of the pain of being monotonously haunted by one sad idea,

in her repetition of the phrase, walking up and down, which testified to

her possessing such a thing.

The corner has been mentioned as a wonderful corner for echoes; it

had begun to echo so resoundingly to the tread of coming feet, that it

seemed as though the very mention of that weary pacing to and fro had

set it going.

“Here they are!” said Miss Pross, rising to break up the conference;

“and now we shall have hundreds of people pretty soon!”

It was such a curious corner in its acoustical properties, such a

peculiar Ear of a place, that as Mr. Lorry stood at the open window,

looking for the father and daughter whose steps he heard, he fancied

they would never approach. Not only would the echoes die away, as though

the steps had gone; but, echoes of other steps that never came would be

heard in their stead, and would die away for good when they seemed close

at hand. However, father and daughter did at last appear, and Miss Pross

was ready at the street door to receive them.

Miss Pross was a pleasant sight, albeit wild, and red, and grim, taking

off her darling's bonnet when she came up-stairs, and touching it up

with the ends of her handkerchief, and blowing the dust off it, and

folding her mantle ready for laying by, and smoothing her rich hair with

as much pride as she could possibly have taken in her own hair if she

had been the vainest and handsomest of women. Her darling was a pleasant

sight too, embracing her and thanking her, and protesting against

her taking so much trouble for her--which last she only dared to do

playfully, or Miss Pross, sorely hurt, would have retired to her own

chamber and cried. The Doctor was a pleasant sight too, looking on at

them, and telling Miss Pross how she spoilt Lucie, in accents and with

eyes that had as much spoiling in them as Miss Pross had, and would

have had more if it were possible. Mr. Lorry was a pleasant sight too,

beaming at all this in his little wig, and thanking his bachelor

stars for having lighted him in his declining years to a Home. But, no

Hundreds of people came to see the sights, and Mr. Lorry looked in vain

for the fulfilment of Miss Pross's prediction.

Dinner-time, and still no Hundreds of people. In the arrangements of

the little household, Miss Pross took charge of the lower regions, and

always acquitted herself marvellously. Her dinners, of a very modest

quality, were so well cooked and so well served, and so neat in their

contrivances, half English and half French, that nothing could be

better. Miss Pross's friendship being of the thoroughly practical

kind, she had ravaged Soho and the adjacent provinces, in search of

impoverished French, who, tempted by shillings and half-crowns, would

impart culinary mysteries to her. From these decayed sons and daughters

of Gaul, she had acquired such wonderful arts, that the woman and girl

who formed the staff of domestics regarded her as quite a Sorceress,

or Cinderella's Godmother: who would send out for a fowl, a rabbit,

a vegetable or two from the garden, and change them into anything she


On Sundays, Miss Pross dined at the Doctor's table, but on other days

persisted in taking her meals at unknown periods, either in the lower

regions, or in her own room on the second floor--a blue chamber, to

which no one but her Ladybird ever gained admittance. On this occasion,

Miss Pross, responding to Ladybird's pleasant face and pleasant efforts

to please her, unbent exceedingly; so the dinner was very pleasant, too.

It was an oppressive day, and, after dinner, Lucie proposed that the

wine should be carried out under the plane-tree, and they should sit

there in the air. As everything turned upon her, and revolved about her,

they went out under the plane-tree, and she carried the wine down for

the special benefit of Mr. Lorry. She had installed herself, some

time before, as Mr. Lorry's cup-bearer; and while they sat under the

plane-tree, talking, she kept his glass replenished. Mysterious backs

and ends of houses peeped at them as they talked, and the plane-tree

whispered to them in its own way above their heads.

Still, the Hundreds of people did not present themselves. Mr. Darnay

presented himself while they were sitting under the plane-tree, but he

was only One.

Doctor Manette received him kindly, and so did Lucie. But, Miss Pross

suddenly became afflicted with a twitching in the head and body, and

retired into the house. She was not unfrequently the victim of this

disorder, and she called it, in familiar conversation, “a fit of the


The Doctor was in his best condition, and looked specially young. The

resemblance between him and Lucie was very strong at such times, and as

they sat side by side, she leaning on his shoulder, and he resting

his arm on the back of her chair, it was very agreeable to trace the


He had been talking all day, on many subjects, and with unusual

vivacity. “Pray, Doctor Manette,” said Mr. Darnay, as they sat under the

plane-tree--and he said it in the natural pursuit of the topic in hand,

which happened to be the old buildings of London--“have you seen much of

the Tower?”

“Lucie and I have been there; but only casually. We have seen enough of

it, to know that it teems with interest; little more.”

“_I_ have been there, as you remember,” said Darnay, with a smile,

though reddening a little angrily, “in another character, and not in a

character that gives facilities for seeing much of it. They told me a

curious thing when I was there.”

“What was that?” Lucie asked.

“In making some alterations, the workmen came upon an old dungeon, which

had been, for many years, built up and forgotten. Every stone of

its inner wall was covered by inscriptions which had been carved by

prisoners--dates, names, complaints, and prayers. Upon a corner stone

in an angle of the wall, one prisoner, who seemed to have gone to

execution, had cut as his last work, three letters. They were done with

some very poor instrument, and hurriedly, with an unsteady hand.

At first, they were read as D. I. C.; but, on being more carefully

examined, the last letter was found to be G. There was no record or

legend of any prisoner with those initials, and many fruitless guesses

were made what the name could have been. At length, it was suggested

that the letters were not initials, but the complete word, DIG. The

floor was examined very carefully under the inscription, and, in the

earth beneath a stone, or tile, or some fragment of paving, were found

the ashes of a paper, mingled with the ashes of a small leathern case

or bag. What the unknown prisoner had written will never be read, but he

had written something, and hidden it away to keep it from the gaoler.”

“My father,” exclaimed Lucie, “you are ill!”

He had suddenly started up, with his hand to his head. His manner and

his look quite terrified them all.

“No, my dear, not ill. There are large drops of rain falling, and they

made me start. We had better go in.”

He recovered himself almost instantly. Rain was really falling in large

drops, and he showed the back of his hand with rain-drops on it. But, he

said not a single word in reference to the discovery that had been told

of, and, as they went into the house, the business eye of Mr. Lorry

either detected, or fancied it detected, on his face, as it turned

towards Charles Darnay, the same singular look that had been upon it

when it turned towards him in the passages of the Court House.

He recovered himself so quickly, however, that Mr. Lorry had doubts of

his business eye. The arm of the golden giant in the hall was not more

steady than he was, when he stopped under it to remark to them that he

was not yet proof against slight surprises (if he ever would be), and

that the rain had startled him.

Tea-time, and Miss Pross making tea, with another fit of the jerks upon

her, and yet no Hundreds of people. Mr. Carton had lounged in, but he

made only Two.

The night was so very sultry, that although they sat with doors and

windows open, they were overpowered by heat. When the tea-table was

done with, they all moved to one of the windows, and looked out into the

heavy twilight. Lucie sat by her father; Darnay sat beside her; Carton

leaned against a window. The curtains were long and white, and some of

the thunder-gusts that whirled into the corner, caught them up to the

ceiling, and waved them like spectral wings.

“The rain-drops are still falling, large, heavy, and few,” said Doctor

Manette. “It comes slowly.”

“It comes surely,” said Carton.

They spoke low, as people watching and waiting mostly do; as people in a

dark room, watching and waiting for Lightning, always do.

There was a great hurry in the streets of people speeding away to

get shelter before the storm broke; the wonderful corner for echoes

resounded with the echoes of footsteps coming and going, yet not a

footstep was there.

“A multitude of people, and yet a solitude!” said Darnay, when they had

listened for a while.

“Is it not impressive, Mr. Darnay?” asked Lucie. “Sometimes, I have

sat here of an evening, until I have fancied--but even the shade of

a foolish fancy makes me shudder to-night, when all is so black and


“Let us shudder too. We may know what it is.”

“It will seem nothing to you. Such whims are only impressive as we

originate them, I think; they are not to be communicated. I have

sometimes sat alone here of an evening, listening, until I have made

the echoes out to be the echoes of all the footsteps that are coming

by-and-bye into our lives.”

“There is a great crowd coming one day into our lives, if that be so,”

Sydney Carton struck in, in his moody way.

The footsteps were incessant, and the hurry of them became more and more

rapid. The corner echoed and re-echoed with the tread of feet; some,

as it seemed, under the windows; some, as it seemed, in the room; some

coming, some going, some breaking off, some stopping altogether; all in

the distant streets, and not one within sight.

“Are all these footsteps destined to come to all of us, Miss Manette, or

are we to divide them among us?”

“I don't know, Mr. Darnay; I told you it was a foolish fancy, but you

asked for it. When I have yielded myself to it, I have been alone, and

then I have imagined them the footsteps of the people who are to come

into my life, and my father's.”

“I take them into mine!” said Carton. “_I_ ask no questions and make no

stipulations. There is a great crowd bearing down upon us, Miss Manette,

and I see them--by the Lightning.” He added the last words, after there

had been a vivid flash which had shown him lounging in the window.

“And I hear them!” he added again, after a peal of thunder. “Here they

come, fast, fierce, and furious!”

It was the rush and roar of rain that he typified, and it stopped him,

for no voice could be heard in it. A memorable storm of thunder and

lightning broke with that sweep of water, and there was not a moment's

interval in crash, and fire, and rain, until after the moon rose at


The great bell of Saint Paul's was striking one in the cleared air, when

Mr. Lorry, escorted by Jerry, high-booted and bearing a lantern, set

forth on his return-passage to Clerkenwell. There were solitary patches

of road on the way between Soho and Clerkenwell, and Mr. Lorry, mindful

of foot-pads, always retained Jerry for this service: though it was

usually performed a good two hours earlier.

“What a night it has been! Almost a night, Jerry,” said Mr. Lorry, “to

bring the dead out of their graves.”

“I never see the night myself, master--nor yet I don't expect to--what

would do that,” answered Jerry.

“Good night, Mr. Carton,” said the man of business. “Good night, Mr.

Darnay. Shall we ever see such a night again, together!”

Perhaps. Perhaps, see the great crowd of people with its rush and roar,

bearing down upon them, too.