A TALE OF TWO CITIES - 2 - 24 in English Moral Stories by Charles Dickens books and stories PDF | A TALE OF TWO CITIES - 2 - 24




By Charles Dickens

The Golden Thread


Drawn to the Loadstone Rock

In such risings of fire and risings of sea--the firm earth shaken by

the rushes of an angry ocean which had now no ebb, but was always on the

flow, higher and higher, to the terror and wonder of the beholders on

the shore--three years of tempest were consumed. Three more birthdays

of little Lucie had been woven by the golden thread into the peaceful

tissue of the life of her home.

Many a night and many a day had its inmates listened to the echoes in

the corner, with hearts that failed them when they heard the thronging

feet. For, the footsteps had become to their minds as the footsteps of

a people, tumultuous under a red flag and with their country declared in

danger, changed into wild beasts, by terrible enchantment long persisted


Monseigneur, as a class, had dissociated himself from the phenomenon of

his not being appreciated: of his being so little wanted in France, as

to incur considerable danger of receiving his dismissal from it, and

this life together. Like the fabled rustic who raised the Devil with

infinite pains, and was so terrified at the sight of him that he could

ask the Enemy no question, but immediately fled; so, Monseigneur, after

boldly reading the Lord's Prayer backwards for a great number of years,

and performing many other potent spells for compelling the Evil One, no

sooner beheld him in his terrors than he took to his noble heels.

The shining Bull's Eye of the Court was gone, or it would have been the

mark for a hurricane of national bullets. It had never been a good

eye to see with--had long had the mote in it of Lucifer's pride,

Sardanapalus's luxury, and a mole's blindness--but it had dropped

out and was gone. The Court, from that exclusive inner circle to its

outermost rotten ring of intrigue, corruption, and dissimulation, was

all gone together. Royalty was gone; had been besieged in its Palace and

“suspended,” when the last tidings came over.

The August of the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety-two was

come, and Monseigneur was by this time scattered far and wide.

As was natural, the head-quarters and great gathering-place of

Monseigneur, in London, was Tellson's Bank. Spirits are supposed to

haunt the places where their bodies most resorted, and Monseigneur

without a guinea haunted the spot where his guineas used to be.

Moreover, it was the spot to which such French intelligence as was most

to be relied upon, came quickest. Again: Tellson's was a munificent

house, and extended great liberality to old customers who had fallen

from their high estate. Again: those nobles who had seen the coming

storm in time, and anticipating plunder or confiscation, had made

provident remittances to Tellson's, were always to be heard of there

by their needy brethren. To which it must be added that every new-comer

from France reported himself and his tidings at Tellson's, almost as

a matter of course. For such variety of reasons, Tellson's was at that

time, as to French intelligence, a kind of High Exchange; and this

was so well known to the public, and the inquiries made there were in

consequence so numerous, that Tellson's sometimes wrote the latest news

out in a line or so and posted it in the Bank windows, for all who ran

through Temple Bar to read.

On a steaming, misty afternoon, Mr. Lorry sat at his desk, and Charles

Darnay stood leaning on it, talking with him in a low voice. The

penitential den once set apart for interviews with the House, was now

the news-Exchange, and was filled to overflowing. It was within half an

hour or so of the time of closing.

“But, although you are the youngest man that ever lived,” said Charles

Darnay, rather hesitating, “I must still suggest to you--”

“I understand. That I am too old?” said Mr. Lorry.

“Unsettled weather, a long journey, uncertain means of travelling, a

disorganised country, a city that may not be even safe for you.”

“My dear Charles,” said Mr. Lorry, with cheerful confidence, “you touch

some of the reasons for my going: not for my staying away. It is safe

enough for me; nobody will care to interfere with an old fellow of hard

upon fourscore when there are so many people there much better worth

interfering with. As to its being a disorganised city, if it were not a

disorganised city there would be no occasion to send somebody from our

House here to our House there, who knows the city and the business, of

old, and is in Tellson's confidence. As to the uncertain travelling, the

long journey, and the winter weather, if I were not prepared to submit

myself to a few inconveniences for the sake of Tellson's, after all

these years, who ought to be?”

“I wish I were going myself,” said Charles Darnay, somewhat restlessly,

and like one thinking aloud.

“Indeed! You are a pretty fellow to object and advise!” exclaimed Mr.

Lorry. “You wish you were going yourself? And you a Frenchman born? You

are a wise counsellor.”

“My dear Mr. Lorry, it is because I am a Frenchman born, that the

thought (which I did not mean to utter here, however) has passed through

my mind often. One cannot help thinking, having had some sympathy for

the miserable people, and having abandoned something to them,” he spoke

here in his former thoughtful manner, “that one might be listened to,

and might have the power to persuade to some restraint. Only last night,

after you had left us, when I was talking to Lucie--”

“When you were talking to Lucie,” Mr. Lorry repeated. “Yes. I wonder you

are not ashamed to mention the name of Lucie! Wishing you were going to

France at this time of day!”

“However, I am not going,” said Charles Darnay, with a smile. “It is

more to the purpose that you say you are.”

“And I am, in plain reality. The truth is, my dear Charles,” Mr. Lorry

glanced at the distant House, and lowered his voice, “you can have no

conception of the difficulty with which our business is transacted, and

of the peril in which our books and papers over yonder are involved. The

Lord above knows what the compromising consequences would be to numbers

of people, if some of our documents were seized or destroyed; and they

might be, at any time, you know, for who can say that Paris is not set

afire to-day, or sacked to-morrow! Now, a judicious selection from these

with the least possible delay, and the burying of them, or otherwise

getting of them out of harm's way, is within the power (without loss of

precious time) of scarcely any one but myself, if any one. And shall

I hang back, when Tellson's knows this and says this--Tellson's, whose

bread I have eaten these sixty years--because I am a little stiff about

the joints? Why, I am a boy, sir, to half a dozen old codgers here!”

“How I admire the gallantry of your youthful spirit, Mr. Lorry.”

“Tut! Nonsense, sir!--And, my dear Charles,” said Mr. Lorry, glancing at

the House again, “you are to remember, that getting things out of

Paris at this present time, no matter what things, is next to an

impossibility. Papers and precious matters were this very day brought

to us here (I speak in strict confidence; it is not business-like to

whisper it, even to you), by the strangest bearers you can imagine,

every one of whom had his head hanging on by a single hair as he passed

the Barriers. At another time, our parcels would come and go, as easily

as in business-like Old England; but now, everything is stopped.”

“And do you really go to-night?”

“I really go to-night, for the case has become too pressing to admit of


“And do you take no one with you?”

“All sorts of people have been proposed to me, but I will have nothing

to say to any of them. I intend to take Jerry. Jerry has been my

bodyguard on Sunday nights for a long time past and I am used to him.

Nobody will suspect Jerry of being anything but an English bull-dog, or

of having any design in his head but to fly at anybody who touches his


“I must say again that I heartily admire your gallantry and


“I must say again, nonsense, nonsense! When I have executed this little

commission, I shall, perhaps, accept Tellson's proposal to retire and

live at my ease. Time enough, then, to think about growing old.”

This dialogue had taken place at Mr. Lorry's usual desk, with

Monseigneur swarming within a yard or two of it, boastful of what he

would do to avenge himself on the rascal-people before long. It was too

much the way of Monseigneur under his reverses as a refugee, and it

was much too much the way of native British orthodoxy, to talk of this

terrible Revolution as if it were the only harvest ever known under

the skies that had not been sown--as if nothing had ever been done, or

omitted to be done, that had led to it--as if observers of the wretched

millions in France, and of the misused and perverted resources that

should have made them prosperous, had not seen it inevitably coming,

years before, and had not in plain words recorded what they saw. Such

vapouring, combined with the extravagant plots of Monseigneur for the

restoration of a state of things that had utterly exhausted itself,

and worn out Heaven and earth as well as itself, was hard to be endured

without some remonstrance by any sane man who knew the truth. And it was

such vapouring all about his ears, like a troublesome confusion of blood

in his own head, added to a latent uneasiness in his mind, which had

already made Charles Darnay restless, and which still kept him so.

Among the talkers, was Stryver, of the King's Bench Bar, far on his

way to state promotion, and, therefore, loud on the theme: broaching

to Monseigneur, his devices for blowing the people up and exterminating

them from the face of the earth, and doing without them: and for

accomplishing many similar objects akin in their nature to the abolition

of eagles by sprinkling salt on the tails of the race. Him, Darnay heard

with a particular feeling of objection; and Darnay stood divided between

going away that he might hear no more, and remaining to interpose his

word, when the thing that was to be, went on to shape itself out.

The House approached Mr. Lorry, and laying a soiled and unopened letter

before him, asked if he had yet discovered any traces of the person to

whom it was addressed? The House laid the letter down so close to Darnay

that he saw the direction--the more quickly because it was his own right

name. The address, turned into English, ran:

“Very pressing. To Monsieur heretofore the Marquis St. Evremonde, of

France. Confided to the cares of Messrs. Tellson and Co., Bankers,

London, England.”

On the marriage morning, Doctor Manette had made it his one urgent and

express request to Charles Darnay, that the secret of this name should

be--unless he, the Doctor, dissolved the obligation--kept inviolate

between them. Nobody else knew it to be his name; his own wife had no

suspicion of the fact; Mr. Lorry could have none.

“No,” said Mr. Lorry, in reply to the House; “I have referred it,

I think, to everybody now here, and no one can tell me where this

gentleman is to be found.”

The hands of the clock verging upon the hour of closing the Bank, there

was a general set of the current of talkers past Mr. Lorry's desk. He

held the letter out inquiringly; and Monseigneur looked at it, in the

person of this plotting and indignant refugee; and Monseigneur looked at

it in the person of that plotting and indignant refugee; and This, That,

and The Other, all had something disparaging to say, in French or in

English, concerning the Marquis who was not to be found.

“Nephew, I believe--but in any case degenerate successor--of the

polished Marquis who was murdered,” said one. “Happy to say, I never

knew him.”

“A craven who abandoned his post,” said another--this Monseigneur had

been got out of Paris, legs uppermost and half suffocated, in a load of

hay--“some years ago.”

“Infected with the new doctrines,” said a third, eyeing the direction

through his glass in passing; “set himself in opposition to the last

Marquis, abandoned the estates when he inherited them, and left them to

the ruffian herd. They will recompense him now, I hope, as he deserves.”

“Hey?” cried the blatant Stryver. “Did he though? Is that the sort of

fellow? Let us look at his infamous name. D--n the fellow!”

Darnay, unable to restrain himself any longer, touched Mr. Stryver on

the shoulder, and said:

“I know the fellow.”

“Do you, by Jupiter?” said Stryver. “I am sorry for it.”


“Why, Mr. Darnay? D'ye hear what he did? Don't ask, why, in these


“But I do ask why?”

“Then I tell you again, Mr. Darnay, I am sorry for it. I am sorry to

hear you putting any such extraordinary questions. Here is a fellow,

who, infected by the most pestilent and blasphemous code of devilry that

ever was known, abandoned his property to the vilest scum of the earth

that ever did murder by wholesale, and you ask me why I am sorry that a

man who instructs youth knows him? Well, but I'll answer you. I am sorry

because I believe there is contamination in such a scoundrel. That's


Mindful of the secret, Darnay with great difficulty checked himself, and

said: “You may not understand the gentleman.”

“I understand how to put _you_ in a corner, Mr. Darnay,” said Bully

Stryver, “and I'll do it. If this fellow is a gentleman, I _don't_

understand him. You may tell him so, with my compliments. You may also

tell him, from me, that after abandoning his worldly goods and position

to this butcherly mob, I wonder he is not at the head of them. But, no,

gentlemen,” said Stryver, looking all round, and snapping his fingers,

“I know something of human nature, and I tell you that you'll never

find a fellow like this fellow, trusting himself to the mercies of such

precious _protégés_. No, gentlemen; he'll always show 'em a clean pair

of heels very early in the scuffle, and sneak away.”

With those words, and a final snap of his fingers, Mr. Stryver

shouldered himself into Fleet-street, amidst the general approbation of

his hearers. Mr. Lorry and Charles Darnay were left alone at the desk,

in the general departure from the Bank.

“Will you take charge of the letter?” said Mr. Lorry. “You know where to

deliver it?”

“I do.”

“Will you undertake to explain, that we suppose it to have been

addressed here, on the chance of our knowing where to forward it, and

that it has been here some time?”

“I will do so. Do you start for Paris from here?”

“From here, at eight.”

“I will come back, to see you off.”

Very ill at ease with himself, and with Stryver and most other men,

Darnay made the best of his way into the quiet of the Temple, opened the

letter, and read it. These were its contents:

“Prison of the Abbaye, Paris.


“After having long been in danger of my life at the hands of the

village, I have been seized, with great violence and indignity, and

brought a long journey on foot to Paris. On the road I have suffered a

great deal. Nor is that all; my house has been destroyed--razed to the


“The crime for which I am imprisoned, Monsieur heretofore the Marquis,

and for which I shall be summoned before the tribunal, and shall lose my

life (without your so generous help), is, they tell me, treason against

the majesty of the people, in that I have acted against them for an

emigrant. It is in vain I represent that I have acted for them, and not

against, according to your commands. It is in vain I represent that,

before the sequestration of emigrant property, I had remitted the

imposts they had ceased to pay; that I had collected no rent; that I had

had recourse to no process. The only response is, that I have acted for

an emigrant, and where is that emigrant?

“Ah! most gracious Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, where is that

emigrant? I cry in my sleep where is he? I demand of Heaven, will he

not come to deliver me? No answer. Ah Monsieur heretofore the Marquis,

I send my desolate cry across the sea, hoping it may perhaps reach your

ears through the great bank of Tilson known at Paris!

“For the love of Heaven, of justice, of generosity, of the honour of

your noble name, I supplicate you, Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, to

succour and release me. My fault is, that I have been true to you. Oh

Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, I pray you be you true to me!

“From this prison here of horror, whence I every hour tend nearer and

nearer to destruction, I send you, Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, the

assurance of my dolorous and unhappy service.

“Your afflicted,


The latent uneasiness in Darnay's mind was roused to vigourous life

by this letter. The peril of an old servant and a good one, whose

only crime was fidelity to himself and his family, stared him so

reproachfully in the face, that, as he walked to and fro in the Temple

considering what to do, he almost hid his face from the passersby.

He knew very well, that in his horror of the deed which had culminated

the bad deeds and bad reputation of the old family house, in his

resentful suspicions of his uncle, and in the aversion with which his

conscience regarded the crumbling fabric that he was supposed to uphold,

he had acted imperfectly. He knew very well, that in his love for Lucie,

his renunciation of his social place, though by no means new to his own

mind, had been hurried and incomplete. He knew that he ought to have

systematically worked it out and supervised it, and that he had meant to

do it, and that it had never been done.

The happiness of his own chosen English home, the necessity of being

always actively employed, the swift changes and troubles of the time

which had followed on one another so fast, that the events of this week

annihilated the immature plans of last week, and the events of the week

following made all new again; he knew very well, that to the force of

these circumstances he had yielded:--not without disquiet, but still

without continuous and accumulating resistance. That he had watched

the times for a time of action, and that they had shifted and struggled

until the time had gone by, and the nobility were trooping from

France by every highway and byway, and their property was in course of

confiscation and destruction, and their very names were blotting out,

was as well known to himself as it could be to any new authority in

France that might impeach him for it.

But, he had oppressed no man, he had imprisoned no man; he was so

far from having harshly exacted payment of his dues, that he had

relinquished them of his own will, thrown himself on a world with no

favour in it, won his own private place there, and earned his own

bread. Monsieur Gabelle had held the impoverished and involved estate

on written instructions, to spare the people, to give them what little

there was to give--such fuel as the heavy creditors would let them have

in the winter, and such produce as could be saved from the same grip in

the summer--and no doubt he had put the fact in plea and proof, for his

own safety, so that it could not but appear now.

This favoured the desperate resolution Charles Darnay had begun to make,

that he would go to Paris.

Yes. Like the mariner in the old story, the winds and streams had driven

him within the influence of the Loadstone Rock, and it was drawing him

to itself, and he must go. Everything that arose before his mind drifted

him on, faster and faster, more and more steadily, to the terrible

attraction. His latent uneasiness had been, that bad aims were being

worked out in his own unhappy land by bad instruments, and that he who

could not fail to know that he was better than they, was not there,

trying to do something to stay bloodshed, and assert the claims of mercy

and humanity. With this uneasiness half stifled, and half reproaching

him, he had been brought to the pointed comparison of himself with the

brave old gentleman in whom duty was so strong; upon that comparison

(injurious to himself) had instantly followed the sneers of Monseigneur,

which had stung him bitterly, and those of Stryver, which above all were

coarse and galling, for old reasons. Upon those, had followed Gabelle's

letter: the appeal of an innocent prisoner, in danger of death, to his

justice, honour, and good name.

His resolution was made. He must go to Paris.

Yes. The Loadstone Rock was drawing him, and he must sail on, until he

struck. He knew of no rock; he saw hardly any danger. The intention

with which he had done what he had done, even although he had left

it incomplete, presented it before him in an aspect that would be

gratefully acknowledged in France on his presenting himself to assert

it. Then, that glorious vision of doing good, which is so often the

sanguine mirage of so many good minds, arose before him, and he even

saw himself in the illusion with some influence to guide this raging

Revolution that was running so fearfully wild.

As he walked to and fro with his resolution made, he considered that

neither Lucie nor her father must know of it until he was gone.

Lucie should be spared the pain of separation; and her father, always

reluctant to turn his thoughts towards the dangerous ground of old,

should come to the knowledge of the step, as a step taken, and not in

the balance of suspense and doubt. How much of the incompleteness of his

situation was referable to her father, through the painful anxiety

to avoid reviving old associations of France in his mind, he did not

discuss with himself. But, that circumstance too, had had its influence

in his course.

He walked to and fro, with thoughts very busy, until it was time to

return to Tellson's and take leave of Mr. Lorry. As soon as he arrived

in Paris he would present himself to this old friend, but he must say

nothing of his intention now.

A carriage with post-horses was ready at the Bank door, and Jerry was

booted and equipped.

“I have delivered that letter,” said Charles Darnay to Mr. Lorry. “I

would not consent to your being charged with any written answer, but

perhaps you will take a verbal one?”

“That I will, and readily,” said Mr. Lorry, “if it is not dangerous.”

“Not at all. Though it is to a prisoner in the Abbaye.”

“What is his name?” said Mr. Lorry, with his open pocket-book in his



“Gabelle. And what is the message to the unfortunate Gabelle in prison?”

“Simply, 'that he has received the letter, and will come.'”

“Any time mentioned?”

“He will start upon his journey to-morrow night.”

“Any person mentioned?”


He helped Mr. Lorry to wrap himself in a number of coats and cloaks,

and went out with him from the warm atmosphere of the old Bank, into the

misty air of Fleet-street. “My love to Lucie, and to little Lucie,” said

Mr. Lorry at parting, “and take precious care of them till I come back.”

Charles Darnay shook his head and doubtfully smiled, as the carriage

rolled away.

That night--it was the fourteenth of August--he sat up late, and wrote

two fervent letters; one was to Lucie, explaining the strong obligation

he was under to go to Paris, and showing her, at length, the reasons

that he had, for feeling confident that he could become involved in no

personal danger there; the other was to the Doctor, confiding Lucie and

their dear child to his care, and dwelling on the same topics with the

strongest assurances. To both, he wrote that he would despatch letters

in proof of his safety, immediately after his arrival.

It was a hard day, that day of being among them, with the first

reservation of their joint lives on his mind. It was a hard matter to

preserve the innocent deceit of which they were profoundly unsuspicious.

But, an affectionate glance at his wife, so happy and busy, made him

resolute not to tell her what impended (he had been half moved to do it,

so strange it was to him to act in anything without her quiet aid), and

the day passed quickly. Early in the evening he embraced her, and her

scarcely less dear namesake, pretending that he would return by-and-bye

(an imaginary engagement took him out, and he had secreted a valise

of clothes ready), and so he emerged into the heavy mist of the heavy

streets, with a heavier heart.

The unseen force was drawing him fast to itself, now, and all the tides

and winds were setting straight and strong towards it. He left his

two letters with a trusty porter, to be delivered half an hour before

midnight, and no sooner; took horse for Dover; and began his journey.

“For the love of Heaven, of justice, of generosity, of the honour of

your noble name!” was the poor prisoner's cry with which he strengthened

his sinking heart, as he left all that was dear on earth behind him, and

floated away for the Loadstone Rock.

The end of the second book.