A TALE OF TWO CITIES - 3 - 1 in English Moral Stories by Charles Dickens books and stories PDF | A TALE OF TWO CITIES - 3 - 1




By Charles Dickens

The Track of a Storm


In Secret

The traveller fared slowly on his way, who fared towards Paris from

England in the autumn of the year one thousand seven hundred and

ninety-two. More than enough of bad roads, bad equipages, and bad

horses, he would have encountered to delay him, though the fallen and

unfortunate King of France had been upon his throne in all his glory;

but, the changed times were fraught with other obstacles than

these. Every town-gate and village taxing-house had its band of

citizen-patriots, with their national muskets in a most explosive state

of readiness, who stopped all comers and goers, cross-questioned them,

inspected their papers, looked for their names in lists of their own,

turned them back, or sent them on, or stopped them and laid them in

hold, as their capricious judgment or fancy deemed best for the dawning

Republic One and Indivisible, of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or


A very few French leagues of his journey were accomplished, when Charles

Darnay began to perceive that for him along these country roads there

was no hope of return until he should have been declared a good citizen

at Paris. Whatever might befall now, he must on to his journey's end.

Not a mean village closed upon him, not a common barrier dropped across

the road behind him, but he knew it to be another iron door in

the series that was barred between him and England. The universal

watchfulness so encompassed him, that if he had been taken in a net,

or were being forwarded to his destination in a cage, he could not have

felt his freedom more completely gone.

This universal watchfulness not only stopped him on the highway twenty

times in a stage, but retarded his progress twenty times in a day, by

riding after him and taking him back, riding before him and stopping him

by anticipation, riding with him and keeping him in charge. He had been

days upon his journey in France alone, when he went to bed tired out, in

a little town on the high road, still a long way from Paris.

Nothing but the production of the afflicted Gabelle's letter from his

prison of the Abbaye would have got him on so far. His difficulty at the

guard-house in this small place had been such, that he felt his journey

to have come to a crisis. And he was, therefore, as little surprised as

a man could be, to find himself awakened at the small inn to which he

had been remitted until morning, in the middle of the night.

Awakened by a timid local functionary and three armed patriots in rough

red caps and with pipes in their mouths, who sat down on the bed.

“Emigrant,” said the functionary, “I am going to send you on to Paris,

under an escort.”

“Citizen, I desire nothing more than to get to Paris, though I could

dispense with the escort.”

“Silence!” growled a red-cap, striking at the coverlet with the butt-end

of his musket. “Peace, aristocrat!”

“It is as the good patriot says,” observed the timid functionary. “You

are an aristocrat, and must have an escort--and must pay for it.”

“I have no choice,” said Charles Darnay.

“Choice! Listen to him!” cried the same scowling red-cap. “As if it was

not a favour to be protected from the lamp-iron!”

“It is always as the good patriot says,” observed the functionary. “Rise

and dress yourself, emigrant.”

Darnay complied, and was taken back to the guard-house, where other

patriots in rough red caps were smoking, drinking, and sleeping, by

a watch-fire. Here he paid a heavy price for his escort, and hence he

started with it on the wet, wet roads at three o'clock in the morning.

The escort were two mounted patriots in red caps and tri-coloured

cockades, armed with national muskets and sabres, who rode one on either

side of him.

The escorted governed his own horse, but a loose line was attached to

his bridle, the end of which one of the patriots kept girded round his

wrist. In this state they set forth with the sharp rain driving in their

faces: clattering at a heavy dragoon trot over the uneven town pavement,

and out upon the mire-deep roads. In this state they traversed without

change, except of horses and pace, all the mire-deep leagues that lay

between them and the capital.

They travelled in the night, halting an hour or two after daybreak, and

lying by until the twilight fell. The escort were so wretchedly clothed,

that they twisted straw round their bare legs, and thatched their ragged

shoulders to keep the wet off. Apart from the personal discomfort of

being so attended, and apart from such considerations of present danger

as arose from one of the patriots being chronically drunk, and carrying

his musket very recklessly, Charles Darnay did not allow the restraint

that was laid upon him to awaken any serious fears in his breast; for,

he reasoned with himself that it could have no reference to the merits

of an individual case that was not yet stated, and of representations,

confirmable by the prisoner in the Abbaye, that were not yet made.

But when they came to the town of Beauvais--which they did at eventide,

when the streets were filled with people--he could not conceal from

himself that the aspect of affairs was very alarming. An ominous crowd

gathered to see him dismount of the posting-yard, and many voices called

out loudly, “Down with the emigrant!”

He stopped in the act of swinging himself out of his saddle, and,

resuming it as his safest place, said:

“Emigrant, my friends! Do you not see me here, in France, of my own


“You are a cursed emigrant,” cried a farrier, making at him in a

furious manner through the press, hammer in hand; “and you are a cursed


The postmaster interposed himself between this man and the rider's

bridle (at which he was evidently making), and soothingly said, “Let him

be; let him be! He will be judged at Paris.”

“Judged!” repeated the farrier, swinging his hammer. “Ay! and condemned

as a traitor.” At this the crowd roared approval.

Checking the postmaster, who was for turning his horse's head to the

yard (the drunken patriot sat composedly in his saddle looking on, with

the line round his wrist), Darnay said, as soon as he could make his

voice heard:

“Friends, you deceive yourselves, or you are deceived. I am not a


“He lies!” cried the smith. “He is a traitor since the decree. His life

is forfeit to the people. His cursed life is not his own!”

At the instant when Darnay saw a rush in the eyes of the crowd, which

another instant would have brought upon him, the postmaster turned his

horse into the yard, the escort rode in close upon his horse's flanks,

and the postmaster shut and barred the crazy double gates. The farrier

struck a blow upon them with his hammer, and the crowd groaned; but, no

more was done.

“What is this decree that the smith spoke of?” Darnay asked the

postmaster, when he had thanked him, and stood beside him in the yard.

“Truly, a decree for selling the property of emigrants.”

“When passed?”

“On the fourteenth.”

“The day I left England!”

“Everybody says it is but one of several, and that there will be

others--if there are not already--banishing all emigrants, and

condemning all to death who return. That is what he meant when he said

your life was not your own.”

“But there are no such decrees yet?”

“What do I know!” said the postmaster, shrugging his shoulders; “there

may be, or there will be. It is all the same. What would you have?”

They rested on some straw in a loft until the middle of the night, and

then rode forward again when all the town was asleep. Among the many

wild changes observable on familiar things which made this wild ride

unreal, not the least was the seeming rarity of sleep. After long and

lonely spurring over dreary roads, they would come to a cluster of poor

cottages, not steeped in darkness, but all glittering with lights, and

would find the people, in a ghostly manner in the dead of the night,

circling hand in hand round a shrivelled tree of Liberty, or all drawn

up together singing a Liberty song. Happily, however, there was sleep in

Beauvais that night to help them out of it and they passed on once more

into solitude and loneliness: jingling through the untimely cold and

wet, among impoverished fields that had yielded no fruits of the earth

that year, diversified by the blackened remains of burnt houses, and by

the sudden emergence from ambuscade, and sharp reining up across their

way, of patriot patrols on the watch on all the roads.

Daylight at last found them before the wall of Paris. The barrier was

closed and strongly guarded when they rode up to it.

“Where are the papers of this prisoner?” demanded a resolute-looking man

in authority, who was summoned out by the guard.

Naturally struck by the disagreeable word, Charles Darnay requested the

speaker to take notice that he was a free traveller and French citizen,

in charge of an escort which the disturbed state of the country had

imposed upon him, and which he had paid for.

“Where,” repeated the same personage, without taking any heed of him

whatever, “are the papers of this prisoner?”

The drunken patriot had them in his cap, and produced them. Casting his

eyes over Gabelle's letter, the same personage in authority showed some

disorder and surprise, and looked at Darnay with a close attention.

He left escort and escorted without saying a word, however, and went

into the guard-room; meanwhile, they sat upon their horses outside the

gate. Looking about him while in this state of suspense, Charles

Darnay observed that the gate was held by a mixed guard of soldiers and

patriots, the latter far outnumbering the former; and that while ingress

into the city for peasants' carts bringing in supplies, and for similar

traffic and traffickers, was easy enough, egress, even for the homeliest

people, was very difficult. A numerous medley of men and women, not

to mention beasts and vehicles of various sorts, was waiting to issue

forth; but, the previous identification was so strict, that they

filtered through the barrier very slowly. Some of these people knew

their turn for examination to be so far off, that they lay down on the

ground to sleep or smoke, while others talked together, or loitered

about. The red cap and tri-colour cockade were universal, both among men

and women.

When he had sat in his saddle some half-hour, taking note of these

things, Darnay found himself confronted by the same man in authority,

who directed the guard to open the barrier. Then he delivered to the

escort, drunk and sober, a receipt for the escorted, and requested him

to dismount. He did so, and the two patriots, leading his tired horse,

turned and rode away without entering the city.

He accompanied his conductor into a guard-room, smelling of common wine

and tobacco, where certain soldiers and patriots, asleep and awake,

drunk and sober, and in various neutral states between sleeping and

waking, drunkenness and sobriety, were standing and lying about. The

light in the guard-house, half derived from the waning oil-lamps of

the night, and half from the overcast day, was in a correspondingly

uncertain condition. Some registers were lying open on a desk, and an

officer of a coarse, dark aspect, presided over these.

“Citizen Defarge,” said he to Darnay's conductor, as he took a slip of

paper to write on. “Is this the emigrant Evremonde?”

“This is the man.”

“Your age, Evremonde?”


“Married, Evremonde?”


“Where married?”

“In England.”

“Without doubt. Where is your wife, Evremonde?”

“In England.”

“Without doubt. You are consigned, Evremonde, to the prison of La


“Just Heaven!” exclaimed Darnay. “Under what law, and for what offence?”

The officer looked up from his slip of paper for a moment.

“We have new laws, Evremonde, and new offences, since you were here.” He

said it with a hard smile, and went on writing.

“I entreat you to observe that I have come here voluntarily, in response

to that written appeal of a fellow-countryman which lies before you. I

demand no more than the opportunity to do so without delay. Is not that

my right?”

“Emigrants have no rights, Evremonde,” was the stolid reply. The officer

wrote until he had finished, read over to himself what he had written,

sanded it, and handed it to Defarge, with the words “In secret.”

Defarge motioned with the paper to the prisoner that he must accompany

him. The prisoner obeyed, and a guard of two armed patriots attended


“Is it you,” said Defarge, in a low voice, as they went down the

guardhouse steps and turned into Paris, “who married the daughter of

Doctor Manette, once a prisoner in the Bastille that is no more?”

“Yes,” replied Darnay, looking at him with surprise.

“My name is Defarge, and I keep a wine-shop in the Quarter Saint

Antoine. Possibly you have heard of me.”

“My wife came to your house to reclaim her father? Yes!”

The word “wife” seemed to serve as a gloomy reminder to Defarge, to say

with sudden impatience, “In the name of that sharp female newly-born,

and called La Guillotine, why did you come to France?”

“You heard me say why, a minute ago. Do you not believe it is the


“A bad truth for you,” said Defarge, speaking with knitted brows, and

looking straight before him.

“Indeed I am lost here. All here is so unprecedented, so changed, so

sudden and unfair, that I am absolutely lost. Will you render me a

little help?”

“None.” Defarge spoke, always looking straight before him.

“Will you answer me a single question?”

“Perhaps. According to its nature. You can say what it is.”

“In this prison that I am going to so unjustly, shall I have some free

communication with the world outside?”

“You will see.”

“I am not to be buried there, prejudged, and without any means of

presenting my case?”

“You will see. But, what then? Other people have been similarly buried

in worse prisons, before now.”

“But never by me, Citizen Defarge.”

Defarge glanced darkly at him for answer, and walked on in a steady

and set silence. The deeper he sank into this silence, the fainter hope

there was--or so Darnay thought--of his softening in any slight degree.

He, therefore, made haste to say:

“It is of the utmost importance to me (you know, Citizen, even better

than I, of how much importance), that I should be able to communicate to

Mr. Lorry of Tellson's Bank, an English gentleman who is now in Paris,

the simple fact, without comment, that I have been thrown into the

prison of La Force. Will you cause that to be done for me?”

“I will do,” Defarge doggedly rejoined, “nothing for you. My duty is to

my country and the People. I am the sworn servant of both, against you.

I will do nothing for you.”

Charles Darnay felt it hopeless to entreat him further, and his pride

was touched besides. As they walked on in silence, he could not but see

how used the people were to the spectacle of prisoners passing along the

streets. The very children scarcely noticed him. A few passers turned

their heads, and a few shook their fingers at him as an aristocrat;

otherwise, that a man in good clothes should be going to prison, was no

more remarkable than that a labourer in working clothes should be

going to work. In one narrow, dark, and dirty street through which they

passed, an excited orator, mounted on a stool, was addressing an excited

audience on the crimes against the people, of the king and the royal

family. The few words that he caught from this man's lips, first made

it known to Charles Darnay that the king was in prison, and that the

foreign ambassadors had one and all left Paris. On the road (except at

Beauvais) he had heard absolutely nothing. The escort and the universal

watchfulness had completely isolated him.

That he had fallen among far greater dangers than those which had

developed themselves when he left England, he of course knew now. That

perils had thickened about him fast, and might thicken faster and faster

yet, he of course knew now. He could not but admit to himself that he

might not have made this journey, if he could have foreseen the events

of a few days. And yet his misgivings were not so dark as, imagined by

the light of this later time, they would appear. Troubled as the future

was, it was the unknown future, and in its obscurity there was ignorant

hope. The horrible massacre, days and nights long, which, within a few

rounds of the clock, was to set a great mark of blood upon the blessed

garnering time of harvest, was as far out of his knowledge as if it had

been a hundred thousand years away. The “sharp female newly-born, and

called La Guillotine,” was hardly known to him, or to the generality

of people, by name. The frightful deeds that were to be soon done, were

probably unimagined at that time in the brains of the doers. How could

they have a place in the shadowy conceptions of a gentle mind?

Of unjust treatment in detention and hardship, and in cruel separation

from his wife and child, he foreshadowed the likelihood, or the

certainty; but, beyond this, he dreaded nothing distinctly. With this on

his mind, which was enough to carry into a dreary prison courtyard, he

arrived at the prison of La Force.

A man with a bloated face opened the strong wicket, to whom Defarge

presented “The Emigrant Evremonde.”

“What the Devil! How many more of them!” exclaimed the man with the

bloated face.

Defarge took his receipt without noticing the exclamation, and withdrew,

with his two fellow-patriots.

“What the Devil, I say again!” exclaimed the gaoler, left with his wife.

“How many more!”

The gaoler's wife, being provided with no answer to the question, merely

replied, “One must have patience, my dear!” Three turnkeys who entered

responsive to a bell she rang, echoed the sentiment, and one added, “For

the love of Liberty;” which sounded in that place like an inappropriate


The prison of La Force was a gloomy prison, dark and filthy, and with a

horrible smell of foul sleep in it. Extraordinary how soon the noisome

flavour of imprisoned sleep, becomes manifest in all such places that

are ill cared for!

“In secret, too,” grumbled the gaoler, looking at the written paper. “As

if I was not already full to bursting!”

He stuck the paper on a file, in an ill-humour, and Charles Darnay

awaited his further pleasure for half an hour: sometimes, pacing to and

fro in the strong arched room: sometimes, resting on a stone seat: in

either case detained to be imprinted on the memory of the chief and his


“Come!” said the chief, at length taking up his keys, “come with me,


Through the dismal prison twilight, his new charge accompanied him by

corridor and staircase, many doors clanging and locking behind them,

until they came into a large, low, vaulted chamber, crowded with

prisoners of both sexes. The women were seated at a long table, reading

and writing, knitting, sewing, and embroidering; the men were for the

most part standing behind their chairs, or lingering up and down the


In the instinctive association of prisoners with shameful crime and

disgrace, the new-comer recoiled from this company. But the crowning

unreality of his long unreal ride, was, their all at once rising to

receive him, with every refinement of manner known to the time, and with

all the engaging graces and courtesies of life.

So strangely clouded were these refinements by the prison manners and

gloom, so spectral did they become in the inappropriate squalor and

misery through which they were seen, that Charles Darnay seemed to stand

in a company of the dead. Ghosts all! The ghost of beauty, the ghost

of stateliness, the ghost of elegance, the ghost of pride, the ghost of

frivolity, the ghost of wit, the ghost of youth, the ghost of age, all

waiting their dismissal from the desolate shore, all turning on him eyes

that were changed by the death they had died in coming there.

It struck him motionless. The gaoler standing at his side, and the other

gaolers moving about, who would have been well enough as to appearance

in the ordinary exercise of their functions, looked so extravagantly

coarse contrasted with sorrowing mothers and blooming daughters who were

there--with the apparitions of the coquette, the young beauty, and the

mature woman delicately bred--that the inversion of all experience and

likelihood which the scene of shadows presented, was heightened to its

utmost. Surely, ghosts all. Surely, the long unreal ride some progress

of disease that had brought him to these gloomy shades!

“In the name of the assembled companions in misfortune,” said a

gentleman of courtly appearance and address, coming forward, “I have the

honour of giving you welcome to La Force, and of condoling with you

on the calamity that has brought you among us. May it soon terminate

happily! It would be an impertinence elsewhere, but it is not so here,

to ask your name and condition?”

Charles Darnay roused himself, and gave the required information, in

words as suitable as he could find.

“But I hope,” said the gentleman, following the chief gaoler with his

eyes, who moved across the room, “that you are not in secret?”

“I do not understand the meaning of the term, but I have heard them say


“Ah, what a pity! We so much regret it! But take courage; several

members of our society have been in secret, at first, and it has lasted

but a short time.” Then he added, raising his voice, “I grieve to inform

the society--in secret.”

There was a murmur of commiseration as Charles Darnay crossed the room

to a grated door where the gaoler awaited him, and many voices--among

which, the soft and compassionate voices of women were conspicuous--gave

him good wishes and encouragement. He turned at the grated door, to

render the thanks of his heart; it closed under the gaoler's hand; and

the apparitions vanished from his sight forever.

The wicket opened on a stone staircase, leading upward. When they had

ascended forty steps (the prisoner of half an hour already counted

them), the gaoler opened a low black door, and they passed into a

solitary cell. It struck cold and damp, but was not dark.

“Yours,” said the gaoler.

“Why am I confined alone?”

“How do I know!”

“I can buy pen, ink, and paper?”

“Such are not my orders. You will be visited, and can ask then. At

present, you may buy your food, and nothing more.”

There were in the cell, a chair, a table, and a straw mattress. As

the gaoler made a general inspection of these objects, and of the four

walls, before going out, a wandering fancy wandered through the mind of

the prisoner leaning against the wall opposite to him, that this gaoler

was so unwholesomely bloated, both in face and person, as to look like

a man who had been drowned and filled with water. When the gaoler was

gone, he thought in the same wandering way, “Now am I left, as if I were

dead.” Stopping then, to look down at the mattress, he turned from it

with a sick feeling, and thought, “And here in these crawling creatures

is the first condition of the body after death.”

“Five paces by four and a half, five paces by four and a half, five

paces by four and a half.” The prisoner walked to and fro in his cell,

counting its measurement, and the roar of the city arose like muffled

drums with a wild swell of voices added to them. “He made shoes, he made

shoes, he made shoes.” The prisoner counted the measurement again, and

paced faster, to draw his mind with him from that latter repetition.

“The ghosts that vanished when the wicket closed. There was one among

them, the appearance of a lady dressed in black, who was leaning in the

embrasure of a window, and she had a light shining upon her golden

hair, and she looked like * * * * Let us ride on again, for God's sake,

through the illuminated villages with the people all awake! * * * * He

made shoes, he made shoes, he made shoes. * * * * Five paces by four and

a half.” With such scraps tossing and rolling upward from the depths of

his mind, the prisoner walked faster and faster, obstinately counting

and counting; and the roar of the city changed to this extent--that it

still rolled in like muffled drums, but with the wail of voices that he

knew, in the swell that rose above them.


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