A TALE OF TWO CITIES - 3 - 8 in English Moral Stories by Charles Dickens books and stories PDF | A TALE OF TWO CITIES - 3 - 8




By Charles Dickens

The Track of a Storm


A Hand at Cards

Happily unconscious of the new calamity at home, Miss Pross threaded her

way along the narrow streets and crossed the river by the bridge of the

Pont-Neuf, reckoning in her mind the number of indispensable purchases

she had to make. Mr. Cruncher, with the basket, walked at her side. They

both looked to the right and to the left into most of the shops they

passed, had a wary eye for all gregarious assemblages of people, and

turned out of their road to avoid any very excited group of talkers. It

was a raw evening, and the misty river, blurred to the eye with blazing

lights and to the ear with harsh noises, showed where the barges were

stationed in which the smiths worked, making guns for the Army of the

Republic. Woe to the man who played tricks with _that_ Army, or got

undeserved promotion in it! Better for him that his beard had never

grown, for the National Razor shaved him close.

Having purchased a few small articles of grocery, and a measure of oil

for the lamp, Miss Pross bethought herself of the wine they wanted.

After peeping into several wine-shops, she stopped at the sign of the

Good Republican Brutus of Antiquity, not far from the National Palace,

once (and twice) the Tuileries, where the aspect of things rather

took her fancy. It had a quieter look than any other place of the same

description they had passed, and, though red with patriotic caps, was

not so red as the rest. Sounding Mr. Cruncher, and finding him of her

opinion, Miss Pross resorted to the Good Republican Brutus of Antiquity,

attended by her cavalier.

Slightly observant of the smoky lights; of the people, pipe in mouth,

playing with limp cards and yellow dominoes; of the one bare-breasted,

bare-armed, soot-begrimed workman reading a journal aloud, and of

the others listening to him; of the weapons worn, or laid aside to be

resumed; of the two or three customers fallen forward asleep, who in the

popular high-shouldered shaggy black spencer looked, in that attitude,

like slumbering bears or dogs; the two outlandish customers approached

the counter, and showed what they wanted.

As their wine was measuring out, a man parted from another man in a

corner, and rose to depart. In going, he had to face Miss Pross. No

sooner did he face her, than Miss Pross uttered a scream, and clapped

her hands.

In a moment, the whole company were on their feet. That somebody was

assassinated by somebody vindicating a difference of opinion was the

likeliest occurrence. Everybody looked to see somebody fall, but only

saw a man and a woman standing staring at each other; the man with all

the outward aspect of a Frenchman and a thorough Republican; the woman,

evidently English.

What was said in this disappointing anti-climax, by the disciples of the

Good Republican Brutus of Antiquity, except that it was something very

voluble and loud, would have been as so much Hebrew or Chaldean to Miss

Pross and her protector, though they had been all ears. But, they had no

ears for anything in their surprise. For, it must be recorded, that

not only was Miss Pross lost in amazement and agitation, but,

Mr. Cruncher--though it seemed on his own separate and individual

account--was in a state of the greatest wonder.

“What is the matter?” said the man who had caused Miss Pross to scream;

speaking in a vexed, abrupt voice (though in a low tone), and in


“Oh, Solomon, dear Solomon!” cried Miss Pross, clapping her hands again.

“After not setting eyes upon you or hearing of you for so long a time,

do I find you here!”

“Don't call me Solomon. Do you want to be the death of me?” asked the

man, in a furtive, frightened way.

“Brother, brother!” cried Miss Pross, bursting into tears. “Have I ever

been so hard with you that you ask me such a cruel question?”

“Then hold your meddlesome tongue,” said Solomon, “and come out, if you

want to speak to me. Pay for your wine, and come out. Who's this man?”

Miss Pross, shaking her loving and dejected head at her by no means

affectionate brother, said through her tears, “Mr. Cruncher.”

“Let him come out too,” said Solomon. “Does he think me a ghost?”

Apparently, Mr. Cruncher did, to judge from his looks. He said not a

word, however, and Miss Pross, exploring the depths of her reticule

through her tears with great difficulty paid for her wine. As she did

so, Solomon turned to the followers of the Good Republican Brutus

of Antiquity, and offered a few words of explanation in the French

language, which caused them all to relapse into their former places and


“Now,” said Solomon, stopping at the dark street corner, “what do you


“How dreadfully unkind in a brother nothing has ever turned my love away

from!” cried Miss Pross, “to give me such a greeting, and show me no


“There. Confound it! There,” said Solomon, making a dab at Miss Pross's

lips with his own. “Now are you content?”

Miss Pross only shook her head and wept in silence.

“If you expect me to be surprised,” said her brother Solomon, “I am not

surprised; I knew you were here; I know of most people who are here. If

you really don't want to endanger my existence--which I half believe you

do--go your ways as soon as possible, and let me go mine. I am busy. I

am an official.”

“My English brother Solomon,” mourned Miss Pross, casting up her

tear-fraught eyes, “that had the makings in him of one of the best and

greatest of men in his native country, an official among foreigners, and

such foreigners! I would almost sooner have seen the dear boy lying in


“I said so!” cried her brother, interrupting. “I knew it. You want to be

the death of me. I shall be rendered Suspected, by my own sister. Just

as I am getting on!”

“The gracious and merciful Heavens forbid!” cried Miss Pross. “Far

rather would I never see you again, dear Solomon, though I have ever

loved you truly, and ever shall. Say but one affectionate word to me,

and tell me there is nothing angry or estranged between us, and I will

detain you no longer.”

Good Miss Pross! As if the estrangement between them had come of any

culpability of hers. As if Mr. Lorry had not known it for a fact, years

ago, in the quiet corner in Soho, that this precious brother had spent

her money and left her!

He was saying the affectionate word, however, with a far more grudging

condescension and patronage than he could have shown if their relative

merits and positions had been reversed (which is invariably the case,

all the world over), when Mr. Cruncher, touching him on the shoulder,

hoarsely and unexpectedly interposed with the following singular


“I say! Might I ask the favour? As to whether your name is John Solomon,

or Solomon John?”

The official turned towards him with sudden distrust. He had not

previously uttered a word.

“Come!” said Mr. Cruncher. “Speak out, you know.” (Which, by the way,

was more than he could do himself.) “John Solomon, or Solomon John? She

calls you Solomon, and she must know, being your sister. And _I_ know

you're John, you know. Which of the two goes first? And regarding that

name of Pross, likewise. That warn't your name over the water.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I don't know all I mean, for I can't call to mind what your name

was, over the water.”


“No. But I'll swear it was a name of two syllables.”


“Yes. T'other one's was one syllable. I know you. You was a spy--witness

at the Bailey. What, in the name of the Father of Lies, own father to

yourself, was you called at that time?”

“Barsad,” said another voice, striking in.

“That's the name for a thousand pound!” cried Jerry.

The speaker who struck in, was Sydney Carton. He had his hands behind

him under the skirts of his riding-coat, and he stood at Mr. Cruncher's

elbow as negligently as he might have stood at the Old Bailey itself.

“Don't be alarmed, my dear Miss Pross. I arrived at Mr. Lorry's, to his

surprise, yesterday evening; we agreed that I would not present myself

elsewhere until all was well, or unless I could be useful; I present

myself here, to beg a little talk with your brother. I wish you had a

better employed brother than Mr. Barsad. I wish for your sake Mr. Barsad

was not a Sheep of the Prisons.”

Sheep was a cant word of the time for a spy, under the gaolers. The spy,

who was pale, turned paler, and asked him how he dared--

“I'll tell you,” said Sydney. “I lighted on you, Mr. Barsad, coming out

of the prison of the Conciergerie while I was contemplating the walls,

an hour or more ago. You have a face to be remembered, and I remember

faces well. Made curious by seeing you in that connection, and having

a reason, to which you are no stranger, for associating you with

the misfortunes of a friend now very unfortunate, I walked in your

direction. I walked into the wine-shop here, close after you, and

sat near you. I had no difficulty in deducing from your unreserved

conversation, and the rumour openly going about among your admirers, the

nature of your calling. And gradually, what I had done at random, seemed

to shape itself into a purpose, Mr. Barsad.”

“What purpose?” the spy asked.

“It would be troublesome, and might be dangerous, to explain in the

street. Could you favour me, in confidence, with some minutes of your

company--at the office of Tellson's Bank, for instance?”

“Under a threat?”

“Oh! Did I say that?”

“Then, why should I go there?”

“Really, Mr. Barsad, I can't say, if you can't.”

“Do you mean that you won't say, sir?” the spy irresolutely asked.

“You apprehend me very clearly, Mr. Barsad. I won't.”

Carton's negligent recklessness of manner came powerfully in aid of his

quickness and skill, in such a business as he had in his secret mind,

and with such a man as he had to do with. His practised eye saw it, and

made the most of it.

“Now, I told you so,” said the spy, casting a reproachful look at his

sister; “if any trouble comes of this, it's your doing.”

“Come, come, Mr. Barsad!” exclaimed Sydney. “Don't be ungrateful.

But for my great respect for your sister, I might not have led up so

pleasantly to a little proposal that I wish to make for our mutual

satisfaction. Do you go with me to the Bank?”

“I'll hear what you have got to say. Yes, I'll go with you.”

“I propose that we first conduct your sister safely to the corner of her

own street. Let me take your arm, Miss Pross. This is not a good city,

at this time, for you to be out in, unprotected; and as your escort

knows Mr. Barsad, I will invite him to Mr. Lorry's with us. Are we

ready? Come then!”

Miss Pross recalled soon afterwards, and to the end of her life

remembered, that as she pressed her hands on Sydney's arm and looked up

in his face, imploring him to do no hurt to Solomon, there was a braced

purpose in the arm and a kind of inspiration in the eyes, which not only

contradicted his light manner, but changed and raised the man. She was

too much occupied then with fears for the brother who so little deserved

her affection, and with Sydney's friendly reassurances, adequately to

heed what she observed.

They left her at the corner of the street, and Carton led the way to Mr.

Lorry's, which was within a few minutes' walk. John Barsad, or Solomon

Pross, walked at his side.

Mr. Lorry had just finished his dinner, and was sitting before a cheery

little log or two of fire--perhaps looking into their blaze for the

picture of that younger elderly gentleman from Tellson's, who had looked

into the red coals at the Royal George at Dover, now a good many years

ago. He turned his head as they entered, and showed the surprise with

which he saw a stranger.

“Miss Pross's brother, sir,” said Sydney. “Mr. Barsad.”

“Barsad?” repeated the old gentleman, “Barsad? I have an association

with the name--and with the face.”

“I told you you had a remarkable face, Mr. Barsad,” observed Carton,

coolly. “Pray sit down.”

As he took a chair himself, he supplied the link that Mr. Lorry wanted,

by saying to him with a frown, “Witness at that trial.” Mr. Lorry

immediately remembered, and regarded his new visitor with an undisguised

look of abhorrence.

“Mr. Barsad has been recognised by Miss Pross as the affectionate

brother you have heard of,” said Sydney, “and has acknowledged the

relationship. I pass to worse news. Darnay has been arrested again.”

Struck with consternation, the old gentleman exclaimed, “What do you

tell me! I left him safe and free within these two hours, and am about

to return to him!”

“Arrested for all that. When was it done, Mr. Barsad?”

“Just now, if at all.”

“Mr. Barsad is the best authority possible, sir,” said Sydney, “and I

have it from Mr. Barsad's communication to a friend and brother Sheep

over a bottle of wine, that the arrest has taken place. He left the

messengers at the gate, and saw them admitted by the porter. There is no

earthly doubt that he is retaken.”

Mr. Lorry's business eye read in the speaker's face that it was loss

of time to dwell upon the point. Confused, but sensible that something

might depend on his presence of mind, he commanded himself, and was

silently attentive.

“Now, I trust,” said Sydney to him, “that the name and influence of

Doctor Manette may stand him in as good stead to-morrow--you said he

would be before the Tribunal again to-morrow, Mr. Barsad?--”

“Yes; I believe so.”

“--In as good stead to-morrow as to-day. But it may not be so. I own

to you, I am shaken, Mr. Lorry, by Doctor Manette's not having had the

power to prevent this arrest.”

“He may not have known of it beforehand,” said Mr. Lorry.

“But that very circumstance would be alarming, when we remember how

identified he is with his son-in-law.”

“That's true,” Mr. Lorry acknowledged, with his troubled hand at his

chin, and his troubled eyes on Carton.

“In short,” said Sydney, “this is a desperate time, when desperate games

are played for desperate stakes. Let the Doctor play the winning game; I

will play the losing one. No man's life here is worth purchase. Any one

carried home by the people to-day, may be condemned tomorrow. Now, the

stake I have resolved to play for, in case of the worst, is a friend

in the Conciergerie. And the friend I purpose to myself to win, is Mr.


“You need have good cards, sir,” said the spy.

“I'll run them over. I'll see what I hold,--Mr. Lorry, you know what a

brute I am; I wish you'd give me a little brandy.”

It was put before him, and he drank off a glassful--drank off another

glassful--pushed the bottle thoughtfully away.

“Mr. Barsad,” he went on, in the tone of one who really was looking

over a hand at cards: “Sheep of the prisons, emissary of Republican

committees, now turnkey, now prisoner, always spy and secret informer,

so much the more valuable here for being English that an Englishman

is less open to suspicion of subornation in those characters than a

Frenchman, represents himself to his employers under a false name.

That's a very good card. Mr. Barsad, now in the employ of the republican

French government, was formerly in the employ of the aristocratic

English government, the enemy of France and freedom. That's an excellent

card. Inference clear as day in this region of suspicion, that Mr.

Barsad, still in the pay of the aristocratic English government, is the

spy of Pitt, the treacherous foe of the Republic crouching in its bosom,

the English traitor and agent of all mischief so much spoken of and so

difficult to find. That's a card not to be beaten. Have you followed my

hand, Mr. Barsad?”

“Not to understand your play,” returned the spy, somewhat uneasily.

“I play my Ace, Denunciation of Mr. Barsad to the nearest Section

Committee. Look over your hand, Mr. Barsad, and see what you have. Don't


He drew the bottle near, poured out another glassful of brandy, and

drank it off. He saw that the spy was fearful of his drinking himself

into a fit state for the immediate denunciation of him. Seeing it, he

poured out and drank another glassful.

“Look over your hand carefully, Mr. Barsad. Take time.”

It was a poorer hand than he suspected. Mr. Barsad saw losing cards

in it that Sydney Carton knew nothing of. Thrown out of his honourable

employment in England, through too much unsuccessful hard swearing

there--not because he was not wanted there; our English reasons for

vaunting our superiority to secrecy and spies are of very modern

date--he knew that he had crossed the Channel, and accepted service in

France: first, as a tempter and an eavesdropper among his own countrymen

there: gradually, as a tempter and an eavesdropper among the natives. He

knew that under the overthrown government he had been a spy upon Saint

Antoine and Defarge's wine-shop; had received from the watchful police

such heads of information concerning Doctor Manette's imprisonment,

release, and history, as should serve him for an introduction to

familiar conversation with the Defarges; and tried them on Madame

Defarge, and had broken down with them signally. He always remembered

with fear and trembling, that that terrible woman had knitted when he

talked with her, and had looked ominously at him as her fingers moved.

He had since seen her, in the Section of Saint Antoine, over and over

again produce her knitted registers, and denounce people whose lives the

guillotine then surely swallowed up. He knew, as every one employed as

he was did, that he was never safe; that flight was impossible; that

he was tied fast under the shadow of the axe; and that in spite of

his utmost tergiversation and treachery in furtherance of the reigning

terror, a word might bring it down upon him. Once denounced, and on such

grave grounds as had just now been suggested to his mind, he foresaw

that the dreadful woman of whose unrelenting character he had seen many

proofs, would produce against him that fatal register, and would quash

his last chance of life. Besides that all secret men are men soon

terrified, here were surely cards enough of one black suit, to justify

the holder in growing rather livid as he turned them over.

“You scarcely seem to like your hand,” said Sydney, with the greatest

composure. “Do you play?”

“I think, sir,” said the spy, in the meanest manner, as he turned to Mr.

Lorry, “I may appeal to a gentleman of your years and benevolence, to

put it to this other gentleman, so much your junior, whether he can

under any circumstances reconcile it to his station to play that Ace

of which he has spoken. I admit that _I_ am a spy, and that it is

considered a discreditable station--though it must be filled by

somebody; but this gentleman is no spy, and why should he so demean

himself as to make himself one?”

“I play my Ace, Mr. Barsad,” said Carton, taking the answer on himself,

and looking at his watch, “without any scruple, in a very few minutes.”

“I should have hoped, gentlemen both,” said the spy, always striving to

hook Mr. Lorry into the discussion, “that your respect for my sister--”

“I could not better testify my respect for your sister than by finally

relieving her of her brother,” said Sydney Carton.

“You think not, sir?”

“I have thoroughly made up my mind about it.”

The smooth manner of the spy, curiously in dissonance with his

ostentatiously rough dress, and probably with his usual demeanour,

received such a check from the inscrutability of Carton,--who was a

mystery to wiser and honester men than he,--that it faltered here and

failed him. While he was at a loss, Carton said, resuming his former air

of contemplating cards:

“And indeed, now I think again, I have a strong impression that I

have another good card here, not yet enumerated. That friend and

fellow-Sheep, who spoke of himself as pasturing in the country prisons;

who was he?”

“French. You don't know him,” said the spy, quickly.

“French, eh?” repeated Carton, musing, and not appearing to notice him

at all, though he echoed his word. “Well; he may be.”

“Is, I assure you,” said the spy; “though it's not important.”

“Though it's not important,” repeated Carton, in the same mechanical

way--“though it's not important--No, it's not important. No. Yet I know

the face.”

“I think not. I am sure not. It can't be,” said the spy.

“It-can't-be,” muttered Sydney Carton, retrospectively, and idling his

glass (which fortunately was a small one) again. “Can't-be. Spoke good

French. Yet like a foreigner, I thought?”

“Provincial,” said the spy.

“No. Foreign!” cried Carton, striking his open hand on the table, as a

light broke clearly on his mind. “Cly! Disguised, but the same man. We

had that man before us at the Old Bailey.”

“Now, there you are hasty, sir,” said Barsad, with a smile that gave his

aquiline nose an extra inclination to one side; “there you really give

me an advantage over you. Cly (who I will unreservedly admit, at this

distance of time, was a partner of mine) has been dead several years. I

attended him in his last illness. He was buried in London, at the church

of Saint Pancras-in-the-Fields. His unpopularity with the blackguard

multitude at the moment prevented my following his remains, but I helped

to lay him in his coffin.”

Here, Mr. Lorry became aware, from where he sat, of a most remarkable

goblin shadow on the wall. Tracing it to its source, he discovered it

to be caused by a sudden extraordinary rising and stiffening of all the

risen and stiff hair on Mr. Cruncher's head.

“Let us be reasonable,” said the spy, “and let us be fair. To show you

how mistaken you are, and what an unfounded assumption yours is, I will

lay before you a certificate of Cly's burial, which I happened to have

carried in my pocket-book,” with a hurried hand he produced and opened

it, “ever since. There it is. Oh, look at it, look at it! You may take

it in your hand; it's no forgery.”

Here, Mr. Lorry perceived the reflection on the wall to elongate, and

Mr. Cruncher rose and stepped forward. His hair could not have been more

violently on end, if it had been that moment dressed by the Cow with the

crumpled horn in the house that Jack built.

Unseen by the spy, Mr. Cruncher stood at his side, and touched him on

the shoulder like a ghostly bailiff.

“That there Roger Cly, master,” said Mr. Cruncher, with a taciturn and

iron-bound visage. “So _you_ put him in his coffin?”

“I did.”

“Who took him out of it?”

Barsad leaned back in his chair, and stammered, “What do you mean?”

“I mean,” said Mr. Cruncher, “that he warn't never in it. No! Not he!

I'll have my head took off, if he was ever in it.”

The spy looked round at the two gentlemen; they both looked in

unspeakable astonishment at Jerry.

“I tell you,” said Jerry, “that you buried paving-stones and earth in

that there coffin. Don't go and tell me that you buried Cly. It was a

take in. Me and two more knows it.”

“How do you know it?”

“What's that to you? Ecod!” growled Mr. Cruncher, “it's you I have got a

old grudge again, is it, with your shameful impositions upon tradesmen!

I'd catch hold of your throat and choke you for half a guinea.”

Sydney Carton, who, with Mr. Lorry, had been lost in amazement at

this turn of the business, here requested Mr. Cruncher to moderate and

explain himself.

“At another time, sir,” he returned, evasively, “the present time is

ill-conwenient for explainin'. What I stand to, is, that he knows well

wot that there Cly was never in that there coffin. Let him say he was,

in so much as a word of one syllable, and I'll either catch hold of his

throat and choke him for half a guinea;” Mr. Cruncher dwelt upon this as

quite a liberal offer; “or I'll out and announce him.”

“Humph! I see one thing,” said Carton. “I hold another card, Mr. Barsad.

Impossible, here in raging Paris, with Suspicion filling the air, for

you to outlive denunciation, when you are in communication with another

aristocratic spy of the same antecedents as yourself, who, moreover, has

the mystery about him of having feigned death and come to life again!

A plot in the prisons, of the foreigner against the Republic. A strong

card--a certain Guillotine card! Do you play?”

“No!” returned the spy. “I throw up. I confess that we were so unpopular

with the outrageous mob, that I only got away from England at the risk

of being ducked to death, and that Cly was so ferreted up and down, that

he never would have got away at all but for that sham. Though how this

man knows it was a sham, is a wonder of wonders to me.”

“Never you trouble your head about this man,” retorted the contentious

Mr. Cruncher; “you'll have trouble enough with giving your attention to

that gentleman. And look here! Once more!”--Mr. Cruncher could not

be restrained from making rather an ostentatious parade of his

liberality--“I'd catch hold of your throat and choke you for half a


The Sheep of the prisons turned from him to Sydney Carton, and said,

with more decision, “It has come to a point. I go on duty soon, and

can't overstay my time. You told me you had a proposal; what is it?

Now, it is of no use asking too much of me. Ask me to do anything in my

office, putting my head in great extra danger, and I had better trust my

life to the chances of a refusal than the chances of consent. In short,

I should make that choice. You talk of desperation. We are all desperate

here. Remember! I may denounce you if I think proper, and I can swear my

way through stone walls, and so can others. Now, what do you want with


“Not very much. You are a turnkey at the Conciergerie?”

“I tell you once for all, there is no such thing as an escape possible,”

said the spy, firmly.

“Why need you tell me what I have not asked? You are a turnkey at the


“I am sometimes.”

“You can be when you choose?”

“I can pass in and out when I choose.”

Sydney Carton filled another glass with brandy, poured it slowly out

upon the hearth, and watched it as it dropped. It being all spent, he

said, rising:

“So far, we have spoken before these two, because it was as well that

the merits of the cards should not rest solely between you and me. Come

into the dark room here, and let us have one final word alone.”