THE QUIET LODGINGS of Doctor Manette were in a quiet street-cornernot far from Soho-square. On the afternoon of a certain fine Sundaywhen the waves of four months had rolled over the trial for treason,and carried it, as to the public interest and memory, far out tosea, Mr. Jarvis Lorry walked along the sunny streets fromClerkenwell where he lived, on his way to dine with the Doctor.After several relapses into business-absorption, Mr. Lorry hadbecome the Doctor's friend, and the quiet street-corner was thesunny part of his life.
On this certain fine Sunday, Mr. Lorry walked towards Soho, early inthe afternoon, for three reasons of habit. Firstly, because, on fineSundays, he often walked out, before dinner, with the Doctor andLucie; secondly, because, on unfavourable Sundays, he was accustomedto be with them as the family friend, talking, reading, looking out ofwindow, and generally getting through the day; thirdly, because behappened to have his own little shrewd doubts to solve, and knew howthe ways of the Doctor's household pointed to that time as a likelytime for solving them.
A quainter corner than the corner where the Doctor lived, was not tobe found in London. There was no way through it, and the front windowsof the Doctor's lodgings commanded a pleasant little vista of streetthat had a congenial air of retirement on it. There were few buildingsthen, north of the Oxford-road, and forest-trees flourished, andwild flowers grew, and the hawthorn blossomed, in the now vanishedfields. As a consequence, country airs circulated in Soho withvigorous freedom, instead of languishing into the parish like straypaupers 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 earlierpart of the day; but, when the streets grew hot, the corner was inshadow, though not in shadow so remote but that you could see beyondit into a glare of brightness. It was a cool spot, staid but cheerful,a wonderful place for echoes, and a very harbour from the ragingstreets.
There ought to have been a tranquil bark in such an anchorage, andthere was. The Doctor occupied two floors of a large still house,where several callings purported to be pursued by day, but whereoflittle was audible any day, and which was shunned by all of them atnight. In a building at the back, attainable by a courtyard where aplane-tree rustled its green leaves, church-organs claimed to be made,and silver to be chased, and likewise gold to be beaten by somemysterious giant who had a golden arm starting out of the wall ofthe front hall- as if he had beaten himself precious, and menaced asimilar conversion of all visitors. Very little of these trades, or ofa lonely lodger rumoured to live up-stairs, or of a dim coach-trimmingmaker 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 heardacross the courtyard, or a thump from the golden giant. These,however, were only the exceptions required to prove the rule thatthe sparrows in the plane-tree behind the house, and the echoes in thecorner before it, had their own way from Sunday morning untoSaturday 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 conductingingenious 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, andnotice, when he rang the door-bell of the tranquil house in thecorner, on the fine Sunday afternoon.
"Doctor Manette at home?"
"Miss Lucie at home?"
"Miss Pross at home?"
Possibly at home, but of a certainty impossible for handmaid toanticipate intentions of Miss Pross, as to admission or denial ofthe fact.
"As I am at home myself," said Mr. Lorry, "I'll go upstairs."
Although the Doctor's daughter had known nothing of the country ofher birth, she appeared to have innately derived from it thatability to make much of little means, which is one of its mostuseful and most agreeable characteristics. Simple as the furniturewas, it was set off by so many little adornments, of no value butfor their taste and fancy, that its effect was delightful. Thedisposition of everything in the rooms, from the largest object to theleast; the arrangement of colours, the elegant variety and contrastobtained by thrift in trifles, by delicate hands, clear eyes, and goodsense; were at once so pleasant in themselves, and so expressive oftheir originator, that, as Mr. Lorry stood looking about him, the verychairs and tables seemed to ask him, with something of that peculiarexpression which he knew so well by this time, whether he approved?
There were three rooms on a floor, and, the doors by which theycommunicated being put open that the air might pass freely throughthem all, Mr. Lorry, smilingly observant of that fancifulresemblance which he detected all around him, walked from one toanother. The first was the best room, and in it were Lucie's birds,and flowers, and books, and desk, and work-table, and box ofwater-colours; the second was the Doctor's consulting-room, usedalso as the dining-room; the third, changingly speckled by therustle of the plane-tree in the yard, was the Doctor's bedroom, andthere, in a corner, stood the disused shoemaker's bench and tray oftools, much as it had stood on the fifth floor of the dismal houseby the wine-shop, in the suburb of Saint Antoine in Paris.
"I wonder," said Mr. Lorry, pausing in his looking about, "that hekeeps that reminder of his sufferings about him!"
"And why wonder at that?" was the abrupt inquiry that made himstart.
It proceeded from Miss Pross, the wild red woman, strong of hand,whose acquaintance he had first made at the Royal George Hotel atDover, 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 ifto express that she bore him no malice.
"I am pretty well, I thank you," answered Mr. Lorry, withmeekness; "how are you?"
"Nothing to boast of," said Miss Pross.
"Ah! indeed!" said Miss Pross. "I am very much put out about myLadybird."
"For gracious sake say something else besides 'indeed,' or you'llfidget me to death," said Miss Pross: whose character (dissociatedfrom stature) was shortness.
"Really, then?" said Mr. Lorry, as an amendment.
"Really, is bad enough," returned Miss Pross, "but better. Yes, I amvery much put out."
"May I ask the cause?"
"I don't want dozens of people who are not at all worthy ofLadybird, 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 beforeher time and since) that whenever her original proposition wasquestioned, 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, youmay take your affidavit, if I could have afforded to keep eithermyself or her for nothing- since she was ten years old. And it'sreally very hard," said Miss Pross.
Not seeing with precision what was very hard, Mr. Lorry shook hishead; using that important part of himself as a sort of fairy cloakthat would fit anything.
"All sorts of people who are not in the least degree worthy of thepet, 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 washard enough; not that I have any fault to find with Doctor Manette,except that he is not worthy of such a daughter, which is noimputation on him, for it was not to be expected that anybody shouldbe, under any circumstances. But it really is doubly and trebly hardto have crowds and multitudes of people turning up after him (Icould have forgiven him), to take Ladybird's affections away from me."
Mr. Lorry knew Miss Pross to be very jealous, but he also knew herby this time to be, beneath the service of her eccentricity, one ofthose unselfish creatures- found only among women- who will, forpure love and admiration, bind themselves willing slaves, to youthwhen they have lost it, to beauty that they never had, toaccomplishments that they were never fortunate enough to gain, tobright hopes that never shone upon their own sombre lives. He knewenough of the world to know that there is nothing in it better thanthe faithful service of the heart; so rendered and so free from anymercenary taint, he had such an exalted respect for it, that in theretributive arrangements made by his own mind- we all make sucharrangements, more or less- he stationed Miss Pross much nearer to thelower Angels than many ladies immeasurably better got up both byNature and Art, who had balances at Tellson's.
"There never was, nor will be, but one man worthy of Ladybird," saidMiss Pross; "and that was my brother Solomon, if he hadn't made amistake in life."
Here again: Mr. Lorry's inquiries into Miss Pross's personal historyhad established the fact that her brother Solomon was a heartlessscoundrel who had stripped her of everything she possessed, as a staketo speculate with, and had abandoned her in her poverty forevermore, with no touch of compunction. Miss Pross's fidelity ofbelief in Solomon (deducting a mere trifle for this slight mistake)was quite a serious matter with Mr. Lorry, and had its weight in hisgood opinion of her.
"As we happen to be alone for the moment, and are both people ofbusiness," he said, when they had got back to the drawing-room and hadsat down there in friendly relations, "Let me ask you- does theDoctor, 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 hedon'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 himup short with:
"Never imagine anything. Have no imagination at all."
"I stand corrected; do you suppose- you go so far as to suppose,sometimes?"
"Now and then," said Miss Pross.
"Do you suppose," Mr. Lorry went on, with a laughing twinkle inhis bright eye, as it looked kindly at her, "that Doctor Manette hasany theory of his own, preserved through all those years, relativeto the cause of his being so oppressed; perhaps, even to the name ofhis oppressor?"
"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 amere 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 remarkablethat Doctor Manette, unquestionably innocent of any crime as we are anwell assured he is, should never touch upon that question? I willnot say with me, though he had business relations with me many yearsago, and we are now intimate; I will say with the fair daughter towhom he is so devotedly attached, and who is so devotedly attachedto 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'lltell me," said Miss Pross, softened by the tone of the apology, "he isafraid of the whole subject."
"It's plain enough, I should think, why he may be. It's a dreadfulremembrance. Besides that, his loss of himself grew out of it. Notknowing how he lost himself, or how he recovered himself, he may neverfeel certain of not losing himself again. That alone wouldn't make thesubject 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 mymind, Miss Pross, whether it is good for Doctor Manette to have thatsuppression always shut up within him. Indeed, it is this doubt andthe uneasiness it sometimes causes me that has led me to our presentconfidence."
"Can't be helped," said Miss Pross, shaking her head. "Touch thatstring, and he instantly changes for the worse. Better leave it alone.In short, must leave it alone, like or no like. Sometimes, he getsup in the dead of the night, and will be heard, by us overheadthere, walking up and down, walking up and down, in his room. Ladybirdhas 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 theygo on together, walking up and down, walking up and down, until heis composed. But he never says a word of the true reason of hisrestlessness, to her, and she finds it best not to hint at it tohim. In silence they go walking up and down together, walking up anddown together, till her love and company have brought him to himself."
Notwithstanding Miss Pross's denial of her own imagination, therewas a perception of the pain of being monotonously haunted by onesad 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; ithad begun to echo so resoundingly to the tread of coming feet, that itseemed as though the very mention of that weary pacing to and frohad 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 apeculiar Ear of a place, that as Mr. Lorry stood at the open window,looking for the father and daughter whose steps he heard, he fanciedthey would never approach. Not only would the echoes die away, asthough the steps had gone; but, echoes of other steps that nevercame would be heard in their stead, and would die away for good whenthey seemed close at hand. However, father and daughter did at lastappear, 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, andtouching it up with the ends of her handkerchief, and blowing the dustoff it, and folding her mantle ready for laying by, and smoothingher rich hair with as much pride as she could possibly have taken inher own hair if she had been the vainest and handsomest of women.Her darling was a pleasant sight too, embracing her and thankingher, 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 apleasant sight too, looking on at them, and telling Miss Pross how shespoilt Lucie, in accents and with eyes that had as much spoiling inthem 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 hislittle wig, and thanking his bachelor stars for having lighted himin his declining years to a Home. But, no Hundreds of people came tosee the sights, and Mr. Lorry looked in vain for the fulfilment ofMiss Pross's prediction.
Dinner-time, and still no Hundreds of people. In the arrangements ofthe little household, Miss Pross took charge of the lower regions, andalways acquitted herself marvellously. Her dinners, of a very modestquality, were so well cooked and so well served, and so neat intheir contrivances, half English and half French, that nothing couldbe better. Miss Pross's friendship being of the thoroughly practicalkind, she had ravaged Soho and the adjacent provinces, in search ofimpoverished French, who, tempted by shillings and half-crowns,would impart culinary mysteries to her. From these decayed sons anddaughters of Gaul, she had acquired such wonderful arts, that thewoman and girl who formed the staff of domestics regarded her as quitea Sorceress, or Cinderella's Godmother: who would send out for a fowl,a rabbit, a vegetable or two from the garden, and change them intoanything she pleased.
On Sundays, Miss Pross dined at the Doctor's table, but on otherdays persisted in taking her meals at unknown periods, either in thelower regions, or in her own room on the second floor- a blue chamber,to which no one but her Ladybird ever gained admittance. On thisoccasion, Miss Pross, responding to Ladybird's pleasant face andpleasant efforts to please her, unbent exceedingly; so the dinnerwas very pleasant, too.
It was an oppressive day, and, after dinner, Lucie proposed that thewine should be carried out under the plane-tree, and they should sitthere in the air. As everything turned upon her, and revolved abouther, they went out under the plane-tree, and she carried the wine downfor the special benefit of Mr. Lorry. She had installed herself,some time before, as Mr. Lorry's cup-bearer; and while they satunder the plane-tree, talking, she kept his glass replenished.Mysterious backs and ends of houses peeped at them as they talked, andthe plane-tree whispered to them in its own way above their heads.
Still, the Hundreds of people did not present themselves. Mr. Darnaypresented himself while they were sitting under the plane-tree, but hewas only One.
Doctor Manette received him kindly, and so did Lucie. But, MissPross suddenly became afflicted with a twitching in the head and body,and retired into the house. She was not unfrequently the victim ofthis disorder, and she called it, in familiar conversation, "a fitof the jerks."
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 heresting his arm on the back of her chair, it was very agreeable totrace the likeness.
He had been talking all day, on many subjects, and with unusualvivacity. "Pray, Doctor Manette," said Mr. Darnay, as they sat underthe plane-tree- and he said it in the natural pursuit of the topicin hand, which happened to be the old buildings of London- "have youseen much of the Tower?"
"Lucie and I have been there; but only casually. We have seen enoughof 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 acharacter that gives facilities for seeing much of it. They told mea 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 ofits inner wall was covered by inscriptions which had been carved byprisoners- dates, names, complaints, and prayers. Upon a cornerstone in an angle of the wall, one prisoner, who seemed to have goneto execution, had cut as his last work, three letters. They weredone with some very poor instrument, and hurriedly, with an unsteadyhand. At first, they were read as D. I. C.; but, on being morecarefully examined, the last letter was found to be G. There was norecord or legend of any prisoner with those initials, and manyfruitless guesses were made what the name could have been. Atlength, it was suggested that the letters were not initials, but thecomplete word, DIG. The floor was examined very carefully under theinscription, and, in the earth beneath a stone, or tile, or somefragment of paving, were found the ashes of a paper, mingled withthe ashes of a small leathern case or bag. What the unknown prisonerhad written will never be read, but he had written something, andhidden 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 mannerand his look quite terrified them all.
"No, my dear, not ill. There are large drops of rain falling, andthey made me start. We had better go in."
He recovered himself almost instantly. Rain was really falling inlarge 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 hadbeen told of, and, as they went into the house, the business eye ofMr. Lorry either detected, or fancied it detected, on his face, as itturned towards Charles Darnay, the same singular look that had beenupon it when it turned towards him in the passages of the Court House.
He recovered himself so quickly, however, that Mr. Lorry haddoubts of his business eye. The arm of the golden giant in the hallwas not more steady than he was, when he stopped under it to remark tothem that he was not yet proof against slight surprises (if he everwould be), and that the rain had startled him.
Tea-time, and Miss Pross making tea, with another fit of the jerksupon 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 doorsand windows open, they were overpowered by heat. When the tea-tablewas done with, they all moved to one of the windows, and looked outinto the heavy twilight. Lucie sat by her father; Darnay sat besideher; Carton leaned against a window. The curtains were long and white,and some of the thunder-gusts that whirled into the corner, caughtthem up to the ceiling, and waved them like spectral wings.
"The rain-drops are still falling, large, heavy, and few," saidDoctor Manette. "It comes slowly."
"It comes surely," said Carton.
They spoke low, as people watching and waiting mostly do; aspeople in a dark room, watching and waiting for Lightning, always do.
There was a great hurry in the streets of people speeding away toget shelter before the storm broke; the wonderful corner for echoesresounded with the echoes of footsteps coming and going, yet not afootstep was there.
"A multitude of people, and yet a solitude!" said Darnay, whenthey had listened for a while.
"Is it not impressive, Mr. Darnay?" asked Lucie. "Sometimes, Ihave sat here of an evening, until I have fancied- but even theshade of a foolish fancy makes me shudder to-night, when all is soblack and solemn--"
"Let us shudder too. We may know what it is."
"It will seem nothing to you. Such whims are only impressive as weoriginate them, I think; they are not to be communicated. I havesometimes sat alone here of an evening, listening, until I have madethe echoes out to be the echoes of all the footsteps that are comingby-and-bye into our lives."
"There is a great crowd coming one day into our lives, if that beso," Sydney Carton struck in, in his moody way.
The footsteps were incessant, and the hurry of them became moreand more rapid. The corner echoed and re-echoed with the tread offeet; some, as it seemed, under the windows; some, as it seemed, inthe room; some coming, some going, some breaking off, some stoppingaltogether; all in the distant streets, and not one within sight.
"Are all these footsteps destined to come to all of us, MissManette, or are we to divide them among us?"
"I don't know, Mr. Darnay; I told you it was a foolish fancy, butyou 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 tocome into my life, and my father's."
"I take them into mine!" said Carton. "I ask no questions and makeno stipulations. There is a great crowd bearing down upon us, MissManette, and I see them-- by the Lightning." He added the lastwords, after there had been a vivid flash which had shown him loungingin the window.
"And I hear them!" he added again, after a peal of thunder. "Herethey come, fast, fierce, and furious!"
It was the rush and roar of rain that he typified, and it stoppedhim, for no voice could be heard in it. A memorable storm of thunderand lightning broke with that sweep of water, and there was not amoment's interval in crash, and fire, and rain, until after the moonrose at midnight.
The great bell of Saint Paul's was striking One in the clearedair, when Mr. Lorry, escorted by Jerry, high-booted and bearing alantern, set forth on his return-passage to Clerkenwell. There weresolitary patches of road on the way between Soho and Clerkenwell,and Mr. Lorry, mindful of foot-pads, always retained Jerry for thisservice: 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 androar, bearing down upon them, too.