DOCTOR MANETTE did not return until the morning of the fourth day ofhis absence. So much of what had happened in that dreadful time ascould be kept from the knowledge of Lucie was so well concealed fromher, that not until long afterwards, when France and she were farapart, did she know that eleven hundred defenceless prisoners ofboth sexes and all ages had been killed by the populace; that fourdays and nights had been darkened by this deed of horror; and that theair around her had been tainted by the slain. She only knew that therehad been an attack upon the prisons, that all political prisonershad been in danger, and that some had been dragged out by the crowdand murdered.
To Mr. Lorry, the Doctor communicated under an injunction of secrecyon which he had no need to dwell, that the crowd had taken him througha scene of carnage to the prison of La Force. That, in the prison hehad found a self-appointed Tribunal sitting, before which theprisoners were brought singly, and by which they were rapidlyordered to be put forth to be massacred, or to be released, or (in afew cases) to be sent back to their cells. That, presented by hisconductors to this Tribunal, he had announced himself by name andprofession as having been for eighteen years a secret and unaccusedprisoner in the Bastille; that, one of the body so sitting in judgmenthad risen and identified him, and that this man was Defarge.
That, hereupon he had ascertained, through the registers on thetable, that his son-in-law was among the living prisoners, and hadpleaded hard to the Tribunal- of whom some members were asleep andsome awake, some dirty with murder and some clean, some sober and somenot- for his life and liberty. That, in the first frantic greetingslavished on himself as a notable sufferer under the overthrown system,it had been accorded to him to have Charles Darnay brought beforethe lawless Court, and examined. That, he seemed on the point of beingat once released, when the tide in his favour met with someunexplained check (not intelligible to the Doctor), which led to a fewwords of secret conference. That, the man sitting as President hadthen informed Doctor Manette that the prisoner must remain in custody,but should, for his sake, be held inviolate in safe custody. That,immediately, on a signal, the prisoner was removed to the interiorof the prison again; but, that he, the Doctor, had then so stronglypleaded for permission to remain and assure himself that hisson-in-law was, through no malice or mischance, delivered to theconcourse whose murderous yells outside the gate had often drowned theproceedings, that he had obtained the permission, and had remainedin that Hall of Blood until the danger was over.
The sights he had seen there, with brief snatches of food andsleep by intervals, shall remain untold. The mad joy over theprisoners who were saved, had astounded him scarcely less than the madferocity against those who were cut to pieces. One prisoner there was,he said, who had been discharged into the street free, but at whom amistaken savage had thrust a pike as he passed out. Being besoughtto go to him and dress the wound, the Doctor had passed out at thesame gate, and had found him in the arms of a company of Samaritans,who were seated on the bodies of their victims. With aninconsistency as monstrous as anything in this awful nightmare, theyhad helped the healer, and tended the wounded man with the gentlestsolicitude- had made a litter for him and escorted him carefullyfrom the spot- had then caught up their weapons and plunged anewinto a butchery so dreadful, that the Doctor had covered his eyes withhis hands, and swooned away in the midst of it.
As Mr. Lorry received these confidences, and as he watched theface of his friend now sixty-two years of age, a misgiving arosewithin him that such dread experiences would revive the old danger.But, he had never seen his friend in his present aspect: he hadnever at all known him in his present character. For the first timethe Doctor felt, now, that his suffering was strength and power. Forthe first time he felt that in that sharp fire, he had slowly forgedthe iron which could break the prison door of his daughter'shusband, and deliver him. "It all tended to a good end, my friend;it was not mere waste and ruin. As my beloved child was helpful inrestoring me to myself, I will be helpful now in restoring the dearestpart of herself to her; by the aid of Heaven I will do it!" Thus,Doctor Manette. And when Jarvis Lorry saw the kindled eyes, theresolute face, the calm strong look and bearing of the man whoselife always seemed to him to have been stopped, like a clock, for somany years, and then set going again with an energy which had laindormant during the cessation of its usefulness, he believed.
Greater things than the Doctor had at that time to contend with,would have yielded before his persevering purpose. While he kepthimself in his place, as a physician, whose business was with alldegrees of mankind, bond and free, rich and poor, bad and good, heused his personal influence so wisely, that he was soon the inspectingphysician of three prisons, and among them of La Force. He could nowassure Lucie that her husband was no longer confined alone, but wasmixed with the general body of prisoners; he saw her husband weekly,and brought sweet messages to her, straight from his lips; sometimesher husband himself sent a letter to her (though never by the Doctor'shand), but she was not permitted to write to him: for, among themany wild suspicions of plots in the prisons, the wildest of allpointed at emigrants who were known to have made friends orpermanent connections abroad.
This new life of the Doctor's was an anxious life, no doubt;still, the sagacious Mr. Lorry saw that there was a new sustainingpride in it. Nothing unbecoming tinged the pride; it was a natural andworthy one; but he observed it as a curiosity. The Doctor knew, thatup to that time, his imprisonment had been associated in the mindsof his daughter and his friend, with his personal affliction,deprivation, and weakness. Now that this was changed, and he knewhimself to be invested through that old trial with forces to whichthey both looked for Charles's ultimate safety and deliverance, hebecame so far exalted by the change, that he took the lead anddirection, and required them as the weak, to trust to him as thestrong. The preceding relative positions of himself and Lucie werereversed, yet only as the liveliest gratitude and affection couldreverse them, for he could have had no pride but in rendering someservice to her who had rendered so much to him. "All curious tosee," thought Mr. Lorry, in his amiably shrewd way, "but all naturaland right; so, take the lead, my dear friend, and keep it; it couldn'tbe in better hands."
But, though the Doctor tried hard, and never ceased trying, to getCharles Darnay set at liberty, or at least to get him brought totrial, the public current of the time set too strong and fast for him.The new era began; the king was tried, doomed, and beheaded; theRepublic of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death, declared forvictory or death against the world in arms; the black flag waved nightand day from the great towers of Notre Dame; three hundred thousandmen, summoned to rise against the tyrants of the earth, rose fromall the varying soils of France, as if the dragon's teeth had beensown broadcast, and had yielded fruit equally on hill and plain, onrock, in gravel, and alluvial mud, under the bright sky of the Southand under the clouds of the North, in fell and forest, in thevineyards and the olive-grounds and among the cropped grass and thestubble of the corn, along the fruitful banks of the broad rivers, andin the sand of the sea-shore. What private solicitude could rearitself against the deluge of the Year One of Liberty- the delugerising from below, not falling from above, and with the windows ofHeaven shut, not opened!
There was no pause, no pity, no peace, no interval of relentingrest, no measurement of time. Though days and nights circled asregularly as when time was young, and the evening and morning were thefirst day, other count of time there was none. Hold of it was lostin the raging fever of a nation, as it is in the fever of one patient.Now, breaking the unnatural silence of a whole city, the executionershowed the people the head of the king- and now, it seemed almost inthe same breath, the bead of his fair wife which had had eight wearymonths of imprisoned widowhood and misery, to turn it grey.
And yet, observing the strange law of contradiction which obtains inall such cases, the time was long, while it flamed by so fast. Arevolutionary tribunal in the capital, and forty or fifty thousandrevolutionary committees all over the land; a law of the Suspected,which struck away all security for liberty or life, and delivered overany good and innocent person to any bad and guilty one; prisons gorgedwith people who had committed no offence, and could obtain no bearing;these things became the established order and nature of appointedthings, and seemed to be ancient usage before they were many weeksold. Above all, one hideous figure grew as familiar as if it hadbeen before the general gaze from the foundations of the world- thefigure of the sharp female called La Guillotine.
It was the popular theme for jests; it was the best cure forheadache, it ifallibly prevented the hair from turning grey, itimparted a peculiar delicacy to the complexion, it was the NationalRazor which shaved close: who kissed La Guillotine, looked through thelittle window and sneezed into the sack. It was the sign of theregeneration of the human race. It superseded the Cross. Models ofit were worn on breasts from which the Cross was discarded, and it wasbowed down to and believed in where the Cross was denied.
It sheared off heads so many, that it, and the ground it mostpolluted, were a rotten red. It was taken to pieces, like a toy-puzzlefor a young Devil, and was put together again when the occasion wantedit. It hushed the eloquent, struck down the powerful, abolished thebeautiful and good. Twenty-two friends of high public mark, twenty-oneliving and one dead, it had lopped the heads off, in one morning, inas many minutes. The name of the strong man of Old Scripture haddescended to the chief functionary who worked it; but, so armed, hewas stronger than his namesake, and blinder, and tore away the gatesof God's own Temple every day.
Among these terrors, and the brood belonging to them, the Doctorwalked with a steady head: confident in his power, cautiouslypersistent in his end, never doubting that he would save Lucie'shusband at last. Yet the current of the time swept by, so strong anddeep, and carried the time away so fiercely, that Charles had lainin prison one year and three months when the Doctor was thus steadyand confident. So much more wicked and distracted had the Revolutiongrown in that December month, that the rivers of the South wereencumbered with the bodies of the violently drowned by night, andprisoners were shot in lines and squares under the southern wintrysun. Still, the Doctor walked among the terrors with a steady head. Noman better known than he, in Paris at that day; no man in a strangersituation. Silent, humane, indispensable in hospital and prison, usinghis art equally among assassins and victims, he was a man apart. Inthe exercise of his skill, the appearance and the story of theBastille Captive removed him from all other men. He was notsuspected or brought in question, any more than if he had indeedbeen recalled to life some eighteen years before, or were a Spiritmoving among mortals.