TELLSON'S BANK, established in the Saint Germain Quarter of Paris,was in a wing of a large house, approached by a courtyard and shut offfrom the street by a high wall and a strong gate. The house belongedto a great nobleman who had lived in it until he made a flight fromthe troubles, in his own cook's dress, and got across the borders. Amere beast of the chase flying from hunters, he was still in hismetempsychosis no other than the same Monseigneur, the preparationof whose chocolate for whose lips had once occupied three strong menbesides the cook in question.
Monseigneur gone, and the three strong men absolving themselves fromthe sin of having drawn his high wages, by being more than ready andwilling to cut his throat on the altar of the dawning Republic one andindivisible of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death,Monseigneur's house had been first sequestrated, and then confiscated.For, all things moved so fast, and decree followed decree with thatfierce precipitation, that now upon the third night of the autumnmonth of September, patriot emissaries of the law were in possessionof Monseigneur's house, and had marked it with the tricolour, and weredrinking brandy in its state apartments.
A place of business in London like Tellson's place of business inParis, would soon have driven the House out of its mind and into theGazette. For, what would staid British responsibility andrespectability have said to orange-trees in boxes in a Bank courtyard,and even to a Cupid over the counter? Yet such things were.Tellson's had whitewashed the Cupid, but he was still to be seen onthe ceiling, in the coolest linen, aiming (as he very often does) atmoney from morning to night. Bankruptcy must inevitably have come ofthis young Pagan, in Lombard-street, London, and also of a curtainedalcove in the rear of the immortal boy, and also of a looking-glasslet into the wall, and also of clerks not at all old, who danced inpublic on the slightest provocation. Yet, a French Tellson's could geton with these things exceedingly well, and, as long as the timesheld together, no man had taken fright at them, and drawn out hismoney.
What money would be drawn out of Tellson's henceforth, and whatwould lie there, lost and forgotten; what plate and jewels wouldtarnish in Tellson's hiding-places, while the depositors rusted inprisons, and when they should have violently perished; how manyaccounts with Tellson's never to be balanced in this world, must becarried over into the next; no man could have said, that night, anymore than Mr. Jarvis Lorry could, though he thought heavily of thesequestions. He sat by a newly-lighted wood fire (the blighted andunfruitful year was prematurely cold), and on his honest andcourageous face there was a deeper shade than the pendent lamp couldthrow, or any object in the room distortedly reflect- a shade ofhorror.
He occupied rooms in the Bank, in his fidelity to the House of whichhe had grown to be a part, like strong root-ivy. It chanced thatthey derived a kind of security from the patriotic occupation of themain building, but the true-hearted old gentleman never calculatedabout that. All such circumstances were indifferent to him, so that hedid his duty. On the opposite side of the courtyard, under acolonnade, was extensive standing for carriages- where, indeed, somecarriages of Monseigneur yet stood. Against two of the pillars werefastened two great flaring flambeaux, and in the light of these,standing out in the open air, was a large grindstone: a roughlymounted thing which appeared to have hurriedly been brought there fromsome neighbouring smithy, or other workshop. Rising and looking out ofwindow at these harmless objects, Mr. Lorry shivered, and retired tohis seat by the fire. He had opened, not only the glass window, butthe lattice blind outside it, and he had closed both again, and heshivered through his frame.
From the streets beyond the high wall and the strong gate, therecame the usual night hum of the city, with now and then anindescribable ring in it, weird and unearthly, as if some unwontedsounds of a terrible nature were going up to Heaven.
"Thank God said Mr. Lorry, clasping his hands, "that no one near anddear to me is in this dreadful town to-night. May He have mercy on allwho are in danger!"
Soon afterwards, the bell at the great gate sounded, and he thought,"They have come back!" and sat listening. But, there was no loudirruption into the courtyard, as he had expected, and he heard thegate clash again, and all was quiet.
The nervousness and dread that were upon him inspired that vagueuneasiness respecting the Bank, which a great change would naturallyawaken, with such feelings roused. It was well guarded, and he gotup to go among the trusty people who were watching it, when his doorsuddenly opened, and two figures rushed in, at sight of which hefell back in amazement.
Lucie and her father! Lucie with her arms stretched out to him,and with that old look of earnestness so concentrated and intensified,that it seemed as though it had been stamped upon her face expresslyto give force and power to it in this one passage of her life.
"What is this?" cried Mr. Lorry, breathless and confused. "What isthe matter? Lucie! Manette! What has happened? What has brought youhere? What is it?"
With the look fixed upon him, in her paleness and wildness, shepanted out in his arms, imploringly, "O my dear friend! My husband!"
"Your husband, Lucie?"
"What of Charles?"
"Here, in Paris?"
"Has been here some days- three or four- I don't know how many- Ican't collect my thoughts. An errand of generosity brought him hereunknown to us; he was stopped at the barrier, and sent to prison."
The old man uttered an irrepressible cry. Almost at the same moment,the bell of the great gate rang again, and a loud noise of feet andvoices came pouring into the courtyard.
"What is that noise?" said the Doctor, turning towards the window.
"Don't look!" cried Mr. Lorry. "Don't look out! Manette, for yourlife, don't touch the blind!"
The Doctor turned, with his hand upon the fastening of the window,and said, with a cool, bold smile: "My dear friend, I have a charmedlife in this city. I have been a Bastille prisoner. There is nopatriot in Paris- in Paris? In France- who, knowing me to have beena prisoner in the Bastille, would touch me, except to overwhelm mewith embraces, or carry me in triumph. My old pain has given me apower that has brought us through the barrier, and gained us news ofCharles there, and brought us here. I knew it would be so; I knew Icould help Charles out of all danger; I told Lucie so.- What is thatnoise?" His hand was again upon the window.
"Don't look!" cried Mr. Lorry, absolutely desperate. "No, Lucie,my dear, nor you!" He got his arm round her, and held her. "Don't beso terrified, my love. I solemnly swear to you that I know of noharm having happened to Charles; that I had no suspicion even of hisbeing in this fatal place. What prison is he in?"
"La Force! Lucie, my child, if ever you were brave and serviceablein your life- and you were always both- you will compose yourself now,to do exactly as I bid you; for more depends upon it than you canthink, or I can say. There is no help for you in any action on yourpart to-night; you cannot possibly stir out. I say this, becausewhat I must bid you to do for Charles's sake, is the hardest thingto do of all. You must instantly be obedient, still, and quiet. Youmust let me put you in a room at the back here. You must leave yourfather and me alone for two minutes, and as there are Life and Deathin the world you must not delay."
"I will be submissive to you. I see in your face that you know I cando nothing else than this. I know you are true."
The old man kissed her, and hurried her into his room, and turnedthe key; then, came hurrying back to the Doctor, and opened the windowand partly opened the window and partly opened the blind, and puthis hand upon the Doctor's arm, and looked out with him into thecourtyard.
Looked out upon a throng of men and women: not enough in number,or near enough, to fill the courtyard: not more than forty or fifty inall. The people in possession of the house had let them in at thegate, and they had rushed in to work at the grindstone; it hadevidently been set up there for their purpose, as in a convenientand retired spot.
But, such awful workers, and such awful work!
The grindstone had a double handle, and, turning at it madly weretwo men, whose faces, as their long hair flapped back when thewhirlings of the grindstone brought their faces up, were more horribleand cruel than the visages of the wildest savages in their mostbarbarous disguise. False eyebrows and false moustaches were stuckupon them, and their hideous countenances were all bloody andsweaty, and all awry with bowling, and all staring and glaring withbeastly excitement and want of sleep. As these ruffians turned andturned, their matted locks now flung forward over their eyes, nowflung backward over their necks, some women held wine to theirmouths that they might drink; and what with dropping blood, and whatwith dropping wine, and what with the stream of sparks struck out ofthe stone, all their wicked atmosphere seemed gore and fire. The eyecould not detect one creature in the group free from the smear ofblood. Shouldering one another to get next at the sharpening-stone,were men stripped to the waist, with the stain all over their limbsand bodies; men in all sorts of rags, with the stain upon thoserags; men devilishly set off with spoils of women's lace and silkand ribbon, with the stain dyeing those trifles through and through.Hatchets, knives, bayonets, swords, all brought to be sharpened,were all red with it. Some of the hacked swords were tied to thewrists of those who carried them, with strips of linen and fragmentsof dress: ligatures various in kind, but all deep of the one colour.And as the frantic wielders of these weapons snatched them from thestream of sparks and tore away into the streets, the same red huewas red in their frenzied eyes;- eyes which any unbrutalisedbeholder would have given twenty years of life, to petrify with awell-directed gun.
All this was seen in a moment, as the vision of a drowning man, orof any human creature at any very great pass, could see a world ifit were there. They drew back from the window, and the Doctor lookedfor explanation in his friend's ashy face.
"They are," Mr. Lorry whispered the words, glancing fearfullyround at the locked room, "murdering the prisoners. If you are sure ofwhat you say; if you really have the power you think you have- as Ibelieve you have- make yourself known to these devils, and get takento La Force. It may be too late, I don't know, but let it not be aminute later!"
Doctor Manette pressed his hand, hastened bareheaded out of theroom, and was in the courtyard when Mr. Lorry regained the blind.
His streaming white hair, his remarkable face, and the impetuousconfidence of his manner, as he put the weapons aside like water,carried him in an instant to the heart of the concourse at thestone. For a few moments there was a pause, and a hurry, and a murmur,and the unintelligible sound of his voice; and then Mr. Lorry saw him,surrounded by all, and in the midst of a line of twenty men long,all linked shoulder to shoulder, and hand to shoulder, hurried outwith cries of- "Live the Bastille prisoner! Help for the Bastilleprisoner's kindred in La Force! Room for the Bastille prisoner infront there! Save the prisoner Evremonde at La Force!" and athousand answering shouts.
He closed the lattice again with a fluttering heart, closed thewindow and the curtain, hastened to Lucie, and told her that herfather was assisted by the people, and gone in search of herhusband. He found her child and Miss Pross with her; but, it neveroccurred to him to be surprised by their appearance until a longtime afterwards, when he sat watching them in such quiet as thenight knew.
Lucie had, by that time, fallen into a stupor on the floor at hisfeet, clinging to his hand. Miss Pross had laid the child down onhis own bed, and her head had gradually fallen on the pillow besideher pretty charge. O the long, long night, with the moans of thepoor wife! And O the long, long night, with no return of her fatherand no tidings!
Twice more in the darkness the bell at the great gate sounded, andthe irruption was repeated, and the grindstone whirled and spluttered."What is it?" cried Lucie, affrighted. "Hush! The soldiers' swords aresharpened there," said Mr. Lorry. "The place is national property now,and used as a kind of armoury, my love."
Twice more in all; but, the last spell of work was feeble andfitful. Soon afterwards the day began to dawn, and he softlydetached himself from the clasping hand, and cautiously looked outagain. A man, so besmeared that he might have been a sorely woundedsoldier creeping back to consciousness on a field of slain, was risingfrom the pavement by the side of the grindstone, and looking about himwith a vacant air. Shortly, this worn-out murderer descried in theimperfect light one of the carriages of Monseigneur, and, staggeringto that gorgeous vehicle, climbed in at the door, and shut himselfup to take his rest on its dainty cushions.
The great grindstone, Earth, had turned when Mr. Lorry looked outagain, and the sun was red on the courtyard. But, the lessergrindstone stood alone there in the calm morning air, with a redupon it that the sun had never given, and would never take away.