From the dimly-lighted passages of the court, the last sediment of the human stew that had been boiling there all day, was straining off, when Doctor Manette, Lucie Manette, his daughter, Mr. Lorry, the solicitor for the defence, and its counsel, Mr. Stryver, stood gathered round Mr. Charles Darnay—just released—congratulating him on his escape from death.
It would have been difficult by a far brighter light, to recognise in Doctor Manette, intellectual of face and upright of bearing, the shoemaker of the garret in Paris. Yet, no one could have looked at him twice, without looking again: even though the opportunity of observation had not extended to the mournful cadence of his low grave voice, and to the abstraction that overclouded him fitfully, without any apparent reason. While one external cause, and that a reference to his long lingering agony, would always—as on the trial—evoke this condition from the depths of his soul, it was also in its nature to arise of itself, and to draw a gloom over him, as incomprehensible to those unacquainted with his story as if they had seen the
shadow of the actual Bastille thrown upon him by a summer sun, when the substance was three hundred miles away.
Only his daughter had the power of charming this black brooding from his mind. She was the golden thread that united him to a Past beyond his misery, and to a Present beyond his misery: and the sound of her voice, the light of her face, the touch of her hand, had a strong beneficial influence with him almost always. Not absolutely always, for she could recall some occasions on which her power had failed; but they were few and slight, and she believed them over.
Mr. Darnay had kissed her hand fervently and gratefully, and had turned to Mr. Stryver, whom he warmly thanked. Mr. Stryver, a man of little more than thirty, but looking twenty years older than he was, stout, loud, red, bluff, and free from any drawback of delicacy, had a pushing way of shouldering himself (morally and physically) into companies and conversations, that argued well for his shouldering his way up in life.
He still had his wig and gown on, and he said, squaring himself at his late client to that degree that he squeezed the innocent Mr. Lorry clean out of the group: ‘I am glad to have brought you off with honour, Mr. Darnay. It was an
infamous prosecution, grossly infamous; but not the less likely to succeed on that account.
‘You have laid me under an obligation to you for life— in two senses,’ said his late client, taking his hand.
‘I have done my best for you, Mr. Darnay; and my best is as good as another man’s, I believe.’
It clearly being incumbent on some one to say, ‘Much better,’ Mr. Lorry said it; perhaps not quite disinterestedly, but with the interested object of squeezing himself back again.
‘You think so?’ said Mr. Stryver. ‘Well! you have been present all day, and you ought to know. You are a man of business, too.’
‘And as such,’ quoth Mr. Lorry, whom the counsel learned in the law had now shouldered back into the group, just as he had previously shouldered him out of it—‘as such I will appeal to Doctor Manette, to break up this conference and order us all to our homes. Miss Lucie looks ill, Mr. Darnay has had a terrible day, we are worn out.’
‘Speak for yourself, Mr. Lorry,’ said Stryver; ‘I have a night’s work to do yet. Speak for yourself.’
‘I speak for myself,’ answered Mr. Lorry, ‘and for Mr. Darnay, and for Miss Lucie, and—Miss Lucie, do you not
think I may speak for us all?
He asked her the question pointedly, and with a glance at her father.
His face had become frozen, as it were, in a very curious look at Darnay: an intent look, deepening into a frown of dislike and distrust, not even unmixed with fear. With this strange expression on him his thoughts had wandered away.
‘My father,’ said Lucie, softly laying her hand on his.
He slowly shook the shadow off, and turned to her.
‘Shall we go home, my father?’
With a long breath, he answered ‘Yes.’
The friends of the acquitted prisoner had dispersed, under the impression—which he himself had originated— that he would not be released that night. The lights were nearly all extinguished in the passages, the iron gates were being closed with a jar and a rattle, and the dismal place was deserted until to-morrow morning’s interest of gallows, pillory, whipping-post, and branding-iron, should repeople it. Walking between her father and Mr. Darnay, Lucie Manette passed into the open air. A hackney-coach was called, and the father and daughter departed in it.
Mr. Stryver had left them in the passages, to shoulder his way back to the robing-room. Another person, who had not joined the group, or interchanged a word with
any one of them, but who had been leaning against the wall where its shadow was darkest, had silently strolled out after the rest, and had looked on until the coach drove away. He now stepped up to where Mr. Lorry and Mr. Darnay stood upon the pavement.
‘So, Mr. Lorry! Men of business may speak to Mr. Darnay now?’
Nobody had made any acknowledgment of Mr. Carton’s part in the day’s proceedings; nobody had known of it. He was unrobed, and was none the better for it in appearance.
‘If you knew what a conflict goes on in the business mind, when the business mind is divided between good-natured impulse and business appearances, you would be amused, Mr. Darnay.’
Mr. Lorry reddened, and said, warmly, ‘You have mentioned that before, sir. We men of business, who serve a House, are not our own masters. We have to think of the House more than ourselves.’
‘I know, I know,’ rejoined Mr. Carton, carelessly. ‘Don’t be nettled, Mr. Lorry. You are as good as another, I have no doubt: better, I dare say.’
‘And indeed, sir,’ pursued Mr. Lorry, not minding him, ‘I really don’t know what you have to do with the matter.
ll excuse me, as very much your elder, for saying so, I really don
t know that it is your business.
‘Business! Bless you, I have no business,’ said Mr. Carton.
‘It is a pity you have not, sir.’
‘I think so, too.’
‘If you had,’ pursued Mr. Lorry, ‘perhaps you would attend to it.’
‘Lord love you, no!—I shouldn’t,’ said Mr. Carton.
‘Well, sir!’ cried Mr. Lorry, thoroughly heated by his indifference, ‘business is a very good thing, and a very respectable thing. And, sir, if business imposes its restraints and its silences and impediments, Mr. Darnay as a young gentleman of generosity knows how to make allowance for that circumstance. Mr. Darnay, good night, God bless you, sir! I hope you have been this day preserved for a prosperous and happy life.—Chair there!’
Perhaps a little angry with himself, as well as with the barrister, Mr. Lorry bustled into the chair, and was carried off to Tellson’s. Carton, who smelt of port wine, and did not appear to be quite sober, laughed then, and turned to Darnay:
This is a strange chance that throws you and me together. This must be a strange night to you, standing alone here with your counterpart on these street stones?
‘I hardly seem yet,’ returned Charles Darnay, ‘to belong to this world again.’
‘I don’t wonder at it; it’s not so long since you were pretty far advanced on your way to another. You speak faintly.’
‘I begin to think I AM faint.’
‘Then why the devil don’t you dine? I dined, myself, while those numskulls were deliberating which world you should belong to—this, or some other. Let me show you the nearest tavern to dine well at.’
Drawing his arm through his own, he took him down Ludgate-hill to Fleet-street, and so, up a covered way, into a tavern. Here, they were shown into a little room, where Charles Darnay was soon recruiting his strength with a good plain dinner and good wine: while Carton sat opposite to him at the same table, with his separate bottle of port before him, and his fully half-insolent manner upon him.
‘Do you feel, yet, that you belong to this terrestrial scheme again, Mr. Darnay?’
He said it bitterly, and filled up his glass again: which was a large one.
‘As to me, the greatest desire I have, is to forget that I belong to it. It has no good in it for me—except wine like this—nor I for it. So we are not much alike in that particular. Indeed, I begin to think we are not much alike in any particular, you and I.’
Confused by the emotion of the day, and feeling his being there with this Double of coarse deportment, to be like a dream, Charles Darnay was at a loss how to answer; finally, answered not at all.
‘Now your dinner is done,’ Carton presently said, ‘why don’t you call a health, Mr. Darnay; why don’t you give your toast?’
‘What health? What toast?’
‘Why, it’s on the tip of your tongue. It ought to be, it must be, I’ll swear it’s there.’
‘Miss Manette, then!’
‘Miss Manette, then!’
Looking his companion full in the face while he drank the toast, Carton flung his glass over his shoulder against
the wall, where it shivered to pieces; then, rang the bell, and ordered in another.
‘That’s a fair young lady to hand to a coach in the dark, Mr. Darnay!’ he said, ruing his new goblet.
A slight frown and a laconic ‘Yes,’ were the answer.
‘That’s a fair young lady to be pitied by and wept for by! How does it feel? Is it worth being tried for one’s life, to be the object of such sympathy and compassion, Mr. Darnay?’
Again Darnay answered not a word.
‘She was mightily pleased to have your message, when I gave it her. Not that she showed she was pleased, but I suppose she was.’
The allusion served as a timely reminder to Darnay that this disagreeable companion had, of his own free will, assisted him in the strait of the day. He turned the dialogue to that point, and thanked him for it.
‘I neither want any thanks, nor merit any,’ was the careless rejoinder. ‘It was nothing to do, in the first place; and I don’t know why I did it, in the second. Mr. Darnay, let me ask you a question.’
‘Willingly, and a small return for your good offices.’
‘Do you think I particularly like you?’
Really, Mr. Carton,
returned the other, oddly disconcerted,
I have not asked myself the question.
‘But ask yourself the question now.’
‘You have acted as if you do; but I don’t think you do.’
‘I don’t think I do,’ said Carton. ‘I begin to have a very good opinion of your understanding.’
‘Nevertheless,’ pursued Darnay, rising to ring the bell, ‘there is nothing in that, I hope, to prevent my calling the reckoning, and our parting without ill-blood on either side.’
Carton rejoining, ‘Nothing in life!’ Darnay rang. ‘Do you call the whole reckoning?’ said Carton. On his answering in the affirmative, ‘Then bring me another pint of this same wine, drawer, and come and wake me at ten.’
The bill being paid, Charles Darnay rose and wished him good night. Without returning the wish, Carton rose too, with something of a threat of defiance in his manner, and said, ‘A last word, Mr. Darnay: you think I am drunk?’
‘I think you have been drinking, Mr. Carton.’
‘Think? You know I have been drinking.’
‘Since I must say so, I know it.’
Then you shall likewise know why. I am a disappointed drudge, sir. I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me.
‘Much to be regretted. You might have used your talents better.’
‘May be so, Mr. Darnay; may be not. Don’t let your sober face elate you, however; you don’t know what it may come to. Good night!’
When he was left alone, this strange being took up a candle, went to a glass that hung against the wall, and surveyed himself minutely in it.
‘Do you particularly like the man?’ he muttered, at his own image; ‘why should you particularly like a man who resembles you? There is nothing in you to like; you know that. Ah, confound you! What a change you have made in yourself! A good reason for taking to a man, that he shows you what you have fallen away from, and what you might have been! Change places with him, and would you have been looked at by those blue eyes as he was, and commiserated by that agitated face as he was? Come on, and have it out in plain words! You hate the fellow.’
He resorted to his pint of wine for consolation, drank it all in a few minutes, and fell asleep on his arms, with his
hair straggling over the table, and a long winding-sheet in the candle dripping down upon him.
Those were drinking days, and most men drank hard. So very great is the improvement Time has brought about in such habits, that a moderate statement of the quantity of wine and punch which one man would swallow in the course of a night, without any detriment to his reputation as a perfect gentleman, would seem, in these days, a ridiculous exaggeration. The learned profession of the law was certainly not behind any other learned profession in its Bacchanalian propensities; neither was Mr. Stryver, already fast shouldering his way to a large and lucrative practice, behind his compeers in this particular, any more than in the drier parts of the legal race.
A favourite at the Old Bailey, and eke at the Sessions, Mr. Stryver had begun cautiously to hew away the lower staves of the ladder on which he mounted. Sessions and Old Bailey had now to summon their favourite, specially, to their longing arms; and shouldering itself towards the visage of the Lord Chief Justice in the Court of King’s Bench, the florid countenance of Mr. Stryver might be daily seen, bursting out of the bed of wigs, like a great
sunflower pushing its way at the sun from among a rank garden-full of flaring companions.
It had once been noted at the Bar, that while Mr. Stryver was a glib man, and an unscrupulous, and a ready, and a bold, he had not that faculty of extracting the essence from a heap of statements, which is among the most striking and necessary of the advocate’s accomplishments. But, a remarkable improvement came upon him as to this. The more business he got, the greater his power seemed to grow of getting at its pith and marrow; and however late at night he sat carousing with Sydney Carton, he always had his points at his fingers’ ends in the morning.
Sydney Carton, idlest and most unpromising of men, was Stryver’s great ally. What the two drank together, between Hilary Term and Michaelmas, might have floated a king’s ship. Stryver never had a case in hand, anywhere, but Carton was there, with his hands in his pockets, staring at the ceiling of the court; they went the same Circuit, and even there they prolonged their usual orgies late into the night, and Carton was rumoured to be seen at broad day, going home stealthily and unsteadily to his lodgings, like a dissipated cat. At last, it began to get about, among such as were interested in the matter, that although
Sydney Carton would never be a lion, he was an amazingly good jackal, and that he rendered suit and service to Stryver in that humble capacity.
‘Ten o’clock, sir,’ said the man at the tavern, whom he had charged to wake him—‘ten o’clock, sir.’
‘WHAT’S the matter?’
‘Ten o’clock, sir.’
‘What do you mean? Ten o’clock at night?’
‘Yes, sir. Your honour told me to call you.’
‘Oh! I remember. Very well, very well.’
After a few dull efforts to get to sleep again, which the man dexterously combated by stirring the fire continuously for five minutes, he got up, tossed his hat on, and walked out. He turned into the Temple, and, having revived himself by twice pacing the pavements of King’s Bench-walk and Paper-buildings, turned into the Stryver chambers.
The Stryver clerk, who never assisted at these conferences, had gone home, and the Stryver principal opened the door. He had his slippers on, and a loose bed-gown, and his throat was bare for his greater ease. He had that rather wild, strained, seared marking about the eyes, which may be observed in all free livers of his class, from the portrait of Jeffries downward, and which can be
traced, under various disguises of Art, through the portraits
of every Drinking Age.
‘You are a little late, Memory,’ said Stryver.
‘About the usual time; it may be a quarter of an hour later.’
They went into a dingy room lined with books and littered with papers, where there was a blazing fire. A kettle steamed upon the hob, and in the midst of the wreck of papers a table shone, with plenty of wine upon it, and brandy, and rum, and sugar, and lemons.
‘You have had your bottle, I perceive, Sydney.’
‘Two to-night, I think. I have been dining with the day’s client; or seeing him dine—it’s all one!’
‘That was a rare point, Sydney, that you brought to bear upon the identification. How did you come by it? When did it strike you?’
‘I thought he was rather a handsome fellow, and I thought I should have been much the same sort of fellow, if I had had any luck.’
Mr. Stryver laughed till he shook his precocious paunch.
‘You and your luck, Sydney! Get to work, get to work.’
Sullenly enough, the jackal loosened his dress, went into an adjoining room, and came back with a large jug of cold water, a basin, and a towel or two. Steeping the towels in the water, and partially wringing them out, he folded them on his head in a manner hideous to behold, sat down at the table, and said,
Now I am ready!
‘Not much boiling down to be done to-night, Memory,’ said Mr. Stryver, gaily, as he looked among his papers.
‘Only two sets of them.’
‘Give me the worst first.’
‘There they are, Sydney. Fire away!’
The lion then composed himself on his back on a sofa on one side of the drinking-table, while the jackal sat at his own paper-bestrewn table proper, on the other side of it, with the bottles and glasses ready to his hand. Both resorted to the drinking-table without stint, but each in a different way; the lion for the most part reclining with his hands in his waistband, looking at the fire, or occasionally flirting with some lighter document; the jackal, with knitted brows and intent face, so deep in his task, that his eyes did not even follow the hand he stretched out for his glass—which often groped about, for a minute or more,
before it found the glass for his lips. Two or three times, the matter in hand became so knotty, that the jackal found it imperative on him to get up, and steep his towels anew. From these pilgrimages to the jug and basin, he returned with such eccentricities of damp headgear as no words can describe; which were made the more ludicrous by his anxious gravity.
At length the jackal had got together a compact repast for the lion, and proceeded to offer it to him. The lion took it with care and caution, made his selections from it, and his remarks upon it, and the jackal assisted both. When the repast was fully discussed, the lion put his hands in his waistband again, and lay down to mediate. The jackal then invigorated himself with a bum for his throttle, and a fresh application to his head, and applied himself to the collection of a second meal; this was administered to the lion in the same manner, and was not disposed of until the clocks struck three in the morning.
‘And now we have done, Sydney, fill a bumper of punch,’ said Mr. Stryver.
The jackal removed the towels from his head, which had been steaming again, shook himself, yawned, shivered, and complied.
You were very sound, Sydney, in the matter of those crown witnesses to-day. Every question told.
‘I always am sound; am I not?’
‘I don’t gainsay it. What has roughened your temper? Put some punch to it and smooth it again.’
With a deprecatory grunt, the jackal again complied.
‘The old Sydney Carton of old Shrewsbury School,’ said Stryver, nodding his head over him as he reviewed him in the present and the past, ‘the old seesaw Sydney. Up one minute and down the next; now in spirits and now in despondency!’
‘Ah!’ returned the other, sighing: ‘yes! The same Sydney, with the same luck. Even then, I did exercises for other boys, and seldom did my own.
‘And why not?’
‘God knows. It was my way, I suppose.’
He sat, with his hands in his pockets and his legs stretched out before him, looking at the fire.
‘Carton,’ said his friend, squaring himself at him with a bullying air, as if the fire-grate had been the furnace in which sustained endeavour was forged, and the one delicate thing to be done for the old Sydney Carton of old Shrewsbury School was to shoulder him into it, ‘your way
is, and always was, a lame way. You summon no energy and purpose. Look at me.
‘Oh, botheration!’ returned Sydney, with a lighter and more good- humoured laugh, ‘don’t YOU be moral!’
‘How have I done what I have done?’ said Stryver; ‘how do I do what I do?’
‘Partly through paying me to help you, I suppose. But it’s not worth your while to apostrophise me, or the air, about it; what you want to do, you do. You were always in the front rank, and I was always behind.’
‘I had to get into the front rank; I was not born there, was I?’
‘I was not present at the ceremony; but my opinion is you were,’ said Carton. At this, he laughed again, and they both laughed.
‘Before Shrewsbury, and at Shrewsbury, and ever since Shrewsbury,’ pursued Carton, ‘you have fallen into your rank, and I have fallen into mine. Even when we were fellow-students in the Student-Quarter of Paris, picking up French, and French law, and other French crumbs that we didn’t get much good of, you were always somewhere, and I was always nowhere.’
‘And whose fault was that?’
Upon my soul, I am not sure that it was not yours. You were always driving and riving and shouldering and passing, to that restless degree that I had no chance for my life but in rust and repose. It
s a gloomy thing, however, to talk about one
s own past, with the day breaking. Turn me in some other direction before I go.
‘Well then! Pledge me to the pretty witness,’ said Stryver, holding up his glass. ‘Are you turned in a pleasant direction?’
Apparently not, for he became gloomy again.
‘Pretty witness,’ he muttered, looking down into his glass. ‘I have had enough of witnesses to-day and to-night; who’s your pretty witness?’
‘The picturesque doctor’s daughter, Miss Manette.’
‘Is she not?’
‘Why, man alive, she was the admiration of the whole Court!’
‘Rot the admiration of the whole Court! Who made the Old Bailey a judge of beauty? She was a golden-haired doll!’
‘Do you know, Sydney,’ said Mr. Stryver, looking at him with sharp eyes, and slowly drawing a hand across his
do you know, I rather thought, at the time, that you sympathised with the golden-haired doll, and were quick to see what happened to the golden-haired doll?
‘Quick to see what happened! If a girl, doll or no doll, swoons within a yard or two of a man’s nose, he can see it without a perspective-glass. I pledge you, but I deny the beauty. And now I’ll have no more drink; I’ll get to bed.’
When his host followed him out on the staircase with a candle, to light him down the stairs, the day was coldly looking in through its grimy windows. When he got out of the house, the air was cold and sad, the dull sky overcast, the river dark and dim, the whole scene like a lifeless desert. And wreaths of dust were spinning round and round before the morning blast, as if the desert-sand had risen far away, and the first spray of it in its advance had begun to overwhelm the city.
Waste forces within him, and a desert all around, this man stood still on his way across a silent terrace, and saw for a moment, lying in the wilderness before him, a mirage of honourable ambition, self-denial, and perseverance. In the fair city of this vision, there were airy galleries from which the loves and graces looked upon him, gardens in which the fruits of life hung ripening, waters of Hope that
sparkled in his sight. A moment, and it was gone. Climbing to a high chamber in a well of houses, he threw himself down in his clothes on a neglected bed, and its pillow was wet with wasted tears.
Sadly, sadly, the sun rose; it rose upon no sadder sight than the man of good abilities and good emotions, incapable of their directed exercise, incapable of his own help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight on him, and resigning himself to let it eat him away.