A Tale of Two Cities – Day 107 of 141

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

“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 affection.”

“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 his–“

“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 question:

“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?”

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

“Indeed?”

“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.

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