A Tale of Two Cities – Day 110 of 141

“Now, there you are hasty, sir,” said Barsad, with a smile that gave his aquiline nose an extra inclination to one side; “there you really give me an advantage over you. Cly (who I will unreservedly admit, at this distance of time, was a partner of mine) has been dead several years. I attended him in his last illness. He was buried in London, at the church of Saint Pancras-in-the-Fields. His unpopularity with the blackguard multitude at the moment prevented my following his remains, but I helped to lay him in his coffin.”

Here, Mr. Lorry became aware, from where he sat, of a most remarkable goblin shadow on the wall. Tracing it to its source, he discovered it to be caused by a sudden extraordinary rising and stiffening of all the risen and stiff hair on Mr. Cruncher’s head.

“Let us be reasonable,” said the spy, “and let us be fair. To show you how mistaken you are, and what an unfounded assumption yours is, I will lay before you a certificate of Cly’s burial, which I happened to have carried in my pocket-book,” with a hurried hand he produced and opened it, “ever since. There it is. Oh, look at it, look at it! You may take it in your hand; it’s no forgery.”

Here, Mr. Lorry perceived the reflection on the wall to elongate, and Mr. Cruncher rose and stepped forward. His hair could not have been more violently on end, if it had been that moment dressed by the Cow with the crumpled horn in the house that Jack built.

Unseen by the spy, Mr. Cruncher stood at his side, and touched him on the shoulder like a ghostly bailiff.

“That there Roger Cly, master,” said Mr. Cruncher, with a taciturn and iron-bound visage. “So you put him in his coffin?”

“I did.”

“Who took him out of it?”

Barsad leaned back in his chair, and stammered, “What do you mean?”

“I mean,” said Mr. Cruncher, “that he warn’t never in it. No! Not he! I’ll have my head took off, if he was ever in it.”

The spy looked round at the two gentlemen; they both looked in unspeakable astonishment at Jerry.

“I tell you,” said Jerry, “that you buried paving-stones and earth in that there coffin. Don’t go and tell me that you buried Cly. It was a take in. Me and two more knows it.”

“How do you know it?”

“What’s that to you? Ecod!” growled Mr. Cruncher, “it’s you I have got a old grudge again, is it, with your shameful impositions upon tradesmen! I’d catch hold of your throat and choke you for half a guinea.”

Sydney Carton, who, with Mr. Lorry, had been lost in amazement at this turn of the business, here requested Mr. Cruncher to moderate and explain himself.

“At another time, sir,” he returned, evasively, “the present time is ill-conwenient for explainin’. What I stand to, is, that he knows well wot that there Cly was never in that there coffin. Let him say he was, in so much as a word of one syllable, and I’ll either catch hold of his throat and choke him for half a guinea;” Mr. Cruncher dwelt upon this as quite a liberal offer; “or I’ll out and announce him.”

“Humph! I see one thing,” said Carton. “I hold another card, Mr. Barsad. Impossible, here in raging Paris, with Suspicion filling the air, for you to outlive denunciation, when you are in communication with another aristocratic spy of the same antecedents as yourself, who, moreover, has the mystery about him of having feigned death and come to life again! A plot in the prisons, of the foreigner against the Republic. A strong card–a certain Guillotine card! Do you play?”

“No!” returned the spy. “I throw up. I confess that we were so unpopular with the outrageous mob, that I only got away from England at the risk of being ducked to death, and that Cly was so ferreted up and down, that he never would have got away at all but for that sham. Though how this man knows it was a sham, is a wonder of wonders to me.”

“Never you trouble your head about this man,” retorted the contentious Mr. Cruncher; “you’ll have trouble enough with giving your attention to that gentleman. And look here! Once more!”–Mr. Cruncher could not be restrained from making rather an ostentatious parade of his liberality–“I’d catch hold of your throat and choke you for half a guinea.”

The Sheep of the prisons turned from him to Sydney Carton, and said, with more decision, “It has come to a point. I go on duty soon, and can’t overstay my time. You told me you had a proposal; what is it? Now, it is of no use asking too much of me. Ask me to do anything in my office, putting my head in great extra danger, and I had better trust my life to the chances of a refusal than the chances of consent. In short, I should make that choice. You talk of desperation. We are all desperate here. Remember! I may denounce you if I think proper, and I can swear my way through stone walls, and so can others. Now, what do you want with me?”

“Not very much. You are a turnkey at the Conciergerie?”

“I tell you once for all, there is no such thing as an escape possible,” said the spy, firmly.

“Why need you tell me what I have not asked? You are a turnkey at the Conciergerie?”

“I am sometimes.”

“You can be when you choose?”

“I can pass in and out when I choose.”

Sydney Carton filled another glass with brandy, poured it slowly out upon the hearth, and watched it as it dropped. It being all spent, he said, rising:

“So far, we have spoken before these two, because it was as well that the merits of the cards should not rest solely between you and me. Come into the dark room here, and let us have one final word alone.”

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