A Tale of Two Cities – Day 125 of 141

XII: Darkness

Sydney Carton paused in the street, not quite decided where to go. “At Tellson’s banking-house at nine,” he said, with a musing face. “Shall I do well, in the mean time, to show myself? I think so. It is best that these people should know there is such a man as I here; it is a sound precaution, and may be a necessary preparation. But care, care, care! Let me think it out!”

Checking his steps which had begun to tend towards an object, he took a turn or two in the already darkening street, and traced the thought in his mind to its possible consequences. His first impression was confirmed. “It is best,” he said, finally resolved, “that these people should know there is such a man as I here.” And he turned his face towards Saint Antoine.

Defarge had described himself, that day, as the keeper of a wine-shop in the Saint Antoine suburb. It was not difficult for one who knew the city well, to find his house without asking any question. Having ascertained its situation, Carton came out of those closer streets again, and dined at a place of refreshment and fell sound asleep after dinner. For the first time in many years, he had no strong drink. Since last night he had taken nothing but a little light thin wine, and last night he had dropped the brandy slowly down on Mr. Lorry’s hearth like a man who had done with it.

It was as late as seven o’clock when he awoke refreshed, and went out into the streets again. As he passed along towards Saint Antoine, he stopped at a shop-window where there was a mirror, and slightly altered the disordered arrangement of his loose cravat, and his coat-collar, and his wild hair. This done, he went on direct to Defarge’s, and went in.

There happened to be no customer in the shop but Jacques Three, of the restless fingers and the croaking voice. This man, whom he had seen upon the Jury, stood drinking at the little counter, in conversation with the Defarges, man and wife. The Vengeance assisted in the conversation, like a regular member of the establishment.

As Carton walked in, took his seat and asked (in very indifferent French) for a small measure of wine, Madame Defarge cast a careless glance at him, and then a keener, and then a keener, and then advanced to him herself, and asked him what it was he had ordered.

He repeated what he had already said.

“English?” asked Madame Defarge, inquisitively raising her dark eyebrows.

After looking at her, as if the sound of even a single French word were slow to express itself to him, he answered, in his former strong foreign accent. “Yes, madame, yes. I am English!”

Madame Defarge returned to her counter to get the wine, and, as he took up a Jacobin journal and feigned to pore over it puzzling out its meaning, he heard her say, “I swear to you, like Evremonde!”

Defarge brought him the wine, and gave him Good Evening.

“How?”

“Good evening.”

“Oh! Good evening, citizen,” filling his glass. “Ah! and good wine. I drink to the Republic.”

Defarge went back to the counter, and said, “Certainly, a little like.” Madame sternly retorted, “I tell you a good deal like.” Jacques Three pacifically remarked, “He is so much in your mind, see you, madame.” The amiable Vengeance added, with a laugh, “Yes, my faith! And you are looking forward with so much pleasure to seeing him once more to-morrow!”

Carton followed the lines and words of his paper, with a slow forefinger, and with a studious and absorbed face. They were all leaning their arms on the counter close together, speaking low. After a silence of a few moments, during which they all looked towards him without disturbing his outward attention from the Jacobin editor, they resumed their conversation.

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