A Tale of Two Cities – Day 48 of 141

He was stayed by the Doctor’s putting out his hand to stop him. When he had kept it so a little while, he said, drawing it back:

“Is Lucie the topic?”

“She is.”

“It is hard for me to speak of her at any time. It is very hard for me to hear her spoken of in that tone of yours, Charles Darnay.”

“It is a tone of fervent admiration, true homage, and deep love, Doctor Manette!” he said deferentially.

There was another blank silence before her father rejoined:

“I believe it. I do you justice; I believe it.”

His constraint was so manifest, and it was so manifest, too, that it originated in an unwillingness to approach the subject, that Charles Darnay hesitated.

“Shall I go on, sir?”

Another blank.

“Yes, go on.”

“You anticipate what I would say, though you cannot know how earnestly I say it, how earnestly I feel it, without knowing my secret heart, and the hopes and fears and anxieties with which it has long been laden. Dear Doctor Manette, I love your daughter fondly, dearly, disinterestedly, devotedly. If ever there were love in the world, I love her. You have loved yourself; let your old love speak for me!”

The Doctor sat with his face turned away, and his eyes bent on the ground. At the last words, he stretched out his hand again, hurriedly, and cried:

“Not that, sir! Let that be! I adjure you, do not recall that!”

His cry was so like a cry of actual pain, that it rang in Charles Darnay’s ears long after he had ceased. He motioned with the hand he had extended, and it seemed to be an appeal to Darnay to pause. The latter so received it, and remained silent.

“I ask your pardon,” said the Doctor, in a subdued tone, after some moments. “I do not doubt your loving Lucie; you may be satisfied of it.”

He turned towards him in his chair, but did not look at him, or raise his eyes. His chin dropped upon his hand, and his white hair overshadowed his face:

“Have you spoken to Lucie?”

“No.”

“Nor written?”

“Never.”

“It would be ungenerous to affect not to know that your self-denial is to be referred to your consideration for her father. Her father thanks you.”

He offered his hand; but his eyes did not go with it.

“I know,” said Darnay, respectfully, “how can I fail to know, Doctor Manette, I who have seen you together from day to day, that between you and Miss Manette there is an affection so unusual, so touching, so belonging to the circumstances in which it has been nurtured, that it can have few parallels, even in the tenderness between a father and child. I know, Doctor Manette–how can I fail to know–that, mingled with the affection and duty of a daughter who has become a woman, there is, in her heart, towards you, all the love and reliance of infancy itself. I know that, as in her childhood she had no parent, so she is now devoted to you with all the constancy and fervour of her present years and character, united to the trustfulness and attachment of the early days in which you were lost to her. I know perfectly well that if you had been restored to her from the world beyond this life, you could hardly be invested, in her sight, with a more sacred character than that in which you are always with her. I know that when she is clinging to you, the hands of baby, girl, and woman, all in one, are round your neck. I know that in loving you she sees and loves her mother at her own age, sees and loves you at my age, loves her mother broken-hearted, loves you through your dreadful trial and in your blessed restoration. I have known this, night and day, since I have known you in your home.”

Her father sat silent, with his face bent down. His breathing was a little quickened; but he repressed all other signs of agitation.

“Dear Doctor Manette, always knowing this, always seeing her and you with this hallowed light about you, I have forborne, and forborne, as long as it was in the nature of man to do it. I have felt, and do even now feel, that to bring my love–even mine–between you, is to touch your history with something not quite so good as itself. But I love her. Heaven is my witness that I love her!”

“I believe it,” answered her father, mournfully. “I have thought so before now. I believe it.”

“But, do not believe,” said Darnay, upon whose ear the mournful voice struck with a reproachful sound, “that if my fortune were so cast as that, being one day so happy as to make her my wife, I must at any time put any separation between her and you, I could or would breathe a word of what I now say. Besides that I should know it to be hopeless, I should know it to be a baseness. If I had any such possibility, even at a remote distance of years, harboured in my thoughts, and hidden in my heart–if it ever had been there–if it ever could be there–I could not now touch this honoured hand.”

He laid his own upon it as he spoke.

“No, dear Doctor Manette. Like you, a voluntary exile from France; like you, driven from it by its distractions, oppressions, and miseries; like you, striving to live away from it by my own exertions, and trusting in a happier future; I look only to sharing your fortunes, sharing your life and home, and being faithful to you to the death. Not to divide with Lucie her privilege as your child, companion, and friend; but to come in aid of it, and bind her closer to you, if such a thing can be.”

His touch still lingered on her father’s hand. Answering the touch for a moment, but not coldly, her father rested his hands upon the arms of his chair, and looked up for the first time since the beginning of the conference. A struggle was evidently in his face; a struggle with that occasional look which had a tendency in it to dark doubt and dread.

“You speak so feelingly and so manfully, Charles Darnay, that I thank you with all my heart, and will open all my heart–or nearly so. Have you any reason to believe that Lucie loves you?”

“None. As yet, none.”

“Is it the immediate object of this confidence, that you may at once ascertain that, with my knowledge?”

“Not even so. I might not have the hopefulness to do it for weeks; I might (mistaken or not mistaken) have that hopefulness to-morrow.”

“Do you seek any guidance from me?”

“I ask none, sir. But I have thought it possible that you might have it in your power, if you should deem it right, to give me some.”

“Do you seek any promise from me?”

“I do seek that.”

“What is it?”

“I well understand that, without you, I could have no hope. I well understand that, even if Miss Manette held me at this moment in her innocent heart–do not think I have the presumption to assume so much–I could retain no place in it against her love for her father.”

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