A Tale of Two Cities – Day 88 of 141

“When you were talking to Lucie,” Mr. Lorry repeated. “Yes. I wonder you are not ashamed to mention the name of Lucie! Wishing you were going to France at this time of day!”

“However, I am not going,” said Charles Darnay, with a smile. “It is more to the purpose that you say you are.”

“And I am, in plain reality. The truth is, my dear Charles,” Mr. Lorry glanced at the distant House, and lowered his voice, “you can have no conception of the difficulty with which our business is transacted, and of the peril in which our books and papers over yonder are involved. The Lord above knows what the compromising consequences would be to numbers of people, if some of our documents were seized or destroyed; and they might be, at any time, you know, for who can say that Paris is not set afire to-day, or sacked to-morrow! Now, a judicious selection from these with the least possible delay, and the burying of them, or otherwise getting of them out of harm’s way, is within the power (without loss of precious time) of scarcely any one but myself, if any one. And shall I hang back, when Tellson’s knows this and says this–Tellson’s, whose bread I have eaten these sixty years–because I am a little stiff about the joints? Why, I am a boy, sir, to half a dozen old codgers here!”

“How I admire the gallantry of your youthful spirit, Mr. Lorry.”

“Tut! Nonsense, sir!–And, my dear Charles,” said Mr. Lorry, glancing at the House again, “you are to remember, that getting things out of Paris at this present time, no matter what things, is next to an impossibility. Papers and precious matters were this very day brought to us here (I speak in strict confidence; it is not business-like to whisper it, even to you), by the strangest bearers you can imagine, every one of whom had his head hanging on by a single hair as he passed the Barriers. At another time, our parcels would come and go, as easily as in business-like Old England; but now, everything is stopped.”

“And do you really go to-night?”

“I really go to-night, for the case has become too pressing to admit of delay.”

“And do you take no one with you?”

“All sorts of people have been proposed to me, but I will have nothing to say to any of them. I intend to take Jerry. Jerry has been my bodyguard on Sunday nights for a long time past and I am used to him. Nobody will suspect Jerry of being anything but an English bull-dog, or of having any design in his head but to fly at anybody who touches his master.”

“I must say again that I heartily admire your gallantry and youthfulness.”

“I must say again, nonsense, nonsense! When I have executed this little commission, I shall, perhaps, accept Tellson’s proposal to retire and live at my ease. Time enough, then, to think about growing old.”

This dialogue had taken place at Mr. Lorry’s usual desk, with Monseigneur swarming within a yard or two of it, boastful of what he would do to avenge himself on the rascal-people before long. It was too much the way of Monseigneur under his reverses as a refugee, and it was much too much the way of native British orthodoxy, to talk of this terrible Revolution as if it were the only harvest ever known under the skies that had not been sown–as if nothing had ever been done, or omitted to be done, that had led to it–as if observers of the wretched millions in France, and of the misused and perverted resources that should have made them prosperous, had not seen it inevitably coming, years before, and had not in plain words recorded what they saw. Such vapouring, combined with the extravagant plots of Monseigneur for the restoration of a state of things that had utterly exhausted itself, and worn out Heaven and earth as well as itself, was hard to be endured without some remonstrance by any sane man who knew the truth. And it was such vapouring all about his ears, like a troublesome confusion of blood in his own head, added to a latent uneasiness in his mind, which had already made Charles Darnay restless, and which still kept him so.

Among the talkers, was Stryver, of the King’s Bench Bar, far on his way to state promotion, and, therefore, loud on the theme: broaching to Monseigneur, his devices for blowing the people up and exterminating them from the face of the earth, and doing without them: and for accomplishing many similar objects akin in their nature to the abolition of eagles by sprinkling salt on the tails of the race. Him, Darnay heard with a particular feeling of objection; and Darnay stood divided between going away that he might hear no more, and remaining to interpose his word, when the thing that was to be, went on to shape itself out.

The House approached Mr. Lorry, and laying a soiled and unopened letter before him, asked if he had yet discovered any traces of the person to whom it was addressed? The House laid the letter down so close to Darnay that he saw the direction–the more quickly because it was his own right name. The address, turned into English, ran:

“Very pressing. To Monsieur heretofore the Marquis St. Evremonde, of France. Confided to the cares of Messrs. Tellson and Co., Bankers, London, England.”

On the marriage morning, Doctor Manette had made it his one urgent and express request to Charles Darnay, that the secret of this name should be–unless he, the Doctor, dissolved the obligation–kept inviolate between them. Nobody else knew it to be his name; his own wife had no suspicion of the fact; Mr. Lorry could have none.

“No,” said Mr. Lorry, in reply to the House; “I have referred it, I think, to everybody now here, and no one can tell me where this gentleman is to be found.”

The hands of the clock verging upon the hour of closing the Bank, there was a general set of the current of talkers past Mr. Lorry’s desk. He held the letter out inquiringly; and Monseigneur looked at it, in the person of this plotting and indignant refugee; and Monseigneur looked at it in the person of that plotting and indignant refugee; and This, That, and The Other, all had something disparaging to say, in French or in English, concerning the Marquis who was not to be found.

“Nephew, I believe–but in any case degenerate successor–of the polished Marquis who was murdered,” said one. “Happy to say, I never knew him.”

“A craven who abandoned his post,” said another–this Monseigneur had been got out of Paris, legs uppermost and half suffocated, in a load of hay–“some years ago.”

“Infected with the new doctrines,” said a third, eyeing the direction through his glass in passing; “set himself in opposition to the last Marquis, abandoned the estates when he inherited them, and left them to the ruffian herd. They will recompense him now, I hope, as he deserves.”

“Hey?” cried the blatant Stryver. “Did he though? Is that the sort of fellow? Let us look at his infamous name. D–n the fellow!”

Darnay, unable to restrain himself any longer, touched Mr. Stryver on the shoulder, and said:

“I know the fellow.”

“Do you, by Jupiter?” said Stryver. “I am sorry for it.”

“Why?”

“Why, Mr. Darnay? D’ye hear what he did? Don’t ask, why, in these times.”

“But I do ask why?”

“Then I tell you again, Mr. Darnay, I am sorry for it. I am sorry to hear you putting any such extraordinary questions. Here is a fellow, who, infected by the most pestilent and blasphemous code of devilry that ever was known, abandoned his property to the vilest scum of the earth that ever did murder by wholesale, and you ask me why I am sorry that a man who instructs youth knows him? Well, but I’ll answer you. I am sorry because I believe there is contamination in such a scoundrel. That’s why.”

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