A Tale of Two Cities – Day 9 of 141

“Miss Manette, it was I. And you will see how truly I spoke of myself just now, in saying I had no feelings, and that all the relations I hold with my fellow-creatures are mere business relations, when you reflect that I have never seen you since. No; you have been the ward of Tellson’s House since, and I have been busy with the other business of Tellson’s House since. Feelings! I have no time for them, no chance of them. I pass my whole life, miss, in turning an immense pecuniary Mangle.”

After this odd description of his daily routine of employment, Mr. Lorry flattened his flaxen wig upon his head with both hands (which was most unnecessary, for nothing could be flatter than its shining surface was before), and resumed his former attitude.

“So far, miss (as you have remarked), this is the story of your regretted father. Now comes the difference. If your father had not died when he did–Don’t be frightened! How you start!”

She did, indeed, start. And she caught his wrist with both her hands.

“Pray,” said Mr. Lorry, in a soothing tone, bringing his left hand from the back of the chair to lay it on the supplicatory fingers that clasped him in so violent a tremble: “pray control your agitation–a matter of business. As I was saying–“

Her look so discomposed him that he stopped, wandered, and began anew:

“As I was saying; if Monsieur Manette had not died; if he had suddenly and silently disappeared; if he had been spirited away; if it had not been difficult to guess to what dreadful place, though no art could trace him; if he had an enemy in some compatriot who could exercise a privilege that I in my own time have known the boldest people afraid to speak of in a whisper, across the water there; for instance, the privilege of filling up blank forms for the consignment of any one to the oblivion of a prison for any length of time; if his wife had implored the king, the queen, the court, the clergy, for any tidings of him, and all quite in vain;–then the history of your father would have been the history of this unfortunate gentleman, the Doctor of Beauvais.”

“I entreat you to tell me more, sir.”

“I will. I am going to. You can bear it?”

“I can bear anything but the uncertainty you leave me in at this moment.”

“You speak collectedly, and you–are collected. That’s good!” (Though his manner was less satisfied than his words.) “A matter of business. Regard it as a matter of business–business that must be done. Now if this doctor’s wife, though a lady of great courage and spirit, had suffered so intensely from this cause before her little child was born–“

“The little child was a daughter, sir.”

“A daughter. A-a-matter of business–don’t be distressed. Miss, if the poor lady had suffered so intensely before her little child was born, that she came to the determination of sparing the poor child the inheritance of any part of the agony she had known the pains of, by rearing her in the belief that her father was dead–No, don’t kneel! In Heaven’s name why should you kneel to me!”

“For the truth. O dear, good, compassionate sir, for the truth!”

“A–a matter of business. You confuse me, and how can I transact business if I am confused? Let us be clear-headed. If you could kindly mention now, for instance, what nine times ninepence are, or how many shillings in twenty guineas, it would be so encouraging. I should be so much more at my ease about your state of mind.”

Without directly answering to this appeal, she sat so still when he had very gently raised her, and the hands that had not ceased to clasp his wrists were so much more steady than they had been, that she communicated some reassurance to Mr. Jarvis Lorry.

“That’s right, that’s right. Courage! Business! You have business before you; useful business. Miss Manette, your mother took this course with you. And when she died–I believe broken-hearted–having never slackened her unavailing search for your father, she left you, at two years old, to grow to be blooming, beautiful, and happy, without the dark cloud upon you of living in uncertainty whether your father soon wore his heart out in prison, or wasted there through many lingering years.”

As he said the words he looked down, with an admiring pity, on the flowing golden hair; as if he pictured to himself that it might have been already tinged with grey.

“You know that your parents had no great possession, and that what they had was secured to your mother and to you. There has been no new discovery, of money, or of any other property; but–“

He felt his wrist held closer, and he stopped. The expression in the forehead, which had so particularly attracted his notice, and which was now immovable, had deepened into one of pain and horror.

“But he has been–been found. He is alive. Greatly changed, it is too probable; almost a wreck, it is possible; though we will hope the best. Still, alive. Your father has been taken to the house of an old servant in Paris, and we are going there: I, to identify him if I can: you, to restore him to life, love, duty, rest, comfort.”

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