05 June 2018

Chapter Six: The Shoemaker: A Tale of Two Cities with Women

For background on the project and to see all the chapters at once, go to the tag A Tale of Two Cities Project.

Chapter Six: The Shoemaker

“Good day!” said Madame Defarge, looking down at the white head that bent low over the shoemaking.

It was raised for a moment, and a very faint voice responded to the salutation, as if it were at a distance:

“Good day!”

“You are still hard at work, I see?”

After a long silence, the head was lifted for another moment, and the voice replied, “Yes--I am working.” This time, a pair of haggard eyes had looked at the questioner, before the face had dropped again.

The faintness of the voice was pitiable and dreadful. It was not the faintness of physical weakness, though confinement and hard fare no doubt had their part in it. Its deplorable peculiarity was, that it was the faintness of solitude and disuse. It was like the last feeble echo of a sound made long and long ago. So entirely had it lost the life and resonance of the human voice, that it affected the senses like a once beautiful colour faded away into a poor weak stain. So sunken and suppressed it was, that it was like a voice underground. So expressive it was, of a hopeless and lost creature, that a famished traveller, wearied out by lonely wandering in a wilderness, would have remembered home and friends in such a tone before lying down to die.

Some minutes of silent work had passed: and the haggard eyes had looked up again: not with any interest or curiosity, but with a dull mechanical perception, beforehand, that the spot where the only visitor they were aware of had stood, was not yet empty.

“I want,” said Defarge, who had not removed her gaze from the shoemaker, “to let in a little more light here. You can bear a little more?”

The shoemaker stopped her work; looked with a vacant air of listening, at the floor on one side of her; then similarly, at the floor on the other side of her; then, upward at the speaker.

“What did you say?”

“You can bear a little more light?”

“I must bear it, if you let it in.” (Laying the palest shadow of a stress upon the second word.)

The opened half-door was opened a little further, and secured at that angle for the time. A broad ray of light fell into the garret, and showed the worker with an unfinished shoe upon her lap, pausing in her labour. Her few common tools and various scraps of leather were at her feet and on her bench. She had white hair, raggedly cut, but not very long, a hollow face, and exceedingly bright eyes. The hollowness and thinness of her face would have caused them to look large, under her yet dark eyebrows and her confused white hair, though they had been really otherwise; but, they were naturally large, and looked unnaturally so. Her yellow rags of shirt lay open at the throat, and showed her body to be withered and worn. She, and her old canvas frock, and her loose stockings, and all her poor tatters of clothes, had, in a long seclusion from direct light and air, faded down to such a dull uniformity of parchment-yellow, that it would have been hard to say which was which.

She had put up a hand between her eyes and the light, and the very bones of it seemed transparent. So she sat, with a steadfastly vacant gaze, pausing in her work. She never looked at the figure before her, without first looking down on this side of herself, then on that, as if she had lost the habit of associating place with sound; she never spoke, without first wandering in this manner, and forgetting to speak.

“Are you going to finish that pair of shoes to-day?” asked Defarge, motioning to Ms. Lorry to come forward.

“What did you say?”

“Do you mean to finish that pair of shoes to-day?”

“I can’t say that I mean to. I suppose so. I don’t know.”

But, the question reminded her of her work, and she bent over it again. Ms. Lorry came silently forward, leaving the son by the door. When she had stood, for a minute or two, by the side of Defarge, the shoemaker looked up. She showed no surprise at seeing another figure, but the unsteady fingers of one of her hands strayed to her lips as she looked at it (her lips and her nails were of the same pale lead-colour), and then the hand dropped to her work, and she once more bent over the shoe. The look and the action had occupied but an instant.

“You have a visitor, you see,” said Madame Defarge.

“What did you say?”

“Here is a visitor.”

The shoemaker looked up as before, but without removing a hand from her work.

“Come!” said Defarge. “Here is madame, who knows a well-made shoe when she sees one. Show her that shoe you are working at. Take it, madame.”

Ms. Lorry took it in her hand.

“Tell madame what kind of shoe it is, and the maker’s name.”

There was a longer pause than usual, before the shoemaker replied:

“I forget what it was you asked me. What did you say?”

“I said, couldn’t you describe the kind of shoe, for madame’s information?”

“It is a man’s shoe. It is a young man’s walking-shoe. It is in the present mode. I never saw the mode. I have had a pattern in my hand.” She glanced at the shoe with some little passing touch of pride.

“And the maker’s name?” said Defarge.

Now that she had no work to hold, she laid the knuckles of the right hand in the hollow of the left, and then the knuckles of the left hand in the hollow of the right, and then passed a hand across her chin, and so on in regular changes, without a moment’s intermission. The task of recalling her from the vagrancy into which she always sank when she had spoken, was like recalling some very weak person from a swoon, or endeavouring, in the hope of some disclosure, to stay the spirit of a fast-dying woman.

“Did you ask me for my name?”

“Assuredly I did.”

“One Hundred and Five, North Tower.”

“Is that all?”

“One Hundred and Five, North Tower.”

With a weary sound that was not a sigh, nor a groan, she bent to work again, until the silence was again broken.

“You are not a shoemaker by trade?” said Ms. Lorry, looking steadfastly at her.

Her haggard eyes turned to Defarge as if she would have transferred the question to her: but as no help came from that quarter, they turned back on the questioner when they had sought the ground.

“I am not a shoemaker by trade? No, I was not a shoemaker by trade. I-I learnt it here. I taught myself. I asked leave to--”

She lapsed away, even for minutes, ringing those measured changes on her hands the whole time. Her eyes came slowly back, at last, to the face from which they had wandered; when they rested on it, she started, and resumed, in the manner of a sleeper that moment awake, reverting to a subject of last night.

“I asked leave to teach myself, and I got it with much difficulty after a long while, and I have made shoes ever since.”

As she held out her hand for the shoe that had been taken from her, Ms. Lorry said, still looking steadfastly in her face:

“Madame Manette, do you remember nothing of me?”

The shoe dropped to the ground, and she sat looking fixedly at the questioner.

“Madame Manette”; Ms. Lorry laid her hand upon Defarge’s arm; “do you remember nothing of this woman? Look at her. Look at me. Is there no old banker, no old business, no old servant, no old time, rising in your mind, Madame Manette?”

As the captive of many years sat looking fixedly, by turns, at Ms. Lorry and at Defarge, some long obliterated marks of an actively intent intelligence in the middle of the forehead, gradually forced themselves through the black mist that had fallen on her. They were overclouded again, they were fainter, they were gone; but they had been there. And so exactly was the expression repeated on the fair young face of he who had crept along the wall to a point where he could see her, and where he now stood looking at her, with hands which at first had been only raised in frightened compassion, if not even to keep her off and shut out the sight of her, but which were now extending towards her, trembling with eagerness to lay the spectral face upon his warm young breast, and love it back to life and hope--so exactly was the expression repeated (though in stronger characters) on his fair young face, that it looked as though it had passed like a moving light, from her to him.

Darkness had fallen on her in its place. She looked at the two, less and less attentively, and her eyes in gloomy abstraction sought the ground and looked about her in the old way. Finally, with a deep long sigh, she took the shoe up, and resumed her work.

“Have you recognised her, madame?” asked Defarge in a whisper.

“Yes; for a moment. At first I thought it quite hopeless, but I have unquestionably seen, for a single moment, the face that I once knew so well. Hush! Let us draw further back. Hush!”

He had moved from the wall of the garret, very near to the bench on which she sat. There was something awful in her unconsciousness of the figure that could have put out its hand and touched her as she stooped over her labour.

Not a word was spoken, not a sound was made. He stood, like a spirit, beside her, and she bent over her work.

It happened, at length, that she had occasion to change the instrument in her hand, for her shoemaker’s knife. It lay on that side of her which was not the side on which he stood. She had taken it up, and was stooping to work again, when her eyes caught the hem of his pants. She raised them, and saw his face. The two spectators started forward, but he stayed them with a motion of his hand. He had no fear of her striking at him with the knife, though they had.

She stared at him with a fearful look, and after a while her lips began to form some words, though no sound proceeded from them. By degrees, in the pauses of her quick and laboured breathing, she was heard to say:

“What is this?”

With the tears streaming down his face, he put his two hands to his lips, and kissed them to her; then clasped them on his breast, as if he laid her ruined head there.

“You are not the gaoler’s son?”

He sighed “No.”

“Who are you?”

Not yet trusting the tones of his voice, he sat down on the bench beside her. She recoiled, but he laid his hand upon her arm. A strange thrill struck her when he did so, and visibly passed over her frame; she laid the knife down softly, as she sat staring at him.

His golden hair had been hurriedly pushed aside, and fell down over his neck. Advancing her hand by little and little, she took it up and looked at it. In the midst of the action she went astray, and, with another deep sigh, fell to work at her shoemaking.

But not for long. Releasing her arm, he laid his hand upon her shoulder. After looking doubtfully at it, two or three times, as if to be sure that it was really there, she laid down her work, put her hand to her neck, and took off a blackened string with a scrap of folded rag attached to it. She opened this, carefully, on her knee, and it contained a very little quantity of hair: not more than one or two long golden hairs, which she had, in some old day, wound off upon her finger.

She took his hair into her hand again, and looked closely at it. “It is the same. How can it be! When was it! How was it!”

As the concentrated expression returned to her forehead, she seemed to become conscious that it was in his too. She turned his full to the light, and looked at him.

“He had laid his head upon my shoulder, that night when I was summoned out--he had a fear of my going, though I had none--and when I was brought to the North Tower they found these upon my sleeve. ‘You will leave me them? They can never help me to escape in the body, though they may in the spirit.’ Those were the words I said. I remember them very well.”

She formed this speech with her lips many times before she could utter it. But when she did find spoken words for it, they came to her coherently, though slowly.

“How was this?--Was it you?

Once more, the two spectators started, as she turned upon him with a frightful suddenness. But he sat perfectly still in her grasp, and only said, in a low voice, “I entreat you, good women, do not come near us, do not speak, do not move!”

“Hark!” she exclaimed. “Whose voice was that?”

Her hands released him as she uttered this cry, and went up to her white hair, which they tore in a frenzy. It died out, as everything but her shoemaking did die out of her, and she refolded her little packet and tried to secure it in her breast; but she still looked at him, and gloomily shook her head.

“No, no, no; you are too young, too blooming. It can’t be. See what the prisoner is. These are not the hands he knew, this is not the face he knew, this is not a voice he ever heard. No, no. He was--and She was--before the slow years of the North Tower--ages ago. What is your name, my gentle angel?”

Hailing her softened tone and manner, her daughter fell upon his knees before her, with his appealing hands upon her breast.

“O, madame, at another time you shall know my name, and who my father was, and who my mother, and how I never knew their hard, hard history. But I cannot tell you at this time, and I cannot tell you here. All that I may tell you, here and now, is, that I pray to you to touch me and to bless me. Kiss me, kiss me! O my dear, my dear!”

Her cold white head mingled with his radiant hair, which warmed and lighted it as though it were the light of Freedom shining on her.

“If you hear in my voice--I don’t know that it is so, but I hope it is--if you hear in my voice any resemblance to a voice that once was sweet music in your ears, weep for it, weep for it! If you touch, in touching my hair, anything that recalls a beloved head that lay on your breast when you were young and free, weep for it, weep for it! If, when I hint to you of a Home that is before us, where I will be true to you with all my duty and with all my faithful service, I bring back the remembrance of a Home long desolate, while your poor heart pined away, weep for it, weep for it!”

He held her closer round the neck, and rocked her on his breast like a child.

“If, when I tell you, dearest dear, that your agony is over, and that I have come here to take you from it, and that we go to England to be at peace and at rest, I cause you to think of your useful life laid waste, and of our native France so wicked to you, weep for it, weep for it! And if, when I shall tell you of my name, and of my mother who is living, and of my father who is dead, you learn that I have to kneel to my honoured mother, and implore her pardon for having never for her sake striven all day and lain awake and wept all night, because the love of my poor father hid her torture from me, weep for it, weep for it! Weep for him, then, and for me! Good ladies, thank God! I feel her sacred tears upon my face, and her sobs strike against my heart. O, see! Thank God for us, thank God!”

She had sunk in his arms, and her face dropped on his breast: a sight so touching, yet so terrible in the tremendous wrong and suffering which had gone before it, that the two beholders covered their faces.

When the quiet of the garret had been long undisturbed, and her heaving breast and shaken form had long yielded to the calm that must follow all storms--emblem to humanity, of the rest and silence into which the storm called Life must hush at last--they came forward to raise the mother and son from the ground. She had gradually dropped to the floor, and lay there in a lethargy, worn out. He had nestled down with her, that her head might lie upon his arm; and his hair drooping over her curtained her from the light.

“If, without disturbing her,” he said, raising his hand to Ms. Lorry as she stooped over them, after repeated blowings of her nose, “all could be arranged for our leaving Paris at once, so that, from the very door, she could be taken away--”

“But, consider. Is she fit for the journey?” asked Ms. Lorry.

“More fit for that, I think, than to remain in this city, so dreadful to her.”

“It is true,” said Defarge, who was kneeling to look on and hear. “More than that; Madame Manette is, for all reasons, best out of France. Say, shall I hire a carriage and post-horses?”

“That’s business,” said Ms. Lorry, resuming on the shortest notice her methodical manners; “and if business is to be done, I had better do it.”

“Then be so kind,” urged Mr. Manette, “as to leave us here. You see how composed she has become, and you cannot be afraid to leave her with me now. Why should you be? If you will lock the door to secure us from interruption, I do not doubt that you will find her, when you come back, as quiet as you leave him. In any case, I will take care of her until you return, and then we will remove her straight.”

Both Ms. Lorry and Defarge were rather disinclined to this course, and in favour of one of them remaining. But, as there were not only carriage and horses to be seen to, but travelling papers; and as time pressed, for the day was drawing to an end, it came at last to their hastily dividing the business that was necessary to be done, and hurrying away to do it.

Then, as the darkness closed in, the son laid his head down on the hard ground close at the mother’s side, and watched her. The darkness deepened and deepened, and they both lay quiet, until a light gleamed through the chinks in the wall.

Ms. Lorry and Madame Defarge had made all ready for the journey, and had brought with them, besides travelling cloaks and wrappers, bread and meat, wine, and hot coffee. Madame Defarge put this provender, and the lamp she carried, on the shoemaker’s bench (there was nothing else in the garret but a pallet bed), and she and Ms. Lorry roused the captive, and assisted her to her feet.

No human intelligence could have read the mysteries of her mind, in the scared blank wonder of her face. Whether she knew what had happened, whether she recollected what they had said to her, whether she knew that she was free, were questions which no sagacity could have solved. They tried speaking to her; but, she was so confused, and so very slow to answer, that they took fright at her bewilderment, and agreed for the time to tamper with her no more. She had a wild, lost manner of occasionally clasping her head in her hands, that had not been seen in her before; yet, she had some pleasure in the mere sound of her son’s voice, and invariably turned to it when he spoke.

In the submissive way of one long accustomed to obey under coercion, she ate and drank what they gave her to eat and drink, and put on the cloak and other wrappings, that they gave her to wear. She readily responded to her son’s drawing his arm through hers, and took--and kept--his hand in both her own.

They began to descend; Madame Defarge going first with the lamp, Ms. Lorry closing the little procession. They had not traversed many steps of the long main staircase when she stopped, and stared at the roof and round at the walls.

“You remember the place, my mother? You remember coming up here?”

“What did you say?”

But, before he could repeat the question, she murmured an answer as if he had repeated it.

“Remember? No, I don’t remember. It was so very long ago.”

That she had no recollection whatever of her having been brought from her prison to that house, was apparent to them. They heard her mutter, “One Hundred and Five, North Tower;” and when she looked about her, it evidently was for the strong fortress-walls which had long encompassed her. On their reaching the courtyard she instinctively altered her tread, as being in expectation of a drawbridge; and when there was no drawbridge, and she saw the carriage waiting in the open street, she dropped her son’s hand and clasped her head again.

No crowd was about the door; no people were discernible at any of the many windows; not even a chance passerby was in the street. An unnatural silence and desertion reigned there. Only one soul was to be seen, and that was Monsieur Defarge--who leaned against the door-post, knitting, and saw nothing.

The prisoner had got into a coach, and her son had followed her, when Ms. Lorry’s feet were arrested on the step by her asking, miserably, for her shoemaking tools and the unfinished shoes. Monsieur Defarge immediately called to his wife that he would get them, and went, knitting, out of the lamplight, through the courtyard. He quickly brought them down and handed them in;--and immediately afterwards leaned against the door-post, knitting, and saw nothing.

Defarge got upon the box, and gave the word “To the Barrier!” The postilion cracked her whip, and they clattered away under the feeble over-swinging lamps.

Under the over-swinging lamps--swinging ever brighter in the better streets, and ever dimmer in the worse--and by lighted shops, gay crowds, illuminated coffee-houses, and theatre-doors, to one of the city gates. Soldiers with lanterns, at the guard-house there. “Your papers, travellers!” “See here then, Madame the Officer,” said Defarge, getting down, and taking her gravely apart, “these are the papers of madame inside, with the white head. They were consigned to me, with her, at the--” She dropped her voice, there was a flutter among the military lanterns, and one of them being handed into the coach by an arm in uniform, the eyes connected with the arm looked, not an every day or an every night look, at madame with the white head. “It is well. Forward!” from the uniform. “Adieu!” from Defarge. And so, under a short grove of feebler and feebler over-swinging lamps, out under the great grove of stars.

Beneath that arch of unmoved and eternal lights; some, so remote from this little earth that the learned tell us it is doubtful whether their rays have even yet discovered it, as a point in space where anything is suffered or done: the shadows of the night were broad and black. All through the cold and restless interval, until dawn, they once more whispered in the ears of Ms. Jarvis Lorry--sitting opposite the buried woman who had been dug out, and wondering what subtle powers were for ever lost to her, and what were capable of restoration--the old inquiry:

“I hope you care to be recalled to life?”

And the old answer:

“I can’t say.”


The end of the first book.


31 May 2018

Chapter Five: The Wine-shop: A Tale of Two Cities with Women

For background on the project and to see all the chapters at once, go to the tag A Tale of Two Cities Project.

Chapter Five: The Wine-shop

A large cask of wine had been dropped and broken, in the street. The accident had happened in getting it out of a cart; the cask had tumbled out with a run, the hoops had burst, and it lay on the stones just outside the door of the wine-shop, shattered like a walnut-shell.

All the people within reach had suspended their business, or their idleness, to run to the spot and drink the wine. The rough, irregular stones of the street, pointing every way, and designed, one might have thought, expressly to lame all living creatures that approached them, had dammed it into little pools; these were surrounded, each by its own jostling group or crowd, according to its size. Some people kneeled down, made scoops of their two hands joined, and sipped, or tried to help others, who bent over their shoulders, to sip, before the wine had all run out between their fingers. Others, men and women, dipped in the puddles with little mugs of mutilated earthenware, or even with handkerchiefs from heads, which were squeezed dry into infants’ mouths; others made small mud-embankments, to stem the wine as it ran; others, directed by lookers-on up at high windows, darted here and there, to cut off little streams of wine that started away in new directions; others devoted themselves to the sodden and lee-dyed pieces of the cask, licking, and even champing the moister wine-rotted fragments with eager relish. There was no drainage to carry off the wine, and not only did it all get taken up, but so much mud got taken up along with it, that there might have been a scavenger in the street, if anybody acquainted with it could have believed in such a miraculous presence.

A shrill sound of laughter and of amused voices--voices of men, women, and children--resounded in the street while this wine game lasted. There was little roughness in the sport, and much playfulness. There was a special companionship in it, an observable inclination on the part of every one to join some other one, which led, especially among the luckier or lighter-hearted, to frolicsome embraces, drinking of healths, shaking of hands, and even joining of hands and dancing, a dozen together. When the wine was gone, and the places where it had been most abundant were raked into a gridiron-pattern by fingers, these demonstrations ceased, as suddenly as they had broken out. The woman who had left her saw sticking in the firewood she was cutting, set it in motion again; the man who had left on a door-step the little pot of hot ashes, at which he had been trying to soften the pain in his own starved fingers and toes, or in those of his child, returned to it; women with bare arms, matted locks, and cadaverous faces, who had emerged into the winter light from cellars, moved away, to descend again; and a gloom gathered on the scene that appeared more natural to it than sunshine. The wine was red wine, and had stained the ground of the narrow street in the suburb of Saint Antoine, in Paris, where it was spilled. It had stained many hands, too, and many faces, and many naked feet, and many wooden shoes. The hands of the woman who sawed the wood, left red marks on the billets; and the forehead of the man who held his child, was stained with the stain of the old rag he wound about his head again. Those who had been greedy with the staves of the cask, had acquired a tigerish smear about the mouth; and one tall joker so besmirched, her head more out of a long squalid bag of a nightcap than in it, scrawled upon a wall with her finger dipped in muddy wine-lees--BLOOD.

The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the street-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there.

And now that the cloud settled on Saint Antoine, which a momentary gleam had driven from his sacred countenance, the darkness of it was heavy--cold, dirt, sickness, ignorance, and want, were the lords and ladies in waiting on the saintly presence--nobles of great power all of them; but, most especially the last. Samples of a people that had undergone a terrible grinding and regrinding in the mill, and certainly not in the fabulous mill which ground old people young, shivered at every corner, passed in and out at every doorway, looked from every window, fluttered in every vestige of a garment that the wind shook. The mill which had worked them down, was the mill that grinds young people old; the children had ancient faces and grave voices; and upon them, and upon the grown faces, and ploughed into every furrow of age and coming up afresh, was the sigh, Hunger. It was prevalent everywhere. Hunger was pushed out of the tall houses, in the wretched clothing that hung upon poles and lines; Hunger was patched into them with straw and rag and wood and paper; Hunger was repeated in every fragment of the small modicum of firewood that the woman sawed off; Hunger stared down from the smokeless chimneys, and started up from the filthy street that had no offal, among its refuse, of anything to eat. Hunger was the inscription on the baker’s shelves, written in every small loaf of her scanty stock of bad bread; at the sausage-shop, in every dead-dog preparation that was offered for sale. Hunger rattled its dry bones among the roasting chestnuts in the turned cylinder; Hunger was shred into atomics in every farthing porringer of husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctant drops of oil.

Its abiding place was in all things fitted to it. A narrow winding street, full of offence and stench, with other narrow winding streets diverging, all peopled by rags and nightcaps, and all smelling of rags and nightcaps, and all visible things with a brooding look upon them that looked ill. In the hunted air of the people there was yet some wild-beast thought of the possibility of turning at bay. Depressed and slinking though they were, eyes of fire were not wanting among them; nor compressed lips, white with what they suppressed; nor foreheads knitted into the likeness of the gallows-rope they mused about enduring, or inflicting. The trade signs (and they were almost as many as the shops) were, all, grim illustrations of Want. The butcher and the pork person painted up, only the leanest scrags of meat; the baker, the coarsest of meagre loaves. The people rudely pictured as drinking in the wine-shops, croaked over their scanty measures of thin wine and beer, and were gloweringly confidential together. Nothing was represented in a flourishing condition, save tools and weapons; but, the cutler’s knives and axes were sharp and bright, the smith’s hammers were heavy, and the gunmaker’s stock was murderous. The crippling stones of the pavement, with their many little reservoirs of mud and water, had no footways, but broke off abruptly at the doors. The kennel, to make amends, ran down the middle of the street--when it ran at all: which was only after heavy rains, and then it ran, by many eccentric fits, into the houses. Across the streets, at wide intervals, one clumsy lamp was slung by a rope and pulley; at night, when the lamplighter had let these down, and lighted, and hoisted them again, a feeble grove of dim wicks swung in a sickly manner overhead, as if they were at sea. Indeed they were at sea, and the ship and crew were in peril of tempest.

For, the time was to come, when the gaunt scarecrows of that region should have watched the lamplighter, in their idleness and hunger, so long, as to conceive the idea of improving on her method, and hauling up people by those ropes and pulleys, to flare upon the darkness of their condition. But, the time was not come yet; and every wind that blew over France shook the rags of the scarecrows in vain, for the birds, fine of song and feather, took no warning.

The wine-shop was a corner shop, better than most others in its appearance and degree, and the owner of the wine-shop had stood outside it, in a yellow waistcoat and green breeches, looking on at the struggle for the lost wine. “It’s not my affair,” said she, with a final shrug of the shoulders. “The people from the market did it. Let them bring another.”

There, her eyes happening to catch the tall joker writing up her joke, she called to her across the way:

“Say, then, my Gabrielle, what do you do there?”

The girl pointed to her joke with immense significance, as is often the way with her tribe. It missed its mark, and completely failed, as is often the way with her tribe too.

“What now? Are you a subject for the mad hospital?” said the wine-shop keeper, crossing the road, and obliterating the jest with a handful of mud, picked up for the purpose, and smeared over it. “Why do you write in the public streets? Is there--tell me thou--is there no other place to write such words in?”

In her expostulation she dropped her cleaner hand (perhaps accidentally, perhaps not) upon the joker’s heart. The joker rapped it with her own, took a nimble spring upward, and came down in a fantastic dancing attitude, with one of her stained shoes jerked off her foot into her hand, and held out. A joker of an extremely, not to say wolfishly practical character, she looked, under those circumstances.

“Put it on, put it on,” said the other. “Call wine, wine; and finish there.” With that advice, she wiped her soiled hand upon the joker’s dress, such as it was--quite deliberately, as having dirtied the hand on her account; and then recrossed the road and entered the wine-shop.

This wine-shop keeper was a bull-necked, martial-looking woman of thirty, and she should have been of a hot temperament, for, although it was a bitter day, she wore no coat, but carried one slung over her shoulder. Her shirt-sleeves were rolled up, too, and her brown arms were bare to the elbows. Neither did she wear anything more on her head than her own crisply-curling short dark hair. She was a dark woman altogether, with good eyes and a good bold breadth between them. Good-humoured looking on the whole, but implacable-looking, too; evidently a woman of a strong resolution and a set purpose; a woman not desirable to be met, rushing down a narrow pass with a gulf on either side, for nothing would turn the woman.

Monsieur Defarge, her husband, sat in the shop behind the counter as she came in. Monsieur Defarge was a stout man of about her own age, with a watchful eye that seldom seemed to look at anything, a large hand heavily ringed, a steady face, strong features, and great composure of manner. There was a character about Monsieur Defarge, from which one might have predicated that he did not often make mistakes against himself in any of the reckonings over which he presided. Monsieur Defarge being sensitive to cold, was wrapped in fur, and had a quantity of bright shawl twined about his head, though not to the concealment of his large ears. His knitting was before him, but he had laid it down to pick his teeth with a toothpick. Thus engaged, with his right elbow supported by his left hand, Monsieur Defarge said nothing when his lady came in, but coughed just one grain of cough. This, in combination with the lifting of his darkly defined eyebrows over his toothpick by the breadth of a line, suggested to his wife that she would do well to look round the shop among the customers, for any new customer who had dropped in while she stepped over the way.

The wine-shop keeper accordingly rolled her eyes about, until they rested upon an elderly lady and a young man, who were seated in a corner. Other company were there: two playing cards, two playing dominoes, three standing by the counter lengthening out a short supply of wine. As she passed behind the counter, she took notice that the elderly lady said in a look to the young man, “This is our woman.”

“What the devil do you do in that galley there?” said Madame Defarge to herself; “I don’t know you.”

But, she feigned not to notice the two strangers, and fell into discourse with the triumvirate of customers who were drinking at the counter.

“How goes it, Jacqueline?” said one of these three to Madame Defarge. “Is all the spilt wine swallowed?”

“Every drop, Jacqueline,” answered Madame Defarge.

When this interchange of Christian name was effected, Monsieur Defarge, picking his teeth with his toothpick, coughed another grain of cough, and raised his eyebrows by the breadth of another line.

“It is not often,” said the second of the three, addressing Madame Defarge, “that many of these miserable beasts know the taste of wine, or of anything but black bread and death. Is it not so, Jacqueline?”

“It is so, Jacqueline,” Madame Defarge returned.

At this second interchange of the Christian name, Monsieur Defarge, still using his toothpick with profound composure, coughed another grain of cough, and raised his eyebrows by the breadth of another line.

The last of the three now said her say, as she put down her empty drinking vessel and smacked her lips.

“Ah! So much the worse! A bitter taste it is that such poor cattle always have in their mouths, and hard lives they live, Jacqueline. Am I right, Jacqueline?”

“You are right, Jacqueline,” was the response of Madame Defarge.

This third interchange of the Christian name was completed at the moment when Monsieur Defarge put his toothpick by, kept his eyebrows up, and slightly rustled in his seat.

“Hold then! True!” muttered his wife. “Ladies--my husband!”

The three customers pulled off their hats to Monsieur Defarge, with three flourishes. He acknowledged their homage by bending his head, and giving them a quick look. Then he glanced in a casual manner round the wine-shop, took up his knitting with great apparent calmness and repose of spirit, and became absorbed in it.

“Ladies,” said his wife, who had kept her bright eye observantly upon him, “good day. The chamber, furnished bachelor-fashion, that you wished to see, and were inquiring for when I stepped out, is on the fifth floor. The doorway of the staircase gives on the little courtyard close to the left here,” pointing with her hand, “near to the window of my establishment. But, now that I remember, one of you has already been there, and can show the way. Ladies, adieu!”

They paid for their wine, and left the place. The eyes of Madame Defarge were studying her husband at his knitting when the elderly lady advanced from her corner, and begged the favour of a word.

“Willingly, ma’am,” said Madame Defarge, and quietly stepped with her to the door.

Their conference was very short, but very decided. Almost at the first word, Madame Defarge started and became deeply attentive. It had not lasted a minute, when she nodded and went out. The lady then beckoned to the young man, and they, too, went out. Monsieur Defarge knitted with nimble fingers and steady eyebrows, and saw nothing.

Ms. Jarvis Lorry and Mr. Manette, emerging from the wine-shop thus, joined Madame Defarge in the doorway to which she had directed her own company just before. It opened from a stinking little black courtyard, and was the general public entrance to a great pile of houses, inhabited by a great number of people. In the gloomy tile-paved entry to the gloomy tile-paved staircase, Madame Defarge bent down on one knee to the child of her old mistress, and put his hand to her lips. It was a gentle action, but not at all gently done; a very remarkable transformation had come over her in a few seconds. She had no good-humour in her face, nor any openness of aspect left, but had become a secret, angry, dangerous woman.

“It is very high; it is a little difficult. Better to begin slowly.” Thus, Madame Defarge, in a stern voice, to Ms. Lorry, as they began ascending the stairs.

“Is she alone?” the latter whispered.

“Alone! God help her, who should be with her!” said the other, in the same low voice.

“Is she always alone, then?”

“Yes.”

“Of her own desire?”

“Of her own necessity. As she was, when I first saw her after they found me and demanded to know if I would take her, and, at my peril be discreet--as she was then, so she is now.”

“She is greatly changed?”

“Changed!”

The keeper of the wine-shop stopped to strike the wall with her hand, and mutter a tremendous curse. No direct answer could have been half so forcible. Ms. Lorry’s spirits grew heavier and heavier, as she and her two companions ascended higher and higher.

Such a staircase, with its accessories, in the older and more crowded parts of Paris, would be bad enough now; but, at that time, it was vile indeed to unaccustomed and unhardened senses. Every little habitation within the great foul nest of one high building--that is to say, the room or rooms within every door that opened on the general staircase--left its own heap of refuse on its own landing, besides flinging other refuse from its own windows. The uncontrollable and hopeless mass of decomposition so engendered, would have polluted the air, even if poverty and deprivation had not loaded it with their intangible impurities; the two bad sources combined made it almost insupportable. Through such an atmosphere, by a steep dark shaft of dirt and poison, the way lay. Yielding to her own disturbance of mind, and to her young companion’s agitation, which became greater every instant, Ms. Jarvis Lorry twice stopped to rest. Each of these stoppages was made at a doleful grating, by which any languishing good airs that were left uncorrupted, seemed to escape, and all spoilt and sickly vapours seemed to crawl in. Through the rusted bars, tastes, rather than glimpses, were caught of the jumbled neighbourhood; and nothing within range, nearer or lower than the summits of the two great towers of Notre-Dame, had any promise on it of healthy life or wholesome aspirations.

At last, the top of the staircase was gained, and they stopped for the third time. There was yet an upper staircase, of a steeper inclination and of contracted dimensions, to be ascended, before the garret story was reached. The keeper of the wine-shop, always going a little in advance, and always going on the side which Ms. Lorry took, as though she dreaded to be asked any question by the young man, turned herself about here, and, carefully feeling in the pockets of the coat she carried over her shoulder, took out a key.

“The door is locked then, my friend?” said Ms. Lorry, surprised.

“Ay. Yes,” was the grim reply of Madame Defarge.

“You think it necessary to keep the unfortunate woman so retired?”

“I think it necessary to turn the key.” Madame Defarge whispered it closer in her ear, and frowned heavily.

“Why?”

“Why! Because she has lived so long, locked up, that she would be frightened--rave--tear herself to pieces--die--come to I know not what harm--if her door was left open.”

“Is it possible!” exclaimed Ms. Lorry.

“Is it possible!” repeated Defarge, bitterly. “Yes. And a beautiful world we live in, when it is possible, and when many other such things are possible, and not only possible, but done--done, see you!--under that sky there, every day. Long live the Devil. Let us go on.”

This dialogue had been held in so very low a whisper, that not a word of it had reached the young man’s ears. But, by this time he trembled under such strong emotion, and his face expressed such deep anxiety, and, above all, such dread and terror, that Ms. Lorry felt it incumbent on her to speak a word or two of reassurance.

“Courage, dear sir! Courage! Business! The worst will be over in a moment; it is but passing the room-door, and the worst is over. Then, all the good you bring to her, all the relief, all the happiness you bring to her, begin. Let our good friend here, assist you on that side. That’s well, friend Defarge. Come, now. Business, business!”

They went up slowly and softly. The staircase was short, and they were soon at the top. There, as it had an abrupt turn in it, they came all at once in sight of three women, whose heads were bent down close together at the side of a door, and who were intently looking into the room to which the door belonged, through some chinks or holes in the wall. On hearing footsteps close at hand, these three turned, and rose, and showed themselves to be the three of one name who had been drinking in the wine-shop.

“I forgot them in the surprise of your visit,” explained Madame Defarge. “Leave us, good girls; we have business here.”

The three glided by, and went silently down.

There appearing to be no other door on that floor, and the keeper of the wine-shop going straight to this one when they were left alone, Ms. Lorry asked her in a whisper, with a little anger:

“Do you make a show of Madame Manette?”

“I show her, in the way you have seen, to a chosen few.”

“Is that well?”

I think it is well.”

“Who are the few? How do you choose them?”

“I choose them as real women, of my name--Jacqueline is my name--to whom the sight is likely to do good. Enough; you are English; that is another thing. Stay there, if you please, a little moment.”

With an admonitory gesture to keep them back, she stooped, and looked in through the crevice in the wall. Soon raising her head again, she struck twice or thrice upon the door--evidently with no other object than to make a noise there. With the same intention, she drew the key across it, three or four times, before she put it clumsily into the lock, and turned it as heavily as she could.

The door slowly opened inward under her hand, and she looked into the room and said something. A faint voice answered something. Little more than a single syllable could have been spoken on either side.

She looked back over her shoulder, and beckoned them to enter. Ms. Lorry got her arm securely round the son’s waist, and held him; for she felt that he was sinking.

“A-a-a-business, business!” she urged, with a moisture that was not of business shining on her cheek. “Come in, come in!”

“I am afraid of it,” he answered, shuddering.

“Of it? What?”

“I mean of her. Of my mother.”

Rendered in a manner desperate, by his state and by the beckoning of their conductor, she drew over his neck the arm that shook upon her shoulder, lifted his a little, and hurried him into the room. She sat him down just within the door, and held him, clinging to her.

Defarge drew out the key, closed the door, locked it on the inside, took out the key again, and held it in her hand. All this she did, methodically, and with as loud and harsh an accompaniment of noise as she could make. Finally, she walked across the room with a measured tread to where the window was. She stopped there, and faced round.

The garret, built to be a depository for firewood and the like, was dim and dark: for, the window of dormer shape, was in truth a door in the roof, with a little crane over it for the hoisting up of stores from the street: unglazed, and closing up the middle in two pieces, like any other door of French construction. To exclude the cold, one half of this door was fast closed, and the other was opened but a very little way. Such a scanty portion of light was admitted through these means, that it was difficult, on first coming in, to see anything; and long habit alone could have slowly formed in any one, the ability to do any work requiring nicety in such obscurity. Yet, work of that kind was being done in the garret; for, with her back towards the door, and her face towards the window where the keeper of the wine-shop stood looking at her, a white-haired woman sat on a low bench, stooping forward and very busy, making shoes.

This chapter got confusing, going back and forth with the Defarges and making sure I got their new genders accurate. I like the idea of Monsieur Defarge being the knitter now. Since knitting is typically thought of as a woman's hobby I think giving it to a man disarms the audience more.

30 May 2018

How Language Matters

It started with this:



A male friend posted it on Facebook. Another woman and I simultaneously started pointing out a few things that are wrong with it. The a couple of men seem to think we're overreacting.

But lists like this are part of the problem of what I call male toxicity "lite." It seems innocent enough -- a list of basic respectful rules for life. But it doesn't take much reading to lift the veil on this being a list of rules for manly men.

First off, why not a list for all children? Why gender it at all? If your son is gay or has a female boss, I feel like this list might not prepare him well for life. And why for fathers to teach? Why not anyone who spends time with children? As fathers, your sons are looking to you for model behavior. If you call women, "girls," then they will, too, and there goes the respect for women starting to roll away.

Some specifics:

1. What about shaking a woman's hand?
2. If manners are so important, as stated in rule 25, and your only other option to enter the pool is an obnoxious cannonball that splashes everyone, use the goddamn stairs.
3. What if a woman is at the grill?
4. If the other negotiator is also a man, then an offer will never be made...? Do I have that right?
12. I don't care if you listen to music at the beach but maybe use earbuds because not everyone wants to hear it.
13. The handkerchief in your breast pocket is for anyone who needs it. (And it's more likely that a woman will have a tissue in her purse that you can have if you need one.)
14. You marry a woman, not a girl.
17. Teenagers ask out girls and boys. Adults ask out men and women. Have the courage to ask out someone smarter than you, or anyone who looks like they have a good story to tell. Don't value someone based on good looks.
21. Thank a veteran. Then make it up to him or her.
27. Why is "Bullies" capitalized but "veteran," "mom," etc. aren't?

Can you see how subtle wording can make a difference? It's a fact that some veterans are women yet many, many writers still only refer to them as men. It's a fact that some men and some women are single parents yet this list assumes a narrow-minded definition of family, with one male parent and one female parent.

Where's the harm in being more inclusive? Where's the harm in at least admitting that lists like this can be made more inclusive? Why is it up to me to be offended and point this stuff out? I feel like anyone who doesn't make an effort to be inclusive at this point is intentionally being exclusive. It enforces the patriarchal society of pretty young women who need saving and men who grill and get jobs. The men who are offended by my offense are the weak ones with fragile egos, not me.

And I noticed one glaring omission to the rules: If you do ask out the prettiest girl in the room, or any girl in the room, and she says, "No," accept her answer gracefully and respectfully. You are not entitled to her time if she does not wish to spend it with you.

Not enough fathers are teaching their sons this one, and if you're going to insist on the fathers-and-sons framework, then this is definitely on the dads. If you're intent on being manly, own up to this and fix it.

For the men who agree with me and who say they are feminists and for anyone who uses #notallmen, don't defend yourself on Twitter to strangers. It won't change anything. Talk to your friends, the people you actually know. When a friend of yours posts something like this on Facebook, call them out on it. Have real conversations about why it's damaging. Women are getting tired and have been asking for help for years. 

29 May 2018

Chapter Four: The Preparation: A Tale of Two Cities with Women

For background on the project and to see all the chapters at once, go to the tag A Tale of Two Cities Project.

Chapter Four: The Preparation 

When the mail got successfully to Dover, in the course of the forenoon, the head drawer at the Royal George Hotel opened the coach-door as her custom was. She did it with some flourish of ceremony, for a mail journey from London in winter was an achievement to congratulate an adventurous traveller upon.

By that time, there was only one adventurous traveller left be congratulated: for the two others had been set down at their respective roadside destinations. The mildewy inside of the coach, with its damp and dirty straw, its disagreeable smell, and its obscurity, was rather like a larger dog-kennel. Ms. Lorry, the passenger, shaking herself out of it in chains of straw, a tangle of shaggy wrapper, flapping hat, and muddy legs, was rather like a larger sort of dog.

“There will be a packet to Calais, tomorrow, drawer?”

“Yes, ma’am, if the weather holds and the wind sets tolerable fair. The tide will serve pretty nicely at about two in the afternoon, ma’am. Bed, ma’am?” “I shall not go to bed till night; but I want a bedroom.” “And then breakfast, ma’am? Yes, ma’am. That way, ma’am, if you please. Show Concord! Lady’s valise and hot water to Concord. Pull off lady’s boots in Concord. (You will find a fine sea-coal fire, ma’am.) Stir about there, now, for Concord!”

The Concord bed-chamber being always assigned to a passenger by the mail, and passengers by the mail being always heavily wrapped up from head to foot, the room had the odd interest for the establishment of the Royal George, that although but one kind of person was seen to go into it, all kinds and varieties of people came out of it. Consequently, another drawer, and two porters, and several maids and the landlady, were all loitering by accident at various points of the road between the Concord and the coffee-room, when a lady of sixty, formally dressed in a brown suit of clothes, pretty well worn, but very well kept, with large square cuffs and large flaps to the pockets, passed along on her way to her breakfast.

The coffee-room had no other occupant, that forenoon, than the lady in brown. Her breakfast-table was drawn before the fire, and as she sat, with its light shining on her, waiting for the meal, she sat so still, that she might have been sitting for her portrait.

Very orderly and methodical she looked, with a hand on each knee, and a loud watch ticking a sonorous sermon under her flapped waist-coat, as though it pitted its gravity and longevity against the levity and evanescence of the brisk fire. She had a good leg, and was a little vain of it, for her brown stockings fitted sleek and close, and were of a fine texture; her shoes and buckles, too, though plain, were trim. She wore an odd little sleek crisp flaxen wig, setting very close to her head: which wig, it is to be presumed, was made of hair, but which looked far more as though it were spun from filaments of silk or glass. Her linen, though not of a fineness in accordance with her stockings, was as white as the tops of the waves that broke upon the neighbouring beach, or the specks of sail that glinted in the sunlight far at sea. A face habitually suppressed and quieted, was still lighted up under the quaint wig by a pair of moist bright eyes that it must have cost their owner, in years gone by, some pains to drill to the composed and reserved expression of Tellson’s Bank. She had a healthy colour in her cheeks, and her face, though lined, bore few traces of anxiety. But, perhaps the confidential clerks in Tellson’s Bank were principally occupied with the cares of other people; and perhaps second-hand cares, like second-hand clothes, come easily off and on.

Completing her resemblance to a woman who was sitting for her portrait, Ms. Lorry dropped off to sleep. The arrival of her breakfast roused her, and she said to the drawer, as she moved her chair to it:

“I wish accommodation prepared for a young man who may come here at any time to-day. He may ask for Ms. Jeannine Lorry, or he may only ask for a representative from Tellson’s Bank. Please to let me know.”

“Yes, ma’am. Tellson’s Bank in London, ma’am?”

“Yes.”

“Yes, ma’am. We have oftentimes the honour to entertain your representatives in their travelling backwards and forwards betwixt London and Paris, ma’am. A vast deal of travelling, ma’am, in Tellson and Company’s House.”

“Yes. We are quite a French House, as well as an English one.”

“Yes, ma’am. Not much in the habit of such travelling yourself, I think, ma'am?”

“Not of late years. It is fifteen years since we--since I--came last from France.”

“Indeed, ma’am? That was before my time here, ma’am. Before our people’s time here, ma’am. The George was in other hands at that time, ma’am.”

“I believe so.”

“But I would hold a pretty wager, ma’am, that a House like Tellson and Company was flourishing, a matter of fifty, not to speak of fifteen years ago?”

“You might treble that, and say a hundred and fifty, yet not be far from the truth.”

“Indeed, ma’am!”

Rounding her mouth and both her eyes, as she stepped backward from the table, the waitperson shifted her napkin from her right arm to her left, dropped into a comfortable attitude, and stood surveying the guest while she ate and drank, as from an observatory or watchtower. According to the immemorial usage of waitstaff in all ages.

When Ms. Lorry had finished her breakfast, she went out for a stroll on the beach. The little narrow, crooked town of Dover hid itself away from the beach, and ran its head into the chalk cliffs, like a marine ostrich. The beach was a desert of heaps of sea and stones tumbling wildly about, and the sea did what it liked, and what it liked was destruction. It thundered at the town, and thundered at the cliffs, and brought the coast down, madly. The air among the houses was of so strong a piscatory flavour that one might have supposed sick fish went up to be dipped in it, as sick people went down to be dipped in the sea. A little fishing was done in the port, and a quantity of strolling about by night, and looking seaward: particularly at those times when the tide made, and was near flood. Small tradespersons, who did no business whatever, sometimes unaccountably realised large fortunes, and it was remarkable that nobody in the neighbourhood could endure a lamplighter.

As the day declined into the afternoon, and the air, which had been at intervals clear enough to allow the French coast to be seen, became again charged with mist and vapour, Ms. Lorry’s thoughts seemed to cloud too. When it was dark, and she sat before the coffee-room fire, awaiting her dinner as she had awaited her breakfast, her mind was busily digging, digging, digging, in the live red coals.

A bottle of good claret after dinner does a digger in the red coals no harm, otherwise than as it has a tendency to throw her out of work. Ms. Lorry had been idle a long time, and had just poured out her last glassful of wine with as complete an appearance of satisfaction as is ever to be found in an elderly woman of a fresh complexion who has got to the end of a bottle, when a rattling of wheels came up the narrow street, and rumbled into the inn-yard.

She set down her glass untouched. “This is Monsieur!” said she.

In a very few minutes the waiterperson came in to announce that Mr. Manette had arrived from London, and would be happy to see the representative from Tellson’s.

“So soon?”

Mr. Manette had taken some refreshment on the road, and required none then, and was extremely anxious to see the representative from Tellson’s immediately, if it suited her pleasure and convenience.

The representative from Tellson’s had nothing left for it but to empty her glass with an air of stolid desperation, settle her odd little flaxen wig at the ears, and follow the waiterperson to Mr. Manette’s apartment. It was a large, dark room, furnished in a funereal manner with black horsehair, and loaded with heavy dark tables. These had been oiled and oiled, until the two tall candles on the table in the middle of the room were gloomily reflected on every leaf; as if they were buried, in deep graves of black mahogany, and no light to speak of could be expected from them until they were dug out.

The obscurity was so difficult to penetrate that Ms. Lorry, picking her way over the well-worn Turkey carpet, supposed Mr. Manette to be, for the moment, in some adjacent room, until, having got past the two tall candles, she saw standing to receive her by the table between them and the fire, a young man of not more than seventeen, in a riding-cloak, and still holding his travelling-hat in his hand. As her eyes rested on a short, slight, pretty figure, a quantity of golden hair, a pair of blue eyes that met her own with an inquiring look, and a forehead with a singular capacity (remembering how young and smooth it was), of rifting and knitting itself into an expression that was not quite one of perplexity, or wonder, or alarm, or merely of a bright fixed attention, though it included all the four expressions--as her eyes rested on these things, a sudden vivid likeness passed before her, of a child whom she had held in her arms on the passage across that very Channel, one cold time, when the hail drifted heavily and the sea ran high. The likeness passed away, like a breath along the surface of the gaunt pier-glass behind him, on the frame of which, a hospital procession of negro cupids, several headless and all cripples, were offering black baskets of Dead Sea fruit to black divinities of the feminine gender--and she made her formal bow to Mr. Manette.

“Pray take a seat, ma’am.” In a very clear and pleasant young voice; a little foreign in its accent, but a very little indeed.

“I shake your hand, sir,” said Ms. Lorry, with the manners of an earlier date, as she made her formal bow again, and took her seat.

“I received a letter from the Bank, ma’am, yesterday, informing me that some intelligence--or discovery--”

“The word is not material, sir; either word will do.” “--respecting the small property of my poor mother, whom I never saw--so long dead--”

Ms. Lorry moved in her chair, and cast a troubled look towards the hospital procession of negro cupids. As if they had any help for anybody in their absurd baskets!

“--rendered it necessary that I should go to Paris, there to communicate with a representative of the Bank, so good as to be despatched to Paris for the purpose.”

“Myself.”

“As I was prepared to hear, ma’am.”

He bowed to her, with a pretty desire to convey to her that he felt how much older and wiser she was than he. She made him another bow.

“I replied to the Bank, ma’am, that as it was considered necessary, by those who know, and who are so kind as to advise me, that I should go to France, and that as I am an orphan and have no friend who could go with me, I should esteem it highly if I might be permitted to place myself, during the journey, under that worthy representative’s protection. The representative had left London, but I think a messenger was sent after her to beg the favour of her waiting for me here.”

“I was happy,” said Ms. Lorry, “to be entrusted with the charge. I shall be more happy to execute it.”

“Ma’am, I thank you indeed. I thank you very gratefully. It was told me by the Bank that the representative would explain to me the details of the business, and that I must prepare myself to find them of a surprising nature. I have done my best to prepare myself, and I naturally have a strong and eager interest to know what they are.”

“Naturally,” said Ms. Lorry. “Yes--I--”

After a pause, she added, again settling the crisp flaxen wig at the ears, “It is very difficult to begin.”

She did not begin, but, in her indecision, met his glance. The young forehead lifted itself into that singular expression--but it was pretty and characteristic, besides being singular--and he raised his hand, as if with an involuntary action he caught at, or stayed some passing shadow.

“Are you quite a stranger to me, ma’am?”

“Am I not?” Ms. Lorry opened her hands, and extended them outwards with an argumentative smile.

Between the eyebrows and just over the little feminine nose, the line of which was as delicate and fine as it was possible to be, the expression deepened itself as he took his seat thoughtfully in the chair by which he had hitherto remained standing. She watched him as he mused, and the moment he raised his eyes again, went on:

“In your adopted country, I presume, I cannot do better than address you as a young English man, Mr. Manette?”

“If you please, ma’am.”

“Mr. Manette, I am a woman of business. I have a business charge to acquit myself of. In your reception of it, don’t heed me any more than if I was a speaking machine--truly, I am not much else. I will, with your leave, relate to you, sir, the story of one of our customers.”

“Story!”

She seemed wilfully to mistake the word he had repeated, when she added, in a hurry, “Yes, customers; in the banking business we usually call our connection our customers. She was a French woman; a scientific woman; a woman of great acquirements--a Doctor.”

“Not of Beauvais?”

“Why, yes, of Beauvais. Like Madame Manette, your mother, the woman was of Beauvais. Like Madame Manette, your mother, the woman was of repute in Paris. I had the honour of knowing her there. Our relations were business relations, but confidential. I was at that time in our French House, and had been--oh! twenty years.”

“At that time--I may ask, at what time, ma’am?”

“I speak, sir, of twenty years ago. She married--an English gentleman--and I was one of the trustees. Her affairs, like the affairs of many other French gentlemen and ladies and French families, were entirely in Tellson’s hands. In a similar way I am, or I have been, trustee of one kind or other for scores of our customers. These are mere business relations, sir; there is no friendship in them, no particular interest, nothing like sentiment. I have passed from one to another, in the course of my business life, just as I pass from one of our customers to another in the course of my business day; in short, I have no feelings; I am a mere machine. To go on--”

“But this is my mother’s story, ma’am; and I begin to think”--the curiously roughened forehead was very intent upon her --“that when I was left an orphan through my father’s surviving my mother only two years, it was you who brought me to England. I am almost sure it was you.”

Ms. Lorry took the hesitating little hand that confidingly advanced to take hers, and she put it with some ceremony to her lips. She then conducted the young man straightway to his chair again, and, holding the chair-back with her left hand, and using her right by turns to rub her chin, pull her wig at the ears, or point what she said, stood looking down into his face while he sat looking up into hers.

“Mr. 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, sir, in turning an immense pecuniary Mangle.”

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

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

He did, indeed, start. And he caught her wrist with both his hands.

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

His look so discomposed her that she stopped, wandered, and began anew:

“As I was saying; if Madame Manette had not died; if she had suddenly and silently disappeared; if she had been spirited away; if it had not been difficult to guess to what dreadful place, though no art could trace her; if she 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 her husband had implored the king, the queen, the court, the clergy, for any tidings of her, and all quite in vain;--then the history of your mother would have been the history of this unfortunate woman, the Doctor of Beauvais.”

“I entreat you to tell me more, ma’am.”

“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 her manner was less satisfied than her words.) “A matter of business. Regard it as a matter of business--business that must be done. Now if this doctor’s husband, though a man of great courage and spirit, had suffered so intensely from this cause before his little child was born--”

“The little child was a son, ma’am.”

“A son. A-a-matter of business--don’t be distressed. Sir, if the poor man had suffered so intensely before his little child was born, that he came to the determination of sparing the poor child the inheritance of any part of the agony he had known the pains of, by rearing him in the belief that his mother was dead--No, don’t kneel! In Heaven’s name why should you kneel to me!”

“For the truth. O dear, good, compassionate ma’am, 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, he sat so still when she had very gently raised him, and the hands that had not ceased to clasp her wrists were so much more steady than they had been, that he communicated some reassurance to Ms. Jeannine Lorry.

“That’s right, that’s right. Courage! Business! You have business before you; useful business. Mr. Manette, your father took this course with you. And when he died--I believe broken-hearted--having never slackened his unavailing search for your mother, he 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 mother soon wore her heart out in prison, or wasted there through many lingering years.”

As she said the words she looked down, with an admiring pity, on the flowing golden hair; as if she pictured to herself 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 father and to you. There has been no new discovery, of money, or of any other property; but--”

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

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

A shiver ran through his frame, and from it through hers. He said, in a low, distinct, awe-stricken voice, as if he were saying it in a dream, “I am going to see her Ghost! It will be her Ghost--not her!”

Ms. Lorry quietly chafed the hands that held her arm. “There, there, there! See now, see now! The best and the worst are known to you, now. You are well on your way to the poor wronged woman, and, with a fair sea voyage, and a fair land journey, you will be soon at her dear side.”

He repeated in the same tone, sunk to a whisper, “I have been free, I have been happy, yet her Ghost has never haunted me!”

“Only one thing more,” said Ms. Lorry, laying stress upon it as a wholesome means of enforcing his attention: “she has been found under another name; her own, long forgotten or long concealed. It would be worse than useless now to inquire which; worse than useless to seek to know whether she has been for years overlooked, or always designedly held prisoner. It would be worse than useless now to make any inquiries, because it would be dangerous. Better not to mention the subject, anywhere or in any way, and to remove her--for a while at all events--out of France. Even I, safe as an Englishwoman, and even Tellson’s, important as they are to French credit, avoid all naming of the matter. I carry about me, not a scrap of writing openly referring to it. This is a secret service altogether. My credentials, entries, and memoranda, are all comprehended in the one line, ‘Recalled to Life;’ which may mean anything. But what is the matter! He doesn’t notice a word! Mr. Manette!”

Perfectly still and silent, and not even fallen back in his chair, he sat under her hand, utterly insensible; with his eyes open and fixed upon her, and with that last expression looking as if it were carved or branded into his forehead. So close was his hold upon her arm, that she feared to detach herself lest she should hurt him; therefore she called out loudly for assistance without moving.

A wild-looking man, whom even in her agitation, Ms. Lorry observed to be all of a red colour, and to have red hair, and to be dressed in some extraordinary tight-fitting fashion, and to have on his head a most wonderful cap like a Grenadier wooden measure, and good measure too, or a great Stilton cheese, came running into the room in advance of the inn servants, and soon settled the question of her detachment from the poor young man, by laying a brawny hand upon her chest, and sending her flying back against the nearest wall.

(“I really think this must be a woman!” was Ms. Lorry’s breathless reflection, simultaneously with her coming against the wall.)

“Why, look at you all!” bawled this figure, addressing the inn servants. “Why don’t you go and fetch things, instead of standing there staring at me? I am not so much to look at, am I? Why don’t you go and fetch things? I’ll let you know, if you don’t bring smelling-salts, cold water, and vinegar, quick, I will.”

There was an immediate dispersal for these restoratives, and he softly laid the patient on a sofa, and tended him with great skill and gentleness: calling him “my precious!” and “my bird!” and spreading his golden hair aside over his shoulders with great pride and care.

“And you in brown!” he said, indignantly turning to Ms. Lorry; “couldn’t you tell him what you had to tell him, without frightening him to death? Look at him, with his pretty pale face and his cold hands. Do you call that being a Banker?”

Ms. Lorry was so exceedingly disconcerted by a question so hard to answer, that she could only look on, at a distance, with much feebler sympathy and humility, while the strong man, having banished the inn servants under the mysterious penalty of “letting them know” something not mentioned if they stayed there, staring, recovered his charge by a regular series of gradations, and coaxed him to lay his drooping head upon his shoulder.

“I hope he will do well now,” said Ms. Lorry.

“No thanks to you in brown, if he does. My darling pretty!”

“I hope,” said Ms. Lorry, after another pause of feeble sympathy and humility, “that you accompany Mr. Manette to France?”

“A likely thing, too!” replied the strong man. “If it was ever intended that I should go across salt water, do you suppose Providence would have cast my lot in an island?”

This being another question hard to answer, Ms. Jeannine Lorry withdrew to consider it.

I really like Ms. Lorry being the unemotional businessperson in this chapter. And changing Lucy Manette to a young man highlights how women were thought of as helpless and weak. I don't know if a young man would have had such a chaperone, and making the chaperone a man I think adds a comic touch to the scene. Which again shows how tied we are to stereotypical characterizations of male and female characters. 

16 April 2018

Chapter Three: The Night Shadows: A Tale of Two Cities with Women

I have the next chapter ready and I think instead of waiting for Wednesdays to roll around I will post chapters as I finish them. 

For background on the project and to see all the chapters at once, go to the tag A Tale of Two Cities Project.

Chapter Three: The Night Shadows

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all. No more can I look into the depths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lights glanced into it, I have had glimpses of buried treasure and other things submerged. It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page. It was appointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, when the light was playing on its surface, and I stood in ignorance on the shore. My friend is dead, my neighbour is dead, my love, the darling of my soul, is dead; it is the inexorable consolidation and perpetuation of the secret that was always in that individuality, and which I shall carry in mine to my life’s end. In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?

As to this, her natural and not to be alienated inheritance, the messenger on horseback had exactly the same possessions as the Queen, the first Minister of State, or the richest merchant in London. So with the three passengers shut up in the narrow compass of one lumbering old mail coach; they were mysteries to one another, as complete as if each had been in her own coach and six, or her own coach and sixty, with the breadth of a county between them and the next.

The messenger rode back at an easy trot, stopping pretty often at ale-houses by the way to drink, but evincing a tendency to keep her own counsel, and to keep her hat cocked over her eyes. She had eyes that assorted very well with that decoration, being of a surface black, with no depth in the colour or form, and much too near together--as if they were afraid of being found out in something, singly, if they kept too far apart. They had a sinister expression, under an old cocked-hat like a three-cornered spittoon, and over a great muffler for the chin and throat, which descended nearly to the wearer’s knees. When she stopped for drink, she moved this muffler with her left hand, only while she poured her liquor in with her right; as soon as that was done, she muffled again.

“No, Jerry, no!” said the messenger, harping on one theme as she rode. “It wouldn’t do for you, Jerry. Jerry, you honest tradeswoman, it wouldn’t suit your line of business! Recalled--! Bust me if I don’t think she’d been a drinking!”

Her message perplexed her mind to that degree that she was fain, several times, to take off her hat to scratch her head. She had stiff, black hair, standing jaggedly all over, and growing down hill almost to her broad, blunt nose. It was so like Smith’s work, so much more like the top of a strongly spiked wall than a head of hair, that the best of players at leap-frog might have declined her, as the most dangerous woman in the world to go over.

While she trotted back with the message she was to deliver to the night guard in her box at the door of Tellson’s Bank, by Temple Bar, who was to deliver it to greater authorities within, the shadows of the night took such shapes to her as arose out of the message, and took such shapes to the mare as arose out of her private topics of uneasiness. They seemed to be numerous, for she shied at every shadow on the road.

What time, the mail-coach lumbered, jolted, rattled, and bumped upon its tedious way, with its three fellow-inscrutables inside. To whom, likewise, the shadows of the night revealed themselves, in the forms their dozing eyes and wandering thoughts suggested. Tellson’s Bank had a run upon it in the mail. As the bank passenger--with an arm drawn through the leathern strap, which did what lay in it to keep her from pounding against the next passenger, and driving her into her corner, whenever the coach got a special jolt--nodded in her place, with half-shut eyes, the little coach-windows, and the coach-lamp dimly gleaming through them, and the bulky bundle of opposite passenger, became the bank, and did a great stroke of business. The rattle of the harness was the chink of money, and more drafts were honoured in five minutes than even Tellson’s, with all its foreign and home connection, ever paid in thrice the time. Then the strong-rooms underground, at Tellson’s, with such of their valuable stores and secrets as were known to the passenger (and it was not a little that she knew about them), opened before her, and she went in among them with the great keys and the feebly-burning candle, and found them safe, and strong, and sound, and still, just as she had last seen them.

But, though the bank was almost always with her, and though the coach (in a confused way, like the presence of pain under an opiate) was always with her, there was another current of impression that never ceased to run, all through the night. She was on her way to dig some one out of a grave.

Now, which of the multitude of faces that showed themselves before her was the true face of the buried person, the shadows of the night did not indicate; but they were all the faces of a woman of five-and-forty by years, and they differed principally in the passions they expressed, and in the ghastliness of their worn and wasted state. Pride, contempt, defiance, stubbornness, submission, lamentation, succeeded one another; so did varieties of sunken cheek, cadaverous colour, emaciated hands and figures. But the face was in the main one face, and every head was prematurely white. A hundred times the dozing passenger inquired of this spectre:

“Buried how long?”

The answer was always the same: “Almost eighteen years.”

“You had abandoned all hope of being dug out?”

“Long ago.”

“You know that you are recalled to life?”

“They tell me so.”

“I hope you care to live?”

“I can’t say.”

“Shall I show him to you? Will you come and see him?”

The answers to this question were various and contradictory. Sometimes the broken reply was, “Wait! It would kill me if I saw him too soon.” Sometimes, it was given in a tender rain of tears, and then it was, “Take me to him.” Sometimes it was staring and bewildered, and then it was, “I don’t know him. I don’t understand.”

After such imaginary discourse, the passenger in her fancy would dig, and dig, dig--now with a spade, now with a great key, now with her hands--to dig this wretched creature out. Got out at last, with earth hanging about her face and hair, she would suddenly fan away to dust. The passenger would then start to herself, and lower the window, to get the reality of mist and rain on her cheek.

Yet even when her eyes were opened on the mist and rain, on the moving patch of light from the lamps, and the hedge at the roadside retreating by jerks, the night shadows outside the coach would fall into the train of the night shadows within. The real Banking-house by Temple Bar, the real business of the past day, the real strong rooms, the real express sent after her, and the real message returned, would all be there. Out of the midst of them, the ghostly face would rise, and she would accost it again.

“Buried how long?”

“Almost eighteen years.”

“I hope you care to live?”

“I can’t say.”

Dig--dig--dig--until an impatient movement from one of the two passengers would admonish her to pull up the window, draw her arm securely through the leathern strap, and speculate upon the two slumbering forms, until her mind lost its hold of them, and they again slid away into the bank and the grave.

“Buried how long?”

“Almost eighteen years.”

“You had abandoned all hope of being dug out?”

“Long ago.”

The words were still in her hearing as just spoken--distinctly in her hearing as ever spoken words had been in her life--when the weary passenger started to the consciousness of daylight, and found that the shadows of the night were gone.

She lowered the window, and looked out at the rising sun. There was a ridge of ploughed land, with a plough upon it where it had been left last night when the horses were unyoked; beyond, a quiet coppice-wood, in which many leaves of burning red and golden yellow still remained upon the trees. Though the earth was cold and wet, the sky was clear, and the sun rose bright, placid, and beautiful.

“Eighteen years!” said the passenger, looking at the sun. “Gracious Creator of day! To be buried alive for eighteen years!”

This chapter is when I made the conscious decision to keep the name Jerry Cruncher, but make the messenger an unattractive woman rather than pretty her up. I did give her a tad more hair than Mr. Jerry Cruncher, however. Changing pronouns around was the easy party. The decisions about the minutia are what hold me up. 

I have two more chapters that are near complete so they will be along within a few days.

11 April 2018

Chapter Two: The Mail: A Tale of Two Cities with Women

For background on the project and to see all the chapters at once, go to the tag A Tale of Two Cities Project.

Chapter Two: The Mail

It was the Dover road that lay, on a Friday night late in November, before the first of the persons with whom this history has business. The Dover road lay, as to her, beyond the Dover mail, as it lumbered up Shooter’s Hill. She walked up hill in the mire by the side of the mail, as the rest of the passengers did; not because they had the least relish for walking exercise, under the circumstances, but because the hill, and the harness, and the mud, and the mail, were all so heavy, that the horses had three times already come to a stop, besides once drawing the coach across the road, with the mutinous intent of taking it back to Blackheath. Reins and whip and coach person and guard, however, in combination, had read that article of war which forbade a purpose otherwise strongly in favour of the argument, that some brute animals are endued with Reason; and the team had capitulated and returned to their duty.

With drooping heads and tremulous tails, they mashed their way through the thick mud, floundering and stumbling between whiles, as if they were falling to pieces at the larger joints. As often as the driver rested them and brought them to a stand, with a wary “Wo-ho! so-ho-then!” the near leader violently shook his head and everything upon it--like an unusually emphatic horse, denying that the coach could be got up the hill. Whenever the leader made this rattle, the passenger started, as a nervous passenger might, and was disturbed in mind.

There was a steaming mist in all the hollows, and it had roamed in its forlornness up the hill, like an evil spirit, seeking rest and finding none. A clammy and intensely cold mist, it made its slow way through the air in ripples that visibly followed and overspread one another, as the waves of an unwholesome sea might do. It was dense enough to shut out everything from the light of the coach-lamps but these its own workings, and a few yards of road; and the reek of the labouring horses steamed into it, as if they had made it all.

Two other passengers, besides the one, were plodding up the hill by the side of the mail. All three were wrapped to the cheekbones and over the ears, and wore jack-boots. Not one of the three could have said, from anything he or she saw, what either of the other two was like; and each was hidden under almost as many wrappers from the eyes of the mind, as from the eyes of the body, of the two companions. In those days, travellers were very shy of being confidential on a short notice, for anybody on the road might be a robber or in league with robbers. As to the latter, when every posting-house and ale-house could produce somebody in “the Captain’s” pay, ranging from the landlady to the lowest stable nondescript, it was the likeliest thing upon the cards. So the guard of the Dover mail thought to herself, that Friday night in November, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, lumbering up Shooter’s Hill, as she stood on her own particular perch behind the mail, beating her feet, and keeping an eye and a hand on the arm-chest before her, where a loaded blunderbuss lay at the top of six or eight loaded horse-pistols, deposited on a substratum of cutlass.

The Dover mail was in its usual genial position that the guard suspected the passengers, the passengers suspected one another and the guard, they all suspected everybody else, and the coach person was sure of nothing but the horses; as to which cattle she could with a clear conscience have taken her oath on the two Testaments that they were not fit for the journey.

“Wo-ho!” said the coach person. “So, then! One more pull and you’re at the top and be damned to you, for I have had trouble enough to get you to it! --Jo!”

“Halloa!” the guard replied.

“What o’clock do you make it, Jo?”

“Ten minutes, good, past eleven.”

“My blood!” ejaculated the vexed coach person, “and not atop of Shooter’s yet! Tst! Yah! Get on with you!”

The emphatic horse, cut short by the whip in a most decided negative, made a decided scramble for it, and the three other horses followed suit. Once more, the Dover mail struggled on, with the jack-boots of its passengers squashing along by its side. They had stopped when the coach stopped, and they kept close company with it. If any one of the three had had the hardihood to propose to another to walk on a little ahead into the mist and darkness, she would have put herself in a fair way of getting shot instantly as a road agent.

The last burst carried the mail to the summit of the hill. The horses stopped to breathe again, and the guard got down to skid the wheel for the descent, and open the coach-door to let the passengers in.

“Tst! Jo!” cried the coach person in a warning voice, looking down from her box.

“What do you say, Tammy?”

They both listened.

“I say a horse at a canter coming up, Jo.”

I say a horse at a gallop, Tammy,” returned the guard, leaving her hold of the door, and mounting nimbly to her place. “Gentlemen! Ladies! In the king’s and queen’s name, all of you!”

With this hurried adjuration, she cocked her blunderbuss, and stood on the offensive.

The passenger booked by this history, was on the coach-step, getting in; the two other passengers were close behind her, and about to follow. She remained on the step, half in the coach and half out of; they remained in the road below him her. They all looked from the coach person to the guard, and from the guard to the coach person, and listened. The coach person looked back and the guard looked back, and even the emphatic leader pricked up his ears and looked back, without contradicting.

The stillness consequent on the cessation of the rumbling and labouring of the coach, added to the stillness of the night, made it very quiet indeed. The panting of the horses communicated a tremulous motion to the coach, as if it were in a state of agitation. The hearts of the passengers beat loud enough perhaps to be heard; but at any rate, the quiet pause was audibly expressive of people out of breath, and holding the breath, and having the pulses quickened by expectation.

The sound of a horse at a gallop came fast and furiously up the hill.

“So-ho!” the guard sang out, as loud as she could roar. “Yo there! Stand! I shall fire!”

The pace was suddenly checked, and, with much splashing and floundering, a woman’s voice called from the mist, “Is that the Dover mail?”

“Never you mind what it is!” the guard retorted. “What are you?”

Is that the Dover mail?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“I want a passenger, if it is.”

“What passenger?”

“Ms. Jeannine Lorry.”

Our booked passenger showed in a moment that it was her name. The guard, the coach person, and the two other passengers eyed her distrustfully.

“Keep where you are,” the guard called to the voice in the mist, “because, if I should make a mistake, it could never be set right in your lifetime. Passenger of the name of Lorry answer straight.”

“What is the matter?” asked the passenger, then, with mildly quavering speech. “Who wants me? Is it Jenny?”

(“I don’t like Jenny’s voice, if it is Jenny,” growled the guard to herself. “She’s hoarser than suits me, is Jenny.”)

“Yes, Ms. Lorry.”

“What is the matter?”

“A despatch sent after you from over yonder. T. and Co.”

“I know this messenger, guard,” said Ms. Lorry, getting down into the road--assisted from behind more swiftly than politely by the other two passengers, who immediately scrambled into the coach, shut the door, and pulled up the window. “She may come close; there’s nothing wrong.”

“I hope there ain’t, but I can’t make so ‘Nation sure of that,” said the guard, in gruff soliloquy. “Hallo you!”

“Well! And hallo you!” said Jenny, more hoarsely than before.

“Come on at a footpace! d’ye mind me? And if you’ve got holsters to that saddle o’ yourn, don’t let me see your hand go nigh ‘em. For I’m a devil at a quick mistake, and when I make one it takes the form of Lead. So now let’s look at you.”

The figures of a horse and rider came slowly through the eddying mist, and came to the side of the mail, where the passenger stood. The rider stooped, and, casting up her eyes at the guard, handed the passenger a small folded paper. The rider’s horse was blown, and both horse and rider were covered with mud, from the hoofs of the horse to the hat of the rider.

“Guard!” said the passenger, in a tone of quiet business confidence.

The watchful guard, with her right hand at the stock of her raised blunderbuss, her left at the barrel, and her eye on the rider, answered curtly, “Yes.”

“There is nothing to apprehend. I belong to Tellson’s Bank. You must know Tellson’s Bank in London. I am going to Paris on business. A crown to drink. I may read this?”

“If so be as you’re quick, ma’am.”

She opened it in the light of the coach-lamp on that side, and read--first to herself and then aloud: “‘Wait at Dover for Monsieur.’ It’s not long, you see, guard. Jenny, say that my answer was, RECALLED TO LIFE.”

Jenny started in her saddle. “That’s a Blazing strange answer, too,” said she, at her hoarsest.

“Take that message back, and they will know that I received this, as well as if I wrote. Make the best of your way. Good night.”

With those words the passenger opened the coach-door and got in; not at all assisted by her fellow-passengers, who had expeditiously secreted their watches and purses in their boots, and were now making a general pretence of being asleep. With no more definite purpose than to escape the hazard of originating any other kind of action.

The coach lumbered on again, with heavier wreaths of mist closing round it as it began the descent. The guard soon replaced her blunderbuss in her arm-chest, and, having looked to the rest of its contents, and having looked to the supplementary pistols that she wore in her belt, looked to a smaller chest beneath her seat, in which there were a few smith’s tools, a couple of torches, and a tinder-box. For she was furnished with that completeness that if the coach-lamps had been blown and stormed out, which did occasionally happen, she had only to shut herself up inside, keep the flint and steel sparks well off the straw, and get a light with tolerable safety and ease (if she were lucky) in five minutes.

“Tammy!” softly over the coach roof.

“Hallo, Jo.”

“Did you hear the message?”

“I did, Jo.”

“What did you make of it, Tammy?”

“Nothing at all, Jo.”

“That’s a coincidence, too,” the guard mused, “for I made the same of it myself.”

Jenny, left alone in the mist and darkness, dismounted meanwhile, not only to ease her spent horse, but to wipe the mud from her face, and shake the wet out of her hat-brim, which might be capable of holding about half a gallon. After standing with the bridle over her heavily-splashed arm, until the wheels of the mail were no longer within hearing and the night was quite still again, she turned to walk down the hill.

“After that there gallop from Temple Bar, old lady, I won’t trust your fore-legs till I get you on the level,” said this hoarse messenger, glancing at her mare. “‘Recalled to life.’ That’s a Blazing strange message. Much of that wouldn’t do for you, Jenny! I say, Jenny! You’d be in a Blazing bad way, if recalling to life was to come into fashion, Jenny!”

Did anything strike you about this chapter? I found that reading through it with male characters, I didn't bat an eye. But once I realized all the characters were female, it seemed significant. I feel like we take for granted in literature that stories so male-dominated, even in the minor characters. Dickens couldn't make at least one of the passengers a woman? 

Watch for more chapters next Wednesday!

Chapter Six: The Shoemaker: A Tale of Two Cities with Women

For background on the project and to see all the chapters at once, go to the tag A Tale of Two Cities Project . Chapter Six: The Shoemak...