There had been earlier drinking than usual in the wine-shop of Monsieur
Defarge. As early as six o'clock in the morning, sallow faces peeping
through its barred windows had descried other faces within, bending over
measures of wine. Monsieur Defarge sold a very thin wine at the best of
times, but it would seem to have been an unusually thin wine that he sold
at this time. A sour wine, moreover, or a souring, for its influence on
the mood of those who drank it was to make them gloomy. No vivacious
Bacchanalian flame leaped out of the pressed grape of Monsieur Defarge:
but, a smouldering fire that burnt in the dark, lay hidden in the dregs of
This had been the third morning in succession, on which there had been
early drinking at the wine-shop of Monsieur Defarge. It had begun on
Monday, and here was Wednesday come. There had been more of early brooding
than drinking; for, many men had listened and whispered and slunk about
there from the time of the opening of the door, who could not have laid a
piece of money on the counter to save their souls. These were to the full
as interested in the place, however, as if they could have commanded whole
barrels of wine; and they glided from seat to seat, and from corner to
corner, swallowing talk in lieu of drink, with greedy looks.
Notwithstanding an unusual flow of company, the master of the wine-shop
was not visible. He was not missed; for, nobody who crossed the threshold
looked for him, nobody asked for him, nobody wondered to see only Madame
Defarge in her seat, presiding over the distribution of wine, with a bowl
of battered small coins before her, as much defaced and beaten out of
their original impress as the small coinage of humanity from whose ragged
pockets they had come.
A suspended interest and a prevalent absence of mind, were perhaps
observed by the spies who looked in at the wine-shop, as they looked in at
every place, high and low, from the king's palace to the criminal's gaol.
Games at cards languished, players at dominoes musingly built towers with
them, drinkers drew figures on the tables with spilt drops of wine, Madame
Defarge herself picked out the pattern on her sleeve with her toothpick,
and saw and heard something inaudible and invisible a long way off.
Thus, Saint Antoine in this vinous feature of his, until midday. It was
high noontide, when two dusty men passed through his streets and under his
swinging lamps: of whom, one was Monsieur Defarge: the other a mender of
roads in a blue cap. All adust and athirst, the two entered the wine-shop.
Their arrival had lighted a kind of fire in the breast of Saint Antoine,
fast spreading as they came along, which stirred and flickered in flames
of faces at most doors and windows. Yet, no one had followed them, and no
man spoke when they entered the wine-shop, though the eyes of every man
there were turned upon them.
"Good day, gentlemen!" said Monsieur Defarge.
It may have been a signal for loosening the general tongue. It elicited an
answering chorus of "Good day!"
"It is bad weather, gentlemen," said Defarge, shaking his head.
Upon which, every man looked at his neighbour, and then all cast down
their eyes and sat silent. Except one man, who got up and went out.
"My wife," said Defarge aloud, addressing Madame Defarge: "I have
travelled certain leagues with this good mender of roads, called Jacques.
I met him—by accident—a day and half's journey out of Paris.
He is a good child, this mender of roads, called Jacques. Give him to
drink, my wife!"
A second man got up and went out. Madame Defarge set wine before the
mender of roads called Jacques, who doffed his blue cap to the company,
and drank. In the breast of his blouse he carried some coarse dark bread;
he ate of this between whiles, and sat munching and drinking near Madame
Defarge's counter. A third man got up and went out.
Defarge refreshed himself with a draught of wine—but, he took less
than was given to the stranger, as being himself a man to whom it was no
rarity—and stood waiting until the countryman had made his
breakfast. He looked at no one present, and no one now looked at him; not
even Madame Defarge, who had taken up her knitting, and was at work.
"Have you finished your repast, friend?" he asked, in due season.
"Yes, thank you."
"Come, then! You shall see the apartment that I told you you could occupy.
It will suit you to a marvel."
Out of the wine-shop into the street, out of the street into a courtyard,
out of the courtyard up a steep staircase, out of the staircase into a
garret—formerly the garret where a white-haired man sat on a low
bench, stooping forward and very busy, making shoes.
No white-haired man was there now; but, the three men were there who had
gone out of the wine-shop singly. And between them and the white-haired
man afar off, was the one small link, that they had once looked in at him
through the chinks in the wall.
Defarge closed the door carefully, and spoke in a subdued voice:
"Jacques One, Jacques Two, Jacques Three! This is the witness encountered
by appointment, by me, Jacques Four. He will tell you all. Speak, Jacques
The mender of roads, blue cap in hand, wiped his swarthy forehead with it,
and said, "Where shall I commence, monsieur?"
"Commence," was Monsieur Defarge's not unreasonable reply, "at the
"I saw him then, messieurs," began the mender of roads, "a year ago this
running summer, underneath the carriage of the Marquis, hanging by the
chain. Behold the manner of it. I leaving my work on the road, the sun
going to bed, the carriage of the Marquis slowly ascending the hill, he
hanging by the chain—like this."
Again the mender of roads went through the whole performance; in which he
ought to have been perfect by that time, seeing that it had been the
infallible resource and indispensable entertainment of his village during
a whole year.
Jacques One struck in, and asked if he had ever seen the man before?
"Never," answered the mender of roads, recovering his perpendicular.
Jacques Three demanded how he afterwards recognised him then?
"By his tall figure," said the mender of roads, softly, and with his
finger at his nose. "When Monsieur the Marquis demands that evening, 'Say,
what is he like?' I make response, 'Tall as a spectre.'"
"You should have said, short as a dwarf," returned Jacques Two.
"But what did I know? The deed was not then accomplished, neither did he
confide in me. Observe! Under those circumstances even, I do not offer my
testimony. Monsieur the Marquis indicates me with his finger, standing
near our little fountain, and says, 'To me! Bring that rascal!' My faith,
messieurs, I offer nothing."
"He is right there, Jacques," murmured Defarge, to him who had
interrupted. "Go on!"
"Good!" said the mender of roads, with an air of mystery. "The tall man is
lost, and he is sought—how many months? Nine, ten, eleven?"
"No matter, the number," said Defarge. "He is well hidden, but at last he
is unluckily found. Go on!"
"I am again at work upon the hill-side, and the sun is again about to go
to bed. I am collecting my tools to descend to my cottage down in the
village below, where it is already dark, when I raise my eyes, and see
coming over the hill six soldiers. In the midst of them is a tall man with
his arms bound—tied to his sides—like this!"
With the aid of his indispensable cap, he represented a man with his
elbows bound fast at his hips, with cords that were knotted behind him.
"I stand aside, messieurs, by my heap of stones, to see the soldiers and
their prisoner pass (for it is a solitary road, that, where any spectacle
is well worth looking at), and at first, as they approach, I see no more
than that they are six soldiers with a tall man bound, and that they are
almost black to my sight—except on the side of the sun going to bed,
where they have a red edge, messieurs. Also, I see that their long shadows
are on the hollow ridge on the opposite side of the road, and are on the
hill above it, and are like the shadows of giants. Also, I see that they
are covered with dust, and that the dust moves with them as they come,
tramp, tramp! But when they advance quite near to me, I recognise the tall
man, and he recognises me. Ah, but he would be well content to precipitate
himself over the hill-side once again, as on the evening when he and I
first encountered, close to the same spot!"
He described it as if he were there, and it was evident that he saw it
vividly; perhaps he had not seen much in his life.
"I do not show the soldiers that I recognise the tall man; he does not
show the soldiers that he recognises me; we do it, and we know it, with
our eyes. 'Come on!' says the chief of that company, pointing to the
village, 'bring him fast to his tomb!' and they bring him faster. I
follow. His arms are swelled because of being bound so tight, his wooden
shoes are large and clumsy, and he is lame. Because he is lame, and
consequently slow, they drive him with their guns—like this!"
He imitated the action of a man's being impelled forward by the butt-ends
"As they descend the hill like madmen running a race, he falls. They laugh
and pick him up again. His face is bleeding and covered with dust, but he
cannot touch it; thereupon they laugh again. They bring him into the
village; all the village runs to look; they take him past the mill, and up
to the prison; all the village sees the prison gate open in the darkness
of the night, and swallow him—like this!"
He opened his mouth as wide as he could, and shut it with a sounding snap
of his teeth. Observant of his unwillingness to mar the effect by opening
it again, Defarge said, "Go on, Jacques."
"All the village," pursued the mender of roads, on tiptoe and in a low
voice, "withdraws; all the village whispers by the fountain; all the
village sleeps; all the village dreams of that unhappy one, within the
locks and bars of the prison on the crag, and never to come out of it,
except to perish. In the morning, with my tools upon my shoulder, eating
my morsel of black bread as I go, I make a circuit by the prison, on my
way to my work. There I see him, high up, behind the bars of a lofty iron
cage, bloody and dusty as last night, looking through. He has no hand
free, to wave to me; I dare not call to him; he regards me like a dead
Defarge and the three glanced darkly at one another. The looks of all of
them were dark, repressed, and revengeful, as they listened to the
countryman's story; the manner of all of them, while it was secret, was
authoritative too. They had the air of a rough tribunal; Jacques One and
Two sitting on the old pallet-bed, each with his chin resting on his hand,
and his eyes intent on the road-mender; Jacques Three, equally intent, on
one knee behind them, with his agitated hand always gliding over the
network of fine nerves about his mouth and nose; Defarge standing between
them and the narrator, whom he had stationed in the light of the window,
by turns looking from him to them, and from them to him.
"Go on, Jacques," said Defarge.
"He remains up there in his iron cage some days. The village looks at him
by stealth, for it is afraid. But it always looks up, from a distance, at
the prison on the crag; and in the evening, when the work of the day is
achieved and it assembles to gossip at the fountain, all faces are turned
towards the prison. Formerly, they were turned towards the posting-house;
now, they are turned towards the prison. They whisper at the fountain,
that although condemned to death he will not be executed; they say that
petitions have been presented in Paris, showing that he was enraged and
made mad by the death of his child; they say that a petition has been
presented to the King himself. What do I know? It is possible. Perhaps
yes, perhaps no."
"Listen then, Jacques," Number One of that name sternly interposed. "Know
that a petition was presented to the King and Queen. All here, yourself
excepted, saw the King take it, in his carriage in the street, sitting
beside the Queen. It is Defarge whom you see here, who, at the hazard of
his life, darted out before the horses, with the petition in his hand."
"And once again listen, Jacques!" said the kneeling Number Three: his
fingers ever wandering over and over those fine nerves, with a strikingly
greedy air, as if he hungered for something—that was neither food
nor drink; "the guard, horse and foot, surrounded the petitioner, and
struck him blows. You hear?"
"I hear, messieurs."
"Go on then," said Defarge.
"Again; on the other hand, they whisper at the fountain," resumed the
countryman, "that he is brought down into our country to be executed on
the spot, and that he will very certainly be executed. They even whisper
that because he has slain Monseigneur, and because Monseigneur was the
father of his tenants—serfs—what you will—he will be
executed as a parricide. One old man says at the fountain, that his right
hand, armed with the knife, will be burnt off before his face; that, into
wounds which will be made in his arms, his breast, and his legs, there
will be poured boiling oil, melted lead, hot resin, wax, and sulphur;
finally, that he will be torn limb from limb by four strong horses. That
old man says, all this was actually done to a prisoner who made an attempt
on the life of the late King, Louis Fifteen. But how do I know if he lies?
I am not a scholar."
"Listen once again then, Jacques!" said the man with the restless hand and
the craving air. "The name of that prisoner was Damiens, and it was all
done in open day, in the open streets of this city of Paris; and nothing
was more noticed in the vast concourse that saw it done, than the crowd of
ladies of quality and fashion, who were full of eager attention to the
last—to the last, Jacques, prolonged until nightfall, when he had
lost two legs and an arm, and still breathed! And it was done—why,
how old are you?"
"Thirty-five," said the mender of roads, who looked sixty.
"It was done when you were more than ten years old; you might have seen
"Enough!" said Defarge, with grim impatience. "Long live the Devil! Go
"Well! Some whisper this, some whisper that; they speak of nothing else;
even the fountain appears to fall to that tune. At length, on Sunday night
when all the village is asleep, come soldiers, winding down from the
prison, and their guns ring on the stones of the little street. Workmen
dig, workmen hammer, soldiers laugh and sing; in the morning, by the
fountain, there is raised a gallows forty feet high, poisoning the water."
The mender of roads looked through rather than at the low
ceiling, and pointed as if he saw the gallows somewhere in the sky.
"All work is stopped, all assemble there, nobody leads the cows out, the
cows are there with the rest. At midday, the roll of drums. Soldiers have
marched into the prison in the night, and he is in the midst of many
soldiers. He is bound as before, and in his mouth there is a gag—tied
so, with a tight string, making him look almost as if he laughed." He
suggested it, by creasing his face with his two thumbs, from the corners
of his mouth to his ears. "On the top of the gallows is fixed the knife,
blade upwards, with its point in the air. He is hanged there forty feet
high—and is left hanging, poisoning the water."
They looked at one another, as he used his blue cap to wipe his face, on
which the perspiration had started afresh while he recalled the spectacle.
"It is frightful, messieurs. How can the women and the children draw
water! Who can gossip of an evening, under that shadow! Under it, have I
said? When I left the village, Monday evening as the sun was going to bed,
and looked back from the hill, the shadow struck across the church, across
the mill, across the prison—seemed to strike across the earth,
messieurs, to where the sky rests upon it!"
The hungry man gnawed one of his fingers as he looked at the other three,
and his finger quivered with the craving that was on him.
"That's all, messieurs. I left at sunset (as I had been warned to do), and
I walked on, that night and half next day, until I met (as I was warned I
should) this comrade. With him, I came on, now riding and now walking,
through the rest of yesterday and through last night. And here you see
After a gloomy silence, the first Jacques said, "Good! You have acted and
recounted faithfully. Will you wait for us a little, outside the door?"
"Very willingly," said the mender of roads. Whom Defarge escorted to the
top of the stairs, and, leaving seated there, returned.
The three had risen, and their heads were together when he came back to
"How say you, Jacques?" demanded Number One. "To be registered?"
"To be registered, as doomed to destruction," returned Defarge.
"Magnificent!" croaked the man with the craving.
"The chateau, and all the race?" inquired the first.
"The chateau and all the race," returned Defarge. "Extermination."
The hungry man repeated, in a rapturous croak, "Magnificent!" and began
gnawing another finger.
"Are you sure," asked Jacques Two, of Defarge, "that no embarrassment can
arise from our manner of keeping the register? Without doubt it is safe,
for no one beyond ourselves can decipher it; but shall we always be able
to decipher it—or, I ought to say, will she?"
"Jacques," returned Defarge, drawing himself up, "if madame my wife
undertook to keep the register in her memory alone, she would not lose a
word of it—not a syllable of it. Knitted, in her own stitches and
her own symbols, it will always be as plain to her as the sun. Confide in
Madame Defarge. It would be easier for the weakest poltroon that lives, to
erase himself from existence, than to erase one letter of his name or
crimes from the knitted register of Madame Defarge."
There was a murmur of confidence and approval, and then the man who
hungered, asked: "Is this rustic to be sent back soon? I hope so. He is
very simple; is he not a little dangerous?"
"He knows nothing," said Defarge; "at least nothing more than would easily
elevate himself to a gallows of the same height. I charge myself with him;
let him remain with me; I will take care of him, and set him on his road.
He wishes to see the fine world—the King, the Queen, and Court; let
him see them on Sunday."
"What?" exclaimed the hungry man, staring. "Is it a good sign, that he
wishes to see Royalty and Nobility?"
"Jacques," said Defarge; "judiciously show a cat milk, if you wish her to
thirst for it. Judiciously show a dog his natural prey, if you wish him to
bring it down one day."
Nothing more was said, and the mender of roads, being found already dozing
on the topmost stair, was advised to lay himself down on the pallet-bed
and take some rest. He needed no persuasion, and was soon asleep.
Worse quarters than Defarge's wine-shop, could easily have been found in
Paris for a provincial slave of that degree. Saving for a mysterious dread
of madame by which he was constantly haunted, his life was very new and
agreeable. But, madame sat all day at her counter, so expressly
unconscious of him, and so particularly determined not to perceive that
his being there had any connection with anything below the surface, that
he shook in his wooden shoes whenever his eye lighted on her. For, he
contended with himself that it was impossible to foresee what that lady
might pretend next; and he felt assured that if she should take it into
her brightly ornamented head to pretend that she had seen him do a murder
and afterwards flay the victim, she would infallibly go through with it
until the play was played out.
Therefore, when Sunday came, the mender of roads was not enchanted (though
he said he was) to find that madame was to accompany monsieur and himself
to Versailles. It was additionally disconcerting to have madame knitting
all the way there, in a public conveyance; it was additionally
disconcerting yet, to have madame in the crowd in the afternoon, still
with her knitting in her hands as the crowd waited to see the carriage of
the King and Queen.
"You work hard, madame," said a man near her.
"Yes," answered Madame Defarge; "I have a good deal to do."
"What do you make, madame?"
"For instance," returned Madame Defarge, composedly, "shrouds."
The man moved a little further away, as soon as he could, and the mender
of roads fanned himself with his blue cap: feeling it mightily close and
oppressive. If he needed a King and Queen to restore him, he was fortunate
in having his remedy at hand; for, soon the large-faced King and the
fair-faced Queen came in their golden coach, attended by the shining
Bull's Eye of their Court, a glittering multitude of laughing ladies and
fine lords; and in jewels and silks and powder and splendour and elegantly
spurning figures and handsomely disdainful faces of both sexes, the mender
of roads bathed himself, so much to his temporary intoxication, that he
cried Long live the King, Long live the Queen, Long live everybody and
everything! as if he had never heard of ubiquitous Jacques in his time.
Then, there were gardens, courtyards, terraces, fountains, green banks,
more King and Queen, more Bull's Eye, more lords and ladies, more Long
live they all! until he absolutely wept with sentiment. During the whole
of this scene, which lasted some three hours, he had plenty of shouting
and weeping and sentimental company, and throughout Defarge held him by
the collar, as if to restrain him from flying at the objects of his brief
devotion and tearing them to pieces.
"Bravo!" said Defarge, clapping him on the back when it was over, like a
patron; "you are a good boy!"
The mender of roads was now coming to himself, and was mistrustful of
having made a mistake in his late demonstrations; but no.
"You are the fellow we want," said Defarge, in his ear; "you make these
fools believe that it will last for ever. Then, they are the more
insolent, and it is the nearer ended."
"Hey!" cried the mender of roads, reflectively; "that's true."
"These fools know nothing. While they despise your breath, and would stop
it for ever and ever, in you or in a hundred like you rather than in one
of their own horses or dogs, they only know what your breath tells them.
Let it deceive them, then, a little longer; it cannot deceive them too
Madame Defarge looked superciliously at the client, and nodded in
"As to you," said she, "you would shout and shed tears for anything, if it
made a show and a noise. Say! Would you not?"
"Truly, madame, I think so. For the moment."
"If you were shown a great heap of dolls, and were set upon them to pluck
them to pieces and despoil them for your own advantage, you would pick out
the richest and gayest. Say! Would you not?"
"Truly yes, madame."
"Yes. And if you were shown a flock of birds, unable to fly, and were set
upon them to strip them of their feathers for your own advantage, you
would set upon the birds of the finest feathers; would you not?"
"It is true, madame."
"You have seen both dolls and birds to-day," said Madame Defarge, with a
wave of her hand towards the place where they had last been apparent;
"now, go home!"