The traveller fared slowly on his way, who fared towards Paris from
England in the autumn of the year one thousand seven hundred and
ninety-two. More than enough of bad roads, bad equipages, and bad horses,
he would have encountered to delay him, though the fallen and unfortunate
King of France had been upon his throne in all his glory; but, the changed
times were fraught with other obstacles than these. Every town-gate and
village taxing-house had its band of citizen-patriots, with their national
muskets in a most explosive state of readiness, who stopped all comers and
goers, cross-questioned them, inspected their papers, looked for their
names in lists of their own, turned them back, or sent them on, or stopped
them and laid them in hold, as their capricious judgment or fancy deemed
best for the dawning Republic One and Indivisible, of Liberty, Equality,
Fraternity, or Death.
A very few French leagues of his journey were accomplished, when Charles
Darnay began to perceive that for him along these country roads there was
no hope of return until he should have been declared a good citizen at
Paris. Whatever might befall now, he must on to his journey's end. Not a
mean village closed upon him, not a common barrier dropped across the road
behind him, but he knew it to be another iron door in the series that was
barred between him and England. The universal watchfulness so encompassed
him, that if he had been taken in a net, or were being forwarded to his
destination in a cage, he could not have felt his freedom more completely
This universal watchfulness not only stopped him on the highway twenty
times in a stage, but retarded his progress twenty times in a day, by
riding after him and taking him back, riding before him and stopping him
by anticipation, riding with him and keeping him in charge. He had been
days upon his journey in France alone, when he went to bed tired out, in a
little town on the high road, still a long way from Paris.
Nothing but the production of the afflicted Gabelle's letter from his
prison of the Abbaye would have got him on so far. His difficulty at the
guard-house in this small place had been such, that he felt his journey to
have come to a crisis. And he was, therefore, as little surprised as a man
could be, to find himself awakened at the small inn to which he had been
remitted until morning, in the middle of the night.
Awakened by a timid local functionary and three armed patriots in rough
red caps and with pipes in their mouths, who sat down on the bed.
"Emigrant," said the functionary, "I am going to send you on to Paris,
under an escort."
"Citizen, I desire nothing more than to get to Paris, though I could
dispense with the escort."
"Silence!" growled a red-cap, striking at the coverlet with the butt-end
of his musket. "Peace, aristocrat!"
"It is as the good patriot says," observed the timid functionary. "You are
an aristocrat, and must have an escort—and must pay for it."
"I have no choice," said Charles Darnay.
"Choice! Listen to him!" cried the same scowling red-cap. "As if it was
not a favour to be protected from the lamp-iron!"
"It is always as the good patriot says," observed the functionary. "Rise
and dress yourself, emigrant."
Darnay complied, and was taken back to the guard-house, where other
patriots in rough red caps were smoking, drinking, and sleeping, by a
watch-fire. Here he paid a heavy price for his escort, and hence he
started with it on the wet, wet roads at three o'clock in the morning.
The escort were two mounted patriots in red caps and tri-coloured
cockades, armed with national muskets and sabres, who rode one on either
side of him.
The escorted governed his own horse, but a loose line was attached to his
bridle, the end of which one of the patriots kept girded round his wrist.
In this state they set forth with the sharp rain driving in their faces:
clattering at a heavy dragoon trot over the uneven town pavement, and out
upon the mire-deep roads. In this state they traversed without change,
except of horses and pace, all the mire-deep leagues that lay between them
and the capital.
They travelled in the night, halting an hour or two after daybreak, and
lying by until the twilight fell. The escort were so wretchedly clothed,
that they twisted straw round their bare legs, and thatched their ragged
shoulders to keep the wet off. Apart from the personal discomfort of being
so attended, and apart from such considerations of present danger as arose
from one of the patriots being chronically drunk, and carrying his musket
very recklessly, Charles Darnay did not allow the restraint that was laid
upon him to awaken any serious fears in his breast; for, he reasoned with
himself that it could have no reference to the merits of an individual
case that was not yet stated, and of representations, confirmable by the
prisoner in the Abbaye, that were not yet made.
But when they came to the town of Beauvais—which they did at
eventide, when the streets were filled with people—he could not
conceal from himself that the aspect of affairs was very alarming. An
ominous crowd gathered to see him dismount of the posting-yard, and many
voices called out loudly, "Down with the emigrant!"
He stopped in the act of swinging himself out of his saddle, and, resuming
it as his safest place, said:
"Emigrant, my friends! Do you not see me here, in France, of my own will?"
"You are a cursed emigrant," cried a farrier, making at him in a furious
manner through the press, hammer in hand; "and you are a cursed
The postmaster interposed himself between this man and the rider's bridle
(at which he was evidently making), and soothingly said, "Let him be; let
him be! He will be judged at Paris."
"Judged!" repeated the farrier, swinging his hammer. "Ay! and condemned as
a traitor." At this the crowd roared approval.
Checking the postmaster, who was for turning his horse's head to the yard
(the drunken patriot sat composedly in his saddle looking on, with the
line round his wrist), Darnay said, as soon as he could make his voice
"Friends, you deceive yourselves, or you are deceived. I am not a
"He lies!" cried the smith. "He is a traitor since the decree. His life is
forfeit to the people. His cursed life is not his own!"
At the instant when Darnay saw a rush in the eyes of the crowd, which
another instant would have brought upon him, the postmaster turned his
horse into the yard, the escort rode in close upon his horse's flanks, and
the postmaster shut and barred the crazy double gates. The farrier struck
a blow upon them with his hammer, and the crowd groaned; but, no more was
"What is this decree that the smith spoke of?" Darnay asked the
postmaster, when he had thanked him, and stood beside him in the yard.
"Truly, a decree for selling the property of emigrants."
"On the fourteenth."
"The day I left England!"
"Everybody says it is but one of several, and that there will be others—if
there are not already—banishing all emigrants, and condemning all to
death who return. That is what he meant when he said your life was not
"But there are no such decrees yet?"
"What do I know!" said the postmaster, shrugging his shoulders; "there may
be, or there will be. It is all the same. What would you have?"
They rested on some straw in a loft until the middle of the night, and
then rode forward again when all the town was asleep. Among the many wild
changes observable on familiar things which made this wild ride unreal,
not the least was the seeming rarity of sleep. After long and lonely
spurring over dreary roads, they would come to a cluster of poor cottages,
not steeped in darkness, but all glittering with lights, and would find
the people, in a ghostly manner in the dead of the night, circling hand in
hand round a shrivelled tree of Liberty, or all drawn up together singing
a Liberty song. Happily, however, there was sleep in Beauvais that night
to help them out of it and they passed on once more into solitude and
loneliness: jingling through the untimely cold and wet, among impoverished
fields that had yielded no fruits of the earth that year, diversified by
the blackened remains of burnt houses, and by the sudden emergence from
ambuscade, and sharp reining up across their way, of patriot patrols on
the watch on all the roads.
Daylight at last found them before the wall of Paris. The barrier was
closed and strongly guarded when they rode up to it.
"Where are the papers of this prisoner?" demanded a resolute-looking man
in authority, who was summoned out by the guard.
Naturally struck by the disagreeable word, Charles Darnay requested the
speaker to take notice that he was a free traveller and French citizen, in
charge of an escort which the disturbed state of the country had imposed
upon him, and which he had paid for.
"Where," repeated the same personage, without taking any heed of him
whatever, "are the papers of this prisoner?"
The drunken patriot had them in his cap, and produced them. Casting his
eyes over Gabelle's letter, the same personage in authority showed some
disorder and surprise, and looked at Darnay with a close attention.
He left escort and escorted without saying a word, however, and went into
the guard-room; meanwhile, they sat upon their horses outside the gate.
Looking about him while in this state of suspense, Charles Darnay observed
that the gate was held by a mixed guard of soldiers and patriots, the
latter far outnumbering the former; and that while ingress into the city
for peasants' carts bringing in supplies, and for similar traffic and
traffickers, was easy enough, egress, even for the homeliest people, was
very difficult. A numerous medley of men and women, not to mention beasts
and vehicles of various sorts, was waiting to issue forth; but, the
previous identification was so strict, that they filtered through the
barrier very slowly. Some of these people knew their turn for examination
to be so far off, that they lay down on the ground to sleep or smoke,
while others talked together, or loitered about. The red cap and
tri-colour cockade were universal, both among men and women.
When he had sat in his saddle some half-hour, taking note of these things,
Darnay found himself confronted by the same man in authority, who directed
the guard to open the barrier. Then he delivered to the escort, drunk and
sober, a receipt for the escorted, and requested him to dismount. He did
so, and the two patriots, leading his tired horse, turned and rode away
without entering the city.
He accompanied his conductor into a guard-room, smelling of common wine
and tobacco, where certain soldiers and patriots, asleep and awake, drunk
and sober, and in various neutral states between sleeping and waking,
drunkenness and sobriety, were standing and lying about. The light in the
guard-house, half derived from the waning oil-lamps of the night, and half
from the overcast day, was in a correspondingly uncertain condition. Some
registers were lying open on a desk, and an officer of a coarse, dark
aspect, presided over these.
"Citizen Defarge," said he to Darnay's conductor, as he took a slip of
paper to write on. "Is this the emigrant Evremonde?"
"This is the man."
"Your age, Evremonde?"
"Without doubt. Where is your wife, Evremonde?"
"Without doubt. You are consigned, Evremonde, to the prison of La Force."
"Just Heaven!" exclaimed Darnay. "Under what law, and for what offence?"
The officer looked up from his slip of paper for a moment.
"We have new laws, Evremonde, and new offences, since you were here." He
said it with a hard smile, and went on writing.
"I entreat you to observe that I have come here voluntarily, in response
to that written appeal of a fellow-countryman which lies before you. I
demand no more than the opportunity to do so without delay. Is not that my
"Emigrants have no rights, Evremonde," was the stolid reply. The officer
wrote until he had finished, read over to himself what he had written,
sanded it, and handed it to Defarge, with the words "In secret."
Defarge motioned with the paper to the prisoner that he must accompany
him. The prisoner obeyed, and a guard of two armed patriots attended them.
"Is it you," said Defarge, in a low voice, as they went down the
guardhouse steps and turned into Paris, "who married the daughter of
Doctor Manette, once a prisoner in the Bastille that is no more?"
"Yes," replied Darnay, looking at him with surprise.
"My name is Defarge, and I keep a wine-shop in the Quarter Saint Antoine.
Possibly you have heard of me."
"My wife came to your house to reclaim her father? Yes!"
The word "wife" seemed to serve as a gloomy reminder to Defarge, to say
with sudden impatience, "In the name of that sharp female newly-born, and
called La Guillotine, why did you come to France?"
"You heard me say why, a minute ago. Do you not believe it is the truth?"
"A bad truth for you," said Defarge, speaking with knitted brows, and
looking straight before him.
"Indeed I am lost here. All here is so unprecedented, so changed, so
sudden and unfair, that I am absolutely lost. Will you render me a little
"None." Defarge spoke, always looking straight before him.
"Will you answer me a single question?"
"Perhaps. According to its nature. You can say what it is."
"In this prison that I am going to so unjustly, shall I have some free
communication with the world outside?"
"You will see."
"I am not to be buried there, prejudged, and without any means of
presenting my case?"
"You will see. But, what then? Other people have been similarly buried in
worse prisons, before now."
"But never by me, Citizen Defarge."
Defarge glanced darkly at him for answer, and walked on in a steady and
set silence. The deeper he sank into this silence, the fainter hope there
was—or so Darnay thought—of his softening in any slight
degree. He, therefore, made haste to say:
"It is of the utmost importance to me (you know, Citizen, even better than
I, of how much importance), that I should be able to communicate to Mr.
Lorry of Tellson's Bank, an English gentleman who is now in Paris, the
simple fact, without comment, that I have been thrown into the prison of
La Force. Will you cause that to be done for me?"
"I will do," Defarge doggedly rejoined, "nothing for you. My duty is to my
country and the People. I am the sworn servant of both, against you. I
will do nothing for you."
Charles Darnay felt it hopeless to entreat him further, and his pride was
touched besides. As they walked on in silence, he could not but see how
used the people were to the spectacle of prisoners passing along the
streets. The very children scarcely noticed him. A few passers turned
their heads, and a few shook their fingers at him as an aristocrat;
otherwise, that a man in good clothes should be going to prison, was no
more remarkable than that a labourer in working clothes should be going to
work. In one narrow, dark, and dirty street through which they passed, an
excited orator, mounted on a stool, was addressing an excited audience on
the crimes against the people, of the king and the royal family. The few
words that he caught from this man's lips, first made it known to Charles
Darnay that the king was in prison, and that the foreign ambassadors had
one and all left Paris. On the road (except at Beauvais) he had heard
absolutely nothing. The escort and the universal watchfulness had
completely isolated him.
That he had fallen among far greater dangers than those which had
developed themselves when he left England, he of course knew now. That
perils had thickened about him fast, and might thicken faster and faster
yet, he of course knew now. He could not but admit to himself that he
might not have made this journey, if he could have foreseen the events of
a few days. And yet his misgivings were not so dark as, imagined by the
light of this later time, they would appear. Troubled as the future was,
it was the unknown future, and in its obscurity there was ignorant hope.
The horrible massacre, days and nights long, which, within a few rounds of
the clock, was to set a great mark of blood upon the blessed garnering
time of harvest, was as far out of his knowledge as if it had been a
hundred thousand years away. The "sharp female newly-born, and called La
Guillotine," was hardly known to him, or to the generality of people, by
name. The frightful deeds that were to be soon done, were probably
unimagined at that time in the brains of the doers. How could they have a
place in the shadowy conceptions of a gentle mind?
Of unjust treatment in detention and hardship, and in cruel separation
from his wife and child, he foreshadowed the likelihood, or the certainty;
but, beyond this, he dreaded nothing distinctly. With this on his mind,
which was enough to carry into a dreary prison courtyard, he arrived at
the prison of La Force.
A man with a bloated face opened the strong wicket, to whom Defarge
presented "The Emigrant Evremonde."
"What the Devil! How many more of them!" exclaimed the man with the
Defarge took his receipt without noticing the exclamation, and withdrew,
with his two fellow-patriots.
"What the Devil, I say again!" exclaimed the gaoler, left with his wife.
"How many more!"
The gaoler's wife, being provided with no answer to the question, merely
replied, "One must have patience, my dear!" Three turnkeys who entered
responsive to a bell she rang, echoed the sentiment, and one added, "For
the love of Liberty;" which sounded in that place like an inappropriate
The prison of La Force was a gloomy prison, dark and filthy, and with a
horrible smell of foul sleep in it. Extraordinary how soon the noisome
flavour of imprisoned sleep, becomes manifest in all such places that are
ill cared for!
"In secret, too," grumbled the gaoler, looking at the written paper. "As
if I was not already full to bursting!"
He stuck the paper on a file, in an ill-humour, and Charles Darnay awaited
his further pleasure for half an hour: sometimes, pacing to and fro in the
strong arched room: sometimes, resting on a stone seat: in either case
detained to be imprinted on the memory of the chief and his subordinates.
"Come!" said the chief, at length taking up his keys, "come with me,
Through the dismal prison twilight, his new charge accompanied him by
corridor and staircase, many doors clanging and locking behind them, until
they came into a large, low, vaulted chamber, crowded with prisoners of
both sexes. The women were seated at a long table, reading and writing,
knitting, sewing, and embroidering; the men were for the most part
standing behind their chairs, or lingering up and down the room.
In the instinctive association of prisoners with shameful crime and
disgrace, the new-comer recoiled from this company. But the crowning
unreality of his long unreal ride, was, their all at once rising to
receive him, with every refinement of manner known to the time, and with
all the engaging graces and courtesies of life.
So strangely clouded were these refinements by the prison manners and
gloom, so spectral did they become in the inappropriate squalor and misery
through which they were seen, that Charles Darnay seemed to stand in a
company of the dead. Ghosts all! The ghost of beauty, the ghost of
stateliness, the ghost of elegance, the ghost of pride, the ghost of
frivolity, the ghost of wit, the ghost of youth, the ghost of age, all
waiting their dismissal from the desolate shore, all turning on him eyes
that were changed by the death they had died in coming there.
It struck him motionless. The gaoler standing at his side, and the other
gaolers moving about, who would have been well enough as to appearance in
the ordinary exercise of their functions, looked so extravagantly coarse
contrasted with sorrowing mothers and blooming daughters who were there—with
the apparitions of the coquette, the young beauty, and the mature woman
delicately bred—that the inversion of all experience and likelihood
which the scene of shadows presented, was heightened to its utmost.
Surely, ghosts all. Surely, the long unreal ride some progress of disease
that had brought him to these gloomy shades!
"In the name of the assembled companions in misfortune," said a gentleman
of courtly appearance and address, coming forward, "I have the honour of
giving you welcome to La Force, and of condoling with you on the calamity
that has brought you among us. May it soon terminate happily! It would be
an impertinence elsewhere, but it is not so here, to ask your name and
Charles Darnay roused himself, and gave the required information, in words
as suitable as he could find.
"But I hope," said the gentleman, following the chief gaoler with his
eyes, who moved across the room, "that you are not in secret?"
"I do not understand the meaning of the term, but I have heard them say
"Ah, what a pity! We so much regret it! But take courage; several members
of our society have been in secret, at first, and it has lasted but a
short time." Then he added, raising his voice, "I grieve to inform the
There was a murmur of commiseration as Charles Darnay crossed the room to
a grated door where the gaoler awaited him, and many voices—among
which, the soft and compassionate voices of women were conspicuous—gave
him good wishes and encouragement. He turned at the grated door, to render
the thanks of his heart; it closed under the gaoler's hand; and the
apparitions vanished from his sight forever.
The wicket opened on a stone staircase, leading upward. When they had
ascended forty steps (the prisoner of half an hour already counted them),
the gaoler opened a low black door, and they passed into a solitary cell.
It struck cold and damp, but was not dark.
"Yours," said the gaoler.
"Why am I confined alone?"
"How do I know!"
"I can buy pen, ink, and paper?"
"Such are not my orders. You will be visited, and can ask then. At
present, you may buy your food, and nothing more."
There were in the cell, a chair, a table, and a straw mattress. As the
gaoler made a general inspection of these objects, and of the four walls,
before going out, a wandering fancy wandered through the mind of the
prisoner leaning against the wall opposite to him, that this gaoler was so
unwholesomely bloated, both in face and person, as to look like a man who
had been drowned and filled with water. When the gaoler was gone, he
thought in the same wandering way, "Now am I left, as if I were dead."
Stopping then, to look down at the mattress, he turned from it with a sick
feeling, and thought, "And here in these crawling creatures is the first
condition of the body after death."
"Five paces by four and a half, five paces by four and a half, five paces
by four and a half." The prisoner walked to and fro in his cell, counting
its measurement, and the roar of the city arose like muffled drums with a
wild swell of voices added to them. "He made shoes, he made shoes, he made
shoes." The prisoner counted the measurement again, and paced faster, to
draw his mind with him from that latter repetition. "The ghosts that
vanished when the wicket closed. There was one among them, the appearance
of a lady dressed in black, who was leaning in the embrasure of a window,
and she had a light shining upon her golden hair, and she looked like * *
* * Let us ride on again, for God's sake, through the illuminated villages
with the people all awake! * * * * He made shoes, he made shoes, he made
shoes. * * * * Five paces by four and a half." With such scraps tossing
and rolling upward from the depths of his mind, the prisoner walked faster
and faster, obstinately counting and counting; and the roar of the city
changed to this extent—that it still rolled in like muffled drums,
but with the wail of voices that he knew, in the swell that rose above