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III. A Disappointment – 3

Charles DickensMar 01, 2020'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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“Let me interrupt you for a moment. Had he come on board alone?”

“No.”

“How many were with him?”

“Two French gentlemen.”

“Had they conferred together?”

“They had conferred together until the last moment, when it was necessary for the French gentlemen to be landed in their boat.”

“Had any papers been handed about among them, similar to these lists?”

“Some papers had been handed about among them, but I don’t know what papers.”

“Like these in shape and size?”

“Possibly, but indeed I don’t know, although they stood whispering very near to me: because they stood at the top of the cabin steps to have the light of the lamp that was hanging there; it was a dull lamp, and they spoke very low, and I did not hear what they said, and saw only that they looked at papers.”

“Now, to the prisoner’s conversation, Miss Manette.”

“The prisoner was as open in his confidence with me—which arose out of my helpless situation—as he was kind, and good, and useful to my father. I hope,” bursting into tears, “I may not repay him by doing him harm to-day.”

Buzzing from the blue-flies.

“Miss Manette, if the prisoner does not perfectly understand that you give the evidence which it is your duty to give—which you must give—and which you cannot escape from giving—with great unwillingness, he is the only person present in that condition. Please to go on.”

“He told me that he was travelling on business of a delicate and difficult nature, which might get people into trouble, and that he was therefore travelling under an assumed name. He said that this business had, within a few days, taken him to France, and might, at intervals, take him backwards and forwards between France and England for a long time to come.”

“Did he say anything about America, Miss Manette? Be particular.”

“He tried to explain to me how that quarrel had arisen, and he said that, so far as he could judge, it was a wrong and foolish one on England’s part. He added, in a jesting way, that perhaps George Washington might gain almost as great a name in history as George the Third. But there was no harm in his way of saying this: it was said laughingly, and to beguile the time.”

Any strongly marked expression of face on the part of a chief actor in a scene of great interest to whom many eyes are directed, will be unconsciously imitated by the spectators. Her forehead was painfully anxious and intent as she gave this evidence, and, in the pauses when she stopped for the Judge to write it down, watched its effect upon the counsel for and against. Among the lookers-on there was the same expression in all quarters of the court; insomuch, that a great majority of the foreheads there, might have been mirrors reflecting the witness, when the Judge looked up from his notes to glare at that tremendous heresy about George Washington.

Mr. Attorney-General now signified to my Lord, that he deemed it necessary, as a matter of precaution and form, to call the young lady’s father, Doctor Manette. Who was called accordingly.

“Doctor Manette, look upon the prisoner. Have you ever seen him before?”

“Once. When he called at my lodgings in London. Some three years, or three years and a half ago.”

“Can you identify him as your fellow-passenger on board the packet, or speak to his conversation with your daughter?”

“Sir, I can do neither.”

“Is there any particular and special reason for your being unable to do either?”

He answered, in a low voice, “There is.”

“Has it been your misfortune to undergo a long imprisonment, without trial, or even accusation, in your native country, Doctor Manette?”

 

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