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III. A Disappointment – 2

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

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The virtuous servant, Roger Cly, swore his way through the case at a great rate. He had taken service with the prisoner, in good faith and simplicity, four years ago. He had asked the prisoner, aboard the Calais packet, if he wanted a handy fellow, and the prisoner had engaged him. He had not asked the prisoner to take the handy fellow as an act of charity—never thought of such a thing. He began to have suspicions of the prisoner, and to keep an eye upon him, soon afterwards. In arranging his clothes, while travelling, he had seen similar lists to these in the prisoner’s pockets, over and over again. He had taken these lists from the drawer of the prisoner’s desk. He had not put them there first. He had seen the prisoner show these identical lists to French gentlemen at Calais, and similar lists to French gentlemen, both at Calais and Boulogne. He loved his country, and couldn’t bear it, and had given information. He had never been suspected of stealing a silver tea-pot; he had been maligned respecting a mustard-pot, but it turned out to be only a plated one. He had known the last witness seven or eight years; that was merely a coincidence. He didn’t call it a particularly curious coincidence; most coincidences were curious. Neither did he call it a curious coincidence that true patriotism was his only motive too. He was a true Briton, and hoped there were many like him.

The blue-flies buzzed again, and Mr. Attorney-General called Mr. Jarvis Lorry.

“Mr. Jarvis Lorry, are you a clerk in Tellson’s bank?”

“I am.”

“On a certain Friday night in November one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, did business occasion you to travel between London and Dover by the mail?”

“It did.”

“Were there any other passengers in the mail?”

“Two.”

“Did they alight on the road in the course of the night?”

“They did.”

“Mr. Lorry, look upon the prisoner. Was he one of those two passengers?”

“I cannot undertake to say that he was.”

“Does he resemble either of these two passengers?”

“Both were so wrapped up, and the night was so dark, and we were all so reserved, that I cannot undertake to say even that.”

“Mr. Lorry, look again upon the prisoner. Supposing him wrapped up as those two passengers were, is there anything in his bulk and stature to render it unlikely that he was one of them?”

“No.”

“You will not swear, Mr. Lorry, that he was not one of them?”

“No.”

“So at least you say he may have been one of them?”

“Yes. Except that I remember them both to have been—like myself—timorous of highwaymen, and the prisoner has not a timorous air.”

“Did you ever see a counterfeit of timidity, Mr. Lorry?”

“I certainly have seen that.”

“Mr. Lorry, look once more upon the prisoner. Have you seen him, to your certain knowledge, before?”

“I have.”

“When?”

“I was returning from France a few days afterwards, and, at Calais, the prisoner came on board the packet-ship in which I returned, and made the voyage with me.”

“At what hour did he come on board?”

“At a little after midnight.”

“In the dead of the night. Was he the only passenger who came on board at that untimely hour?”

“He happened to be the only one.”

“Never mind about ‘happening,’ Mr. Lorry. He was the only passenger who came on board in the dead of the night?”

“He was.”

“Were you travelling alone, Mr. Lorry, or with any companion?”

“With two companions. A gentleman and lady. They are here.”

“They are here. Had you any conversation with the prisoner?”

“Hardly any. The weather was stormy, and the passage long and rough, and I lay on a sofa, almost from shore to shore.”

“Miss Manette!”

The young lady, to whom all eyes had been turned before, and were now turned again, stood up where she had sat. Her father rose with her, and kept her hand drawn through his arm.

“Miss Manette, look upon the prisoner.”

To be confronted with such pity, and such earnest youth and beauty, was far more trying to the accused than to be confronted with all the crowd. Standing, as it were, apart with her on the edge of his grave, not all the staring curiosity that looked on, could, for the moment, nerve him to remain quite still. His hurried right hand parcelled out the herbs before him into imaginary beds of flowers in a garden; and his efforts to control and steady his breathing shook the lips from which the colour rushed to his heart. The buzz of the great flies was loud again.

“Miss Manette, have you seen the prisoner before?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where?”

“On board of the packet-ship just now referred to, sir, and on the same occasion.”

“You are the young lady just now referred to?”

“O! most unhappily, I am!”

The plaintive tone of her compassion merged into the less musical voice of the Judge, as he said something fiercely: “Answer the questions put to you, and make no remark upon them.”

“Miss Manette, had you any conversation with the prisoner on that passage across the Channel?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Recall it.”

In the midst of a profound stillness, she faintly began: “When the gentleman came on board—”

“Do you mean the prisoner?” inquired the Judge, knitting his brows.

“Yes, my Lord.”

“Then say the prisoner.”

“When the prisoner came on board, he noticed that my father,” turning her eyes lovingly to him as he stood beside her, “was much fatigued and in a very weak state of health. My father was so reduced that I was afraid to take him out of the air, and I had made a bed for him on the deck near the cabin steps, and I sat on the deck at his side to take care of him. There were no other passengers that night, but we four. The prisoner was so good as to beg permission to advise me how I could shelter my father from the wind and weather, better than I had done. I had not known how to do it well, not understanding how the wind would set when we were out of the harbour. He did it for me. He expressed great gentleness and kindness for my father’s state, and I am sure he felt it. That was the manner of our beginning to speak together.”

 

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