Charles Dickens

Retold by Ralph Mowat

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Two men speak of love
Twelve months after the death of the Marquis in France, Charles Darnay had become a successful teacher of French in London. He had known, when he came to London, that he would have to work hard to earn his living, and he was successful. He was also in love. He had loved Lucie Manette from the time when his life was in danger in the Old Bailey. He had never heard a sound so sweet as her gentle voice; he had never seen a face so beautiful as hers. But he had never spoken to her about his love. The death of his uncle in France had become, over the twelve months, like a dream to him, but he had said nothing to Lucie of his feelings, nor of what had happened. He had good reason for this.
But one day in the summer he came to Dr Manette's home in London. He knew that Lucie was out with Miss Pross, and he had decided to speak to her father. Dr Manette was now strong in body and mind, and sad memories of his long years in prison did not come back to him often.
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When Darnay arrived, the Doctor welcomed him warmly.
'Dr Manette,' said Darnay, 'I know that Lucie is out. But I have come here today to speak to you.'
There was a silence. 'Do you want to speak to me about Lucie?' asked the Doctor, slowly.
'Yes. Dear Dr Manette, I love your daughter dearly. If there was ever love in the world, I love Lucie.' 'I believe you,' said Dr Manette sadly. 'It's very hard for me to speak of her at any time, but I believe you, Charles Darnay. Have you spoken to Lucie about your love?'
'No, never. I know how much your daughter means to you, Dr Manette. Her love for you, and your love for her, these are the greatest things in your life, and in hers. I love Lucie. With all my heart I love her. But I do not want to come between you and her. The two of you will never be separated because of me.'
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For a moment Dr Manette turned his head away, and his eyes were full of fear, and pain. Then he looked back at Darnay, and tried to smile.
'You have spoken very honestly, Charles,' he said. 'Have you any reason to believe that Lucie loves you?'
'None!'
'Then what do you want from me?'
'A promise. A promise that if Lucie ever tells you that she loves me, you will not speak against me, and will tell her what I have said. I know that she would never accept me if she believed that it would make you unhappy.'
'I can promise you more than that, Charles. If Lucie ever tells me that she loves you, I shall give her to you.'
'Thank you, Dr Manette,' said Darnay, gratefully. 'There is one thing more. My name in England is not my real name. I want to tell you what my real name is, and why I am in England.'
'Stop!' said the Doctor. He had even put his hands over his ears. 'I don't want to know. Tell me when I ask you. If Lucie agrees to marry you, you shall tell me on the morning of your marriage.'
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It was dark when Darnay left Dr Manette, and it was some time later when Lucie and Miss Pross came home.
'Father,' Lucie called, 'where are you?' She heard no answer, but there were strange sounds coming from her father's bedroom. Frightened, she ran upstairs and found her father, pale and silent, busy at his old prison work of making shoes. The shadow of the Bastille had fallen on him again. She took his arm and spoke gently to him, and together they walked up and down for a long time until at last Dr Manette went quietly to bed.
Although Mr Carton visited Dr Manette's house quite often, he usually said very little when he was there. One day in August he arrived when Dr Manette was out and he was received by Lucie. She had always been a little shy with him, but on that day she noticed something different in his face.
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'Aren't you well, Mr Carton?' she asked.
'No, probably not, Miss Manette, but my way of life is not good for my health.'
'That seems sad,' said Lucie gently. 'Why do you not change your way of life?'
'It's too late for that. I shall never be better than I am. But, Miss Manette, there is something that I want to say to you, but I find it so difficult. Will you listen to me?'
'If it will help you, Mr Carton, I will be happy to listen to you,' said Lucie, but she was pale and trembling. 'Miss Manette, I know that you could never have feelings of love for me, a man who has spent his life so badly.'
'Even without my love, Mr Carton, can I not save you? Can I not help you?'
'No, Miss Manette,' said Carton. 'Even if it was possible for you to love me, it is too late for me. I would only make you sad, and destroy your life. But it has been a last dream of my heart. To see you and your father together, to see the home that you have made for him - this has brought back old and happier memories for me.'
'Can I do nothing to help you?' asked Lucie sadly.
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'Only this, Miss Manette. Let me remember that I spoke to you of the feelings of my heart, and that you were kind and gentle towards me.'
'Oh, Mr Carton. Try again to change.'
'No, Miss Manette, it is too late. My bad habits will never change now. But tell me that you will never speak of what I have said today, not to anyone, not even to the person dearest to you.'
'Mr Carton,' said Lucie. 'This is your secret. No one will ever know of it from me.'
'Thank you, Miss Manette. I shall never speak of this again. But in the hour of my death, it will be a happy memory for me that my last words of love were to you.'
Lucie had never heard Mr Carton speak like this before. Tears came to her eyes as she thought of his hopeless, miserable life.
'Don't cry,' said Sydney Carton. 'I am not worth your love. But you should know that for you, or for anyone close to you, I would do anything. Please remember always, that there is a man who would give his life to keep someone you love alive and close to you. Goodbye, Miss Manette.'
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On the day of Lucie's marriage to Charles Darnay, Mr Lorry and Miss Pross stood, with Lucie, outside the door of Dr Manette's room. Inside, the Doctor and Mr Darnay had been talking together for a long time.
Soon it would be time to leave for the church. Lucie looked very beautiful, and Mr Lorry watched her proudly. He talked about the day, so long ago, when he had brought Lucie, as a baby in his arms, from France to England. Miss Pross, too, had her memories and thought fondly of her brother Solomon. He had stolen money from her many years ago and she had never seen him since then, but she still loved him.
The door of the Doctor's room opened and he came out with Charles Darnay. The Doctor's face was white, but he was calm. He took his daughter's arm and they went out to the waiting coach. The others followed in a second coach and soon, in a nearby church, Lucie Manette and Charles Darnay were married.
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After the marriage Lucie and Charles came back to the house for breakfast, and then Lucie had to say goodbye to her father for two weeks - the first time they had not been together since his return from Paris.
When Lucie and Charles had left, Mr Lorry noticed a change in the Doctor. A little sadness was natural, but there was a lost, frightened look in the Doctor's eyes, which worried Mr Lorry very much. When he left to go to Tellson's Bank, he whispered to Miss Pross that he would return as quickly as he could.
Two hours later he hurried back to the house, and Miss Pross met him at the door.
'Oh, what shall we do, Mr Lorry?' she cried. 'He doesn't know me, and is making shoes again!'
Mr Lorry went up to the Doctor's room. 'Dr Manette, my dear friend. Look at me. Don't you remember me?'
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But Dr Manette said nothing and worked on in silence. Once again, he was a prisoner in the Bastille, without friends or family, without even a name of his own.
For nine days and nine nights the shoemaker worked on, leaving his table only to sleep, eat, or walk up and down his room. Mr Lorry sat with him night and day, talking gently to him from time to time, trying to bring his friend's mind back to the present. Then at last, on the tenth morning, the shoemaking work was put away, and Dr Alexandre Manette, pale but calm, was his old self again. Lucie was never told, and in the quiet and happy years that followed her marriage, Dr Manette remained strong in mind and body.


 


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