Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Big Read III: A Tale of Two Cities: Bk 2, Ch 6-9

click on the photo for its source and more about the plane tree

Book 2: Chapter 6: Hundreds of People (more) (and more)

The Manettes have found and created a sanctuary in Soho. It is as though Lucie Manette brings the sweet touch of nature and spring. The setting is no longer dark. Even the shade under the plane tree is pleasant and cool. Mr. Lorry comes for a visit, and quizzes Miss Pross, "the wild red woman, strong of hand, whose acquaintance he had first made at the Royal George Hotel at Dover," as to whether any clues have surfaced from the Doctor regarding his imprisonment. It seems to me when his "business eye" surfaces, he is sleuthing for something important.

Miss Pross acts as a priestess to her angel, taking care of the family. She tells Lorry they could expect hundreds of people for the doctor, but these were echoes of footsteps in the cool corner under the tree.

Miss Pross's friendship being of the thoroughly practical kind, she had ravaged Soho and the adjacent provinces, in search of impoverished French, who, tempted by shillings and half- crowns, would impart culinary mysteries to her. From these decayed sons and daughters of Gaul, she had acquired such wonderful arts, that the woman and girl who formed the staff of domestics regarded her as quite a Sorceress, or Cinderella's Godmother: who would send out for a fowl, a rabbit, a vegetable or two from the garden, and change them into anything she pleased.
Lucie holds court under the plane-tree, bringing the wine, "and the plane-tree whispered to them in its own way above their heads."
Still, the Hundreds of people did not present themselves. Mr. Darnay presented himself while they were sitting under the plane-tree, but he was only One.
Again, Lucie's father is unsettled by Mr. Darnay. Does it have to do with him, or with his tale of the ashes of paper and pouch found deep in the Tower dungeon? Mr. Lorry notices.
Tea-time, and Miss Pross making tea, with another fit of the jerks upon her, and yet no Hundreds of people. Mr. Carton had lounged in, but he made only Two.
They've been driven indoors by a storm. "The footsteps were incessant, and the hurry of them became more and more rapid. The corner echoed and re-echoed with the tread of feet." They are as if a prophecy, Lucie "imagined them the footsteps of the people who are to come into my life, and my father's."

Book 2: Chapter 7: Monseigneur in Town

Could the Monseigneur be more decadent? His is the classic story of the former rich marrying his family into the newly rich, while despising the son-in-law. The son-in-law is a Farmer-General, which appears to be much like a stock-broker...he invests money in a venture, and receives returns on his holdings. It seems the more meaningless the activities of the nobility, the more it signifies the entitlement of the nobility. Mothers do not mother their babies.
Peasant women kept the unfashionable babies close, and brought them up, and charming grandmammas of sixty dressed and supped as at twenty.
Aha. Dickens is pulling an Aristophanes here, with his Convulsionists and his Dervishes. When the Monseigneur's party is over, the last man to leave sums it up:
"I devote you," said this person, stopping at the last door on his way, and turning in the direction of the sanctuary, "to the Devil!"
This same man, marked by treacherous, cruel nostrils, drove his carriage without care for human life or limb.
With a wild rattle and clatter, and an inhuman abandonment of consideration not easy to be understood in these days, the carriage dashed through streets and swept round corners, with women screaming before it, and men clutching each other and clutching children out of its way.
He kills a child, and tosses a gold coin for the injury while complaining of the injury to his horses.

Defarge gains the notice of the Marquis with his advice to the bereft father. The Marquis tosses him a gold coin. Someone tosses it back. How dare he? And who is there but Madame Defarge, knitting.
The father had long ago taken up his bundle and bidden himself away with it, when the women who had tended the bundle while it lay on the base of the fountain, sat there watching the running of the water and the rolling of the Fancy Ball--when the one woman who had stood conspicuous, knitting, still knitted on with the steadfastness of Fate.
Book 2: Chapter 8: Monseigneur in the Country

The Marquis is absolutely heartless. People beneath him are not people. And Monsieur Charles has arrived from England. Is he a dark one, as I feared?

Book 2: Chapter 9: The Gorgon's Head (more)

OMG Charles Darnay is the nephew of the evilest man so far!

But the uncle wants him imprisoned! It is only his disfavor in the court that keeps the nephew free.

This about sums up their relationship:
"We have so asserted our station, both in the old time and in the modern time also," said the nephew, gloomily, "that I believe our name to be more detested than any name in France."

"Let us hope so," said the uncle. "Detestation of the high is the involuntary homage of the low."
Oh oh oh. Early on, Mr. Lorry spoke of two gentlemen to the young Lucie. One was her father...was the other the father of Charles?

Charles would renounce his heritage...such a noble youth.
"To the eye it is fair enough, here; but seen in its integrity, under the sky, and by the daylight, it is a crumbling tower of waste, mismanagement, extortion, debt, mortgage, oppression, hunger, nakedness, and suffering."
The blood at the fountain in town has followed the Marquis to the country.
...the sun touched the tops of the still trees, and poured its radiance over the hill. In the glow, the water of the chateau fountain seemed to turn to blood, and the stone faces crimsoned.

What winds conveyed this hurry to the grizzled mender of roads, already at work on the hill-top beyond the village, with his day's dinner (not much to carry) lying in a bundle that it was worth no crow's while to peck at, on a heap of stones?

The Gorgon had surveyed the building again in the night, and had added the one stone face wanting; the stone face for which it had waited through about two hundred years.

It lay back on the pillow of Monsieur the Marquis. It was like a fine mask, suddenly startled, made angry, and petrified. Driven home into the heart of the stone figure attached to it, was a knife.
That karmic consequence was swift.

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