Friday, September 19, 2008

The Big Read III: A Tale of Two Cities: Bk 2: Ch. 13-16

Book 2: Chapter 13: The Fellow of No Delicacy

Oooooh. Carton may just get the girl with that "I'm too bad, too irredeemable" schtick. Down through the ages, the good guys have asked, "Why do the women like the bad boys?" So we can save them, but we'll rarely admit it.

"If it will do you any good, Mr. Carton, if it would make you happier, it would make me very glad!"
So while Darney and the Doctor have exchanged promises, Miss Manette has promised to keep Carton's secret of an opened heart, like a knight's ribbon close to her breast.

Chapter 14: The Honest Tradesman (some more)

So old Jerry Crutcher, the messenger for the bank, is a grave-robber. His wife argues with him about his 'honest trade.' Jerry the younger sneaks out to follow him while he 'goes fishing.'
Young Jerry very well knew what it would be; but, when he saw it, and saw his honoured parent about to wrench it open, he was so frightened, being new to the sight, that he made off again, and never stopped until he had run a mile or more.

He would not have stopped then, for anything less necessary than breath, it being a spectral sort of race that he ran, and one highly desirable to get to the end of. He had a strong idea that the coffin he had seen was running after him; and, pictured as hopping on behind him, bolt upright, upon its narrow end, always on the point of overtaking him and hopping on at his side--
I wonder if we'll learn more about Mr. Cruncher's body-buyers, those eager scientists seeking to know the secrets of the anatomy.

Chapter 15: Knitting (continued some more)

Three Jacques report on a tall man getting caught. Was this the assassin of the Marquis? The reporters did not betray their recognition of the man to the soldiers.
"I make a circuit by the prison, on my way to my work. There I see him, high up, behind the bars of a lofty iron cage, bloody and dusty as last night, looking through. He has no hand free, to wave to me; I dare not call to him; he regards me like a dead man."
They "whisper at the fountain" about the pending execution, how it will be especially torturous as it will be treated as a parricide, and how 25 years before a man named Damiens was executed that same way. Damiens, eh. Duly noted, another clue to the mysterious past.
"Are you sure," asked Jacques Two, of Defarge, "that no embarrassment can arise from our manner of keeping the register? Without doubt it is safe, for no one beyond ourselves can decipher it; but shall we always be able to decipher it--or, I ought to say, will she?"

"Jacques," returned Defarge, drawing himself up, "if madame my wife undertook to keep the register in her memory alone, she would not lose a word of it--not a syllable of it. Knitted, in her own stitches and her own symbols, it will always be as plain to her as the sun. Confide in Madame Defarge. It would be easier for the weakest poltroon that lives, to erase himself from existence, than to erase one letter of his name or crimes from the knitted register of Madame Defarge."
Ah, the famous knitting plot. Finally.

Chapter 16: Still Knitting (some more)

Another one for the register. John Barsad, Englishman.
"Age, about forty years; height, about five feet nine; black hair; complexion dark; generally, rather handsome visage; eyes dark, face thin, long, and sallow; nose aquiline, but not straight, having a peculiar inclination towards the left cheek; expression, therefore, sinister."
She's been knitting, knitting, no doubt 'registering' the new recruit.
It was curious. The moment Madame Defarge took up the rose, the customers ceased talking, and began gradually to drop out of the wine-shop.
The tall thin man has entered.
"Ah, the unfortunate, miserable people! So oppressed, too--as you say."

"As you say," madame retorted, correcting him, and deftly knitting an extra something into his name that boded him no good.
The sinister spy reveals that he knew the Doctor and Miss Manette in England, and that she is to marry the son of the Marquis. (I thought that description sounded familiar...but who?) Defarge says,
"--And if it does come, while we live to see it triumph--I hope, for her sake, Destiny will keep her husband out of France."

"Her husband's destiny," said Madame Defarge, with her usual composure, "will take him where he is to go, and will lead him to the end that is to end him. That is all I know."
...she says as she keeps knitting.

Darnay better not go to France.
Madame Defarge with her work in her hand was accustomed to pass from place to place and from group to group: a Missionary--there were many like her--such as the world will do well never to breed again. All the women knitted. They knitted worthless things; but, the mechanical work was a mechanical substitute for eating and drinking....

Another darkness was closing in as surely, when the church bells, then ringing pleasantly in many an airy steeple over France, should be melted into thundering cannon; when the military drums should be beating to drown a wretched voice, that night all potent as the voice of Power and Plenty, Freedom and Life. So much was closing in about the women who sat knitting, knitting, that they their very selves were closing in around a structure yet unbuilt, where they were to sit knitting, knitting, counting dropping heads.
There are knitters these days who speak of it as a revolutionary act. Watch out for those knitters....

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