A Tale of Two Cities

by: Charles Dickens

  Book 3 Chapter 14

page Book 3 Chapter 14: The Knitting Done: Page 6

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“Heaven knows we don’t,” returned Miss Pross, “but have no fear for me. Take me in at the cathedral, at Three o’Clock, or as near it as you can, and I am sure it will be better than our going from here. I feel certain of it. There! Bless you, Mr. Cruncher! Think-not of me, but of the lives that may depend on both of us!” “Heaven knows we don’t,” answered Miss Pross. “But don’t worry about me. Pick me up at the cathedral at three o’clock or as close to three as you can. I’m sure that that will be better than leaving from here. I’m certain of it. There! Bless you, Mr. Cruncher! Don’t worry about me! Worry about the lives of the people who depend on us!”
This exordium, and Miss Pross’s two hands in quite agonised entreaty clasping his, decided Mr. Cruncher. With an encouraging nod or two, he immediately went out to alter the arrangements, and left her by herself to follow as she had proposed. Miss Pross’s grabbed his hands and begged him. This, along with her convincing argument, convinced Mr. Cruncher. He nodded encouragingly once or twice and immediately went out to change their arrangements. He left her by herself to follow later as she had suggested.
The having originated a precaution which was already in course of execution, was a great relief to Miss Pross. The necessity of composing her appearance so that it should attract no special notice in the streets, was another relief. She looked at her watch, and it was twenty minutes past two. She had no time to lose, but must get ready at once. Miss Pross was relieved to have come up with a precaution that was already being put into action. She needed to dress herself in a way that wouldn’t draw attention in the streets. This activity was another relief to her. She looked at her watch. It was twenty minutes past two. She couldn’t waste any time. She had to get ready at once.
Afraid, in her extreme perturbation, of the loneliness of the deserted rooms, and of half-imagined faces peeping from behind every open door in them, Miss Pross got a basin of cold water and began laving her eyes, which were swollen and red. Haunted by her feverish apprehensions, she could not bear to have her sight obscured for a minute at a time by the dripping water, but constantly paused and looked round to see that there was no one watching her. In one of those pauses she recoiled and cried out, for she saw a figure standing in the room. She was distressed and afraid to be alone in the empty rooms. She kept thinking she saw faces peeking out from behind every open door. Miss Pross got a basin of cold water and splashed water on her eyes, which were swollen and red from crying. She was so bothered by her fears that she couldn’t bear to have her sight obstructed by the dripping water for even a minute. She kept pausing and looking around to make sure no one was watching her. In one of those pauses, she drew back and screamed, for she saw someone standing in the room.
The basin fell to the ground broken, and the water flowed to the feet of Madame Defarge. By strange stern ways, and through much staining blood, those feet had come to meet that water. The basin fell and broke on the ground, and the water flowed to the feet of Madame Defarge. Many strange circumstances and much spilling of blood had brought her feet there.
Madame Defarge looked coldly at her, and said, “The wife of Evremonde; where is she?” Madame Defarge looked at her coldly and said, “Where is Evremonde’s wife?”
It flashed upon Miss Pross’s mind that the doors were all standing open, and would suggest the flight. Her first act was to shut them. There were four in the room, and she shut them all. She then placed herself before the door of the chamber which Lucie had occupied. It occurred to Miss Pross that all the doors were open and it would show that they had all fled the city. The first thing she did was close them, and then she moved in front of the door of Lucie’s room.
Madame Defarge’s dark eyes followed her through this rapid movement, and rested on her when it was finished. Miss Pross had nothing beautiful about her; years had not tamed the wildness, or softened the grimness, of her appearance; but, she too was a determined woman in her different way, and she measured Madame Defarge with her eyes, every inch. Madame Defarge watched her with her dark eyes as she moved quickly around the room and stared at her after she was finished. There was nothing beautiful about Miss Pross—age had not made her appearance less wild or less grim—but Miss Pross was a determined woman in her own way. She looked Madame Defarge up and down.
“You might, from your appearance, be the wife of Lucifer,” said Miss Pross, in her breathing. “Nevertheless, you shall not get the better of me. I am an Englishwoman.” “You look like you could be the devil’s wife,” said Miss Pross, breathing heavily. “Even so, you won’t get the better of me. I am an Englishwoman.”
Madame Defarge looked at her scornfully, but still with something of Miss Pross’s own perception that they two were at bay. She saw a tight, hard, wiry woman before her, as Mr. Lorry had seen in the same figure a woman with a strong hand, in the years gone by. She knew full well that Miss Pross was the family’s devoted friend; Miss Pross knew full well that Madame Defarge was the family’s malevolent enemy. Madame Defarge looked at her with contempt, but she understood along with Miss Pross that they were challenging one another. Madame Defarge saw a tight, hard, wiry woman in front of her. She noticed the same things that Mr. Lorry had noticed about her many years ago. She knew very well that Miss Pross was a devoted friend to the Manette family, and Miss Pross knew very well that Madame Defarge was an enemy of the Manette family.