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Book 2, Chapter 16 Notes from A Tale of Two Cities

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A Tale of Two Cities Book 2, Chapter 16

Book 2, Chapter 16

When Monsieur and Madame Defarge are returning to Saint Antoine from Versailles, they stop in Paris and pay a visit to a policeman, an acquaintance of Defarge's whom he greets warmly. After they leave, Madame Defarge asks her husband what Jacques the Policeman told him. He tells her he has learned that another spy has been commissioned for their quarter; Madame Defarge remarks that they will have to add the spy to their register. He tells her the spy is an Englishman named John Barsad, and that he has black hair, a dark complexion, an aquiline nose, and generally looks sinister.

The next day, Madame Defarge sits in the shop, knitting energetically. After awhile, a newcomer walks in who perfectly fits the description of the spy her husband gave to her. He asks for cognac; she gives it to him and he praises it, which arouses her suspicions even more. He tells her she knits with great skill and asks what she does it for. She answers that it is simply a pastime. He asks if it is for use, and she says that perhaps one day she will find a use for it. He asks if business is bad; she replies that it is because the people are so poor. He says the people are miserable and oppressed and suggests that she would agree. She says that she does not think so, that she and her husband are too busy running the shop to think about other matters at all. He then remarks that Gaspard's execution was a sad business. She replies that anyone who uses knives to murder should have to pay for it.

Her husband enters. The spy calls him Jacques; Defarge tells the man he must be confused, as his name is Ernest Defarge. The spy repeats to Defarge his belief that there is much sympathy in the neighborhood for Gaspard. Defarge replies that if there is, he does not know of it. The spy then tells Defarge that he knows Defarge was an old domestic of Dr. Manette's, and that he had charge of Dr. Manette after his release from prison. He tells Defarge that he also knows that Lucie and Mr. Lorry came to retrieve him, and that they took him to England. Defarge replies that it is true. The spy tells him that he knows the Manettes, and that Lucie is going to be married to a Frenchman who is living in England. He adds that Lucie's husband-to-be is the nephew of Monsieur the Marquis, but that he lives in England under the name Darnay (though D'Aulnais is the name of his mother's family). Madame Defarge knits steadily; her husband is not so cool--the spy notices that Defarge's hand is trembling under the counter. The spy pays for his drink, then leaves.

Defarge wonders aloud if it is true that Lucie is going to marry the nephew of Monsieur the Marquis, and hopes that destiny will keep her husband out of France. Madame Defarge coolly replies that the man's destiny will take him wherever he needs to go, and that it will lead him to the end that is to end him. Defarge asks her if she does not find it strange that Lucie's future husband's name is inscribed in the very same register as the loathsome John Barsad. Madame answers that stranger things will happen.

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