A Tale of Two Cities Book 3, Chapter 10
The paper is read aloud. It is Dr. Manette's written story, written after he had been in prison ten years, describing the circumstances under which he had been imprisoned. He wrote that one night, as he was out walking, a carriage pulled up to him and demanded that he get inside, as the men in the carriage needed him to see someone who was in need of medical attention. Dr. Manette agreed to go on behalf of a patient who might need him. He believes the two men are identical twin brothers; for clarity's sake, he refers to the most authoritative and outspoken brother as the older brother and the quiet one as the younger brother. The brothers take him to a solitary house out in the country, where he is brought inside to see the patient--a beautiful young woman, lying in bed with her arms tied to her side, screaming one phrase over and over, almost rhythmically: "My husband, my father, and my brother!" after which she would count to twelve and say "Hush." She does this unceasingly, with no variation. The brothers tell him she has been doing this for a whole day. Dr. Manette remarks that the woman must have some kind of association with the number twelve. The men tell Dr. Manette there is another patient. He is startled but follows them to another room in the back, a loft over a stable. There he sees a young man of no more than seventeen lying on a pile of hay, having suffered a sharp puncture wound. The older brother explains that the boy has fallen by the younger brother's sword. He says this without a trace of pity or emotion. Dr. Manette tries to tend to the young boy, who asks him to leave him alone. With great difficulty, the boy tells his side of the story--that he, his sister (the shrieking woman) and his sister's husband had been tenants of the two brothers. He says the brothers were extremely cruel to them--charging them exorbitantly high taxes, letting their pet birds feed on the poor family's crops, and generally made to suffer miserable poverty at their hands. Dr. Manette notes in his letter that this is the first time he can acknowledge having seen true oppression.
The boy says that his sister's husband was ill, and that the brothers harnessed him to a cart like an animal and made him plow the fields, only freeing him for a noon meal. At night, the husband was forced to stand outside and quiet the frogs, so the nobles' sleep would not be disturbed. After a few days of this, the husband, having been freed from his harness for his noon meal, put his weak head on his wife's chest and sobs twelve times--once for each stroke of the bell. He died there. The dying boy says to the nobles that he draws a cross of blood upon them so that they may one day answer for their terrible crimes. He touches the wound in his chest and draws a sign of the cross in the air, then dies.
Dr. Manette goes to tend to the sister; she continues her unceasing cry for the next twenty-six hours. After a week, the woman dies. The brothers try to pay Dr. Manette, but he refuses to accept it. He leaves, trying to decide what to do about the cruelty and murder he has seen. He decides to write privately to the Minister, telling him what he saw and where it happened. He expects that the nobles' stature will grant them immunity, but he wants to do it so that it will not hang on his conscience. He keeps the matter secret even from his wife. He completes the letter one night, on the last day of the year, and it is lying in front of him, just completed, when he is told that a woman wants to see him.
He meets the woman, a young, agitated woman who tells him she is the wife of the Marquis St. Evrémonde. He makes the connection that this is the title by which the younger brother had addressed the older brother. She tells him she has suspected and discovered some of the facts of the story and her husband's role in it (and that Dr. Manette had been called). She tells him that she has heard that there was a young sister living and that it is her greatest desire to help that sister. He tells her that there is such a sister, but that beyond that, he knows nothing. She hopes he could tell her the name and abode; he writes that to that day, he is ignorant of both.
He writes that the woman was good and compassionate, and that in her carriage sat a pretty young boy of two to three years of age. She points to him and tells Dr. Manette that for the boy's sake, she will do what she can to make whatever amends she can. Whatever she has left to call her own, she will bestow to him and make it the first charge of his life to give to that injured family, if the still-living sister is ever discovered. She kisses the boy, calling him Charles, and asks if he will be faithful for her sake. The boy bravely answers yes. They leave, and Dr. Manette never sees the woman again. Later that day, he delivers the letter, not mentioning the names of the brothers, even though he knows it. That night, a man demands to see him and follows Dr. Manette's domestic, Ernest Defarge, up the stairs. The man tells him there is an urgent case and that he must follow them without delay. Once he is in the carriage and away from the house, they put a black muffler over him and tie his arms down. The Marquis removes Dr. Manette's letter from his pocket and burns it, and they take the doctor to the prison. He finishes the letter with a solemn wish:
"'If it had pleased God to put it in the hard heart of either of the brothers, in all these frightful years, to grant me any tidings of my dearest wife--so much as to let me know by a word whether alive or dead--might have thought that He had not quite abandoned them. But, now I believe that the mark of the red cross is fatal to them, and that they have no part in His mercies. And them and their descendants, to the last of their race, I, Alexandre Manette, unhappy prisoner, do this last night of the year 1767, in my unbearable agony, denounce to the times when all these things shall be answered for. I denounce them to Heaven and to earth.'" Book 3, Chapter 10, pp. 329-330
After the letter is read, the courtroom erupts into a terrifyingly bloodthirsty cry. The jury votes unanimously that Charles Evrémonde will be beheaded within twenty-four hours.