At last, the top of the staircase was gained, and they stopped for the third time. There was yet an upper staircase, of a steeper inclination and of contracted dimensions, to be ascended, before the garret story was reached. The keeper of the wine-shop, always going a little in advance, and always going on the side which Mr. Lorry took, as though he dreaded to be asked any question by the young lady, turned himself about here, and, carefully feeling in the pockets of the coat he carried over his shoulder, took out a key.
"The door is locked then, my friend?" said Mr. Lorry, surprised.
"Ay. Yes," was the grim reply of Monsieur Defarge.
"You think it necessary to keep the unfortunate gentleman so retired?"
"I think it necessary to turn the key." Monsieur Defarge whispered it closer in his ear, and frowned heavily.
"Why! Because he has lived so long, locked up, that he would be frightened-rave-tear himself to pieces-die-come to I know not what harm--if his door was left open."
"Is it possible!" exclaimed Mr. Lorry.
"Is it possible!" repeated Defarge, bitterly. "Yes. And a beautiful world we live in, when it IS possible, and when many other such things are possible, and not only possible, but done--done, see you!--under that sky there, every day. Long live the Devil. Let us go on."
This dialogue had been held in so very low a whisper, that not a word of it had reached the young lady's ears. But, by this time she trembled under such strong emotion, and her face expressed such deep anxiety, and, above all, such dread and terror, that Mr. Lorry felt it incumbent on him to speak a word or two of reassurance.
"Courage, dear miss! Courage! Business! The worst will be over in a moment; it is but passing the room-door, and the worst is over. Then, all the good you bring to him, all the relief, all the happiness you bring to him, begin. Let our good friend here, assist you on that side. That's well, friend Defarge. Come, now. Business, business!"
They went up slowly and softly. The staircase was short, and they were soon at the top. There, as it had an abrupt turn in it, they came all at once in sight of three men, whose heads were bent down close together at the side of a door, and who were intently looking into the room to which the door belonged, through some chinks or holes in the wall. On hearing footsteps close at hand, these three turned, and rose, and showed themselves to be the three of one name who had been drinking in the wine-shop.
"I forgot them in the surprise of your visit," explained Monsieur Defarge. "Leave us, good boys; we have business here."
The three glided by, and went silently down.
There appearing to be no other door on that floor, and the keeper of the wine-shop going straight to this one when they were left alone, Mr. Lorry asked him in a whisper, with a little anger:
"Do you make a show of Monsieur Manette?"
"I show him, in the way you have seen, to a chosen few."
"Is that well?"
"_I_ think it is well."
"Who are the few? How do you choose them?"
"I choose them as real men, of my name--Jacques is my name--to whom the sight is likely to do good. Enough; you are English; that is another thing. Stay there, if you please, a little moment."
With an admonitory gesture to keep them back, he stooped, and looked in through the crevice in the wall. Soon raising his head again, he struck twice or thrice upon the door--evidently with no other object than to make a noise there. With the same intention, he drew the key across it, three or four times, before he put it clumsily into the lock, and turned it as heavily as he could.
The door slowly opened inward under his hand, and he looked into the room and said something. A faint voice answered something. Little more than a single syllable could have been spoken on either side.
He looked back over his shoulder, and beckoned them to enter. Mr. Lorry got his arm securely round the daughter's waist, and held her; for he felt that she was sinking.