Behold the manner of it. I leaving my work on the road, the sun going to bed, the carriage of the Marquis slowly ascending the hill, he hanging by the chain--like this."
Again the mender of roads went through the whole performance; in which he ought to have been perfect by that time, seeing that it had been the infallible resource and indispensable entertainment of his village during a whole year.
Jacques One struck in, and asked if he had ever seen the man before?
"Never," answered the mender of roads, recovering his perpendicular.
Jacques Three demanded how he afterwards recognised him then?
"By his tall figure," said the mender of roads, softly, and with his finger at his nose. "When Monsieur the Marquis demands that evening, 'Say, what is he like?' I make response, `Tall as a spectre.'"
"You should have said, short as a dwarf," returned Jacques Two.
"But what did I know? The deed was not then accomplished, neither did he confide in me. Observe! Under those circumstances even, I do not offer my testimony. Monsieur the Marquis indicates me with his finger, standing near our little fountain, and says, `To me! Bring that rascal!' My faith, messieurs, I offer nothing."
"He is right there, Jacques," murmured Defarge, to him who had interrupted. "Go on!"
"Good!" said the mender of roads, with an air of mystery. "The tall man is lost, and he is sought--how many months? Nine, ten, eleven?"
"No matter, the number," said Defarge. "He is well hidden, but at last he is unluckily found. Go on!"
"I am again at work upon the hill-side, and the sun is again about to go to bed. I am collecting my tools to descend to my cottage down in the village below, where it is already dark, when I raise my eyes, and see coming over the hill six soldiers. In the midst of them is a tall man with his arms bound--tied to his sides--like this!"
With the aid of his indispensable cap, he represented a man with his elbows bound fast at his hips, with cords that were knotted behind him.
"I stand aside, messieurs, by my heap of stones, to see the soldiers and their prisoner pass (for it is a solitary road, that, where any spectacle is well worth looking at), and at first, as they approach, I see no more than that they are six soldiers with a tall man bound, and that they are almost black to my sight--except on the side of the sun going to bed, where they have a red edge, messieurs. Also, I see that their long shadows are on the hollow ridge on the opposite side of the road, and are on the hill above it, and are like the shadows of giants. Also, I see that they are covered with dust, and that the dust moves with them as they come, tramp, tramp! But when they advance quite near to me, I recognise the tall man, and he recognises me. Ah, but he would be well content to precipitate himself over the hill-side once again, as on the evening when he and I first encountered, close to the same spot!"
He described it as if he were there, and it was evident that he saw it vividly; perhaps he had not seen much in his life.
"I do not show the soldiers that I recognise the tall man; he does not show the soldiers that he recognises me; we do it, and we know it, with our eyes. `Come on!' says the chief of that company, pointing to the village, `bring him fast to his tomb!' and they bring him faster. I follow. His arms are swelled because of being bound so tight, his wooden shoes are large and clumsy, and he is lame. Because he is lame, and consequently slow, they drive him with their guns--like this!"
He imitated the action of a man's being impelled forward by the butt-ends of muskets.
"As they descend the hill like madmen running a race, he falls. They laugh and pick him up again. His face is bleeding and covered with dust, but he cannot touch it; thereupon they laugh again. They bring him into the village; all the village runs to look; they take him past the mill, and up to the prison; all the village sees the prison gate open in the darkness of the night, and swallow him--like this!"
He opened his mouth as wide as he could, and shut it with a sounding snap of his teeth.