It was a passionate, loving, thankful, womanly action, but the hand made no response--dropped cold and heavy, and took to its knitting again.
There was something in its touch that gave Lucie a check. She stopped in the act of putting the note in her bosom, and, with her hands yet at her neck, looked terrified at Madame Defarge. Madame Defarge met the lifted eyebrows and forehead with a cold, impassive stare.
"My dear," said Mr. Lorry, striking in to explain; "there are frequent risings in the streets; and, although it is not likely they will ever trouble you, Madame Defarge wishes to see those whom she has the power to protect at such times, to the end that she may know them--that she may identify them. I believe," said Mr. Lorry, rather halting in his reassuring words, as the stony manner of all the three impressed itself upon him more and more, "I state the case, Citizen Defarge?"
Defarge looked gloomily at his wife, and gave no other answer than a gruff sound of acquiescence.
"You had better, Lucie," said Mr. Lorry, doing all he could to propitiate, by tone and manner, "have the dear child here, and our good Pross. Our good Pross, Defarge, is an English lady, and knows no French."
The lady in question, whose rooted conviction that she was more than a match for any foreigner, was not to be shaken by distress and, danger, appeared with folded arms, and observed in English to The Vengeance, whom her eyes first encountered, "Well, I am sure, Boldface! I hope YOU are pretty well!" She also bestowed a British cough on Madame Defarge; but, neither of the two took much heed of her.
"Is that his child?" said Madame Defarge, stopping in her work for the first time, and pointing her knitting-needle at little Lucie as if it were the finger of Fate.
"Yes, madame," answered Mr. Lorry; "this is our poor prisoner's darling daughter, and only child."
The shadow attendant on Madame Defarge and her party seemed to fall so threatening and dark on the child, that her mother instinctively kneeled on the ground beside her, and held her to her breast. The shadow attendant on Madame Defarge and her party seemed then to fall, threatening and dark, on both the mother and the child.
"It is enough, my husband," said Madame Defarge. "I have seen them. We may go."
But, the suppressed manner had enough of menace in it--not visible and presented, but indistinct and withheld--to alarm Lucie into saying, as she laid her appealing hand on Madame Defarge's dress:
"You will be good to my poor husband. You will do him no harm. You will help me to see him if you can?"
"Your husband is not my business here," returned Madame Defarge, looking down at her with perfect composure. "It is the daughter of your father who is my business here."
"For my sake, then, be merciful to my husband. For my child's sake! She will put her hands together and pray you to be merciful. We are more afraid of you than of these others."
Madame Defarge received it as a compliment, and looked at her husband. Defarge, who had been uneasily biting his thumb-nail and looking at her, collected his face into a sterner expression.
"What is it that your husband says in that little letter?" asked Madame Defarge, with a lowering smile. "Influence; he says something touching influence?"
"That my father," said Lucie, hurriedly taking the paper from her breast, but with her alarmed eyes on her questioner and not on it, "has much influence around him."
"Surely it will release him!" said Madame Defarge. "Let it do so."
"As a wife and mother," cried Lucie, most earnestly, "I implore you to have pity on me and not to exercise any power that you possess, against my innocent husband, but to use it in his behalf. O sister-woman, think of me. As a wife and mother!"
Madame Defarge looked, coldly as ever, at the suppliant, and said, turning to her friend The Vengeance:
"The wives and mothers we have been used to see, since we were as little as this child, and much less, have not been greatly considered? We have known THEIR husbands and fathers laid in prison and kept from them, often enough? All our lives, we have seen our sister-women suffer, in themselves and in their children, poverty, nakedness, hunger, thirst, sickness, misery, oppression and neglect of all kinds?"
"We have seen nothing else," returned The Vengeance.