It cannot be accomplished, it never can be done, it has been attempted, and has always failed. I implore you not to add your death to the bitterness of mine."
"Do I ask you, my dear Darnay, to pass the door? When I ask that, refuse. There are pen and ink and paper on this table. Is your hand steady enough to write?"
"It was when you came in."
"Steady it again, and write what I shall dictate. Quick, friend, quick!"
Pressing his hand to his bewildered head, Darnay sat down at the table. Carton, with his right hand in his breast, stood close beside him.
"Write exactly as I speak."
"To whom do I address it?"
"To no one." Carton still had his hand in his breast.
"Do I date it?"
The prisoner looked up, at each question. Carton, standing over him with his hand in his breast, looked down.
"`If you remember,'" said Carton, dictating, "`the words that passed between us, long ago, you will readily comprehend this when you see it. You do remember them, I know. It is not in your nature to forget them.'"
He was drawing his hand from his breast; the prisoner chancing to look up in his hurried wonder as he wrote, the hand stopped, closing upon something.
"Have you written `forget them'?" Carton asked.
"I have. Is that a weapon in your hand?"
"No; I am not armed."
"What is it in your hand?"
"You shall know directly. Write on; there are but a few words more." He dictated again. "`I am thankful that the time has come, when I can prove them. That I do so is no subject for regret or grief.'" As he said these words with his eyes fixed on the writer, his hand slowly and softly moved down close to the writer's face.
The pen dropped from Darnay's fingers on the table, and he looked about him vacantly.
"What vapour is that?" he asked.
"Something that crossed me?"
"I am conscious of nothing; there can be nothing here. Take up the pen and finish. Hurry, hurry!"
As if his memory were impaired, or his faculties disordered, the prisoner made an effort to rally his attention. As he looked at Carton with clouded eyes and with an altered manner of breathing, Carton--his hand again in his breast--looked steadily at him.
The prisoner bent over the paper, once more.
"`If it had been otherwise;'" Carton's hand was again watchfully and softly stealing down; "`I never should have used the longer opportunity. If it had been otherwise;'" the hand was at the prisoner's face; "`I should but have had so much the more to answer for. If it had been otherwise--'" Carton looked at the pen and saw it was trailing off into unintelligible signs.
Carton's hand moved back to his breast no more. The prisoner sprang up with a reproachful look, but Carton's hand was close and firm at his nostrils, and Carton's left arm caught him round the waist. For a few seconds he faintly struggled with the man who had come to lay down his life for him; but, within a minute or so, he was stretched insensible on the ground.
Quickly, but with hands as true to the purpose as his heart was, Carton dressed himself in the clothes the prisoner had laid aside, combed back his hair, and tied it with the ribbon the prisoner had worn. Then, he softly called, "Enter there! Come in!" and the Spy presented himself.
"You see?" said Carton, looking up, as he kneeled on one knee beside the insensible figure, putting the paper in the breast: "is your hazard very great?"
"Mr. Carton," the Spy answered, with a timid snap of his fingers, "my hazard is not THAT, in the thick of business here, if you are true to the whole of your bargain."
"Don't fear me. I will be true to the death."
"You must be, Mr. Carton, if the tale of fifty-two is to be right. Being made right by you in that dress, I shall have no fear."
"Have no fear! I shall soon be out of the way of harming you, and the rest will soon be far from here, please God! Now, get assistance and take me to the coach."
"You?" said the Spy nervously.
"Him, man, with whom I have exchanged.