Besides that I should know it to be hopeless, I should know it to be a baseness. If I had any such possibility, even at a remote distance of years, harboured in my thoughts, and hidden in my heart--if it ever had been there--if it ever could be there--I could not now touch this honoured hand."
He laid his own upon it as he spoke.
"No, dear Doctor Manette. Like you, a voluntary exile from France; like you, driven from it by its distractions, oppressions, and miseries; like you, striving to live away from it by my own exertions, and trusting in a happier future; I look only to sharing your fortunes, sharing your life and home, and being faithful to you to the death. Not to divide with Lucie her privilege as your child, companion, and friend; but to come in aid of it, and bind her closer to you, if such a thing can be."
His touch still lingered on her father's hand. Answering the touch for a moment, but not coldly, her father rested his hands upon the arms of his chair, and looked up for the first time since the beginning of the conference. A struggle was evidently in his face; a struggle with that occasional look which had a tendency in it to dark doubt and dread.
"You speak so feelingly and so manfully, Charles Darnay, that I thank you with all my heart, and will open all my heart--or nearly so. Have you any reason to believe that Lucie loves you?"
"None. As yet, none."
"Is it the immediate object of this confidence, that you may at once ascertain that, with my knowledge?"
"Not even so. I might not have the hopefulness to do it for weeks; I might (mistaken or not mistaken) have that hopefulness to-morrow."
"Do you seek any guidance from me?"
"I ask none, sir. But I have thought it possible that you might have it in your power, if you should deem it right, to give me some."
"Do you seek any promise from me?"
"I do seek that."
"What is it?"
"I well understand that, without you, I could have no hope. I well understand that, even if Miss Manette held me at this moment in her innocent heart-do not think I have the presumption to assume so much-- I could retain no place in it against her love for her father."
"If that be so, do you see what, on the other hand, is involved in it?"
"I understand equally well, that a word from her father in any suitor's favour, would outweigh herself and all the world. For which reason, Doctor Manette," said Darnay, modestly but firmly, "I would not ask that word, to save my life."
"I am sure of it. Charles Darnay, mysteries arise out of close love, as well as out of wide division; in the former case, they are subtle and delicate, and difficult to penetrate. My daughter Lucie is, in this one respect, such a mystery to me; I can make no guess at the state of her heart."
"May I ask, sir, if you think she is--" As he hesitated, her father supplied the rest.
"Is sought by any other suitor?"
"It is what I meant to say."
Her father considered a little before he answered:
"You have seen Mr. Carton here, yourself. Mr. Stryver is here too, occasionally. If it be at all, it can only be by one of these."
"Or both," said Darnay.
"I had not thought of both; I should not think either, likely. You want a promise from me. Tell me what it is."
"It is, that if Miss Manette should bring to you at any time, on her own part, such a confidence as I have ventured to lay before you, you will bear testimony to what I have said, and to your belief in it. I hope you may be able to think so well of me, as to urge no influence against me. I say nothing more of my stake in this; this is what I ask. The condition on which I ask it, and which you have an undoubted right to require, I will observe immediately."
"I give the promise," said the Doctor, "without any condition. I believe your object to be, purely and truthfully, as you have stated it. I believe your intention is to perpetuate, and not to weaken, the ties between me and my other and far dearer self. If she should ever tell me that you are essential to her perfect happiness, I will give her to you.