He had been there often, during a whole year, and had always been the same moody and morose lounger there. When he cared to talk, he talked well; but, the cloud of caring for nothing, which overshadowed him with such a fatal darkness, was very rarely pierced by the light within him.
And yet he did care something for the streets that environed that house, and for the senseless stones that made their pavements. Many a night he vaguely and unhappily wandered there, when wine had brought no transitory gladness to him; many a dreary daybreak revealed his solitary figure lingering there, and still lingering there when the first beams of the sun brought into strong relief, removed beauties of architecture in spires of churches and lofty buildings, as perhaps the quiet time brought some sense of better things, else forgotten and unattainable, into his mind. Of late, the neglected bed in the Temple Court had known him more scantily than ever; and often when he had thrown himself upon it no longer than a few minutes, he had got up again, and haunted that neighbourhood.
On a day in August, when Mr. Stryver (after notifying to his jackal that "he had thought better of that marrying matter") had carried his delicacy into Devonshire, and when the sight and scent of flowers in the City streets had some waifs of goodness in them for the worst, of health for the sickliest, and of youth for the oldest, Sydney's feet still trod those stones. From being irresolute and purposeless, his feet became animated by an intention, and, in the working out of that intention, they took him to the Doctor's door.
He was shown up-stairs, and found Lucie at her work, alone. She had never been quite at her ease with him, and received him with some little embarrassment as he seated himself near her table. But, looking up at his face in the interchange of the first few common-places, she observed a change in it.
"I fear you are not well, Mr. Carton!"
"No. But the life I lead, Miss Manette, is not conducive to health. What is to be expected of, or by, such profligates?"
"Is it not--forgive me; I have begun the question on my lips--a pity to live no better life?"
"God knows it is a shame!"
"Then why not change it?"
Looking gently at him again, she was surprised and saddened to see that there were tears in his eyes. There were tears in his voice too, as he answered:
"It is too late for that. I shall never be better than I am. I shall sink lower, and be worse."
He leaned an elbow on her table, and covered his eyes with his hand. The table trembled in the silence that followed.
She had never seen him softened, and was much distressed. He knew her to be so, without looking at her, and said:
"Pray forgive me, Miss Manette. I break down before the knowledge of what I want to say to you. Will you hear me?"
"If it will do you any good, Mr. Carton, if it would make you happier, it would make me very glad!"
"God bless you for your sweet compassion!"
He unshaded his face after a little while, and spoke steadily.
"Don't be afraid to hear me. Don't shrink from anything I say. I am like one who died young. All my life might have been."
"No, Mr. Carton. I am sure that the best part of it might still be; I am sure that you might be much, much worthier of yourself."
"Say of you, Miss Manette, and although I know better--although in the mystery of my own wretched heart I know better--I shall never forget it!"
She was pale and trembling. He came to her relief with a fixed despair of himself which made the interview unlike any other that could have been holden.
"If it had been possible, Miss Manette, that you could have returned the love of the man you see before yourself--flung away, wasted, drunken, poor creature of misuse as you know him to be--he would have been conscious this day and hour, in spite of his happiness, that he would bring you to misery, bring you to sorrow and repentance, blight you, disgrace you, pull you down with him. I know very well that you can have no tenderness for me; I ask for none; I am even thankful that it cannot be."
"Without it, can I not save you, Mr.