Book the Second - the Golden Thread
15. XV. Knitting
There had been earlier drinking than usual in the wine-shop of
Monsieur Defarge. As early as six o'clock in the morning, sallow
faces peeping through its barred windows had descried other faces within,
bending over measures of wine. Monsieur Defarge sold a very thin wine
at the best of times, but it would seem to have been an unusually thin
wine that he sold at this time. A sour wine, moreover, or a souring,
for its influence on the mood of those who drank it was to make them
gloomy. No vivacious Bacchanalian flame leaped out of the pressed grape
of Monsieur Defarge: but, a smouldering fire that burnt in the dark,
lay hidden in the dregs of it.
This had been the third morning in succession, on which there had been
early drinking at the wine-shop of Monsieur Defarge. It had begun
on Monday, and here was Wednesday come. There had been more of early
brooding than drinking; for, many men had listened and whispered and
slunk about there from the time of the opening of the door, who could
not have laid a piece of money on the counter to save their souls.
These were to the full as interested in the place, however, as if
they could have commanded whole barrels of wine; and they glided from
seat to seat, and from corner to corner, swallowing talk in lieu
of drink, with greedy looks.
Notwithstanding an unusual flow of company, the master of the wine-shop
was not visible. He was not missed; for, nobody who crossed the
threshold looked for him, nobody asked for him, nobody wondered to
see only Madame Defarge in her seat, presiding over the distribution
of wine, with a bowl of battered small coins before her, as much defaced
and beaten out of their original impress as the small coinage of humanity
from whose ragged pockets they had come.
A suspended interest and a prevalent absence of mind, were perhaps
observed by the spies who looked in at the wine-shop, as they looked in
at every place, high and low, from the kings palace to the criminal's
gaol. Games at cards languished, players at dominoes musingly built
towers with them, drinkers drew figures on the tables with spilt drops
of wine, Madame Defarge herself picked out the pattern on her sleeve
with her toothpick, and saw and heard something inaudible and invisible
a long way off.