The door was quickly opened and closed, and there stood before him face to face, quiet, intent upon him, with the light of a smile on his features, and a cautionary finger on his lip, Sydney Carton.
There was something so bright and remarkable in his look, that, for the first moment, the prisoner misdoubted him to be an apparition of his own imagining. But, he spoke, and it was his voice; he took the prisoner's hand, and it was his real grasp.
`Of all the people upon earth, you least expected to see me?' he said.
`I could not believe it to be you. I can scarcely believe it now. You are not'--the apprehension came suddenly into his mind--`a prisoner?'
`No. I am accidentally possessed of a power over one of the keepers here, and in virtue of it I stand before you. I come from her--your wife, dear Darnay.'
The prisoner wrung his hand.
`I bring you a request from her.'
`What is it?'
`A most earnest, pressing, and emphatic entreaty, addressed to you in the most pathetic tones of the voice so dear to you, that you well remember.'
The prisoner turned his face partly aside.
`You have no time to ask me why I bring it, or what it means; I have no time to tell you. You must comply with it--take off those boots you wear, and draw on these of mine.'
There was a chair against the wall of the cell, behind the prisoner. Carton, pressing forward, had already, with the speed of lightning, got him down into it, and stood over him, barefoot.
`Draw on these boots of mine. Put your hands to them; put your will to them. Quick!'
`Carton, there is no escaping from this place; it never can be done. You will only die with me. It is madness.'
`It would be madness if I asked you to escape; but do I?
When I ask you to pass out at that door, tell me it is madness and remain here. Change that cravat for this of mine, that coat for this of mine. While you do it, let me take this ribbon from your hair, and shake out your hair like this of mine!'
With wonderful quickness, and with a strength both of will and action, that appeared quite supernatural, he forced all these changes upon him. The prisoner was like a young child in his hands.
`Carton! Dear Carton! It is madness. 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.
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