Welcome to the eighth week of this read-with-me project. This week we read Chapter VI: Hundreds of People. This chapter was first released in a magazine called All the Year Round on Saturday, June 18th 1859.
The story so far…
Charles Darnay has been found innocent of the charge of treason. He was saved by his resemblance to another man, Sydney Carton. Sydney is a bit aloof, with means but lacking in ambition. He’s shown an unwilling fondness for Miss Manette, but claims he is loved by no man.
In this section…
This chapter follows Mr Lorry as he dines at the Manette residence and is both domestic and ominous at the same times. Lorry’s perspective makes the chapter more reminiscent of the beginning chapters. As he travels on foot to their residence, we get description of their neighbourhood, and then of their home, both of which contrast sharply with the Parisian descriptions. We also are caught up on where the characters are after this five-year time jump. We learn, for instance, that Dr Manette is practicing again. Once in the house we also see that Lucie busies herself with stereotypically feminine pursuits.
We are introduced to Lucie’s handmaid, Miss Pross, who proves to be jealous of the male attention that Lucie has been getting recently. It is here that the title of the chapter appears as Miss Pross claims that Ladybird, her nickname for Lucie, is plagued by hundreds of visitors coming to the house to court Ladybird. Miss Pross deems all of them to be unworthy of her Ladybird’s attention. This reflect well on Lucie as a character that she is able to inspire such devotion from her handmaid.
After the party dines, they retire outside to drink wine beneath a plane tree and Mr Charles Darnay arrives. As Mr Lorry observes, one person rather than the hundreds he had been warned about. They drink beneath the plane tree, which is said to symbolise regeneration, which it apt given that both Charles and the Dr have been restored to life. It could also symbolise the growing relationship between Lucie and her father.
Charles ignites a discussion about the Tower of London and an account of a prisoner than was found buried in the floor. This story could be a metaphor for the men’s psychologically buried experiences as prisoners. As he is recounting this story the weather turns from oppressive head to hot, sultry rain and the party moves inside. Once inside Sydney arrived, a second suitor but definitely not a hundred, and the group have tea
One thing that struck me in particular about this chapter is the recurring theme of footsteps. As Mr Lorry waits for Lucie and the Dr to arrive he describes the sound of footsteps.
“Mr. Lorry stood at the open window, looking for the father and daughter whose steps he heard, he fancied they would never approach. Not only would the echoes die away, as though the steps had gone; but, echoes of other steps that never came would be heard in their stead and would die away for good when they seemed close at hand.”
Later, towards the end of the chapter Lucie describes a fancy of hers:
“I have sometimes sat alone here of an evening, listening, until I have made the echoes out to be the echoes of all the footsteps that are coming by-and-bye into our lives.”
Here, Dickens gives us two separate chapters musing on a similar fancy of theirs, unbeknownst to one another. The descriptions of multiple footsteps drawn on the connotations of hundreds of people, as the chapter title describes. Both descriptions draw on the potential for people to both be coming and to be leaving, and perhaps the lister not knowing quite which one. In this sense in encompasses the past, present and future, as though these concepts all exist simultaneously. This can relate to life in the way that we meet people every day and you can never know the role they will play in your life, or you in theirs.
What about you… Are you reading along with A Tale of Two Cities, and if so, what did you think of this section?
Dates for your diary:
Chapters VII-VIII on the 25th of June (Post: 27th of June)
Chapter IX on the 2nd of July (Post: 4th of July)
Chapters X-XI on the 9th of July (Post: 11th of July)