Well, it was bound to happen, wasn't it? One fabulously wimpy, gloriously golden-haired and agile of forehead girl -- one wild red woman -- and a bunch of men hanging around like cats around a cannery. It was bound to happen. But it's all so awkward. I feel so... cheap.
Chapters 10-12 of Book Two: The Golden Thread.
Chapter 10 ~ Two Promises
...Mr. Darnay finally makes his move.
Okay. So, it's been a year. Mr. Darnay's been busy:
A certain portion of his time was passed at Cambridge, where he read with undergraduates as a sort of tolerated smuggler who drove a contraband trade in European languages, instead of conveying Greek and Latin through the Custom-house.-- That's especially funny to me because the UK educational system? Is still largely ...um, traditional. I can see Mr. Darnay being sort of the back-door French tutor, while everyone else learns Latin like they're "supposed to." Anyway! Mr. Darnay's been working hard and looking elegant -- he's shown he's got a handle on the whole work-ethic thing. Well done, Mr. Darnay. He's been a good and patient man, and eaten all of his vegetables, and now he'd like to move on to dessert, please and thank-you, Doctor Manette. Of course, one does wonder -- what's Lucie think of the whole thing? Nothing, yet. As Dickens puts it:
"But, he had not yet spoken to her on the subject; the assassination at the deserted chateau far away beyond the heaving water and the long, long, dusty roads- the solid stone chateau which had itself become the mere mist of a dream- had been done a year, and he had never yet, by so much as a single spoken word, disclosed to her the state of his heart."I've been known to read things into this book previously, but the word ASSASSINATION? Is not one that I would have used in my thoughts if it were my uncle. I would have thought murder. Assassinations are... political. Professional. Premeditated.
Oh, dear. Who did away with Mr. Darnay's uncle, the Marquis? Was it a family affair?
Meanwhile, Mr. Smooth makes his case with Doctor Manette, who, in fact, does not take it well. While Mr. Darnay assures him that he'd never take his daughter away from him -- and Doctor Manette insists that he knows of know bias or other suitor, and that he does indeed believe that Charles Manay loves his girl, he's a bit squeamish about hearing anything more from him. No, don't tell me your real name. No, don't let's talk about France. Really: just go, before Lucie comes home.
Then poor Doctor Manette decides to fiddle with some shoemaking... just to steady his nerves. It's been so long since he's gone there, that Lucie is really, really upset. Boy, would Lucie be unhappy to find who was making her father so unsettled.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
Chapter 11: ~ A Companion Picture
We go from Mr. Smooth to Mr. Clueless, in this chapter. The King's barrister, Mr. Stryver, sets his cap and his rather pudgy, blowhard self to court Lucie. She is young. She is female. He is settled, successful, and most of all, himself. She cannot help but want to secure him and in doing so, her place in the world. He's of an age, after all, to want the comforts of home, who better than to provide for him but Lucie?
If I said "EH!?" quietly to myself in public, I hope I could be forgiven for it; this came directly out of left field.
Mr. Stryver is ...a moron. And a horrible friend. Sydney Carton is a man of great patience... or else a very amiable drunk who doesn't hear well. (Pssst! Syd! Take off the bloomin' TOWEL!!!) If a man whom I helped all the time to be successful in his job was so rude to me -- !
The prosperous patronage with which he said it, made him look
twice as big as he was, and four times as offensive.
"Now, let me recommend you," pursued Stryver, "to look it in the face. I have looked it in the face, in my different way; look it in the face, you, in your different way. Marry. Provide somebody to take care of you. Never mind your having no enjoyment of women's society, nor understanding of it, nor tact for it. Find out
somebody. Find out some respectable woman with a little property- somebody in the landlady way, or lodging-letting way- and marry her, against a rainy day. That's the kind of thing for you. Now think of it, Sydney."
"I'll think of it," said Sydney.
Gee, girls. Isn't Mr. Stryver romantical? Marry against a rainy day. Kind of like saving all of your quarters in case your washer breaks. Economy. That's really what it's all about, isn't it?
Chapter 12: ~ The Fellow of Delicacy
Stryver still thinks he's going to marry Lucie. Not win her. Not woo her, simply... present his glorious self to her applause and grateful tears.
I really wanted this man to down in flames. Unfortunately, Insufferable Stryver stops in to see Mr. Jarvis Lorry at Tellson's before he commits to his dubious course.
Tellson's is ...well, Tellson's. You'd think this fusty, dusty, old-school dim Establishment would slow anyone down, but no. Tellson's is where Stryver's money is, so the moldy old clerks have to see him courteously. He blows in and talks too loudly, stuns the geriatric clerks, and generally blows a tornado in his wake. He's inflated pride is highly offended by Mr. Lorry's idea that there's a problem in his reckoning about Lucie. It just amazes me that Mr. Lorry -- a dried twig of an old man who wears a dreadful win -- still has more of a clue about things than Mr. Stryver, who deals with people in all states of emotions every day. There's something wrong with the old boy that he doesn't get this simple thing:
"When I speak of success, I speak of success with the young lady; and when I speak of causes and reasons to make success probable, I speak of causes and reasons that will tell as such with the young lady. The young lady, my good sir," said Mr. Lorry, mildly tapping the Stryver arm, "the young lady. The young lady goes before all."
Poor self-centered Stryver. The young lady goes before all!? Oh, noes! He scuttles into retreat, in the wake of Mr. Lorry's stubborn insistence on checking with the family before Stryver proposes, so as to avoid embarrassment for everyone -- and when Mr. Lorry brings back the news of Lucie's indifference to him, pretends he had never even thought of marrying at all. Oh, yes, he is SO slick. Which is how clueless, self-centered people always think of themselves.
Tune in next week when we see if anyone else is going to try and marry Lucie, and then we'll figure out if Dickens has added her strictly for comic relief -- and what's going on with Doctor Manette, and if Mr. Darnay is really someone Lucie should even have around the house...