It’s interesting after all the comments last week about the dark, mysterious tone of the first installment that a few paragraphs into this week’s episode we see Jarvis enter the Concord room, still “heavily wrapped up from head to foot” and emerge as a new man, “a gentleman of sixty, formally dressed in a brown suit of clothes, pretty well worn, but very well kept, with large square cuffs and large flaps to the pockets”; no longer an object of intrigue who inspires mistrust in his fellow passengers, but a respectable businessman for the waiter to make polite chitchat with.
After the opening introductions last week, Dickens has now established Lorry as a continuing character for us to identify with, only to then plunge us back into darkness (metaphorically and literally) with the appearance of Miss Manette, who is found waiting in an explicitly dark place:
“It was a large, dark room, furnished in a funereal manner with black horsehair, and loaded with heavy dark tables. These had been oiled and oiled, until the two tall candles on the table in the middle of the room were gloomily reflected on every leaf; as if they were buried, in deep graves of black mahogany, and no light to speak of could be expected from them until they were dug out.”
Jarvis, as the known character, now illuminates Miss Mannette and the reader with exposition, so we feel much better informed of the situation than we did this time last week (and the unfortunate prisoner is named at last: not only released from his prison but released from the obscurity we had previously held him in).
And then of course Dickens throws in a curveball by introducing that whirlwind of a servant who rushes in to terrify Jarvis and disrupt the pace of the piece. There’s Jarvis and Miss Manette trying to out-genteel each other, and in comes this juggernaut of fury and self-righteousness. I especially like her negative response to coming to France: one would assume from her late entry that this is to be a significant character in the next section, but Dickens squashes that idea by ruling her out from the trip to France. An odd conclusion to the installment.