We descend — or do we climb? — from despair to slapstick at the stroke of a pen.
The story of Miss Pross and Jerry out shopping just as Darnay is being re-arrested provides a scene in which strange revelations can be made in the story without giving the appearance of ‘being made up on the spot’ like the dragon in Scott’s “Count Robert of Paris.”. It also provides a spot of laughter in a gloomy situation (is this an English thing? — ITMA, Flanaghan and Allan, comedy as an antidote to adversity)
Like so many others I know the beginning and end of the Tale but time has washed away much memory of what lies in between. The result is that I came to this without any knowledge of what was to happen. What does happen had me regaled with laughter as Dickens lets rip with a piece full of sideways allusions and apparent double entendres. What’s more, I found myself referencing the whole chapter and characters in it to the celluloid world which Dickens never knew. Some one said once that Dickens would make a good writer of soaps. With the current instalment I would suggest he would be better at film scripts.
By some happy chance Miss Pross finds a pinko wine shop and enters ‘The Good Republican Brutus of Antiquity’ with Jerry in tow as a cavalier (et tu Brute) and recognises her brother Solomon. Jerry recognises him too but is not sure whether he is a Solomon John or a John Solomon (what in the Dickens does he mean by that?)
To Miss Pross, Solomon is her beloved brother who has been lost these many years..
Her cry of recognition wakes up the quiet bar and I am sure that I heard dozens of muskets being cocked as Dickens writes a saloon scene used in Western movies hundreds of times. Happily this time no-one drops down dead.
Enter Sydney Carton, replete, one supposes, in long, white riding coat, last seen lying across Mr. Lorry’s chair. He turns into the Cincinnati Kid dealing a hand at poker and running a long bluff. This cool dude drinks slugs while the villain sweats and waits. Wherefore art thou John Wayne, Alan Ladd or Perry Mason doing a count to nine?
He plays an ace, Barsad covers it with his. Carton runs one more bluff, does he have another? A wild card deuce is thrown on the table in the form of the jailer’s friend.
Visions of Psycho and Nosferatu creep across Tellsons wall as Jerry’s hair grows into long fingered spikes. Cly did not die this fellow is nothing more than a lying Barsad. (At least we now know why Mrs. Cruncher’s head was banged on the headboard in chapter fourteen) and a single ace becomes a prile.
Barsad wilts , “You won’t make a Great Escape.” Our Cool Hand Luke doesn’t agree and both retire to negotiate.
Will Carton bring it off? Will he give Manette another chance to argue Darnay’s release or will he find himself in the cooler bouncing a ball, maybe doing leatherwork or will he be preparing his toilette for a very close shave.?
That’s all for now folks. See you again next week.