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Chapter Eight: The Marquis in the Country
The Marquis makes his way from Paris through the countryside towards the Evremonde family estate. The crops on the way look dried and withered, just like the peasants. When the carriage stops at a poor village, many peasants are at the fountain washing leaves or anything else that can be eaten. The Marquis gazes with contempt at the faces around the fountain. Soon a dusty road- mender joins the group. The Marquis sends for him and asks what he was staring at when the carriage passed him down the road. The man tells him that someone was hanging underneath the carriage; he says the man was tall, covered with dust, and as white as a ghost. The Marquis is satisfied and drives on. The carriage passes a graveyard where a grief stricken woman begs him for a tombstone for the grave of her dead husband. The Marquis ignores her request and pushes her away. The carriage finally arrives at the estate after dark.
The countryside around the Evremonde castle is impoverished. The crops are pitiful and the peasants are starving. They wash leaves in the village fountain to have for dinner. The Marquis has no sympathy for the poor villagers.
The road-mender, who remains nameless throughout the book, is a minor character with a significant role. In this introduction to him, he tells the Marquis that someone was earlier hanging underneath the carriage, looking almost like a ghost (or death). This is an important piece of information, although it is not explained in this chapter. No incident in this novel is without relevance, for Dickens has a meticulous art in plotting his narrative.
Death is mentioned a second time in the novel when Evremonde passes by a graveyard. A woman, grieving for her deceased husband, begs the Marquis for a tombstone to mark his grave. The calloused man simply pushes her away. He is indifferent to the misery and the poverty around him and ironically acts like he is immune to death.