While at work in the ruined countryside of France, the mender of roads encounters a shaggy but powerful man. Addressing each other as "Jacques," they confirm that something will happen "tonight."
"Jacques" keeps cropping up everywhere, suggesting how the revolutionary cause is taken up again and again by new people.
In the dark courtyard of the castle of Marquis Evrémonde, four torch-bearing figures appear. Soon, fire rages through the castle—its stone faces look tormented and are lost in flame. The inferno becomes a pillar of fire surging high into the sky.
The stone faces symbolize the ancient French nobility, which gets decimated by the Revolution. The burning castle is a symbol of the failing aristocracy and the commoners' revenge.
A man from the castle rushes into the village screaming for help to put out the fire and salvage the valuables in the castle. The crowd of villagers refuses to budge.
Now the nobility is asking the people for help, when for so long they refused to listen to the people's appeals for aid.
Later, the villagers surround the house of Monsieur Gabelle, the government "functionary" in charge of the area. He is forced to hide on his roof, but is able to come down in the morning. The narrator explains that other functionaries in other areas aren't so lucky, and that fires are burning all over France.
Though Gabelle is not an aristocrat himself, he works for the government. His association with the aristocrats is enough for the revolutionaries to distrust and want to harm him.