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Charles Dickens > A Tale Of Two Cities > Book 3 - 6

A Tale Of Two Cities

Book 3 - 6


The dread tribunal of five Judges, Public Prosecutor, and determined
Jury, sat every day. Their lists went forth every evening, and were
read out by the gaolers of the various prisons to their prisoners.
The standard gaoler-joke was, "Come out and listen to the Evening Paper,
you inside there!"

"Charles Evremonde, called Darnay!"

So at last began the Evening Paper at La Force.

When a name was called, its owner stepped apart into a spot reserved
for those who were announced as being thus fatally recorded. Charles
Evremonde, called Darnay, had reason to know the usage; he had seen
hundreds pass away so.

His bloated gaoler, who wore spectacles to read with, glanced over
them to assure himself that he had taken his place, and went through
the list, making a similar short pause at each name. There were
twenty-three names, but only twenty were responded to; for one of the
prisoners so summoned had died in gaol and been forgotten, and two
had already been guillotined and forgotten. The list was read, in
the vaulted chamber where Darnay had seen the associated prisoners on
the night of his arrival. Every one of those had perished in the
massacre; every human creature he had since cared for and parted with,
had died on the scaffold.

There were hurried words of farewell and kindness, but the parting
was soon over. It was the incident of every day, and the society of
La Force were engaged in the preparation of some games of forfeits
and a little concert, for that evening. They crowded to the grates
and shed tears there; but, twenty places in the projected
entertainments had to be refilled, and the time was, at best, short
to the lock-up hour, when the common rooms and corridors would be
delivered over to the great dogs who kept watch there through the
night. The prisoners were far from insensible or unfeeling; their
ways arose out of the condition of the time. Similarly, though with
a subtle difference, a species of fervour or intoxication, known,
without doubt, to have led some persons to brave the guillotine
unnecessarily, and to die by it, was not mere boastfulness, but a
wild infection of the wildly shaken public mind. In seasons of
pestilence, some of us will have a secret attraction to the disease--
a terrible passing inclination to die of it. And all of us have like
wonders hidden in our breasts, only needing circumstances to evoke them.

The passage to the Conciergerie was short and dark; the night in its
vermin-haunted cells was long and cold. Next day, fifteen prisoners
were put to the bar before Charles Darnay's name was called. All the
fifteen were condemned, and the trials of the whole occupied an hour
and a half.

"Charles Evremonde, called Darnay," was at length arraigned.

His judges sat upon the Bench in feathered hats; but the rough red
cap and tricoloured cockade was the head-dress otherwise prevailing.
Looking at the Jury and the turbulent audience, he might have thought
that the usual order of things was reversed, and that the felons were
trying the honest men. The lowest, cruelest, and worst populace of a
city, never without its quantity of low, cruel, and bad, were the
directing spirits of the scene: noisily commenting, applauding,
disapproving, anticipating, and precipitating the result, without a
check. Of the men, the greater part were armed in various ways; of
the women, some wore knives, some daggers, some ate and drank as they
looked on, many knitted. Among these last, was one, with a spare
piece of knitting under her arm as she worked. She was in a front
row, by the side of a man whom he had never seen since his arrival at
the Barrier, but whom he directly remembered as Defarge. He noticed
that she once or twice whispered in his ear, and that she seemed to
be his wife; but, what he most noticed in the two figures was, that
although they were posted as close to himself as they could be, they
never looked towards him. They seemed to be waiting for something
with a dogged determination, and they looked at the Jury, but at
nothing else. Under the President sat Doctor Manette, in his usual
quiet dress. As well as the prisoner could see, he and Mr. Lorry
were the only men there, unconnected with the Tribunal, who wore their
usual clothes, and had not assumed the coarse garb of the Carmagnole.

Charles Evremonde, called Darnay, was accused by the public
prosecutor as an emigrant, whose life was forfeit to the Republic,
under the decree which banished all emigrants on pain of Death.
It was nothing that the decree bore date since his return to France.
There he was, and there was the decree; he had been taken in France,
and his head was demanded.

"Take off his head!" cried the audience. "An enemy to the Republic!"

The President rang his bell to silence those cries, and asked the
prisoner whether it was not true that he had lived many years in England?

Undoubtedly it was.

Was he not an emigrant then? What did he call himself?

Not an emigrant, he hoped, within the sense and spirit of the law.

Why not? the President desired to know.

Because he had voluntarily relinquished a title that was distasteful
to him, and a station that was distasteful to him, and had left his
country--he submitted before the word emigrant in the present
acceptation by the Tribunal was in use--to live by his own industry
in England, rather than on the industry of the overladen people of

What proof had he of this?

He handed in the names of two witnesses; Theophile Gabelle, and
Alexandre Manette.

But he had married in England? the President reminded him.

True, but not an English woman.

A citizeness of France?

Yes. By birth.

Her name and family?

"Lucie Manette, only daughter of Doctor Manette, the good physician
who sits there."

This answer had a happy effect upon the audience. Cries in
exaltation of the well-known good physician rent the hall. So
capriciously were the people moved, that tears immediately rolled
down several ferocious countenances which had been glaring at the
prisoner a moment before, as if with impatience to pluck him out into
the streets and kill him.

On these few steps of his dangerous way, Charles Darnay had set his
foot according to Doctor Manette's reiterated instructions. The same
cautious counsel directed every step that lay before him, and had
prepared every inch of his road.

The President asked, why had he returned to France when he did,
and not sooner?

He had not returned sooner, he replied, simply because he had no
means of living in France, save those he had resigned; whereas, in
England, he lived by giving instruction in the French language and
literature. He had returned when he did, on the pressing and written
entreaty of a French citizen, who represented that his life was
endangered by his absence. He had come back, to save a citizen's life,
and to bear his testimony, at whatever personal hazard, to the truth.
Was that criminal in the eyes of the Republic?

The populace cried enthusiastically, "No!" and the President rang his
bell to quiet them. Which it did not, for they continued to cry
"No!" until they left off, of their own will.

The President required the name of that citizen. The accused
explained that the citizen was his first witness. He also referred
with confidence to the citizen's letter, which had been taken from
him at the Barrier, but which he did not doubt would be found among
the papers then before the President.

The Doctor had taken care that it should be there--had assured him
that it would be there--and at this stage of the proceedings it was
produced and read. Citizen Gabelle was called to confirm it, and did
so. Citizen Gabelle hinted, with infinite delicacy and politeness,
that in the pressure of business imposed on the Tribunal by the
multitude of enemies of the Republic with which it had to deal, he
had been slightly overlooked in his prison of the Abbaye--in fact,
had rather passed out of the Tribunal's patriotic remembrance--until
three days ago; when he had been summoned before it, and had been set
at liberty on the Jury's declaring themselves satisfied that the
accusation against him was answered, as to himself, by the surrender
of the citizen Evremonde, called Darnay.

Doctor Manette was next questioned. His high personal popularity,
and the clearness of his answers, made a great impression; but, as he
proceeded, as he showed that the Accused was his first friend on his
release from his long imprisonment; that, the accused had remained in
England, always faithful and devoted to his daughter and himself in
their exile; that, so far from being in favour with the Aristocrat
government there, he had actually been tried for his life by it, as
the foe of England and friend of the United States--as he brought
these circumstances into view, with the greatest discretion and with
the straightforward force of truth and earnestness, the Jury and the
populace became one. At last, when he appealed by name to Monsieur
Lorry, an English gentleman then and there present, who, like himself,
had been a witness on that English trial and could corroborate his
account of it, the Jury declared that they had heard enough, and that
they were ready with their votes if the President were content to
receive them.

At every vote (the Jurymen voted aloud and individually), the
populace set up a shout of applause. All the voices were in the
prisoner's favour, and the President declared him free.

Then, began one of those extraordinary scenes with which the populace
sometimes gratified their fickleness, or their better impulses
towards generosity and mercy, or which they regarded as some set-off
against their swollen account of cruel rage. No man can decide now
to which of these motives such extraordinary scenes were referable;
it is probable, to a blending of all the three, with the second
predominating. No sooner was the acquittal pronounced, than tears
were shed as freely as blood at another time, and such fraternal
embraces were bestowed upon the prisoner by as many of both sexes as
could rush at him, that after his long and unwholesome confinement he
was in danger of fainting from exhaustion; none the less because he
knew very well, that the very same people, carried by another current,
would have rushed at him with the very same intensity, to rend him to
pieces and strew him over the streets.

His removal, to make way for other accused persons who were to be
tried, rescued him from these caresses for the moment. Five were to
be tried together, next, as enemies of the Republic, forasmuch as
they had not assisted it by word or deed. So quick was the Tribunal
to compensate itself and the nation for a chance lost, that these
five came down to him before he left the place, condemned to die
within twenty-four hours. The first of them told him so, with the
customary prison sign of Death--a raised finger--and they all added
in words, "Long live the Republic!"

The five had had, it is true, no audience to lengthen their
proceedings, for when he and Doctor Manette emerged from the gate,
there was a great crowd about it, in which there seemed to be every
face he had seen in Court--except two, for which he looked in vain.
On his coming out, the concourse made at him anew, weeping,
embracing, and shouting, all by turns and all together, until the
very tide of the river on the bank of which the mad scene was acted,
seemed to run mad, like the people on the shore.

They put him into a great chair they had among them, and which they
had taken either out of the Court itself, or one of its rooms or
passages. Over the chair they had thrown a red flag, and to the back
of it they had bound a pike with a red cap on its top. In this car
of triumph, not even the Doctor's entreaties could prevent his being
carried to his home on men's shoulders, with a confused sea of red
caps heaving about him, and casting up to sight from the stormy deep
such wrecks of faces, that he more than once misdoubted his mind
being in confusion, and that he was in the tumbril on his way to the

In wild dreamlike procession, embracing whom they met and pointing
him out, they carried him on. Reddening the snowy streets with the
prevailing Republican colour, in winding and tramping through them,
as they had reddened them below the snow with a deeper dye, they
carried him thus into the courtyard of the building where he lived.
Her father had gone on before, to prepare her, and when her husband
stood upon his feet, she dropped insensible in his arms.

As he held her to his heart and turned her beautiful head between his
face and the brawling crowd, so that his tears and her lips might
come together unseen, a few of the people fell to dancing. Instantly,
all the rest fell to dancing, and the courtyard overflowed with the
Carmagnole. Then, they elevated into the vacant chair a young woman
from the crowd to be carried as the Goddess of Liberty, and then
swelling and overflowing out into the adjacent streets, and along the
river's bank, and over the bridge, the Carmagnole absorbed them every
one and whirled them away.

After grasping the Doctor's hand, as he stood victorious and proud
before him; after grasping the hand of Mr. Lorry, who came panting in
breathless from his struggle against the waterspout of the Carmagnole;
after kissing little Lucie, who was lifted up to clasp her arms round
his neck; and after embracing the ever zealous and faithful Pross who
lifted her; he took his wife in his arms, and carried her up to their

"Lucie! My own! I am safe."

"O dearest Charles, let me thank God for this on my knees as I have
prayed to Him."

They all reverently bowed their heads and hearts. When she was again
in his arms, he said to her:

"And now speak to your father, dearest. No other man in all this
France could have done what he has done for me."

She laid her head upon her father's breast, as she had laid his poor
head on her own breast, long, long ago. He was happy in the return
he had made her, he was recompensed for his suffering, he was proud
of his strength. "You must not be weak, my darling," he remonstrated;
"don't tremble so. I have saved him."

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