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A Tale of Two Cities

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Making his way through the tainted crowd, dispersed up and down this hideous scene of action, with the skill of a man accustomed to make his way quietly, the messenger found out the door he sought, and handed in his letter through a trap in it. For, people then paid to see the play at the Old Bailey, just as they paid to see the play in Bedlam--only the former entertainment was much the dearer. Therefore, all the Old Bailey doors were well guarded--except, indeed, the social doors by which the criminals got there, and those were always left wide open. Jerry Cruncher walked through the crowd like a man who was used to moving quietly. He found the door he was looking for and handed his letter through it. In those days people paid to see the trials at the Old Bailey, just like they paid to go to the theater or to visit the Bedlam insane asylum. The Old Bailey, however, cost much more, so the doors were well guarded. The only exception was the door through which the criminals entered, which was kept wide open.
After some delay and demur, the door grudgingly turned on its hinges a very little way, and allowed Mr. Jerry Cruncher to squeeze himself into court. After a few moments, the doorman reluctantly opened the door a little way and allowed Mr. Jerry Cruncher to squeeze into the courtroom.
“What’s on?” he asked, in a whisper, of the man he found himself next to. “What case is this?” Jerry whispered to the man next to him.
“Nothing yet.” “Nothing yet.”
“What’s coming on?” “What case is next?”
“The Treason case.” “The treason case.”
“The quartering one, eh?” “The one where they’re going to quarter the man?”
“Ah!” returned the man, with a relish; “he’ll be drawn on a hurdle to be half hanged, and then he’ll be taken down and sliced before his own face, and then his inside will be taken out and burnt while he looks on, and then his head will be chopped off, and he’ll be cut into quarters. That’s the sentence.” “Yep!” answered the man excitedly. “They’ll hang him for a while, and then they’ll take him down, cut him open, disembowel him, and burn his intestines right in front of his eyes so he can watch. Then they’ll cut his head off and cut his body into four pieces. That’s the punishment.”
“If he’s found Guilty, you mean to say?” Jerry added, by way of proviso. “If they decide he’s guilty, you mean?” asked Jerry.
“Oh! they’ll find him guilty,” said the other. “Don’t you be afraid of that.” “Oh, they’ll decide he’s guilty,” said the other man. “Don’t you worry about that.”
Mr. Cruncher’s attention was here diverted to the door-keeper, whom he saw making his way to Mr. Lorry, with the note in his hand. Mr. Lorry sat at a table, among the gentlemen in wigs: not far from a wigged gentleman, the prisoner’s counsel, who had a great bundle of papers before him: and nearly opposite another wigged gentleman with his hands in his pockets, whose whole attention, when Mr. Cruncher looked at him then or afterwards, seemed to be concentrated on the ceiling of the court. After some gruff coughing and rubbing of his chin and signing with his hand, Jerry attracted the notice of Mr. Lorry, who had stood up to look for him, and who quietly nodded and sat down again. Mr. Cruncher noticed the doorkeeper, who was moving toward Mr. Lorry with the note in his hand. Mr. Lorry was sitting at a table with several gentlemen in wigs. Sitting near them were the prisoner’s lawyer, who had a big pile of papers in front of him, and another man who had his hands in his pockets and kept looking at the ceiling. Jerry got Mr. Lorry’s attention by coughing loudly and gesturing a few times. Mr. Lorry, who had stood up to look for him, nodded to Jerry and then sat down again.
“What’s HE got to do with the case?” asked the man he had spoken with. “What’s he got to do with this case?” the man next to Jerry asked about Mr. Lorry.
“Blest if I know,” said Jerry. “I have no idea,” said Jerry.
“What have YOU got to do with it, then, if a person may inquire?” “What do you have to do with it, if I may ask?”
“Blest if I know that either,” said Jerry. “I don’t know that either,” said Jerry.
The entrance of the Judge, and a consequent great stir and settling down in the court, stopped the dialogue. Presently, the dock became the central point of interest. Two gaolers, who had been standing there, wont out, and the prisoner was brought in, and put to the bar. The judge entered and everyone in the court got settled. Jerry and the man stopped talking. Everyone focused their attention on the dock, where the prisoner was to stand trial. Two jailers who had been standing there went out of the room. They came back with the prisoner and brought him to the bar.
Everybody present, except the one wigged gentleman who looked at the ceiling, stared at him. All the human breath in the place, rolled at him, like a sea, or a wind, or a fire. Eager faces strained round pillars and corners, to get a sight of him; spectators in back rows stood up, not to miss a hair of him; people on the floor of the court, laid their hands on the shoulders of the people before them, to help themselves, at anybody’s cost, to a view of him--stood a-tiptoe, got upon ledges, stood upon next to nothing, to see every inch of him. Conspicuous among these latter, like an animated bit of the spiked wall of Newgate, Jerry stood: aiming at the prisoner the beery breath of a whet he had taken as he came along, and discharging it to mingle with the waves of other beer, and gin, and tea, and coffee, and what not, that flowed at him, and already broke upon the great windows behind him in an impure mist and rain. Everyone stared at him except for the wigged gentleman who was still staring at the ceiling. People peeked around pillars and corners to get a glimpse of him. Those in the back rows stood up for a better look. People standing on the ground floor stood on their tiptoes or tried to push themselves up on other people’s shoulders. Jerry, noticeable by his spiked hair, stood among them. His breath smelled of the beer he had drunk on his way there. It mixed with the smells of gin, tea, and coffee that came from the breaths of the other people in the crowd. The breath of the crowd steamed up the windows of the courthouse.

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