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A Tale of Two Cities

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The object of all this staring and blaring, was a young man of about five-and-twenty, well-grown and well-looking, with a sunburnt cheek and a dark eye. His condition was that of a young gentleman. He was plainly dressed in black, or very dark grey, and his hair, which was long and dark, was gathered in a ribbon at the back of his neck; more to be out of his way than for ornament. As an emotion of the mind will express itself through any covering of the body, so the paleness which his situation engendered came through the brown upon his cheek, showing the soul to be stronger than the sun. He was otherwise quite self-possessed, bowed to the Judge, and stood quiet. They were all staring at a young man about twenty-five years old, tall and good-looking, with sunburned cheeks and dark eyes. He looked like a young gentleman. He was dressed plainly in black or very dark gray. His hair was long and dark and was tied in a ribbon at the back of his neck, more to keep it out of his face than for the sake of fashion. Although he was sunburned, his cheeks were pale from nervousness. Otherwise, he appeared confident. He bowed to the judge and stood quietly.
The sort of interest with which this man was stared and breathed at, was not a sort that elevated humanity. Had he stood in peril of a less horrible sentence--had there been a chance of any one of its savage details being spared--by just so much would he have lost in his fascination. The form that was to be doomed to be so shamefully mangled, was the sight; the immortal creature that was to be so butchered and torn asunder, yielded the sensation. Whatever gloss the various spectators put upon the interest, according to their several arts and powers of self-deceit, the interest was, at the root of it, Ogreish. The way the crowd ogled the man was not flattering for the human race. If his sentence wasn’t such a horrible one—if there were any chance that he would be spared from any of the terrible things that were set to happen to him—people would have lost interest. People had come to see the body that was soon to be horribly mutilated, butchered, and torn to pieces. Whatever these people told themselves as to why they were there, the truth was they were there out of a morbid fascination.
Silence in the court! Charles Darnay had yesterday pleaded Not Guilty to an indictment denouncing him (with infinite jingle and jangle) for that he was a false traitor to our serene, illustrious, excellent, and so forth, prince, our Lord the King, by reason of his having, on divers occasions, and by divers means and ways, assisted Lewis, the French King, in his wars against our said serene, illustrious, excellent, and so forth; that was to say, by coming and going, between the dominions of our said serene, illustrious, excellent, and so forth, and those of the said French Lewis, and wickedly, falsely, traitorously, and otherwise evil-adverbiously, revealing to the said French Lewis what forces our said serene, illustrious, excellent, and so forth, had in preparation to send to Canada and North America. This much, Jerry, with his head becoming more and more spiky as the law terms bristled it, made out with huge satisfaction, and so arrived circuitously at the understanding that the aforesaid, and over and over again aforesaid, Charles Darnay, stood there before him upon his trial; that the jury were swearing in; and that Mr. Attorney-General was making ready to speak. The judge began: “Silence in the court! Yesterday Charles Darnay pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charge of treason. He has been charged with betraying England and our king by helping King Louis of France in the wars against England on many occasions. He is charged with traveling between England and France and telling King Louis what forces we planned to send to Canada and North America.” Jerry, to his satisfaction, soon figured out that Charles Darnay was the man standing trial, that they were swearing in the jury, and that the attorney general was about to speak.
The accused, who was (and who knew he was) being mentally hanged, beheaded, and quartered, by everybody there, neither flinched from the situation, nor assumed any theatrical air in it. He was quiet and attentive; watched the opening proceedings with a grave interest; and stood with his hands resting on the slab of wood before him, so composedly, that they had not displaced a leaf of the herbs with which it was strewn. The court was all bestrewn with herbs and sprinkled with vinegar, as a precaution against gaol air and gaol fever. The prisoner didn’t flinch or act out in any way, although he knew that every person in the courtroom was already picturing him being hanged, beheaded, and cut into pieces. He stood quietly, paying close attention to the court proceedings. He rested his hands on the slab of wood in front of him. He was so calm that he didn’t disturb the vinegar and herbs, which had been scattered throughout the courtroom to protect everyone against disease.

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