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A Tale of Two Cities

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Over the prisoner’s head there was a mirror, to throw the light down upon him. Crowds of the wicked and the wretched had been reflected in it, and had passed from its surface and this earth’s together. Haunted in a most ghastly manner that abominable place would have been, if the glass could ever have rendered back its reflections, as the ocean is one day to give up its dead. Some passing thought of the infamy and disgrace for which it had been reserved, may have struck the prisoner’s mind. Be that as it may, a change in his position making him conscious of a bar of light across his face, he looked up; and when he saw the glass his face flushed, and his right hand pushed the herbs away. A mirror hung over the prisoner’s head to reflect light down onto him. Over the years this mirror had reflected the images of many poor and wicked prisoners who had eventually been put to death. If that mirror were ever able to send those reflections back out, the courtroom would have been filled with ghosts. The prisoner may have thought about how disgraceful it was to have this mirror there. He shifted and a shaft of light shining across his face made him look up. When he saw his reflection, he blushed and brushed the herbs off of the bar in front of him.
It happened, that the action turned his face to that side of the court which was on his left. About on a level with his eyes, there sat, in that corner of the Judge’s bench, two persons upon whom his look immediately rested; so immediately, and so much to the changing of his aspect, that all the eyes that were tamed upon him, turned to them. As he made this gesture, he turned his face to his left. His eyes fell upon two people sitting near the judge’s bench. His expression changed so much when he saw them that everyone who was watching turned to look.
The spectators saw in the two figures, a young lady of little more than twenty, and a gentleman who was evidently her father; a man of a very remarkable appearance in respect of the absolute whiteness of his hair, and a certain indescribable intensity of face: not of an active kind, but pondering and self-communing. When this expression was upon him, he looked as if he were old; but when it was stirred and broken up--as it was now, in a moment, on his speaking to his daughter--he became a handsome man, not past the prime of life. The two people were a young lady a little older than twenty years old and a gentleman who was apparently her father. He was a remarkable-looking man with white hair and an indescribable intensity in his face. This intense expression made him look like an old man. But when the expression left his face, as it had now while he talked to his daughter, he looked handsome and in the prime of his life.
His daughter had one of her hands drawn through his arm, as she sat by him, and the other pressed upon it. She had drawn close to him, in her dread of the scene, and in her pity for the prisoner. Her forehead had been strikingly expressive of an engrossing terror and compassion that saw nothing but the peril of the accused. This had been so very noticeable, so very powerfully and naturally shown, that starers who had had no pity for him were touched by her; and the whisper went about, “Who are they?” His daughter sat arm in arm with her father. Her fear and pity for the prisoner had made her pull close to him. The expression on her forehead revealed her compassion for the prisoner. This expression was so heartbreaking that it moved even those people who had had no pity for the prisoner. The crowd whispered to one another, “Who are they?”
Jerry, the messenger, who had made his own observations, in his own manner, and who had been sucking the rust off his fingers in his absorption, stretched his neck to hear who they were. The crowd about him had pressed and passed the inquiry on to the nearest attendant, and from him it had been more slowly pressed and passed back; at last it got to Jerry: Jerry, who had been observing the scene while he sucked the rust off of his fingers, leaned in to hear who they were. The crowd around him had passed the question forward to the person closest to the two people. The answer was slowly passed back until it got to Jerry:
“Witnesses.” “They are witnesses.”
“For which side?” “For which side?” asked Jerry.
“Against.” “Against.”
“Against what side?” “Against which side?”
“The prisoner’s.” “Against the prisoner.”
The Judge, whose eyes had gone in the general direction, recalled them, leaned back in his seat, and looked steadily at the man whose life was in his hand, as Mr. Attorney-General rose to spin the rope, grind the axe, and hammer the nails into the scaffold. The judge turned to look at the two witnesses and called them to the stand. Then he leaned back in his chair and looked at the prisoner. The attorney general stood to state his case, to prove the man guilty and send him to his death.

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