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A Tale of Two Cities

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When the Attorney-General ceased, a buzz arose in the court as if a cloud of great blue-flies were swarming about the prisoner, in anticipation of what he was soon to become. When toned down again, the unimpeachable patriot appeared in the witness-box. When the attorney general finished, the crowd started to buzz with excitement, like a cloud of flies, in anticipation of the prisoner’s death. When the noise died down, the ideal patriot the attorney general had described entered the witness box.
Mr. Solicitor-General then, following his leader’s lead, examined the patriot: John Barsad, gentleman, by name. The story of his pure soul was exactly what Mr. Attorney-General had described it to be—perhaps, if it had a fault, a little too exactly. Having released his noble bosom of its burden, he would have modestly withdrawn himself, but that the wigged gentleman with the papers before him, sitting not far from Mr. Lorry, begged to ask him a few questions. The wigged gentleman sitting opposite, still looking at the ceiling of the court. The solicitor general, following the attorney general’s lead, examined the witness: a gentleman named John Barsad. He described himself exactly as the attorney general had described him. In fact, his description was almost too similar. After he had been examined, he would have modestly gotten down from the witness box. But the wigged gentleman with the stack of papers, who was seated next to Mr. Lorry, stopped him. The other wigged gentleman, sitting across from him, was still staring at the ceiling.
Had he ever been a spy himself? No, he scorned the base insinuation. What did he live upon? His property. Where was his property? He didn’t precisely remember where it was. What was it? No business of anybody’s. Had he inherited it? Yes, he had. From whom? Distant relation. Very distant? Rather. Ever been in prison? Certainly not. Never in a debtors’ prison? Didn’t see what that had to do with it. Never in a debtors’ prison?—Come, once again. Never? Yes. How many times? Two or three times. Not five or six? Perhaps. Of what profession? Gentleman. Ever been kicked? Might have been. Frequently? No. Ever kicked downstairs? Decidedly not; once received a kick on the top of a staircase, and fell downstairs of his own accord. Kicked on that occasion for cheating at dice? Something to that effect was said by the intoxicated liar who committed the assault, but it was not true. Swear it was not true? Positively. Ever live by cheating at play? Never. Ever live by play? Not more than other gentlemen do. Ever borrow money of the prisoner? Yes. Ever pay him? No. Was not this intimacy with the prisoner, in reality a very slight one, forced upon the prisoner in coaches, inns, and packets? No. Sure he saw the prisoner with these lists? Certain. Knew no more about the lists? No. Had not procured them himself, for instance? No. Expect to get anything by this evidence? No. Not in regular government pay and employment, to lay traps? Oh dear no. Or to do anything? Oh dear no. Swear that? Over and over again. No motives but motives of sheer patriotism? None whatever. The man asked John Barsad if he had ever been a spy himself. No, Barsad answered indignantly. How did he make his living? He made his living off of his property. Where was his property? He didn’t quite remember. What was this property? No one’s business. Had he inherited it? Yes, he had. From whom? A distant relative. Very distant? Yes, very distant. Had he ever been in prison? Of course not. He had never been to debtor’s prison? He didn’t see what that has to do with it. So he’d never been to debtor’s prison? He asked that the question be repeated. Never been to debtor’s prison? Yes. How many times? Two or three times. Not five or six times? Maybe. What’s your profession? I am a gentleman. Have you been ever been kicked in a fight? Maybe. Often? No. Ever been kicked down a flight of stairs? Of course not. Once, though, someone kicked me at the top of a staircase and I happened to fall down the stairs on my own. Were you kicked because you’d been caught cheating at dice? That’s what the drunken liar who kicked me said, but it wasn’t true. You swear it wasn’t true? Definitely. Ever make money by cheating at gambling? Never. Ever make money by gambling? No more than other gentlemen. Ever borrow money from the prisoner? Yes. Ever pay him back? No. Wasn’t your familiarity with the prisoner actually very limited, created by you deliberately bumping into him in coaches, inns, and ships? No. Are you sure you saw the prisoner with these lists? I’m sure. You didn’t know anything else about these lists? No. You didn’t get them yourself, for instance? No. Do you expect to get anything in return for testifying against him? No. You’re not employed by the British government to entrap people? Of course not. Or to do anything else? No. You swear? I’ll swear it over and over again. You have no motives for doing this other than love for your country? None whatsoever.
The virtuous servant, Roger Cly, swore his way through the case at a great rate. He had taken service with the prisoner, in good faith and simplicity, four years ago. He had asked the prisoner, aboard the Calais packet, if he wanted a handy fellow, and the prisoner had engaged him. He had not asked the prisoner to take the handy fellow as an act of charity—never thought of such a thing. He began to have suspicions of the prisoner, and to keep an eye upon him, soon afterwards. In arranging his clothes, while travelling, he had seen similar lists to these in the prisoner’s pockets, over and over again. He had taken these lists from the drawer of the prisoner’s desk. He had not put them there first. He had seen the prisoner show these identical lists to French gentlemen at Calais, and similar lists to French gentlemen, both at Calais and Boulogne. He loved his country, and couldn’t bear it, and had given information. He had never been suspected of stealing a silver tea-pot; he had been maligned respecting a mustard-pot, but it turned out to be only a plated one. He had known the last witness seven or eight years; that was merely a coincidence. He didn’t call it a particularly curious coincidence; most coincidences were curious. Neither did he call it a curious coincidence that true patriotism was HIS only motive too. He was a true Briton, and hoped there were many like him. The examination of the trusted servant, Roger Cly, went quickly. He had started working for the prisoner four years earlier. He met the prisoner on the boat to Calais and had asked him if he wanted a servant. The prisoner gave him a job. He hadn’t offered to work for the man for free—such a thing had never occurred to him. Shortly afterward he had become suspicious of the prisoner and started watching him closely. He had often seen lists, similar to the ones given as evidence, in the prisoner’s pockets while he was arranging his clothes. He had taken these lists out of the drawers of the prisoner’s desk. He had not put them there himself. He had seen the prisoner show the same lists to French gentlemen in Calais and Boulogne. He loved his country and couldn’t stand to see such treachery, so he told the authorities. He denied that he had once been suspected of stealing a silver teapot. He had once been accused of stealing a mustard pot, but it was only silver plated, not solid silver. He had known the other witness for seven or eight years. That was just a coincidence and not at all strange. He also didn’t think it was strange that his only motive for giving evidence was pure patriotism, like the other witness. He was a loyal British subject and hoped there were many like him.

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