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A Tale of Two Cities

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The gaoler’s wife, being provided with no answer to the question, merely replied, “One must have patience, my dear!” Three turnkeys who entered responsive to a bell she rang, echoed the sentiment, and one added, “For the love of Liberty;” which sounded in that place like an inappropriate conclusion. The jailer’s wife didn’t have an answer for him. She merely said, “You have to have patience, my dear!” She rang a bell and three prison guards entered. They said the same thing, and one of them added the phrase “For the love of liberty,” which was a strange phrase to hear in a prison.
The prison of La Force was a gloomy prison, dark and filthy, and with a horrible smell of foul sleep in it. Extraordinary how soon the noisome flavour of imprisoned sleep, becomes manifest in all such places that are ill cared for! La Force Prison was a gloomy place. It was dark and filthy and had the horrible smell of foul sleep. It is extraordinary how soon the offensive smell of imprisoned sleep becomes apparent in places that are poorly cared for.
“In secret, too,” grumbled the gaoler, looking at the written paper. “As if I was not already full to bursting!” “In secret, too,” complained the jailer, reading the slip of paper. “As if the prison wasn’t already full to bursting!”
He stuck the paper on a file, in an ill-humour, and Charles Darnay awaited his further pleasure for half an hour: sometimes, pacing to and fro in the strong arched room: sometimes, resting on a stone seat: in either case detained to be imprinted on the memory of the chief and his subordinates. He stuck the paper on a file angrily, and Charles Darnay waited for him for half an hour. Sometimes he would pace back and forth in the holding room, and sometimes he would sit on a stone seat. In either case, he stayed long enough that the chief and his staff remembered him.
“Come!” said the chief, at length taking up his keys, “come with me, emigrant.” “Come!” said the chief, finally picking up his keys, “come with me, emigrant.”
Through the dismal prison twilight, his new charge accompanied him by corridor and staircase, many doors clanging and locking behind them, until they came into a large, low, vaulted chamber, crowded with prisoners of both sexes. The women were seated at a long table, reading and writing, knitting, sewing, and embroidering; the men were for the most part standing behind their chairs or lingering up and down the room. Another guard took him through the dark corridors and staircases of the prison. Many doors clanged and locked behind them. Finally they came into a large, low room with vaulted ceilings. It was filled with men and women who were prisoners. The women were sitting at a long table, reading, writing, knitting, sewing, and embroidering. The men were mostly standing behind their chairs or wandering up and down the room.
In the instinctive association of prisoners with shameful crime and disgrace, the new-comer recoiled from this company. But the crowning unreality of his long unreal ride, was, their all at once rising to receive him, with every refinement of manner known to the time, and with all the engaging graces and courtesies of life. Darnay withdrew from these people instinctively, associating prisoners with crime and disgrace. But the greatest unreality of his long ride was now their in front of him, as he saw the refinement and grace of these prisoners, who were all members of the upper class.
So strangely clouded were these refinements by the prison manners and gloom, so spectral did they become in the inappropriate squalor and misery through which they were seen, that Charles Darnay seemed to stand in a company of the dead. Ghosts all! The ghost of beauty, the ghost of stateliness, the ghost of elegance, the ghost of pride, the ghost of frivolity, the ghost of wit, the ghost of youth, the ghost of age, all waiting their dismissal from the desolate shore, all turning on him eyes that were changed by the death they had died in coming there. These refined manners seemed so out of place in the gloom of the prison that Charles Darnay felt as if he were surrounded by ghosts. These ghosts of beauty, stateliness, elegance, pride, frivolity, wit, youth, and age were all waiting here to leave earth. They all looked at him with eyes that had been changed by the death they had died in being imprisoned there.
It struck him motionless. The gaoler standing at his side, and the other gaolers moving about, who would have been well enough as to appearance in the ordinary exercise of their functions, looked so extravagantly coarse contrasted with sorrowing mothers and blooming daughters who were there—with the apparitions of the coquette, the young beauty, and the mature woman delicately bred—that the inversion of all experience and likelihood which the scene of shadows presented, was heightened to its utmost. Surely, ghosts all. Surely, the long unreal ride some progress of disease that had brought him to these gloomy shades! He was so shocked he couldn’t move. The jailer was standing at his side, and the other jailers were moving around. They would have looked nice enough under normal conditions, but they looked especially rough contrasted with the sad mothers and beautiful young daughters who were prisoners there: the ghosts of the young flirt, the young beauty and the genteel old woman. This contrast made the feeling that all normalcy had been turned upside down all the stronger. Surely, they were all ghosts. Surely, Darnay’s long, strange journey through France was actually a disease that had killed him and brought him to these gloomy shades!

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