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A Tale of Two Cities

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“In the name of the assembled companions in misfortune,” said a gentleman of courtly appearance and address, coming forward, “I have the honour of giving you welcome to La Force, and of condoling with you on the calamity that has brought you among us. May it soon terminate happily! It would be an impertinence elsewhere, but it is not so here, to ask your name and condition?” “In the name of this group of friends who have all faced the same misfortune, I have the honor of welcoming you to La Force Prison,” said a well-dressed and well-spoken gentleman as he came forward. “I give you my sympathy for the disaster that has brought you here. May it all soon end happily! It would be rude to do so elsewhere, but it is not here—may I ask, what is your name and title?”
Charles Darnay roused himself, and gave the required information, in words as suitable as he could find. Charles Darnay revived himself and told him the information as well as he could.
“But I hope,” said the gentleman, following the chief gaoler with his eyes, who moved across the room, “that you are not in secret?” “But I hope that you were not brought here in secret?” said the gentleman as he watched the chief jailer move across the room as he spoke.
“I do not understand the meaning of the term, but I have heard them say so.” “I don’t understand the meaning of the phrase, but I heard them say that I was.”
“Ah, what a pity! We so much regret it! But take courage; several members of our society have been in secret, at first, and it has lasted but a short time.” Then he added, raising his voice, “I grieve to inform the society—in secret.” “Ah, what a pity! We’re sorry to hear that. But be brave. Several people that have been here were brought in secret at first and it didn’t last long.” Then he raised his voice and spoke to the others. “I’m sorry to tell you all this, but he was brought here in secret.”
There was a murmur of commiseration as Charles Darnay crossed the room to a grated door where the gaoler awaited him, and many voices—among which, the soft and compassionate voices of women were conspicuous—gave him good wishes and encouragement. He turned at the grated door, to render the thanks of his heart; it closed under the gaoler’s hand; and the apparitions vanished from his sight forever. The group murmured sympathetically as Charles Darnay walked across the room to a grated door, where the jailer waited for him. Many voices—among which the soft and compassionate voices of women were noticeable—gave him good wishes and encouragement. He turned at the grated door to thank them. The jailer closed the door, and he never saw the ghostlike people again.
The wicket opened on a stone staircase, leading upward. When they had ascended forty steps (the prisoner of half an hour already counted them), the gaoler opened a low black door, and they passed into a solitary cell. It struck cold and damp, but was not dark. The gate opened onto a stone staircase, leading upward. When they had climbed forty steps (Darnay, who had only been a prisoner for half an hour, already counted them), the jailer opened a low, black door, and they entered a lonely cell. It was cold and damp but was not dark.
“Yours,” said the gaoler. “This is your cell,” said the jailer.
“Why am I confined alone?” “Why am I locked up alone?”
“How do I know!” “How do I know!”
“I can buy pen, ink, and paper?” “Can I buy a pen, ink, and paper from you?”
“Such are not my orders. You will be visited, and can ask then. At present, you may buy your food, and nothing more.” “Those were not my orders. You will be visited and can ask for them then, but for now you can only buy your food.”
There were in the cell, a chair, a table, and a straw mattress. As the gaoler made a general inspection of these objects, and of the four walls, before going out, a wandering fancy wandered through the mind of the prisoner leaning against the wall opposite to him, that this gaoler was so unwholesomely bloated, both in face and person, as to look like a man who had been drowned and filled with water. When the gaoler was gone, he thought in the same wandering way, “Now am I left, as if I were dead.” Stopping then, to look down at the mattress, he turned from it with a sick feeling, and thought, “And here in these crawling creatures is the first condition of the body after death.” In the cell there was a chair, a table, and a straw mattress. The jailer inspected these objects and the four walls before going out. Darnay had the thought as he leaned against the opposite wall that this jailer was so swollen, both in his face and his body, that he looked like a man who had drowned and filled with water. When the jailer was gone, he thought, “Now I’ve been left for dead.” He stopped then and looked down at the mattress. He turned away from it feeling sick and thought, “And here these crawling creatures are the first thing to happen to a body after death.”
“Five paces by four and a half, five paces by four and a half, five paces by four and a half.” The prisoner walked to and fro in his cell, counting its measurement, and the roar of the city arose like muffled drums with a wild swell of voices added to them. “He made shoes, he made shoes, he made shoes.” The prisoner counted the measurement again, and paced faster, to draw his mind with him from that latter repetition. “The ghosts that vanished when the wicket closed. There was one among them, the appearance of a lady dressed in black, who was leaning in the embrasure of a window, and she had a light shining upon her golden hair, and she looked like * * * * Let us ride on again, for God’s sake, through the illuminated villages with the people all awake! * * * * He made shoes, he made shoes, he made shoes. * * * * Five paces by four and a half.” With such scraps tossing and rolling upward from the depths of his mind, the prisoner walked faster and faster, obstinately counting and counting; and the roar of the city changed to this extent—that it still rolled in like muffled drums, but with the wail of voices that he knew, in the swell that rose above them. Book Three: The Track of the Storm “Five paces wide by four and a half paces long,” Darnay thought over and over. He walked back and forth in his cell, measuring it. He could hear the sounds of Paris below him like muffled drums and voices. “Dr. Manette made shoes,” he thought over and over again. Darnay measured it again and walked faster to distract himself from the later thought. “The ghostlike figures that disappeared when the gate was closed. There was one woman in black among them, leaning in the window. There was light shining on her golden hair, and she looked like —— Let’s ride on again, for God’s sake, through the lit-up villages when all the people are awake! —— He made shoes, he made shoes, he made shoes. —— Five paces by four and a half.” These bits of thought ran through his mind as Darnay walked faster and faster, stubbornly counting again and again. The sounds of Paris changed. They still sounded like muffled drums, but with the wail of voices he knew mixed in the swell of sound that rose above them.

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