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A Tale of Two Cities

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“I saw this, within the first minute of my contemplation of the patient; for, in her restless strivings she had turned over on her face on the edge of the bed, had drawn the end of the scarf into her mouth, and was in danger of suffocation. My first act was to put out my hand to relieve her breathing; and in moving the scarf aside, the embroidery in the corner caught my sight. “I saw this in the first minute of examining the patient. In her twisting and turning she had turned over on her face on the edge of the bed. She had taken the end of the scarf in her mouth and was in danger of suffocating. The first thing I did was to reach out my hand to help her breathe, and in moving aside the scarf, I saw the embroidered coat of arms.
“I turned her gently over, placed my hands upon her breast to calm her and keep her down, and looked into her face. Her eyes were dilated and wild, and she constantly uttered piercing shrieks, and repeated the words, ‘My husband, my father, and my brother!’ and then counted up to twelve, and said, ‘Hush!’ For an instant, and no more, she would pause to listen, and then the piercing shrieks would begin again, and she would repeat the cry, ‘My husband, my father, and my brother!’ and would count up to twelve, and say, ‘Hush!’ There was no variation in the order, or the manner. There was no cessation, but the regular moment’s pause, in the utterance of these sounds. “I turned her over gently and placed my hands on her chest to calm her and keep her down. I looked into her face. Her eyes were dilated and wild, and she was screaming constantly. She repeated the words, ‘My husband, my father, and my brother!’ Then she would count to twelve and say ‘Hush!’ She would pause and listen for just a moment, then she would would repeat the cry, ‘My husband, my father, and my brother!’ and count up to twelve and say ‘Hush!’ This was always exactly the same. Except for her regular pauses, she never stopped saying these words.
“‘How long,’ I asked, ‘has this lasted?’ “‘How long has she been doing this?’ I asked.
“To distinguish the brothers, I will call them the elder and the younger; by the elder, I mean him who exercised the most authority. It was the elder who replied, ‘Since about this hour last night.’ “To distinguish between the two brothers, I will call them the older and the younger. By the older, I mean the one that seemed to be in charge. It was the older brother who replied, ‘Since about this time last night.’
“‘She has a husband, a father, and a brother?’ “‘She has a husband, a father, and a brother?’
“‘A brother.’ “‘She has a brother.’
“‘I do not address her brother?’ “‘You are not her brother?’
“He answered with great contempt, ‘No.’ “He answered with great contempt, ‘No.’
“‘She has some recent association with the number twelve?’ “‘She has some recent connection with the number twelve?’
“The younger brother impatiently rejoined, ‘With twelve o’clock?’ “The younger brother impatiently joined in, ‘Do you mean with twelve o’clock?’
“‘See, gentlemen,’ said I, still keeping my hands upon her breast, ‘how useless I am, as you have brought me! If I had known what I was coming to see, I could have come provided. As it is, time must be lost. There are no medicines to be obtained in this lonely place.’ “‘See, gentlemen,’ I said, keeping my hands on her chest, ‘I am useless as you have brought me! If I had known what I was coming to see, I could have brought what I needed. As it is, we must lose more time. There is nowhere to find medicine out here in this lonely place.’
“The elder brother looked to the younger, who said haughtily, ‘There is a case of medicines here;’ and brought it from a closet, and put it on the table. “The older brother looked at the younger brother. He said haughtily, ‘There is a case full of medicine here.’ He took the case out of a closet and put it on the table.”
* * * * * *
“I opened some of the bottles, smelt them, and put the stoppers to my lips. If I had wanted to use anything save narcotic medicines that were poisons in themselves, I would not have administered any of those. “I opened some of the bottles, smelled them, and put the stoppers to my lips. I wouldn’t have used any of them unless I wanted to narcotics that were poisons in themselves.
“‘Do you doubt them?’ asked the younger brother. “‘Do you think they won’t work?’ asked the younger brother.
“‘You see, monsieur, I am going to use them,’ I replied, and said no more. “You see, monsieur, I’m going to use them,’ I replied, and said no more.
“I made the patient swallow, with great difficulty, and after many efforts, the dose that I desired to give. As I intended to repeat it after a while, and as it was necessary to watch its influence, I then sat down by the side of the bed. There was a timid and suppressed woman in attendance (wife of the man down-stairs), who had retreated into a corner. The house was damp and decayed, indifferently furnished—evidently, recently occupied and temporarily used. Some thick old hangings had been nailed up before the windows, to deaden the sound of the shrieks. They continued to be uttered in their regular succession, with the cry, ‘My husband, my father, and my brother!’ the counting up to twelve, and ‘Hush!’ The frenzy was so violent, that I had not unfastened the bandages restraining the arms; but, I had looked to them, to see that they were not painful. The only spark of encouragement in the case, was, that my hand upon the sufferer’s breast had this much soothing influence, that for minutes at a time it tranquillised the figure. It had no effect upon the cries; no pendulum could be more regular. “After trying very hard several times, I made the patient swallow the dose I wanted her to take. I planned to do the same thing again after a while. I needed to watch how it affected her, so I sat down by the side of the bed. There was a nervous, fearful peasant woman there who was the wife of the man downstairs. She had retreated into a corner. The house was damp and falling apart, and it was furnished indifferently, suggesting it had only recently been occupied and only used temporarily. Some thick tapestries had been nailed up over the windows to deaden the sounds of the woman’s screams. She continued to scream constantly and to cry out, “My husband, my father, and my brother!” Then she would count up to twelve and say ‘Hush!’ Her fit was so violent that I didn’t untie the bandages restraining her arms. But I looked at them to make sure they weren’t hurting her. The only encouraging thing about her case was that when I placed my hands on her chest it seemed to calm her for a few minutes. It didn’t stop the screams, which happened as regularly as the swinging of a pendulum.

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