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A Tale of Two Cities

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“For the reason that my hand had this effect (I assume), I had sat by the side of the bed for half an hour, with the two brothers looking on, before the elder said: “Since I assumed that my hand was calming her, I sat by her bedside for half an hour while the two brothers looked on. Then the older brother said:
“‘There is another patient.’ “‘There is another patient.’
“I was startled, and asked, ‘Is it a pressing case?’ “I was surprised. I asked, ‘Is it a serious case?’
“‘You had better see,’ he carelessly answered; and took up a light. “‘You’d better see for yourself,’ he answered carelessly, and picked up a lantern.”
* * * ***
“The other patient lay in a back room across a second staircase, which was a species of loft over a stable. There was a low plastered ceiling to a part of it; the rest was open, to the ridge of the tiled roof, and there were beams across. Hay and straw were stored in that portion of the place, fagots for firing, and a heap of apples in sand. I had to pass through that part, to get at the other. My memory is circumstantial and unshaken. I try it with these details, and I see them all, in this my cell in the Bastille, near the close of the tenth year of my captivity, as I saw them all that night. “The other patient was lying in a back room across a second staircase. It was a kind of loft over a stable. There was a low plastered ceiling over part of it, and the rest of it was open to the edge of the tiled roof. There were beams across it. Hay and straw were stored in that part of it, as well as small pieces of firewood and piles of apples stored in sand. I had to walk through that part to get to the other side of the room. My memory is sharp, and I challenge it with these details. Here in my cell in the Bastille I see them all as clearly as I saw them that night.
“On some hay on the ground, with a cushion thrown under his head, lay a handsome peasant boy—a boy of not more than seventeen at the most. He lay on his back, with his teeth set, his right hand clenched on his breast, and his glaring eyes looking straight upward. I could not see where his wound was, as I kneeled on one knee over him; but, I could see that he was dying of a wound from a sharp point. “A handsome peasant boy was lying on his back on some hay on the ground, with a cushion under his head. The boy wasn’t older than seventeen. His teeth were clenched, his right hand was grabbing his chest, and his eyes were staring straight up. I couldn’t see where his wound was as I kneeled over him on one knee, but I could see he was dying of a stab wound.
“‘I am a doctor, my poor fellow,’ said I. ‘Let me examine it.’ “‘I am a doctor, my poor fellow,’ I said. ‘Let me examine it.’
“‘I do not want it examined,’ he answered; ‘let it be.’ “‘I don’t want you to examine it,’ he answered. ‘Leave it alone.’
“It was under his hand, and I soothed him to let me move his hand away. The wound was a sword-thrust, received from twenty to twenty-four hours before, but no skill could have saved him if it had been looked to without delay. He was then dying fast. As I turned my eyes to the elder brother, I saw him looking down at this handsome boy whose life was ebbing out, as if he were a wounded bird, or hare, or rabbit; not at all as if he were a fellow-creature. “The wound was under his hand. I calmed him and he let me move his hand away. The wound had come from the thrust of a sword, done twenty to twenty-four hours earlier. But no one could have saved him even it had been looked at right away. He was dying fast. As I looked at the older brother I saw him looking down at this handsome dying boy as if he were a wounded bird, or a rabbit, not at all like a fellow human.
“‘How has this been done, monsieur?’ said I. “‘How did this happen, monsieur?’ I asked one of the brothers.
“‘A crazed young common dog! A serf! Forced my brother to draw upon him, and has fallen by my brother’s sword—like a gentleman.’ “‘He’s a crazy young peasant! A serf! He forced my brother to draw his sword on him, and he has been wounded by my brother’s sword—like a gentleman.’
“There was no touch of pity, sorrow, or kindred humanity, in this answer. The speaker seemed to acknowledge that it was inconvenient to have that different order of creature dying there, and that it would have been better if he had died in the usual obscure routine of his vermin kind. He was quite incapable of any compassionate feeling about the boy, or about his fate. “There was no hint of pity, sorrow, or humanity in his answer. He seemed to admit that it was inconvenient to have a peasant dying there and that it would have been better if he had died unnoticed, as peasants usually did. He was unable to feel any compassion for the dying boy.
“The boy’s eyes had slowly moved to him as he had spoken, and they now slowly moved to me. “The boy had looked at the brother slowly as he spoke. Now he slowly looked at me.

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