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A Tale of Two Cities

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Doctor Manette did not return until the morning of the fourth day of his absence. So much of what had happened in that dreadful time as could be kept from the knowledge of Lucie was so well concealed from her, that not until long afterwards, when France and she were far apart, did she know that eleven hundred defenceless prisoners of both sexes and all ages had been killed by the populace; that four days and nights had been darkened by this deed of horror; and that the air around her had been tainted by the slain. She only knew that there had been an attack upon the prisons, that all political prisoners had been in danger, and that some had been dragged out by the crowd and murdered. Dr. Manette didn’t come back until one morning four days later. Lucie was kept from knowing so much of what had happened during that terrible period that it wasn’t until much later, when she had been away from France for a long time, that she learned eleven hundred defenseless prisoners—both male and female and of all ages—had been killed by the people. This horrible deed had gone on for four days and nights, while the dead bodies had poisoned the air around her. She only knew that there had been an attack on the prisons and that all of the political prisoners had been in danger. She knew that some of them had been dragged out of the prisons by the crowd and killed.
To Mr. Lorry, the Doctor communicated under an injunction of secrecy on which he had no need to dwell, that the crowd had taken him through a scene of carnage to the prison of La Force. That, in the prison he had found a self-appointed Tribunal sitting, before which the prisoners were brought singly, and by which they were rapidly ordered to be put forth to be massacred, or to be released, or (in a few cases) to be sent back to their cells. That, presented by his conductors to this Tribunal, he had announced himself by name and profession as having been for eighteen years a secret and unaccused prisoner in the Bastille; that, one of the body so sitting in judgment had risen and identified him, and that this man was Defarge. Swearing Mr. Lorry to secrecy, Dr. Manette informed him that the crowd had taken him through the bloodshed in the streets to La Force Prison. There he had found a self-appointed

tribunal

a court of justice

tribunal
holding trials in the prison. The prisoners were brought in front of the tribunal one-by-one, and the tribunal would quickly decide if they should be killed, released, or, in a few cases, brought back to their cells. The people accompanying him had presented Dr. Manette to the tribunal. He had told them his name and his profession and that he had spent eighteen years as a secret prisoner at the Bastille who had never been officially accused of anything. One of the tribunal members stood up and identified him. This man was Defarge.
That, hereupon he had ascertained, through the registers on the table, that his son-in-law was among the living prisoners, and had pleaded hard to the Tribunal—of whom some members were asleep and some awake, some dirty with murder and some clean, some sober and some not—for his life and liberty. That, in the first frantic greetings lavished on himself as a notable sufferer under the overthrown system, it had been accorded to him to have Charles Darnay brought before the lawless Court, and examined. That, he seemed on the point of being at once released, when the tide in his favour met with some unexplained check (not intelligible to the Doctor), which led to a few words of secret conference. That, the man sitting as President had then informed Doctor Manette that the prisoner must remain in custody, but should, for his sake, be held inviolate in safe custody. That, immediately, on a signal, the prisoner was removed to the interior of the prison again; but, that he, the Doctor, had then so strongly pleaded for permission to remain and assure himself that his son-in-law was, through no malice or mischance, delivered to the concourse whose murderous yells outside the gate had often drowned the proceedings, that he had obtained the permission, and had remained in that Hall of Blood until the danger was over. Dr. Manette told Mr. Lorry that he had learned from the lists on the table that Charles was one of the prisoners who was still alive. Dr. Manette had begged the tribunal to let Charles live. Some of the men on the tribunal were asleep, some were awake, some were covered in blood and some were clean, some were sober and some were drunk. He told them that the people had granted him the right, as a sufferer under the now-defeated justice system, to have Charles Darnay brought in front of the tribunal and examined. It seemed that Charles was about to be released when his luck came to a stop. The doctor couldn’t understand why. The members of the tribunal then spoke a few words to each other in secret. The man acting as president of the tribunal then told Dr. Manette that the prisoner had to stay in custody, but for the doctor’s sake he would be kept safe. Then, on a signal, Charles was taken inside the prison again. The doctor had begged for permission to stay and make sure that Charles wasn’t, through malice or bad luck, taken out to the violent crowd outside the gate. Their murderous yells often drowned out the court proceedings. Dr. Manette had been allowed to stay and had stayed there in the courtroom until the danger was over.
The sights he had seen there, with brief snatches of food and sleep by intervals, shall remain untold. The mad joy over the prisoners who were saved, had astounded him scarcely less than the mad ferocity against those who were cut to pieces. One prisoner there was, he said, who had been discharged into the street free, but at whom a mistaken savage had thrust a pike as he passed out. Being besought to go to him and dress the wound, the Doctor had passed out at the same gate, and had found him in the arms of a company of Samaritans, who were seated on the bodies of their victims. With an inconsistency as monstrous as anything in this awful nightmare, they had helped the healer, and tended the wounded man with the gentlest solicitude—had made a litter for him and escorted him carefully from the spot—had then caught up their weapons and plunged anew into a butchery so dreadful, that the Doctor had covered his eyes with his hands, and swooned away in the midst of it. The things he saw there between his brief meals and sleep will remain untold. The intense celebration when a prisoner was saved didn’t surprise him any less than the intense rage toward those who were sentenced to death and cut to pieces. Dr. Manette said one prisoner there had been set free into the street, only to be mistakenly stabbed with a pike as he went out. The crowd begged the doctor to go tend to his wound, and he had gone out to him from the same gate. He found the man in the arms of a group of volunteers. They were sitting on top of the bodies of people they had killed. They helped the doctor and took care of the wounded man with gentle concern. Their helpful behavior was so inconsistent that it was as disturbing as anything else in that awful nightmare. They made a stretcher for him and carried him carefully away, and then they picked up their weapons again and went back to killing people so terribly that the doctor covered his eyes with his hands and passed out in the middle of it.

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