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A Tale of Two Cities

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One year and three months. During all that time Lucie was never sure, from hour to hour, but that the Guillotine would strike off her husband’s head next day. Every day, through the stony streets, the tumbrils now jolted heavily, filled with Condemned. Lovely girls; bright women, brown-haired, black-haired, and grey; youths; stalwart men and old; gentle born and peasant born; all red wine for La Guillotine, all daily brought into light from the dark cellars of the loathsome prisons, and carried to her through the streets to slake her devouring thirst. Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death;—the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine! Charles had been in prison for one year and three months. During that time, Lucie never knew from one hour to the next if the guillotine would cut off his head the next day. Every day, carts filled with condemned prisoners rumbled through the streets. Beautiful girls; attractive women with brown, black, or gray hair; young men and women; sturdy old men; nobles and peasants all went to bleed at the guillotine. Every day they were brought from the dark cellars of the prisons to the light of the outdoors and brought through the streets to satisfy the guillotine’s thirst. Of the Revolution’s slogan, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death,” the last one, “death,” was the easiest to impart. O guillotine!
If the suddenness of her calamity, and the whirling wheels of the time, had stunned the Doctor’s daughter into awaiting the result in idle despair, it would but have been with her as it was with many. But, from the hour when she had taken the white head to her fresh young bosom in the garret of Saint Antoine, she had been true to her duties. She was truest to them in the season of trial, as all the quietly loyal and good will always be. If the suddenness of Lucie’s misfortune, and the chaos of the time, had stunned her into waiting for Charles’s release in idle despair, she would have been like many others in her situation. But since she had first found her father in the attic in Saint Antoine, she had always been committed to her responsibilities. She was even more committed now, as all who are quietly loyal and good always are.
As soon as they were established in their new residence, and her father had entered on the routine of his avocations, she arranged the little household as exactly as if her husband had been there. Everything had its appointed place and its appointed time. Little Lucie she taught, as regularly, as if they had all been united in their English home. The slight devices with which she cheated herself into the show of a belief that they would soon be reunited—the little preparations for his speedy return, the setting aside of his chair and his books—these, and the solemn prayer at night for one dear prisoner especially, among the many unhappy souls in prison and the shadow of death--were almost the only outspoken reliefs of her heavy mind. As soon as they settled into their new house and Dr. Manette had fallen into his routine of treating patients, she arranged the little household just as if her husband had been there. Everything had its place and time, and she taught Little Lucie as regularly as if they had all been together in their home in London. To trick herself into believing she and Charles would soon be reunited, she used little devices, such as the preparations made for his quick return, and the fact that his chair and books were set aside waiting for him. These devices, and the prayer she said at night for all the poor people who were in prison and in danger, especially Charles, were the only things that relieved her worried mind.
She did not greatly alter in appearance. The plain dark dresses, akin to mourning dresses, which she and her child wore, were as neat and as well attended to as the brighter clothes of happy days. She lost her colour, and the old and intent expression was a constant, not an occasional, thing; otherwise, she remained very pretty and comely. Sometimes, at night on kissing her father, she would burst into the grief she had repressed all day, and would say that her sole reliance, under Heaven, was on him. He always resolutely answered: “Nothing can happen to him without my knowledge, and I know that I can save him, Lucie.” Her appearance did not change much. The plain, dark dresses that she and little Lucie wore looked like mourning dresses, but they were as neat and well treated as the brighter clothes they wore during happier times. She was paler now, and the old, intense expression on her forehead was constantly on her face, not an occasional thing anymore. Otherwise, she still looked very attractive. Sometimes, at night when she kissed her father, she would burst into tears after having hidden her feelings all day. She would tell him that he was the only thing on earth she could depend on. He always answered determinedly, “Nothing can happen to Charles without my knowing about it, and I know that I can save him, Lucie.”
They had not made the round of their changed life many weeks, when her father said to her, on coming home one evening: They had only been living this new life of theirs for a few weeks when, upon coming home one night, her father said to her:
“My dear, there is an upper window in the prison, to which Charles can sometimes gain access at three in the afternoon. When he can get to it—which depends on many uncertainties and incidents—he might see you in the street, he thinks, if you stood in a certain place that I can show you. But you will not be able to see him, my poor child, and even if you could, it would be unsafe for you to make a sign of recognition.” “My dear, there is a window high up in the prison that Charles can sometimes look out of at three in the afternoon. When he can get to it—which depends on many uncertain things—he thinks he might be able to see you in the street if you stood in a specific place. I’ll show you where it is. But you will not be able to see him. And even if you could, it wouldn’t be safe for you to make any signs or gestures to each other.”

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