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A Tale of Two Cities

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The dread tribunal of five Judges, Public Prosecutor, and determined Jury, sat every day. Their lists went forth every evening, and were read out by the gaolers of the various prisons to their prisoners. The standard gaoler-joke was, “Come out and listen to the Evening Paper, you inside there!” The dreaded tribunal was made up of five judges, a public prosecutor, and a selected jury. The court was in session every day, and their lists were sent out every night. The jailers in the various prisons read the lists out loud to their prisoners. They would often make a joke of it and say, “Come out and listen to the evening paper, you prisoners!”
“Charles Evremonde, called Darnay!” “Charles Evremonde, also known as Darnay!”
So at last began the Evening Paper at La Force. This is how the “evening paper” began at La Force Prison.
When a name was called, its owner stepped apart into a spot reserved for those who were announced as being thus fatally recorded. Charles Evremonde, called Darnay, had reason to know the usage; he had seen hundreds pass away so. When someone’s name was called, the person would step forward into an area reserved for him. Charles Evremonde, also known as Darnay, already knew this. He had seen hundred of people go to their deaths this way.
His bloated gaoler, who wore spectacles to read with, glanced over them to assure himself that he had taken his place, and went through the list, making a similar short pause at each name. There were twenty-three names, but only twenty were responded to; for one of the prisoners so summoned had died in gaol and been forgotten, and two had already been guillotined and forgotten. The list was read, in the vaulted chamber where Darnay had seen the associated prisoners on the night of his arrival. Every one of those had perished in the massacre; every human creature he had since cared for and parted with, had died on the scaffold. The swollen jailer, who wore reading glasses, glanced over them to make sure Darnay had stepped forward, and then went through the rest of the list. He would pause briefly after each name to make sure the person stepped forward. There were twenty-three names, but only twenty people answered. One of the prisoners whose names was called had already died in jail and been forgotten. Two had already been sent to the guillotine and also forgotten. The jailer read the list in the hall with the vaulted ceilings where Darnay had seen the group of prisoners the night he arrived in prison. Every one of those prisoners had died in the massacre. Every person he had since cared about in prison had died at the guillotine.
There were hurried words of farewell and kindness, but the parting was soon over. It was the incident of every day, and the society of La Force were engaged in the preparation of some games of forfeits and a little concert, for that evening. They crowded to the grates and shed tears there; but, twenty places in the projected entertainments had to be refilled, and the time was, at best, short to the lock-up hour, when the common rooms and corridors would be delivered over to the great dogs who kept watch there through the night. The prisoners were far from insensible or unfeeling; their ways arose out of the condition of the time. Similarly, though with a subtle difference, a species of fervour or intoxication, known, without doubt, to have led some persons to brave the guillotine unnecessarily, and to die by it, was not mere boastfulness, but a wild infection of the wildly shaken public mind. In seasons of pestilence, some of us will have a secret attraction to the disease—a terrible passing inclination to die of it. And all of us have like wonders hidden in our breasts, only needing circumstances to evoke them. People quickly said goodbyes and kind words to those whose names were called, but this was over soon. This happened every day, and the prisoners of La Force Prison were busy preparing for some games and a concert that night. They crowded toward the prison grates and cried there, but twenty people in the games and concert now had to be replaced. Soon they would be locked up and guard dogs would be patrolling the common rooms and hallways during the night. The prisoners weren’t unsympathetic or heartless. Their behavior came from the conditions in which they lived. In a similar way, though with a subtle difference, a type of excitement or intoxication was known to have led some people to die at the guillotine unnecessarily. It wasn’t simply boastfulness. It was as if the public were all infected and had gone mad. When there is a plague some people will be secretly attracted to the disease and will want to die of it. All of us have similar strange desires in our hearts that are only waiting for the right circumstances to reveal themselves.
The passage to the Conciergerie was short and dark; the night in its vermin-haunted cells was long and cold. Next day, fifteen prisoners were put to the bar before Charles Darnay’s name was called. All the fifteen were condemned, and the trials of the whole occupied an hour and a half. The passageway to the Conciergerie was short and dark. The night was cold and passed slowly in the rat-infested cells. The next day, fifteen prisoners were brought in front of the tribunal before Charles Darnay’s name was called. All fifteen were sentenced to death. The trials of all of them together only took an hour and a half.
“Charles Evremonde, called Darnay,” was at length arraigned. “Charles Evremonde, also known as Darnay,” was finally brought before the court.
His judges sat upon the Bench in feathered hats; but the rough red cap and tricoloured cockade was the head-dress otherwise prevailing. Looking at the Jury and the turbulent audience, he might have thought that the usual order of things was reversed, and that the felons were trying the honest men. The lowest, cruelest, and worst populace of a city, never without its quantity of low, cruel, and bad, were the directing spirits of the scene: noisily commenting, applauding, disapproving, anticipating, and precipitating the result, without a check. Of the men, the greater part were armed in various ways; of the women, some wore knives, some daggers, some ate and drank as they looked on, many knitted. Among these last, was one, with a spare piece of knitting under her arm as she worked. She was in a front row, by the side of a man whom he had never seen since his arrival at the Barrier, but whom he directly remembered as Defarge. He noticed that she once or twice whispered in his ear, and that she seemed to be his wife; but, what he most noticed in the two figures was, that although they were posted as close to himself as they could be, they never looked towards him. They seemed to be waiting for something with a dogged determination, and they looked at the Jury, but at nothing else. Under the President sat Doctor Manette, in his usual quiet dress. As well as the prisoner could see, he and Mr. Lorry were the only men there, unconnected with the Tribunal, who wore their usual clothes, and had not assumed the coarse garb of the Carmagnole. The presiding judges wore feathered hats, but the rough red cap and three-colored cockade of the Revolution was what most other people wore. Looking at the jury and the rowdy audience, it seemed that the usual order of things had been reversed. It looked like the criminals were trying the honest men. The lowest, meanest, worst people—of a city filled with low, mean, bad people—were in charge. The crowd was commenting loudly, applauding, talking amongst themselves, and influencing the outcome of the trial nonstop. Most of the men were armed in one way or another, and some of the women had knives or daggers on them. Some of them ate and drank as they watched, and many of them knitted. Among the women knitting, there was one woman who had a spare piece of knitting under her arm as she worked. She was in the front row next to a man whom Darnay hadn’t seen since he first arrived at the barrier into Paris. He remembered that the man was Defarge. Darnay noticed that the woman had whispered in his ear once or twice and that she seemed to be his wife. But what he noticed most about the two of them was that, although they were as close to him as someone could get, they never looked at him. They seemed to be waiting for something intently. They looked at the jury, but they didn’t look anywhere else. Dr. Manette sat next to the president of the tribunal, dressed modestly as usual. As far as Darnay could tell, Dr. Manette and Mr. Lorry were the only men there who weren’t part of the tribunal. They wore their usual clothes and were not wearing the Revolutionary costume of the red cap and three colors.

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