A Tale of Two Cities

by: Charles Dickens

  Book 2 Chapter 15

page Book 2 Chapter 15: Knitting: Page 6

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“Thirty-five,” said the mender of roads, who looked sixty. “I’m thirty-five,” said the repairer of roads, who looked sixty.
“It was done when you were more than ten years old; you might have seen it.” “It was done when you were over ten years old. Maybe you saw it.”
“Enough!” said Defarge, with grim impatience. “Long live the Devil! Go on.” “Enough!” said Defarge impatiently. “Long live the devil! Continue.”
“Well! Some whisper this, some whisper that; they speak of nothing else; even the fountain appears to fall to that tune. At length, on Sunday night when all the village is asleep, come soldiers, winding down from the prison, and their guns ring on the stones of the little street. Workmen dig, workmen hammer, soldiers laugh and sing; in the morning, by the fountain, there is raised a gallows forty feet high, poisoning the water.” “Well! Some say this and some say that. They don’t talk about anything else. Even the fountain seems to be whispering about it. After a while, on a Sunday night when all the villagers were asleep, some soldiers came down from the prison. You could hear their guns tapping on the street as they marched. Workmen dug and hammered, and soldiers laughed and sang. In the morning, there was a gallows built forty feet high near the fountain.”
The mender of roads looked THROUGH rather than AT the low ceiling, and pointed as if he saw the gallows somewhere in the sky. The repairer of roads seemed to look through the ceiling. He pointed as if he could see the gallows off in the sky.
“All work is stopped, all assemble there, nobody leads the cows out, the cows are there with the rest. At midday, the roll of drums. Soldiers have marched into the prison in the night, and he is in the midst of many soldiers. He is bound as before, and in his mouth there is a gag—tied so, with a tight string, making him look almost as if he laughed.” He suggested it, by creasing his face with his two thumbs, from the corners of his mouth to his ears. “On the top of the gallows is fixed the knife, blade upwards, with its point in the air. He is hanged there forty feet high—and is left hanging, poisoning the water.” “Everyone stopped working and gathered there. Nobody took the cows out. The cows were there with everyone else. At midday there was a drum roll. Soldiers had marched into the prison at night, and the tall man was now with the soldiers. He’s tied up like he was before, and there was a gag in his mouth, tied with a tight string that made him look like he was laughing.” The man showed them what he looked like by putting his thumbs in the corners of his mouth and pulling them back toward his ears. “On the top of the gallows they had attached the knife that killed the marquis. The blade was pointing up toward the air. They hanged him there forty feet in the air, and his body is still hanging, poisoning the water of the fountain.”
They looked at one another, as he used his blue cap to wipe his face, on which the perspiration had started afresh while he recalled the spectacle. The men all looked at each other. The man had started sweating while he told the story, and he used his blue cap to wipe his face.
“It is frightful, messieurs. How can the women and the children draw water! Who can gossip of an evening, under that shadow! Under it, have I said? When I left the village, Monday evening as the sun was going to bed, and looked back from the hill, the shadow struck across the church, across the mill, across the prison—seemed to strike across the earth, messieurs, to where the sky rests upon it!” “It’s terrible, messieurs. How can women and children fetch water from the fountain? Who can gather and gossip there now that a man has been killed there? When I left the village Monday evening, as the sun was setting, I looked back from the hill and the shadow of the man hanging from the gallows fell across the church, the mill, and the prison. It seemed to fall across the whole world, messieurs!”
The hungry man gnawed one of his fingers as he looked at the other three, and his finger quivered with the craving that was on him. The greedy man chewed on one of his fingers as he looked at the other three, and his finger shook with a hunger for something other than food.
“That’s all, messieurs. I left at sunset (as I had been warned to do), and I walked on, that night and half next day, until I met (as I was warned I should) this comrade. With him, I came on, now riding and now walking, through the rest of yesterday and through last night. And here you see me!” “That’s all, messieurs. I left at sunset as I had been told to do, and I walked the rest of the night and half of the next day until I met this man here, as I was told. I came with him, sometimes riding a horse and sometimes walking, through the rest of yesterday and last night. And here I am!”
After a gloomy silence, the first Jacques said, “Good! You have acted and recounted faithfully. Will you wait for us a little, outside the door?” After a gloomy silence, Jacques One said, “Good! You have done the right thing and have told your story well. Will you wait for us a little while outside?”
“Very willingly,” said the mender of roads. Whom Defarge escorted to the top of the stairs, and, leaving seated there, returned. “Of course,” said the repairer of roads. Defarge brought him to the top of the stairs, left him sitting there, and came back.
The three had risen, and their heads were together when he came back to the garret. The three men had gotten up and were standing together when Defarge came back into the attic.