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A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens
No Fear Book 2 Chapter 16
No Fear Book 2 Chapter 16: Still Knitting Page 1

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Madame Defarge and monsieur her husband returned amicably to the bosom of Saint Antoine, while a speck in a blue cap toiled through the darkness, and through the dust, and down the weary miles of avenue by the wayside, slowly tending towards that point of the compass where the chateau of Monsieur the Marquis, now in his grave, listened to the whispering trees. Such ample leisure had the stone faces, now, for listening to the trees and to the fountain, that the few village scarecrows who, in their quest for herbs to eat and fragments of dead stick to burn, strayed within sight of the great stone courtyard and terrace staircase, had it borne in upon their starved fancy that the expression of the faces was altered. A rumour just lived in the village—had a faint and bare existence there, as its people had—that when the knife struck home, the faces changed, from faces of pride to faces of anger and pain; also, that when that dangling figure was hauled up forty feet above the fountain, they changed again, and bore a cruel look of being avenged, which they would henceforth bear for ever. In the stone face over the great window of the bed-chamber where the murder was done, two fine dints were pointed out in the sculptured nose, which everybody recognised, and which nobody had seen of old; and on the scarce occasions when two or three ragged peasants emerged from the crowd to take a hurried peep at Monsieur the Marquis petrified, a skinny finger would not have pointed to it for a minute, before they all started away among the moss and leaves, like the more fortunate hares who could find a living there. Madame Defarge and her husband were glad to go back to their home in Saint Antoine. The man in the blue cap made his way through the darkness and the dust down the many miles of road, slowly making his way toward the place where the dead marquis’s chateau sat among the trees. The stone faces on the chateau had lots of time now for listening to the wind rustle through the trees and the water in the fountain. The few poor peasants who came within sight of the large stone courtyard and terrace staircase looking for herbs to eat or small bits of firewood had thought in their hungry delirium that the expressions on the faces had changed. A faint rumor spread in the village that when the knife plunged into the marquis’s body the faces on the stone figures changed from expressions of pride to expressions of anger and pain. Also, when the tall man was hanged forty feet above the fountain the stone faces were said to have changed again to look like they had been avenged. They would keep these expressions forever. In the stone face over the large window of the bedroom where the marquis was killed, there were two small dents in the sculpture’s nose. Everybody noticed them and no one remembered having seen them there before. A few times, two or three ragged peasants would come out from the crowd to take a quick peek at the stone face that looked like the marquis. No one would point to it for more than a minute before everyone would run off into the trees like rabbits, though the actual rabbits were luckier as they could find enough to eat.
Chateau and hut, stone face and dangling figure, the red stain on the stone floor, and the pure water in the village well—thousands of acres of land—a whole province of France—all France itself—lay under the night sky, concentrated into a faint hair-breadth line. So does a whole world, with all its greatnesses and littlenesses, lie in a twinkling star. And as mere human knowledge can split a ray of light and analyse the manner of its composition, so, sublimer intelligences may read in the feeble shining of this earth of ours, every thought and act, every vice and virtue, of every responsible creature on it. The chateau and the hut, the stone face and the hanged man, the red stain on the stone floor and the pure water in the village well, thousands of acres of land, a whole province of France, even all of France, and everything under the night sky—all are just a line as thin as a hair on the timeline of man. Our whole world and all the events that take place on it, both big and little, pass in the twinkling of a star. And just as human knowledge can split a ray of light and analyze what it’s made of, so more intelligent beings might be able to analyze all of the thoughts, deeds, vices, and virtues of every human being on earth.
The Defarges, husband and wife, came lumbering under the starlight, in their public vehicle, to that gate of Paris whereunto their journey naturally tended. There was the usual stoppage at the barrier guardhouse, and the usual lanterns came glancing forth for the usual examination and inquiry. Monsieur Defarge alighted; knowing one or two of the soldiery there, and one of the police. The latter he was intimate with, and affectionately embraced. Monsieur and Madame Defarge came moving along slowly in the darkness in the public vehicle, to the gate of Paris, which lay in the path to their destination. They were stopped at the barrier guardhouse, as usual. Soldiers with lanterns came toward them to ask questions, and Monsieur Defarge got down from the vehicle since he knew one or two of the soldiers and one of the policemen. He knew the policeman well and embraced him.
When Saint Antoine had again enfolded the Defarges in his dusky wings, and they, having finally alighted near the Saint’s boundaries, were picking their way on foot through the black mud and offal of his streets, Madame Defarge spoke to her husband: When they had reached Saint Antoine again that night, they finally got down near the edge of the town. As they walked through the black mud and garbage in the streets ,Madame Defarge spoke to her husband: