A Tale of Two Cities

by: Charles Dickens

  Book 2 Chapter 21

page Book 2 Chapter 21: Echoing Footsteps: Page 6

Original Text

Modern Text

So resistless was the force of the ocean bearing him on, that even to draw his breath or turn his head was as impracticable as if he had been struggling in the surf at the South Sea, until he was landed in the outer courtyard of the Bastille. There, against an angle of a wall, he made a struggle to look about him. Jacques Three was nearly at his side; Madame Defarge, still heading some of her women, was visible in the inner distance, and her knife was in her hand. Everywhere was tumult, exultation, deafening and maniacal bewilderment, astounding noise, yet furious dumb-show. The force of the crowd that was sweeping him along was so powerful that he couldn’t even catch a breath or turn his head until he was in the outer courtyard of the Bastille. There, pushed up against an angle of a wall, he struggled to look around. Jacques Three was almost beside him, and Madame Defarge could be seen inside in the distance, still leading some of her women. She had her knife in her hand. Everywhere there was commotion, celebration, confusion, and deafening noise.
“The Prisoners!” “The prisoners!”
“The Records!” “The records!”
“The secret cells!” “The secret prison cells!”
“The instruments of torture!” “The torture devices!”
“The Prisoners!” “The prisoners!”
Of all these cries, and ten thousand incoherences, “The Prisoners!” was the cry most taken up by the sea that rushed in, as if there were an eternity of people, as well as of time and space. When the foremost billows rolled past, bearing the prison officers with them, and threatening them all with instant death if any secret nook remained undisclosed, Defarge laid his strong hand on the breast of one of these men—a man with a grey head, who had a lighted torch in his hand—separated him from the rest, and got him between himself and the wall. Of all these cries, and of the ten thousand things people yelled that could not be understood, “The prisoners!” was the cry that the crowd started to repeat. They rushed in as if they would keep pouring in forever. When the first wave of people rushed past, carrying the prison officers with them and threatening to kill them instantly if they didn’t tell them about every inch of the prison, Defarge placed his hand on the chest of one of the officers. The man had gray hair and a lighted torch in his hand, and Defarge pulled him away from the rest of them and pushed him up against a wall.
“Show me the North Tower!” said Defarge. “Quick!” “Show me the North Tower!” said Defarge. “Quick!”
“I will faithfully,” replied the man, “if you will come with me. But there is no one there.” “I promise I will if you will come with me,” answered the man. “But there is no one there.”
“What is the meaning of One Hundred and Five, North Tower?” asked Defarge. “Quick!” “What does One Hundred and Five, North Tower mean?” asked Defarge. “Quick!”
“The meaning, monsieur?” “What does it mean, monsieur?”
“Does it mean a captive, or a place of captivity? Or do you mean that I shall strike you dead?” “Does it mean a prisoner, or a cell? Or should I strike you dead?”
“Kill him!” croaked Jacques Three, who had come close up. “Kill him!” yelled Jacques Three, who had come up close to him.
“Monsieur, it is a cell.” “Monsieur, it is a cell.”
“Show it me!” “Show it to me!”
“Pass this way, then.” “Come this way, then.”
Jacques Three, with his usual craving on him, and evidently disappointed by the dialogue taking a turn that did not seem to promise bloodshed, held by Defarge’s arm as he held by the turnkey’s. Their three heads had been close together during this brief discourse, and it had been as much as they could do to hear one another, even then: so tremendous was the noise of the living ocean, in its irruption into the Fortress, and its inundation of the courts and passages and staircases. All around outside, too, it beat the walls with a deep, hoarse roar, from which, occasionally, some partial shouts of tumult broke and leaped into the air like spray. Jacques Three, looking hungry as usual and apparently disappointed that the conversation had taken a turn that wouldn’t lead to bloodshed, held Defarge’s arm as Defarge held the prison guard’s. Their three heads had been close together during this brief conversation, and they could still barely hear each other since the crowd was so loud as it poured into the fortress and covered the courts and hallways and staircases. Outside, the walls shook with the roar of the crowd too, and individual yells and sounds could occasionally be heard above the uproar.
Through gloomy vaults where the light of day had never shone, past hideous doors of dark dens and cages, down cavernous flights of steps, and again up steep rugged ascents of stone and brick, more like dry waterfalls than staircases, Defarge, the turnkey, and Jacques Three, linked hand and arm, went with all the speed they could make. Here and there, especially at first, the inundation started on them and swept by; but when they had done descending, and were winding and climbing up a tower, they were alone. Hemmed in here by the massive thickness of walls and arches, the storm within the fortress and without was only audible to them in a dull, subdued way, as if the noise out of which they had come had almost destroyed their sense of hearing. They made their way through gloomy vaults that had never seen the light of day, past the ugly doors of dark rooms and cages, down dark flights of steps and back up steep, rough climbs made of stone and brick that were more like dry waterfalls than staircases. Defarge, the guard, and Jacques Three were linked hand and arm, and they went as fast as they could. Here and there, especially at first, the crowd swept past them. But when they had gotten all the way down and were climbing up a tower, they were alone. Surrounded by the massively thick walls and arches, they could only hear the sound of the crowd inside and outside the fortress as a dull roar, as if the noise from where they had been before had almost deafened them.