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A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens

  Book 2 Chapter 9

page Book 2 Chapter 9: The Gorgon’s Head: Page 8

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What winds conveyed this hurry to the grizzled mender of roads, already at work on the hill-top beyond the village, with his day’s dinner (not much to carry) lying in a bundle that it was worth no crow’s while to peck at, on a heap of stones? Had the birds, carrying some grains of it to a distance, dropped one over him as they sow chance seeds? Whether or no, the mender of roads ran, on the sultry morning, as if for his life, down the hill, knee-high in dust, and never stopped till he got to the fountain. What winds told the repairer of roads about this frenzy? He was already working on the hilltop past the village, with his small lunch lying in a small bundle on a pile of stones. Had the birds, carrying some grains while they flew, dropped the news to him the way they sowed seeds in the ground? No matter how he knew, that morning the repairer of roads ran as if his life depended on it. He ran down the hill with dust covering his legs to his knees, and didn’t stop until he got to the fountain.
All the people of the village were at the fountain, standing about in their depressed manner, and whispering low, but showing no other emotions than grim curiosity and surprise. The led cows, hastily brought in and tethered to anything that would hold them, were looking stupidly on, or lying down chewing the cud of nothing particularly repaying their trouble, which they had picked up in their interrupted saunter. Some of the people of the chateau, and some of those of the posting-house, and all the taxing authorities, were armed more or less, and were crowded on the other side of the little street in a purposeless way, that was highly fraught with nothing. Already, the mender of roads had penetrated into the midst of a group of fifty particular friends, and was smiting himself in the breast with his blue cap. What did all this portend, and what portended the swift hoisting-up of Monsieur Gabelle behind a servant on horseback, and the conveying away of the said Gabelle (double-laden though the horse was), at a gallop, like a new version of the German ballad of Leonora? Everyone from the village was at the fountain. They stood around in their depressed way and whispered quietly, showing no other emotions than morbid curiosity and surprise. The cows that were being led had been brought in and tied to anything that could hold them. They stood there looking on stupidly, or lying down and chewing cud that they had picked up while walking. Some of the people of the chateau, and some from the posting house, and all the tax collectors, carried weapons. They were gathered on the other side of the street not knowing what to do. The repairer of roads had already pushed into a group of fifty friends and was hitting himself on the chest with his blue cap. What did all this mean? What did it mean that they had lifted Monsieur Gabelle behind a servant on horseback and were carrying him away on the galloping horse, like a new version of the German ballad of Leonora?
It portended that there was one stone face too many, up at the chateau. It meant that there was one stone face too many up at the chateau. Someone was dead.
The Gorgon had surveyed the building again in the night, and had added the one stone face wanting; the stone face for which it had waited through about two hundred years. The Gorgon had looked at the building again that night and had turned one more face to stone. The building had been waiting for this particular stone face for two hundred years.
It lay back on the pillow of Monsieur the Marquis. It was like a fine mask, suddenly startled, made angry, and petrified. Driven home into the heart of the stone figure attached to it, was a knife. Round its hilt was a frill of paper, on which was scrawled: The stone face was that of the marquis on his pillow. It looked like an elegant mask that had been suddenly frightened, made angry, and had then frozen that way. A knife had been plunged into his heart. There was a piece of paper tied to the handle. On it was written:
“Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from Jacques.” “Drive him quickly to his tomb. From Jacques.”