A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens
No Fear Book 3 Chapter 10
No Fear Book 3 Chapter 10: The Substance of the Shadow: Page 6

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“‘You know, Doctor, that it is among the Rights of these Nobles to harness us common dogs to carts, and drive us. They so harnessed him and drove him. You know that it is among their Rights to keep us in their grounds all night, quieting the frogs, in order that their noble sleep may not be disturbed. They kept him out in the unwholesome mists at night, and ordered him back into his harness in the day. But he was not persuaded. No! Taken out of harness one day at noon, to feed—if he could find food—he sobbed twelve times, once for every stroke of the bell, and died on her bosom.’ “‘You know, Doctor, that these nobles have the right to harness us to carts like common dogs and drive us through the fields. So, they harnessed her husband to a cart and drove him. You know that they have the right to make us stay outside on the grounds all night keeping the frogs quiet so that the nobles’ sleep isn’t disturbed. They kept him out in the cold mists at night and ordered him back into a harness during the day. But he was not persuaded. No! One day at noon he was taken out of his harness to eat—if he could find anything to eat. He sobbed twelve times—once for every stroke of the bell. Then he died in her arms.’
“Nothing human could have held life in the boy but his determination to tell all his wrong. He forced back the gathering shadows of death, as he forced his clenched right hand to remain clenched, and to cover his wound. “Nothing could have kept the boy alive except for his determination to tell how they had been wronged. He fought back death the way he forced his right hand to remain clenched over his wound.
“‘Then, with that man’s permission and even with his aid, his brother took her away; in spite of what I know she must have told his brother—and what that is, will not be long unknown to you, Doctor, if it is now—his brother took her away—for his pleasure and diversion, for a little while. I saw her pass me on the road. When I took the tidings home, our father’s heart burst; he never spoke one of the words that filled it. I took my young sister (for I have another) to a place beyond the reach of this man, and where, at least, she will never be HIS vassal. Then, I tracked the brother here, and last night climbed in—a common dog, but sword in hand. —Where is the loft window? It was somewhere here?’ “‘Then, this man gave his brother permission to have his way with her. He even helped him to take her away, despite what I know she must have told his brother. You will know what she told him soon, Doctor, if you do not know already. His brother took her away for his pleasure and enjoyment for a little while. I saw her pass me on the road. When I told everyone at home, my father’s heart burst and he died. He never said a word. I took my younger sister—for I have another—somewhere where this man could never reach her and where, at least, she will never be his slave. Then I followed the brother here. Last night I climbed in his window. I was still a common peasant, but I had a sword in my hand—Where is the loft window? It was somewhere here?’
“The room was darkening to his sight; the world was narrowing around him. I glanced about me, and saw that the hay and straw were trampled over the floor, as if there had been a struggle. “The room was growing dark to him. The world was growing narrow around him. I looked around me and saw that the hay and straw had been trampled all over the floor, as if there had been a struggle there.
“‘She heard me, and ran in. I told her not to come near us till he was dead. He came in and first tossed me some pieces of money; then struck at me with a whip. But I, though a common dog, so struck at him as to make him draw. Let him break into as many pieces as he will, the sword that he stained with my common blood; he drew to defend himself—thrust at me with all his skill for his life.’ “‘My sister heard me and ran in. I told her not to come near us until he was dead. He came in, and first he threw me some pieces of money. Then he struck at me with a whip. But I, though a common peasant, struck him hard enough to make him draw his sword. Let him break his sword, stained with my peasant blood, into as many pieces as he can. He drew to defend himself and used all his skill to stab me.’
“My glance had fallen, but a few moments before, on the fragments of a broken sword, lying among the hay. That weapon was a gentleman’s. In another place, lay an old sword that seemed to have been a soldier’s. “I had seen a few moments before that the broken sword was lying among the hay. It was a gentleman’s weapon. In another place, an old sword lied on the ground. It looked like it had belonged to a soldier.
“‘Now, lift me up, Doctor; lift me up. Where is he?’ “‘Now lift me up, Doctor. Lift me up. Where is he?’
“‘He is not here,’ I said, supporting the boy, and thinking that he referred to the brother. “‘He is not here,’ I said, supporting the boy. I assumed he was speaking of the brother.
“‘He! Proud as these nobles are, he is afraid to see me. Where is the man who was here? Turn my face to him.’ “‘He! As proud as these nobles are, he is afraid to see me. Where is the man who was here? Turn my face so I can see him.’