A Tale Of Two Cities
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his own face, and then his inside will be taken out and burnt while
he looks on, and then his head will be chopped off, and he'll be
cut into quarters. That's the sentence."
"If he's found Guilty, you mean to say?" Jerry added, by way of proviso.
"Oh! they'll find him guilty," said the other. "Don't you be afraid of that."
Mr. Cruncher's attention was here diverted to the door-keeper, whom
he saw making his way to Mr. Lorry, with the note in his hand. Mr.
Lorry sat at a table, among the gentlemen in wigs: not far from a
wigged gentleman, the prisoner's counsel, who had a great bundle of
papers before him: and nearly opposite another wigged gentleman with
his hands in his pockets, whose whole attention, when Mr. Cruncher
looked at him then or afterwards, seemed to be concentrated on the
ceiling of the court. After some gruff coughing and rubbing of his
chin and signing with his hand, Jerry attracted the notice of
Mr. Lorry, who had stood up to look for him, and who quietly nodded
and sat down again.
"What's HE got to do with the case?" asked the man he had spoken with.
"Blest if I know," said Jerry.
"What have YOU got to do with it, then, if a person may inquire?"
"Blest if I know that either," said Jerry.
The entrance of the Judge, and a consequent great stir and settling
down in the court, stopped the dialogue. Presently, the dock became
the central point of interest. Two gaolers, who had been standing
there, wont out, and the prisoner was brought in, and put to the bar.
Everybody present, except the one wigged gentleman who looked at the
ceiling, stared at him. All the human breath in the place, rolled at
him, like a sea, or a wind, or a fire. Eager faces strained round
pillars and corners, to get a sight of him; spectators in back rows
stood up, not to miss a hair of him; people on the floor of the
court, laid their hands on the shoulders of the people before them,
to help themselves, at anybody's cost, to a view of him--stood
a-tiptoe, got upon ledges, stood upon next to nothing, to see every
inch of him. Conspicuous among these latter, like an animated bit of
the spiked wall of Newgate, Jerry stood: aiming at the prisoner the
beery breath of a whet he had taken as he came along, and discharging
it to mingle with the waves of other beer, and gin, and tea, and
coffee, and what not, that flowed at him, and already broke upon the
great windows behind him in an impure mist and rain.
The object of all this staring and blaring, was a young man of about
five-and-twenty, well-grown and well-looking, with a sunburnt cheek
and a dark eye. His condition was that of a young gentleman. He was
plainly dressed in black, or very dark grey, and his hair, which was
long and dark, was gathered in a ribbon at the back of his neck; more
to be out of his way than for ornament. As an emotion of the mind
will express itself through any covering of the body, so the paleness
which his situation engendered came through the brown upon his cheek,
showing the soul to be stronger than the sun. He was otherwise quite
self-possessed, bowed to the Judge, and stood quiet.
The sort of interest with which this man was stared and breathed at,
was not a sort that elevated humanity. Had he stood in peril of a
less horrible sentence--had there been a chance of any one of its
savage details being spared--by just so much would he have lost in
his fascination. The form that was to be doomed to be so shamefully
mangled, was the sight; the immortal creature that was to be so
butchered and torn asunder, yielded the sensation. Whatever gloss
the various spectators put upon the interest, according to their
several arts and powers of self-deceit, the interest was, at the
root of it, Ogreish.
Silence in the court! Charles Darnay had yesterday pleaded Not Guilty
to an indictment denouncing him (with infinite jingle and jangle) for
that he was a false traitor to our serene, illustrious, excellent,
and so forth, prince, our Lord the King, by reason of his having, on
divers occasions, and by divers means and ways, assisted Lewis, the
French King, in his wars against our said serene, illustrious,
excellent, and so forth; that was to say, by coming and going,
between the dominions of our said serene, illustrious, excellent, and
so forth, and those of the said French Lewis, and wickedly, falsely,
traitorously, and otherwise evil-adverbiously, revealing to the said
French Lewis what forces our said serene, illustrious, excellent, and
so forth, had in preparation to send to Canada and North America.
This much, Jerry, with his head becoming more and more spiky as the
law terms bristled it, made out with huge satisfaction, and so
arrived circuitously at the understanding that the aforesaid, and
over and over again aforesaid, Charles Darnay, stood there before him
upon his trial; that the jury were swearing in; and that
Mr. Attorney-General was making ready to speak.
The accused, who was (and who knew he was) being mentally hanged,
beheaded, and quartered, by everybody there, neither flinched from
the situation, nor assumed any theatrical air in it. He was quiet
and attentive; watched the opening proceedings with a grave interest;
and stood with his hands resting on the slab of wood before him, so
composedly, that they had not displaced a leaf of the herbs with
which it was strewn. The court was all bestrewn with herbs and
sprinkled with vinegar, as a precaution against gaol air and gaol
Over the prisoner's head there was a mirror, to throw the light down
upon him. Crowds of the wicked and the wretched had been reflected
in it, and had passed from its surface and this earth's together.
Haunted in a most ghastly manner that abominable place would have
been, if the glass could ever have rendered back its reflections, as
the ocean is one day to give up its dead. Some passing thought of
the infamy and disgrace for which it had been reserved, may have
struck the prisoner's mind. Be that as it may, a change in his
position making him conscious of a bar of light across his face, he
looked up; and when he saw the glass his face flushed, and his right
hand pushed the herbs away.
It happened, that the action turned his face to that side of the
court which was on his left. About on a level with his eyes, there
sat, in that corner of the Judge's bench, two persons upon whom his look
immediately rested; so immediately, and so much to the changing of his aspect,
that all the eyes that were tamed upon him, turned to them.
The spectators saw in the two figures, a young lady of little more
than twenty, and a gentleman who was evidently her father; a man of
a very remarkable appearance in respect of the absolute whiteness
of his hair, and a certain indescribable intensity of face: not of
an active kind, but pondering and self-communing. When this expression
was upon him, he looked as if he were old; but when it was stirred
and broken up--as it was now, in a moment, on his speaking to his
daughter--he became a handsome man, not past the prime of life.
His daughter had one of her hands drawn through his arm, as she sat
by him, and the other pressed upon it. She had drawn close to him,
in her dread of the scene, and in her pity for the prisoner. Her
forehead had been strikingly expressive of an engrossing terror and
compassion that saw nothing but the peril of the accused. This had
been so very noticeable, so very powerfully and naturally shown, that
starers who had had no pity for him were touched by her; and the
whisper went about, "Who are they?"
Jerry, the messenger, who had made his own observations, in his own
manner, and who had been sucking the rust off his fingers in his
absorption, stretched his neck to hear who they were. The crowd
about him had pressed and passed the inquiry on to the nearest
attendant, and from him it had been more slowly pressed and passed
back; at last it got to Jerry:
"For which side?"
"Against what side?"
The Judge, whose eyes had gone in the general direction, recalled
them, leaned back in his seat, and looked steadily at the man whose
life was in his hand, as Mr. Attorney-General rose to spin the rope,
grind the axe, and hammer the nails into the scaffold.
Mr. Attorney-General had to inform the jury, that the prisoner before
them, though young in years, was old in the treasonable practices
which claimed the forfeit of his life. That this correspondence with
the public enemy was not a correspondence of to-day, or of yesterday,
or even of last year, or of the year before. That, it was certain
the prisoner had, for longer than that, been in the habit of passing
and repassing between France and England, on secret business of which
he could give no honest account. That, if it were in the nature of
traitorous ways to thrive (which happily it never was), the real
wickedness and guilt of his business might have remained undiscovered.
That Providence, however, had put it into the heart of a person who
was beyond fear and beyond reproach, to ferret out the nature of the
prisoner's schemes, and, struck with horror, to disclose them to his
Majesty's Chief Secretary of State and most honourable Privy Council.
That, this patriot would be produced before them. That, his position
and attitude were, on the whole, sublime. That, he had been the
prisoner's friend, but, at once in an auspicious and an evil hour
detecting his infamy, had resolved to immolate the traitor he could
no longer cherish in his bosom, on the sacred altar of his country.
That, if statues were decreed in Britain, as in ancient Greece and
Rome, to public benefactors, this shining citizen would assuredly
have had one. That, as they were not so decreed, he probably would
not have one. That, Virtue, as had been observed by the poets (in
many passages which he well knew the jury would have, word for word,
at the tips of their tongues; whereat the jury's countenances
displayed a guilty consciousness that they knew nothing about the
passages), was in a manner contagious; more especially the bright
virtue known as patriotism, or love of country. That, the lofty
example of this immaculate and unimpeachable witness for the Crown,
to refer to whom however unworthily was an honour, had communicated
itself to the prisoner's servant, and had engendered in him a holy
determination to examine his master's table-drawers and pockets, and
secrete his papers. That, he (Mr. Attorney-General) was prepared to
hear some disparagement attempted of this admirable servant; but that,
in a general way, he preferred him to his (Mr. Attorney-General's)
brothers and sisters, and honoured him more than his
(Mr. Attorney-General's) father and mother. That, he called with
confidence on the jury to come and do likewise. That, the evidence
of these two witnesses, coupled with the documents of their
discovering that would be produced, would show the prisoner to have
been furnished with lists of his Majesty's forces, and of their
disposition and preparation, both by sea and land, and would leave no
doubt that he had habitually conveyed such information to a hostile
power. That, these lists could not be proved to be in the prisoner's
handwriting; but that it was all the same; that, indeed, it was
rather the better for the prosecution, as showing the prisoner to be
artful in his precautions. That, the proof would go back five years,
and would show the prisoner already engaged in these pernicious
missions, within a few weeks before the date of the very first action
fought between the British troops and the Americans. That, for these
reasons, the jury, being a loyal jury (as he knew they were), and
being a responsible jury (as THEY knew they were), must positively
find the prisoner Guilty, and make an end of him, whether they liked
it or not. That, they never could lay their heads upon their pillows;
that, they never could tolerate the idea of their wives laying their
heads upon their pillows; that, they never could endure the notion of
their children laying their heads upon their pillows; in short, that
there never more could be, for them or theirs, any laying of heads
upon pillows at all, unless the prisoner's head was taken off. That
head Mr. Attorney-General concluded by demanding of them, in the name
of everything he could think of with a round turn in it, and on the
faith of his solemn asseveration that he already considered the
prisoner as good as dead and gone.