+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error


In Three Books.




IN the black prison of the Conciergerie the
doomed of the day awaited their fate. They
were in number as the weeks of the year. Fifty-
two were to roll that afternoon on the life-tide
of the city to the boundless everlasting sea.
Before their cells were quit of them, new
occupants were appointed; before their blood ran
into the blood spilled yesterday, the blood that
was to mingle with theirs to-morrow was already
set apart.

Two score and twelve were told off. From
the farmer-general of seventy, whose riches
could not buy his life, to the seamstress of
twenty, whose poverty and obscurity could not
save her. Physical diseases, engendered in the
vices and neglects of men, will seize on victims
of all degrees; and the frightful moral disorder,
born of unspeakable suffering, intolerable
oppression, and heartless indifference, smote equally
without distinction.

Charles Darnay, alone in a cell, had sustained
himself with no flattering delusion since he came
to it from the Tribunal. In every line of the
narrative he had heard, he had heard his
condemnation. He had fully comprehended that
no personal influence could possibly save him,
that he was virtually sentenced by the millions,
and that units could avail him nothing.

Nevertheless, it was not easy, with the face of
his beloved wife fresh before him, to compose
his mind to what it must bear. His hold on life
was strong, and it was very, very hard to loosen;
by gradual efforts and degrees unclosed a little
here, it clenched the tighter there; and when he
brought his strength to bear on that hand and it
yielded, this was closed again. There was
hurry, too, in all his thoughts, a turbulent and
heated working of his heart, that contended
against resignation. If, for a moment, he did
feel resigned, then his wife and child who had to
live after him, seemed to protest and to make it
a selfish thing.

But, all this was at first. Before long, the
consideration that there was no disgrace in the
fate he must meet, and that numbers went the
same road wrongfully, and trod it firmly, every
day, sprang up to stimulate him. Next
followed the thought that much of the future peace
of mind enjoyable by the dear ones, depended on
his quiet fortitude. So, by degrees he calmed
into the better state when he could raise his
thoughts much higher, and draw comfort down.

Before it had set in dark on the night of his
condemnation, he had travelled thus far on his
last way. Being allowed to purchase the means
of writing, and a light, he sat down to write
until such time as the prison lamps should be

He wrote a long letter to Lucie, showing her
that he had known nothing of her father's
imprisonment until he had heard of it from herself, and
that he had been as ignorant as she of his
father's and uncle's responsibility for that misery,
until the paper had been read. He had already
explained to her that his concealment from
herself of the name he bad relinquished, was the
one conditionfully intelligible nowthat her
father had attached to their betrothal, and was
the one promise he had still exacted on the
morning of their marriage. He entreated her, for
her father's sake, never to seek to know whether
her father had become oblivious of the existence
of the paper, or had had it recalled to him (for
the moment, or for good), by the story of the
Tower, on that old Sunday under the dear
plane-tree in the garden. If he had preserved
any definite remembrance of it, there could be
no doubt that he had supposed it destroyed with
the Bastille, when he had found no mention of
it among the relics of prisoners which the populace
had discovered there, and which had been
described to all the world. He besought her
though he added that he knew it was needless
to console her father, by impressing him through
every tender means she could think of, with the
truth that he had done nothing for which he
could justly reproach himself, but had uniformly
forgotten himself for their joint sakes. Next
to her preservation of his own last grateful love
and blessing, and her overcoming of her sorrow,
to devote herself to their dear child, he adjured
her, as they would meet in Heaven, to comfort
her father.

To her father himself, he wrote in the same
strain; but, he told her father that he expressly
confided his wife and child to his care. And he
told him this, very strongly, with the hope of
rousing him from any despondency or dangerous