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torn limb from limb by four strong horses. That old man says, all
this was actually done to a prisoner who made an attempt on the
life of the late King, Louis Fifteen. But how do I know if he lies? I
am not a scholar.” “Listen once again then, Jacques!” said the man
with the restless hand and the craving air. “The name of that
prisoner was Damiens, and it was all done in open day, in the open
streets of this city of Paris; and nothing was more noticed in the
vast concourse that saw it done, than the crowd of ladies of quality
and fashion, who were fun of eager attention to the last-to the last,
Jacques, prolonged until nightfall, when he had lost two legs and
an arm, and still breathed! And it was done why, how old are
you?” “Thirty-five,” said the mender of roads, who looked sixty.
“It was done when you were more than ten years old; you might
have seen it.” “Enough!” said Defarge, with grim impatience.
“Long live the Devil! Go on.” “Well! Some whisper this, some
whisper that; they speak of nothing else; even the fountain appears
to fall to that tune. At length, on Sunday night when all the village
is asleep, come soldiers, winding down from the prison, and their
guns ring on the stones of the little street. Workmen dig, workmen
hammer, soldiers laugh and sing; in the morning, by the fountain,
there is raised a gallows forty feet high, poisoning the water.” The
mender of roads looked through rather than at the low ceiling, and
pointed as if he saw the gallows somewhere in the sky.
“All work is stopped, all assemble there, nobody leads the cows
out, the cows are there with the rest. At midday, the roll of drums.
Soldiers have marched into the prison in the night, and he is in the
midst of many soldiers. He is bound as before, and in his mouth
there is a gag-tied so, with a tight string, making him look almost
as if he laughed.” He suggested it, by creasing his face with his two
thumbs, from the corners of his mouth to his ears. “On the top of
the gallows is fixed the knife, blade upwards, with its point in the
air. He is hanged there forty feet high-and is left hanging,
poisoning the water.” They looked at one another, as he used his
blue cap to wipe his face, on which the perspiration had started
afresh while he recalled the spectacle.
“It is frightful, messieurs. How can the women and the children
draw water! Who can gossip of an evening, under that shadow!
Under it, have I said? When I left the village, Monday evening as
the sun was going to bed, and looked back from the hill, the
shadow struck across the church, across the mill, across the prison-
seemed to strike across the earth, messieurs, to where the sky rests
upon it!” The hungry man gnawed one of his fingers as he looked
at the other three, and his finger quivered with the craving that
was on him.