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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens


150

CHAPTER XVI
STILL KNITTING


MADAME DEFARGE and monsieur her husband returned
amicably to the bosom of Saint Antoine, while a speck in a blue cap
toiled through the darkness, and through the dust, and down the
weary miles of avenue by the wayside, slowly tending towards
that point of the compass where the chateau of Monsieur the
Marquis, now in his grave, listened to the whispering trees. Such
ample leisure had the stone faces, now, for listening to the trees
and to the fountain, that the few village scarecrows who, in their
quest for herbs to eat and fragments of dead stick to burn, strayed
within sight of the great stone courtyard and terrace staircase, had
it borne in upon their starved fancy that the expression of the faces
was altered. A rumour just lived in the village-had a faint and
bare existence there, as its people had-that when the knife struck
home, the faces changed, from faces of pride to faces of anger and
pain; also, that when that dangling figure was hauled up forty feet
above the fountain, they changed again, and bore a cruel look of
being avenged, which they would henceforth bear for ever. In the
stone face over the great window of the bed-chamber where the
murder was done, two fine dints were pointed out in the
sculptured nose, which everybody recognised, and which nobody
had seen of old; and on the scarce occasions when two or three
raagged peasants emerged from the crowd to take a hurried peep
at Monsieur the Marquis petrified, a skinny finger would not have
pointed to it for a minute, be-fore they all started away among the
moss and leaves, like the more fortunate hares who could find a
living there.

Chateau and hut, stone face and dangling figure, the red stain on
the stone floor, and the pure water in the village well-thousands of
acres of land-a whole province of France-all France itself-lay
under the night sky, concentrated into a faint hair-breadth line. So
does a whole world, with all its greatnesses and littlenesses, lie in a
twinkling star. And as mere human knowledge can split a ray of
light and analyse the manner of its composition, so, sublimer
intelligences may read in the feeble shining of this earth of ours,
every thought and act, every vice and virtue, of every responsible
creature on it.

The Defarges, husband and wife, came lumbering under the
starlight, in their public vehicle, to that gate of Paris whereunto
their journey naturally tended.
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