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


193

CHAPTER XXIII
FIRE RISES


THERE WAS a change on the village where the fountain fell, and
where the mender of roads went forth daily to hammer out of the
stones on the highway such morsels of bread as might serve for
patches to hold his poor ignorant soul and his poor reduced body
together. The prison on the crag was not so dominant as of yore;
there were soldiers to guard it, but not many; there were officers to
guard the soldiers, but not one of them knew what his men would
do-beyond this: that it would probably not be what he was
ordered.

Far and wide lay a rained country, yielding nothing but desolation.
Every green leaf, every blade of grass and blade of grain, was as
shrivelled and poor as the miserable people. Everything was
bowed down, dejected, oppressed, and broken. Habitations, fences,
domesticated animals, men, women, children, and the soil that
bore them-all worn out.

Monseigneur (often a most worthy individual gentleman) was a
national blessing, gave a chivalrous tone to things, was a polite
example of luxurious and shining life, and a great deal more to
equal purpose; nevertheless, Monseigneur as a class had, somehow
or other, brought things to this. Strange that Creation, designed
expressly for Monseigneur, should be so soon wrung dry and
squeezed out! There must be something shortsighted in the eternal
arrangements, surely!

Thus it was, however; and the last drop of blood having been
extracted from the flints, and the last screw of the rack having been
turned so often that its purchase crumbled, and it now turned and
turned with nothing to bite, Monseigneur began to run away from
a phenomenon so low and unaccountable.

But, this was not the change on the village, and on many a village
like it. For scores of years gone by, Monseigneur had squeezed it
and wrung it, and had seldom graced it with his presence except
for the pleasures of the chase-now, found in hunting the people;
now, found in hunting the beasts, for whose preservation
Monseigneur made edifying spaces of barbarous and barren
wilderness. No. The change consisted in the appearance of strange
faces of low caste, rather than in the disappearance of the high
caste, chiselled, and otherwise beautified and beautifying features
of Monseigneur.

For, in these times, as the mender of roads worked, solitary, in the
dust, not often troubling himself to reflect that dust he was and to
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