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


233

What private solicitude could rear itself against the deluge of the
Year One of Liberty-the deluge rising from below, not falling from
above, and with the windows of Heaven shut, not opened!

There was no pause, no pity, no peace, no interval of relenting rest,
no measurement of time. Though days and nights circled as
regularly as when time was young, and the evening and morning
were the first day, other count of time there was none. Hold of it
was lost in the raging fever of a nation, as it is in the fever of one
patient. Now, breaking the unnatural silence of a whole city, the
executioner showed the people the head of the king-and now, it
seemed almost in the same breath, the bead of his fair wife which
had had eight weary months of imprisoned widowhood and
misery, to turn it grey.

And yet, observing the strange law of contradiction which obtains
in all such cases, the time was long, while it flamed by so fast. A
revolutionary tribunal in the capital, and forty or fifty thousand
revolutionary committees all over the land; a law of the Suspected,
which struck away all security for liberty or life, and delivered
over any good and innocent person to any bad and guilty one;
prisons gorged with people who had committed no offence, and
could obtain no bearing; these things became the established order
and nature of appointed things, and seemed to be ancient usage
before they were many weeks old. Above all, one hideous figure
grew as familiar as if it had been before the general gaze from the
foundations of the world-the figure of the sharp female called La
Guillotine.

It was the popular theme for jests; it was the best cure for
headache, it ifallibly prevented the hair from turning grey, it
imparted a peculiar delicacy to the complexion, it was the National
Razor which shaved close: who kissed La Guillotine, looked
through the little window and sneezed into the sack. It was the
sign of the regeneration of the human race. It superseded the Cross.
Models of it were worn on breasts from which the Cross was
discarded, and it was bowed down to and believed in where the
Cross was denied.

It sheared off heads so many, that it, and the ground it most
polluted, were a rotten red. It was taken to pieces, like a toy-puzzle
for a young Devil, and was put together again when the occasion
wanted it. It hushed the eloquent, struck down the powerful,
abolished the beautiful and good. Twenty-two friends of high
public mark, twenty-one living and one dead, it had lopped the
heads off, in one morning, in as many minutes. The name of the
strong man of Old Scripture had descended to the chief functionary
who worked it; but, so armed, he was stronger than his namesake,
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