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The passage to the Conciergerie was short and dark; the night in its
verminhaunted cells was long and cold. Next day, fifteen prisoners
were put to the bar before Charles Darnay’s name was called. All
the fifteen were condemned, and the trials of the whole occupied
an hour and a half.
“Charles Evremonde, called Darnay,” was at length arraigned.
His judges sat upon the Bench in feathered hats; but the rough red
cap and tricoloured cockade was the head-dress otherwise
prevailing. Looking at the Jury and the turbulent audience, he
might have thought that the usual order of things was reversed,
and that the felons were trying the honest men. The lowest,
cruelest, and worst populace of a city, never without its quantity of
low, cruel, and bad, were the directing spirits of the scene: noisily
commenting, applauding, disapproving, anticipating, and
precipitating the result, without a check. Of the men, the greater
part were armed in various ways; of the women, some wore
knives, some daggers, some ate and drank as they looked on, many
knitted. Among these last, was one, with a spare piece of knitting
under her arm as she worked. She was in a front row, by the side
of a man whom he had never seen since his arrival at the Barrier,
but whom he directly remembered as Defarge. He noticed that she
once or twice whispered in his ear, and that she seemed to be his
wife; but, what he most noticed in the two figures was, that
although they were posted as close to himself as they could be,
they never looked towards him. They seemed to be waiting for
something with a dogged determination, and they looked at the
Jury, but at nothing else. Under the President sat Doctor Manette,
in his usual quiet dress.
As well as the prisoner could see, he and Mr. Lorry were the only
men there, unconnected with the Tribunal, who wore their usual
clothes, and had not assumed the coarse garb of the Carmagnole.
Charles Evremonde, called Darnay, was accused by the public
prosecutor as an emigrant, whose life was forfeit to the Republic,
under the decree which banished all emigrants on pain of Death. It
was nothing that the decree bore date since his return to France.
There he was, and there was the decree; he had been taken in
France, and his head was demanded.
“Take off his head!” cried the audience. “An enemy to the
Republic!” The President rang his bell to silence those cries, and
asked the prisoner whether it was not true that he had lived many
years in England? Undoubtedly it was.
Was he not an emigrant then? What did he call himself? Not an
emigrant, he hoped, within the sense and spirit of the law.
Why not? the President desired to know.