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


292

CHAPTER XIII
FIFTY-TWO


IN THE BLACK PRISON of the Conciergerie, the doomed of the
day awaited their fate. They were in number as the weeks of the
year. Fifty-two were to roll that afternoon on the life-tide of the city
to the boundless everlasting sea.

Before their cells were quit of them, new occupants were
appointed; before their blood ran into the blood spilled yesterday,
the blood that was to mingle with theirs to-morrow was already set
apart.

Two score and twelve were told off. From the farmer-general of
seventy, whose riches could not buy his life, to the seamstress of
twenty, whose poverty and obscurity could not save her. Physical
diseases, engendered in the vices and neglects of men, will seize on
victims of all degrees; and the frightful moral disorder, born of
unspeakable suffering, intolerable oppression, and heartless
indifference, smote equally without distinction.

Charles Darnay, alone in a cell, had sustained himself with no
flattering delusion since he came to it from the Tribunal. In every
line of the narrative he had heard, he had heard his condemnation.
He had fully comprehended that no personal influence could
possibly save him, that he was virtually sentenced by the millions,
and that units could avail him nothing.

Nevertheless, it was not easy, with the face of his beloved wife
fresh before him, to compose his mind to what it must bear. His
hold on life was strong, and it was very, very hard, to loosen; by
gradual efforts and degrees unclosed a little here, it clenched the
tighter there; and when he brought his strength to bear on that
hand and it yielded, this was closed again. There was a hurry, too,
in all his thoughts, a turbulent and heated working of his heart,
that contended against resignation. If, for a moment, he did feel
resigned, then his wife and child who had to live after him, seemed
to protest and to make it a selfish thing.

But, all this was at first. Before long, the consideration that there
was no disgrace in the fate he must meet, and that numbers went
the same road wrongfully, and trod it firmly every day, sprang up
to stimulate him. Next followed the thought that much of the
future peace of mind enjoyable by the dear ones, depended on his
quiet fortitude. So, by degrees he calmed into the better state, when
he could raise his thoughts much higher, and draw comfort down.
Before it had set in dark on the night of his condemnation, he had
travelled thus far on his last way. Being allowed to purchase the
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