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“GOOD DAY!” said Monsieur Defarge, looking down at the white
bead that bent low over the shoemaking.
It was raised for a moment, and a very faint voice responded to the
salutation, as if it were at a distance: “Good day!” “You are still
hard at work, I see?” After a long silence, the head was lifted for
another moment, and the voice replied, “Yes-I am working.” This
time, a pair of haggard eyes had looked at the questioner, before
the face had dropped again.
The faintness of the voice was pitiable and dreadful. It was not the
faintness of physical weakness, though confinement and hard fare
no doubt had their part in it. Its deplorable peculiarity was, that it
was the faintness of solitude and disuse. It was like the last feeble
echo of a sound made long and long ago. So entirely had it lost the
life and resonance of the human voice, that it affected the senses
like a once beautiful colour faded away into a poor weak stain. So
sunken and suppressed it was, that it was like a voice
underground. So expressive it was, of a hopeless and lost creature,
that a famished traveller, wearied out by lonely wandering in a
wilderness, would have remembered home and friends in such a
tone before lying down to die.
Some minutes of silent work had passed: and the haggard eyes had
looked up again: not with any interest or curiosity, but with a dull
mechanical perception, beforehand, that the spot where the only
visitor they were aware of had stood, was not yet empty.
“I want,” said Defarge, who had not removed his gaze from the
shoemaker, “to let in a little more light here. You can bear a little
more?” The shoemaker stopped his work; looked with a vacant air
of listening, at the floor on one side of him; then similarly, at the
floor on the other side of him; then, upward at the speaker.
“What did you say?” “You can bear a little more light?” “I must
bear it, if you let it in.” (Laying the palest shadow of a stress upon
the second word.) The opened half-door was opened a little
further, and secured at that angle for the time. A broad ray of light
fell into the garret, and showed the workman with an unfinished
shoe upon his lap, pausing in his labour. His few common tools
and various scraps of leather were at his feet and on his bench. He
had a white beard, raggedly cut, but not very long, a hollow face,
and exceedingly bright eyes. The hollowness and thinness of his
face would have caused them to look large, under his yet dark
eyebrows and his confused white hair, though they had been really