A Tale of Two Cities: the Dread Tribunal of Five Judges

Topics: A Tale of Two Cities, A Tale of Two Cities characters, Alexandre Manette Pages: 20 (8941 words) Published: April 10, 2011
The dread tribunal of five Judges, Public Prosecutor, and determined Jury, sat every day. Their lists went forth every evening, and were read out by the gaolers of the various prisons to their prisoners. The standard gaoler-joke was, “Come out and listen to the Evening Paper, you inside there!” | The dreaded tribunal was made up of five judges, a public prosecutor, and a selected jury. The court was in session every day, and their lists were sent out every night. The jailers in the various prisons read the lists out loud to their prisoners. They would often make a joke of it and say, “Come out and listen to the evening paper, you prisoners!” | “Charles Evremonde, called Darnay!” | “Charles Evremonde, also known as Darnay!” | So at last began the Evening Paper at La Force. | This is how the “evening paper” began at La Force Prison. | When a name was called, its owner stepped apart into a spot reserved for those who were announced as being thus fatally recorded. Charles Evremonde, called Darnay, had reason to know the usage; he had seen hundreds pass away so. | When someone’s name was called, the person would step forward into an area reserved for him. Charles Evremonde, also known as Darnay, already knew this. He had seen hundred of people go to their deaths this way. | His bloated gaoler, who wore spectacles to read with, glanced over them to assure himself that he had taken his place, and went through the list, making a similar short pause at each name. There were twenty-three names, but only twenty were responded to; for one of the prisoners so summoned had died in gaol and been forgotten, and two had already been guillotined and forgotten. The list was read, in the vaulted chamber where Darnay had seen the associated prisoners on the night of his arrival. Every one of those had perished in the massacre; every human creature he had since cared for and parted with, had died on the scaffold. | The swollen jailer, who wore reading glasses, glanced over them to make sure Darnay had stepped forward, and then went through the rest of the list. He would pause briefly after each name to make sure the person stepped forward. There were twenty-three names, but only twenty people answered. One of the prisoners whose names was called had already died in jail and been forgotten. Two had already been sent to the guillotine and also forgotten. The jailer read the list in the hall with the vaulted ceilings where Darnay had seen the group of prisoners the night he arrived in prison. Every one of those prisoners had died in the massacre. Every person he had since cared about in prison had died at the guillotine. | There were hurried words of farewell and kindness, but the parting was soon over. It was the incident of every day, and the society of La Force were engaged in the preparation of some games of forfeits and a little concert, for that evening. They crowded to the grates and shed tears there; but, twenty places in the projected entertainments had to be refilled, and the time was, at best, short to the lock-up hour, when the common rooms and corridors would be delivered over to the great dogs who kept watch there through the night. The prisoners were far from insensible or unfeeling; their ways arose out of the condition of the time. Similarly, though with a subtle difference, a species of fervour or intoxication, known, without doubt, to have led some persons to brave the guillotine unnecessarily, and to die by it, was not mere boastfulness, but a wild infection of the wildly shaken public mind. In seasons of pestilence, some of us will have a secret attraction to the disease—a terrible passing inclination to die of it. And all of us have like wonders hidden in our breasts, only needing circumstances to evoke them. | People quickly said goodbyes and kind words to those whose names were called, but this was over soon. This happened every day, and the prisoners of La Force Prison were busy preparing for some games and...
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