Book the Third - The Track of a Storm
6. VI. Triumph
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!"
"Charles Evremonde, called Darnay!"
So at last began the Evening Paper at La Force.
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.
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.
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.