January 21, 2016

with the apparitions of the coquette


Through the dismal prison twilight, his new charge accompanied himby corridor and staircase, many doors clanging and locking behindthem, until they came into a large, low, vaulted chamber, crowded withprisoners of both sexes. The women were seated at a long table,reading and writing, knitting, sewing, and embroidering; the menwere for the most part standing behind their chairs, or lingering upand down the room.

In the instinctive association of prisoners with shameful crimeand disgrace, the new-comer recoiled from this company. But thecrowning unreality of his long unreal ride, was, their all at oncerising to receive him, with every refinement of manner known to thetime, and with all the engaging graces and courtesies of life.

So strangely clouded were these refinements by the prison mannersand gloom, so spectral did they become in the inappropriate squalorand misery through which they were seen, that Charles Darnay seemed tostand in a company of the dead. Ghosts all! The ghost of beauty, theghost of stateliness, the ghost of elegance, the ghost of pride, theghost of frivolity, the ghost of wit, the ghost of youth, the ghost ofage, all waiting their dismissal from the desolate shore, allturning on him eyes that were changed by the death they had died incoming there.

It struck him motionless. The gaoler standing at his side, and theother gaolers moving about, who would have been well enough as toappearance in the ordinary exercise of their functions, looked soextravagantly coarse contrasted with sorrowing mothers and bloomingdaughters who were there, theyoung beauty, and the mature woman delicately bred- that the inversionof all experience and likelihood which the scene of shadows presented,was heightened to its utmost. Surely, ghosts all. Surely, the longunreal ride some progress of disease that had brought him to thesegloomy shades!

"In the name of the assembled companions in misfortune," said agentleman of courtly appearance and address, coming forward, "I havethe honour of giving you welcome to La Force, and of condoling withyou on the calamity that has brought you among us. May it soonterminate happily! It would be an impertinence elsewhere, but it isnot so here, to ask your name and condition?"

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