Book the Third - The Track of a Storm
4. IV. Calm in Storm
But, though the Doctor tried hard, and never ceased trying, to get
Charles Darnay set at liberty, or at least to get him brought to trial,
the public current of the time set too strong and fast for him.
The new era began; the king was tried, doomed, and beheaded; the
Republic of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death, declared for
victory or death against the world in arms; the black flag waved
night and day from the great towers of Notre Dame; three hundred
thousand men, summoned to rise against the tyrants of the earth, rose
from all the varying soils of France, as if the dragon's teeth had
been sown broadcast, and had yielded fruit equally on hill and plain,
on rock, in gravel, and alluvial mud, under the bright sky of the
South and under the clouds of the North, in fell and forest, in the
vineyards and the olive-grounds and among the cropped grass and the
stubble of the corn, along the fruitful banks of the broad rivers,
and in the sand of the sea-shore. What private solicitude could rear
itself against the deluge of the Year One of Liberty--the deluge
rising from below, not falling from above, and with the windows of
Heaven shut, not opened!
There was no pause, no pity, no peace, no interval of relenting rest,
no measurement of time. Though days and nights circled as regularly
as when time was young, and the evening and morning were the first
day, other count of time there was none. Hold of it was lost in the
raging fever of a nation, as it is in the fever of one patient.
Now, breaking the unnatural silence of a whole city, the executioner
showed the people the head of the king--and now, it seemed almost in
the same breath, the head of his fair wife which had had eight weary
months of imprisoned widowhood and misery, to turn it grey.
And yet, observing the strange law of contradiction which obtains in
all such cases, the time was long, while it flamed by so fast.
A revolutionary tribunal in the capital, and forty or fifty thousand
revolutionary committees all over the land; a law of the Suspected,
which struck away all security for liberty or life, and delivered
over any good and innocent person to any bad and guilty one; prisons
gorged with people who had committed no offence, and could obtain no
hearing; these things became the established order and nature of
appointed things, and seemed to be ancient usage before they were
many weeks old. Above all, one hideous figure grew as familiar as if
it had been before the general gaze from the foundations of the
world--the figure of the sharp female called La Guillotine.