Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Off with his Head!


There were all lined up to die that day. Many were guilty. Many were innocent. Many cried. Many prayed to God. Out of this throng of many, a man stood out. He did not mean to do so. His eyes roved unseeingly over the mob. The girl he had been to talking lay a lifeless corpse. Many were to follow her. He would too.

He had leaned carelessly against the witness box while his double stood trial in Old Bailey. He had worn a nightly shroud of candle wax in many taverns at London. It was he who had stopped for Death.  

 “Thank God she’s safe…” he whispered.

The executioner gestured towards him with hands stained now with blood, not wine.

“Off with his head, off with his head,” chanted the Vengeance like the Queen of Diamonds.




His shoes made hardly any sound as he ascended. Briefly, he raised his eyes to look at the mob below. They were too beneath him to see what he saw. His eyes didn’t see the knitting lying on Madame Defarge’s vacant chair. Nor did they light on the Vengeance or Barsad and Cly. He saw a woman. She seemed an apparation. Her hair was the same gold as Lucy’s. Her eyes the same blue.

“Lucy?” his mind cried.

He felt himself roughly dragged towards St Guillotine. They flung him on the block and he felt the rough wood graze his fingers. Hastily, he looked up to see her face again. It couldn’t be Lucy. His upturned eyes sought for the mysterious angel.

It wasn’t Lucy. Her forehead held not the other’s distinctiveness. She was her replica. The crowd jeered and abused him. He closed his eyes ready to feel the chill of the axe. “A life you love…” he murmured again.

He saw the angel behind his closed lids. There was no darkness. Dr Manette stood beside her his face radiant. ‘It was you! You who I saw in my cell’ said he.

Mr Lorry joined them and Lucy appeared beside him. Her face wasn’t the wan one he had kissed his farewell to. Darney had his arm around her. Was this the future he saw?

“Thank God if it be so,” his heart prayed.

 Then as if from nowhere, he saw himself besides them, with little Lucy on his lap. His face was blissfully happy. Was this heaven?

 “Off with his head! Down with the aristocrat!” the crowd chanted.

The air stilled as the axe was raised. Barsad turned his eyes away. “He was a good man…” he choked.

A smile lit Sidney Carton’s face. Lucy’s face shone before him. Her blue eyes compassionate. His soul was light. His laughter was no more tinged with pain.

Finally, he could rest. Finally, there would be no pillow littered with tears. Finally, the sun emerged. And then - the axe fell. The air was rent with cheers.

In the carriage speeding towards London, Charles Darney opened his eyes.

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