A Tale Of Two Cities
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Monseigneur having eased his four men of their burdens and taken his
chocolate, caused the doors of the Holiest of Holiests to be thrown
open, and issued forth. Then, what submission, what cringing and
fawning, what servility, what abject humiliation! As to bowing down
in body and spirit, nothing in that way was left for Heaven--which
may have been one among other reasons why the worshippers of
Monseigneur never troubled it.
Bestowing a word of promise here and a smile there, a whisper on one
happy slave and a wave of the hand on another, Monseigneur affably
passed through his rooms to the remote region of the Circumference of
Truth. There, Monseigneur turned, and came back again, and so in due
course of time got himself shut up in his sanctuary by the chocolate
sprites, and was seen no more.
The show being over, the flutter in the air became quite a little
storm, and the precious little bells went ringing downstairs.
There was soon but one person left of all the crowd, and he, with his
hat under his arm and his snuff-box in his hand, slowly passed among
the mirrors on his way out.
"I devote you," said this person, stopping at the last door on his
way, and turning in the direction of the sanctuary, "to the Devil!"
With that, he shook the snuff from his fingers as if he had shaken
the dust from his feet, and quietly walked downstairs.
He was a man of about sixty, handsomely dressed, haughty in manner,
and with a face like a fine mask. A face of a transparent paleness;
every feature in it clearly defined; one set expression on it.
The nose, beautifully formed otherwise, was very slightly pinched at
the top of each nostril. In those two compressions, or dints, the
only little change that the face ever showed, resided. They persisted
in changing colour sometimes, and they would be occasionally dilated
and contracted by something like a faint pulsation; then, they gave a
look of treachery, and cruelty, to the whole countenance. Examined
with attention, its capacity of helping such a look was to be found
in the line of the mouth, and the lines of the orbits of the eyes,
being much too horizontal and thin; still, in the effect of the face
made, it was a handsome face, and a remarkable one.
Its owner went downstairs into the courtyard, got into his carriage,
and drove away. Not many people had talked with him at the reception;
he had stood in a little space apart, and Monseigneur might have been
warmer in his manner. It appeared, under the circumstances, rather
agreeable to him to see the common people dispersed before his horses,
and often barely escaping from being run down. His man drove as if
he were charging an enemy, and the furious recklessness of the man
brought no check into the face, or to the lips, of the master. The
complaint had sometimes made itself audible, even in that deaf city
and dumb age, that, in the narrow streets without footways, the fierce
patrician custom of hard driving endangered and maimed the mere vulgar
in a barbarous manner. But, few cared enough for that to think of it
a second time, and, in this matter, as in all others, the common
wretches were left to get out of their difficulties as they could.
With a wild rattle and clatter, and an inhuman abandonment of
consideration not easy to be understood in these days, the carriage
dashed through streets and swept round corners, with women screaming
before it, and men clutching each other and clutching children out of
its way. At last, swooping at a street corner by a fountain, one of
its wheels came to a sickening little jolt, and there was a loud cry
from a number of voices, and the horses reared and plunged.
But for the latter inconvenience, the carriage probably would not
have stopped; carriages were often known to drive on, and leave their
wounded behind, and why not? But the frightened valet had got down in
a hurry, and there were twenty hands at the horses' bridles.
"What has gone wrong?" said Monsieur, calmly looking out.
A tall man in a nightcap had caught up a bundle from among the feet
of the horses, and had laid it on the basement of the fountain,
and was down in the mud and wet, howling over it like a wild animal.
"Pardon, Monsieur the Marquis!" said a ragged and submissive man,
"it is a child."
"Why does he make that abominable noise? Is it his child?"
"Excuse me, Monsieur the Marquis--it is a pity--yes."
The fountain was a little removed; for the street opened, where it
was, into a space some ten or twelve yards square. As the tall man
suddenly got up from the ground, and came running at the carriage,
Monsieur the Marquis clapped his hand for an instant on his sword-hilt.
"Killed!" shrieked the man, in wild desperation, extending both arms
at their length above his head, and staring at him. "Dead!"
The people closed round, and looked at Monsieur the Marquis.
There was nothing revealed by the many eyes that looked at him but
watchfulness and eagerness; there was no visible menacing or anger.
Neither did the people say anything; after the first cry, they had
been silent, and they remained so. The voice of the submissive man
who had spoken, was flat and tame in its extreme submission.
Monsieur the Marquis ran his eyes over them all, as if they had been
mere rats come out of their holes.
He took out his purse.
"It is extraordinary to me," said he, "that you people cannot take
care of yourselves and your children. One or the other of you is for
ever in the, way. How do I know what injury you have done my horses.
See! Give him that."
He threw out a gold coin for the valet to pick up, and all the heads
craned forward that all the eyes might look down at it as it fell.
The tall man called out again with a most unearthly cry, "Dead!"
He was arrested by the quick arrival of another man, for whom the
rest made way. On seeing him, the miserable creature fell upon his
shoulder, sobbing and crying, and pointing to the fountain, where
some women were stooping over the motionless bundle, and moving
gently about it. They were as silent, however, as the men.
"I know all, I know all," said the last comer. "Be a brave man, my
Gaspard! It is better for the poor little plaything to die so, than
to live. It has died in a moment without pain. Could it have lived
an hour as happily?"
"You are a philosopher, you there," said the, Marquis, smiling.
"How do they call you?"
"They call me Defarge."
"Of what trade?"
"Monsieur the Marquis, vendor of wine."
"Pick up that, philosopher and vendor of wine," said the Marquis,
throwing him another gold coin, "and spend it as you will.
The horses there; are they right?"
Without deigning to look at the assemblage a second time, Monsieur
the Marquis leaned back in his seat, and was just being driven away
with the air of a gentleman who had accidentally broke some common
thing, and had paid for it, and could afford to pay for it; when his
ease was suddenly disturbed by a coin flying into his carriage,
and ringing on its floor.
"Hold!" said Monsieur the Marquis. "Hold the horses! Who threw that?"
He looked to the spot where Defarge the vendor of wine had stood,
a moment before; but the wretched father was grovelling on his face
on the pavement in that spot, and the figure that stood beside him
was the figure of a dark stout woman, knitting.
"You dogs!" said the Marquis, but smoothly, and with an unchanged front,
except as to the spots on his nose: "I would ride over any of you
very willingly, and exterminate you from the earth. If I knew which
rascal threw at the carriage, and if that brigand were sufficiently
near it, he should be crushed under the wheels."
So cowed was their condition, and so long and hard their experience
of what such a man could do to them, within the law and beyond it,
that not a voice, or a hand, or even an eye was raised. Among the
men, not one. But the woman who stood knitting looked up steadily,
and looked the Marquis in the face. It was not for his dignity to
notice it; his contemptuous eyes passed over her, and over all the
other rats; and he leaned back in his seat again, and gave the word
He was driven on, and other carriages came whirling by in quick
succession; the Minister, the State-Projector, the Farmer-General,
the Doctor, the Lawyer, the Ecclesiastic, the Grand Opera, the
Comedy, the whole Fancy Ball in a bright continuous flow, came
whirling by. The rats had crept out of their holes to look on,
and they remained looking on for hours; soldiers and police often
passing between them and the spectacle, and making a barrier behind
which they slunk, and through which they peeped. The father had long
ago taken up his bundle and bidden himself away with it, when the
women who had tended the bundle while it lay on the base of the
fountain, sat there watching the running of the water and the rolling
of the Fancy Ball--when the one woman who had stood conspicuous,
knitting, still knitted on with the steadfastness of Fate. The water
of the fountain ran, the swift river ran, the day ran into evening,
so much life in the city ran into death according to rule, time and
tide waited for no man, the rats were sleeping close together in
their dark holes again, the Fancy Ball was lighted up at supper,
all things ran their course.
Monseigneur in the Country
A beautiful landscape, with the corn bright in it, but not abundant.
Patches of poor rye where com should have been, patches of poor peas
and beans, patches of most coarse vegetable substitutes for wheat.
On inanimate nature, as on the men and women who cultivated it,
a prevalent tendency towards an appearance of vegetating
unwillingly--a dejected disposition to give up, and wither away.
Monsieur the Marquis in his travelling carriage (which might have
been lighter), conducted by four post-horses and two postilions,
fagged up a steep hill. A blush on the countenance of Monsieur the
Marquis was no impeachment of his high breeding; it was not from
within; it was occasioned by an external circumstance beyond his
control--the setting sun.
The sunset struck so brilliantly into the travelling carriage when it
gained the hill-top, that its occupant was steeped in crimson.
"It will die out," said Monsieur the Marquis, glancing at his hands,
In effect, the sun was so low that it dipped at the moment. When the
heavy drag had been adjusted to the wheel, and the carriage slid down
hill, with a cinderous smell, in a cloud of dust, the red glow departed
quickly; the sun and the Marquis going down together, there was no
glow left when the drag was taken off.
But, there remained a broken country, bold and open, a little village
at the bottom of the hill, a broad sweep and rise beyond it, a church-
tower, a windmill, a forest for the chase, and a crag with a fortress
on it used as a prison. Round upon all these darkening objects as
the night drew on, the Marquis looked, with the air of one who was
coming near home.
The village had its one poor street, with its poor brewery, poor
tannery, poor tavern, poor stable-yard for relays of post-horses,
poor fountain, all usual poor appointments. It had its poor people
too. All its people were poor, and many of them were sitting at
their doors, shredding spare onions and the like for supper, while
many were at the fountain, washing leaves, and grasses, and any such
small yieldings of the earth that could be eaten. Expressive sips of
what made them poor, were not wanting; the tax for the state, the tax
for the church, the tax for the lord, tax local and tax general, were
to be paid here and to be paid there, according to solemn inscription
in the little village, until the wonder was, that there was any
village left unswallowed.
Few children were to be seen, and no dogs. As to the men and women,
their choice on earth was stated in the prospect--Life on the lowest
terms that could sustain it, down in the little village under the
mill; or captivity and Death in the dominant prison on the crag.
Heralded by a courier in advance, and by the cracking of his
postilions' whips, which twined snake-like about their heads in the
evening air, as if he came attended by the Furies, Monsieur the