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Charles Dickens > A Tale Of Two Cities > Book 1 - 4

A Tale Of Two Cities

Book 1 - 4

The Preparation

When the mail got successfully to Dover, in the course of the
forenoon, the head drawer at the Royal George Hotel opened the
coach-door as his custom was. He did it with some flourish of
ceremony, for a mail journey from London in winter was an achievement
to congratulate an adventurous traveller upon.

By that time, there was only one adventurous traveller left be
congratulated: for the two others had been set down at their
respective roadside destinations. The mildewy inside of the coach,
with its damp and dirty straw, its disageeable smell, and its
obscurity, was rather like a larger dog-kennel. Mr. Lorry, the
passenger, shaking himself out of it in chains of straw, a tangle of
shaggy wrapper, flapping hat, and muddy legs, was rather like a
larger sort of dog.

"There will be a packet to Calais, tomorrow, drawer?"

"Yes, sir, if the weather holds and the wind sets tolerable fair.
The tide will serve pretty nicely at about two in the afternoon,
sir. Bed, sir?"

"I shall not go to bed till night; but I want a bedroom, and a barber."

"And then breakfast, sir? Yes, sir. That way, sir, if you please.
Show Concord! Gentleman's valise and hot water to Concord. Pull off
gentleman's boots in Concord. (You will find a fine sea-coal fire,
sir.) Fetch barber to Concord. Stir about there, now, for Concord!"

The Concord bed-chamber being always assigned to a passenger by the
mail, and passengers by the mail being always heavily wrapped up from
head to foot, the room had the odd interest for the establishment of
the Royal George, that although but one kind of man was seen to go
into it, all kinds and varieties of men came out of it. Consequently,
another drawer, and two porters, and several maids and the landlady,
were all loitering by accident at various points of the road between
the Concord and the coffee-room, when a gentleman of sixty, formally
dressed in a brown suit of clothes, pretty well worn, but very well
kept, with large square cuffs and large flaps to the pockets, passed
along on his way to his breakfast.

The coffee-room had no other occupant, that forenoon, than the
gentleman in brown. His breakfast-table was drawn before the fire,
and as he sat, with its light shining on him, waiting for the meal,
he sat so still, that he might have been sitting for his portrait.

Very orderly and methodical he looked, with a hand on each knee, and
a loud watch ticking a sonorous sermon under his flapped waist-coat,
as though it pitted its gravity and longevity against the levity and
evanescence of the brisk fire. He had a good leg, and was a little
vain of it, for his brown stockings fitted sleek and close, and were
of a fine texture; his shoes and buckles, too, though plain, were
trim. He wore an odd little sleek crisp flaxen wig, setting very
close to his head: which wig, it is to be presumed, was made of hair,
but which looked far more as though it were spun from filaments of
silk or glass. His linen, though not of a fineness in accordance
with his stockings, was as white as the tops of the waves that broke
upon the neighbouring beach, or the specks of sail that glinted in
the sunlight far at sea. A face habitually suppressed and quieted,
was still lighted up under the quaint wig by a pair of moist bright
eyes that it must have cost their owner, in years gone by, some pains
to drill to the composed and reserved expression of Tellson's Bank.
He had a healthy colour in his cheeks, and his face, though lined,
bore few traces of anxiety. But, perhaps the confidential bachelor
clerks in Tellson's Bank were principally occupied with the cares of
other people; and perhaps second-hand cares, like second-hand
clothes, come easily off and on.

Completing his resemblance to a man who was sitting for his portrait,
Mr. Lorry dropped off to sleep. The arrival of his breakfast roused
him, and he said to the drawer, as he moved his chair to it:

"I wish accommodation prepared for a young lady who may come here at
any time to-day. She may ask for Mr. Jarvis Lorry, or she may only
ask for a gentleman from Tellson's Bank. Please to let me know."

"Yes, sir. Tellson's Bank in London, sir?"


"Yes, sir. We have oftentimes the honour to entertain your gentlemen
in their travelling backwards and forwards betwixt London and Paris,
sir. A vast deal of travelling, sir, in Tellson and Company's House."

"Yes. We are quite a French House, as well as an English one."

"Yes, sir. Not much in the habit of such travelling yourself,
I think, sir?"

"Not of late years. It is fifteen years since we--since I--
came last from France."

"Indeed, sir? That was before my time here, sir. Before our people's
time here, sir. The George was in other hands at that time, sir."

"I believe so."

"But I would hold a pretty wager, sir, that a House like Tellson and
Company was flourishing, a matter of fifty, not to speak of fifteen
years ago?"

"You might treble that, and say a hundred and fifty, yet not be far
from the truth."

"Indeed, sir!"

Rounding his mouth and both his eyes, as he stepped backward from the
table, the waiter shifted his napkin from his right arm to his left,
dropped into a comfortable attitude, and stood surveying the guest
while he ate and drank, as from an observatory or watchtower.
According to the immemorial usage of waiters in all ages.

When Mr. Lorry had finished his breakfast, he went out for a stroll
on the beach. The little narrow, crooked town of Dover hid itself
away from the beach, and ran its head into the chalk cliffs, like a
marine ostrich. The beach was a desert of heaps of sea and stones
tumbling wildly about, and the sea did what it liked, and what it
liked was destruction. It thundered at the town, and thundered at
the cliffs, and brought the coast down, madly. The air among the
houses was of so strong a piscatory flavour that one might have
supposed sick fish went up to be dipped in it, as sick people went
down to be dipped in the sea. A little fishing was done in the port,
and a quantity of strolling about by night, and looking seaward:
particularly at those times when the tide made, and was near flood.
Small tradesmen, who did no business whatever, sometimes unaccountably
realised large fortunes, and it was remarkable that nobody in the
neighbourhood could endure a lamplighter.

As the day declined into the afternoon, and the air, which had been
at intervals clear enough to allow the French coast to be seen,
became again charged with mist and vapour, Mr. Lorry's thoughts
seemed to cloud too. When it was dark, and he sat before the
coffee-room fire, awaiting his dinner as he had awaited his breakfast,
his mind was busily digging, digging, digging, in the live red coals.

A bottle of good claret after dinner does a digger in the red coals
no harm, otherwise than as it has a tendency to throw him out of
work. Mr. Lorry had been idle a long time, and had just poured out
his last glassful of wine with as complete an appearance of
satisfaction as is ever to be found in an elderly gentleman of a
fresh complexion who has got to the end of a bottle, when a rattling
of wheels came up the narrow street, and rumbled into the inn-yard.

He set down his glass untouched. "This is Mam'selle!" said he.

In a very few minutes the waiter came in to announce that Miss
Manette had arrived from London, and would be happy to see the
gentleman from Tellson's.

"So soon?"

Miss Manette had taken some refreshment on the road, and required
none then, and was extremely anxious to see the gentleman from
Tellson's immediately, if it suited his pleasure and convenience.

The gentleman from Tellson's had nothing left for it but to empty his
glass with an air of stolid desperation, settle his odd little flaxen
wig at the ears, and follow the waiter to Miss Manette's apartment.
It was a large, dark room, furnished in a funereal manner with black
horsehair, and loaded with heavy dark tables. These had been oiled
and oiled, until the two tall candles on the table in the middle of
the room were gloomily reflected on every leaf; as if THEY were
buried, in deep graves of black mahogany, and no light to speak of
could be expected from them until they were dug out.

The obscurity was so difficult to penetrate that Mr. Lorry,
picking his way over the well-worn Turkey carpet, supposed

Miss Manette to be, for the moment, in some adjacent room, until,
having got past the two tall candles, he saw standing to receive him
by the table between them and the fire, a young lady of not more than
seventeen, in a riding-cloak, and still holding her straw travelling-
hat by its ribbon in her hand. As his eyes rested on a short, slight,
pretty figure, a quantity of golden hair, a pair of blue eyes that
met his own with an inquiring look, and a forehead with a singular
capacity (remembering how young and smooth it was), of rifting and
knitting itself into an expression that was not quite one of perplexity,
or wonder, or alarm, or merely of a bright fixed attention, though it
included all the four expressions-as his eyes rested on these things,
a sudden vivid likeness passed before him, of a child whom he had
held in his arms on the passage across that very Channel, one cold
time, when the hail drifted heavily and the sea ran high. The
likeness passed away, like a breath along the surface of the gaunt
pier-glass behind her, on the frame of which, a hospital procession
of negro cupids, several headless and all cripples, were offering
black baskets of Dead Sea fruit to black divinities of the feminine
gender-and he made his formal bow to Miss Manette.

"Pray take a seat, sir." In a very clear and pleasant young voice;
a little foreign in its accent, but a very little indeed.

"I kiss your hand, miss," said Mr. Lorry, with the manners of an
earlier date, as he made his formal bow again, and took his seat.

"I received a letter from the Bank, sir, yesterday, informing me that
some intelligence--or discovery--"

"The word is not material, miss; either word will do."

"--respecting the small property of my poor father, whom I never
saw--so long dead--"

Mr. Lorry moved in his chair, and cast a troubled look towards the
hospital procession of negro cupids. As if THEY had any help for
anybody in their absurd baskets!

"--rendered it necessary that I should go to Paris, there to
communicate with a gentleman of the Bank, so good as to be despatched
to Paris for the purpose."


"As I was prepared to hear, sir."

She curtseyed to him (young ladies made curtseys in those days), with
a pretty desire to convey to him that she felt how much older and
wiser he was than she. He made her another bow.

"I replied to the Bank, sir, that as it was considered necessary, by
those who know, and who are so kind as to advise me, that I should go
to France, and that as I am an orphan and have no friend who could go
with me, I should esteem it highly if I might be permitted to place
myself, during the journey, under that worthy gentleman's protection.
The gentleman had left London, but I think a messenger was sent after
him to beg the favour of his waiting for me here."

"I was happy," said Mr. Lorry, "to be entrusted with the charge.
I shall be more happy to execute it."

"Sir, I thank you indeed. I thank you very gratefully. It was told
me by the Bank that the gentleman would explain to me the details of
the business, and that I must prepare myself to find them of a
surprising nature. I have done my best to prepare myself, and I
naturally have a strong and eager interest to know what they are."

"Naturally," said Mr. Lorry. "Yes--I--"

After a pause, he added, again settling the crisp flaxen wig at the ears,
"It is very difficult to begin."

He did not begin, but, in his indecision, met her glance. The young
forehead lifted itself into that singular expression--but it was
pretty and characteristic, besides being singular--and she raised
her hand, as if with an involuntary action she caught at, or stayed
some passing shadow.

"Are you quite a stranger to me, sir?"

"Am I not?" Mr. Lorry opened his hands, and extended them outwards
with an argumentative smile.

Between the eyebrows and just over the little feminine nose, the line
of which was as delicate and fine as it was possible to be, the
expression deepened itself as she took her seat thoughtfully in the
chair by which she had hitherto remained standing. He watched her as
she mused, and the moment she raised her eyes again, went on:

"In your adopted country, I presume, I cannot do better than address
you as a young English lady, Miss Manette?"

"If you please, sir."

"Miss Manette, I am a man of business. I have a business charge to
acquit myself of. In your reception of it, don't heed me any more
than if I was a speaking machine-truly, I am not much else. I will,
with your leave, relate to you, miss, the story of one of our


He seemed wilfully to mistake the word she had repeated, when he
added, in a hurry, "Yes, customers; in the banking business we
usually call our connection our customers. He was a French
gentleman; a scientific gentleman; a man of great acquirements--
a Doctor."

"Not of Beauvais?"

"Why, yes, of Beauvais. Like Monsieur Manette, your father,
the gentleman was of Beauvais. Like Monsieur Manette, your father,
the gentleman was of repute in Paris. I had the honour of knowing
him there. Our relations were business relations, but confidential.
I was at that time in our French House, and had been--oh! twenty years."

"At that time--I may ask, at what time, sir?"

"I speak, miss, of twenty years ago. He married--an English
lady--and I was one of the trustees. His affairs, like the affairs
of many other French gentlemen and French families, were entirely in
Tellson's hands. In a similar way I am, or I have been, trustee of
one kind or other for scores of our customers. These are mere business
relations, miss; there is no friendship in them, no particular
interest, nothing like sentiment. I have passed from one to another,
in the course of my business life, just as I pass from one of our
customers to another in the course of my business day; in short, I
have no feelings; I am a mere machine. To go on--"

"But this is my father's story, sir; and I begin to think"
--the curiously roughened forehead was very intent upon him--"that
when I was left an orphan through my mother's surviving my father
only two years, it was you who brought me to England. I am almost
sure it was you."

Mr. Lorry took the hesitating little hand that confidingly advanced
to take his, and he put it with some ceremony to his lips. He then
conducted the young lady straightway to her chair again, and, holding
the chair-back with his left hand, and using his right by turns to
rub his chin, pull his wig at the ears, or point what he said, stood
looking down into her face while she sat looking up into his.

"Miss Manette, it WAS I. And you will see how truly I spoke of
myself just now, in saying I had no feelings, and that all the
relations I hold with my fellow-creatures are mere business
relations, when you reflect that I have never seen you since.
No; you have been the ward of Tellson's House since, and I have been
busy with the other business of Tellson's House since. Feelings!
I have no time for them, no chance of them. I pass my whole life,
miss, in turning an immense pecuniary Mangle."

After this odd description of his daily routine of employment, Mr.
Lorry flattened his flaxen wig upon his head with both hands (which
was most unnecessary, for nothing could be flatter than its shining
surface was before), and resumed his former attitude.

"So far, miss (as you have remarked), this is the story of your
regretted father. Now comes the difference. If your father had not
died when he did--Don't be frightened! How you start!"

She did, indeed, start. And she caught his wrist with both her hands.

"Pray," said Mr. Lorry, in a soothing tone, bringing his left hand
from the back of the chair to lay it on the supplicatory fingers that
clasped him in so violent a tremble: "pray control your agitation--
a matter of business. As I was saying--"

Her look so discomposed him that he stopped, wandered, and began anew:

"As I was saying; if Monsieur Manette had not died; if he had
suddenly and silently disappeared; if he had been spirited away;
if it had not been difficult to guess to what dreadful place, though
no art could trace him; if he had an enemy in some compatriot who
could exercise a privilege that I in my own time have known the boldest
people afraid to speak of in a whisper, across the water there; for
instance, the privilege of filling up blank forms for the consignment
of any one to the oblivion of a prison for any length of time; if his
wife had implored the king, the queen, the court, the clergy, for any
tidings of him, and all quite in vain;--then the history of your father
would have been the history of this unfortunate gentleman, the Doctor
of Beauvais."

"I entreat you to tell me more, sir."

"I will. I am going to. You can bear it?"

"I can bear anything but the uncertainty you leave me in at this moment."

"You speak collectedly, and you--ARE collected. That's good!"
(Though his manner was less satisfied than his words.) "A matter of
business. Regard it as a matter of business-business that must be
done. Now if this doctor's wife, though a lady of great courage and
spirit, had suffered so intensely from this cause before her little
child was born--"

"The little child was a daughter, sir."

"A daughter. A-a-matter of business--don't be distressed. Miss,
if the poor lady had suffered so intensely before her little child
was born, that she came to the determination of sparing the poor
child the inheritance of any part of the agony she had known the
pains of, by rearing her in the belief that her father was dead--
No, don't kneel! In Heaven's name why should you kneel to me!"

"For the truth. O dear, good, compassionate sir, for the truth!"

"A-a matter of business. You confuse me, and how can I transact
business if I am confused? Let us be clear-headed. If you could
kindly mention now, for instance, what nine times ninepence are,
or how many shillings in twenty guineas, it would be so encouraging.
I should be so much more at my ease about your state of mind."

Without directly answering to this appeal, she sat so still when
he had very gently raised her, and the hands that had not ceased
to clasp his wrists were so much more steady than they had been,
that she communicated some reassurance to Mr. Jarvis Lorry.

"That's right, that's right. Courage! Business! You have business
before you; useful business. Miss Manette, your mother took this
course with you. And when she died--I believe broken-hearted--
having never slackened her unavailing search for your father,
she left you, at two years old, to grow to be blooming, beautiful,
and happy, without the dark cloud upon you of living in uncertainty
whether your father soon wore his heart out in prison, or wasted
there through many lingering years."

As he said the words he looked down, with an admiring pity, on the
flowing golden hair; as if he pictured to himself that it might have
been already tinged with grey.

"You know that your parents had no great possession, and that what
they had was secured to your mother and to you. There has been no
new discovery, of money, or of any other property; but--"

He felt his wrist held closer, and he stopped. The expression in the
forehead, which had so particularly attracted his notice, and which
was now immovable, had deepened into one of pain and horror.

"But he has been--been found. He is alive. Greatly changed, it is
too probable; almost a wreck, it is possible; though we will hope the
best. Still, alive. Your father has been taken to the house of an
old servant in Paris, and we are going there: I, to identify him if
I can: you, to restore him to life, love, duty, rest, comfort."

A shiver ran through her frame, and from it through his. She said,
in a low, distinct, awe-stricken voice, as if she were saying it in a

"I am going to see his Ghost! It will be his Ghost--not him!"

Mr. Lorry quietly chafed the hands that held his arm. "There, there,
there! See now, see now! The best and the worst are known to you, now.
You are well on your way to the poor wronged gentleman, and, with a fair
sea voyage, and a fair land journey, you will be soon at his dear side."

She repeated in the same tone, sunk to a whisper, "I have been free,
I have been happy, yet his Ghost has never haunted me!"

"Only one thing more," said Mr. Lorry, laying stress upon it as a
wholesome means of enforcing her attention: "he has been found under
another name; his own, long forgotten or long concealed. It would be
worse than useless now to inquire which; worse than useless to seek
to know whether he has been for years overlooked, or always designedly
held prisoner. It would be worse than useless now to make any inquiries,
because it would be dangerous. Better not to mention the subject,
anywhere or in any way, and to remove him--for a while at all events--
out of France. Even I, safe as an Englishman, and even Tellson's,
important as they are to French credit, avoid all naming of the
matter. I carry about me, not a scrap of writing openly referring to
it. This is a secret service altogether. My credentials, entries,
and memoranda, are all comprehended in the one line, `Recalled to
Life;' which may mean anything. But what is the matter! She doesn't
notice a word! Miss Manette!"

Perfectly still and silent, and not even fallen back in her chair,
she sat under his hand, utterly insensible; with her eyes open and
fixed upon him, and with that last expression looking as if it were
carved or branded into her forehead. So close was her hold upon his
arm, that he feared to detach himself lest he should hurt her;
therefore he called out loudly for assistance without moving.

A wild-looking woman, whom even in his agitation, Mr. Lorry observed
to be all of a red colour, and to have red hair, and to be dressed in
some extraordinary tight-fitting fashion, and to have on her head a
most wonderful bonnet like a Grenadier wooden measure, and good
measure too, or a great Stilton cheese, came running into the room in
advance of the inn servants, and soon settled the question of his
detachment from the poor young lady, by laying a brawny hand upon his
chest, and sending him flying back against the nearest wall.

("I really think this must be a man!" was Mr. Lorry's breathless
reflection, simultaneously with his coming against the wall.)

"Why, look at you all!" bawled this figure, addressing the inn
servants. "Why don't you go and fetch things, instead of standing
there staring at me? I am not so much to look at, am I? Why don't
you go and fetch things? I'll let you know, if you don't bring
smelling-salts, cold water, and vinegar, quick, I will."

There was an immediate dispersal for these restoratives, and she
softly laid the patient on a sofa, and tended her with great skill
and gentleness: calling her "my precious!" and "my bird!" and spreading
her golden hair aside over her shoulders with great pride and care.

"And you in brown!" she said, indignantly turning to Mr. Lorry;
"couldn't you tell her what you had to tell her, without frightening
her to death? Look at her, with her pretty pale face and her cold
hands. Do you call THAT being a Banker?"

Mr. Lorry was so exceedingly disconcerted by a question so hard to
answer, that he could only look on, at a distance, with much feebler
sympathy and humility, while the strong woman, having banished the
inn servants under the mysterious penalty of "letting them know"
something not mentioned if they stayed there, staring, recovered her
charge by a regular series of gradations, and coaxed her to lay her
drooping head upon her shoulder.

"I hope she will do well now," said Mr. Lorry.

"No thanks to you in brown, if she does. My darling pretty!"

"I hope," said Mr. Lorry, after another pause of feeble sympathy and
humility, "that you accompany Miss Manette to France?"

"A likely thing, too!" replied the strong woman. "If it was ever
intended that I should go across salt water, do you suppose
Providence would have cast my lot in an island?"

This being another question hard to answer, Mr. Jarvis Lorry withdrew
to consider it.

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