A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

A TALE OF TWO CITIES - CHARLES DICKENS CONTENTS Book the First--Recalled to Life Chapter I The Period Chapter II The Mail Chapter III The Night Shadows Chapter IV The Preparation Chapter V The Wine-shop Chapter VI The Shoemaker Book the Second--the Golden Thread Chapter I Five Years Later Chapter II A Sight Chapter III A Disappointment Chapter IV Congratulatory Chapter V The Jackal Chapter VI Hundreds of People Chapter VII Monseigneur in Town Chapter VIII Monseigneur in the Country Chapter IX The Gorgon's Head Chapter X Two Promises Chapter XI A Companion Picture Chapter XII The Fellow of Delicacy Chapter XIII The Fellow of no Delicacy Chapter XIV The Honest Tradesman Chapter XV Knitting Chapter XVI Still Knitting Chapter XVII One Night Chapter XVIII Nine Days Chapter XIX An Opinion Chapter XX A Plea Chapter XXI Echoing Footsteps Chapter XXII The Sea still Rises Chapter XXIII Fire Rises Chapter XXIV Drawn to the Loadstone Rock Book the Third--the Track of a Storm Chapter I In Secret Chapter II The Grindstone Chapter III The Shadow Chapter IV Calm in Storm Chapter V The Wood-sawyer Chapter VI Triumph Chapter VII A Knock at the Door Chapter VIII A Hand at Cards Chapter IX The Game Made Chapter X The Substance of the Shadow Chapter XI Dusk Chapter XII Darkness Chapter XIII Fifty-two Chapter XIV The Knitting Done Chapter XV The Footsteps die out For ever Book the First--Recalled to Life I The Period It was the best of times it was the worst of times it was the age of wisdom it was the age of foolishness it was the epoch of belief it was the epoch of incredulity it was the season of Light it was the season of Darkness it was the spring of hope it was the winter of despair we had everything before us we had nothing before us we were all going direct to Heaven we were all going direct the other way--in short the period was so far like the present period that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received for good or for evil in the superlative degree of comparison only. There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face on the throne of France. In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes that things in general were settled for ever. It was the year of Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five. Spiritual revelations were conceded to England at that favoured period as at this. Mrs. Southcott had recently attained her five-and-twentieth blessed birthday of whom a prophetic private in the Life Guards had heralded the sublime appearance by announcing that arrangements were made for the swallowing up of London and Westminster. Even the Cock-lane ghost had been laid only a round dozen of years after rapping out its messages as the spirits of this very year last past (supernaturally deficient in originality) rapped out theirs. Mere messages in the earthly order of events had lately come to the English Crown and People from a congress of British subjects in America: which strange to relate have proved more important to the human race than any communications yet received through any of the chickens of the Cock-lane brood. France less favoured on the whole as to matters spiritual than her sister of the shield and trident rolled with exceeding smoothness down hill making paper money and spending it. Under the guidance of her Christian pastors she entertained herself besides with such humane achievements as sentencing a youth to have his hands cut off his tongue torn out with pincers and his body burned alive because he had not kneeled down in the rain to do honour to a dirty procession of monks which passed within his view at a distance of some fifty or sixty yards. It is likely enough that rooted in the woods of France and Norway there were growing trees when that sufferer was put to death already marked by the Woodman Fate to come down and be sawn into boards to make a certain movable framework with a sack and a knife in it terrible in history. It is likely enough that in the rough outhouses of some tillers of the heavy lands adjacent to Paris there were sheltered from the weather that very day rude carts bespattered with rustic mire snuffed about by pigs and roosted in by poultry which the Farmer Death had already set apart to be his tumbrils of the Revolution. But that Woodman and that Farmer though they work unceasingly work silently and no one heard them as they went about with muffled tread: the rather forasmuch as to entertain any suspicion that they were awake was to be atheistical and traitorous. In England there was scarcely an amount of order and protection to justify much national boasting. Daring burglaries by armed men and highway robberies took place in the capital itself every night; families were publicly cautioned not to go out of town without removing their furniture to upholsterers' warehouses for security; the highwayman in the dark was a City tradesman in the light and being recognised and challenged by his fellow- tradesman whom he stopped in his character of "the Captain" gallantly shot him through the head and rode away; the mall was waylaid by seven robbers and the guard shot three dead and then got shot dead himself by the other four "in consequence of the failure of his ammunition:" after which the mall was robbed in peace; that magnificent potentate the Lord Mayor of London was made to stand and deliver on Turnham Green by one highwayman who despoiled the illustrious creature in sight of all his retinue; prisoners in London gaols fought battles with their turnkeys and the majesty of the law fired blunderbusses in among them loaded with rounds of shot and ball; thieves snipped off diamond crosses from the necks of noble lords at Court drawing-rooms; musketeers went into St. Giles's to search for contraband goods and the mob fired on the musketeers and the musketeers fired on the mob and nobody thought any of these occurrences much out of the common way. In the midst of them the hangman ever busy and ever worse than useless was in constant requisition; now stringing up long rows of miscellaneous criminals; now hanging a housebreaker on Saturday who had been taken on Tuesday; now burning people in the hand at Newgate by the dozen and now burning pamphlets at the door of Westminster Hall; to-day taking the life of an atrocious murderer and to-morrow of a wretched pilferer who had robbed a farmer's boy of sixpence. All these things and a thousand like them came to pass in and close upon the dear old year one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five. Environed by them while the Woodman and the Farmer worked unheeded those two of the large jaws and those other two of the plain and the fair faces trod with stir enough and carried their divine rights with a high hand. Thus did the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five conduct their Greatnesses and myriads of small creatures--the creatures of this chronicle among the rest--along the roads that lay before them. II The Mail It was the Dover road that lay on a Friday night late in November before the first of the persons with whom this history has business. The Dover road lay as to him beyond the Dover mail as it lumbered up Shooter's Hill. He walked up hill in the mire by the side of the mail as the rest of the passengers did; not because they had the least relish for walking exercise under the circumstances but because the hill and the harness and the mud and the mail were all so heavy that the horses had three times already come to a stop besides once drawing the coach across the road with the mutinous intent of taking it back to Blackheath. Reins and whip and coachman and guard however in combination had read that article of war which forbade a purpose otherwise strongly in favour of the argument that some brute animals are endued with Reason; and the team had capitulated and returned to their duty. With drooping heads and tremulous tails they mashed their way through the thick mud floundering and stumbling between whiles as if they were falling to pieces at the larger joints. As often as the driver rested them and brought them to a stand with a wary "Wo-ho! so-ho- then!" the near leader violently shook his head and everything upon it--like an unusually emphatic horse denying that the coach could be got up the hill. Whenever the leader made this rattle the passenger started as a nervous passenger might and was disturbed in mind. There was a steaming mist in all the hollows and it had roamed in its forlornness up the hill like an evil spirit seeking rest and finding none. A clammy and intensely cold mist it made its slow way through the air in ripples that visibly followed and overspread one another as the waves of an unwholesome sea might do. It was dense enough to shut out everything from the light of the coach-lamps but these its own workings and a few yards of road; and the reek of the labouring horses steamed into it as if they had made it all. Two other passengers besides the one were plodding up the hill by the side of the mail. All three were wrapped to the cheekbones and over the ears and wore jack-boots. Not one of the three could have said from anything he saw what either of the other two was like; and each was hidden under almost as many wrappers from the eyes of the mind as from the eyes of the body of his two companions. In those days travellers were very shy of being confidential on a short notice for anybody on the road might be a robber or in league with robbers. As to the latter when every posting-house and ale-house could produce somebody in "the Captain's" pay ranging from the landlord to the lowest stable non-descript it was the likeliest thing upon the cards. So the guard of the Dover mail thought to himself that Friday night in November one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five lumbering up Shooter's Hill as he stood on his own particular perch behind the mail beating his feet and keeping an eye and a hand on the arm-chest before him where a loaded blunderbuss lay at the top of six or eight loaded horse-pistols deposited on a substratum of cutlass. ...