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A Tale of Two Cities

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“No, Jerry, no!” said the messenger, harping on one theme as he rode. “It wouldn’t do for you, Jerry. Jerry, you honest tradesman, it wouldn’t suit YOUR line of business! Recalled—! Bust me if I don’t think he’d been a drinking!” “No, Jerry, no!” the messenger repeated to himself as he traveled. “That wouldn’t do, Jerry. You’re an honest worker. It wouldn’t suit your type of business! Brought back—! He must have been drunk!”
His message perplexed his mind to that degree that he was fain, several times, to take off his hat to scratch his head. Except on the crown, which was raggedly bald, he had stiff, black hair, standing jaggedly all over it, and growing down hill almost to his broad, blunt nose. It was so like Smith’s work, so much more like the top of a strongly spiked wall than a head of hair, that the best of players at leap-frog might have declined him, as the most dangerous man in the world to go over. He was so confused by the message that he kept taking off his hat to scratch his head. Except on the very top of his head, which was bald, he had stiff, black hair that stuck up in spikes all over his head and grew almost down to his large, wide nose. His hair looked so much like metal spikes that the world’s best leapfrog players might have refused to jump over him, thinking it too dangerous.
While he trotted back with the message he was to deliver to the night watchman in his box at the door of Tellson’s Bank, by Temple Bar, who was to deliver it to greater authorities within, the shadows of the night took such shapes to him as arose out of the message, and took such shapes to the mare as arose out of HER private topics of uneasiness. They seemed to be numerous, for she shied at every shadow on the road. He rode back with the message, which he was to deliver to the night watchman at the door of Tellson’s Bank, next to Temple Bar. The watchman was to deliver it to important people inside. While the messenger rode, the shadows of the night seemed to take the form of the dead returning to life, like the message had said. His horse also saw shapes in the darkness arising out of her private fears. Those fears must have been numerous, for she jumped at every shadow on the road.
What time, the mail-coach lumbered, jolted, rattled, and bumped upon its tedious way, with its three fellow-inscrutables inside. To whom, likewise, the shadows of the night revealed themselves, in the forms their dozing eyes and wandering thoughts suggested. The mail coach lumbered, jolted, rattled, and bumped along slowly, with its three passengers inside. They must have also seen shapes in the forms as they dozed off and let their thoughts wander.
Tellson’s Bank had a run upon it in the mail. As the bank passenger—with an arm drawn through the leathern strap, which did what lay in it to keep him from pounding against the next passenger, and driving him into his corner, whenever the coach got a special jolt—nodded in his place, with half-shut eyes, the little coach-windows, and the coach-lamp dimly gleaming through them, and the bulky bundle of opposite passenger, became the bank, and did a great stroke of business. The rattle of the harness was the chink of money, and more drafts were honoured in five minutes than even Tellson’s, with all its foreign and home connection, ever paid in thrice the time. Then the strong-rooms underground, at Tellson’s, with such of their valuable stores and secrets as were known to the passenger (and it was not a little that he knew about them), opened before him, and he went in among them with the great keys and the feebly-burning candle, and found them safe, and strong, and sound, and still, just as he had last seen them. A great number of customers withdrew their money from Tellson’s Bank through the mail carried by the mail coach. As Mr. Lorry nodded off, with his arm through a leather strap to keep him from banging against the passenger beside him and pushing him into the corner, he dreamed the mail coach was the bank itself on a busy day. The sound of the rattling harness became the jingle of coins, and more checks were cashed in five minutes than Tellson’s, with its many local and foreign clients, had cashed in three times that period. He dreamt that the bank vaults under Tellson’s, with all of their valuables and secrets (and he knew plenty about them), opened up in front of him. He walked through them with his large keys and a dim candle and found everything safe and sound, just as he had left it.
But, though the bank was almost always with him, and though the coach (in a confused way, like the presence of pain under an opiate) was always with him, there was another current of impression that never ceased to run, all through the night. He was on his way to dig some one out of a grave. Although he thought constantly of the bank, and although he remained vaguely aware that he was still in the coach (the way you are only vaguely aware of pain when on a pain-killer), another thought ran through his mind all night. He had the feeling that he was on his way to dig someone out of a grave.

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