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A Tale of Two Cities

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Now, which of the multitude of faces that showed themselves before him was the true face of the buried person, the shadows of the night did not indicate; but they were all the faces of a man of five-and-forty by years, and they differed principally in the passions they expressed, and in the ghastliness of their worn and wasted state. Pride, contempt, defiance, stubbornness, submission, lamentation, succeeded one another; so did varieties of sunken cheek, cadaverous colour, emaciated hands and figures. But the face was in the main one face, and every head was prematurely white. A hundred times the dozing passenger inquired of this spectre: Now, although several faces appeared in front of him in the night, he couldn’t determine which was the face of the buried person. All the faces belonged to a forty-five-year-old man, but they all differed in the expression they wore, and in how worn-out they looked. One facial expression followed another: pride, contempt, defiance, stubbornness, submission, and lamentation. Some had sunken cheeks, sickly pale skin, hands and bodies that had wasted away. But it was almost always the same face, and every head of hair had gone prematurely white. In his dream, Mr. Lorry asked the ghostly figure a hundred times:
“Buried how long?” “How long had you been buried?”
The answer was always the same: “Almost eighteen years.” The answer was always the same: “Almost eighteen years.”
“You had abandoned all hope of being dug out?” “Had you given up hope of being dug up?”
“Long ago.” “Yes, a long time ago.”
“You know that you are recalled to life?” “Do you know that you’ve been brought back to life?”
“They tell me so.” “That’s what they tell me.”
“I hope you care to live?” “You want to live, don’t you?”
“I can’t say.” “I don’t know.”
“Shall I show her to you? Will you come and see her?” “Should I show her to you? Will you come see her?”
The answers to this question were various and contradictory. Sometimes the broken reply was, “Wait! It would kill me if I saw her too soon.” Sometimes, it was given in a tender rain of tears, and then it was, “Take me to her.” Sometimes it was staring and bewildered, and then it was, “I don’t know her. I don’t understand.” The ghostly figured answered this question in different and contradictory ways. Sometimes he answered weakly: “Wait! I would die if I saw her too soon.” Sometimes he cried tenderly and said, “Take me to her.” Sometimes he became confused and answered, “I don’t know her. I don’t understand.”
After such imaginary discourse, the passenger in his fancy would dig, and dig, dig—now with a spade, now with a great key, now with his hands—to dig this wretched creature out. Got out at last, with earth hanging about his face and hair, he would suddenly fan away to dust. The passenger would then start to himself, and lower the window, to get the reality of mist and rain on his cheek. After these imaginary conversations, Mr. Lorry would dream that he was digging the man out—sometimes with a spade, sometimes a shovel, and sometimes his hands. Once the man was dug out, with dirt clinging to his face and hair, he would suddenly turn to dust. This would startle Mr. Lorry and wake him. He would open the window to allow the feeling of mist and rain on his face to bring him back to reality.
Yet even when his eyes were opened on the mist and rain, on the moving patch of light from the lamps, and the hedge at the roadside retreating by jerks, the night shadows outside the coach would fall into the train of the night shadows within. The real Banking-house by Temple Bar, the real business of the past day, the real strong rooms, the real express sent after him, and the real message returned, would all be there. Out of the midst of them, the ghostly face would rise, and he would accost it again. But even when Mr. Lorry was fully awake, looking at the mist and rain, the light from the lamps, the hedge passing by at the roadside, the shadows outside the coach would blend together with the shadows within. The real bank at Temple Bar, the real business of the day before, the real bank vaults, the real message he had received, and the real message he sent back would still be there. But the ghostly face would rise up and appear to him again.
“Buried how long?” “How long have you been buried?”
“Almost eighteen years.” “Almost eighteen years.”
“I hope you care to live?” “You want to live, don’t you?”
“I can’t say.” “I don’t know.”
Dig—dig—dig—until an impatient movement from one of the two passengers would admonish him to pull up the window, draw his arm securely through the leathern strap, and speculate upon the two slumbering forms, until his mind lost its hold of them, and they again slid away into the bank and the grave. In his dream, Mr. Lorry would continue to dig until one of the other two passengers would wake him and tell him to close the window. Then he would put his arm securely through the leather strap and think about the two sleeping passengers, until he fell back asleep and began once again to dream about the bank and the grave.
“Buried how long?” “How long had you been buried?”
“Almost eighteen years.” “Almost eighteen years.”
“You had abandoned all hope of being dug out?” “Had you given up all hope of being dug out?”
“Long ago.” “Yes, a long time ago.”
The words were still in his hearing as just spoken—distinctly in his hearing as ever spoken words had been in his life—when the weary passenger started to the consciousness of daylight, and found that the shadows of the night were gone. Mr. Lorry could still hear those words, as clearly as if they had just been spoken in real life, when he woke to realize it was daylight, and the shadows of the night were all gone.

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