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A Tale of Two Cities

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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. When the coach reached Dover late in the morning, the head attendant at the Royal George Hotel opened the coach door. He did it with a grand gesture, because a trip from London to Dover during the winter was difficult, and making the journey was an achievement worth congratulating.
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 disagreeable 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. By that time, there was only one passenger to congratulate. The other two had gotten out at their destinations. The mildewy interior of the coach, with its damp and dirty straw, its unpleasant smell, and its darkness, was like the inside of a large dog cage. Mr. Lorry, shaking off the straw and dressed in his shaggy coat, floppy hat, and with his legs covered in mud, looked like a large dog himself.
“There will be a packet to Calais, tomorrow, drawer?” “Will there be a mail boat to Calais tomorrow, attendant?”
“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?” “Yes, sir, if we still have good weather and the wind is decent. The tide will be good for setting out at about two in the afternoon, sir. Would you like a bed, sir?”
“I shall not go to bed till night; but I want a bedroom, and a barber.” “I won’t go to bed until tonight, but I would like 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!” “And then breakfast, sir? Yes, sir. This way, sir, please. Staff! Show him to the Concord room! Bring the gentleman’s suitcase and some hot water. Pull off the gentleman’s boots. (You will find a nice coal fire there, sir.) Bring the barber! Get going!”
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 Concord room was always given to passengers from the mail coach, and these passengers were always heavily bundled up when they entered. For this reason, the room was a bit of a curiosity: everyone who went in looked the same, but when they came out they all looked different. This is why a steward, two porters, several maids, and the landlady all happened to be standing around between the Concord room and the coffee room, when a sixty-year-old gentleman, dressed up in a worn but tidy brown suit with large cuffs and flaps on his pockets, passed by on his way to 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. The gentleman in the brown suit was the only person in the coffee room that morning. His table was near the fire, and he sat so still as he waited for his food that, with the firelight on him, he looked as though he was having his portrait painted.
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. He looked very neat, with a hand resting on each knee, and his watch ticking loudly and seriously under his flapped waistcoat, contrasting with the playful flickering of the fire. He was proud of his legs and wore thin, tight brown stockings to show them off. His shoes and shoe buckles, though plain, were well-kept. He wore a strange shiny blond wig that sat tightly on his head. The wig looked like it was made from strands of silk or glass rather than from hair. His clothes, though not as nice as his stockings, were as white as the tops of the waves that broke on the beach nearby, or the sails of boats glinting in the sun far out at sea. His face was calm and reserved, but his moist, bright eyes twinkled from under his wig. It must have been hard for him to train his bright eyes to take on the dull expression of the employees of Tellson’s Bank. His cheeks were a healthy color, and though his face had some wrinkles, it showed few signs of anxiety. Perhaps the clerks at Tellson’s Bank were mainly concerned with other people’s problems, and maybe other people’s problems, like secondhand clothes, are easy to put on and take off.

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