Skip over navigation

A Tale of Two Cities

Original Text

Modern Text

For, the time was to come, when the gaunt scarecrows of that region should have watched the lamplighter, in their idleness and hunger, so long, as to conceive the idea of improving on his method, and hauling up men by those ropes and pulleys, to flare upon the darkness of their condition. But, the time was not come yet; and every wind that blew over France shook the rags of the scarecrows in vain, for the birds, fine of song and feather, took no warning. For the time would come when the gaunt, jobless, and hungry citizens who watched the lamplighter for so long would think up a better way to do his job. They would hang men by those ropes and pulleys, instead of lamps, revealing their inner darkness. But that time had not yet come. Instead, everyone ignored the warning signs that revolution might be on its way.
The wine-shop was a corner shop, better than most others in its appearance and degree, and the master of the wine-shop had stood outside it, in a yellow waistcoat and green breeches, looking on at the struggle for the lost wine. “It’s not my affair,” said he, with a final shrug of the shoulders. “The people from the market did it. Let them bring another.” The wine shop was on a corner. It was nicer than most other shops, and the owner stood outside wearing a yellow jacket and green pants, watching people fight for the spilled wine. “It’s not my problem,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “It’s the market people’s fault. Let them bring me another cask.”
There, his eyes happening to catch the tall joker writing up his joke, he called to him across the way: Then he saw the tall prankster writing on the wall. He yelled to the man across the street.
“Say, then, my Gaspard, what do you do there?” “Hey, Gaspard! What are you doing over there?”
The fellow pointed to his joke with immense significance, as is often the way with his tribe. It missed its mark, and completely failed, as is often the way with his tribe too. The man pointed proudly to the word he had written, as pranksters often do. The joke failed, as pranksters’ jokes often do as well.
“What now? Are you a subject for the mad hospital?” said the wine-shop keeper, crossing the road, and obliterating the jest with a handful of mud, picked up for the purpose, and smeared over it. “Why do you write in the public streets? Is there—tell me thou—is there no other place to write such words in?” “What are you doing? Are you crazy?” said the owner of the wine shop, crossing the road and covering the word with a handful of mud. “Why are you writing this in public? Tell me, is there no other place you can write such words?”
In his expostulation he dropped his cleaner hand (perhaps accidentally, perhaps not) upon the joker’s heart. The joker rapped it with his own, took a nimble spring upward, and came down in a fantastic dancing attitude, with one of his stained shoes jerked off his foot into his hand, and held out. A joker of an extremely, not to say wolfishly practical character, he looked, under those circumstances. While he was talking, he placed his clean hand (possibly by accident, possibly not) over the prankster’s heart. The prankster tapped it with his own hand, jumped up quickly, and landed in a strange dancing pose, holding one of his stained shoe in his hand threateningly. The prankster was a resourceful man.
“Put it on, put it on,” said the other. “Call wine, wine; and finish there.” With that advice, he wiped his soiled hand upon the joker’s dress, such as it was—quite deliberately, as having dirtied the hand on his account; and then recrossed the road and entered the wine-shop. “Put your shoe back on,” said the wine shop owner. “Go get some wine and leave that alone.” He wiped his dirty hand on the prankster’s dirty clothes, since the prankster was the reason he had gotten his hand dirty in the first place. Then he went back to the wine shop.
This wine-shop keeper was a bull-necked, martial-looking man of thirty, and he should have been of a hot temperament, for, although it was a bitter day, he wore no coat, but carried one slung over his shoulder. His shirt-sleeves were rolled up, too, and his brown arms were bare to the elbows. Neither did he wear anything more on his head than his own crisply-curling short dark hair. He was a dark man altogether, with good eyes and a good bold breadth between them. Good-humoured looking on the whole, but implacable-looking, too; evidently a man of a strong resolution and a set purpose; a man not desirable to be met, rushing down a narrow pass with a gulf on either side, for nothing would turn the man. The wine shop owner was a stocky, military-looking thirty-year-old man. He must have had a hot temper, since he wore no coat even though it was bitterly cold, though he carried a coat slung over his shoulder. His sleeves were rolled up and his tan arms were bare to his elbows. He wore no hat either, just his short, curly, dark hair. He had a dark complexion, and his good eyes were spaced far apart. He was a pleasant-looking man overall, but stubborn-looking, too. He was a decisive man of strong principles. You wouldn’t want to see him charging toward you on a narrow bridge, because nothing would stop him.

More Help

Previous Next