Skip over navigation

A Tale of Two Cities

Original Text

Modern Text

Madame Defarge, his wife, sat in the shop behind the counter as he came in. Madame Defarge was a stout woman of about his own age, with a watchful eye that seldom seemed to look at anything, a large hand heavily ringed, a steady face, strong features, and great composure of manner. There was a character about Madame Defarge, from which one might have predicated that she did not often make mistakes against herself in any of the reckonings over which she presided. Madame Defarge being sensitive to cold, was wrapped in fur, and had a quantity of bright shawl twined about her head, though not to the concealment of her large earrings. Her knitting was before her, but she had laid it down to pick her teeth with a toothpick. Thus engaged, with her right elbow supported by her left hand, Madame Defarge said nothing when her lord came in, but coughed just one grain of cough. This, in combination with the lifting of her darkly defined eyebrows over her toothpick by the breadth of a line, suggested to her husband that he would do well to look round the shop among the customers, for any new customer who had dropped in while he stepped over the way. Madame Defarge, his wife, was sitting behind the shop counter when he came in. She was a large woman about the same age as he was, with alert eyes that rarely seemed to look directly at anything. She had large hands with many rings on them, a calm face, strong features, and had great self-control. There was something about her that made you think that she rarely made mistakes. Madame Defarge, being sensitive to the cold, was wrapped up in fur. She had a large, brightly colored shawl wrapped around her head, though it didn’t hide her large earrings. Her knitting was in front of her, where she had laid it down to pick her teeth with a toothpick. She sat picking her teeth with her right elbow supported by her left hand, and didn’t say anything when her husband came in. She cleared her throat and raised her eyebrows slightly, indicating to her husband that he should look around the shop for any new customers that had arrived while he was across the street.
The wine-shop keeper accordingly rolled his eyes about, until they rested upon an elderly gentleman and a young lady, who were seated in a corner. Other company were there: two playing cards, two playing dominoes, three standing by the counter lengthening out a short supply of wine. As he passed behind the counter, he took notice that the elderly gentleman said in a look to the young lady, “This is our man.” He looked around and saw an old gentleman and a young woman sitting in the corner. Other people were in the shop too: two were playing cards, two were playing dominoes, and three were standing by the counter trying to make the most of a small amount of wine. As he stepped behind the counter, he noticed the old gentleman give a look to the young woman as if to say, “This is the man we’re looking for.”
“What the devil YOU do in that galley there?” said Monsieur Defarge to himself; “I don’t know you.” “What the devil are you doing here?” Monsieur Defarge thought. “I don’t know you.”
But, he feigned not to notice the two strangers, and fell into discourse with the triumvirate of customers who were drinking at the counter. He pretended not to notice the two strangers and went to talk with the three customers drinking at the counter.
“How goes it, Jacques?” said one of these three to Monsieur Defarge. “Is all the spilt wine swallowed?” “How’s it going, Jacques?” said one of the three to Monsieur Defarge. “Has all the spilled wine been drunk?”
“Every drop, Jacques,” answered Monsieur Defarge. “Every drop, Jacques,” answered Monsieur Defarge.
When this interchange of Christian name was effected, Madame Defarge, picking her teeth with her toothpick, coughed another grain of cough, and raised her eyebrows by the breadth of another line. After this greeting by first names, Madame Defarge, while picking her teeth with her toothpick, cleared her throat again and raised her eyebrows a bit higher.
“It is not often,” said the second of the three, addressing Monsieur Defarge, “that many of these miserable beasts know the taste of wine, or of anything but black bread and death. Is it not so, Jacques?” “It is not often,” the second man said to Monsieur Defarge, “that these pathetic creatures get to taste wine, or anything besides black bread and death. Don’t you agree, Jacques?”
“It is so, Jacques,” Monsieur Defarge returned. “That’s true, Jacques,” Monsieur Defarge returned.
At this second interchange of the Christian name, Madame Defarge, still using her toothpick with profound composure, coughed another grain of cough, and raised her eyebrows by the breadth of another line. After this second exchange of first names, Madame Defarge, still calmly picking her teeth, cleared her throat again and raised her eyebrows a bit higher.
The last of the three now said his say, as he put down his empty drinking vessel and smacked his lips. The third man now set down his empty cup, smacked his lips, and said:
“Ah! So much the worse! A bitter taste it is that such poor cattle always have in their mouths, and hard lives they live, Jacques. Am I right, Jacques?” “Ah! That’s even worse! These poor animals always have a sour taste in their mouths, and their lives are hard, Jacques. Am I right, Jacques?”

More Help

Previous Next