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A Tale of Two Cities

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“He is greatly changed?” “Has he changed much?”
“Changed!” “Changed!”
The keeper of the wine-shop stopped to strike the wall with his hand, and mutter a tremendous curse. No direct answer could have been half so forcible. Mr. Lorry’s spirits grew heavier and heavier, as he and his two companions ascended higher and higher. Monsieur Defarge stopped to hit the wall with his hand, and he cursed. No direct answer could have been half as effective. Mr. Lorry’s mood grew grimmer as he and the two others climbed the stairs.
Such a staircase, with its accessories, in the older and more crowded parts of Paris, would be bad enough now; but, at that time, it was vile indeed to unaccustomed and unhardened senses. Every little habitation within the great foul nest of one high building—that is to say, the room or rooms within every door that opened on the general staircase—left its own heap of refuse on its own landing, besides flinging other refuse from its own windows. The uncontrollable and hopeless mass of decomposition so engendered, would have polluted the air, even if poverty and deprivation had not loaded it with their intangible impurities; the two bad sources combined made it almost insupportable. Through such an atmosphere, by a steep dark shaft of dirt and poison, the way lay. Yielding to his own disturbance of mind, and to his young companion’s agitation, which became greater every instant, Mr. Jarvis Lorry twice stopped to rest. Each of these stoppages was made at a doleful grating, by which any languishing good airs that were left uncorrupted, seemed to escape, and all spoilt and sickly vapours seemed to crawl in. Through the rusted bars, tastes, rather than glimpses, were caught of the jumbled neighbourhood; and nothing within range, nearer or lower than the summits of the two great towers of Notre-Dame, had any promise on it of healthy life or wholesome aspirations. An old staircase like this one, located in the older and more crowded parts of Paris, would be bad enough

today

1859

today
. But back then they were particularly disgusting, especially to people who weren’t used to them. Every little apartment in one of these large buildings that opened onto the public staircase dumped its garbage on the landing. Other refuse got thrown out the windows. This unmanageable and hopeless pile of rotting garbage would have polluted the air even if it had not been the garbage of the poor, but the combination of trash and poverty made the smell almost unbearable. The three people walked through all this filth and up a steep, dark, dirty stairwell. Giving in to his own troubled thoughts and to Miss Manette’s anxiety, which became greater every moment, Mr. Jarvis Lorry stopped twice to rest. Each stop was made near a miserable air vent, through which any clean air that was left seemed to escape, and through which rotten air seemed to enter. Through the air vents you could taste, rather than see, parts of the neighborhood. Nothing nearby, from that spot to the great towers of Notre Dame, showed any signs of good health or good thoughts.
At last, the top of the staircase was gained, and they stopped for the third time. There was yet an upper staircase, of a steeper inclination and of contracted dimensions, to be ascended, before the garret story was reached. The keeper of the wine-shop, always going a little in advance, and always going on the side which Mr. Lorry took, as though he dreaded to be asked any question by the young lady, turned himself about here, and, carefully feeling in the pockets of the coat he carried over his shoulder, took out a key. At last they reached the top of the staircase, and they stopped for the third time. They still needed to climb a steeper, narrower upper staircase to reach the attic. The owner of the wine shop walked a little ahead of them and always stayed next to Mr. Lorry, as though afraid the young lady might ask him a question. He turned around and carefully removed a key from the pocket of the coat he carried over his shoulder.
“The door is locked then, my friend?” said Mr. Lorry, surprised. “Then the door is locked, my friend?” asked Mr. Lorry, surprised.
“Ay. Yes,” was the grim reply of Monsieur Defarge. “Oh, yes,” Monsieur Defarge answered seriously.
“You think it necessary to keep the unfortunate gentleman so retired?” “You think it’s necessary to keep the poor gentleman locked up?”
“I think it necessary to turn the key.” Monsieur Defarge whispered it closer in his ear, and frowned heavily. “I think it’s necessary to turn the key,” Monsieur Defarge whispered in his ear, and frowned heavily.
“Why?” “Why?”
“Why! Because he has lived so long, locked up, that he would be frightened—rave—tear himself to pieces—die—come to I know not what harm—if his door was left open.” “Why! Because he has been locked up for so long that he would be afraid, go mad, tear himself apart, die, or some other terrible thing if his door were left open.”
“Is it possible!” exclaimed Mr. Lorry. “Is that possible?” exclaimed Mr. Lorry.
“Is it possible!” repeated Defarge, bitterly. “Yes. And a beautiful world we live in, when it IS possible, and when many other such things are possible, and not only possible, but done—done, see you!—under that sky there, every day. Long live the Devil. Let us go on.” “Is that possible!” repeated Defarge, bitterly. “Yes, and what a wonderful world we live in when such a thing is possible, and not only possible, but happens—actually happens!—every day. Long live the devil. Let’s keep going.”

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