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A Tale of Two Cities

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“Good day!” said Monsieur Defarge, looking down at the white head that bent low over the shoemaking. “Good day!” said Monsieur Defarge to the white-haired man, who was bent over making shoes.
It was raised for a moment, and a very faint voice responded to the salutation, as if it were at a distance: The man looked up for a moment and answered quietly, as if he were far away:
“Good day!” “Good day!”
“You are still hard at work, I see?” “You are still hard at work, I see?”
After a long silence, the head was lifted for another moment, and the voice replied, “Yes—I am working.” This time, a pair of haggard eyes had looked at the questioner, before the face had dropped again. After a long pause, the man looked up and answered. “Yes, I am working.” This time the man raised his haggard eyes up to him before looking down again.
The faintness of the voice was pitiable and dreadful. It was not the faintness of physical weakness, though confinement and hard fare no doubt had their part in it. Its deplorable peculiarity was, that it was the faintness of solitude and disuse. It was like the last feeble echo of a sound made long and long ago. So entirely had it lost the life and resonance of the human voice, that it affected the senses like a once beautiful color faded away into a poor weak stain. So sunken and suppressed it was, that it was like a voice underground. So expressive it was, of a hopeless and lost creature, that a famished traveler, wearied out by lonely wandering in a wilderness, would have remembered home and friends in such a tone before lying down to die. His voice was so quiet it was pitiful and dreadful. It wasn’t quiet because the man was physically weak, although being locked up and treated badly had done their part. His voice was quiet because he had been kept alone and hadn’t used it. It was like the last feeble echo of a sound made a long, long time ago. It had lost so much of its liveliness and sound that it was like a beautiful color that has faded away to a faint stain. It was so low that it sounded like it was coming from underground. It was so sad and hopeless that it would have reminded a starving traveler, exhausted by wandering in the wilderness, of his home and friends just before he lied down to die.
Some minutes of silent work had passed: and the haggard eyes had looked up again: not with any interest or curiosity, but with a dull mechanical perception, beforehand, that the spot where the only visitor they were aware of had stood, was not yet empty. The man worked silently for a few minutes. His tired eyes looked up again, not with any interest or curiosity, but mechanically, and he noticed that Monsieur Defarge had not yet left.
“I want,” said Defarge, who had not removed his gaze from the shoemaker, “to let in a little more light here. You can bear a little more?” “I want to let a little more light in here,” said Defarge, who was still staring at the shoemaker. “Can you handle a little more light?”
The shoemaker stopped his work; looked with a vacant air of listening, at the floor on one side of him; then similarly, at the floor on the other side of him; then, upward at the speaker. Monsieur Manette stopped working. He looked down at the floor beside him with a vacant air of listening, then at the floor on the other side of him, then up at Monsieur Defarge.
“What did you say?” “What did you say?”
“You can bear a little more light?” “Can you stand a little more light?”
“I must bear it, if you let it in.” (Laying the palest shadow of a stress upon the second word.) “I must stand it, if you let more in,” he said, slightly stressing the word must.
The opened half-door was opened a little further, and secured at that angle for the time. A broad ray of light fell into the garret, and showed the workman with an unfinished shoe upon his lap, pausing in his labour. His few common tools and various scraps of leather were at his feet and on his bench. He had a white beard, raggedly cut, but not very long, a hollow face, and exceedingly bright eyes. The hollowness and thinness of his face would have caused them to look large, under his yet dark eyebrows and his confused white hair, though they had been really otherwise; but, they were naturally large, and looked unnaturally so. His yellow rags of shirt lay open at the throat, and showed his body to be withered and worn. He, and his old canvas frock, and his loose stockings, and all his poor tatters of clothes, had, in a long seclusion from direct light and air, faded down to such a dull uniformity of parchment-yellow, that it would have been hard to say which was which. Defarge propped the half door open a little more. A broad shaft of light came into the attic and revealed the shoemaker with an unfinished shoe in his lap as he paused his work. A few basic tools and some leather scraps were around him at his feet and on the bench. He had a white, ragged beard that wasn’t very long, a thin face, and very bright eyes. The emptiness and thinness of his face would ordinarily have made his eyes look large under his dark eyebrows and tangled white hair. But they were naturally large, so now they looked unnaturally big. His yellow, tattered shirt was open at the throat, showing that his body was skinny and worn out. The old man, his old coat, his baggy stockings, and his tattered clothes had all been away from light and air for so long that they had turned a single shade of yellow, making it hard to distinguish one from the other.

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