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A Tale of Two Cities

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There had been earlier drinking than usual in the wine-shop of Monsieur Defarge. As early as six o’clock in the morning, sallow faces peeping through its barred windows had descried other faces within, bending over measures of wine. Monsieur Defarge sold a very thin wine at the best of times, but it would seem to have been an unusually thin wine that he sold at this time. A sour wine, moreover, or a souring, for its influence on the mood of those who drank it was to make them gloomy. No vivacious Bacchanalian flame leaped out of the pressed grape of Monsieur Defarge: but, a smouldering fire that burnt in the dark, lay hidden in the dregs of it. People had started drinking earlier than usual at Monsieur Defarge’s wine shop. As early as six o’clock in the morning, sickly faces looking into the shop’s barred windows had seen the faces of other people inside, hunched over their wine glasses. Monsieur Defarge sold very weak wine even when things were going well, but nowadays his wine was especially weak. Moreover, his wine tasted sour and made the people who drank it sour and depressed. Monsieur Defarge’s wine didn’t fire them with a

Bacchanalian

Bacchus was the Roman god of wine

Bacchanalian
flame, but instead filled them with a low, intense heat.
This had been the third morning in succession, on which there had been early drinking at the wine-shop of Monsieur Defarge. It had begun on Monday, and here was Wednesday come. There had been more of early brooding than drinking; for, many men had listened and whispered and slunk about there from the time of the opening of the door, who could not have laid a piece of money on the counter to save their souls. These were to the full as interested in the place, however, as if they could have commanded whole barrels of wine; and they glided from seat to seat, and from corner to corner, swallowing talk in lieu of drink, with greedy looks. This was the third morning in a row that the drinking had started early at Monsieur Defarge’s wine shop. It started on Monday, and now it was Wednesday. The patrons had been doing more worrying than drinking, for many men had been there listening, whispering, and wandering around since the doors opened who couldn’t have afforded to buy a cup of wine if their lives depended on it. These men were as eager to be there as if they could afford entire barrels of wine. They moved from chair to chair, from one corner to the other, eagerly drinking in the conversation in place of wine.
Notwithstanding an unusual flow of company, the master of the wine-shop was not visible. He was not missed; for, nobody who crossed the threshold looked for him, nobody asked for him, nobody wondered to see only Madame Defarge in her seat, presiding over the distribution of wine, with a bowl of battered small coins before her, as much defaced and beaten out of their original impress as the small coinage of humanity from whose ragged pockets they had come. Even though there were more people there than usual, Monsieur Defarge was nowhere to be seen. No one missed him, though, and nobody that came into the shop looked for him or asked where he was. No one thought it was strange to see Madame Defarge sitting alone serving wine. She had a bowl in front of her filled with old coins that were as worn and beaten up as the people who had owned them.
A suspended interest and a prevalent absence of mind, were perhaps observed by the spies who looked in at the wine-shop, as they looked in at every place, high and low, from the kings palace to the criminal’s gaol. Games at cards languished, players at dominoes musingly built towers with them, drinkers drew figures on the tables with spilt drops of wine, Madame Defarge herself picked out the pattern on her sleeve with her toothpick, and saw and heard something inaudible and invisible a long way off. Apathy and boredom might have been what the spies who stopped into the wine shop saw. The spies stopped in at every place, of the highest or lowest class, from the royal palace to the jail. Card games dragged on, people built towers out of dominoes, and customers drew shapes on the tables with spilled drops of wine. Even Madame Defarge traced the pattern on her sleeve with a toothpick and stared off into the distance.
Thus, Saint Antoine in this vinous feature of his, until midday. It was high noontide, when two dusty men passed through his streets and under his swinging lamps: of whom, one was Monsieur Defarge: the other a mender of roads in a blue cap. All adust and athirst, the two entered the wine-shop. Their arrival had lighted a kind of fire in the breast of Saint Antoine, fast spreading as they came along, which stirred and flickered in flames of faces at most doors and windows. Yet, no one had followed them, and no man spoke when they entered the wine-shop, though the eyes of every man there were turned upon them. This is how it was in the wine shop in Saint Antoine until the middle of the day. At noon, two men covered in dust came walking through the streets under the swinging streetlamps. One of them was Monsieur Defarge. The other was a man wearing a blue cap who repaired roads. Dusty and thirsty, the two men entered the wine shop. Their arrival had sparked some excitement in Saint Antoine, which spread as they came through town and could be seen in the faces of the townspeople watching them from their doors and windows. No one followed them down the street, however, and no one in the wine shop said anything when they came in, although everyone there was watching them.

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