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A Tale of Two Cities

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“How say you, Jacques?” demanded Number One. “To be registered?” “What do you say, Jacques?” asked Jacques One. “Should we put them on the list?”
“To be registered, as doomed to destruction,” returned Defarge. “To be put on the list and destroyed,” answered Defarge.
“Magnificent!” croaked the man with the craving. “Wonderful!” said the greedy man.
“The chateau, and all the race?” inquired the first. “The chateau and the whole family?” asked Jacques One.
“The chateau and all the race,” returned Defarge. “Extermination.” “The chateau and the whole family,” answered Defarge. “Extermination.”
The hungry man repeated, in a rapturous croak, “Magnificent!” and began gnawing another finger. The hungry man said “Wonderful!” again and began chewing another finger.
“Are you sure,” asked Jacques Two, of Defarge, “that no embarrassment can arise from our manner of keeping the register? Without doubt it is safe, for no one beyond ourselves can decipher it; but shall we always be able to decipher it—or, I ought to say, will she?” “Are you sure,” Jacques asked Defarge, “that no embarrassment can come from our way of keeping the list? I’m sure it’s safe, since no one but us can decode it. But will we always be able to decode it? Or, I should say, will she?”
“Jacques,” returned Defarge, drawing himself up, “if madame my wife undertook to keep the register in her memory alone, she would not lose a word of it—not a syllable of it. Knitted, in her own stitches and her own symbols, it will always be as plain to her as the sun. Confide in Madame Defarge. It would be easier for the weakest poltroon that lives, to erase himself from existence, than to erase one letter of his name or crimes from the knitted register of Madame Defarge.” “Jacques,” answered Defarge standing up straight, “even if my wife took on the job of keeping the list only in her memory, she wouldn’t forget a word of it! Not a single syllable. She has knitted it herself in her own code, and it will always be as clear to her as the sun. You can trust Madame Defarge. It would be easier for the weakest coward to take his own life than it would be to erase one letter of his name or crimes from the list that Madame Defarge is knitting.”
There was a murmur of confidence and approval, and then the man who hungered, asked: “Is this rustic to be sent back soon? I hope so. He is very simple; is he not a little dangerous?” The men all mumbled approvingly. Then the hungry man asked, “Are we going to send the repairer of roads back home soon? I hope so. He isn’t very smart. Isn’t he a bit dangerous?”
“He knows nothing,” said Defarge; “at least nothing more than would easily elevate himself to a gallows of the same height. I charge myself with him; let him remain with me; I will take care of him, and set him on his road. He wishes to see the fine world—the King, the Queen, and Court; let him see them on Sunday.” “He doesn’t know anything,” said Defarge. “At least nothing more than what would get him hanged, too. I’ll take responsibility for him. Let him stay with me. I’ll take care of him and then send him on his way. He wants to see the world of the upper classes: the king, the queen, and the court. Let him see them on Sunday.”
“What?” exclaimed the hungry man, staring. “Is it a good sign, that he wishes to see Royalty and Nobility?” “What?” shouted the hungry man, staring at him. “Isn’t it a bad sign that he wants to see royalty and nobility?”
“Jacques,” said Defarge; “judiciously show a cat milk, if you wish her to thirst for it. Judiciously show a dog his natural prey, if you wish him to bring it down one day.” “Jacques,” said Defarge. “Show a cat just a little bit of milk if you want it to thirst for it. Show a dog his natural prey if you want it to hunt it one day.”
Nothing more was said, and the mender of roads, being found already dozing on the topmost stair, was advised to lay himself down on the pallet-bed and take some rest. He needed no persuasion, and was soon asleep. They didn’t say anything else. They found the repairer of roads asleep on the top stair and told him to lie down on the pallet bed and rest. He didn’t need to be persuaded and was soon fast asleep.
Worse quarters than Defarge’s wine-shop, could easily have been found in Paris for a provincial slave of that degree. Saving for a mysterious dread of madame by which he was constantly haunted, his life was very new and agreeable. But, madame sat all day at her counter, so expressly unconscious of him, and so particularly determined not to perceive that his being there had any connection with anything below the surface, that he shook in his wooden shoes whenever his eye lighted on her. For, he contended with himself that it was impossible to foresee what that lady might pretend next; and he felt assured that if she should take it into her brightly ornamented head to pretend that she had seen him do a murder and afterwards flay the victim, she would infallibly go through with it until the play was played out. Worse places than Defarge’s wine shop could easily be found in Paris for an unsophisticated peasant like him. Except for a mysterious fear of Madame Defarge that bothered him constantly, his life was new and exciting. But Madame Defarge sat at the counter all day, ignoring him and determined not to show that his being had any connection to a secret plan. He trembled in his wooden shoes whenever he looked at her and told himself that it was impossible to know what the lady might pretend next. He was sure that if she decided to pretend that she had seen him kill someone and then skin the victim afterward, she would continue with the idea until he had been convicted of murder.

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