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A Tale of Two Cities

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The Echoes rarely answered to the actual tread of Sydney Carton. Some half-dozen times a year, at most, he claimed his privilege of coming in uninvited, and would sit among them through the evening, as he had once done often. He never came there heated with wine. And one other thing regarding him was whispered in the echoes, which has been whispered by all true echoes for ages and ages. Sydney Carton rarely came walking down their echoing street corner. About six times a year at most he used his privilege of showing up uninvited, and he would sit with them through the evening as he had once done frequently. He was never drunk with wine when he came there. And one other thing about him was whispered in the echoes. It is something that has been whispered by all true echoes for a long time.
No man ever really loved a woman, lost her, and knew her with a blameless though an unchanged mind, when she was a wife and a mother, but her children had a strange sympathy with him—an instinctive delicacy of pity for him. What fine hidden sensibilities are touched in such a case, no echoes tell; but it is so, and it was so here. Carton was the first stranger to whom little Lucie held out her chubby arms, and he kept his place with her as she grew. The little boy had spoken of him, almost at the last. “Poor Carton! Kiss him for me!” Whenever a man has truly loved a woman, lost her, and kept his feelings for her after she has become a wife and a mother, the woman’s children have always felt a strange sympathy for him. No one knows how the children are able to sense this, but it happens, and that is what happened with Mr. Carton. He was the first stranger Little Lucie held out her chubby arms to when she was a baby, and they maintained their connection as she grew up. The little boy had talked about him almost until the day he died, saying, “Poor Mr. Carton! Give him a kiss for me!”
Mr. Stryver shouldered his way through the law, like some great engine forcing itself through turbid water, and dragged his useful friend in his wake, like a boat towed astern. As the boat so favoured is usually in a rough plight, and mostly under water, so, Sydney had a swamped life of it. But, easy and strong custom, unhappily so much easier and stronger in him than any stimulating sense of desert or disgrace, made it the life he was to lead; and he no more thought of emerging from his state of lion’s jackal, than any real jackal may be supposed to think of rising to be a lion. Stryver was rich; had married a florid widow with property and three boys, who had nothing particularly shining about them but the straight hair of their dumpling heads. Mr. Stryver shoved his way toward success as a lawyer, like a ship plowing through rough waters, and dragged his helpful friend Mr. Carton along with him. Sydney, like a sinking boat, had a tough time being dragged along, but since he had always done so, he continued with that life. Mr. Carton’s attachment to the life he was used to, unfortunately stronger in him than any desire to desert Mr. Stryver or avoid the disgrace of this life, made that life the one Mr. Carton was to lead. He didn’t think any more of being the jackal to Mr. Stryver’s lion than a real jackal would think of becoming a lion. Stryver was rich. He had married an old widow with property and three boys, who had nothing particularly exciting about them but the straight hair on their fat heads.
These three young gentlemen, Mr. Stryver, exuding patronage of the most offensive quality from every pore, had walked before him like three sheep to the quiet corner in Soho, and had offered as pupils to Lucie’s husband: delicately saying “Halloa! here are three lumps of bread-and-cheese towards your matrimonial picnic, Darnay!” The polite rejection of the three lumps of bread-and-cheese had quite bloated Mr. Stryver with indignation, which he afterwards turned to account in the training of the young gentlemen, by directing them to beware of the pride of Beggars, like that tutor-fellow. He was also in the habit of declaiming to Mrs. Stryver, over his full-bodied wine, on the arts Mrs. Darnay had once put in practice to “catch” him, and on the diamond-cut-diamond arts in himself, madam, which had rendered him “not to be caught.” Some of his King’s Bench familiars, who were occasionally parties to the full-bodied wine and the lie, excused him for the latter by saying that he had told it so often, that he believed it himself—which is surely such an incorrigible aggravation of an originally bad offence, as to justify any such offender’s being carried off to some suitably retired spot, and there hanged out of the way. Mr. Stryver was a terrible father figure. He had marched the three young gentlemen like sheep to the Manette’s house where he presented them as students for Mr. Darnay. As he did he said crudely, “Hello! Here are three lumps of bread and cheese toward your marriage picnic, Darnay!” When Darnay politely rejected them as students, Mr. Stryver became indignant. He later used this to teach the boys a lesson, telling them to beware of the pride of beggars, like that tutor fellow, Darnay. He was also in the habit of telling Mrs. Stryver over his wine all about the clever ways Mrs. Darnay had once used to “catch” him, and all the even more clever ways he had avoided being caught. Some of his colleagues from the King’s Bench, who came there to drink with him excused his lie by saying he had told it so many times that he now believed it himself. This is surely a way to make a bad offense worse. It would be justifiable to take anyone who said this off to some quiet spot and then hang him.

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