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A Tale of Two Cities

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In such risings of fire and risings of sea—the firm earth shaken by the rushes of an angry ocean which had now no ebb, but was always on the flow, higher and higher, to the terror and wonder of the beholders on the shore—three years of tempest were consumed. Three more birthdays of little Lucie had been woven by the golden thread into the peaceful tissue of the life of her home. Three years went by, and the violence in France grew worse and worse without stop, while the people around it watched in terror and wonder. Little Lucie Manette had three more birthdays in her peaceful home.
Many a night and many a day had its inmates listened to the echoes in the corner, with hearts that failed them when they heard the thronging feet. For, the footsteps had become to their minds as the footsteps of a people, tumultuous under a red flag and with their country declared in danger, changed into wild beasts, by terrible enchantment long persisted in. The people at the Manette home had listened to the echoes in the street corner many days and nights, and their hearts would stop when they heard the crowd of footsteps. The footsteps now sounded like the footsteps of the French people, who had declared their turbulent country to be in danger and ruled it under the red flag of the Republic. They acted like they had been turned into wild beasts by many years of abuse.
Monseigneur, as a class, had dissociated himself from the phenomenon of his not being appreciated: of his being so little wanted in France, as to incur considerable danger of receiving his dismissal from it, and this life together. Like the fabled rustic who raised the Devil with infinite pains, and was so terrified at the sight of him that he could ask the Enemy no question, but immediately fled; so, Monseigneur, after boldly reading the Lord’s Prayer backwards for a great number of years, and performing many other potent spells for compelling the Evil One, no sooner beheld him in his terrors than he took to his noble heels. The upper class had distanced itself from the fact that it was hated in France. Their presence was so unwanted there that they were in danger of being exiled from the country or even killed. The situation resembled the story of the farmer who worked hard to summon the devil, then became so scared when the devil finally appeared that he ran away before he could ask a question. Likewise, the upper class did much to bring this revolt about, then ran away as soon as they saw it happening.
The shining Bull’s Eye of the Court was gone, or it would have been the mark for a hurricane of national bullets. It had never been a good eye to see with—had long had the mote in it of Lucifer’s pride, Sardanapalus’s luxury, and a mole’s blindness—but it had dropped out and was gone. The Court, from that exclusive inner circle to its outermost rotten ring of intrigue, corruption, and dissimulation, was all gone together. Royalty was gone; had been besieged in its Palace and “suspended,” when the last tidings came over. The glittering, bull’s-eye-shaped group of Royal Court members was gone, or it would have been a target for the whole country. It had always been oblivious, since it was proud, extravagant, and blind. Now it had disappeared entirely. The whole court, from its exclusive inner circle to the outermost ring of corruption, had also disappeared. The king and queen were gone. They had been overtaken at the palace and were “suspended” when the last wave of rebellion took it over.
The August of the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety-two was come, and Monseigneur was by this time scattered far and wide. August 1792 had come, and the upper class of monseigneurs had by this time fled to many different places.
As was natural, the head-quarters and great gathering-place of Monseigneur, in London, was Tellson’s Bank. Spirits are supposed to haunt the places where their bodies most resorted, and Monseigneur without a guinea haunted the spot where his guineas used to be. Moreover, it was the spot to which such French intelligence as was most to be relied upon, came quickest. Again: Tellson’s was a munificent house, and extended great liberality to old customers who had fallen from their high estate. Again: those nobles who had seen the coming storm in time, and anticipating plunder or confiscation, had made provident remittances to Tellson’s, were always to be heard of there by their needy brethren. To which it must be added that every new-comer from France reported himself and his tidings at Tellson’s, almost as a matter of course. For such variety of reasons, Tellson’s was at that time, as to French intelligence, a kind of High Exchange; and this was so well known to the public, and the inquiries made there were in consequence so numerous, that Tellson’s sometimes wrote the latest news out in a line or so and posted it in the Bank windows, for all who ran through Temple Bar to read. Naturally, Tellson’s Bank was the headquarters and gathering place of France’s upper class in London. They say that ghosts haunt the places where their bodies used to be, and the upper class, without any money left, haunted the place where its money used to be. Moreover, it was the first place to hear the most reliable news from France. Tellson’s was a generous company, and it was very kind to old customers who had fallen on hard times. Those noblemen who had realized in time what was going to happen, and who had expected their valuables to be seized, had transferred much of their wealth to Tellson’s. Their unfortunate countrymen always talked about them at Tellson's. It must be added that nearly every new-comer from France reported his arrival and his condition to Tellson’s Bank. Consequently, Tellson’s was like a stock exchange for French information. This was so well-known, and people came there with so many questions about the events in France, that Tellson’s sometimes wrote the latest news out and put it up in the bank’s windows for everyone in Temple Bar to read.

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