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A Tale of Two Cities

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The blue-flies buzzed again, and Mr. Attorney-General called Mr. Jarvis Lorry. There was another buzz in the courtroom, and the attorney general called Mr. Jarvis Lorry to the stand.
“Mr. Jarvis Lorry, are you a clerk in Tellson’s bank?” “Mr. Jarvis Lorry, are you a clerk at Tellson’s Bank?”
“I am.” “I am.”
“On a certain Friday night in November one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, did business occasion you to travel between London and Dover by the mail?” “On a certain Friday night in November 1775, did your job require that you take the mail coach from London to Dover?
“It did.” “It did.”
“Were there any other passengers in the mail?” “Were there any other passengers in the coach?”
“Two.” “Two other passengers.”
“Did they alight on the road in the course of the night?” “Did they get out of the coach at some point during the night?”
“They did.” “Yes, they did.”
“Mr. Lorry, look upon the prisoner. Was he one of those two passengers?” “Mr. Lorry, look at the prisoner. Was he one of those two passengers?”
“I cannot undertake to say that he was.” “I don’t know.”
“Does he resemble either of these two passengers?” “Does he resemble either of the two passengers?”
“Both were so wrapped up, and the night was so dark, and we were all so reserved, that I cannot undertake to say even that.” “Both of them were bundled up, it was dark, and we all kept to ourselves, so I can’t be sure if he looked like one of the passengers or not.”
“Mr. Lorry, look again upon the prisoner. Supposing him wrapped up as those two passengers were, is there anything in his bulk and stature to render it unlikely that he was one of them?” “Mr. Lorry, imagine the prisoner wrapped up like those two passengers. Is there anything about his build or height that would make you think that he was not one of them?”
“No.” “No.”
“You will not swear, Mr. Lorry, that he was not one of them?” “Mr. Lorry, you cannot say for sure that he was not one of those two men?”
“No.” “No.”
“So at least you say he may have been one of them?” “So you’re saying he might have been one of them?”
“Yes. Except that I remember them both to have been—like myself—timorous of highwaymen, and the prisoner has not a timorous air.” “Yes. Except that I remember them both being afraid of thieves, like I was, and the prisoner doesn’t look like a man who’s afraid of anything.”
“Did you ever see a counterfeit of timidity, Mr. Lorry?” “Did you ever see someone pretend to be afraid, Mr. Lorry?”
“I certainly have seen that.” “I certainly have.”
“Mr. Lorry, look once more upon the prisoner. Have you seen him, to your certain knowledge, before?” “Mr. Lorry, look at the prisoner again. Have you ever seen him before?”
“I have.” “I have.”
“When?” “When?”
“I was returning from France a few days afterwards, and, at Calais, the prisoner came on board the packet-ship in which I returned, and made the voyage with me.” “I was coming back from France a few days afterward. The prisoner got on board our ship at Calais and came back to England with me.”
“At what hour did he come on board?” “What time did he come on board?”
“At a little after midnight.” “A little after midnight.”
“In the dead of the night. Was he the only passenger who came on board at that untimely hour?” “In the middle of the night. Was he the only passenger that came on board so late?”
“He happened to be the only one.” “Yes. He happened to be the only one.”
“Never mind about ‘happening,’ Mr. Lorry. He was the only passenger who came on board in the dead of the night?” “Forget about whether he ‘happened’ to be the only one. Was he the only passenger to come on board in the middle of the night?”
“He was.” “Yes, he was.”
“Were you travelling alone, Mr. Lorry, or with any companion?” “Were you traveling alone, Mr. Lorry, or were you with someone?”
“With two companions. A gentleman and lady. They are here.” “I was with two other people. A gentleman and a lady. They are here in the courtroom.”
“They are here. Had you any conversation with the prisoner?” “They are here. Did you speak with the prisoner?
“Hardly any. The weather was stormy, and the passage long and rough, and I lay on a sofa, almost from shore to shore.” “Hardly. The weather was stormy, and the sea was rough. I was lying on the sofa for almost the entire trip.”
“Miss Manette!” “Miss Manette!” the attorney general said.
The young lady, to whom all eyes had been turned before, and were now turned again, stood up where she had sat. Her father rose with her, and kept her hand drawn through his arm. The young woman, whom everyone had been watching earlier, stood up, and the crowd turned to look at her. Her father stood up with her and kept his hand linked through her arm.
“Miss Manette, look upon the prisoner.” “Miss Manette, take a look at the prisoner.”
To be confronted with such pity, and such earnest youth and beauty, was far more trying to the accused than to be confronted with all the crowd. Standing, as it were, apart with her on the edge of his grave, not all the staring curiosity that looked on, could, for the moment, nerve him to remain quite still. His hurried right hand parcelled out the herbs before him into imaginary beds of flowers in a garden; and his efforts to control and steady his breathing shook the lips from which the colour rushed to his heart. The buzz of the great flies was loud again. To look at such a young, beautiful woman with such pity in her eyes was harder for the prisoner than the stares of the entire crowd. He couldn’t stand still while looking at her, knowing he was about to die and knowing that everyone was watching him. He brushed the herbs in front of him into little lines, like beds of flowers in a garden. His lips trembled as he tried to steady his breathing. The crowd started to buzz again.

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