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A Tale of Two Cities

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The quiet lodgings of Doctor Manette were in a quiet street-corner not far from Soho-square. On the afternoon of a certain fine Sunday when the waves of four months had roiled over the trial for treason, and carried it, as to the public interest and memory, far out to sea, Mr. Jarvis Lorry walked along the sunny streets from Clerkenwell where he lived, on his way to dine with the Doctor. After several relapses into business-absorption, Mr. Lorry had become the Doctor’s friend, and the quiet street-corner was the sunny part of his life. Dr. Manette’s quiet apartment was on a quiet street corner near Soho Square. It was a fine Sunday afternoon four months after Mr. Darnay’s trial for treason. By now the public had forgotten all about it. Mr. Jarvis Lorry walked along the sunny streets from his home in Clerkenwell to dine with Dr. Manette. After falling back a few times into being consumed by his work, Mr. Lorry had become friends with Dr. Manette, and his visits to Dr. Manette made up the happiest part of his life.
On this certain fine Sunday, Mr. Lorry walked towards Soho, early in the afternoon, for three reasons of habit. Firstly, because, on fine Sundays, he often walked out, before dinner, with the Doctor and Lucie; secondly, because, on unfavourable Sundays, he was accustomed to be with them as the family friend, talking, reading, looking out of window, and generally getting through the day; thirdly, because he happened to have his own little shrewd doubts to solve, and knew how the ways of the Doctor’s household pointed to that time as a likely time for solving them. On this particular fine Sunday, Mr. Lorry walked toward Soho early in the afternoon for three reasons. First of all, on nice Sundays he often went out for a walk with the doctor and Lucie before lunch. Secondly, on Sundays when the weather was bad, he often spent the day with them as a family friend at their house, talking, reading, looking out the window, and generally getting through the day. Thirdly, he had his own problems to work out, and the time at the doctor’s house was a good time to work them out.
A quainter corner than the corner where the Doctor lived, was not to be found in London. There was no way through it, and the front windows of the Doctor’s lodgings commanded a pleasant little vista of street that had a congenial air of retirement on it. There were few buildings then, north of the Oxford-road, and forest-trees flourished, and wild flowers grew, and the hawthorn blossomed, in the now vanished fields. As a consequence, country airs circulated in Soho with vigorous freedom, instead of languishing into the parish like stray paupers without a settlement; and there was many a good south wall, not far off, on which the peaches ripened in their season. There wasn’t a nicer street corner in London than the corner where Dr. Manette lived. It was a dead end, and there was a pleasant little view of the street from the front windows of his apartment that provided a sense of being away from the commotion. There weren’t many buildings north of Oxford Road back then. Trees and wildflowers flourished, and hawthorn grew all over the fields that have since disappeared. Because of this, country air flowed briskly through Soho instead of fading away into the countryside like beggars without a home. There were many peach trees nearby, growing up against the south walls of the buildings.
The summer light struck into the corner brilliantly in the earlier part of the day; but, when the streets grew hot, the corner was in shadow, though not in shadow so remote but that you could see beyond it into a glare of brightness. It was a cool spot, staid but cheerful, a wonderful place for echoes, and a very harbour from the raging streets. The street corner Dr. Manette lived on was well lit by sunlight early in the day, but in the hot part of the day, the corner was in shade, though not in such a large shadow that you couldn’t see past it into the sunlight. It was a cool spot, calm but cheerful. It was a good place to hear echoes and escape the noise of the busy city streets.
There ought to have been a tranquil bark in such an anchorage, and there was. The Doctor occupied two floors of a large stiff house, where several callings purported to be pursued by day, but whereof little was audible any day, and which was shunned by all of them at night. In a building at the back, attainable by a courtyard where a plane-tree rustled its green leaves, church-organs claimed to be made, and silver to be chased, and likewise gold to be beaten by some mysterious giant who had a golden arm starting out of the wall of the front hall—as if he had beaten himself precious, and menaced a similar conversion of all visitors. Very little of these trades, or of a lonely lodger rumoured to live up-stairs, or of a dim coach-trimming maker asserted to have a counting-house below, was ever heard or seen. Occasionally, a stray workman putting his coat on, traversed the hall, or a stranger peered about there, or a distant clink was heard across the courtyard, or a thump from the golden giant. These, however, were only the exceptions required to prove the rule that the sparrows in the plane-tree behind the house, and the echoes in the corner before it, had their own way from Sunday morning unto Saturday night. It was fitting that the doctor’s quiet home was on such as a quiet street. He lived in two floors of a large stiff house where several businesses were supposedly open during the day. But they made almost no noise during the daytime, and they were completely silent at night. There was a building in back that was only reachable by a courtyard where a plane tree grew. In the building there was a shop that claimed to make church organs, engrave silver, and make items out of gold. The golden arm of a mysterious giant stuck out of the wall of the front hall, as if he had beaten himself golden and might threaten to do the same to any visitors. Noise was rarely heard from these businesses, or from the one lodger who was said to live upstairs, or from the dumb maker of coach-trimmings who claimed to have an accounting house downstairs. Once in a while a stray workman, putting his coat on, would walk across the hall, or a stranger would come looking around. Sometimes you would hear a clink in the distance across the courtyard or the golden giant would make a thump. These were the only sounds to be heard. Otherwise, the sparrows in the plane tree behind the house and the echoes in the corner were the only sounds to be heard all week.

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