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A Tale of Two Cities

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“How do you do?” inquired that lady then—sharply, and yet as if to express that she bore him no malice. “How are you?” the lady then asked. She said it harshly, but still trying to be friendly.
“I am pretty well, I thank you,” answered Mr. Lorry, with meekness; “how are you?” “I am pretty well, thank you,” answered Mr. Lorry meekly. “How are you?”
“Nothing to boast of,” said Miss Pross. “Nothing to brag about,” said Miss Pross.
“Indeed?” “Indeed?”
“Ah! indeed!” said Miss Pross. “I am very much put out about my Ladybird.” “Ah! Indeed!” said Miss Pross. “I am very unhappy about Miss Manette.”
“Indeed?” “Indeed?”
“For gracious sake say something else besides `indeed,’ or you’ll fidget me to death,” said Miss Pross: whose character (dissociated from stature) was shortness. “For goodness sake, say something besides ‘indeed,’ or you’ll annoy me to death,” said Miss Pross. She had a tendency to be short with people, although she was rather a tall woman.
“Really, then?” said Mr. Lorry, as an amendment. “Really, then?” said Mr. Lorry, changing his phrase.
“Really, is bad enough,” returned Miss Pross, “but better. Yes, I am very much put out.” “‘Really’ is bad, but it’s better than ‘indeed.’ Yes, I am very unhappy.”
“May I ask the cause?” “May I ask why?”
“I don’t want dozens of people who are not at all worthy of Ladybird, to come here looking after her,” said Miss Pross. “I don’t want dozens of people who are unworthy of Miss Manette coming here to looking for her,” said Miss Pross.
“DO dozens come for that purpose?” Do dozens of people come here for that?”
“Hundreds,” said Miss Pross. “Hundreds,” said Miss Pross.
It was characteristic of this lady (as of some other people before her time and since) that whenever her original proposition was questioned, she exaggerated it. Miss Pross had the habit, like many other people before and after her, to exaggerate her point after someone questioned it.
“Dear me!” said Mr. Lorry, as the safest remark he could think of. “Dear me!” said Mr. Lorry. It was the safest thing he could think to say.
“I have lived with the darling—or the darling has lived with me, and paid me for it; which she certainly should never have done, you may take your affidavit, if I could have afforded to keep either myself or her for nothing--since she was ten years old. And it’s really very hard,” said Miss Pross. “I have lived with her—or rather, she has lived with me—since she was ten years old and paid me for it. She certainly shouldn’t have if I could have afforded to take care of her or myself for nothing. It’s been very hard,” said Miss Pross.
Not seeing with precision what was very hard, Mr. Lorry shook his head; using that important part of himself as a sort of fairy cloak that would fit anything. Mr. Lorry didn’t understand what exactly was “very hard,” so he shook his head. He used this gesture of shaking his head as a kind of magical cloak, which would fit any occasion the way a magical cloak would fit anyone.
“All sorts of people who are not in the least degree worthy of the pet, are always turning up,” said Miss Pross. “When you began it—” “All sorts of people who are not worthy of her keep showing up,” said Miss Pross. “When you started it—”
I began it, Miss Pross?” “When I started it, Miss Pross?”
“Didn’t you? Who brought her father to life?” “Didn’t you? Who brought her father back to life?”
“Oh! If THAT was beginning it—” said Mr. Lorry. “Oh! If that’s what you mean by starting it—” said Mr. Lorry.
“It wasn’t ending it, I suppose? I say, when you began it, it was hard enough; not that I have any fault to find with Doctor Manette, except that he is not worthy of such a daughter, which is no imputation on him, for it was not to be expected that anybody should be, under any circumstances. But it really is doubly and trebly hard to have crowds and multitudes of people turning up after him (I could have forgiven him), to take Ladybird’s affections away from me.” “It wasn’t ending it, was it? As I was saying, when you started it, it was hard enough. Not that I can blame Dr. Manette, except that he doesn’t deserve to have such a daughter. This isn’t his fault, for it can’t be expected that anyone would be worthy under the circumstances. But it really is two or three times harder to have crowds of people showing up after him—I could have forgiven him—to take Miss Manette’s affections away from me.”
Mr. Lorry knew Miss Pross to be very jealous, but he also knew her by this time to be, beneath the service of her eccentricity, one of those unselfish creatures—found only among women—who will, for pure love and admiration, bind themselves willing slaves, to youth when they have lost it, to beauty that they never had, to accomplishments that they were never fortunate enough to gain, to bright hopes that never shone upon their own sombre lives. He knew enough of the world to know that there is nothing in it better than the faithful service of the heart; so rendered and so free from any mercenary taint, he had such an exalted respect for it, that in the retributive arrangements made by his own mind—we all make such arrangements, more or less—he stationed Miss Pross much nearer to the lower Angels than many ladies immeasurably better got up both by Nature and Art, who had balances at Tellson’s. Mr. Lorry knew that Miss Pross could be a jealous woman, but he also knew by now that she was, beneath all her odd behavior, unselfish in a way that only women can be. She was the type of woman who would, for love and admiration, commit herself like a slave to a woman. She would commit to a young woman, though she herself was old. Or to a beautiful woman, though she had never been beautiful. Or to a successful woman, though she had no accomplishments. Or to a hopeful woman, though she’d never had hope in her own life. Mr. Lorry knew enough about the world to know that there is nothing better than true love and devotion that is free from selfish motives. When he thought of the rewards of the afterlife (we all sometimes think of such things), he placed Miss Pross much closer to the lower angels than some of the most beautiful women, either naturally beautiful or who had made themselves beautiful with makeup and fine clothes, who had money at Tellson’s Bank.

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