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A Tale of Two Cities

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“They call me Defarge.” “My name is Defarge.”
“Of what trade?” “What is your job?”
“Monsieur the Marquis, vendor of wine.” “I sell wine, monsieur the marquis.”
“Pick up that, philosopher and vendor of wine,” said the Marquis, throwing him another gold coin, “and spend it as you will. The horses there; are they right?” “Pick that up, you philosopher and seller of wine,” said the marquis, throwing down another gold coin. “Spend it however you like. Are the horses all right?”
Without deigning to look at the assemblage a second time, Monsieur the Marquis leaned back in his seat, and was just being driven away with the air of a gentleman who had accidentally broke some common thing, and had paid for it, and could afford to pay for it; when his ease was suddenly disturbed by a coin flying into his carriage, and ringing on its floor. Without bothering to look at the crowd again, monsieur the marquis leaned back in his chair. As the carriage drove away the marquis had the look of a gentleman who has accidentally broken some small trifle and paid for it easily. His ease was disturbed when a coin flew into the carriage and landed on the floor.
“Hold!” said Monsieur the Marquis. “Hold the horses! Who threw that?” “Stop!” said monsieur the marquis. “Stop the horses! Who threw that?”
He looked to the spot where Defarge the vendor of wine had stood, a moment before; but the wretched father was grovelling on his face on the pavement in that spot, and the figure that stood beside him was the figure of a dark stout woman, knitting. He looked to where Defarge the wine seller had been standing a moment before. But instead he saw the poor father facedown on the pavement, crying there. The only person who stood beside him was a large, dark woman who was knitting.
“You dogs!” said the Marquis, but smoothly, and with an unchanged front, except as to the spots on his nose: “I would ride over any of you very willingly, and exterminate you from the earth. If I knew which rascal threw at the carriage, and if that brigand were sufficiently near it, he should be crushed under the wheels.” “You dogs!” said the marquis smoothly, his face unchanged except for the corners of his nose. “I would happily run any of you over and eliminate you like you were insects or vermin. If I knew which one of you rascals threw that coin into the carriage, and if that person was nearby, I would crush him under the wheels.”
So cowed was their condition, and so long and hard their experience of what such a man could do to them, within the law and beyond it, that not a voice, or a hand, or even an eye was raised. Among the men, not one. But the woman who stood knitting looked up steadily, and looked the Marquis in the face. It was not for his dignity to notice it; his contemptuous eyes passed over her, and over all the other rats; and he leaned back in his seat again, and gave the word “Go on!” The people were so used to being subservient, and had so much bad experience that they knew what a man like the marquis could do to them, legally or otherwise, that no one said or did anything. None of the men even raised an eye. Only the woman who stood there knitting looked up steadily, and looked the marquis in the face. He was too dignified to even notice. His hate-filled eyes passed over her, and over the whole crowd of vermin. He leaned back in his seat again and yelled to the driver, “Go on!”
He was driven on, and other carriages came whirling by in quick succession; the Minister, the State-Projector, the Farmer-General, the Doctor, the Lawyer, the Ecclesiastic, the Grand Opera, the Comedy, the whole Fancy Ball in a bright continuous flow, came whirling by. The rats had crept out of their holes to look on, and they remained looking on for hours; soldiers and police often passing between them and the spectacle, and making a barrier behind which they slunk, and through which they peeped. The father had long ago taken up his bundle and bidden himself away with it, when the women who had tended the bundle while it lay on the base of the fountain, sat there watching the running of the water and the rolling of the Fancy Ball—when the one woman who had stood conspicuous, knitting, still knitted on with the steadfastness of Fate. The water of the fountain ran, the swift river ran, the day ran into evening, so much life in the city ran into death according to rule, time and tide waited for no man, the rats were sleeping close together in their dark holes again, the Fancy Ball was lighted up at supper, all things ran their course. The carriage drove on, and other carriages came speeding by after it. Ministers, state projectors, tax collectors, doctors, lawyers, churchmen, people from the Grand Opera and the Comedy—all the people who had been at the monseigneur’s dinner—came whirling by. The poorer people came creeping out of their homes to look at the accident. They stayed there for hours. Soldiers and policemen came between the people and the accident and formed a barrier that they slunk behind and peeped through. The father had picked up his dead child and gone off with it long ago. The women who had cared for the child while it was lying at the base of the fountain sat there watching the water flowing in the fountain and the rich people drive by. All this time the one woman who was knitting stayed there, knitting as steadily as

fate

In Greek myth, one of the Fates spun a thread that represented each person’s destiny

fate
. Soon everything was back to normal: The water ran in the fountain. The swift river ran. The day ran into evening. The life in the streets ran on quietly as it always does. The poor went back to sleeping in their cramped little homes. The rich people went to their fancy dinners, and all things ran their course.

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