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A Tale of Two Cities

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“Indeed, sir,” pursued the nephew, “for anything I know, you may have expressly worked to give a more suspicious appearance to the suspicious circumstances that surrounded me.” “Indeed, sir, as far as I know, you may have arranged to make my already suspicious circumstances look even more suspicious.”
“No, no, no,” said the uncle, pleasantly. “No, no, no,” said the uncle, pleasantly.
“But, however that may be,” resumed the nephew, glancing at him with deep distrust, “I know that your diplomacy would stop me by any means, and would know no scruple as to means.” “But whether that’s true or not,” continued the nephew, looking at him suspiciously, “I know that you would stop me any way you could, and use any means necessary.”
“My friend, I told you so,” said the uncle, with a fine pulsation in the two marks. “Do me the favour to recall that I told you so, long ago.” “My friend, I told you that myself,” said the uncle. The two dents in his nose pulsed quietly. “Do me the favor of remembering that I told you that a long time ago.”
“I recall it.” “I remember that.”
“Thank you,” said the Marquise—very sweetly indeed. “Thank you,” said the marquis, very sweetly.
His tone lingered in the air, almost like the tone of a musical instrument. The tone of his voice stayed in the air like the tone of a musical instrument.
“In effect, sir,” pursued the nephew, “I believe it to be at once your bad fortune, and my good fortune, that has kept me out of a prison in France here.” “In effect, sir,” continued the nephew. “I believe that it is both your bad luck and my good luck that I am not in a prison in France right now.”
“I do not quite understand,” returned the uncle, sipping his coffee. “Dare I ask you to explain?” “I don’t quite understand,” answered the uncle, sipping his coffee. “Can you explain?”
“I believe that if you were not in disgrace with the Court, and had not been overshadowed by that cloud for years past, a letter de cachet would have sent me to some fortress indefinitely.” I believe that if you weren’t out of favor with the court, and had not been for years, that a

letter de cachet

official documents that could be used to send someone to prison

letter de cachet
would have put me in prison indefinitely.”
“It is possible,” said the uncle, with great calmness. “For the honour of the family, I could even resolve to incommode you to that extent. Pray excuse me!” “It is possible that, for the sake of our family’s honor, I might even decide to inconvenience you to that extent,” said the uncle calmly. “Please excuse me!”
“I perceive that, happily for me, the Reception of the day before yesterday was, as usual, a cold one,” observed the nephew. “I see that, luckily for me, you were received coldly two days ago at the monseigneur’s reception, as usual,” said the nephew.
“I would not say happily, my friend,” returned the uncle, with refined politeness; “I would not be sure of that. A good opportunity for consideration, surrounded by the advantages of solitude, might influence your destiny to far greater advantage than you influence it for yourself. But it is useless to discuss the question. I am, as you say, at a disadvantage. These little instruments of correction, these gentle aids to the power and honour of families, these slight favours that might so incommode you, are only to be obtained now by interest and importunity. They are sought by so many, and they are granted (comparatively) to so few! It used not to be so, but France in all such things is changed for the worse. Our not remote ancestors held the right of life and death over the surrounding vulgar. From this room, many such dogs have been taken out to be hanged; in the next room (my bedroom), one fellow, to our knowledge, was poniarded on the spot for professing some insolent delicacy respecting his daughter—his daughter? We have lost many privileges; a new philosophy has become the mode; and the assertion of our station, in these days, might (I do not go so far as to say would, but might) cause us real inconvenience. All very bad, very bad!” “I wouldn’t say luckily, my friend,” answered the uncle politely. “I would not be so sure of that. Some time alone in a prison cell to think things over might have a better influence on your future than you have on it yourself. But it is useless to talk about this. I am, as you have said, at a disadvantage. These little things we do—sending people to prison, helping the power and honor of families—these slight advantages that might inconvenience you are only to be gotten by being insistent. So many people want them, and so few get them! It didn’t used to be like this, but France has changed for the worse in such ways. Our ancestors, not long ago, held the right of life or death over the peasants and the poor. Many such dogs have been dragged out of this very room and hanged. In my bedroom next door, one man, as far as we know, was stabbed with a

poniard

a small dagger

poniard
for saying disrespectful things about his daughter. His own daughter! We have lost many of our privileges. There is a new way of thinking today. And the power of our position, these days, might—I won’t say that it definitely would, but it might—cause us real inconvenience. All of this is very bad for us!”
The Marquis took a gentle little pinch of snuff, and shook his head; as elegantly despondent as he could becomingly be of a country still containing himself, that great means of regeneration. The marquis inhaled a pinch of

snuff

powdered tobacco that is sniffed up the nostrils

snuff
and shook his head. He was as elegantly unhappy as he could be with a country where he and his family still lived.

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