Skip over navigation

A Tale of Two Cities

Original Text

Modern Text

To her father himself, he wrote in the same strain; but, he told her father that he expressly confided his wife and child to his care. And he told him this, very strongly, with the hope of rousing him from any despondency or dangerous retrospect towards which he foresaw he might be tending. He wrote a similar letter to Dr. Manette, telling the doctor specifically that he left Lucie and their daughter in his care. He was very adamant about this and hoped this responsibility would lift him out of any hopelessness or dangerous reflection that Darnay thought he might fall into.
To Mr. Lorry, he commended them all, and explained his worldly affairs. That done, with many added sentences of grateful friendship and warm attachment, all was done. He never thought of Carton. His mind was so full of the others, that he never once thought of him. He wrote to Mr. Lorry and told him to take care of all of them. He also explained all his personal and business affairs. After that was done, he thanked him for his friendship and affection. Then he was done. He never thought about Mr. Carton. He was so focused on the others that he didn’t even think of him once.
He had time to finish these letters before the lights were put out. When he lay down on his straw bed, he thought he had done with this world. He had time to finish these letters before the lamps were all put out. When he lied down on his straw bed, he thought that his life was over.
But, it beckoned him back in his sleep, and showed itself in shining forms. Free and happy, back in the old house in Soho (though it had nothing in it like the real house), unaccountably released and light of heart, he was with Lucie again, and she told him it was all a dream, and he had never gone away. A pause of forgetfulness, and then he had even suffered, and had come back to her, dead and at peace, and yet there was no difference in him. Another pause of oblivion, and he awoke in the sombre morning, unconscious where he was or what had happened, until it flashed upon his mind, “this is the day of my death!” But his life came back to him while he slept, and showed itself in happy memories. He saw himself free and happy back in the old house in Soho (though it had nothing in it that looked like the interior of the real house). He was completely free and lighthearted, with Lucie again. She told him it was all a dream and he had never left London. He slept without dreaming for a while, and then he dreamt he had been killed and had come back to her, dead and at peace, and yet he had not changed at all. He slept without dreaming again for a while, and he woke up in the morning. He didn’t know where he was or what had happened, until it flashed in his mind, “This is the day I am going to die.”
Thus, had he come through the hours, to the day when the fifty-two heads were to fall. And now, while he was composed, and hoped that he could meet the end with quiet heroism, a new action began in his waking thoughts, which was very difficult to master. This is how he spent the hours leading up to the day when fifty-two people were to have their heads cut off. He was calm now and hoped that he could face his death with quiet bravery. But a new idea came to him that made this very difficult to do.
He had never seen the instrument that was to terminate his life. How high it was from the ground, how many steps it had, where he would be stood, how he would be touched, whether the touching hands would be dyed red, which way his face would be turned, whether he would be the first, or might be the last: these and many similar questions, in nowise directed by his will, obtruded themselves over and over again, countless times. Neither were they connected with fear: he was conscious of no fear. Rather, they originated in a strange besetting desire to know what to do when the time came; a desire gigantically disproportionate to the few swift moments to which it referred; a wondering that was more like the wondering of some other spirit within his, than his own. He had never seen the guillotine before. He hadn’t seen how high it was off the ground, how many steps it had, or where he would stand. He didn’t know how the executioner would treat him or whether the executioner’s hands would be stained with blood. He didn’t know which way his face would be turned or whether he would be the first person or the last person to die that day. These and many similar questions forced their way into his mind over and over again. They weren’t connected with any feelings of fear fear. He wasn’t aware of being afraid at all. Instead, they came from wanting to know what to do when the time came. His worry was greatly out of proportion with the few quick moments that he would actually be there. It was like another spirit inside of him other than his own was wondering about this.
The hours went on as he walked to and fro, and the clocks struck the numbers he would never hear again. Nine gone for ever, ten gone for ever, eleven gone for ever, twelve coming on to pass away. After a hard contest with that eccentric action of thought which had last perplexed him, he had got the better of it. He walked up and down, softly repeating their names to himself. The worst of the strife was over. He could walk up and down, free from distracting fancies, praying for himself and for them. The hours passed as he paced back and forth, and the clocks struck numbers he would never hear again: nine gone forever, ten gone forever, eleven gone forever, and twelve was on its way. After struggling hard with this strange, disturbing thought, he got the better of it. He paced up and down, softly repeating his loved ones’ names to himself. The worst of his suffering was over. He could walk up and down, free from distracting thoughts, praying for himself and for them.

More Help

Previous Next