Skip over navigation

A Tale of Two Cities

Original Text

Modern Text

“What then, my gentle sister?” “What then, my gentle sister?”
“Do you think:” the uncomplaining eyes in which there is so much endurance, fill with tears, and the lips part a little more and tremble: “that it will seem long to me, while I wait for her in the better land where I trust both you and I will be mercifully sheltered?” “Do you think that it will seem like a long time to me while I wait for her in Heaven, where I am sure you and I will both go when we die?” As she speaks her uncomplaining eyes fill with tears, and her lips tremble.
“It cannot be, my child; there is no Time there, and no trouble there.” “It won’t seem long, my dear child. There is no time in Heaven, and no troubles there.”
“You comfort me so much! I am so ignorant. Am I to kiss you now? Is the moment come?” “You are so comforting to me! I am so ignorant. Should I kiss you now? Is it time?”
“Yes.” “Yes.”
She kisses his lips; he kisses hers; they solemnly bless each other. The spare hand does not tremble as he releases it; nothing worse than a sweet, bright constancy is in the patient face. She goes next before him—is gone; the knitting-women count Twenty-Two. She kisses his lips, and he kisses hers. They bless each other. Her hand isn’t trembling when he lets go of it, and the expression on her face is sweet, bright, and strong. She goes to the guillotine before him, and is gone. The knitting women count “twenty-two.”
“I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” “I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord,” Carton thought. “He that believes in me, even though he is dead, will live. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
The murmuring of many voices, the upturning of many faces, the pressing on of many footsteps in the outskirts of the crowd, so that it swells forward in a mass, like one great heave of water, all flashes away. Twenty-Three. Carton hears the murmuring of many voices in the crowd. He sees many faces turned up toward him and looking at him. He sees people on the outside of the crowd push in so that the whole crowd moves forward like a wave. Then there is a flash and it all goes away. Twenty-three.
* * * ***
They said of him, about the city that night, that it was the peacefullest man’s face ever beheld there. Many added that he looked sublime and prophetic. It was said in Paris that night that Carton had the most peaceful look on his face that anyone had ever seen on someone sent to the guillotine. Many people added that he looked almost heavenly, and like a prophet.
One of the most remarkable sufferers by the same axe—a woman—had asked at the foot of the same scaffold, not long before, to be allowed to write down the thoughts that were inspiring her. If he had given any utterance to his, and they were prophetic, they would have been these: One of the most remarkable people who died that same day at the guillotine was a woman who had asked at the foot of that same scaffold earlier if she could write down what she was thinking. If Carton had said what he had been thinking, and if he had been able to see into the future, he would have said this:
“I see Barsad, and Cly, Defarge, The Vengeance, the Juryman, the Judge, long ranks of the new oppressors who have risen on the destruction of the old, perishing by this retributive instrument, before it shall cease out of its present use. I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out. “I see Barsad, Cly, Defarge, The Vengeance, Jacques Three the juryman, the judge, the many new tyrants that have taken over after destroying the old, all dying at the guillotine, before it stops being used. I see the beautiful city of Paris and the wonderful people of France rising up from this abyss, In their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats for many years to come, I see the evil of this time, and the evil of the time before that caused the Revolution, gradually making amends for itself and dying out.
“I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy, in that England which I shall see no more. I see Her with a child upon her bosom, who bears my name. I see her father, aged and bent, but otherwise restored, and faithful to all men in his healing office, and at peace. I see the good old man, so long their friend, in ten years’ time enriching them with all he has, and passing tranquilly to his reward. “I see the people for which I died living peaceful, useful, successful, and happy lives back in the England I will never see again. I see Lucie with a child on her breast who is named after me. I see Dr. Manette, who is old and bent over but otherwise healthy again. He is treating patients and is at peace. I see Mr. Lorry, who has been their friend for so long, enriching their lives for ten years, and dying tranquilly.
“I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. I see her, an old woman, weeping for me on the anniversary of this day. I see her and her husband, their course done, lying side by side in their last earthly bed, and I know that each was not more honoured and held sacred in the other’s soul, than I was in the souls of both. “I see that I hold a special place in their hearts and in the hearts of future generations of their family. I see Lucie as an old woman, crying for me on the anniversary of the day I died. I see her and Charles dying and lying next to each other in their graves. I know that they honored me in their souls as much as they honored each other.

More Help

Previous Next