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A Tale of Two Cities

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Happily unconscious of the new calamity at home, Miss Pross threaded her way along the narrow streets and crossed the river by the bridge of the Pont-Neuf, reckoning in her mind the number of indispensable purchases she had to make. Mr. Cruncher, with the basket, walked at her side. They both looked to the right and to the left into most of the shops they passed, had a wary eye for all gregarious assemblages of people, and turned out of their road to avoid any very excited group of talkers. It was a raw evening, and the misty river, blurred to the eye with blazing lights and to the ear with harsh noises, showed where the barges were stationed in which the smiths worked, making guns for the Army of the Republic. Woe to the man who played tricks with THAT Army, or got undeserved promotion in it! Better for him that his beard had never grown, for the National Razor shaved him close. Happily unaware that Charles was being taken back to prison, Miss Pross made her way along the narrow streets and crossed the river by the Pont-Neuf bridge. She thought about the number of essential items she needed to buy. Mr. Cruncher walked beside her carrying the basket, and they both looked to the right and left into the shops they walked by. They kept an eye out for excited groups of people. If they saw any, they would leave the road to avoid them. It was a cold evening. The misty river was blurred with the reflection of blazing lights and its sound drowned out by the noise of the barges, where the smiths made guns for the Army of the Republic. Woe to the man who challenged that army! The guillotine, called the national razor, would shave his head right off.
Having purchased a few small articles of grocery, and a measure of oil for the lamp, Miss Pross bethought herself of the wine they wanted. After peeping into several wine-shops, she stopped at the sign of the Good Republican Brutus of Antiquity, not far from the National Palace, once (and twice) the Tuileries, where the aspect of things rather took her fancy. It had a quieter look than any other place of the same description they had passed, and, though red with patriotic caps, was not so red as the rest. Sounding Mr. Cruncher, and finding him of her opinion, Miss Pross resorted to the Good Republican Brutus of Antiquity, attended by her cavalier. Miss Pross bought a few small grocery items and some lamp oil, then thought about what wine they wanted. After looking into several wine shops, she stopped at a shop whose sign was of the Good Republican

Brutus of Antiquity

the Brutus who helped to found the Roman Republic and assassinate Julius Caesar

Brutus of Antiquity
. It wasn’t far from the Tuileries Palace, where the look of everything interested Miss Pross. The wine shop looked quieter than any other similar place they had passed. Even though there were many patriotic red caps there, it wasn't as full as some other places. She asked Mr. Cruncher if he thought they should go inside, and he agreed, so Miss Pross and her escort entered.
Slightly observant of the smoky lights; of the people, pipe in mouth, playing with limp cards and yellow dominoes; of the one bare- breasted, bare-armed, soot-begrimed workman reading a journal aloud, and of the others listening to him; of the weapons worn, or laid aside to be resumed; of the two or three customers fallen forward asleep, who in the popular high-shouldered shaggy black spencer looked, in that attitude, like slumbering bears or dogs; the two outlandish customers approached the counter, and showed what they wanted. The lights inside were dim, and people were smoking pipes and playing games with worn decks of cards and yellow dominoes. One bare-chested, bare-armed workman was covered in soot and reading a journal out loud. Other people listened to him. People wore weapons on them, or had set them down nearby where they could be easily reached. Two or three customers had slumped forward, asleep. They wore shaggy black

spencers

short jackets

spencers
that were popular at the time and made them look like sleeping bears or dogs. Miss Pross and Jerry, looking out of place in this setting, approached the counter and showed what they wanted.
As their wine was measuring out, a man parted from another man in a corner, and rose to depart. In going, he had to face Miss Pross. No sooner did he face her, than Miss Pross uttered a scream, and clapped her hands. As their wine was being measured out, a man got up from a corner where he had been sitting with another man and started to leave. As he went out, he came face-to-face with Miss Pross. As soon as he faced her, Miss Pross screamed and clapped her hands.
In a moment, the whole company were on their feet. That somebody was assassinated by somebody vindicating a difference of opinion was the likeliest occurrence. Everybody looked to see somebody fall, but only saw a man and a woman standing staring at each other; the man with all the outward aspect of a Frenchman and a thorough Republican; the woman, evidently English. Immediately everyone in the shop was standing up. They all assumed there had been an argument and somebody had been killed. They expected to see somebody fall down dead, but they only saw a man and a woman standing there, staring at each other. The man looked like a Frenchman and a patriotic Republican, and the woman was evidently English.
What was said in this disappointing anti-climax, by the disciples of the Good Republican Brutus of Antiquity, except that it was something very voluble and loud, would have been as so much Hebrew or Chaldean to Miss Pross and her protector, though they had been all ears. But, they had no ears for anything in their surprise. For, it must be recorded, that not only was Miss Pross lost in amazement and agitation, but, Mr. Cruncher—though it seemed on his own separate and individual account—was in a state of the greatest wonder. The customers were disappointed that this exchange only resulted in talk. The customers of the Good Republican Brutus of Antiquity wine shop all started talking loudly. Even though they listened carefully, Miss Pross and Jerry understood so little of what they were saying that they could have been speaking Hebrew or

Chaldean

a dialect of modern Aramaic

Chaldean
. Miss Pross and Jerry were too surprised to try to understand any of this. For not only was Miss Pross amazed and annoyed, but Mr. Cruncher, for his own reasons, was amazed too.

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