A Tale of Two Cities

by: Charles Dickens

  Book 1 Chapter 4

page Book 1 Chapter 4: The Preparation: Page 5

Original Text

Modern Text

“In your adopted country, I presume, I cannot do better than address you as a young English lady, Miss Manette?” “In England, where you now live, I suppose I should speak to you the way I would speak to any young English lady. Yes, Miss Manette?”
“If you please, sir.” “If you please, sir.”
“Miss Manette, I am a man of business. I have a business charge to acquit myself of. In your reception of it, don’t heed me any more than if I was a speaking machine—truly, I am not much else. I will, with your leave, relate to you, miss, the story of one of our customers.” “Miss Manette, I am a businessman. I have a job to do. As you listen to me, don’t pay any more attention to me than as if I were just a robot—really, I am not much more than that. With your permission, miss, I will tell you a story about one of my bank’s customers.”
“Story!” “Story?”
He seemed wilfully to mistake the word she had repeated, when he added, in a hurry, “Yes, customers; in the banking business we usually call our connection our customers. He was a French gentleman; a scientific gentleman; a man of great acquirements—a Doctor.” He seemed to purposefully mistake the word she had repeated when he added quickly, “Yes, customers. In the bank business we usually call our clients customers. The customer I will tell you about was a French gentleman, a talented man of science—a doctor.”
“Not of Beauvais?” “Not from Beauvais?”
“Why, yes, of Beauvais. Like Monsieur Manette, your father, the gentleman was of Beauvais. Like Monsieur Manette, your father, the gentleman was of repute in Paris. I had the honour of knowing him there. Our relations were business relations, but confidential. I was at that time in our French House, and had been—oh! twenty years.” “Why, yes, from Beauvais. Like your father, Monsieur Manette, this gentleman was from Beauvais. And, like your father, this gentleman was well-known in Paris. I had the honor of knowing him there. Our dealings were about business, but private. At that time I had been working at our branch in France for, oh, twenty years.”
“At that time—I may ask, at what time, sir?” “May I ask, what time this was, sir?”
“I speak, miss, of twenty years ago. He married—an English lady—and I was one of the trustees. His affairs, like the affairs of many other French gentlemen and French families, were entirely in Tellson’s hands. In a similar way I am, or I have been, trustee of one kind or other for scores of our customers. These are mere business relations, miss; there is no friendship in them, no particular interest, nothing like sentiment. I have passed from one to another, in the course of my business life, just as I pass from one of our customers to another in the course of my business day; in short, I have no feelings; I am a mere machine. To go on—” “I’m talking about twenty years ago, miss. He married an English lady and I was one of the trustees of their affairs. His affairs, like the affairs of many French gentlemen and their families, were entirely in the hands of Tellson’s. In a similar way, I am, or have been, a trustee of sorts for many of our customers. These relationships are entirely business, miss. They are not friendships. I have moved from one to the next over the course of my work, just as I pass from one customer to the next during my work day. In other words, I have no feelings toward these people. I am only a machine. To continue—”
“But this is my father’s story, sir; and I begin to think”—the curiously roughened forehead was very intent upon him—“that when I was left an orphan through my mother’s surviving my father only two years, it was you who brought me to England. I am almost sure it was you.” “This sounds like my father’s story, sir”—she looked at him intensely—“and I’m starting to think that when my mother died only two years after my father did, and I became an orphan, you were the one that brought me to England. I am almost sure it was you.”
Mr. Lorry took the hesitating little hand that confidingly advanced to take his, and he put it with some ceremony to his lips. He then conducted the young lady straightway to her chair again, and, holding the chair-back with his left hand, and using his right by turns to rub his chin, pull his wig at the ears, or point what he said, stood looking down into her face while she sat looking up into his. Mr. Lorry took her hesitating little hand that reached forward to take his, and raised it to his lips. He then brought the young woman immediately to her chair again. Holding the back of the chair with his left hand, and using his right to rub his chin, adjust his wig, and emphasize what he said, he stood looking down into her face as she sat looking up at his.
“Miss Manette, it WAS I. And you will see how truly I spoke of myself just now, in saying I had no feelings, and that all the relations I hold with my fellow-creatures are mere business relations, when you reflect that I have never seen you since. No; you have been the ward of Tellson’s House since, and I have been busy with the other business of Tellson’s House since. Feelings! I have no time for them, no chance of them. I pass my whole life, miss, in turning an immense pecuniary Mangle.” “Miss Manette, it was me. And you will see how I was telling the truth when I said I have no personal feelings, and the relationships I have are all professional. This is why I haven’t seen you since then. No, you have been a ward of Tellson’s Bank since then, and I have been busy with the bank’s other business. I have no time for feelings. I spend all of my time working for the great financial machine.”