A Tale of Two Cities

by: Charles Dickens

  Book 2 Chapter 6

page Book 2 Chapter 6: Hundreds of People: Page 5

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“Afraid?” “Afraid?”
“It’s plain enough, I should think, why he may be. It’s a dreadful remembrance. Besides that, his loss of himself grew out of it. Not knowing how he lost himself, or how he recovered himself, he may never feel certain of not losing himself again. That alone wouldn’t make the subject pleasant, I should think.” “I think it’s clear enough why he would be. It’s a dreadful thing to remember. Besides that, he lost part of himself in prison. Not knowing how he lost himself, or how he eventually found himself again, he might never feel certain that he won’t lose himself again. That alone would make it an unpleasant subject, I would think.”
It was a profounder remark than Mr. Lorry had looked for. “True,” said he, “and fearful to reflect upon. Yet, a doubt lurks in my mind, Miss Pross, whether it is good for Doctor Manette to have that suppression always shut up within him. Indeed, it is this doubt and the uneasiness it sometimes causes me that has led me to our present confidence.” It was a more insightful answer than Mr. Lorry had expected. “True,” he said. “It would be frightening to remember. Yet I wonder if it is good for Dr. Manette to keep that shut up inside of him. It causes me uneasiness sometimes, which is why I am asking you about it now.”
“Can’t be helped,” said Miss Pross, shaking her head. “Touch that string, and he instantly changes for the worse. Better leave it alone. In short, must leave it alone, like or no like. Sometimes, he gets up in the dead of the night, and will be heard, by us overhead there, walking up and down, walking up and down, in his room. Ladybird has learnt to know then that his mind is walking up and down, walking up and down, in his old prison. She hurries to him, and they go on together, walking up and down, walking up and down, until he is composed. But he never says a word of the true reason of his restlessness, to her, and she finds it best not to hint at it to him. In silence they go walking up and down together, walking up and down together, till her love and company have brought him to himself.” “It can’t be helped,” said Miss Pross, shaking her head. “If you bring up the subject at all, his mood instantly changes for the worse. It’s best to leave it alone. In short, we must leave it alone whether you want to or not. Sometimes he gets up in the middle of the night. We can hear him upstairs pacing up and down in his room. Miss Manette knows that in his mind he is pacing up and down in his old prison cell. She rushes to him and they continue together, pacing up and down, up and down, until he is calm again. But he never speaks a word to her of the real reason for his restlessness, and she thinks its best not to bring it up. They pace up and down together in silence until her love and companionship bring him back to his senses.”
Notwithstanding Miss Pross’s denial of her own imagination, there was a perception of the pain of being monotonously haunted by one sad idea, in her repetition of the phrase, walking up and down, which testified to her possessing such a thing. Miss Pross claimed not to have an imagination. But there was something in her understanding of being haunted by a single sad idea, and in her repetition of the phrase “pacing up and down,” that made Mr. Lorry think that she had an imagination after all.
The corner has been mentioned as a wonderful corner for echoes; it had begun to echo so resoundingly to the tread of coming feet, that it seemed as though the very mention of that weary pacing to and fro had set it going. The street corner, as was mentioned earlier, was a good place for echoes. Mr. Lorry could now hear the echo of footsteps coming toward them as if the mention of pacing up and down had started it.
“Here they are!” said Miss Pross, rising to break up the conference; “and now we shall have hundreds of people pretty soon!” “They’re here!” said Miss Pross, getting up from her chair. “And soon there will be hundreds of people here to visit Miss Manette!”
It was such a curious corner in its acoustical properties, such a peculiar Ear of a place, that as Mr. Lorry stood at the open window, looking for the father and daughter whose steps he heard, he fancied they would never approach. Not only would the echoes die away, as though the steps had gone; but, echoes of other steps that never came would be heard in their stead, and would die away for good when they seemed close at hand. However, father and daughter did at last appear, and Miss Pross was ready at the street door to receive them. The acoustics were so strange in the street corner that, as Mr. Lorry stood near the open window, he could hear the doctor’s and Miss Manette’s footsteps but still couldn’t see them. He thought they would never arrive. Not only would echoes die out as though the doctor and Miss Manette had walked away, but echoes of other footsteps would be heard instead and would die away for good when it seemed like they were close by. Finally, Dr. Manette and Miss Manette appeared and Miss Pross was waiting for them at the door.
Miss Pross was a pleasant sight, albeit wild, and red, and grim, taking off her darling’s bonnet when she came up-stairs, and touching it up with the ends of her handkerchief, and blowing the dust off it, and folding her mantle ready for laying by, and smoothing her rich hair with as much pride as she could possibly have taken in her own hair if she had been the vainest and handsomest of women. Her darling was a pleasant sight too, embracing her and thanking her, and protesting against her taking so much trouble for her—which last she only dared to do playfully, or Miss Pross, sorely hurt, would have retired to her own chamber and cried. The Doctor was a pleasant sight too, looking on at them, and telling Miss Pross how she spoilt Lucie, in accents and with eyes that had as much spoiling in them as Miss Pross had, and would have had more if it were possible. Mr. Lorry was a pleasant sight too, beaming at all this in his little wig, and thanking his bachelor stars for having lighted him in his declining years to a Home. But, no Hundreds of people came to see the sights, and Mr. Lorry looked in vain for the fulfilment of Miss Pross’s prediction. Though she was wild, red, and grim looking, Miss Pross was a pleasant sight as she took off Miss Manette’s bonnet, wiped it off with her handkerchief, and blew the dust off it when Miss Manette came up the stairs. Miss Pross folded her

mantle

a loose, sleeveless cloak

mantle
and laid it out, and she smoothed Miss Manette’s hair with as much pride as if she were a beautiful, conceited woman admiring her own hair. Miss Manette looked pleasant, too, hugging Miss Pross and thanking her. She protested that Miss Pross was taking too much trouble with her, but she only did this playfully, or Miss Pross would have been hurt, and would have gone off to her room alone and cried. The doctor also looked pleasant, watching them and telling Miss Pross how she spoiled Lucie. You could tell from his eyes, though, that he spoiled her too and would spoil her more if he could. Mr. Lorry looked pleasant too, looking at them fondly from under his little wig and thanking his lucky stars that he had found such a lovely home in his later years since, as a single man, he had no family of his own. Mr. Lorry looked for the hundreds of visitors Miss Pross had said would be coming, but no one arrived.