A Tale of Two Cities

by: Charles Dickens

  Book 2 Chapter 6

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

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Dinner-time, and still no Hundreds of people. In the arrangements of the little household, Miss Pross took charge of the lower regions, and always acquitted herself marvellously. Her dinners, of a very modest quality, were so well cooked and so well served, and so neat in their contrivances, half English and half French, that nothing could be better. Miss Pross’s friendship being of the thoroughly practical kind, she had ravaged Soho and the adjacent provinces, in search of impoverished French, who, tempted by shillings and half-crowns, would impart culinary mysteries to her. From these decayed sons and daughters of Gaul, she had acquired such wonderful arts, that the woman and girl who formed the staff of domestics regarded her as quite a Sorceress, or Cinderella’s Godmother: who would send out for a fowl, a rabbit, a vegetable or two from the garden, and change them into anything she pleased. By lunchtime still no hundreds of people had arrived. In the management of their little household, Miss Pross was always in charge of the lower floors and did a good job with them. The lunches she made were very modest but were well cooked and well presented. They were so interesting, being half English and half French, that nothing could have been better. Miss Pross, being a very practical woman, would search Soho and other nearby neighborhoods for poor French people, and she would pay them shillings and half crowns to tell her their secret recipes. She had learned such wonderful cooking skills from these poor French men and women that the woman and girl servants at the house thought of her as a witch, or Cinderella’s fairy godmother. She could take a chicken, rabbit, or vegetable from the garden and turn it into whatever she wanted to like magic.
On Sundays, Miss Pross dined at the Doctor’s table, but on other days persisted in taking her meals at unknown periods, either in the lower regions, or in her own room on the second floor—a blue chamber, to which no one but her Ladybird ever gained admittance. On this occasion, Miss Pross, responding to Ladybird’s pleasant face and pleasant efforts to please her, unbent exceedingly; so the dinner was very pleasant, too. On Sundays, Miss Pross ate at the same table as the doctor, but on other days she insisted on eating at unknown times, either downstairs or in her own room on the second floor. Her room was a blue room that no one was allowed to enter except for Lucie. On this occasion, Miss Pross went out of her way to make a good meal to please the beautiful Lucie, so the food was very good.
It was an oppressive day, and, after dinner, Lucie proposed that the wine should be carried out under the plane-tree, and they should sit there in the air. As everything turned upon her, and revolved about her, they went out under the plane-tree, and she carried the wine down for the special benefit of Mr. Lorry. She had installed herself, some time before, as Mr. Lorry’s cup-bearer; and while they sat under the plane-tree, talking, she kept his glass replenished. Mysterious backs and ends of houses peeped at them as they talked, and the plane-tree whispered to them in its own way above their heads. It was a hot day, and after lunch Lucie suggested that they take their wine out under the plane tree, where they could sit in the fresh air. As everyone always did what Lucie wanted, they all went out under the plane tree. Lucie carried the wine down for Mr. Lorry. She had taken on the role of Mr. Lorry’s cup bearer, and while they sat under the plane tree talking, she made sure his glass was always full. They could see the backs of other houses from where they sat talking, and the wind blew gently through the leaves of the plane tree above their heads.
Still, the Hundreds of people did not present themselves. Mr. Darnay presented himself while they were sitting under the plane-tree, but he was only One. Hundreds of people still did not arrive. Mr. Darnay came by while they were sitting under the plane tree, but he was the only one.
Doctor Manette received him kindly, and so did Lucie. But, Miss Pross suddenly became afflicted with a twitching in the head and body, and retired into the house. She was not unfrequently the victim of this disorder, and she called it, in familiar conversation, “a fit of the jerks.” Dr. Manette welcomed him kindly, and so did Lucie. Miss Pross, however, suddenly started twitching in her head and body and went into the house. This often happened to her, and she would refer to it among friends as “a fit of jerks.”
The Doctor was in his best condition, and looked specially young. The resemblance between him and Lucie was very strong at such times, and as they sat side by side, she leaning on his shoulder, and he resting his arm on the back of her chair, it was very agreeable to trace the likeness. The doctor was in the best health and looked especially young. At such times he looked very much like Lucie. As they sat there, side-by-side, she leaning against his shoulder and he resting his arm on the back of her chair, it was very pleasant to see the similarity.
He had been talking all day, on many subjects, and with unusual vivacity. “Pray, Doctor Manette,” said Mr. Darnay, as they sat under the plane-tree—and he said it in the natural pursuit of the topic in hand, which happened to be the old buildings of London—”have you seen much of the Tower?” He had been talking all day about all sorts of things in an unusually lively way. “Say, Dr. Manette,” said Mr. Darnay as they sat under the plane tree, “have you seen much of the Tower of London?” He said it in regards to the topic they were discussing at the time, which happened to be the old buildings of London.