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A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens

  Book 2 Chapter 9

page Book 2 Chapter 9: The Gorgon’s Head: Page 2

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In a quarter of an hour Monseigneur was ready, and sat down alone to his sumptuous and choice supper. His chair was opposite to the window, and he had taken his soup, and was raising his glass of Bordeaux to his lips, when he put it down. The monseigneur was ready for dinner in fifteen minutes, and he sat down alone to his extravagant dinner. His chair was on the opposite side from the window, and he was eating his soup. He was about to take a sip from a glass of Bordeaux wine when he suddenly put it down.
“What is that?” he calmly asked, looking with attention at the horizontal lines of black and stone colour. “What is that?” he asked calmly, looking at the horizontal lines of black on the stone floor.
“Monseigneur? That?” “What, Monseigneur? That?”
“Outside the blinds. Open the blinds.” “Outside the blinds. Open the blinds.”
It was done. The servant opened the blinds.
“Well?” “Well?”
“Monseigneur, it is nothing. The trees and the night are all that are here.” “It’s nothing, Monseigneur. There’s nothing outside but the trees and the darkness.”
The servant who spoke, had thrown the blinds wide, had looked out into the vacant darkness, and stood with that blank behind him, looking round for instructions. The servant who had spoken had opened the blinds wide and had looked out into the empty night. He stood at the window with the darkness behind him, looking to the marquis for further instructions.
“Good,” said the imperturbable master. “Close them again.” “Good,” said the marquis calmly. “Close the blinds again.”
That was done too, and the Marquis went on with his supper. He was half way through it, when he again stopped with his glass in his hand, hearing the sound of wheels. It came on briskly, and came up to the front of the chateau. The servant closed the blinds and the marquis went back to eating his supper. He had finished half of it when he stopped eating again with his glass of wine in his hands. He had heard the sound of wheels, and the sound grew closer and quickly came up to the front of the house.
“Ask who is arrived.” “Find out who has arrived.”
It was the nephew of Monseigneur. He had been some few leagues behind Monseigneur, early in the afternoon. He had diminished the distance rapidly, but not so rapidly as to come up with Monseigneur on the road. He had heard of Monseigneur, at the posting-houses, as being before him. It was the monseigneur’s nephew. He had been a few


a league is about three miles

behind the monseigneur early in the afternoon. He had been catching up to him quickly, but not quickly enough to arrive with him at the house. At the posting house he had been told that the monseigneur was ahead of him.
He was to be told (said Monseigneur) that supper awaited him then and there, and that he was prayed to come to it. In a little while he came. He had been known in England as Charles Darnay. The servants told the nephew that supper was waiting for him and that the monseigneur wanted him to join him. He came to supper shortly after he arrived. In England, the monseigneur’s nephew was known as Charles Darnay.
Monseigneur received him in a courtly manner, but they did not shake hands. The monseigneur was polite when he arrived, but they did not shake hands.
“You left Paris yesterday, sir?” he said to Monseigneur, as he took his seat at table. “You left Paris yesterday, sir?” he asked the monseigneur as he sat down at the table.
“Yesterday. And you?” “Yes, yesterday. And you?”
“I come direct.” “I came here directly.”
“From London?” “From London?”
“Yes.” “Yes.”
“You have been a long time coming,” said the Marquis, with a smile. “It took you a long time to get here,” said the marquis, smiling.
“On the contrary; I come direct.” “No. I came directly.”
“Pardon me! I mean, not a long time on the journey; a long time intending the journey.” “Excuse me! I didn’t mean a long time in your journey. I meant a long time intending to come here.”
“I have been detained by”—the nephew stopped a moment in his answer—”various business.” “I have been delayed by—” the nephew paused “—various business.”
“Without doubt,” said the polished uncle. “Without a doubt,” said the marquis calmly.
So long as a servant was present, no other words passed between them. When coffee had been served and they were alone together, the nephew, looking at the uncle and meeting the eyes of the face that was like a fine mask, opened a conversation. While the servants were there, the two men did not speak. After coffee had been served and they were alone, the nephew looked at his uncle. He looked in his eyes—his uncle’s face was like a fine mask—and started up a conversation.
“I have come back, sir, as you anticipate, pursuing the object that took me away. It carried me into great and unexpected peril; but it is a sacred object, and if it had carried me to death I hope it would have sustained me.” “As you guess, I have come back, sir, looking for the object that took me away in the first place. It put me in great and unexpected danger. But it is a sacred object, and even if it had led to my death, I hope it would have protected me.”
“Not to death,” said the uncle; “it is not necessary to say, to death.” “Don’t say ‘to death,’” said the uncle. “It’s not necessary to say ‘to death.’”
“I doubt, sir,” returned the nephew, “whether, if it had carried me to the utmost brink of death, you would have cared to stop me there.” “I doubt, sir, that if it had carried me to the very brink of death, you would have stopped me there,” answered the nephew.
The deepened marks in the nose, and the lengthening of the fine straight lines in the cruel face, looked ominous as to that; the uncle made a graceful gesture of protest, which was so clearly a slight form of good breeding that it was not reassuring. The expression on the marquis’s face, and the dents in his nose, ominously suggested that was true. The uncle made a graceful gesture of protest, but it was so apparent that he was only being polite that it wasn’t very reassuring.