A Tale of Two Cities

by: Charles Dickens

  Book 2 Chapter 9

page Book 2 Chapter 9: The Gorgon’s Head: Page 5

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“Seeking them from me, my nephew,” said the Marquis, touching him on the breast with his forefinger—they were now standing by the hearth—”you will for ever seek them in vain, be assured.” “If you are looking for help from me, nephew, you will never find it,” said the marquis. He touched Darnay’s chest with his finger. They were now standing by the fireplace.
Every fine straight line in the clear whiteness of his face, was cruelly, craftily, and closely compressed, while he stood looking quietly at his nephew, with his snuff-box in his hand. Once again he touched him on the breast, as though his finger were the fine point of a small sword, with which, in delicate finesse, he ran him through the body, and said, Every fine straight line in the clear whiteness of his face was mean and tight. He stood there, looking quietly at his nephew, with his snuffbox in his hand. He touched his nephew’s chest with his finger again, as though his finger were the tip of a small sword that he delicately ran through his nephew’s chest. He said,
“My friend, I will die, perpetuating the system under which I have lived.” “My friend, I will die preserving the system under which I have lived.”
When he had said it, he took a culminating pinch of snuff, and put his box in his pocket. When he said it, he inhaled a pinch of snuff and put the snuffbox in his pocket.
“Better to be a rational creature,” he added then, after ringing a small bell on the table, “and accept your natural destiny. But you are lost, Monsieur Charles, I see.” “Better to be a rational creature,” he added after ringing a small bell on the table, “ and accept your natural destiny. But I can see that you are lost, Monsieur Charles.”
“This property and France are lost to me,” said the nephew, sadly; “I renounce them.” “Our family’s property and all of this country are lost to me,” said the nephew, sadly. “I am giving them up.”
“Are they both yours to renounce? France may be, but is the property? It is scarcely worth mentioning; but, is it yet?” “Are they both yours to give up? France may be, but is our family’s property? It’s hardly worth mentioning because it is so little, but is it yours yet?”
“I had no intention, in the words I used, to claim it yet. If it passed to me from you, to-morrow—” “I have no plan to claim it yet. If I inherited it from you tomorrow—”
“Which I have the vanity to hope is not probable.” “Which I hope, for my sake, is not likely,” the marquis said.
“—or twenty years hence—” “—Or twenty years from now—”
“You do me too much honour,” said the Marquis; “still, I prefer that supposition.” “You’re too kind,” said the marquis. “Still, I prefer the possibility that I may live that long.”
“—I would abandon it, and live otherwise and elsewhere. It is little to relinquish. What is it but a wilderness of misery and ruin!” “—I would give it up and go live a different kind of life somewhere else. It isn’t much to give up. It only brings me misery.”
“Hah!” said the Marquis, glancing round the luxurious room. “Hah!” said the marquis, looking around his finely decorated room.
“To the eye it is fair enough, here; but seen in its integrity, under the sky, and by the daylight, it is a crumbling tower of waste, mismanagement, extortion, debt, mortgage, oppression, hunger, nakedness, and suffering.” “The room is nice-looking enough. But to see it for what it really is, under the sky by daylight, it is a crumbling tower of wastefulness. It is poorly managed, and we are in debt. We have built our fortune on the oppression, starvation, and mistreatment of others.”
“Hah!” said the Marquis again, in a well-satisfied manner. “Hah!” said the marquis again, in a well-satisfied manner.
“If it ever becomes mine, it shall be put into some hands better qualified to free it slowly (if such a thing is possible) from the weight that drags it down, so that the miserable people who cannot leave it and who have been long wrung to the last point of endurance, may, in another generation, suffer less; but it is not for me. There is a curse on it, and on all this land.” “If I ever inherit it, it will be given to someone who is more qualified to put it back into good condition. This way, the poor peasants who are tied to this land and who have been abused for so long may, in another generation, suffer less. But I don’t want it. There is a curse on this house and all of this land.”
“And you?” said the uncle. “Forgive my curiosity; do you, under your new philosophy, graciously intend to live?” “What about you?” asked the uncle. “Forgive my curiosity, but with your new ideas, how do you plan on making a living?”
“I must do, to live, what others of my countrymen, even with nobility at their backs, may have to do some day—work.” “I will do what other people here in France do, and what the nobility may someday have to do. I will work.”
“In England, for example?” “In England, perhaps?”
“Yes. The family honour, sir, is safe from me in this country. The family name can suffer from me in no other, for I bear it in no other.” “Yes. I will not tarnish the family name there. The family name can’t harm me elsewhere, since I do not use it in other countries.”
The ringing of the bell had caused the adjoining bed-chamber to be lighted. It now shone brightly, through the door of communication. The Marquis looked that way, and listened for the retreating step of his valet. When the marquis had rung the bell, his valet lit the bedroom next door. Bright light now shone from it through the doorway. The marquis looked that way and listened until he had heard his valet walk away.