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A TALE OF TWO CITIES.

In Three Books.

BY CHARLES DICKENS.

BOOK THE FIRST. RECALLED TO LIFE.

CHAPTER VI. THE SHOEMAKER.

"GOOD DAY!" said Monsieur Defarge, looking
down at the white head that bent low over the
shoemaking.

It was raised for a moment, and a very faint
voice responded to the salutation, as if it were at
a distance:

"Good day!"

"You are still hard at work, I see?"

After a long silence, the head was lifted for
another moment, and the voice replied, "Yes
I am working." This time, a pair of haggard
eyes had looked at the questioner, before the
face had dropped again.

The faintness of the voice was pitiable and
dreadful. It was not the faintness of physical
weakness, though confinement and hard fare no
doubt had their part in it. Its deplorable
peculiarity was, that it was the faintness of
solitude and disuse. It was like the last feeble
echo of a sound made long and long ago. So
entirely had it lost the life and resonance of the
human voice, that it affected the senses like a
once beautiful colour, faded away into a poor
weak stain. So sunken and suppressed it was,
that it was like a voice underground. So expressive
it was, of a hopeless and lost creature, that a
famished traveller, wearied out by lonely wandering
in a wilderness, would have remembered
home and friends in such a tone before lying
down to die.

Some minutes of silent work had passed, and
the haggard eyes had looked up again: not with
any interest or curiosity, but with a dull
mechanical perception, beforehand, that the spot
where the only visitor they were aware of had
stood, was not yet empty.

"I want," said Defarge, who had not removed
his gaze from the shoemaker, "to let in a little
more light here. You can bear a little more?"

The shoemaker stopped his work; looked,
with a vacant air of listening, at the floor on one
side of him; then, similarly, at the floor on the
other side of him; then, upward at the speaker.

"What did you say?"

"You can bear a little more light?"

"I must bear it, if you let it in." (Laying the
palest shadow of a stress upon the second word.)

The opened half-door was opened a little
further, and secured at that angle for the time.
A broad ray of light fell into the garret, and
showed the workman, with an unfinished shoe
upon his lap, pausing in his labour. His few
common tools and various scraps of leather were
at his feet and on his bench. He had a white
beard, raggedly cut, but not very long, a hollow
face, and exceedingly bright eyes. The hollowness
and thinness of his face would have caused
them to look large, under his yet dark eyebrows
and his confused white hair, though they had
been really otherwise; but, they were naturally
large, and looked unnaturally so. His yellow
rags of shirt lay open at the throat, and showed
his body to be withered and worn. He, and his
old canvas frock, and his loose stockings, and all
his poor tatters of clothes, had, in a long seclusion
from direct light and air, faded down to such a
dull uniformity of parchment-yellow, that it
would have been hard to say which was which.

He had put up a hand between his eyes and
the light, and the very bones of it seemed
transparent. So he sat, with a steadfastly vacant gaze,
pausing in his work. He never looked at the
figure before him, without first looking down on
this side of himself, then on that, as if he had
lost the habit of associating place with sound;
he never spoke, without first wandering in this
manner, and forgetting to speak.

"Are you going to finish that pair of shoes
to-day?" asked Defarge, motioning to Mr. Lorry
to come forward.

"What did you say?"

"Do you mean to finish that pair of shoes
to-day?"

"I can't say that I mean to. I suppose so.
I don't know."

But, the question reminded him of his work,
and he bent over it again.

Mr. Lorry came silently forward, leaving the
daughter by the door. When he had stood, for
a minute or two, by the side of Defarge, the
shoemaker looked up. He showed no surprise
at seeing another figure, but the unsteady
fingers of one of his hands strayed to his lips as he
looked at it (his lips and his nails were of the
same pale lead-colour), and then the hand
dropped to his work, and he once more bent
over the shoe. The look and the action had
occupied but an instant.

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