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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

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In Part I Chapter 4 of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, what news does Mr Lorry have for the young lady? The news is prefigured in Chapter 3, and laid out fully in Chapter 4, which is where the meeting actually takes place.

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After dreaming in a confused manner about digging to release an imprisoned ghost from the earth during his stagecoach journey in Chapter 3, Mr. Lorry arrives at Dover in Chapter 4, where he takes rooms at an inn and is shortly joined by Miss Manette. She has been brought there by news that some business concerning her dead father's property compels her to travel to Paris in the company of Mr. Lorry, the representative of the bank that oversees her father's estate. However, Mr. Lorry finds it difficult to explain why they are making the trip. It becomes evident that it was Mr. Lorry who brought Miss Manette to England as a child, and that his connection to her may be more personal and go back further than might at first be imagined. Desperate for some expedient to convey his message, and clinging to his professional persona, Mr. Lorry takes resort in a meta-message, a tale about someone who is very similar to Miss Manette's father:

“Miss Manette, I am a man of business. I have a business charge to acquit myself of. In your reception of it, don’t heed me any more than if I was a speaking machine—truly, I am not much else. I will, with your leave, relate to you, miss, the story of one of our customers.”

Clinging throughout to his business persona to avoid being overcome by his emotions, Mr. Lorry slowly works up to the revelation that Miss Manette's father, long supposed dead, has in fact been held secretly in prison and is still alive:

“—But he has been—been found. He is alive. Greatly changed, it is too probable; almost a wreck, it is possible; though we will hope the best. Still, alive. Your father has been taken to the house of an old servant in Paris, and we are going there: I, to identify him‚ if I can: you, to restore him to life, love, duty, rest, comfort.”

A shiver ran through her frame, and from it through his. She said, in a low, distinct, awe-stricken voice, as if she were saying it in a dream,

“I am going to see his Ghost! It will be his Ghost—not him!”

The news proves such a shock that Miss Manette faints, to be rescued by her servant Miss Pross.

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