Study Guide

A Tale of Two Cities Volume II, Chapter Eight – Monseigneur in the Country

By Charles Dickens

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Volume II, Chapter Eight – Monseigneur in the Country

  • The Marquis’ carriage heads out into the country.
  • As he drives, our narrator gives us a description of the land. It’s parched and almost dead.
  • All the crops that can be wrung out of the land have been grown and are slowly dying—like the poor people who farm them.
  • Heading into the village, the carriage pauses.
  • Our narrator takes this time to explain why the village looks so crummy, as well.
  • See, the Marquis has been taxing his villagers within an inch of their lives.
  • They don’t have the money to buy food or care for their children because they’re sending all of their money to the Marquis.
  • In the village, the Marquis pulls aside a man whom he passed on the road.
  • Understandably, the guy’s a bit nervous. The Marquis isn’t exactly known for his generosity around here.
  • The Marquis demands to know what the guy was staring at when the carriage passed him by a few minutes before.
  • Gulping, the man says that he was staring at another man who was riding below the carriage as a stowaway.
  • Angry and astonished, the Marquis demands to know more.
  • The peasant describes the stowaway as a tall, thin, white-faced man.
  • Gabelle, the town tax collector and postmaster, steps forward to take charge of a hunt for the mysterious man.
  • The Marquis’ carriage heads out of town. They’ve almost reached the Marquis’ country estate when a single woman stops them on the road.
  • She’s poor and desperate. Her husband has just died, their farm yields no money, and now her children are starving.
  • She’s not asking for food, however. She’d just like money to build a small tombstone for her husband.
  • See, the woman is about to die, as well—and she’s very upset at the thought that the townspeople won’t be able to bury her beside her husband.
  • Right now there’s nothing to mark his grave. Without a headstone, no one will know where he was buried.
  • Any guesses as to what the Marquis will do?
  • Exactly. He rides away without listening to another word.
  • Just in case you were wondering, this is exhibit B in the case Dickens is building.
  • Case? What case?
  • Well, we’ll call it the "Why the Marquis is a heartless monster" case, for now.
  • Hmm…killing a small child and ignoring the pleas of a desperate woman. Sounds like the Marquis is a monster after all.
  • Luckily for him, he doesn’t care.
  • His carriage pulls up to a magnificent country mansion.
  • As the Marquis gets out, he asks if Monsieur Charles has arrived yet.
  • Hang on a second…don’t we already know a Charles? What’s going on here?

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