A Tale Of Two Cities
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was the funeral of one Roger Cly.
"Was He a spy?" asked Mr. Cruncher.
"Old Bailey spy," returned his informant. "Yaha! Tst! Yah!
Old Bailey Spi--i--ies!"
"Why, to be sure!" exclaimed Jerry, recalling the Trial at which he
had assisted. "I've seen him. Dead, is he?"
"Dead as mutton," returned the other, "and can't be too dead.
Have 'em out, there! Spies! Pull 'em out, there! Spies!"
The idea was so acceptable in the prevalent absence of any idea,
that the crowd caught it up with eagerness, and loudly repeating the
suggestion to have 'em out, and to pull 'em out, mobbed the two vehicles
so closely that they came to a stop. On the crowd's opening the coach
doors, the one mourner scuffled out of himself and was in their hands
for a moment; but he was so alert, and made such good use of his time,
that in another moment he was scouring away up a bye-street, after
shedding his cloak, hat, long hatband, white pocket-handkerchief,
and other symbolical tears.
These, the people tore to pieces and scattered far and wide with
great enjoyment, while the tradesmen hurriedly shut up their shops;
for a crowd in those times stopped at nothing, and was a monster
much dreaded. They had already got the length of opening the hearse
to take the coffin out, when some brighter genius proposed instead,
its being escorted to its destination amidst general rejoicing.
Practical suggestions being much needed, this suggestion, too, was
received with acclamation, and the coach was immediately filled with
eight inside and a dozen out, while as many people got on the roof of
the hearse as could by any exercise of ingenuity stick upon it.
Among the first of these volunteers was Jerry Cruncher himself, who
modestly concealed his spiky head from the observation of Tellson's,
in the further corner of the mourning coach.
The officiating undertakers made some protest against these changes
in the ceremonies; but, the river being alarmingly near, and several
voices remarking on the efficacy of cold immersion in bringing
refractory members of the profession to reason, the protest was faint
and brief. The remodelled procession started, with a chimney-sweep
driving the hearse--advised by the regular driver, who was perched
beside him, under close inspection, for the purpose--and with a pieman,
also attended by his cabinet minister, driving the mourning coach.
A bear-leader, a popular street character of the time, was impressed
as an additional ornament, before the cavalcade had gone far down
the Strand; and his bear, who was black and very mangy, gave quite
an Undertaking air to that part of the procession in which he walked.
Thus, with beer-drinking, pipe-smoking, song-roaring, and infinite
caricaturing of woe, the disorderly procession went its way, recruiting
at every step, and all the shops shutting up before it. Its destination
was the old church of Saint Pancras, far off in the fields. It got
there in course of time; insisted on pouring into the burial-ground;
finally, accomplished the interment of the deceased Roger Cly in
its own way, and highly to its own satisfaction.
The dead man disposed of, and the crowd being under the necessity of
providing some other entertainment for itself, another brighter genius
(or perhaps the same) conceived the humour of impeaching casual
passers-by, as Old Bailey spies, and wreaking vengeance on them.
Chase was given to some scores of inoffensive persons who had never
been near the Old Bailey in their lives, in the realisation of this
fancy, and they were roughly hustled and maltreated. The transition
to the sport of window-breaking, and thence to the plundering of
public-houses, was easy and natural. At last, after several hours,
when sundry summer-houses had been pulled down, and some area-railings
had been torn up, to arm the more belligerent spirits, a rumour got
about that the Guards were coming. Before this rumour, the crowd
gradually melted away, and perhaps the Guards came, and perhaps they
never came, and this was the usual progress of a mob.
Mr. Cruncher did not assist at the closing sports, but had remained
behind in the churchyard, to confer and condole with the undertakers.
The place had a soothing influence on him. He procured a pipe from a
neighbouring public-house, and smoked it, looking in at the railings
and maturely considering the spot.
"Jerry," said Mr. Cruncher, apostrophising himself in his usual way,
"you see that there Cly that day, and you see with your own eyes that
he was a young 'un and a straight made 'un."
Having smoked his pipe out, and ruminated a little longer, he turned
himself about, that he might appear, before the hour of closing, on his
station at Tellson's. Whether his meditations on mortality had touched
his liver, or whether his general health had been previously at all
amiss, or whether he desired to show a little attention to an eminent
man, is not so much to the purpose, as that he made a short call upon
his medical adviser--a distinguished surgeon--on his way back.
Young Jerry relieved his father with dutiful interest, and reported No
job in his absence. The bank closed, the ancient clerks came out, the
usual watch was set, and Mr. Cruncher and his son went home to tea.
"Now, I tell you where it is!" said Mr. Cruncher to his wife, on
entering. "If, as a honest tradesman, my wenturs goes wrong to-night,
I shall make sure that you've been praying again me, and I shall work
you for it just the same as if I seen you do it."
The dejected Mrs. Cruncher shook her head.
"Why, you're at it afore my face!" said Mr. Cruncher, with signs of
"I am saying nothing."
"Well, then; don't meditate nothing. You might as well flop as
meditate. You may as well go again me one way as another.
Drop it altogether."
"Yes, Jerry," repeated Mr. Cruncher sitting down to tea. "Ah!
It IS yes, Jerry. That's about it. You may say yes, Jerry."
Mr. Cruncher had no particular meaning in these sulky corroborations,
but made use of them, as people not unfrequently do, to express
general ironical dissatisfaction.
"You and your yes, Jerry," said Mr. Cruncher, taking a bite out of his
bread-and-butter, and seeming to help it down with a large invisible
oyster out of his saucer. "Ah! I think so. I believe you."
"You are going out to-night?" asked his decent wife, when he took
"Yes, I am."
"May I go with you, father?" asked his son, briskly.
"No, you mayn't. I'm a going--as your mother knows--a fishing.
That's where I'm going to. Going a fishing."
"Your fishing-rod gets rayther rusty; don't it, father?"
"Never you mind."
"Shall you bring any fish home, father?"
"If I don't, you'll have short commons, to-morrow," returned that
gentleman, shaking his head; "that's questions enough for you; I
ain't a going out, till you've been long abed."
He devoted himself during the remainder of the evening to keeping
a most vigilant watch on Mrs. Cruncher, and sullenly holding her in
conversation that she might be prevented from meditating any petitions
to his disadvantage. With this view, he urged his son to hold her in
conversation also, and led the unfortunate woman a hard life by dwelling
on any causes of complaint he could bring against her, rather than he
would leave her for a moment to her own reflections. The devoutest
person could have rendered no greater homage to the efficacy of an honest
prayer than he did in this distrust of his wife. It was as if a
professed unbeliever in ghosts should be frightened by a ghost story.
"And mind you!" said Mr. Cruncher. "No games to-morrow! If I,
as a honest tradesman, succeed in providing a jinte of meat or two,
none of your not touching of it, and sticking to bread. If I,
as a honest tradesman, am able to provide a little beer, none of your
declaring on water. When you go to Rome, do as Rome does. Rome will
be a ugly customer to you, if you don't. _I_'m your Rome, you know."
Then he began grumbling again:
"With your flying into the face of your own wittles and drink! I don't
know how scarce you mayn't make the wittles and drink here, by your
flopping tricks and your unfeeling conduct. Look at your boy: he IS
your'n, ain't he? He's as thin as a lath. Do you call yourself a
mother, and not know that a mother's first duty is to blow her boy out?"
This touched Young Jerry on a tender place; who adjured his mother to
perform her first duty, and, whatever else she did or neglected, above
all things to lay especial stress on the discharge of that maternal
function so affectingly and delicately indicated by his other parent.
Thus the evening wore away with the Cruncher family, until Young Jerry
was ordered to bed, and his mother, laid under similar injunctions,
obeyed them. Mr. Cruncher beguiled the earlier watches of the night
with solitary pipes, and did not start upon his excursion until nearly
one o'clock. Towards that small and ghostly hour, he rose up from his
chair, took a key out of his pocket, opened a locked cupboard, and
brought forth a sack, a crowbar of convenient size, a rope and chain,
and other fishing tackle of that nature. Disposing these articles about
him in skilful manner, he bestowed a parting defiance on Mrs. Cruncher,
extinguished the light, and went out.
Young Jerry, who had only made a feint of undressing when he went to bed,
was not long after his father. Under cover of the darkness he followed
out of the room, followed down the stairs, followed down the court,
followed out into the streets. He was in no uneasiness concerning
his getting into the house again, for it was full of lodgers, and the
door stood ajar all night.
Impelled by a laudable ambition to study the art and mystery of his
father's honest calling, Young Jerry, keeping as close to house fronts,
walls, and doorways, as his eyes were close to one another, held his
honoured parent in view. The honoured parent steering Northward,
had not gone far, when he was joined by another disciple of
Izaak Walton, and the two trudged on together.
Within half an hour from the first starting, they were beyond the
winking lamps, and the more than winking watchmen, and were out upon
a lonely road. Another fisherman was picked up here--and that so
silently, that if Young Jerry had been superstitious, he might have
supposed the second follower of the gentle craft to have, all of a
sudden, split himself into two.
The three went on, and Young Jerry went on, until the three stopped
under a bank overhanging the road. Upon the top of the bank was a
low brick wall, surmounted by an iron railing. In the shadow of bank
and wall the three turned out of the road, and up a blind lane, of which
the wall--there, risen to some eight or ten feet high--formed one side.
Crouching down in a corner, peeping up the lane, the next object that
Young Jerry saw, was the form of his honoured parent, pretty well
defined against a watery and clouded moon, nimbly scaling an iron
gate. He was soon over, and then the second fisherman got over, and
then the third. They all dropped softly on the ground within the gate,
and lay there a little--listening perhaps. Then, they moved away on
their hands and knees.
It was now Young Jerry's turn to approach the gate: which he did,
holding his breath. Crouching down again in a corner there, and looking
in, he made out the three fishermen creeping through some rank grass!
and all the gravestones in the churchyard--it was a large churchyard
that they were in--looking on like ghosts in white, while the church
tower itself looked on Eke the ghost of a monstrous giant. They did
not creep far, before they stopped and stood upright. And then they
began to fish.
They fished with a spade, at first. Presently the honoured parent
appeared to be adjusting some instrument like a great corkscrew.
Whatever tools they worked with, they worked hard, until the awful
striking of the church clock so terrified Young Jerry, that he made off,
with his hair as stiff as his father's.
But, his long-cherished desire to know more about these matters, not
only stopped him in his running away, but lured him back again. They
were still fishing perseveringly, when he peeped in at the gate for
the second time; but, now they seemed to have got a bite. There was a
screwing and complaining sound down below, and their bent figures were
strained, as if by a weight. By slow degrees the weight broke away the
earth upon it, and came to the surface. Young Jerry very well knew what
it would be; but, when he saw it, and saw his honoured parent about to