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A Tale of Two Cities

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Mr. Cruncher’s apartments were not in a savoury neighbourhood, and were but two in number, even if a closet with a single pane of glass in it might be counted as one. But they were very decently kept. Early as it was, on the windy March morning, the room in which he lay abed was already scrubbed throughout; and between the cups and saucers arranged for breakfast, and the lumbering deal table, a very clean white cloth was spread. Mr. Cruncher’s apartment was not in a very good neighborhood. It had only two rooms, and only if a closet with a tiny window counted as one of them. He kept his apartment clean, though. As early as it was this windy March morning, his bedroom was already scrubbed clean, and the cups and saucers were set out for breakfast on a clean white tablecloth.
Mr. Cruncher reposed under a patchwork counterpane, like a Harlequin at home. At fast, he slept heavily, but, by degrees, began to roll and surge in bed, until he rose above the surface, with his spiky hair looking as if it must tear the sheets to ribbons. At which juncture, he exclaimed, in a voice of dire exasperation: Mr. Cruncher was asleep under a patchwork quilt, like a

Harlequin

a clown from Italian comedy that wore a costume made up of multicolored patches

Harlequin
at home. He was sleeping heavily, but little by little he began to toss and turn in bed, with his spiky hair looking like it would tear his sheets to shreds. Finally he sat up and yelled out in frustration:
“Bust me, if she ain’t at it agin!” “Bust me, if she isn’t at it again!”
A woman of orderly and industrious appearance rose from her knees in a corner, with sufficient haste and trepidation to show that she was the person referred to. A neatly dressed woman quickly got up off her knees in the corner, with enough speed and fear to show that she was the woman he referred to.
“What!” said Mr. Cruncher, looking out of bed for a boot. “You’re at it agin, are you?” “What!” said Mr. Cruncher, looking around the bed for his boot. “You’re at it again, are you?”
After hailing the mom with this second salutation, he threw a boot at the woman as a third. It was a very muddy boot, and may introduce the odd circumstance connected with Mr. Cruncher’s domestic economy, that, whereas he often came home after banking hours with clean boots, he often got up next morning to find the same boots covered with clay. After shouting at her a second time, her threw his boot at her. His boot was covered in mud, and that mud said a lot about Mr. Cruncher’s other ways of making money. While he usually came home after banking hours with clean boots, he often went out again at night, and when he woke up the next morning his boots would be covered with clay.
“What,” said Mr. Cruncher, varying his apostrophe after missing his mark—”what are you up to, Aggerawayter?” “What,” said Mr. Cruncher, after he missed her with the boot. “What are you up to, you aggravator?”
“I was only saying my prayers.” “I was only praying.”
“Saying your prayers! You’re a nice woman! What do you mean by flopping yourself down and praying agin me?” “Praying! You’re a nice woman! What are you doing throwing yourself down on your knees and praying against me?”
“I was not praying against you; I was praying for you.” “I’m not praying against you. I was praying for you.”
“You weren’t. And if you were, I won’t be took the liberty with. Here! your mother’s a nice woman, young Jerry, going a praying agin your father’s prosperity. You’ve got a dutiful mother, you have, my son. You’ve got a religious mother, you have, my boy: going and flopping herself down, and praying that the bread-and-butter may be snatched out of the mouth of her only child.” “No, you weren’t. And if you were, I won’t be made a fool of.” Cruncher then spoke to their son. “Your mother’s a nice woman, Young Jerry,” he said sarcastically, “praying that your father will fail. You’ve got a devoted mother, very religious, kneeling down and praying that the food will be taken away from her only child.”
Master Cruncher (who was in his shirt) took this very ill, and, turning to his mother, strongly deprecated any praying away of his personal board. Mr. Cruncher’s son, who hadn’t gotten dressed yet, turned away from his mother. He did not like the fact that his mother was praying that his food be taken away.
“And what do you suppose, you conceited female,” said Mr. Cruncher, with unconscious inconsistency, “that the worth of YOUR prayers may be? Name the price that you put YOUR prayers at!” “And how important do you think your prayers are, you arrogant woman?” asked Mr. Cruncher. “How much do you think they’re worth?”
“They only come from the heart, Jerry. They are worth no more than that.” “They come from the heart, Jerry. They’re only worth what they mean to me.”
“Worth no more than that,” repeated Mr. Cruncher. “They ain’t worth much, then. Whether or no, I won’t be prayed agin, I tell you. I can’t afford it. I’m not a going to be made unlucky by YOUR sneaking. If you must go flopping yourself down, flop in favour of your husband and child, and not in opposition to ‘em. If I had had any but a unnat’ral wife, and this poor boy had had any but a unnat’ral mother, I might have made some money last week instead of being counter-prayed and countermined and religiously circumwented into the worst of luck. B-u-u-ust me!” said Mr. Cruncher, who all this time had been putting on his clothes, “if I ain’t, what with piety and one blowed thing and another, been choused this last week into as bad luck as ever a poor devil of a honest tradesman met with! Young Jerry, dress yourself, my boy, and while I clean my boots keep a eye upon your mother now and then, and if you see any signs of more flopping, give me a call. For, I tell you,” here he addressed his wife once more, “I won’t be gone agin, in this manner. I am as rickety as a hackney-coach, I’m as sleepy as laudanum, my lines is strained to that degree that I shouldn’t know, if it wasn’t for the pain in ‘em, which was me and which somebody else, yet I’m none the better for it in pocket; and it’s my suspicion that you’ve been at it from morning to night to prevent me from being the better for it in pocket, and I won’t put up with it, Aggerawayter, and what do you say now!” “They’re not worth much, then,” said Mr. Cruncher. “No matter what they’re worth, I won’t have you praying against me. I can’t afford it. I’m not going to be made unlucky by your sneaking around. If you must throw yourself down on your knees and pray, pray for your husband and child, not against them. If my wife and this boy’s mother didn’t know how to use magic, I might have made some money last week instead of being cursed into having the worst of luck. B-u-u-ust me!” said Mr. Cruncher, who had been getting dressed all this time. “If I haven’t had the worst luck this week that any honest businessman ever had. Get dressed, Young Jerry, and watch your mother while I clean my boots. If you see her get down on her knees to pray again, let me know. I’m warning you,” he said to his wife, “I won’t be abused this way. I’m weak, I’m tired, I’m sore, and yet I haven’t made any money for all my troubles. I suspect that you’ve been praying all day and night to keep me from making any money, and I won’t put up with it, you aggravator! What do you say about that?”

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