To the eyes of Mr. Jeremiah Cruncher, sitting on his stool in Fleet-street
with his grisly urchin beside him, a vast number and variety of objects in
movement were every day presented. Who could sit upon anything in Fleet-street
during the busy hours of the day, and not be dazed and deafened by two immense
processions, one ever tending westward with the sun, the other ever tending
eastward from the sun, both ever tending to the plains beyond the range of red
and purple where the sun goes down!
Mr. Jeremiah Cruncher saw many different things move past him as he sat on his
stool on Fleet Street, with his grubby little son beside him. Who could sit on
Fleet Street during the busy hours of the day and not be overwhelmed by the
noise and sight of the two great streams of people going about their day? One
was always heading west, and the other always heading east. Both were always
heading toward the valleys past where the sun sets.
With his straw in his mouth, Mr. Cruncher sat watching the two streams, like
the heathen rustic who has for several centuries been on duty watching one
stream—saving that Jerry had no expectation of their ever running dry. Nor would
it have been an expectation of a hopeful kind, since a small part of his income
was derived from the pilotage of timid women (mostly of a full habit and past
the middle term of life) from Tellson’s side of the tides to the opposite shore.
Brief as such companionship was in every separate instance, Mr. Cruncher never
failed to become so interested in the lady as to express a strong desire to have
the honour of drinking her very good health. And it was from the gifts bestowed
upon him towards the execution of this benevolent purpose, that he recruited his
finances, as just now observed.
Mr. Cruncher sat watching the two streams with a straw in his mouth, looking
like a country farmer who has sat for hundreds of years keeping watch over one
stream. Jerry, though, didn’t expect that the stream would ever dry up. He
wouldn’t want it to dry up, since a small amount of his income came from helping
timid, well-dressed older women cross from Tellson Bank’s side of the street to
the other side. As short as these encounters were, Mr. Cruncher always became so
friendly with these women that he would tell them that he wanted to drink to
their health. They gave him money to do just that, adding to his income.
Time was, when a poet sat upon a stool in a public place, and mused in the
sight of men. Mr. Cruncher, sitting on a stool in a public place, but not being
a poet, mused as little as possible, and looked about him.
There was a time when a poet might sit on a stool in public and contemplate
the men he saw. Mr. Cruncher, sitting on his stool in public, wasn’t a poet. He
thought as little as possible and just looked around.
It fell out that he was thus engaged in a season when crowds were few, and
belated women few, and when his affairs in general were so unprosperous as to
awaken a strong suspicion in his breast that Mrs. Cruncher must have been
“flopping” in some pointed manner, when an unusual concourse pouring down
Fleet-street westward, attracted his attention. Looking that way, Mr. Cruncher
made out that some kind of funeral was coming along, and that there was popular
objection to this funeral, which engendered uproar.
He happened to be sitting and staring at a time when there weren’t many people
out, so there were very few women to help across the street. He was doing so
poorly that he started to suspect that his wife must have been praying against
him. Just then an unusual group came hurrying down Fleet Street heading west.
Mr. Cruncher looked their way and could see some kind of funeral moving along.
He could tell that people were angry about it.
“Young Jerry,” said Mr. Cruncher, turning to his offspring, “it’s a
“Young Jerry,” said Mr. Cruncher, turning to his son. “It’s a funeral.”
“Hooroar, father!” cried Young Jerry.
“Hooray, Father!” cried Young Jerry.
The young gentleman uttered this exultant sound with mysterious significance.
The elder gentleman took the cry so ill, that he watched his opportunity, and
smote the young gentleman on the ear.
The boy yelled his cheer with mysterious significance. His father was so upset
by his cheer that he waited until no one was looking and then smacked the boy on
“What d’ye mean? What are you hooroaring at? What do you want to conwey to
your own father, you young Rip? This boy is a getting too many for ME!” said Mr.
Cruncher, surveying him. “Him and his hooroars! Don’t let me hear no more of
you, or you shall feel some more of me. D’ye hear?”
“What do you mean? What are you hooraying at? What are you trying to tell your
father, you young punk? This boy is too much for me!” said Mr. Cruncher, looking
at his son. “Him and his hoorays! Don’t let me hear any more out of you or I’ll
hit you again. Do you hear me?”
“I warn’t doing no harm,” Young Jerry protested, rubbing his cheek.
“I wasn’t doing anything wrong,” protested Young Jerry, rubbing his cheek.
“Drop it then,” said Mr. Cruncher; “I won’t have none of YOUR no harms. Get a
top of that there seat, and look at the crowd.”
“Stop it then,” said Mr. Cruncher. “I don’t want to hear you say you did
nothing wrong. Get up on that stool and look at the crowd.”