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A Tale of Two Cities

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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. The undertakers in charge complained about this takeover of the funeral procession. The river, however, was dangerously close by, and several members of the crowd mentioned how effective a dunking in cold water could be in getting stubborn officials to change their minds. The undertakers didn’t complain too much after that. The new procession started with a chimneysweep driving the hearse, with the regular driver sitting beside him and directing him. The pie maker, aided by his cabinet minister, drove the mourning coach. A

bear leader

a person with a bear who performed for money

bear leader
, who was a popular type of street person in London back then, joined the crowd before they had gotten very far down the Strand. His bear, which was black and mangy, caused an air of seriousness in his part of the procession.
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. Thus the procession continued down the street, with the crowd drinking beer, smoking pipes, singing songs, and some people doing mocking impressions of people in mourning. More and more people joined the mob as it went, and all the shops closed as it approached. It was heading for the old church of Saint Pancras, far off in the country. Eventually it arrived there, and the crowd insisted on all going into the burial ground. There they finally buried the dead Roger Cly as they wanted, and to their great 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. With the dead man buried, and the crowd needing some other entertainment for itself, another genius (or perhaps the same one) had the idea of accusing unsuspecting passers-by of being Old Bailey spies and harassing them. The mob chased down dozens of innocent people who had never even been near the Old Bailey in their lives and knocked them around and abused them. The transition to breaking windows and robbing pubs came easily and naturally. Finally, after several hours, when several summerhouses had been pulled down and some fences had been broken and used as weapons by some of the more violent people, a rumor started that the Guards were coming. As the rumor spread, the crowd started to disperse. The Guards may or may not have actually ever come, but this is how mobs usually ended.
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. Mr. Cruncher didn’t take part in the final events, but had stayed at the churchyard to talk with the undertakers. The churchyard was calming to him. He got a pipe from a nearby pub and smoked it as he looked at the fences and thoughtfully considered the graveyard.
“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.” “Jerry,” said Mr. Cruncher, talking to himself in his usual way. “You saw that Cly man that day at the Old Bailey. You saw with your own eyes that he was a young, respectable-looking man.”
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. He finished his pipe and thought to himself awhile longer. Then he turned around and headed back so that he would be seen at his place outside of Tellson’s Bank at closing time. Whether his thoughts on death had made him feel sick, or whether he had been feeling unhealthy before that, or whether he wanted to pay a visit to an important man doesn’t matter. What matters is that he made a short visit to his doctor, a respected surgeon, on his way back.

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