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A Tale of Two Cities

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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 like the ghost of a monstrous giant. They did not creep far, before they stopped and stood upright. And then they began to fish. It was Young Jerry’s turn to go over to the gate, and he did it holding his breath. Crouching down in a corner again, he looked in and saw the three men crawling through some dirty grass. They were in a large churchyard. All of the gravestones looked like white ghosts that were watching them, and the church tower looked the ghost of an ugly giant. They hadn’t crawled far when they stopped and stood up. Then they began to dig.
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. First they dug with a shovel. Shortly after, Mr. Cruncher appeared to be using some sort of tool like a large corkscrew. Whatever tools they used, they worked hard until the chimes of the church’s clock struck. The sound scared Young Jerry so much that he ran off with his hair sticking up like 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 wrench it open, he was so frightened, being new to the sight, that he made off again, and never stopped until he had run a mile or more. But Young Jerry was so anxious to know what the men were doing that he stopped and went back again. The men were still digging when he peeked in through the gate a second time. They seemed to have found something. There was a noise like a screw being turned coming from the ground, and the men’s fingers strained as if they were lifting something heavy. Little by little the heavy object broke through the dirt and came to the surface. Young Jerry knew very well what it was. When he saw it, and saw his father about to open it, he was so scared since he’d never seen anything like that before that he ran away again. He didn’t stop running until he had run a mile or more.
He would not have stopped then, for anything less necessary than breath, it being a spectral sort of race that he ran, and one highly desirable to get to the end of. He had a strong idea that the coffin he had seen was running after him; and, pictured as hopping on behind him, bolt upright, upon its narrow end, always on the point of overtaking him and hopping on at his side—perhaps taking his arm—it was a pursuer to shun. It was an inconsistent and ubiquitous fiend too, for, while it was making the whole night behind him dreadful, he darted out into the roadway to avoid dark alleys, fearful of its coming hopping out of them like a dropsical boy’s-Kite without tail and wings. It hid in doorways too, rubbing its horrible shoulders against doors, and drawing them up to its ears, as if it were laughing. It got into shadows on the road, and lay cunningly on its back to trip him up. All this time it was incessantly hopping on behind and gaining on him, so that when the boy got to his own door he had reason for being half dead. And even then it would not leave him, but followed him upstairs with a bump on every stair, scrambled into bed with him, and bumped down, dead and heavy, on his breast when he fell asleep. He wouldn’t even have stopped then if he hadn’t run out of breath. It was like he was running a ghostly race and he desperately wanted to reach the finish line. He felt like the coffin he had seen was chasing him, and he imagined it hopping behind him, standing upright on its narrow end. It was always close to catching him and was sometimes hopping right beside him. He imagined it grabbing his arm, and he wanted to get away from it. It seemed to be everywhere at once. He ran out into the road and avoided dark alleys, fearing it would come hopping out after him like a boy’s kite without its tail and wings. He imagined it hiding in doorways too. It would rub its shoulders against doors and lift them up to its ears as if it were laughing. It came out of the shadows on the road and lied on its back to trip him. All this time he still pictured it hopping behind him and gaining on him, so when Young Jerry got to his front door he was so tired he was half dead. But even then it wouldn’t leave him alone. He imagined that it followed him up the stairs and into his bedroom, climbed into bed with him, and still wouldn’t leave him alone in his sleep.

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