A Tale of Two Cities

by: Charles Dickens

  Book 2 Chapter 14

page Book 2 Chapter 14: The Honest Tradesman: Page 5

Original Text

Modern Text

Then he began grumbling again: Then he began mumbling 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?” “You, turning down your own food and drink! I don’t know why you make it so hard for me to find food and drink, with your kneeling and praying and heartless behavior. Look at our son. He is your son, isn’t he? He’s as thin as a board. You call yourself a mother? Don’t you know that a mother’s first duty is to make her son fat and healthy?”
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. Young Jerry was moved by this, and he begged his mother to perform the first duty of a mother and, whatever other parental duties she neglected, to put special emphasis on making him fat and healthy.
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. This is how the Cruncher family spent the evening until Young Jerry was sent to bed. Mr. Cruncher also sent Mrs. Cruncher to bed, and she obeyed. Mr. Cruncher spent the early part of the night smoking pipes alone and didn’t go out on his errand until nearly one o’clock in the morning. Around that time, he got up from his chair, took a key out of his pocket, opened a locked cupboard, and took out a sack, a large crowbar, a rope, a chain, and other “fishing equipment.” Gathering these things about him, he muttered a last insult to Mrs. Cruncher, put out 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. Young Jerry, who had only pretended to undress when he was sent to bed, snuck out and followed his father. Hidden by the darkness, he followed him out of the room, down the stairs, through the courtyard, and into the streets. He wasn’t worried about getting back into the house again without a key. There were many lodgers staying there, and the front door was always left 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. Young Jerry was driven by a wish to learn the skills and secrets his father of his father’s “honest” work. He kept close to the house fronts, walls, and doorways as he kept his eyes on his father. His father was heading north and had not gone far when he was joined by another follower of

Izaak Walton

an English writer who wrote about fishing

Izaak Walton
, and the two men walked 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. Within half an hour from when they set out, they were beyond the street lamps and the sleeping watchmen and were out on a deserted road. Another “fisherman” was picked up there. He joined them so quietly that if Young Jerry had been superstitious he might have thought that the second follower had actually split in two and become two people.
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. The three men continued on, and Young Jerry followed them, until the three stopped under a bank hanging out over the road. On the top of the bank there was a low brick wall, and on top of the wall was an iron railing. In the shadow of the bank and wall the three men turned into a hidden lane. The wall, which was about eight or ten feet high there, formed one side of the lane. Young Jerry crouched down in a corner and peeked into the lane. The next thing Young Jerry saw was his father in the moonlight. He was climbing an iron gate and soon had climbed over it. Then the second, and then the third man also climbed over it. They all landed quietly on the ground on the other side of the gate and lied there a little—listening perhaps. Then they crawled away on their hands and knees.