A Tale of Two Cities is the twelfth novel by Charles Dickens, originally published in weekly installments between April 1859 and November 1859. It is one of two historical novels by Dickens (the other being Barnaby Rudge). The plot centres on the years leading up to the French Revolution and culminates in the Jacobean Reign of Terror.
This quotation is said by a stranger to Mr. Jeremiah (Jerry) Cruncher (Senior) at a passing funeral procession as it passes down Fleet Street, where Cruncher is standing with his son. Cruncher asks a stranger whose funeral it is and he is told it is Roger Cly, the “Old Bailey spy” The stranger then adds this comment, indicating that he is not sorry that he is dead.
Funerals had at all times a remarkable attraction for Mr. Cruncher; he always pricked up his senses, and became excited, when a funeral passed Tellson’s. Naturally, therefore, a funeral with this uncommon attendance excited him greatly, and he asked of the first man who ran against him:
“What is it, brother? What’s it about?”
“I don’t know,” said the man. “Spies! Yaha! Tst! Spies!”
He asked another man. “Who is it?”
“I don’t know,” returned the man, clapping his hands to his mouth nevertheless, and vociferating in a surprising heat and with the greatest ardour, “Spies! Yaha! Tst, tst! Spi—ies!”
At length, a person better informed on the merits of the case, tumbled against him, and from this person he learned that the funeral was the funeral of one Roger Cly.
“Was He a spy?” asked Mr. Cruncher.
“Old Bailey spy,” returned his informant. “Yaha! Tst! Yah! Old Bailey Spi—i—ies!”
“Why, to be sure!” exclaimed Jerry, recalling the Trial at which he had assisted. “I’ve seen him. Dead, is he?”
“Dead as mutton,” returned the other, “and can’t be too dead. Have ’em out, there! Spies! Pull ’em out, there! Spies!”.
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