The Mayor took it with trembling hands. “Why, ’tis a duplicity!” he cried. “A very duplicity! and, what’s more, printed in the same language word for word.” He caught the mace from the little man in black. “Lead the way, Captain!”
I ENLIST AN ARMY.
“If I be not ashamed of
my soldiers, I am a soused gurnet.”
Sir John Falstaff.
My father turned to me as they descended the stair. “This is all very well, lad,” said he, “but we have yet to find our army. After the murder of Julius Caesar, now—”
“I did enact Julius Caesar once,” quoted Mr. Fett, in parenthesis. “I was killed i’ the capitol; Brutus killed me.”
My father frowned. “After the murder of Julius Caesar, when the mob for two days had Rome at their mercy, I have read somewhere that two men appeared out of nowhere, and put themselves at the head of the rioters. None knew them; but so boldly they comported themselves, heading the charges, marshalling the ranks, here throwing up barricades, there plucking down doors and gates, breaking open the prisons and setting fire to private houses, that presently the whisper spread they were Castor and Pollux; till, at length, falling into the hands of the aediles, these dioscuri were found to be two poor lunatics escaped from a house of detention. If we could discover another such pair among the mob, now!”
“We are wasting time here for certain,” said I. “And where, by the way, is Billy Priske?”
“If you waste your time upstairs here, gentlemen,” said Miss Whiteaway, “belike you may do better in the parlour, where I had prepared for some friends of mine with two-three chickens and a ham.”
“Ah, to be sure,” said I; “the packet-men!”
“Never you worry, young sir,” she answered tartly, “so long as they don’t mind eating after their betters. And as for your man Priske, I saw him twenty minutes ago escape towards Church Street with the Methodists.”
“Hang it!” put in Nat Fiennes, “if I hadn’t clean forgotten the Methodists!”
“We left them scurvily,” said I; “every Jack and Jill of them but our friend here.” I nodded toward the little man in black. “And he not only saved himself, but was half the battle.”
The little man seemed to come out of himself with a start, and gazed from one to another of us perplexedly.
“Excuse me, gentlemen.” He drew himself up with dignity. “Do my ears deceive me, or are you mistaking me for a Methodist?”
“Indeed, and are you not, sir?” asked my father. “Why, good God, gentlemen!—if you’ll excuse me—but I’m the parish clerk of Axminster!”
My father recovered himself with a bow. “In Devon?” he asked gravely, after a pause in which our silence paid tribute to the announcement.
“In Devon, sir; a county remarkable for its attachment to the principles of the Church of England. And that I should have lived to be mistaken for a Methodist!”