The taverns in town were rare places for making new acquaintances; and since I, for the most part, dined and supped in them, I met a good number of gentlemen. From these I would conceal, usually, most of my circumstances, and sometimes even my name, though that would not have told them much. Above all I was very careful to conceal my dealings with His Majesty, and as, following the directions he had first given me, I presented myself seldom or never at Court, and did my business through Mr. Chiffinch, and in his lodgings, usually, I do not suppose that there were five men in town, if so many, who knew that I had any private knowledge of him at all. In this manner then, I heard a deal of treasonable talk of which I did not think much, and only reported generally to Mr. Chiffinch when he asked me what was the feeling in town with regard to Court affairs. It was through this, and helped, I daresay, by what I have been told was the easy pleasantness which I affected in company, that I stumbled over my next adventure; and one that was like, before the end of it, to have cost me dear.
I went to supper, by chance, on the second day after my coming to London, to an inn I had never been to before—the Red Bull in Cheapside—a very large inn, in those days, with a great garden at the back, where gentlemen would dine in summer, and a great parlour running out into it from the back of the house, of but one story high. The rooms beneath seemed pretty full, for it was a cold night; and as there appeared no one to attend to me I went upstairs, and knocked on the door of one of the rooms. The talking within ceased as I knocked, and none answered; so I opened the door and put my head in. There was a number of persons seated round the table who all looked at me.
“This is a private room, sir,” said one of them at the head.
“I beg your pardon, gentlemen,” I said. “I was but looking for someone to serve me.” And I was about to withdraw when a voice hailed me aloud.
“Why it is Mr. Mallock!” the voice cried; and turning again to see who it was I beheld my old friend Mr. Rumbald, seated next the one that presided.
I greeted him.
“But I had best be gone,” I said. “It is a private room, the gentleman told me.”
“No, no,” cried the maltster. “Come in, Mr. Mallock.” And he said something to the gentleman he sat by, who was dressed very finely.
I could see that something was in the wind; and as I was out for adventure, it seemed to me that here was one ready-made, however harmless it might turn out in the end. So I closed the door behind me; there was a shifting along the benches, and I stepped over into a place next my friend.
“How goes the world with you, sir?” demanded Mr. Rumbald of me, looking at my suit, which indeed was pretty fine.
“Very hungrily at present,” I said. “Where the devil are the maids got to?”
He called out to the man that sat nearest the door, and he got up and bawled something down the passage.