‘Annie, have down the cut ham,’ I shouted, for my sister was come to the door by chance, or because of the sound of a horse in the road, ‘and cut a few rashers of hung deer’s meat. There is a gentleman come to sup, Annie. And fetch the hops out of the tap with a skewer that it may run more sparkling.’

‘I wish I may go to a place never meant for me,’ said my new friend, now wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his brown riding coat, ‘if ever I fell among such good folk. You are the right sort, and no error therein. All this shall go in your favour greatly, when I make deposition. At least, I mean, if it be as good in the eating as in the hearing. ‘Tis a supper quite fit for Tom Faggus himself, the man who hath stolen my victuals so. And that hung deer’s meat, now is it of the red deer running wild in these parts?’

‘To be sure it is, sir,’ I answered; ‘where should we get any other?’

‘Right, right, you are right, my son. I have heard that the flavour is marvellous. Some of them came and scared me so, in the fog of the morning, that I hungered for them ever since. Ha, ha, I saw their haunches. But the young lady will not forget—art sure she will not forget it?’

‘You may trust her to forget nothing, sir, that may tempt a guest to his comfort.’

‘In faith, then, I will leave my horse in your hands, and be off for it. Half the pleasure of the mouth is in the nose beforehand. But stay, almost I forgot my business, in the hurry which thy tongue hath spread through my lately despairing belly. Hungry I am, and sore of body, from my heels right upward, and sorest in front of my doublet, yet may I not rest nor bite barley-bread, until I have seen and touched John Ridd. God grant that he be not far away; I must eat my saddle, if it be so.’

‘Have no fear, good sir,’ I answered; ‘you have seen and touched John Ridd. I am he, and not one likely to go beneath a bushel.’

‘It would take a large bushel to hold thee, John Ridd. In the name of the King, His Majesty, Charles the Second, these presents!’

He touched me with the white thing which I had first seen him waving, and which I now beheld to be sheepskin, such as they call parchment. It was tied across with cord, and fastened down in every corner with unsightly dabs of wax. By order of the messenger (for I was over-frightened now to think of doing anything), I broke enough of seals to keep an Easter ghost from rising; and there I saw my name in large; God grant such another shock may never befall me in my old age.

‘Read, my son; read, thou great fool, if indeed thou canst read,’ said the officer to encourage me; ‘there is nothing to kill thee, boy, and my supper will be spoiling. Stare not at me so, thou fool; thou art big enough to eat me; read, read, read.’

‘If you please, sir, what is your name?’ I asked; though why I asked him I know not, except from fear of witchcraft.

‘Jeremy Stickles is my name, lad, nothing more than a poor apparitor of the worshipful Court of King’s Bench. And at this moment a starving one, and no supper for me unless thou wilt read.’

Being compelled in this way, I read pretty nigh as follows; not that I give the whole of it, but only the gist and the emphasis,—

‘To our good subject, John Ridd, etc.’—describing me ever so much better than I knew myself—’by these presents, greeting. These are to require thee, in the name of our lord the King, to appear in person before the Right Worshipful, the Justices of His Majesty’s Bench at Westminster, laying aside all thine own business, and there to deliver such evidence as is within thy cognisance, touching certain matters whereby the peace of our said lord the King, and the well-being of this realm, is, are, or otherwise may be impeached, impugned, imperilled, or otherwise detrimented. As witness these presents.’ And then

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