‘This is the damnable thing,’ muttered Edward, stepping gingerly over a bubonic-plague-carrying rat. ‘What with the resurgence of hostilities with the Dutch, who knows when the trade routes will be passable again?’
‘Indeed,’ replied his companion, the Reverend Hobbington. ‘I am as keen as you are to see the merchants’ ships sailing again. As a nonconformist minister forbidden to teach in schools as a result of the Five Mile Act of 1665, I am keener than ever to travel abroad.’
‘I know, my friend, I know,’ said Edward. ‘It is as our mutual friend Sir Isaac says – there are forces at work which remain beyond our knowledge. You are just as likely to find passage to the continent as old Isaac is to crack this problem of his, whatever it might be.’
‘Something of great gravity, no doubt,’ said the clergyman, skirting round a plague pit.
‘Yes,’ replied Edward, squinting at a shop across the street. ‘I say, does that bakery look a little smokey to you?’