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Rumours of the prevailing disturbances had, by this time, begun to be pretty generally circulated through the towns and villages round London, and the tidings were everywhere received with that appetite for the marvellous and love of the terrible which have probably been among the natural characteristics of mankind since the creation of the world. These accounts, however, appeared, to many persons at that day--as they would to us at the present, but that we know them to be matter of history--so monstrous and improbable, that a great number of those who were resident at a distance, and who were credulous enough on other points, were really unable to bring their minds to believe that such things could be; and rejected the intelligence they received on all hands, as wholly fabulous and absurd.
Mr Willet--not so much, perhaps, on account of his having argued and settled the matter with himself, as by reason of his constitutional obstinacy--was one of those who positively refused to entertain the current topic for a moment. On this very evening, and perhaps at the very time when Gashford kept his solitary watch, old John was so red in the face with perpetually shaking his head in contradiction of his three ancient cronies and pot companions, that he was quite a phenomenon to behold, and lighted up the Maypole Porch wherein they sat together, like a monstrous carbuncle in a fairy tale.
'Do you think, sir,' said Mr Willet, looking hard at Solomon Daisy--for it was his custom in cases of personal altercation to fasten upon the smallest man in the party--'do you think, sir, that I'm a born fool?'
'No, no, Johnny,' returned Solomon, looking round upon the little circle of which he formed a part: 'We all know better than that. You're no fool, Johnny. No, no!'
Mr Cobb and Mr Parkes shook their heads in unison, muttering, 'No, no, Johnny, not you!' But as such compliments had usually the effect of making Mr Willet rather more dogged than before, he surveyed them with a look of deep disdain, and returned for answer:
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