Wicked Company
Sophie found herself exchanging looks with a rotund man in a black cassock, whom she knew to be the Reverend Mr. Meeker. The minister glared through the shop windows at one of his flock who was in the act of pushing several shillings across the counter for a copy of Oroonoko.
    “So! Once again you are promoting that Jezebel’s work!” he thundered from the doorway at Daniel, who simply stared at the clergyman, dumbfounded. “Don’t think I haven’t seen the comings and goings here!” he announced angrily, refusing to set foot inside the shop. “I’ve seen that vile Irishman frequenting this place of abomination… that Sheridan fellow ! A Catholic, no doubt! And I know you offer wicked, profane texts in French for sale!” he said accusingly, as if Lucifer himself might be a clerk at the shop. As the embarrassed customer departed, the minister followed him down the street spewing a righteous torrent of abuse against godless books, plays, and playhouses.
    The following Sunday, a bitterly cold morning in February, Reverend Meeker’s sermon at St. Giles Cathedral was an hour-long diatribe against music, dancing, and all forms of public entertainments.
    Two days before Sophie’s seventeenth birthday, Constable Munro, normally a friendly fellow, marched through the book shop’s door flanked by two red-coated guards from the Tolbooth prison.
    “Daniel McGann?” the constable inquired, knowing full well the identity of his long-time neighbor on the High Street, “I have a warrant for your arrest. I charge you by the authority vested in me for the commission of blasphemy and the selling of ungodly texts.”
    Daniel remained silent but the color drained from his heavily lined face.
    “Who has brought this charge?” Sophie demanded angrily.
    “’Twas instigated by the clergy and elders of St. Giles, and it charges your father to appear before the Justiciary Court,” Constable Munro replied. “Since this is a capital offense, Danny, I must take you to the Tolbooth.” When Sophie gasped, Munro added with gruff kindness, “Most likely, bail will be set at only sixty pounds or so—”
    “Sixty pounds!” Sophie wailed. “It might as well be six hundred!”
    “I’m afraid I must confiscate those Frenchy books mentioned in the Lord Advocate’s writ, here,” he said, pointing at the document with a detailed list of titles, “and all those printed plays, too, I’m afraid. Need ’em as evidence, it says here.”
    “How would the Lord Advocate know which books we sell here by title ?” Sophie asked suspiciously as she surveyed the list. “He and that Mr. Meeker never shopped at McGann’s!” she added angrily.
    “Now Sophie,” Constable Munro cautioned, mindful that the red-coated guards were not above tattling behind his back to the church elders. He wasn’t about to tell her that a degenerate peer named Lemore had provided a detailed listing of exactly which blasphemous works might be found at McGann’s and had received a blessing from the avenging kirk elders for doing so.
    “Shall I search the premises, sir?” one of the two stone-faced guards declared.
    Constable Munro nodded before turning to Daniel.
    “Don’t suppose I need to put irons on you, Danny,” he said quietly. “We’re close enough to the Tolbooth. I’ll take you out the back.”
    “No!” Sophie cried, but the other guard stepped forward and restrained her as she tried to run toward her father.
    Meanwhile, his fellow guard began scooping volume after volume from the shelves. As Sophie sank onto her small stool by the hearth, the other guard systematically searched the rear chamber where the printing press stood. He returned to the book shop with a copy of the broadside she had printed for Sheridan’s lectures and a few other examples of her handiwork.
    “Check the desk,” he grunted to his companion, whose arms were stacked high with books.
    “You check it, sapskull!” the first guard snapped.
    The second guard placed the

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