Even the aristocratic members of parliament couldn't deny the Great Stink now. With the sewer-choked Thames running almost directly under the windows, the smell had overpowered all the precautions and preventatives they had taken to keep it out.
As a result of several members being knocked out by the Stink, Parliament had called a recess, and the rich had left to pass the heights of summer in the country.
For Ant, that just meant fewer people buying pomanders to block out the smell, and therefore less income, even though the same rent had to be paid to those now absent landlords. Which was why he'd turned to mudlarking along the edge of the river to make a few extra coins.
A ragged scarf wrapped around his face did little more for the Stink than a lifetime of becoming used to it. The summer sun baked his stooping back, and turned the tidal mud splattering up his legs to dry, itchy, dirt, as he dug his bare toes and fingers into the mud, sifting through it for anything that might be remotely saleable. Scraps of cloth, or metal, or wood, or pure dog-dirt that hadn't blended into the general muck yet (the tanners paid a premium for good dog-dirt). His questing fingers hit something smooth, and oddly cool, and he froze for a moment to get a better sense of its location.
Once found, he scrabbled deeper, scooping a hollow in the mud, and found a small bottle of the sort apothecaries used. Ant grinned. Often there was a deposit on these bottles, and if he handed it back to the right apothecary, he'd be the one to get the coin deposit back in his hands.
The bottle itself was stoppered, but empty, just a bit misty on the inside with condensation. Ant tucked it carefully into a pocket, out of sight, and completely missed the moment when the mist sealed inside the bottle took on the shape of a face crying "Let me out!"