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While spending an evening with friends at the Bedford coffee-house Jonathan Strange falls into chance conversation with two visitors to London, Mr Gatcombe and his business partner Mr Tantony [35]. The two are brewers from Nottinghamshire, in London to take in the sights. During the course of a misunderstanding about whether they or Strange's party should be making use of the billiard table, Mr Gatcombe explains that Mr Tantony (a retiring person who takes no share in the conversation) is an amateur enthusiast for magic. He then very much startles Strange by claiming Mr Tantony is being tutored in the art by none other than Strange himself, and that the instruction is being imparted, for a fee, by letter.

Strange is at first unable to convince Mr Gatcombe that he and his friend are victims of a deception, as neither man believes the very ordinary gentleman with whom they are speaking is indeed the famous magician. Sir Walter Pole then suggests Strange demonstrate his powers by walking into a large mirror hanging on the wall: Strange does so, and finds himself for the first time on the King's Roads.

The incident has a marked effect on his opinion of the Raven King, who constructed the roads: experience of their grandeur and magnificent extent raises the latter very high in Strange's esteem. It also leads to the downfall of Christopher Drawlight, whom Strange tracks down to the cottage in Hampstead where Drawlight is engaged in deceiving yet another victim, Maria Bullworth[36].