Mrs William Bowles is making her way down from her house in Clerkenwell on foot, skirting the Fleet river on its journey south and staying well clear of the fire that is burning along the Thames.
In spite of its name, this river is far from fleet. It is more of a ditch, at best a backwater, although it has its source in the clear springs and wells of Hampstead. She crosses the Fleet on Cow-bridge, stopping to peer into water so clogged with refuse that even the single oarsman can make little progress upstream. His scull is loaded with his possessions, topped by a wooden lute that is listing towards the river, weeping a few plaintive notes. As the scull passes, Pegge spots a long silvery object flashing just downstream of the straining oar.