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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

The better to go to Whitehall in


It was again a fair evening, five days later, when, in one of my new suits, with my new silver-handled sword, I set out on foot to Whitehall to see the King first and the Duke afterwards, as word had been brought me from the Chamberlain's office; for I had presented my letters on the morning after I had come to London.

Those four days had passed busily and merrily enough in company with my cousins. The first two days I had spent in the shops, and had expended above forty pounds, with both my cousins to advise me. It would not be to the purpose to describe all that I bought; but there was a blue suit I had, that was made very quickly, and that was the one I wore when I went to see the King, that was very fine. All was of blue; the coat was square-cut, with deep skirts, and had great laced cuffs that turned up as high as the elbow, showing the ruffled wristbands of the shirt beneath; the waistcoat below--in the new fashion--was so hung as to come down to my knees; and both coat and waistcoat had buttons all the way down the front, with silver trimming. My stockings--for the brodequins were out of fashion again now--were of a darker blue, and my shoes of strong leather, with a great rosette upon each, for buckles were not usual at this time. Then my cravat was of Flanders lace; and my Cousin Dorothy showed me how to fasten it so that the ends lay down square in front; and my hat was round with a blue favour in it upon the left side; and I wore it with what was called the "Monmouth cock." I carried a long cane in my hand, with a silver head, and a pair of soft leather gloves, without cuffs to them. Then, as my own hair was still short, I bought a couple of dark periwigs of my own colour, and put on, the better to go to Whitehall in. Besides these things I had three other suits, one very plain, of grey, and two less plain; a case of pistols, and a second sword, very plain and strong, in a leather scabbard, with its belt; two pair of riding-boots, besides other shoes; and two dozen of shirts and cravats, of which half were plain, without lace.

While we went to and fro on all those businesses, we saw something both of the town and of the folks. On our way back from Cheapside one day, we turned aside to see the Monument, with the lying inscription upon it; and then to see the Cathedral, which was already of a considerable height. Of the persons of importance we saw one day the Duke of Buckingham in his coach, drawn by two white horses, with riders before and behind, pass along towards Whitehall; and a chair went by us one evening in which, it was said, was the Duchess of Portsmouth (once Madame de la Querouaille, or Mrs. Carwell); but it was so closely guarded that I could not see within. Also, we saw my Lord Shaftesbury, a sly yet proud looking fellow, I thought him, walking with Mr. Pepys, who fell later under suspicion of being a Catholic, because his servant was one.

On the Saturday evening we went to take the air in St. James' Park, and walked by Rosamund's pond; and here we but just missed seeing the King and Queen; for as we came into it from Charing Cross (where I had seen for the first time in the public street the Punch-show, which I think must take its origin from Pontius Pilate) their Majesties rode out--hand in hand, I heard later--through the Park Gate into the Horse-Guards, and so to Whitehall, with guards in buff and steel following. There was a great company of gentlemen and ladies who rode behind, of whom we caught a sight; but they were too far away for us to recognize any of them. (I saw, too, the cress-carts come in from Tothill fields.)

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