“And no disgrace to a fair Nun,” returned I, “if her behaviour answer her dress—Nor to a reverend Friar,” turning to the Monk, “if his mind be not a discredit to his appearance—Nor yet to a Country-girl,” turning to the party-coloured lady’s companion, “if she has not weeds in her heart to disgrace the flowers on her head.”
An odd figure, representing a Merry Andrew, took my hand, and said, I had the most piquant wit he had met with that night: “And, friend,” said he, “let us be better acquainted!”
“Forbear,” said I, withdrawing my hand; “not a companion for a Jack-pudding, neither!”
A Roman Senator just then accosted Miss Darnford; and Mr. B. seeing me so much engaged, “’Twere hard,” said he, “if our nation, in spite of Cervantes, produced not one cavalier to protect a fair lady thus surrounded.”
“Though surrounded, not distressed, my good knight-errant,” said the Nun: “the fair Quaker will be too hard for half-a-dozen antagonists, and wants not your protection:—but your poor Nun bespeaks it,” whispered she, “who has not a word to say for herself.” Mr. B. answered her in Italian (I wish I understood Italian!)—and she had recourse to her beads.
You can’t imagine, Madam, how this Nun haunted him!—I don’t like these masquerades at all. Many ladies, on these occasions, are so very free, that the censorious will be apt to blame the whole sex for their conduct, and to say, their hearts are as faulty as those of the most culpable men, since they scruple not to shew as much, when they think they cannot be known by their faces. But it is my humble opinion, that could a standard be fixed, by which one could determine readily what is, and what is not wit, decency would not be so often wounded by attempts to be witty, as it is. For here every one, who can say things that shock a modester person, not meeting with due rebuke, but perhaps a smile, (without considering whether it be of contempt or approbation) mistakes courage for wit; and every thing sacred or civil becomes the subject of his frothy jest.
But what a moralizer am I! will your ladyship say: indeed I can’t help it:—and especially on such a subject as a masquerade, which I dislike more than any thing I ever saw. I could say a great deal more on this occasion; but, upon my word, I am quite out of humour with it: for I liked my English Mr. B. better than my Spaniard: and the Nun I approved not by any means; though there were some who observed, that she was one of the gracefullest figures in the place. And, indeed, in spite of my own heart, I could not help thinking so too.
Your ladyship knows so well what masquerades are, that I may well be excused saying any thing further on a subject I am so little pleased with: for you only desire my notions of those diversions, because I am a novice in them; and this, I doubt not, will doubly serve to answer that purpose.