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The Foxhunter at a Masquerade.
As I was last Friday taking a walk in the park, 1 saw a country gentleman at the side of Rosamond's pond, pulling a handful of oats out of his pocket, and with a great deal of pleasure, gathering the ducks about him. Upon my coming up to him, who should it be but my friend the foxhunter, whom I gave some account of in my former paper! I immediately joined him, and partook of his diversion, till he had not an oat left in his pocket. We then made the tour of the park together, when, after having entertained me with the description of a decoy-pond that lay near his seat in the country, and of a meeting-house that was going to be rebuilt in a neighbouring market-town, he gave me an account of some very odd adventures which he had met with that morning; and which I shall lay together in a short and faithful history, as well as my memory will give me leave.
My friend, who has a natural aversion to London, would never have come up, had not he been subpænaed to it, as he told me, in order to give his testimony for one of the rebels, whom he knew to be a very fair sportsman. Having travelled all night to avoid the inconveniences of dust and heat, he arrived with his guide, a little after break of day, at Charingcross; where, to his great surprise, he saw a running footman carried in a chair, followed by a waterman in
the same kind of vehicle. He was wondering at the extravagance of their masters, that furnished them with such dresses and accomodations, when, on a sudden, he beheld a chimney-sweeper conveyed after the same manner, with three footmen running before him. During his progress through the Strand, he met with several other figures no less wonderful and surprising. Seeing a great many in rich morning-gowns, he was amazed to find that persons of quality were up so early; and was no less astonished to see many lawyers in their bar-gowns, when he knew by his almanack the term was ended. As he was extremely puzzled and confounded in himself what all this should mean, a hackney-coach chancing to pass by him, four batts popped out their heads all at once, which very much frighted both him and his horse. My friend, who always takes care to cure his horse of such starting fits, spurred him up to the very side of the coach, to the no small diversion of the batts; who, seeing him with his long whip, horse-hair periwig, jockey belt, and coat without sleeves, fancied him to be one of the masqueraders on horseback, and received him with a loud peal of laughter. His mind being full of idle stories, which are spread up and down the nation by the disaffected, he immediately concluded that all the persons he saw in these strange habits were foreigners, and conceived a great indignation against them, for pretending to laugh at an English country-gentleman. But he soon recovered out of his error, by hearing the voices of several of them, and particularly of a shepherdess quarrelling with her coachman, and threatening to break his bones, in very intelligible English, though with a masculine tone. His astonishment still increased upon him, to see a continued procession of harlequins, scaramouches, punchinellos, and a thousand other merry dresses, by which people of quality distinguish their wit from that of the vulgar.
Being now advanced as far as Somerset House, and observing it to be the great hive whence these chimeras issued forth from time to time, my friend took his station among a cluster of mob, who were making themselves merry with their betters. The first that came out was a very venerable matron, with a nose and chin that were within a very little of touching one another. My friend, at the first view fancying her to be an old woman of quality, out of his good breeding put off his hat to her, when the person, pulling off her mask, to his great surprise, appeared a smock-faced young fellow. His attention was soon taken off from this object, and turned to another that had very hollow eyes and wrinkled face, which flourished in all the bloom of fifteen. The whiteness of the lily was blended in it with the blush of the rose.
He mistook it for a very whimsical kind of mask; but, upon a nearer view, he found that she held her vizard in her hand, and that what he saw was only her natural countenance, touched up with the usual improvements of an aged coquette.
The next who showed herself was a female quaker, so very pretty, that he could not forbear licking his lips, and saying to the mob about him, 'It is ten thousand pities she is not a church-woman.' The quaker was followed by half a dozen nuns, who filed off one after another up Catherine Street, to their respective convents in Drury Lane,
The squire, observing the preciseness of their dress, began now to imagine, after all, that this was a nest of sectaries ; for he had often heard that the town was full of them. He was confirmed in this opinion upon seeing a conjurer, whom he guessed to be the holderforth. However, to satisfy himself, he asked a porter, who stood next him, what religion these people were of? The porter replied, “They are of no religion; it is a masquerade.' 'Upon that, (says my friend,) I began to smoke that they were a parcel of mummers;' and being himself one of the quorum in his own county, could not but wonder that none of the Middlesex justices took care to lay some of them by the heels. He was the more provoked in the spirit of magistracy, upon discovering two very unseemly objects : the first was a judge, who rapped out a great oath at his footman; and the other a big-bellied woman, who, upon taking a leap into the coach, miscarried of a cushion. What still gave him greater offence, was a drunken bishop, who reeled from one side of the court to the other, and was very sweet upon an Indian queen. But his worship, in the midst of his austerity, was mollified at the sight of a very lovely milk-maid, whom he began to regard with an eye of mercy, and conceived a particular affection for her, until he found, to his great amazement, that the standers - by suspected her to be a duchess.
I must not conclude this narrative, without mentioning one disaster which happened to my friend on this occasion. Having for his better convenience dismounted, and mixed among the crowd, he found, upon his arrival at the inn, that he had lost his purse and