Sabatini had become a rich man by constructing drains, sewers, and closets for a city of fourteen thousand houses. He had married by proxy the daughter of Vanvitelli, who was also an architect at Naples, but he had never seen her. She came to Madrid about the same time as myself. She was a beauty of eighteen, and no sooner did she see her husband than she declared she would never be his wife. Sabatini was neither a young man nor a handsome one, but he was kind-hearted and distinguished; and when he told his young wife that she would have to choose between him and a nunnery, she determined to make the best of what she thought a bad bargain. However, she had no reason to repent of her choice; her husband was rich, affectionate, and easygoing, and gave her everything she wanted. I sighed and burned for her in silence, not daring to declare my love, for while the wound of the death of Charlotte was still bleeding I also began to find that women were beginning to give me the cold shoulder.
By way of amusing myself I began to go to the theatre, and the masked balls to which the Count of Aranda had established. They were held in a room built for the purpose, and named 'Los Scannos del Peral'. A Spanish play is full of absurdities, but I rather relished the representations. The 'Autos Sacramentales' were still represented; they were afterwards prohibited. I could not help remarking the strange way in which the boxes are constructed by order of the wretched police. Instead of being boarded in front they are perfectly open, being kept up by small pillars. A devotee once said to me at the theatre that this was a very wise regulation, and he was surprised that it was not carried into force in Italy.
"Because lovers, who feel sure that no one in the pit can see them, may commit improprieties."
I only answered with a shrug of the shoulders.
In a large box opposite to the stage sat 'los padres' of the Holy Inquisition to watch over the morals of actors and audience. I was gazing on them when of a sudden the sentinel at the door of the pit called out "Dios!" and at this cry all the actors and all the audience, men and women, fell down on their knees, and remained kneeling till the sound of a bell in the street ceased to be heard. This bell betokened that a priest was passing by carrying the viaticum to some sick man. I felt very much inclined to laugh, but I had seen enough of Spanish manners to refrain. All the religion of the Spaniard is in outward show and ceremony. A profligate woman before yielding to the desires of her lover covers the picture of Christ, or the Virgin, with a veil. If the lover laughed at this absurdity he would run a risk of being denounced as an Atheist, and most probably by the wretched woman who had sold him her charms.
In Madrid, and possibly all over Spain, a gentleman who takes a lady to a private room in an inn must expect to have a servant in the room the whole of the time, that he may be able to swear that the couple took no indecent liberties with each other. In spite of all, profligacy is rampant at Madrid, and also the most dreadful hypocrisy, which is more offensive to true piety than open sin. Men and women seemed to have come to an agreement to set the whole system of surveillance utterly at nought. However, commerce with women is not without its dangers; whether it be endemic or a result of dirty habits, one has often good reason to repent the favours one has obtained.
The masked ball quite captivated me. The first time I went to see what it was like and it only cost me a doubloon (about eleven francs), but ever after it cost me four doubloons, for the following reason:
An elderly gentleman, who sat next me at supper, guessed I was a foreigner by my difficulty in making myself understood by the waiter, and asked me where, I had left my lady friend.
"I have not got one; I came by myself to enjoy this delightful and excellently-managed entertainment."
"Yes, but you ought to come with a companion; then you could dance.