The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter Thirty

The Singular Manner of Fathom’s Attack and Triumph Over the Virtue of the Fair Elenor.

Proper cognisance being thus taken of these contraband effects, and the informer furnished with a certificate, by which he was entitled to a share of the seizure, the coachman summoned his passengers to the carriage; the purse and jewels were restored to Count Fathom, who thanked the justice, and his lordship in particular, for the candour and hospitality with which he had been treated, and resumed his place in the vehicle, amidst the congratulations of all his fellow-travellers, except the two forlorn smugglers, who, instead of re-embarking in the coach, thought proper to remain at the inn, with view to mitigate, if possible, the severity of their misfortune.

Among those who felicitated Fathom upon the issue of this adventure, the young maiden seemed to express the most sensible pleasure at that event. The artful language of his eyes had raised in her breast certain fluttering emotions, before she knew the value of her conquest; but now that his rank and condition were discovered, these transports were increased by the ideas of vanity and ambition, which are mingled with the first seeds of every female constitution. The belief of having captivated the heart of a man who could raise her to the rank and dignity of a countess, produced such agreeable sensations in her fancy, that her eyes shone with unusual lustre, and a continual smile played in dimples on her rosy cheeks; so that her attractions, though not powerful enough to engage the affection, were yet sufficient to inflame the desire of our adventurer, who very honestly marked her chastity for prey to his voluptuous passion. Had she been well seasoned with knowledge and experience, and completely armed with caution against the artifice and villany of man, her virtue might not have been able to withstand the engines of such an assailant, considering the dangerous opportunities to which she was necessarily exposed. How easy then must his victory have been over an innocent, unsuspecting country damsel, flushed with the warmth of youth, and an utter stranger to the ways of life!

While Obadiah, therefore, and his plump companion, were engaged in conversation, on the strange incidents which had passed, Fathom acted a very expressive pantomime with this fair buxom nymph, who comprehended his meaning with surprising facility, and was at so little pains to conceal the pleasure she took in this kind of intercourse, that several warm squeezes were interchanged between her and her lover, before they arrived at Rochester, where they proposed to dine. It was during this period, he learned from the answers she made to the inquisitive quaker, that her sole dependence was upon a relation, to whom she had a letter, and that she was a perfect stranger in the great city; circumstances on which he soon formed the project of her ruin.

Upon their arrival at the Black Bull, he for the first time found himself alone with his Amanda, whose name was Elenor, their fellow-travellers being elsewhere employed about their own concerns; and, unwilling to lose the precious opportunity, he began to act the part of a very importunate lover, which he conceived to be a proper sequel to the prelude which had been performed in the coach. The freedoms which she, out of pure simplicity and good-humour, permitted him to take with her hand, and even her rosy lips, encouraged him to practise other familiarities upon her fair bosom, which scandalised her virtue so much, that, in spite of the passion she had begun to indulge in his behalf, she rejected his advances with all the marks of anger and disdain; and he found it necessary to appease the storm he had raised, by the most respectful and submissive demeanour; resolving to change his operations, and carry on his attacks, so as to make her yield at discretion, without alarming her religion or pride. Accordingly, when the bill was called after dinner, he took particular notice of her behaviour, and, perceiving her pull out a large leathern purse that contained her money, reconnoitred the pocket in which it was deposited, and, while they sat close to each other in the carriage, conveyed it with admirable dexterity into an hole in the cushion. Whether the corpulent couple, who sat opposite to these lovers, had entered into an amorous engagement at the inn, or were severally induced by other motives, is uncertain; but sure it is, both left the coach on that part of the road which lies nearest to Gravesend, and bade adieu to the other pair, on pretence of having urgent business at that place.

Ferdinand, not a little pleased at their departure, renewed his most pathetic expressions of love, and sung several French songs on that tender subject, which seemed to thrill to the soul of his beauteous Helen. While the driver halted at Dartford to water his horses, she was smit with the appearance of some cheesecakes, which were presented by the landlady of the house, and having bargained for two or three, put her hand in her pocket, in order to pay for her purchase; but what was her astonishment, when, after having rummaged her equipage, she understood her whole fortune was lost! This mishap was, by a loud shriek, announced to our hero, who affected infinite amazement and concern; and no sooner learned the cause of her affliction, than he presented her with his own purse, from which he, in emphatic dumb show, begged she would indemnify herself for the damage she had sustained. Although this kind proffer was some alleviation of her misfortunes, she did not fail to pour forth a most piteous lamentation, importing that she had not only lost all her money, amounting to five pounds, but also her letter of recommendation, upon which she had altogether relied for present employment.

The vehicle was minutely searched from top to bottom, by herself and our adventurer, assisted by Maurice and the coachman, who, finding their inquiry ineffectual, did not scruple to declare his suspicion of the two fat turtles who had deserted the coach in such an abrupt manner. In a word, he rendered this conjecture so plausible, by wresting the circumstances of their behaviour and retreat, that poor Elenor implicitly believed they were the thieves by whom she had suffered; and was prevailed upon to accept the proffered assistance of the generous Count, who, seeing her very much disordered by this mischance, insisted upon her drinking a large glass of canary, to quiet the perturbation of her spirits. This is a season, which of all others is most propitious to the attempts of an artful lover; and justifies the metaphorical maxim of fishing in troubled waters. There is an affinity and short transition betwixt all the violent passions that agitate the human mind. They are all false perspectives, which, though they magnify, yet perplex and render indistinct every object which they represent. And flattery is never so successfully administered, as to those who know they stand in need of friendship, assent, and approbation.

The cordial she swallowed, far from calming, increased the disturbance of her thoughts, and produced an intoxication; during which, she talked in an incoherent strain, laughed and wept by turns, and acted other extravagances, which are known to be symptoms of the hysterical affection. Fathom, though an utter stranger to the sentiments of honour, pity, and remorse, would not perpetrate his vicious purpose, though favoured by the delirium his villany had entailed upon this unfortunate young maiden; because his appetite demanded a more perfect sacrifice than that which she could yield in her present deplorable situation, when her will must have been altogether unconcerned in his success. Determined, therefore, to make a conquest of her virtue, before he would take possession of her person, he mimicked that compassion and benevolence which his heart had never felt, and, when the coach arrived at London, not only discharged what she owed for her place, but likewise procured for her an apartment in the house to which he himself had been directed for lodgings, and even hired a nurse to attend her during a severe fever, which was the consequence of her disappointment and despondence. Indeed, she was supplied with all necessaries by the generosity of this noble Count, who, for the interest of his passion, and the honour of his name, was resolved to extend his charity to the last farthing of her own money, which he had been wise enough to secure for this purpose.

Her youth soon got the better of her distemper, and when she understood her obligations to the Count, who did not fail to attend her in person with great tenderness, her heart, which had been before prepossessed in his favour, now glowed with all the warmth of gratitude, esteem, and affection. She knew herself in a strange place, destitute of all resource but in his generosity. She loved his person, she was dazzled by his rank; and he knew so well how to improve the opportunities and advantages he derived from her unhappy situation, that he gradually proceeded in sapping from one degree of intimacy to another, until all the bulwarks of her chastity were undermined, and she submitted to his desire; not with the reluctance of a vanquished people, but with all the transports of a joyful city, that opens its gates to receive a darling prince returned from conquest. For by this time he had artfully concentred and kindled up all the inflammable ingredients of her constitution; and she now looked back upon the virtuous principles of her education, as upon a disagreeable and tedious dream, from which she had waked to the fruition of never-fading joy.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30