The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom, by Tobias Smollett

Chapter Sixty-Two

His Return to England, and Midnight Pilgrimage to Monimia’s Tomb.

He considered the date of that unparalleled transaction, which agreed with his conjecture, and from the inquiries he made concerning the person of the traitor, gathered reasons sufficient to confirm his supposition. Thus certified, “That is the villain,” cried the Count, “whose infernal arts have overwhelmed me with such misery as Heaven itself hath made no remedy to dispel! To revenge my wrongs on that perfidious miscreant, is one of the chief reasons for which I deign to drag about an hateful being. O Don Diego! what is life, when all its enjoyments are so easily poisoned by the machinations of such a worm!” So saying, he smote his breast in all the agony of woe, and besought the Spaniard to relate the steps he took in consequence of this disaster.

The Castilian’s cheeks reddened at this information, which enforced his own resentment, and casting up his eyes to heaven, “Sacred powers!” cried he, “let him not perish, before you bring him within my reach. You ask me, noble cavalier, what measures I took in this abyss of misery? For the first day, I was tortured with apprehensions for the friendly Fadini, fearing that he had been robbed and murdered for the jewels which he had, perhaps, too unwarily exposed to sale. But this terror soon vanished before the true presages of my fate, when, on the morrow, I found the whole family in tears and confusion, and heard my landlord pour forth the most bitter imprecations against the fugitive, who had deflowered his daughter, and even robbed the house. You will ask, which of the passions of my heart were interested on this occasion? they were shame and indignation. All my grief flowed in another channel; I blushed to find my judgment deceived; I scorned to complain; but, in my heart, denounced vengeance against my base betrayer. I silently retired to my apartment, in order to commune with my own thoughts.

“I had borne greater calamities without being driven to despair; I summoned all my fortitude to my assistance, and resolved to live in spite of affliction. Thus determined, I betook myself to the house of a general officer, whose character was fair in the world; and having obtained admission in consequence of my Oriental appearance, ‘To a man of honour,’ said I, ‘the unfortunate need no introduction. My habit proclaims me a Persian; this passport from the States of Holland will confirm that supposition. I have been robbed of jewels to a considerable value, by a wretch whom I favoured with my confidence; and now, reduced to extreme indigence, I come to offer myself as a soldier in the armies of France. I have health and strength sufficient to discharge that duty. Nor am I unacquainted with a military life, which was once my glory and occupation. I therefore sue for your protection, that I may be received, though in the lowest order of them that serve the King; and that your future favour may depend upon my behaviour in that capacity.’

“The general, surprised at my declaration, surveyed me with uncommon attention; he perused my certificate; asked divers questions concerning the art of war, to which I returned such answers as convinced him that I was not wholly ignorant in that particular. In short, I was enlisted as a volunteer in his own regiment, and soon after promoted to the rank of a subaltern, and the office of equerry to his own son, who, at that time, had attained to the degree of colonel, though his age did not exceed eighteen years.

“This young man was naturally of a ferocious disposition, which had been rendered quite untractable by the pride of birth and fortune, together with the licence of his education. As he did not know the respect due to a gentleman, so he could not possibly pay it to those who were, unfortunately, under his command. Divers mortifications I sustained with that fortitude which became a Castilian who lay under obligations to the father; till, at length, laying aside all decorum, he smote me. Sacred Heaven! he smote Don Diego de Zelos, in presence of his whole household.

“Had my sword been endowed with sensation, it would of itself have started from its scabbard at this indignity offered to its master. I unsheathed it without deliberation, saying, ‘Know, insolent boy, he is a gentleman whom thou hast outraged; and thou hast thus cancelled the ties which have hitherto restrained my indignation.’ His servants would have interposed, but he commanded them to retire; and, flushed with that confidence which the impetuosity of his temper inspired, he drew, in his turn, and attacked me with redoubled rage; but his dexterity being very unequal to his courage, he was soon disarmed, and overthrown; when, pointing my sword to his breast, ‘In consideration of thy youth and ignorance,’ said I, ‘I spare that life which thou hast forfeited by thy ungenerous presumption.’

“With these words, I put up my weapon, retired through the midst of his domestics, who, seeing their master safe, did not think proper to oppose my passage, and, mounting my horse, in less than two hours entered the Austrian dominions, resolving to proceed as far as Holland, that I might embark in the first ship for Spain, in order to wash away, with my own blood, or that of my enemies, the cruel stain which hath so long defiled my reputation.

“This was the grievance that still corroded my heart, and rendered ineffectual the inhuman sacrifice I had made to my injured honour. This was the consideration that incessantly prompted, and still importunes me to run every risk of life and fortune, rather than leave my fame under such an ignominious aspersion. I purpose to obey this internal call. I am apt to believe it is the voice of Heaven — of that Providence which manifested its care by sending such a generous auxiliary to my aid, when I was overpowered by banditti, on the very first day of my expedition.”

Having in this manner gratified the curiosity of his deliverer, he expressed a desire of knowing the quality of him to whom he was so signally obliged; and Renaldo did not scruple to make the Castilian acquainted with his name and family. He likewise communicated the story of his unfortunate love, with all the symptoms of unutterable woe, which drew tears from the noble-hearted Spaniard, while, with a groan, that announced the load which overwhelmed his soul, “I had a daughter,” said he, “such as you describe the peerless Monimia; had Heaven decreed her for the arms of such a lover, I, who am now the most wretched, should have been the most happy parent upon earth.”

Thus did these new friends alternately indulge their mutual sorrow, and concert measures for their future operations. Melvil earnestly solicited the Castilian to favour him with his company to England, where, in all probability, both would enjoy the gloomy satisfaction of being revenged upon their common betrayer, Fathom; and, as a farther inducement, he assured him, that, as soon as he should have accomplished the melancholy purposes of his voyage, he would accompany Don Diego to Spain, and employ his whole interest and fortune in his service. The Spaniard, thunderstruck at the extravagant generosity of this proposal, could scarce believe the evidence of his own senses; and, after some pause, replied, “My duty would teach me to obey any command you should think proper to impose; but here my inclination and interest are so agreeably flattered, that I should be equally ungrateful and unwise, in pretending to comply with reluctance.”

This point being settled, they moved forwards to Mons, as soon as Don Diego was in a condition to bear the shock of such a removal, and there remaining until his wounds were perfectly cured, they hired a post-chaise for Ostend, embarked in a vessel at that port, reached the opposite shore of England, after a short and easy passage, and arrived in London without having met with any sinister accident on the road.

As they approached this capital, Renaldo’s grief seemed to regurgitate with redoubled violence. His memory was waked to the most minute and painful exertion of its faculties; his imagination teemed with the most afflicting images, and his impatience became so ardent, that never lover panted more eagerly for the consummation of his wishes, than Melvil, for an opportunity of stretching himself upon the grave of the lost Monimia. The Castilian was astonished, as well as affected, at the poignancy of his grief, which, as a proof of his susceptibility and virtue, endeared him still more to his affection; and though his own misfortunes had rendered him very unfit for the office of a comforter, he endeavoured, by soothing discourse, to moderate the excess of his friend’s affliction.

Though it was dark when they alighted at the inn, Melvil ordered a coach to be called; and, being attended by the Spaniard, who would not be persuaded to quit him upon such an occasion, he repaired to the house of the generous Jew, whose rheum distilled very plentifully at his approach. The Count had already acquitted himself in point of pecuniary obligations to this benevolent Hebrew; and now, after having made such acknowledgments as might be expected from a youth of his disposition, he begged to know by what channel he had received that letter which he had been so kind as to forward to Vienna.

Joshua, who was ignorant of the contents of that epistle, and saw the young gentleman extremely moved, would have eluded his inquiry, by pretending he had forgot the circumstance; but when he understood the nature of the case which was not explained without the manifestation of the utmost inquietude, he heartily condoled the desponding lover, telling him he had in vain employed all his intelligence about that unfortunate beauty, in consequence of Melvil’s letter to him on that subject; and then directed him to the house of the physician, who had brought the fatal billet which had made him miserable.

No sooner did he receive this information than he took his leave abruptly, with promise of returning next day, and hied him to the lodgings of that gentleman, whom he was lucky enough to find at home. Being favoured with a private audience, “When I tell you,” said he, “that my name is Renaldo Count de Melvil, you will know me to be the most unfortunate of men. By that letter, which you committed to the charge of my worthy friend Joshua, the fatal veil was removed from my eyes, which had been so long darkened by the artifices of incredible deceit, and my own incurable misery fully presented to my view. If you were acquainted with the unhappy fair, who hath fallen a victim to my mistake, you will have some idea of the insufferable pangs which I now feel in recollecting her fate. If you have compassion for these pangs, you will not refuse to conduct me to the spot where the dear remains of Monimia are deposited; there let me enjoy a full banquet of woe; there let me feast that worm of sorrow that preys upon my heart. For such entertainment have I revisited this (to me) ill-omened isle; for this satisfaction I intrude upon your condescension at these unseasonable hours; for to such a degree of impatience is my affliction whetted, that no slumber shall assail mine eyelids, no peace reside within my bosom, until I shall have adored that earthly shrine where my Monimia lies! Yet would I know the circumstances of her fate. Did Heaven ordain no angel to minister to her distress? were her last moments comfortless? ha! was not she abandoned to indigence, to insults; left in the power of that inhuman villain who betrayed us both? Sacred Heaven! why did Providence wink at the triumph of such consummate perfidy?”

The physician, having listened with complacency to this effusion, replied, “It is my profession, it is my nature to sympathise with the afflicted. I am a judge of your feelings, because I know the value of your loss. I attended the incomparable Monimia in her last illness, and am well enough acquainted with her story to conclude that she fell a sacrifice to an unhappy misunderstanding, effected and fomented by that traitor who abused your mutual confidence.”

He then proceeded to inform him of all the particulars which we have already recorded, touching the destiny of the beauteous orphan, and concluded with telling him he was ready to yield him any other satisfaction which it was in his power to grant. The circumstances of the tale had put Renaldo’s spirits into such commotion, that he could utter nothing but interjections and unconnected words. When Fathom’s behaviour was described, he trembled with fierce agitation, started from his chair, pronouncing, “Monster! fiend! but we shall one day meet.”

When he was made acquainted with the benevolence of the French lady, he exclaimed, “O heaven-born charity and compassion! sure that must be some spirit of grace sent hither to mitigate the tortures of life! where shall I find her, to offer up my thanks and adoration?” Having heard the conclusion of the detail, he embraced the relater, as the kind benefactor of Monimia, shed a flood of tears in his bosom, and pressed him to crown the obligation, by conducting him to the solitary place where now she rested from all her cares.

The gentleman perceiving the transports of his grief were such as could not be opposed, complied with his request, attended him in the vehicle, and directed the coachman to drive to a sequestered field, at some distance from the city, where stood the church, within whose awful aisle this scene was to be acted. The sexton being summoned from his bed, produced the keys, in consequence of a gratification, after the physician had communed with him apart, and explained the intention of Renaldo’s visit.

During this pause the soul of Melvil was wound up to the highest pitch of enthusiastic sorrow. The uncommon darkness of the night, the solemn silence, and lonely situation of the place, conspired with the occasion of his coming, and the dismal images of his fancy, to produce a real rapture of gloomy expectation, which the whole world would not have persuaded him to disappoint. The clock struck twelve, the owl screeched from the ruined battlement, the door was opened by the sexton, who, by the light of a glimmering taper, conducted the despairing lover to a dreary aisle, and stamped upon the ground with his foot, saying, “Here the young lady lies interred.”

Melvil no sooner received this intimation, than falling on his knees, and pressing his lips to the hallowed earth, “Peace,” cried he, “to the gentle tenant of this silent habitation.” Then turning to the bystanders, with a bloodshot eye, said, “Leave me to the full enjoyment of this occasion; my grief is too delicate to admit the company even of my friends. The rites to be performed require privacy; adieu, then, here must I pass the night alone.”

The doctor, alarmed at this declaration, which he was afraid imported some resolution fatal to his own life, began to repent of having been accessory to the visit, attempted to dissuade him from his purpose, and finding him obstinately determined, called in the assistance of the sexton and coachman, and solicited the aid of Don Diego, to force Renaldo from the execution of his design.

The Castilian knowing his friend was then very unfit for common altercation, interposed in the dispute, saying, “You need not be afraid that he will obey the dictates of despair; his religion, his honour will baffle such temptations; he hath promised to reserve his life for the occasions of his friend; and he shall not be disappointed in his present aim.” In order to corroborate this peremptory address, which was delivered in the French language, he unsheathed his sword, and the others retreating at sight of his weapon, “Count,” said he, “enjoy your grief in full transport; I will screen you from interruption, though at the hazard of my life; and while you give a loose to sorrow, within the ghastly vault, I will watch till morning in the porch, and meditate upon the ruin of my own family and peace.”

He accordingly prevailed upon the physician to retire, after he had satisfied the sexton, and ordered the coachman to return by break of day.

Renaldo, thus left alone, prostrated himself upon the grave, and poured forth such lamentations as would have drawn tears from the most savage hearer. He called aloud upon Monimia’s name, “Are these the nuptial joys to which our fate hath doomed us? Is this the fruit of those endearing hopes, that intercourse divine, that raptured admiration, in which so many hours insensibly elapsed? where now are those attractions to which I yielded up my captive heart? quenched are those genial eyes that gladdened each beholder, and shone the planets of my happiness and peace! cold! cold and withered are those lips that swelled with love, and far outblushed the damask rose! and ah! forever silenced is that tongue, whose eloquence had power to lull the pangs of misery and care! no more shall my attention be ravished with the music of that voice, which used to thrill in soft vibrations to my soul! O sainted spirit! O unspotted shade of her whom I adored; of her whose memory I shall still revere with ever-bleeding sorrow and regret; of her whose image will be the last idea that forsakes this hapless bosom! now art thou conscious of my integrity and love; now dost thou behold the anguish that I feel. If the pure essence of thy nature will permit, wilt thou, ah! wilt thou indulge this wretched youth with some kind signal of thy notice, with some token of thy approbation? wilt thou assume a medium of embodied air, in semblance of that lovely form which now lies mouldering in this dreary tomb, and speak the words of peace to my distempered soul! Return, Monimia, appear, though but for one short moment, to my longing eyes! vouchsafe one smile! Renaldo will be satisfied; Renaldo’s heart will be at rest; his grief no more will overflow its banks, but glide with equal current to his latest hour! Alas! these are the raving of my delirious sorrow! Monimia hears not my complaints; her soul, sublimed far, far above all sublunary cares, enjoys that felicity of which she was debarred on earth. In vain I stretch these eyes, environed with darkness undistinguishing and void. No object meets my view; no sound salutes mine ear, except the noisy wind that whistles through these vaulted caves of death.”

In this kind of exclamation did Renaldo pass the night, not without a certain species of woful enjoyment, which the soul is often able to conjure up from the depths of distress; insomuch that, when the morning intruded on his privacy, he could scarce believe it was the light of day, so fast had fleeted the minutes of his devotion.

His heart being thus disburdened, and his impatience gratified, he became so calm and composed, that Don Diego was equally pleased and astonished at the air of serenity with which he came forth, and embraced him with warm acknowledgments of his goodness and attachment. He frankly owned, that his mind was now more at ease than he had ever found it, since he first received the fatal intimation of his loss; that a few such feasts would entirely moderate the keen appetite of his sorrow, which he would afterwards feed with less precipitation.

He also imparted to the Castilian the plan of a monument, which he had designed for the incomparable Monimia; and Don Diego was so much struck with the description, that he solicited his advice in projecting another, of a different nature, to be erected to the memory of his own ill-fated wife and daughter, should he ever be able to re-establish himself in Spain.

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