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The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom

Chapter 34
He Performs Another Exploit, That Conveys A True Idea Of His Gratitude And
It was not long after this celebrated victory, that he was invited to spend part of
the summer at the house of a country gentleman, who lived about one hundred
miles from London, possessed of a very opulent fortune, the greatest part of
which was expended in acts of old English hospitality. He had met with our hero
by accident at the table of a certain great man, and was so struck with his
manner and conversation, as to desire his acquaintance, and cultivate his
friendship; and he thought himself extremely happy in having prevailed upon him
to pass a few weeks in his family.
Fathom, among his other observations, perceived that there was a domestic
uneasiness, occasioned by a very beautiful young creature about the age of
fifteen, who resided in the house under the title of the gentleman's niece, though
she was in reality his natural daughter, born before his marriage. This
circumstance was not unknown to his lady, by whose express approbation he
had bestowed particular attention upon the education of the child, whom we shall
distinguish by the name of Celinda. Their liberality in this particular had not been
misapplied; for she not only gave marks of uncommon capacity, but, as she grew
up, became more and more amiable in her person, and was now returned from
the boarding school, possessed of every accomplishment that could be acquired
by one of her age and opportunities. These qualifications, which endeared her to
every other person, excited the jealousy and displeasure of her supposed aunt,
who could not bear to see her own children eclipsed by this illegitimate daughter,
whom she therefore discountenanced upon all occasions, and exposed to such
mortifications as would in all appearance drive her from her father's house. This
persecuting spirit was very disagreeable to the husband, who loved Celinda with
a truly paternal affection, and produced abundance of family disquiet; but being a
man of a peaceable and yielding disposition, he could not long maintain the
resolution he had taken in her favour, and therefore he ceased opposing the
malevolence of his wife.
In this unfortunate predicament stood the fair bastard, at the arrival of our
adventurer, who, being allured by her charms, apprised of her situation at the
same time, took the generous resolution to undermine her innocence, that he
might banquet his vicious appetite with the spoils of her beauty. Perhaps such a
brutal design might not have entered his imagination, if he had not observed, in
the disposition of this hapless maiden, certain peculiarities from which he derived
the most confident presages of success. Besides a total want of experience, that
left her open and unguarded against the attacks of the other sex, she discovered
a remarkable spirit of credulity and superstitious fear, which had been cherished
by the conversation of her school-fellows. She was particularly fond of music, in
which she had made some progress; but so delicate was the texture of her
nerves, that one day, while Fathom entertained the company with a favourite air,
she actually swooned with pleasure.