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The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom

Chapter 16
His Success Begets A Blind Security, By Which He Is Once Again Well-Nigh
Entrapped In His Dulcinea's Apartment.
In this manner did the crafty Fathom turn to account those ingratiating
qualifications he inherited from nature, and maintain, with incredible assiduity and
circumspection, an amorous correspondence with two domestic rivals, who
watched the conduct of each other with the most indefatigable virulence of
envious suspicion, until an accident happened, which had well-nigh overturned
the bark of his policy, and induced him to alter the course, that he might not be
shipwrecked on the rocks that began to multiply in the prosecution of his present
The jeweller, who, as a German, wanted neither pride nor ostentation, never
failed to celebrate the anniversary of his birth by an annual feast granted to his
neighbours and friends; and on these occasions was accustomed to wear that
chain which, though bequeathed to his daughter, he considered as an ornament
appertaining to the family, whereof he himself was head. Accordingly, when the
time of this festival revolved, he, as usual, ordered Wilhelmina to surrender it for
the day. This injunction, the reader will perceive, our young lady was in no
condition to obey; she had, however, foreseen the demand, and contrived a
scheme of behaviour for the occasion, which she forthwith put in execution.
With an air of uncommon cheerfulness, purposely assumed, she retired to her
closet, on pretence of complying with his desire, and, having employed a few
minutes in rummaging her drawers and disordering her moveables, uttered a
loud shriek, that brought her father instantly into the apartment, where he found
his daughter tossing about her clothes and trinkets with violent demonstrations of
disorder and affright, and heard her, in a lamentable strain, declare that she was
robbed of her chain, and for ever undone. This was so far from being an
agreeable intimation to the jeweller, that he was struck dumb with astonishment
and vexation, and it was not till after a long pause that he pronounced the word
Sacrament! with an emphasis denoting the most mortifying surprise.
Soon as that exclamation escaped from his lips, he flew to the escritoire as if
instinctively, and, joining Wilhelmina in her occupation, tumbled its whole
contents upon the floor in a trice.
While he was thus employed, in the most expressive silence, the wife of his
bosom chanced to pass that way, and seeing them both occupied with such
violence and trepidation, believed at first that they were certainly actuated by the
spirit of frenzy; but, when she interposed, by asking, with great earnestness, the
cause of such transports and distracted behaviour, and heard her husband reply,
with an accent of despair, "The chain! the chain of my forefathers is no more!"
she immediately justified his emotion, by undergoing the same alarm, and,
without further hesitation, engaged herself in the search, beginning with a song,
which might be compared to the hymn of battle among the Greeks, or rather
more aptly to that which the Spartan females sung round the altar of Diana,
surnamed Orthian; for it was attended with strange gesticulations, and, in the
course of utterance, became so loud and shrill, that the guests, who were by this