The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom HTML version

Chapter 37
Fresh Cause For Exerting His Equanimity And Fortitude.
The reader may have observed, that Fathom, with all his circumspection, had a
weak side, which exposed him to sundry mischances; this was his covetousness,
which on some occasions became too hard for his discretion. At this period of
time it was, by the circumstances of his situation, inflamed to a degree of
rapacity. He was now prevailed upon to take a hand at whist or piquet, and even
to wield the hazard-box; though he had hitherto declared himself an
irreconcilable enemy to all sorts of play; and so uncommon was his success and
dexterity at these exercises, as to surprise his acquaintance, and arouse the
suspicion of some people, who repined at his prosperity.
But in nothing was his conduct more inexcusable than in giving way to the
dangerous temerity of Ratchcali, which he had been always at pains to restrain,
and permitting him to practise the same fraud upon an English nobleman, which
had been executed upon himself at Frankfort. In other words, the Tyrolese, by
the canal of Ferdinand's finger and recommendation, sold a pebble for a real
brilliant, and in a few days the cheat was discovered, to the infinite confusion of
our adventurer, who nevertheless assumed the guise of innocence with so much
art, and expressed such indignation against the villain who had imposed upon his
judgment and unsuspecting generosity, that his lordship acquitted him of any
share in the deceit, and contented himself with the restitution, which he insisted
upon making out of his own pocket, until he should be able to apprehend the
rogue, who had thought proper to abscond for his own safety. In spite of all this
exculpation, his character did not fail to retain a sort of stigma, which indeed the
plainest proofs of innocence are hardly able to efface; and his connexion with
such a palpable knave as the Tyrolese appeared to be, had an effect to his
prejudice in the minds of all those who were privy to the occurrence.
When a man's reputation is once brought in question, every trifle is, by the
malevolence of mankind, magnified into a strong presumption against the culprit.
A few whispers communicated by the envious mouth of slander, which he can
have no opportunity to answer and refute, shall, in the opinion of the world,
convict him of the most horrid crimes; and for one hypocrite who is decked with
the honours of virtue, there are twenty good men who suffer the ignominy of vice;
so well disposed are individuals to trample upon the fame of their fellow-
creatures. If the most unblemished merit is not protected from this injustice, it will
not be wondered at that no quarter was given to the character of an adventurer
like Fathom, who, among other unlucky occurrences, had the misfortune to be
recognised about this time by his two Parisian friends, Sir Stentor Stile and Sir
Giles Squirrel.
These worthy knights-errant had returned to their own country, after having made
a very prosperous campaign in France, at the end of which, however, they very
narrowly escaped the galleys; and seeing the Polish Count seated at the head of
taste and politeness, they immediately circulated the story of his defeat at Paris,
with many ludicrous circumstances of their own invention, and did not scruple to
affirm that he was a rank impostor. When the laugh is raised upon a great man,