The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom HTML version

Chapter 17
The Step-Dame's Suspicions Being Awakened, She Lays A Snare For Our
Adventurer, From Which He Is Delivered By The Interposition Of His Good
Though the husband swallowed the bait without further inquiry, the penetration of
the wife was not so easily deceived. That same dialogue in Wilhelmina's
apartment, far from allaying, rather inflamed her suspicion; because, in the like
emergency, she herself had once profited by the same, or nearly the same
contrivance. Without communicating her doubts to the father, she resolved to
double her attention to the daughter's future conduct, and keep such a strict eye
over the behaviour of our gallant, that he should find it very difficult, if not
impossible, to elude her observation. For this purpose she took into her pay an
old maiden, of the right sour disposition, who lived in a house opposite to her
own, and directed her to follow the young lady in all her outgoings, whenever she
should receive from the window a certain signal, which the mother-in-law agreed
to make for the occasion. It was not long before this scheme succeeded to her
wish. The door of communication betwixt Wilhelmina's apartment and the
staircase being nailed up by the jeweller's express order, our adventurer was
altogether deprived of those opportunities he had hitherto enjoyed, and was not
at all mortified to find himself so restricted in a correspondence which began to
be tiresome and disagreeable. But the case was far otherwise with his Dulcinea,
whose passion, the more it was thwarted, raged with greater violence, like a fire,
that, from the attempts that are made to extinguish it, gathers greater force, and
flames with double fury.
Upon the second day of her misfortune, she had written a very tender billet,
lamenting her unhappiness in being deprived of those meetings which
constituted the chief joy of her life, and entreating him to contrive some means of
renewing the delicious commerce in an unsuspected place. This intimation she
proposed to convey privately into the hand of her lover, during his next visit to the
family; but both were so narrowly eyed by the mother, that she found the
execution of her design impracticable; and next forenoon, on pretence of going to
church, repaired to the house of a companion, who, being also her confidant,
undertook to deliver the billet with her own hand.
The she-dragon employed by her mother, in obedience to the sign which was
displayed from the window immediately put on her veil, and followed Wilhelmina
at a distance, until she saw her fairly housed. She would not even then return
from her excursion, but hovered about in sight of the door, with a view of making
further observations. In less than five minutes after the young lady disappeared,
the scout perceived her coming out, accompanied by her comrade, from whom
she instantly parted, and bent her way towards the church in good earnest, while
the other steered her course in another direction. The duenna, after a moment's
suspense and consideration, divined the true cause of this short visit, and
resolved to watch the motions of the confidant, whom she traced to the academy
in which our hero lodged, and from which she saw her return, after the supposed
message was delivered.