The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom HTML version

Chapter 23
Acquits Himself With Address In A Nocturnal Riot.
The Italian and the abbe were the first who began to grow whimsical under the
influence of the burgundy; and, in the heat of their elevation, proposed that the
company should amuse themselves during the remaining part of the night, at the
house of an obliging dame, who maintained a troop of fair nymphs for the
accommodation of the other sex. The proposal was approved by all, except the
Hollander, whose economy the wine had not as yet invaded; and, while he
retreated soberly to his own lodgings, the rest of the society adjourned in two
coaches to the temple of love, where they were received by the venerable
priestess, a personage turned of seventy, who seemed to exercise the functions
of her calling, in despite of the most cruel ravages of time; for age had bent her
into the form of a Turkish bow. Her head was agitated by the palsy, like the leaf
of the poplar tree; her hair fell down in scanty parcels, as white as the driven
snow; her face was not simply wrinkled, but ploughed into innumerable furrows;
her jaws could not boast of one remaining tooth; one eye distilled a large quantity
of rheum, by virtue of the fiery edge that surrounded it; the other was altogether
extinguished, and she had lost her nose in the course of her ministration. The
Delphic sibyl was but a type of this hoary matron, who, by her figure, might have
been mistaken for the consort of Chaos, or mother of Time. Yet there was
something meritorious in her appearance, as it denoted her an indefatigable
minister to the pleasure of mankind, and as it formed an agreeable contrast with
the beauty and youth of the fair damsels that wantoned in her train. It resembled
those discords in music, which, properly disposed, contribute to the harmony of
the whole piece; or those horrible giants, who, in the world of romance, used to
guard the gates of the castle in which the enchanted damsel was confined.
This Urganda seemed to be aware of her own importance, and perfectly well
acquainted with the human appetite; for she compelled the whole company to
undergo her embrace. Then a lacquey, in magnificent livery, ushered them into a
superb apartment, where they waited some minutes, without being favoured with
the appearance of the ladies, to the manifest dissatisfaction of the abbe, who,
sending for the gouvernante, reprimanded her severely for her want of politesse.
The old lady, who was by no means a pattern of patience and submission,
retorted his reproaches with great emphasis and vivacity. Her eloquence flowed
altogether in the Covent Garden strain; and I question whether the celebrated
Mother Douglas herself could have made such a figure in an extemporaneous
After having bestowed upon the abbe the epithets of saucy insignificant pimp,
she put him in mind of the good offices which he had received at her hands; how
she had supplied him with bed, board, and bedfellow, in his greatest necessity;
sent him abroad with money in his pockets--and, in a word, cherished him in her
bosom, when his own mother had abandoned him to distress. She then reviled
him for presuming to affront her before strangers, and gave the company to
understand, that the young ladies would wait upon them as soon as they could
be confessed and receive absolution from a worthy cordelier, who was now