James Fenimore Cooper.

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give something of a peculiar coloring to the annals of every town on old Europe's
soil, Mr. Cooper's fancy was pleased with the account of a holiday festival, cele-
brated at Vevey in past ages, and still kept up, at intervals, by the good people
of the borough. This is called the Ahhaye des Vignerons — the great holiday of
the vine-dressers — a gay and motley scene, partaking largely of the carnival spirit;
blended, however, with something of the better feeling of the harvest-home. There
were shepherds and shepherdesses, gaily costumed and garlanded, trooping onward
with rustic dance and song — the last echoing many a wild sound heard amid
Alpine pastures ; there were your aproned gardeners, armed with rake and spade —
their sweethearts bearing on the head baskets filled with fruits and flowers — all
uniting in a dance, d la ronde, as they reached the principal point of the proces-
sion, singing, meanwhile, songs of their own ; there were reapers, mowers, and
gleaners, all in quaint and picturesque array, moving onward to rustic chant
and pipe; there were your herdsmen and dairymaids, in Alpine costume, with
blended garlands, from mount and meadow, timing their steps to horn and cow-
bell — singing in chorus the lieart-stirring Ranz des Vaches, whose wild notes
were first breathed amid Alpine echoes :

" L^ zermailli de Colombette " The cowherds of the Alps

De bon matin, sc san luha — At an early hour arose.

Ha, ah ! Ha, ah I Ha, ah ! Ha, ah 1

Liauba 1 Liauba 1 Liauba ! Liauba !

Por taria I In order to milk.

" Venide tote " Come all of j-ou.

BUantz et naire Black and white,

Rodz et motaile Red and dappled,

Dzjouvan et etro Old and 3'oung ;

Dezo ou tzetiano Under this oak

lo vo tario I will milk you;

Dezo ou triemblo Under this poplar

lo ie triudzo, I^t me press you.

Liauba! Liauba! Liauba! Liauba!

Por taria !" In order to milk !"



The concluding scene of the procession was always a rustic wedding ; the bride
being dowered — as was usual at many a great festival of olden time — by the lord
and lady of the manor : the wedding-train, bride and groom, parents and friends,
lord and lady, the weddiug-gifts, the wardrobe and household gear — aye, the
very broom and spindle, with a mimic cottage, all figuring in the long and quaint

This picturesque local festival the American author determined to introduce
into a tale, whose scenes should be laid on the Lake of Geneva and the Pass of
St. Bernard. The cliief incident of the plot was taken from one of those oppres-
sive laws of feudal times, which, from their inherent injustice, he held in abhor-
rence ; in the canton of Berne, before the changes of the last century, the odious
ofiice of executioner, or headsman, was rendered obligatory upon one family, to
be inherited, like a curse — not natural, but arbitrary — not for three or four genera-
tions only, but so long as that family should exist. Upon this fact the whole
plot of the Swiss tale turns ; the efibrts of the hapless father and mother to save
their innocent son from the life of ignominy impending over him by law, inter-
woven w-ith other incidents connected with the holiday festival of the Ahbaye des
Vignerons^ make up the pathetic and picturesque interest of the book. The
opening pages of the narrative are given, the account of the festival itself being
too long for insertion.


The year Avas iu its fall, according to a poetical expression of our own, and the
morning bright, as the fairest and swiftest bark that navigated the Leman lay at the
quay of the ancient and historical town of Geneva, ready to depart for the country of
Vaud. This vessel was called the Winkelried, in commemoration of Ai'nold of that
name, who had so generously sacrificed life and hopes to the good of his country, and
who deservedly ranks among the truest of those heroes of whom we have well-authen-
ticated legends. She had been launched at the commencement of the summer, and
still bore at the fore-top-mast-head a bunch of evergreens, profusely ornamented with
knots and streamers of riband, the offerings of the patron's female friends, and
the fancied gage of success. The use of steam, and the presence of unemployed
seamen of various nations, in this idle season of the warlike, are slowly leading to inno-
vations and improvements in the navigation of the lakes of Italy and Switzerland, it is
true ; but time, even at this hour, has done little toward changing the habits and
opinions of those who ply on these inland waters for a subsistence. The Winkelried
had the two low, diverging masts; the attenuated and picturesquely poised latine
yards ; the light, triangular sails ; the sweeping and projecting gangways ; the receding
and falling stern ; the high and peaked prow — with, in general, the classical and quaint
air of those vessels that arc seen in the older paintings and engravings. A gilded ball
gUttered on the summit of each mast — for no canvas was set higher than the slender
and well-balanced yards — and it was above one of these that the wilted bush, with its
gay appendages, trembled and fluttered in a fresh western wind. The hull was worthy
of so much goodly apparel, being spacious, commodious, and, according to the wants
of the navigation, of approved mould. The freight, which was sufficiently obvious —
much the greatest part being piled on the ample deck — consisted of what our own


watermen would term an assorted cargo. It was, however, chiefly composed of those
foreign hixnries — as they were then called, though use has now rendered them nearly
indispensable to domestic economy — which were consumed, in singular moderation, by
the more affluent of those Avho dwelt deeper among the mountains ; and of the two
principal products of the dairy ; the latter being destined to a market in the less
Terdant coimtries of the south. To these must be added the personal efiects of an un-
usual number of passengers, which were stowed on the toj) of the heavier part of the
cargo, with an order and care that their value would scarcely seem to require. The
arrangement, however, was necessary to the convenience, and even to the security of
the bark, having been made by the patron with a view to posting each individual by
his particular Avallet, in a manner to prevent confusion in the crowd, and to leave the
crew space and op^jortunity to discharge the necessary duties of the navigation.

With a vessel stowed, sails ready to drop, the wmd fair, and the day drawing on
apace, the patron of the Winkelried, who was also her owner, felt a very natural wish
to depart. But an unlooked-for obstacle had just presented itself at the water-gate,
where the ofiicer charged with the duty of looking into the characters of all who Avent
and came, was posted, and around whom some fifty representatives of half as many
nations were now clustered in a clamorous throng, filling the air Avith a confusion of
tongues that had some probable affinity to the noises which deranged the Avorkmen of
Babel. It appeared, by parts of sentences, and broken remonstrances, equally ad-
dressed to the patron, AA^hose name was Bajitiste, and to the guardian of the GencA'ese
laws, a rumor was rife among these truculent traA'ellers, that Balthazar, the headsman,
or executioner, of the poAverful and aristocratical canton of Berne, was about to be
smuggled into their company by the cupidity of the former, contrary, not only to Avhat
was due to the feelings and rights of men of more creditable callings, but, as it was
A^ehemently and plausibly insisted, to the A'ery safety of those Avho Avere about to trust
their fortunes to the vicissitudes of the elements.

Chance, and the ingenuity of Baptiste, had collected, on this occasion, as parti-
colored and heterogeneous an assemblage of human passions, interests, dialects, Avdshes,
and opinions, as any admirer of diversity of character could desire. There were
several small traders, some returmng from adventures in Germany and France, and
some bound southward, with their scanty stock of Avares ; a few poor scholars, bent on
a literary pilgrunage to Rome ; an artist or two, better proAuded with enthusiasm than
with either knoAvledge or taste, journeying with poetical longings toward skies and
tints of Italy ; a troupe of street jugglers, Avho had been turning their Neapolitan buf-
foonery to account among the duller and less sophisticated inhabitants of SAA'abia;
divers lacqueys out of place; some six or eight capitalists Avho liAxd on their wits, and
a nameless herd of that set Avhich the French call bad " subjects ;" a title that is just
now, oddly enough, disputed betAveen the dregs of society and a class that would fain
become its exclusive leaders and lords.

THE II E A D S M A K . 271

These, with some slight qvialifications that it is not yet necessary to particularize,
composed that essential requisite of all fair representation — the majority. Those who
remained were of a different caste. Near the noisy crowd of tossing heads and bran-
dished arms in and around the gate, was a party containing the venerable and still fine
figure of a man in the travelling dress of one of superior condition, and who did not
need the testimony of the two or three liveried menials that stood near his person, to
give an assurance of his belonging to the more fortunate of his fellow-creatures, as good
and evil are usually estimated in calculating the chances of life. On his arm leaned a
female, so young, and yet so lovely, as to cause regret in all who observed her fading
color, the sweet but melancholy smile that occasionally lighted her mild and pleasing
features at some of the more marked exuberances of folly among the crowd, and a form
which, notwithstanding her lessened bloom, was nearly perfect. If these symptoms
of deUcate health did not prevent this fair girl from being amused at the volubility and
arguments of the different orators, she oftener manifested apprehension at finding
herself tlie companion of creatures so untrained, so violent, so exacting, and so grossly
Ignorant. A young man, wearing the roquelaure, and other similar ajipendages, of a
Swiss in foreign military service, a character to excite neither observation nor comment
in that age, stood at her elbow, answering the questions that from time to time were
addressed to him by the others, in a manner to show he was an intimate acquaint-
ance, though there were signs about his travelling equipage to prove he was not
exactly of their ordinary society. Of all who were not immediately engaged in the
boisterous discussion at the gate, this young soldier, who was commonly addressed
by those near him as Monsieur Sigismund, was much the most interested in its
progress. Though of herculean frame, and evidently of unusual physical force, he was
singularly agitated. His cheek, which had not yet lost the freshness due to the moun-
tain air, would, at times, become pale as that of the wilting flower near him ; Avhilo at
others, the blood rushed across his brow in a torrent that seemed to threaten a rupture
of the starting vessels in which it so tumultuously flowed. Unless addressed, however,
he said nothing; his distress gradually subsiding, imtil it was merely betrayed by the
convulsive writhings of his fingers, which unconsciously grasped the hilt of his sword.

The uproar had now continued for some time : throats were getting sore, tongues
clammy, voices hoarse, and words incoherent, when a sudden check was given to the
useless clamor by an incident quite in unison with the disturbance itself. Two
enormous dogs were in attendance hard by, apparently awaiting the movements of
their respective masters, who were lost to view in the mass of heads and bodies that
stopped the passage of the gate. One of these animals Avas covered with a short,
thick coating of hair, whose prevailing color was a dingy yellow, but whose throat and
legs, with most of the inferior parts of the body, were of a dull white. Nature, on
the other hand, had given a dusky, brownish, shaggy dress to his rival, though his
general hue was relieved by a few shades of a more decided black. As respects


weight and force of body, the difference between the brutes was not very obvious ;
though j^erhaps it sUghtly inclined in favor of the former, who in length, if not in
strength, of limb, however, had more manifestly the advantage.

It would much exceed the intelligence Ave have brought to this task to explain
how flir the instuicts of the dogs sympathized in the savage passions of the human
beings around them, or whether they were conscious that their masters had espoused
opposite sides in the quarrel, and that it became them, as faithful esquires, to tilt
together by way of supporting the honor of those they followed ; but, after measur-
ing each other for the usual period with the eye, they came violently together, body
to body, in the manner of their species. The collision was fearful, and the struggle,
being between two creatures of so great size and strength, of the fiercest kind. The
roar resembled that of lions, effectually droAvning the clamor of himian voices. Every
tongue Avas mute, and each head was turned in the direction of the combatants. The
trembling girl recoiled Avith aA^erted face, Avhile the young man stepped eagerly
forward to protect her, for the conflict Avas near the place they occupied ; but power-
ful and active as Avas his frame, he hesitated about mingling in an affray so ferocious.
At this critical moment, Avhen it seemed that the furious brutes were on the point of
tearing each other in pieces, the croAvd Avas pushed violently open, and tAvo men burst,
side by side, out of the mass. One Avore the black robes, the conical, Asiatic-looking,
tufted cap, and the white belt of an Augustine monk ; and the other had the attire of
a man addicted to the seas, without, however, being so decidedly maritime as to leave
his character a matter that was quite beyond dispute. The former Avas fair, ruddy,
with an oval, happy face, of which internal peace and good-Avill to his fellows Avere the
principal characteristics ; while the latter had the SAvarthy hue, bold lineaments, and
glittering eye of an Italian.

" Uberto !" said the monk, reproachfully, affecting the sort of offended manner that
one Avould be apt to shoAV to a more intelligent creature, Avilling, but at the same time
afraid, to trust his person nearer to the furious conflict ; " shame on thee, old Uberto !
Hast forgotten thy schooling — hast no respect for thine OAvn good name ?"

On the other hand, the Italian did not stop to expostulate ; but throAving himself
with reckless hardihood on the dogs, by dint of kicks and blows, of Avhich much the
heaviest portion fell on the folloAver of the Augustine, he succeeded in separating the

" Ha, Nettuno !" he exclaimed, Avith the severity of one accustomed to exercise a
stern and absolute authority, so soon as this daring exploit was achieved, and he had
recovered a little of the breath lost in the violent exertion — " Avhat dost mean ? Canst
find no better amusement than quarrelling Avith a dog of San Bernardo ! Fie upon
thee, foolish Nettuno ! I am ashamed of thee, dog : thou, that hast discreetly navigated
so many seas, to lose thy temper on a bit of fresh Avater !"

The dog, Avhich was, in truth, no other than a noble animal of the well-knoAvn New-


foundlaiid breed, hung his head, and made signs of contrition, by drawing nearer to
his master, with a tail that swept the ground ; wliile his late adversary quietly seated
himself with a species of monastic dignity, looking from the speaker to his foe, as if
endeavoring to comprehend the rebuke which his powerful and gallant antagonist took

so meekly.

"Father," said the Italian, "our dogs arebotli too useful, in their several ways, and
both of too good character to be enemies. I know Uberto of old, for the paths of St.
Bernard and I are no strangers, and, if report does the animal no more than justice,
he hath not been an idle cur among the snows."

" He liath been the instrument of savmg seven Christians from death," answered
the monk, beginning again to regard his mastift' with friendly looks, for at first there
had been keen reproach and severe displeasure hi his manner—" not to speak of the
bodies that have been found by his activity, after the vital spark had fled."

" As for the latter, father, we can count little more in favor of the dog than a good
intention. Valuing services on this scale, I might ere this have been the holy father
himself, or at least a cardinal ; but seven lives saved, for their owners to die quietly in
their beds, and with opportunity to make their peace with Heaven, is no bad recom-
mendation for a dog. N'ettuno, here, is every way worthy to be the friend of old
Uberto, for thirteen drowning men have I myself seen him draw from the greedy jaws
of sharks and other monsters of deep water. What dost thou say, fother ; shall we
make peace between the brutes ?"

The Augusthie expressed his readmess, as Avell as his desire, to aid in an effort so
laudable, and by dint of commands and persuasion, the dogs, who were predisposed to
peace from having had a mutual taste of the bitterness of Avar, and who noAV felt for
each other the respect which courage and force are apt to create, were soon on the
usual terms of animals of their kind that have no particular groimds for contention.


Enjoyment of the humorous, a relish of the comical and ludicrous, were very
strongly marked in Mr, Cooper's familiar life. At the table, by the fireside, his
conversation was full of cheerful vivacity, of fun and pleasantry. He talked in-
variably with great freedom and fulness — often with an earnestness, a power, and
an eloquence which riveted the attention of those about him. While touching
upon some subject of a grave nature — especially when moral feeling was fully
aroused — language, and manner, and countenance would appear severe and stern
in the extreme. An hour later, perhajjs, the same fine countenance would become
beaming with kindliness, or glowing with merriment. He delighted in a
humorous anecdote, in a witty remark. When, in the course of reading, any
thing of this nature came in his way, he was never satisfied unless it was shared
with others ; very frequently the laughable passage was carried immediately into
the family circle, and read by him with infinite zest, and with a singularly hearty
laugh — tears of merriment, meanwhile, rolling down his cheeks.

The idea of a satirical tale, in which the parts usually filled by men should
be gravely carried out by monkeys, suggested itself to Mr. Cooper, while travel-
ling in Europe. In the year 1835, the book was written, and published under the
name of '■ The Monikins." Tlie leading idea was certainly excellent ; two human

Dr KeiiBono took r fid. and with ils endlietraced all
tlie dpsircd oljecis vnlli great readuieas smd skill

Tlu MmiJam. Pa^e 29S




beings, each liarticularly mx-II .sketched in liis Avay— the English baronet, Sir John
Goklencalf, and the Yankee skipper, Captain Xoah Poke, of " Stunin'tnn" — are
made to travel in company througli monkeyland, visiting regions -which, under
the names of Leaphigh, Leaplow, and Leapthrongh, are intended to represent
England, America, and France. There are pages full of wit, fun, the most clever
satire, and strong truth. But, as a complete work, the book was scarcely success-
ful ; it was too long, the vein of irony was often too complicated, while the
blending of the humorous story of Sir John and his lady-love, introduced to give
the volumes something of the character of a regular novel, was clearly an error.
The work was hastily written ; had the author given himself time — which a task
of this nature rerpiires above all others ; had he condensed his two volumes into
one, rejected the love story, and thrown aside the more complicated passages of
satire, the work would, no doubt, have come nearer to the idea he had conceived.
But " The Monikins" is one of those books which prove that publishers may
sometimes mistake their own interests. It would have been the author's wish to
M^rite a single volume, exclusively filled with his ]\[onikin people — your Lord
Chatterinos, your Lady Chatterissas, your Brigadiers Downright, your Judges,
People's-Friends : something approaching to the regular novel in size and plot was
required of him, in order to attract, if possible, the general reader. The attempt
to combine both objects proved, as might have been foreseen, an error.

1*1 ^'^^


The group which drew my attention was composed of six individuals, two of which
were animals of the genus homo, or what is vulgarly termed man; and the remainder
wei'e of the order primates, and of the class mam^malia., or what, in common parlance,
are called monkeys.

The first were Savoyards, and may be generally described as being imvxtshed,
ragged, and carnivoro^is ; in color, swarthy ; in lineaments and expression, avaricious
and shrewd ; and in appetites, voracious. The latter were of the common species, of
the usual size, and of approved gravity. There were two of each sex ; being very
equally paired as to years and external advantages.

The monkeys were all habited with more or less of the ordinary attire of our
modern European civilization ; but i»eculiar care had been taken with the toilet of the
senior of the two males. This individual had on the coat of a hussar — a cut that
would have given a particular part of his body a more military contour than comported
with his real character, were it not for a red petticoat, that was made shorter than
common — less, however, with a view to show a pretty foot and ankle, than to leave
the nether limbs at liberty to go through with cei-tain extravagant efforts, which the
Savoyards were unmercifully exacting from his natural agility. He wore a Spanish
hat, decorated with a few bedraggled feathers ; a white cockade, and a wooden sword.
In addition to the latter, he carried in his hand a small broom.

Observing that my attention Avas strongly attracted to this party, the ill-favored
Savoyai-ds immediately commenced a series of experiments in saltation, with the sole



view, beyond a question, to profit by my curiosity. The inoffensive victims of this act
of brutal tyranny submitted witli a ])atience worthy of the i.rofouiidest philosopliy,
meeting the wishes of their masters with a readiness and dexterity that was beyond all
praise. One swept the earth, another leaped on tlie back of a doi;, a third threw
himself head-over-heels, aj^ain and again, without a murmur ; and tlie fourth moved
graeefully to and fro, like a young girl in a quadrille. All this might have passed
without calling for i)ar)icu]ar remark (since, alas ! the spectacle is only too common),
were it not for certain elocpient ai)peals that were made to me, through the eyes, by the
individual in the hussar jacket. His look was rarely averted from my face for a
moment, and, in this way, a silent communion was soon established between us. I
observed that his gravity was indomitable. Nothing could elicit a smile, or a change
of countenance. Obedient to the whip of his brutal master, he never refused the
required leap ; for minutes at a time, his legs and petticoat described confused circles
in the air, appearing to have taken a final leave of the earth ; but, the eftbrt ended, he
invariably descended to the ground Avith a quiet dignity and composure, that showed
how little the inward monkey partook of the antics of the outward animal. Drawing
my companion a little aside, I venture.l to suggest a few tlioughts to hun on the

" Really, Captain Poke, it appears to me there is great injustice in the treatment
of these i)oor creatures !" I said. " What right have these two foul-looking black-
guards to seize upon beings much more interesting to the eye, and, I dare say, far
moi-e intellectual, than themselves, and cause them to throw their legs about in this
extravagant manner, under the penalty of stripes, and Avithout regard to their feelings,
or to their convenience ? I say, sir, the measure a]Ji)ears to me to be intolerably op-
pressive, and it calls for i)rompt redress."
" King !"

" King or subject, it does not alter the moral deformity of the act. What have

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Cooper gallery; → online text (page 29 of 43)