James Fenimore Cooper.

The Monikins online

. (page 10 of 34)
Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Monikins → online text (page 10 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of this arrangement are altogether of a higher and more useful nature;
nor do we usually recognize our friends by their countenances, which at
the best are no more than so many false signals, but by their tails."

"This is admirable! What a facility you possess for recognizing an
acquaintance who may happen to be up a tree! But may I presume to
inquire, Dr. Reasono, what are the most approved of the advantages of
the politico-numerical-identity system? For impatience is devouring my

"They are connected with the interests of government. You know, sir,
that society is established for the purposes of governments, and
governments, themselves, mainly to facilitate contributions and
taxations. Now, by the numerical system, we have every opportunity
of including the whole monikin race in the collections, as they are
periodically checked off by their numbers. The idea was a happy thought
of an eminent statistician of ours, who gained great credit at court
by the invention, and, in fact, who was admitted to the academy in
consequence of its ingenuity."

"Still it must be admitted, my dear Doctor," put in Lord Chatterino,
always with the modesty, and, perhaps I might add, with the generosity
of youth, "that there are some among us who deny that society was
made for governments, and who maintain that governments were made for
society; or, in other words, for monikins."

"Mere theorists, my good lord; and their opinions, even if true, are
never practised on. Practice is everything in political matters; and
theories are of no use, except as they confirm practice."

"Both theory and practice are perfect," I cried, "and I make no doubt
that the classification into colors, or castes, enables the authorities
to commence the imposts with the richest, or the 'purples.'"

"Sir, monikin prudence never lays the foundation-stone at the summit;
it seeks the base of the edifice; and as contributions are the walls of
society, we commence with the bottom. When you shall know us better, Sir
John Goldencalf, you will begin to comprehend the beauty and benevolence
of the entire monikin economy."

I now adverted to the frequent use of this word "monikin"; and,
admitting my ignorance, desired an explanation of the term, as well as a
more general insight into the origin, history, hopes, and polity of the
interesting strangers; if they can be so called who were already so well
known to me. Dr. Reasono admitted that the request was natural and
was entitled to respect; but he delicately suggested the necessity of
sustaining the animal function by nutriment, intimating that the
ladies had supped but in an indifferent way the evening before, and
acknowledging that, philosopher as he was, he should go through the
desired explanations after improving the slight acquaintance he had
already made with certain condiments in one of the armoires, with far
more zeal and point, than could possibly be done in the present state
of his appetite. The suggestion was so very plausible that there was no
resisting it; and, suppressing my curiosity as well as I could, the bell
was rung. I retired to my bed-chamber to resume so much of my attire as
was necessary to the semi-civilization of man, and then the necessary
orders were given to the domestics, who, by the way, were suffered to
remain under the influence of those ordinary and vulgar prejudices
that are pretty generally entertained by the human, against the monikin

Previously to separating from my new friend Dr. Reasono, however, I took
him aside, and stated that I had an acquaintance in the hotel, a person
of singular philosophy, after the human fashion, and a great traveller;
and that I desired permission to let him into the secret of our intended
lecture on the monikin economy, and to bring him with me as an auditor.
To this request, No. 22,817, brown-study color, or Dr. Reasono, gave
a very cordial assent; hinting delicately, at the same time, his
expectation that this new auditor, who, of course, was no other than
Captain Noah Poke, would not deem it disparaging to his manhood, to
consult the sensibilities of the ladies, by appearing in the garments
of that only decent and respectable tailor and draper, nature. To this
suggestion I gave a ready approval; when each went his way, after the
usual salutations of bowing and tail-waving, with a mutual promise of
being punctual to the appointment.


Mr. Poke listened to my account of all that had passed, with a very
sedate gravity. He informed me that he had witnessed so much ingenuity
among the seals, and had known so many brutes that seemed to have the
sagacity of men, and so many men who appeared to have the stupidity of
brutes, that he had no difficulty whatever in believing every word I
told him. He expressed his satisfaction, too, at the prospect of hearing
a lecture on natural philosophy and political economy from the lips of
a monkey; although he took occasion to intimate that no desire to learn
anything lay at the bottom of his compliance; for, in his country, these
matters were pretty generally studied in the district schools, the very
children who ran about the streets of 'Stunin'tun' usually knowing more
than most of the old people in foreign parts. Still a monkey might have
some new ideas; and for his part, he was willing to hear what every
one had to say; for, if a man didn't put in a word for himself in this
world, he might be certain no one else would take the pains to speak
for him. But when I came to mention the details of the programme of
the forthcoming interview, and stated that it was expected the audience
would wear their own skins, out of respect to the ladies, I greatly
feared that my friend would have so far excited himself as to go into
fits. The rough old sealer swore some terrible oaths, protesting "that
he would not make a monkey of himself, by appearing in this garb, for
all the monikin philosophers, or high-born females, that could be stowed
in a ship's hold; that he was very liable to take cold; that he once
knew a man who undertook to play beast in this manner, and the first
thing the poor devil knew, he had great claws and a tail sprouting out
of him; a circumstance that he had always attributed to a just judgment
for striving to make himself more than Providence had intended him for;
that, provided a man's ears were naked, he could hear just as well as if
his whole body was naked; that he did not complain of the monkeys going
in their skins, and that they ought, in reason, not to meddle with
his clothes; that he should be scratching himself the whole time, and
thinking what a miserable figure he cut; that he would have no place to
keep his tobacco; that he was apt to be deaf when he was cold; that he
would be d - - d if he did any such thing; that human natur' and monkey
natur' were not the same, and it was not to be expected that men and
monkeys should follow exactly the same fashions; that the meeting
would have the appearance of a boxing match, instead of a philosophical
lecture; that he never heard of such a thing at Stunin'tun; that he
should feel sneaking at seeing his own shins in the presence of ladies;
that a ship always made better weather under some canvas than under bare
poles; that he might possibly be brought to his shirt and pantaloons,
but as for giving up these, he would as soon think of cutting the
sheet-anchor off his bows, with the vessel driving on a lee-shore; that
flesh and blood were flesh and blood, and they liked their comfort; that
he should think the whole time he was about to go in a-swimming, and
should be looking about for a good place to dive"; together with a great
many more similar objections, that have escaped me in the multitude of
things of greater interest which have since occupied my time. I have
frequently had occasion to observe, that, when a man has one good, solid
reason for his decision, it is no easy matter to shake it; but, that
he who has a great many, usually finds them of far less account in the
struggle of opinions. Such proved to be the fact with Captain Poke on
the present occasion. I succeeded in stripping him of his garments, one
by one, until I got him reduced to the shirt, where, like a stout ship
that is easily brought to her bearings by the breeze, he "stuck and
hung" in a manner to manifest it would require a heavy strain to bring
him down any lower. A lucky thought relieved us all from the dilemma.
There were a couple of good large bison-skins among my effects, and on
suggesting to Dr. Reasono the expediency of encasing Captain Poke in
the folds of one of them, the philosopher cheerfully assented, observing
that any object of a natural and simple formation was agreeable to the
monikin senses; their objections were merely to the deformities of art,
which they deemed to be so many offences against Providence. On this
explanation, I ventured to hint that, being still in the infancy of the
new civilization, it would be very agreeable to my ancient habits, could
I be permitted to use one of the skins, also, while Mr. Poke occupied
the other. Not the slightest objection was raised to the proposal, and
measures were immediately taken to prepare us to appear in good company.
Soon after I received from Dr. Reasono a protocol of the conditions that
were to regulate the approaching interview. This document was written in
Latin, out of respect to the ancients, and as I afterwards understood,
it was drawn up by my Lord Chatterino, who had been educated for the
diplomatic career at home, previously to the accident which had thrown
him, alas! into human hands. I translate it freely, for the benefit of
the ladies, who usually prefer their own tongues to any others.

Protocol of an interview that is to take place between Sir John
Goldencalf, Bart., of Householder Hall, in the kingdom of Great Britain,
and No. 22,817, brown-study color, or Socrates Reasono, F.U.D.G.E.,
Professor of Probabilities in the University of Monikinia, and in the
kingdom of Leaphigh:

The contracting parties agree as follows, viz.:

ARTICLE 1. That there shall be an interview.

ART. 2. That the said interview shall be a peaceable interview, and not
a belligerent interview.

ART. 3. That the said interview shall be logical, explanatory, and

ART. 4. That during said interview, Dr. Reasono shall have the privilege
of speaking most, and Sir John Goldencalf the privilege of hearing most.

ART. 5. That Sir John Goldencalf shall have the privilege of asking
questions, and Dr. Reasono the privilege of answering them.

ART. 6. That a due regard shall be had to both human and monikin
prejudices and sensibilities.

ART. 7. That Dr. Reasono, and any monikins who may accompany him, shall
smooth their coats, and otherwise dispose of their natural vestments, in
a way that shall be as agreeable as possible to Sir John Goldencalf and
his friend.

ART. 8. That Sir John Goldencalf, and any man who may accompany him,
shall appear in bison-skins, wearing no other clothing, in order to
render themselves as agreeable as possible to Dr. Reasono and his

ART. 9. That the conditions of this protocol shall be respected.

ART. 10. That any doubtful significations in this protocol shall be
interpreted, as near as may be, in favor of both parties.

ART. 11. That no precedent shall be established to the prejudice of
either the human or the monikin dialect, by the adoption of the Latin
language on this occasion.

Delighted with this proof of attention on the part of my Lord
Chatterino, I immediately left a card for that young nobleman, and then
seriously set about preparing myself, with an increased scrupulousness,
for the fulfilment of the smallest condition of the compact. Captain
Poke was soon ready, and I must say that he looked more like a quadruped
on its hind legs, in his new attire, than a human being. As for my own
appearance, I trust it was such as became my station and character.

At the appointed time all the parties were assembled, Lord Chatterino
appearing with a copy of the protocol in his hand. This instrument was
formally read, by the young peer, in a very creditable manner, when a
silence ensued, as if to invite comment. I know not how it is, but I
never yet heard the positive stipulations of any bargain, that I did not
feel a propensity to look out for weak places in them. I had begun to
see that the discussion might lead to argument, argument to comparisons
between the two species, and something like an esprit de corps was
stirring within me. It now struck me that a question might be fairly
raised as to the propriety of Dr. Reasono's appearing with THREE
backers, while I had but ONE. The objection was therefore urged on my
part, I hope, in a modest and conciliatory manner. In reply, my Lord
Chatterino observed, it was true the protocol spoke in general terms of
mutual supporters, but if -

"Sir John Goldencalf would be at the trouble of referring to the
instrument itself, he would see that the backers of Dr. Reasono were
mentioned in the plural number, while that of Sir John himself was
alluded to only in the singular number."

"Perfectly true, my lord; but you will, however, permit me to remark
that two monikins would completely fulfil the conditions in favor of Dr.
Reasono, while he appears here with three; there certainly must be some
limits to this plurality, or the Doctor would have a right to attend the
interview accompanied by all the inhabitants of Leaphigh."

"The objection is highly ingenious, and creditable in the last degree
to the diplomatic abilities of Sir John Goldencalf; but, among monikins,
two females are deemed equal to only one male, in the eye of the law.
Thus, in cases which require two witnesses, as in conveyances of real
estate, two male monikins are sufficient, whereas it would be necessary
to have four female signatures, in order to give the instrument
validity. In the legal sense, therefore, I conceive that Dr. Reasono is
attended by only two monikins."

Captain Poke hereupon observed that this provision in the law of
Leaphigh was a good one; for he often had occasion to remark that women,
quite half the time, did not know what they were about; and he thought,
in general, that they require more ballast than men.

"This reply would completely cover the case, my lord," I answered,
"were the protocol purely a monikin document, and this assembly purely a
monikin assembly. But the facts are notoriously otherwise. The document
is drawn up in a common vehicle of thought among scholars, and I gladly
seize the opportunity to add, that I do not remember to have seen a
better specimen of modern latinity."

"It is undeniable, Sir John," returned Lord Chatterino, waving his tail
in acknowledgment of the compliment, "that the protocol itself is in
a language that has now become common property; but the mere medium
of thought, on such occasions, is of no great moment, provided it
is neutral as respects the contracting parties; moreover, in this
particular case, article 11 of the protocol contains a stipulation
that no legal consequences whatever are to follow the use of the
Latin language; a stipulation that leaves the contracting parties in
possession of their original rights. Now, as the lecture is to be a
monikin lecture, given by a monikin philosopher, and on monikin grounds,
I humbly urge that it is proper the interview should generally be
conducted on monikin principles."

"If by monikin grounds, is meant monikin ground (which I have a right to
assume, since the greater necessarily includes the less), I beg leave to
remind your lordship, that the parties are, at this moment, in a neutral
country, and that, if either of them can set up a claim of territorial
jurisdiction, or the rights of the flag, these claims must be admitted
to be human, since the locataire of this apartment is a man, in control
of the locus in quo, and pro hac vice, the suzerain."

"Your ingenuity has greatly exceeded my construction, Sir John, and
I beg leave to amend my plea. All I mean is, that the leading
consideration in this interview, is a monikin interest - that we are met
to propound, explain, digest, animadvert on, and embellish a monikin
theme - that the accessory must be secondary to the principal - that
the lesser must merge, not in your sense, but in my sense, in the
greater - and, by consequence, that - "

"You will accord me your pardon, my dear lord, but I hold - "

"Nay, my good Sir John, I trust to your intelligence to be excused if I
say - "

"One word, my Lord Chatterino, I pray you, in order that - "

"A thousand, very cheerfully, Sir John, but - "

"My Lord Chatterino!"

"Sir John Goldencalf!"

Hereupon we both began talking at the same time, the noble young monikin
gradually narrowing down the direction of his observations to the single
person of Mrs. Vigilance Lynx, who, I afterwards had occasion to know,
was an excellent listener; and I, in my turn, after wandering from
eye to eye, settled down into a sort of oration that was especially
addressed to the understanding of Captain Noah Poke. My auditor
contrived to get one ear entirely clear of the bison's skin, and nodded
approbation of what fell from me, with a proper degree of human and
clannish spirit. We might possibly have harangued in this desultory
manner, to the present time, had not the amiable Chatterissa advanced,
and, with the tact and delicacy which distinguish her sex, by placing
her pretty patte on the mouth of the young nobleman, effectually checked
his volubility. When a horse is running away, he usually comes to a dead
stop, after driving through lanes, and gates, and turnpikes, the moment
he finds himself master of his own movements, in an open field. Thus,
in my own case, no sooner did I find myself in sole possession of the
argument, than I brought it to a close. Dr. Reasono improved the pause,
to introduce a proposition that, the experiment already made by myself
and Lord Chatterino being evidently a failure, he and Mr. Poke should
retire and make an effort to agree upon an entirely new programme of the
proceedings. This happy thought suddenly restored peace; and, while the
two negotiators were absent, I improved the opportunity to become better
acquainted with the lovely Chatterissa and her female Mentor. Lord
Chatterino, who possessed all the graces of diplomacy, who could turn
from a hot and angry discussion, on the instant, to the most bland and
winning courtesy, was foremost in promoting my wishes, inducing his
charming mistress to throw aside the reserve of a short acquaintance,
and to enter, at once, into a free and friendly discourse.

Some time elapsed before the plenipotentiaries returned, for it appears
that, owing to a constitutional peculiarity, or, as he subsequently
explained it himself, a "Stunin'tun principle," Captain Poke conceived
he was bound, in a bargain, to dispute every proposition which came from
the other party. This difficulty would probably have proved insuperable,
had not Dr. Reasono luckily bethought him of a frank and liberal
proposal to leave every other article, without reserve, to the sole
dictation of his colleague, reserving to himself the same privilege for
all the rest. Noah, after being well assured that the philosopher was
no lawyer, assented; and the affair, once begun in this spirit of
concession, was soon brought to a close. And here I would recommend this
happy expedient to all negotiators of knotty and embarrassing treaties,
since it enables each party to gain his point, and probably leaves as
few openings for subsequent disputes, as any other mode that has yet
been adopted. The new instrument ran as follows, it having been written,
in duplicate, in English and in Monikin. It will be seen that the
pertinacity of one of the negotiators gave it very much the character of
a capitulation.

PROTOCOL of an Interview, &c., &c., &c.

The contracting parties agree as follows, viz.:

ARTICLE 1. There shall be an interview.

ART. 2. Agreed; provided all the parties can come and go at pleasure.

ART. 3. The said interview shall be conducted, generally, on
philosophical and liberal principles.

ART. 4. Agreed; provided tobacco may be used at discretion.

ART. 5. That either party shall have the privilege of propounding
questions, and either party the privilege of answering them.

ART. 6. Agreed; provided no one need listen, or no one talk, unless so

ART. 7. The attire of all present shall be conformable to the abstract
rules of propriety and decorum.

ART. 8. Agreed; provided the bison-skins may be reefed, from time to
time, according to the state of the weather.

ART. 9. The provisions of this protocol shall be rigidly respected.

ART. 10. Agreed; provided no advantage be taken by lawyers.

Lord Chatterino and myself pounced upon the respective documents like
two hawks, eagerly looking for flaws, or the means of maintaining the
opinions we had before advanced, and which we had both shown so much
cleverness in supporting.

"Why, my lord, there is no provision for the appearance of any monikins
at all at this interview!"

"The generality of the terms leaves it to be inferred that all may come
and go who may be so disposed."

"Your pardon, my lord; article 8 contains a direct allusion to
BISON-SKINS in the PLURAL, and under circumstances from which it
follows, by a just deduction, that it was contemplated that more than
ONE wearer of the said skins should be present at the said interview."

"Perfectly just, Sir John; but you will suffer me to observe that by
article 1, it is conditioned that there shall be an interview; and by
article 3, it is furthermore agreed that the said interview shall
be conducted 'on philosophical and liberal principles'; now, it need
scarcely be urged, good Sir John, that it would be the extreme of
illiberality to deny to one party any privilege that was possessed by
the other."

"Perfectly just my lord, were this an affair of mere courtesy; but legal
constructions must be made on legal principles, or else, as jurists and
diplomatists, we are all afloat on the illimitable ocean of conjecture."

"And yet article 10 expressly stipulates that 'no advantage shall be
taken by lawyers.' By considering articles 3 and 10 profoundly and in
conjunction, we learn that it was the intention of the negotiators
to spread the mantle of liberality, apart from all the subtleties and
devices of mere legal practitioners, over the whole proceedings. Permit
me, in corroboration of what is now urged, to appeal to the voices of
those who framed the very conditions about which we are now arguing. Did
YOU, sir," continued my Lord Chatterino, turning to Captain Poke, with
emphasis and dignity; "did you, sir, when you drew up this celebrated
article 10 - did you deem that you were publishing authority of which the
lawyers could take advantage?"

A deep and very sonorous "No," was the energetic reply of Mr. Poke.

My Lord Chatterino, then turning, with equal grace, to the Doctor, first
diplomatically waving his tail three times, continued:

"And you, sir, in drawing up article 3, did you conceive that you were
supporting and promulgating illiberal principles?"

The question was met by a prompt negative, when the young noble paused,
and looked at me like one who had completely triumphed.

"Perfectly eloquent, completely convincing, irrefutably argumentative,
and unanswerably just, my lord," I put in; "but I must be permitted to
hint that the validity of all laws is derived from the enactment;
now the enactment, or, in the case of a treaty, the virtue of the
stipulation, is not derived from the intention of the party who may
happen to draw up a law or a clause, but from the assent of the legal
deputies. In the present instance, there are two negotiators, and I now
ask permission to address a few questions to them, reversing the order
of your own interrogatories; and the result may possibly furnish a
clue to the quo animo, in a new light." Addressing the philosopher, I
continued - "Did YOU, sir, in assenting to article 10, imagine that you
were defeating justice, countenancing oppression, and succoring might to
the injury of right?"

The answer was a solemn, and, I do not doubt, a very conscientious,

"And YOU, sir," turning to Captain Poke, "did you, in assenting to
article 3, in the least conceive that, by any possibility, the foes of
humanity could torture your approbation into the means of determining

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Monikins → online text (page 10 of 34)