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matter in dispute was debated for two generations, when the necessary
degree of madness having been excited, the leaders of the party, who by
this time had worked themselves through their hobby, into the general
control of the monikin affairs, called a meeting of all their partisans
and passed certain resolutions, which will never be blotted from the
monikin memory, so fatal were their consequences, so ruinous for a time
their effects! They were conceived in the following terms: -

"'At a full and overflowing meeting of the most monikinized of the
monikin race, holden at the house of Peleg Pat (we still used the human
appellations, at that epoch), in the year of the world 3,007, and of
the monikin era 317, Plausible Shout was called to the chair, and Ready
Quill was named secretary.'"

"'After several excellent and eloquent addresses from all present, it
was unanimously resolved as follows, viz.:'"

"'That steam is a curse, and not a blessing; and that it deserves to be
denounced by all patriotic and true monikins.'"

"'That we deem it the height of oppression and injustice in nature, that
she has placed the great safety-valve of the world within the lawful
limits of the monikin territories.'"

"'That the said safety-valve ought to be removed forthwith; and that it
shall be so removed, peaceably if it can, forcibly if it must.'"

"'That we cordially approve of the sentiments of John Jaw, our present
estimable chief magistrate, the incorruptible partisan, the undaunted
friend of his friends, the uncompromising enemy of steam, and the sound,
pure, orthodox, and true monikin.''

"'That we recommend the said Jaw to the confidence of all monikins.'"

"'That we call upon the country to sustain us in our great, holy,
and glorious design, pledging ourselves, posterity, the bones of our
ancestors, and all who have gone before or who may come after us, to the
faithful execution of our intentions.

"'Signed,'"

"'PLAUSIBLE SHOUT, Chairman.'"

"'READY QUILL, Secretary.'"

"No sooner were these resolutions promulgated (for instead of being
passed at a full meeting, it is now understood they were drawn up
between Messrs. Shout and Quill, under the private dictation of Mr.
Jaw), than the public mind began seriously to meditate proceeding to
extremities. That perfection in the mechanic arts, which had hitherto
formed our pride and boast, now proved to be our greatest enemy. It is
thought that the leaders of this ill-directed party meant, in truth, to
confine themselves to certain electioneering effects; but who can stay
the torrent, or avert the current of prejudice! The stream was setting
against steam; the whole invention of the species was put in motion;
and in one year from the passage of the resolutions I have recited,
mountains were transported, endless piles of rocks were thrown into
the gulf, arches were constructed, and the hole of the safety-valve
was hermetically sealed. You will form some idea of the waste of
intelligence and energy on this occasion, when I add that it was found,
by actual observation, that this artificial portion of the earth was
thicker, stronger, and more likely to be durable than the natural. So
far did infatuation lead the victims, that they actually caused the
whole region to be sounded, and, having ascertained the precise locality
of the thinnest portion of the crust, John Jaw, and all the most zealous
of his followers, removed to the spot, where they established the seat
of their government in triumph. All this time nature rested upon her
arms, in the quiet of conscious force. It was not long, however, before
our ancestors began to perceive the consequences of their act, in
the increase of the cold, in the scarcity of fruits, and in the rapid
augmentation of the ice. The monikin enthusiasm is easily awakened in
favor of any plausible theory, but it invariably yields to physical
pressure. No doubt the human race, better furnished with the material of
physical resistance, does not exhibit so much of this weakness, but - "

"Do not flatter us with the exception, Doctor. I find so many points of
resemblance between us, that I really begin to think we must have
had the same origin; and if you would only admit that man is of the
secondary formation, and the monikins of the primary, I would accept the
whole of your philosophy without a moment's delay."

"As such an admission would be contrary to both fact and doctrine, I
trust, my dear sir, you will see the utter impossibility of a Professor
in the University of Leaphigh making the concession, even in this remote
part of the world. As I was about to observe, the people began to betray
uneasiness at the increasing and constant inclemency of the weather;
and Mr. John Jaw found it necessary to stimulate their passions by a
new development of his principles. His friends and partisans were all
assembled in the great square of the new capital, and the following
resolutions were, to use the language of a handbill that is still
preserved in the archives of the Leaphigh Historical Society (for it
would seem they were printed before they were passed), 'unanimously,
enthusiastically, and finally adopted,' viz.:

"'Resolved, That this meeting has the utmost contempt for steam.'"

"'Resolved, That this meeting defies snow, and sterility, and all other
natural disadvantages.'"

"'Resolved, That we will live forever.'"

"'Resolved, That we will henceforward go naked, as the most effectual
means of setting the frost at defiance.'"

"'Resolved, That we are now over the thinnest part of the earth's crust
in the polar regions.'"

"'Resolved, That henceforth we will support no monikin for any public
trust, who will not give a pledge to put out all his fires, and to
dispense with cooking altogether.'"

"'Resolved, That we are animated by the true spirit of patriotism,
reason, good faith, and firmness.'"

"'Resolved, That this meeting now adjourn sine die.'"

"We are told that the last resolution was just carried by acclamation,
when nature arose in her might, and took ample vengeance for all her
wrongs. The great boiler of the earth burst with a tremendous explosion,
carrying away, as the thinnest part of the workmanship, not only Mr.
John Jaw, and all his partisans, but forty thousand square miles of
territory. The last that was seen of them was about thirty seconds after
the occurrence of the explosion, when the whole mass disappeared near
the northern horizon, going at a rate a little surpassing that of a
cannon ball which has just left its gun."

"King!" exclaimed Noah; "that is what we sailors call 'to cut and run.'"

"Was nothing ever heard of Mr. Jaw and his companions, my good Doctor?"

"Nothing that could be depended on. Some of our naturalists assume
that the monkeys which frequent the other parts of the earth are their
descendants, who, stunned by the shock, have lost their reasoning
powers, while, at the same time, they show glimmerings of their origin.
This is, in truth, the better opinion of our savans; and it is usual
with us, to distinguish all the human species of monkeys by the name of
'the lost monikins.' Since my captivity, chance has thrown me in the way
of several of these animals, who were equally under the control of the
cruel Savoyards; and in conversing with them, in order to inquire into
their traditions and to trace the analogies of language, I have been
led to think there is some foundation for the opinion. Of this, however,
hereafter."

"Pray, Dr. Reasono, what became of the forty thousand square miles of
territory?"

"Of that we have a better account; for one of our vessels, which was
far to the northward, on an exploring expedition, fell in with it in
longitude 2 degrees from Leaphigh, latitude 6 degrees S., and by her
means it was ascertained that divers islands had been already formed by
falling fragments; and, judging by the direction of the main body
when last seen, the fertility of that part of the world, and various
geological proofs, we hold that the great western archipelago is the
deposit of the remainder."

"And the monikin region, sir - what was the consequence of this
phenomenon to that part of the world?"

"Awful - sublime - various - and durable! The more important, or the
personal consequences, shall be mentioned first. Fully one-third of the
monikin species were scalded to death. A great many contracted asthmas
and other diseases of the lungs, by inhaling steam. Most of the bridges
were swept away by the sudden melting of the snows, and large stores
of provisions were spoiled by the unexpected appearance and violent
character of the thaw. These may be enumerated among the unpleasant
consequences. Among the pleasant, we esteem a final and agreeable
melioration of the climate, which regained most of its ancient
character, and a rapid and distinct elongation of our caudtz, by a
sudden acquisition of wisdom.

"The secondary, or the terrestrial consequences, were as follows: - By
the suddenness and force with which so much steam rushed into space,
finding its outlet several degrees from the pole, the earth was canted
from its perpendicular attitude, and remained fixed, with its axis
having an inclination of 23 degrees 27' to the plane of its orbit.
At the same time the orb began to move in vacuum, and, restrained
by antagonistic attractions, to perform what is called its annual
revolution."

"I can very well understand, friend Reasono," observed Noah, "why the
'arth should heel under so sudden a flaw, though a well-ballasted ship
would right again when the puff was over; but I cannot understand how a
little steam leaking out at one end of a craft should set her agoing at
the rate we are told this world travels?"

"If the escape of the steam were constant, the diurnal motion giving
it every moment a new position, the earth would not be propelled in its
orbit, of a certainty, Captain Poke; but as, in fact, this escape of
the steam has the character of pulsation, being periodical and regular,
nature has ordained that it shall occur but once in the twenty-four
hours, and this at such a time as to render its action uniform, and its
impulsion always in the same direction. The principle on which the
earth receives this impetus, can be easily illustrated by a familiar
experiment. Take, for instance, a double-barrelled fowling-piece, load
both barrels with extra quantities of powder, introduce a ball and two
wads into each barrel, place the breech within 4 628/1000 inches of the
abdomen, and take care to fire both barrels at once. In this case, the
balls will give an example of the action of the forty thousand square
miles of territory, and the person experimenting will not fail to
imitate the impulsion, or the backward movement of the earth."

"While I do not deny that such an experiment would be likely to set both
parties in motion, friend Reasono, I do not see why the 'arth should not
finally stop, as the man would be sure to do, after he had got through
with hopping, and kicking, and swearing."

"The reason why the earth, once set in motion in vacuum, does not stop,
can also be elucidated by experiment, as follows: - Take Captain Noah
Poke, provided as he is by nature with legs and the power of motion;
lead him to the Place Vendome; cause him to pay three sous, which will
gain him admission to the base of the column; let him ascend to the
summit; thence let him leap with all his energy, in a direction at right
angles with the shaft of the column, into the open air; and it will be
found that, though the original impulsion would not probably impel the
body more than ten or twelve feet, motion would continue until it had
reached the earth. Corollary: hence it is proved that all bodies in
which the vis inertia has been overcome will continue in motion, until
they come in contact with some power capable of stopping them."

"King! - Do you not think, Mr. Reasono, that the 'arth makes its circuit,
as much owing to this said steam of yours shoving, as it were, always
a little on one side, acting thereby in some fashion as a rudder, which
causes her to keep waring as we seamen call it, and as big crafts take
more room than small ones in waring, why, she is compelled to run so
many millions of miles, before, as it were, she comes up to the wind
ag'in? Now, there is reason in such an idee; whereas, I never could
reconcile it to my natur', that these little bits of stars should keep
a craft like the 'arth in her course, with such a devil of a way on her,
as we know in reason she must have, to run so far in a twelvemonth.
Why, the smallest yaw - and, for a hooker of her keel, a thousand miles
wouldn't be a broader yaw than a hundred feet in a ship - the smallest
yaw would send her aboard of the Jupiter, or the Marcury, when there
would be a smashing of out-board work such as mortal never before
witnessed!"

"We rather lean to the opinion of the efficacy of attraction, sir; nor
do I see that your proposition would at all obviate your own objection."

"Then, sir, I will just explain myself. Let us suppose there was a
steamer with a hundred miles of keel; let us suppose the steam up,
and the craft with a broad offing; let us suppose her helm lash'd hard
aport, and she going at the rate of ten thousand knots the hour, without
bringing up or shortening sail for years at a time. Now, all this being
admitted, what would be her course? Why, sir, any child could tell you,
she would keep turning in a circle of some fifty or a hundred thousand
miles in circumference; and such, it appears to me, it is much more
rational to suppose is the natur' of the 'arth's traversing, than all
this steering small among stars and attractions."

"There is truly something very plausible, Captain Poke, in your
suggestion; and I propose that you shall profit by the first occasion to
lay your opinions on the subject, more at large, before the Academy of
Leaphigh."

"With all my heart, Doctor; for I hold that knowledge, like good liquor,
is given to be passed round from one to another, and not to be gulped in
a corner by any particular individle. And now I'm throwing out hints of
this natur' I will just intimate another that you may add to your next
demonstration, by way of what you call a corollary; which is this - that
is to say - if all you tell us about the bursting of the boiler, and the
polar kick be true, then is the 'arth the first steamboat that was ever
invented, and the boastings of the French, and the English, and the
Spaniards, and the Italians, on this point, are no more than so much
smoke."

"And of the Americans, too, Captain Poke," I ventured to observe.

"Why, Sir John, that is as it may happen. I don't well see how Fulton
could have stolen the idee, seeing that he did not know the Doctor, and
most probably never heard of Leaphigh in his life."

We all smiled, even to the amiable Chatterissa, at the nicety of the
navigator's distinctions; and the philosopher's lecture, in its more
didactic form, being now virtually at an end, a long and desultory
conversation took place, in which a multitude of ingenious questions
were put by Captain Poke and myself, and which were as cleverly answered
by the Doctor and his friends.

At length, Dr. Reasono, who, philosopher as he was, and much as he loved
science, had not given himself all this trouble without a view to what
are called ulterior considerations, came out with a frank expose of his
wishes. Accident had apparently combined all the means for gratifying
the burning desire I betrayed to be let into further details of the
monikin polity, morals, philosophy, and all the other great social
interests of the part of the world they inhabit. I was wealthy beyond
bounds, and the equipment of a proper vessel would be an expenditure
of no moment; both the Doctor and Lord Chatterino were good practical
geographers, after they were once within the parallel of 77 degrees
south, and Captain Poke, according to his own account of himself, had
passed half his life in poking about among the sterile and uninhabited
islands of the frozen ocean. What was there to prevent the most earnest
wishes of all present from being gratified? The captain was out of
employment, and no doubt would be glad to get the command of a good
tight sea-boat; the strangers pined for home, and it was my most ardent
wish to increase my stake in society, by taking a further interest in
monikins.

On this hint, I frankly made a proposal to the old sealer to undertake
the task of restoring these amiable and enlightened strangers to their
own firesides and families. The Captain soon began to discover a little
of his Stunin'tun propensity; for the more I pressed the matter on him,
the more readily he found objections. The several motives he urged for
declining the proposal, may be succinctly given as follows: -

It was true that he wanted employment, but then he wanted to see
Stunin'tun too; he doubted whether monkeys would make good sailors; it
was no joke to run in among the ice, and it might be still less of one
to find our way back again; he had seen the bodies of dead seals and
bears that were frozen as hard as stone, and which might, for anything
he knew, have lain in that state a hundred years, and, for his part, he
should like to be buried when he was good for nothing else. How did he
know these monikins might not catch the men, when they had once
fairly got them in their country, and strip them, and make them throw
summersets, as the Savoyards had compelled the Doctor, and even the
Lady Chatterissa to do? - he knew he should break his neck the very first
flap-jack; if he were ten years younger, perhaps he should like the
frolic; he did not believe the right sort of craft could be found in
England, and for his part, he liked sailing under the stars and stripes;
he didn't know but he might go if he had a crew of Stunin'tunners; he
always knew how to get along with such people; he could scare one by
threatening to tell his marm how he behaved, and bring another to reason
by hinting that the gals would shy him if he wasn't more accommodating;
then there might be no such place as Leaphigh, after all; or, if there
was, he might never find it; as for wearing a bison-skin under the
equator, it was quite out of the question, a human skin being a heavy
load to carry in the calm latitudes; and finally that he didn't exactly
see what he was to get by it.

These objections were met, one by one, reversing the order in which they
were made, and commencing with the last.

I offered a thousand pounds sterling as the reward. This proposal
brought a gleam of satisfaction into Noah's eyes, though he shook his
head, as if he thought it very little. It was then suggested that there
was no doubt we should discover certain islands that were well stored
with seals, and that I would waive all claims as owner, and that
hereafter he might turn these discoveries to his own private account. At
this bait he nibbled, and, at one time, I thought he was about to suffer
himself to be caught. But he remained obstinate. After trying all our
united rhetoric, and doubling the amount of the pecuniary offer, Dr.
Reasono luckily bethought him of the universal engine of human weakness,
and the old sealer, who had resisted money - an influence of known
efficacy at Stunin'tun - ambition, the secret of new sealing grounds, and
all the ordinary inducements that might be thought to have weight with
men of his class, was, in the end, hooked by his own vanity!

The philosopher cunningly expatiated on the pleasure there would be in
reading a paper before the Academy of Leaphigh, on the subject of the
captain's peculiar views touching the earth's annual revolution, and of
the virtue of sailing planets, with their helms lashed hard aport, when
all the dogmatical old navigator's scruples melted away like snow in a
thaw.




CHAPTER XIII. A CHAPTER OF PREPARATIONS - DISCRIMINATION IN CHARACTER - A
TIGHT FIT, AND OTHER CONVENIENCES, WITH SOME JUDGMENT.


I shall pass lightly over the events of the succeeding month. During
this time, the whole party were transferred to England, a proper ship
had been bought and equipped, the family of strangers were put in quiet
possession of their cabins, and I had made all ray arrangements for
being absent from England for the next two years. The vessel was a
stout-built, comfortable ship of about three hundred tons burden, and
had been properly constructed to encounter the dangers of the ice. Her
accommodations were suitably arranged to meet all the exigencies of
both monikin and human wants, the apartments of the ladies being very
properly separated from those of the gentlemen, and otherwise rendered
decorous and commodious. The Lady Chatterissa very pleasantly called
their private room the gynecee, which, as I afterwards ascertained, was
a term for the women's apartment, obtained from the Greek, the monikins
being quite as much addicted as we are ourselves, to showing their
acquirements by the introduction of words from foreign tongues.

Noah showed great care in the selection of the ship's company, the
service being known to be arduous, and the duties of a very responsible
character. For this purpose, he made a journey expressly to Liverpool
(the ship lying in the Greenland Dock at London), where he was fortunate
enough to engage five Yankees, as many Englishmen, two Norwegians, and a
Swede, all of whom had been accustomed to cruising as near the poles as
ordinary men ever succeeded in reaching. He was also well suited in his
cook and mates; but I observed that he had great difficulty in finding
a cabin-boy to his mind. More than twenty applicants were rejected, some
for the want of one qualification, and some for the want of another. As
I was present at several examinations of different candidates for the
office, I got a little insight into his manner of ascertaining their
respective merits.

The invariable practice was, first, to place a bottle of rum and a
pitcher of water before the lad, and to order him to try his hand at
mixing a glass of grog. Four applicants were incontinently rejected for
manifesting a natural inaptitude at hitting the juste milieu, in this
important part of the duty of a cabin-boy. Most of the candidates,
however, were reasonably expert in the art; and the captain soon came
to the next requisite, which was, to say "Sir," in a tone, as Noah
expressed it, somewhere between the snap of a steel-trap and the
mendicant whine of a beggar. Fourteen were rejected for deficiencies on
this score, the captain remarking that most of them "were the sa'ciest
blackguards" he had ever fallen in with. When he had, at length, found
one who could mix a tumbler of grog, and answer "Sir," to his liking,
he proceeded to make experiments on their abilities in carrying a
soup-tureen over a slushed plank; in wiping plates without a napkin,
and without using their shirt-sleeves; in snuffing candles with their
fingers; in making a soft bed with few materials besides boards; in
mixing the various compounds of burgoo, lobscouse, and dough, (which he
affectedly pronounced duff); in fattening pigs on beef-bones, and ducks
on the sweepings of the deck; in looking at molasses without licking his
lips; and in various other similar accomplishments, which he maintained
were as familiar to the children of Stunin'tun, as their singing-books
and the ten commandments. The nineteenth candidate, to my uninstructed
eyes, seemed perfect; but Noah rejected him for the want of a quality
that he declared was indispensable to the quiet of the ship. It
appeared that he was too bony about an essential part of his anatomy, a
peculiarity that was very dangerous to a captain, as he himself was once
so unfortunate as to put his great toe out of joint, by kicking one of
those ill-formed youngsters with unpremeditated violence; a thing that
was very apt to happen to a man in a hurry. Luckily, No. twenty passed,
and was immediately promoted to the vacant berth. The very next day
the ship put to sea, in good condition, and with every prospect of a
fortunate voyage.

I will here state that a general election occurred the week before we
sailed; and I ran down to Householder and got myself returned, in order
to protect the interests of those who had a natural right to look up to
me for that small favor.

We discharged the pilot when we had the Scilly Islands over the
taffrail, and Mr. Poke took command of the vessel in good earnest.
Coming down channel, he had done little more than rummage about in
the cabin, examine the lockers, and make his foot acquainted with the
anatomy of poor Bob, as the cabin-boy was called; who, judging from



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Monikins → online text (page 13 of 34)