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"Well, that is a very pretty thing, there can be no doubt - then you have
money at use?"

"And who is the debtor?" sneeringly inquired the jack-a-napes Hightail.

"No other, my Lord Hightail, than the realm of Great Britain."

"Exquisite, that, egad! A noble's fortune in the custody of the realm of
a - Greek - a - "

"Great Breeches," interrupted my Lord Chatterino, who, notwithstanding
he swore he was excessively angry with his friend for his obstinate
incredulity, very evidently had to exercise some forbearance to keep
from joining in the general laugh. "It is a very respectable country, I
do protest; and I scarcely remember to have tasted better gooseberries
than they grow in that very island."

"What! have they really gardens, Chatterino?"

"Certainly - after a fashion - and houses, and public conveyances - and
even universities."

"You do not mean to say, certainly, that they have a system!"

"Why, as to system, I believe they are a little at sixes and sevens. I
really can't take it upon myself to say that they have a system."

"Oh, yes, my lord - of a certainty we have one - the social stake system."

"Ask the creature," whispered audibly the filthy coxcomb Hightail, "if
he himself, now, has any income."

"How is it, Sir John - have you an income?"

"Yes, my lord, of one hundred and twelve thousand sovereigns a year."

"Of what? - of what?" demanded two or three voices, with well-bred,
subdued eagerness.

"Of sovereigns - why that means kings!"

It would appear that the Leaphighers, while they obey only the king's
eldest first cousin of the masculine gender, perform all their official
acts in the name of the sovereign himself, for whose person and
character they pretty uniformly express the profoundest veneration; just
as we men express admiration for a virtue that we never practise. My
declaration, therefore, produced a strong sensation, and I was soon
required to explain myself. This I did, by simply stating the truth.

"Oh, gold, yclept sovereigns!" exclaimed three or four, laughing
heartily. "Why then, your famous Great Breeches people, after all,
Chatterino, are so little advanced in civilization as to use gold!
Harkee, Signior - a - a - Boldercraft, have you no currency in 'promises'?"

"I do not know, sir, that I rightly comprehend the question."

"Why, we poor barbarians, sir, who live as you see us, only in a state
of simplicity and nature," - there was irony in every syllable the
impudent scoundrel uttered - "we poor wretches, or rather our ancestors,
made the discovery, that for the purposes of convenience, having, as you
perceive, no pockets, it might be well to convert all our currency into
'promises.' Now, I would ask if you have any of that coin?"

"Not as coin, sir, but as collateral to coin, we have plenty."

"He speaks of collaterals in currency, as if he were discussing a
pedigree! Are you really, Mynherr Shouldercalf, so little advanced in
your country, as not to know the immense advantages of a currency of
'promises'?"

"As I do not understand exactly what the nature of this currency is,
sir, I cannot answer as readily as I could wish."

"Let us explain it to him; for, I vow, I am really curious to hear
his answer. Chatterino, do you, who have some knowledge of the thing's
habits, be our interpreter."

"The matter is thus, Sir John. About five hundred years ago, our
ancestors, having reached that pass in civilization when they came
to dispense with the use of pockets, began to find it necessary
to substitute a new currency for that of the metals, which it was
inconvenient to carry, of which they might be robbed, and which also
was liable to be counterfeited. The first expedient was to try a lighter
substitute. Laws were passed giving value to linen and cotton, in the
raw material; then compounded and manufactured; next, written on, and
reduced in bulk, until, having passed through the several gradations of
wrapping-paper, brown-paper, foolscap and blotting-paper, and having set
the plan fairly at work, and got confidence thoroughly established,
the system was perfected by a coup de main, - 'promises' in words were
substituted for all other coin. You see the advantage at a glance.
A monikin can travel without pockets or baggage, and still carry a
million; the money cannot be counterfeited, nor can it be stolen or
burned."

"But, my lord, does it not depreciate the value of property?"

"Just the contrary; - an acre that formerly could be bought for one
promise, would now bring a thousand."

"This, certainly, is a great improvement, unless frequent failures - "

"Not at all; there has not been a bankruptcy in Leaphigh since the law
was passed making promises a legal tender."

"I wonder no chancellor of the exchequer ever thought of this, at
home!"

"So much for your Great Breeches, Chatterino!" And then there was
another and a very general laugh. I never before felt so deep a sense of
national humility.

"As they have universities," cried another coxcomb, "perhaps this person
has attended one of them."

"Indeed, sir," I answered, "I am regularly graduated."

"It is not easy to see what he has done with his knowledge - for, though
my sight is none of the worst, I cannot trace the smallest sign of a
cauda about him."

"Ah!" Lord Chatterino good-naturedly exclaimed, "the inhabitants of
Great Breeches carry their brains in their heads."

"Their heads!"

"Heads!"

"That's excellent, by his majesty's prerogative! Here's civilization,
with a vengeance!"

I now thought that the general ridicule would overwhelm me. Two or three
came closer, as if in pity or curiosity; and, at last, one cried out
that I actually wore clothes.

"Clothes - the wretch! Chatterino, do all your human friends wear
clothes?"

The young peer was obliged to confess the truth; and then there arose
such a clamor as may be fancied took place among the peacocks, when they
discovered the daw among them in masquerade. Human nature could endure
no more; and bowing to the company, I wished Lord Chatterino, very
hurriedly, good-morning, and proceeded towards the tavern.

"Don't forget to step into Chatterino House, Goldencalf, before you
sail," cried my late fellow-traveller, looking over his shoulder, and
nodding in quite a friendly way towards me.

"King!" exclaimed Captain Poke. "That blackguard ate a whole
bread-locker-full of nuts on our outward passage, and now he tells us to
step into his Chatterino House, before we sail!"

I endeavored to pacify the sealer, by an appeal to his philosophy. It
was true that men never forgot obligations, and were always excessively
anxious to repay them; but the monikins were an exceedingly instructed
species; they thought more of their minds than of their bodies, as
was plain by comparing the smallness of the latter with the length and
development of the seat of reason; and one of his experience should know
that good-breeding is decidedly an arbitrary quality, and that we ought
to respect its laws, however opposed to our own previous practices.

"I dare say, friend Noah, you may have observed some material difference
in the usages of Paris, for instance, and those of Stunin'tun."

"That I have, Sir John, that I have; and altogether to the advantage of
Stunin'tun be they."

"We are all addicted to the weakness of believing our own customs best;
and it requires that we should travel much, before we are able to decide
on points so nice."

"And do you not call me a traveller! Haven't I been sixteen times
a-sealing, twice a-whaling, without counting my cruise overland, and
this last run to Leaphigh!"

"Ay, you have gone over much land and much water, Mr. Poke; but your
stay in any given place has been just long enough to find fault. Usages
must be worn, like a shoe, before one can judge of the fit."

It is possible Noah would have retorted, had not Mrs. Vigilance Lynx, at
that moment, come wriggling by, in a way to show she was much satisfied
with her safe return home. To own the truth, while striving to find
apologies for it, I had been a little contraire, as the French term it,
by the indifference of my Lord Chatterino, which, in my secret heart, I
was not slow in attributing to the manner in which a peer of the
realm of Leaphigh regarded, de haut en bas, a mere baronet of Great
Britain - or Great Breeches, as the young noble so pertinaciously
insisted on terming our illustrious island. Now as Mrs. Vigilance was of
"russet-color," a caste of an inferior standing, I had little doubt
that she would be as glad to own an intimacy with Sir John Goldencalf of
Householder Hall, as the other might be willing to shuffle it off.

"Good-morrow, good Mrs. Vigilance," I said familiarly, endeavoring to
wriggle in a way that WOULD have shaken a tail, had it been my good
fortune to be the owner of one - "Good-morrow, good Mrs. Vigilance - I'm
glad to meet you again on shore."

I do not remember that Mrs. Vigilance, during the whole period of our
acquaintance, was particularly squeamish, or topping in her deportment.
On the contrary, she had rather made herself remarkable for a modest and
commendable reserve. But on the present occasion, she disappointed all
reasonable expectation, by shrinking on one side, uttering a slight
scream, and hurrying past as if she thought we might bite her. Indeed,
I can only compare her deportment to that of a female of our own, who
is so full of vanity as to fancy all eyes on her, and who gives herself
airs about a dog or a spider, because she thinks they make her look so
much the more interesting. Conversation was quite out of the question;
for the duenna hurried on, bending her head downwards, as if heartily
ashamed of an involuntary weakness.

"Well, good madam," said Noah, whose stern eye followed her movements
until she was quite lost in the crowd, "you would have had a sleepless
v'yage, if I had foreimagined this! Sir John, these people stare at us
as if we were wild beasts!"

"I cannot say I am of your way of thinking, Captain Poke. To me they
seem to take no more notice of us, than we should take of two curs in
the streets of London."

"I begin now to understand what the parsons mean when they talk of the
lost condition of man. It's ra'ally awful to witness to what a state of
unfeelingness a people can be abandoned! Bob, get out of the way, you
grinning blackguard."

Hereupon Bob received a salutation which would have demolished his
stern-frame, had it not been for the unionjack. Just then I was glad to
see Dr. Reasono advancing towards us, surrounded by a group of attentive
listeners, all of whom, by their years, gravity, and deportment, I made
no question were savants. As he drew near, I found he was discoursing
of the marvels of his late voyage. When within six feet of us the whole
party stopped, the Doctor continuing to descant with a very proper
gesticulation, and in a way to show that his subject was of infinite
interest to his listeners. Accidentally turning his eye in our
direction, he caught a glimpse of our figures, and making a few hurried
apologies to those around him, the excellent philosopher came eagerly
forward, with both hands extended. Here was a difference, indeed,
between his treatment and that of Lord Chatterino and the duenna! The
salutation was warmly returned; and the Doctor and myself stepped a
little apart, as he lost no time in informing me he wished to say a word
in private.

"My dear Sir John," the philosopher began, "our arrival has been the
most happily-timed thing imaginable! All Leaphigh, by this time, is
filled with the subject; and you can scarcely conceive the importance
that is attached to the event. New sources of trade, scientific
discoveries, phenomena both moral and physical, and results that it is
thought may serve to raise the monikin civilization still higher than
ever! Fortunately, the academy holds its most solemn meeting of the year
this very day, and I have been formally requested to give the assembly
an outline of those events which have lately passed before my eyes. The
king's eldest first cousin of the masculine gender is to attend openly;
and it is even conjectured, in a way to be quite authentic, that the
king himself will be present in his own royal person."

"How!" I exclaimed, "have you a mode, in Leaphigh, of rendering
conjectures certain?"

"Beyond a doubt, sir, or what would our civilization be worth? As to the
king's majesty, we always deal in the most direct ambiguities. Now as
respects many of our ceremonies, the sovereign is known morally to be
present, when he may be actually and physically eating his dinner at the
other extremity of the island; this important illustration of the royal
ubiquity is effected by means of a legal fiction. On the other hand, the
king often indulges his natural propensities, such as curiosity, love
of fun, or detestation of ennui, by coming in person, when, by the court
fiction, he is thought to be seated on his throne, in his own royal
palace. Oh! as to all these little accomplishments and graces in the art
of truths, we are behind no people in the universe!"

"I beg pardon, Doctor - so his majesty is expected to be at the academy
this morning?"

"In a private box. Now this affair is of the last importance to me as
a savant, to you as a human being - for it will have a tendency to raise
your whole species in the monikin estimation - and, lastly, to learning.
It will be indispensably necessary that you should attend, with as many
of your companions as possible, more especially the better specimens.
I was coming down to the landing in the hope of meeting you; and a
messenger has gone off to the ship to require that the people be sent
ashore forthwith. You will have a tribune to yourselves; and, really, I
do not like to express beforehand what I think concerning the degree
of attention you will all receive; but this much I think I can say - you
will see."

"This proposition, Doctor, has taken me a little by surprise, and I
hardly know what answer to give."

"You cannot say no, Sir John; for should his majesty hear that you have
refused to come to a meeting at which he is to be present, it would
seriously, and, I might add, justly offend him, nor could I answer for
the consequences."

"Why, I was told that all the power was in the hands of his majesty's
eldest first cousin of the masculine gender; in which case I thought I
might snap my fingers at his majesty himself."

"Not in opinion, Sir John, which is one of the three estates of the
government. Ours is a government of three estates - viz., the law,
opinion, and practice. By law the king rules, by practice his cousin
rules, and by opinion the king again rules. Thus, is the strong point
of practice balanced by law and opinion. This it is that constitutes the
harmony and perfection of the system. No, it would never do to offend
his majesty."

Although I did not very well comprehend the Doctor's argument, yet, as
I had often found in human society, theories political, moral,
theological, and philosophical, that everybody had faith in, and which
nobody understood, I thought discussion useless, and gave up the point
by promising the Doctor to be at the academy in half an hour, which was
the time named for our appearance. Taking the necessary directions to
find the place, we separated; he to hasten to make his preparations, and
I to reach the tavern, in order to deposit our baggage, that no decency
might be overlooked on an occasion so solemn.




CHAPTER XVI. AN INN - DEBTS PAID IN ADVANCE, AND A SINGULAR TOUCH OF
HUMAN NATURE FOUND CLOSELY INCORPORATED WITH MONIKIN NATURE


We soon secured rooms, ordered dinner, brushed our clothes, and made
the other little arrangements that it was necessary to observe for the
credit of the species. Everything being ready, we left the inn, and
hurried towards the "Palais des Arts et des Sciences." We had not got
out of sight of the inn, however, before one of its garcons was at our
heels with a message from his mistress. He told us, in very respectful
tones, that his master was out, and that he had taken with him the
key of the strong-box; that there was not actually money enough in the
drawer to furnish an entertainment for such great persons as ourselves,
and she had taken the liberty to send us a bill receipted, with a
request that we would make a small advance, rather than reduce her to
the mortification of treating such distinguished guests in an unworthy
manner. The bill read as follows: -

No. 1 parti-color and friends,

To No. 82,763 grape-color. Dr.
To use of apartments, with meals and lights, as per
agreement, p.p. 300 per diem - one day, p.p. 300
By cash advanced, 50
- -
Balance due, p.p. 250

"This seems all right," I observed to Noah; but I am, at this moment, as
penniless as the good woman herself. I really do not see what we are to
do, unless Bob sends her back his store of nuts - "

"Harkee, my nimble-go-hop," put in the seaman, "what is your pleasure?"

The waiter referred to the bill, as expressing his mistress's wants.

"What are these p. p. that I find noted in the bill - play or pay, hey?"

"Promises, of course, your honor."

"Oh! then you desire fifty promises, to provide our dinner."

"Nothing more, sir. With that sum you shall dine like noblemen - ay, sir,
like aldermen."

I was delighted to find that this worthy class of beings have the same
propensities in all countries.

"Here, take a hundred," answered Noah, snapping his fingers, "and make
no bones of it. And harkee, my worthy - lay out every farthing of them in
the fare. Let there be good cheer, and no one will grumble at the bill.
I am ready to buy the inn, and all it holds, at need."

The waiter departed well satisfied with these assurances, and apparently
in the anticipation of good vails for his own trouble.

We soon got into the current that was setting towards our place of
destination. On reaching the gate, we found that we were anxiously
expected; for there was an attendant in waiting, who instantly conducted
us to the seats that were provided for our special reception. It is
always agreeable to be among the privileged, and I must own that we were
all not a little flattered, on finding that an elevated tribune had been
prepared for us, in the centre of the rotunda in which the academy held
its sittings, so that we could see, and be seen by, every individual
of the crowded assembly. The whole crew, even to the negro cook,
had preceded us; an additional compliment, that I did not fail to
acknowledge by suitable salutations to all the members present. After
the first feelings of pleasure and surprise were a little abated, I had
leisure to look about me and to survey the company.

The academicians occupied the whole of the body of the rotunda, the
space taken up by the erection of our temporary tribune alone excepted,
while there were sofas, chairs, tribunes, and benches arranged for the
spectators, in the outer circles, and along the side-walls of the
hall. As the edifice itself was very large, and mind had so essentially
reduced matter in the monikin species, there could not have been less
than fifty thousand tails present. Just before the ceremonies commenced,
Dr. Reasono approached our tribbune, passing from one to another of
the party, saying a pleasant and encouraging word to each, in a way to
create high expectations in us all as to what was to follow. We were
so very evidently honored and distinguished, that I struggled hard to
subdue any unworthy feeling of pride, as unbecoming human meekness, and
in order to maintain a philosophical equanimity under the manifestations
of respect and gratitude that I knew were about to be lavished upon even
the meanest of our party. The Doctor was yet in the midst of his pointed
attentions, when the king's eldest first cousin of the masculine gender
entered, and the business of the meeting immediately began. I profited
by a short pause, however, to say a few words to my companions. I told
them that there would soon be a serious demand on their modesty. We
had performed a great and generous exploit, and it did not become us
to lessen its merit by betraying a vainglorious self-esteem. I implored
them all to take pattern by me; promising, in the end, that their new
friends would trebly prize their hardihood, self-denial, and skill.

There was a new member of the academy of Latent Sympathies to be
received and installed. A long discourse was read by one of this
department of the monikin learning, which pointed out and enlarged on
the rare merits of the new academician. He was followed by the latter;
who in a very elaborate production, that consumed just fifty-five
minutes in the reading, tried all he could to persuade the audience that
the defunct was a loss to the world, that no accident or application
would ever repair, and that he himself was precisely the worst person
who could have been selected to be his successor. I was a little
surprised at the perfect coolness with which the learned body listened
to a reproach that was so very distinctly and perseveringly thrown, as
it were, into their very teeth. But a more intimate acquaintance with
monikin society satisfied me, that any one might say just what he
pleased, so long as he allowed that every one else was an excellent
fellow, and he himself the poorest devil going. When the new member
had triumphantly established his position, and just as I thought the
colleagues were bound, in common honesty, to reconsider their vote, he
concluded, and took his seat among them with quite as much assurance as
the best philosopher of them all.

After a short pause, and an abundance of felicitations on his excellent
and self-abasing discourse, the newly admitted member again rose, and
began to read an essay on some discoveries he had made in the science of
Latent Sympathies. According to his account of the matter, every monikin
possessed a fluid which was invisible, like the animalcula which pervade
nature, and which required only to be brought into command, and to be
reduced into more rigid laws, to become the substitute for the senses of
sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smelling. This fluid was communicable;
and had already been so far rendered subject to the will, as to make it
of service in seeing in the dark, in smelling when the operator had a
bad cold, in tasting when the palate was down, and in touching by proxy.
Ideas had been transmitted, through its agency, sixty-two leagues in one
minute and a half. Two monikins, who were afflicted with diseased tails,
had during the last two years, been insulated and saturated, and had
then lost those embellishments, by operations; a quantity of the fluid
having been substituted in their places so happily, that the patients
fancied themselves more than ever conspicuous for the length and finesse
of their caudce. An experiment had also been successfully tried on
a member of the lower house of parliament, who, being married to a
monikina of unusual mind, had for a long time been supplied with ideas
from this source, although his partner was compelled to remain at home,
in order to superintend the management of their estate, forty-two miles
from town, during the whole session. He particularly recommended to
government the promotion of this science, as it might be useful
in obtaining evidence for the purposes of justice, in detecting
conspiracies, in collecting the taxes, and selecting candidates for
trusts of a responsible nature. The suggestion was well received by the
king's cousin, more especially those parts that alluded to sedition and
the revenue.

This essay was also perfectly well received by the savans, for I
afterwards found very little came amiss to the academy; and the members
named a committee forthwith, to examine into "the facts concerning
invisible and unknown fluids, their agency, importance, and relations to
monikin happiness."

We were next favored with a discussion on the different significations
of the word gorstchwzyb; which, rendered into English, means "eh!"
The celebrated philologist who treated the subject, discovered amazing
ingenuity in expatiating on its ramifications and deductions. First he
tried the letters by transpositions, by which he triumphantly proved
that it was derived from all the languages of the ancients; the same
process showed that it possessed four thousand and two different
significations; he next reasoned most ably and comprehensively for ten



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Monikins → online text (page 17 of 34)