James Fenimore Cooper.

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minutes, backwards and forwards, using no other word but this, applied
in its various senses; after which, he incontrovertibly established that
this important part of speech was so useful as to be useless, and
he concluded by a proposition, in which the academy coincided by
acclamation, that it should be forever and incontinently expunged from
the Leaphigh vocabulary. As the vote was carried by acclamation, the
king's cousin arose, and declared that the writer who should so far
offend against good taste, as hereafter to make use of the condemned
word, should have two inches cut off the extremity of his tail. A
shudder among the ladies, who, I afterwards ascertained, loved to carry
their caudae as high as our women like to carry their heads, proved the
severity of the decree.

An experienced and seemingly much respected member now arose to make the
following proposal. He said it was known that the monikin species were
fast approaching perfection; that the increase of mind and the decrease
of matter were so very apparent as to admit of no denial; that, in his
own case, he found his physical powers diminish daily, while his mental
acquired new distinctness and force; that he could no longer see without
spectacles, hear without a tube, or taste without high seasoning; from
all this he inferred that they were drawing near to some important
change, and he wished that portion of the science of Latent Sympathies
which was connected with the unknown fluid just treated on, might be
referred to a committee on the whole, in order to make some provision
for the wants of a time when monikins should finally lose their senses.
There was nothing to say against a proposition so plausible, and it
was accepted nemine contradicente, with the exception of a few in the

There was now a good deal of whispering, much wagging of tails, and
other indications that the real business of the meeting was about to be
touched upon. All eyes were turned on Dr. Reasono, who, after a suitable
pause, entered a tribune prepared for solemn occasions, and began his

The philosopher, who, having committed his essay to memory, spoke
extempore, commenced with a beautiful and most eloquent apostrophe to
learning, and to the enthusiasm which glows in the breasts of all her
real votaries, rendering them alike indifferent to their personal ease,
their temporal interests, danger, suffering, and tribulations of the
spirit. After this exordium, which was pronounced to be unique for
its simplicity and truth, he entered at once on the history of his own
recent adventures.

First alluding to the admirable character of that Leaphigh usage which
prescribes the Journey of Trial, our philosopher spoke of the manner
in which he had been selected to accompany my lord Chatterino on an
occasion so important to his future hopes. He dwelt on the physical
preparations, the previous study, and the moral machinery that he had
employed with his pupil, before they quitted town; all of which,
there is reason to think, were well fitted to their objects, as he was
constantly interrupted by murmurs of applause. After some time spent
in dilating on these points, I had, at length, the satisfaction to find
him, Mrs. Lynx, and their two wards, fairly setting out on a journey
which, as he very justly mentioned, proved "to be pregnant with events
of so much importance to knowledge in general, to the happiness of the
species, and to several highly interesting branches of monikin science,
in particular." I say the satisfaction, for, to own the truth, I
was eager to witness the effect that would be made on the monikin
sensibilities, when he came to speak of my own discernment in detecting
their real characters beneath the contumely and disgrace in which it
had been my good fortune to find them, the promptitude with which I had
stepped forward to their relief, and the liberality and courage with
which I had furnished the means and encountered the risks that were
necessary to restore them to their native land. The anticipation of this
human triumph could not but diffuse a general satisfaction in our own
tribune - even the common mariners, as they recalled the dangers through
which they had passed, feeling a consciousness of deserving, mingled
with that soothing sentiment which is ever the companion of a merited
reward. As the philosopher drew nearer to the time when it would be
necessary to speak of us, I threw a look of triumph at Lord Chatterino,
which, however, failed of its intended effect - the young peer continuing
to whisper to his noble companions with just is much self-importance and
coolness as if he had not been one of the rescued captives.

Dr. Reasono was justly celebrated, among his colleagues, for ingenuity
and eloquence. The excellent morals that he threw into every possible
opening of his subject, the beauty of the figures with which they were
illustrated, and the masculine tendencies of his argument, gave general
delight to the audience. The Journey of Trial was made to appear, what
it had been intended to be by the fathers and sages of the Leaphigh
institutions, a probation replete with admonitions and instruction. The
aged and experienced, who had grown callous by time, could not conceal
their exultation; the mature and suffering looked grave and full of
meditation; while the young and sanguine fairly trembled, and for
once, doubted. But, as the philosopher led his party from precipice to
precipice in safety, as rocks were scaled and seductive valleys avoided,
a common feeling of security began to extend itself among the audience;
and we all followed him in his last experiment among the ice, with that
sort of blind confidence which the soldier comes, in time, to entertain
in the orders of a tried and victorious general.

The Doctor was graphic in his account of the manner in which he and his
wards plunged among these new trials. The lovely Chatterissa (for all
his travelling companions were present) bent aside her head and blushed,
as the philosopher alluded to the manner in which the pure flame that
glowed in her gentle bosom resisted the chill influence of that
cold region; and when he recited an ardent declaration that my lord
Chatterino had made on the centre of a floe, and the kind and amorous
answer of his mistress, I thought the applause of the old academicians
would have actually brought the vaulted dome clattering about our ears.

At length he reached the point in the narrative where the amiable
wanderers fell in with the sealers, on that unknown island to which
chance and an adverse fortune had unhappily led them, in their
pilgrimage. I had taken measures secretly to instruct Mr. Poke and the
rest of my companions, as to the manner in which it became us to demean
ourselves, while the Doctor was acquainting the academy with that first
outrage committed by human cupidity, or the seizure of himself and
friends. We were to rise, in a body, and, turning our faces a little on
one side, veil our eyes in sign of shame. Less than this, it struck me,
could scarcely be done, without manifesting an improper indifference
to monikin rights; and more than this, might have been identifying
ourselves with the particular individuals of the species who had
perpetrated the wrong. But there was no occasion to exhibit this
delicate attention to our learned hosts. The Doctor, with a refinement
of feeling that did credit, indeed, to monikin civilization, gave an
ingenious turn to the whole affair, which at once removed all cause of
shame from our species; and which, if it left reason for any to blush,
by a noble act of disinterestedness, threw the entire onus of the
obligation on himself. Instead of dwelling on the ruthless manner
in which he and his friends had been seized, the worthy Doctor very
tranquilly informed his listeners, that, finding himself, by hazard,
brought in contact with another species, and that the means of pushing
important discoveries were unexpectedly placed in his power; conscious
it had long been a desideratum with the savans to obtain a nearer view
and more correct notions of human society; believing he had a discretion
in the matter of his wards, and knowing that the inhabitants of Leaplow,
a republic which all disliked, were seriously talking of sending out an
expedition for this very purpose, he had promptly decided to profit by
events, to push inquiry to the extent of his abilities, and to hazard
all in the cause of learning and truth, by at once engaging the vessel
of the sealers, and sailing, without dread of consequences, forthwith
into the very bosom of the world of man!

I have listened with awe to the thunder of the tropics - I have held my
breath as the artillery of a fleet vomited forth its fire, and rent the
air with sudden concussions - I have heard the roar of the tumbling river
of the Canadas, and I have stood aghast at the crashing of a forest in a
tornado; - but never before did I feel so life-stirring, so thrilling an
emotion of surprise, alarm, and sympathy, as that which arose within me,
at the burst of commendation and delight with which this announcement of
self-devotion and enterprise was received by the audience. Tails waved,
pattes met each other in ecstasy, voice whistled to voice, and there was
one common cry of exultation, of rapture and of glorification, at this
proof, not of monikin, for that would have been frittering away the
triumph, but at this proof of Leaphigh courage.

During the clamor, I took an opportunity to express my satisfaction at
the handsome manner in which our friend the Doctor had passed over an
acknowledged human delinquency, and the ingenuity with which he had
turned the whole of the unhappy transaction to the glory of Leaphigh.
Noah answered that the philosopher had certainly shown a knowledge of
human natur', and he presumed of monikin natur', in the matter; no one
would now dispute his statement, since, as he knew by experience, no one
was so likely to be set down as a liar, as he who endeavored to unsettle
the good opinion that either a community or an individual entertained of
himself. This was the way at Stunin'tun, and he believed this was pretty
much the way at New York, or he might say with the whole 'arth from pole
to pole. As for himself, however, he owned he should like to have a few
minutes' private conversation with the sealer in question, to hear
his account of the matter; he didn't know any owner in his part of the
world, who would bear a captain out, should he abandon a v'yage in
this way, on no better security than the promises of a monkey, and of a
monkey, too, who must, of necessity, be an utter stranger to him.

When the tumult of applause had a little abated, Dr. Reasono proceeded
with his narrative. He touched lightly on the accommodations of the
schooner, which he gave us reason to think were altogether of a quality
beneath the condition of her passengers; and he added that, falling
in with a larger and fairer vessel, which was making a passage between
Bombay and Great Britain, he profited by the occasion, to exchange
ships. This vessel touched at the island of St. Helena, where, according
to the Doctor's account of the matter, he found means to pass the
greater part of a week on shore.

Of the island of St. Helena he gave a long, scientific, and certainly
an interesting account. It was reported to be volcanic, by the human
savans, he said, but a minute examination and a comparison of the
geological formation, etc., had quite satisfied him that their own
ancient account, which was contained in the mineralogical works of
Leaphigh, was the true one; or, in other words, that this rock was
a fragment of the polar world that had been blown away at the great
eruption, and which had become separated from the rest of the mass at
this spot, where it had fallen and become a fixture of the ocean. Here
the Doctor produced certain specimens of rock, which he submitted to the
learned present, inviting their attention to its character, and asking,
with great mineralogical confidence, if it did not intimately resemble
a well-known stratum of a mountain, within two leagues of the very spot
they were in? This triumphant proof of the truth of his proposition was
admirably received; and the philosopher was in particular rewarded
by the smiles of all the females present; for ladies usually are well
pleased with any demonstration that saves them the trouble of comparison
and reflection.

Before quitting this branch of his subject, the Doctor observed that,
interesting as were these proofs of the accuracy of their histories, and
of the great revolutions of inanimate nature, there was another topic
connected with St. Helena, which, he felt certain, would excite a lively
emotion in the breasts of all who heard him. At the period of his visit,
the island had been selected as a prison for a great conqueror and
disturber of his fellow-creatures; and public attention was much drawn
to the spot by this circumstance, few men coming there who did not
permit all their thoughts to be absorbed by the past acts and the
present fortunes of the individual in question. As for himself, there
was, of course, no great attraction in any events connected with mere
human greatness, the little struggles and convulsions of the species
containing no particular interest for a devotee of the monikin
philosophy; but the manner in which all eyes were drawn in one
direction, afforded him a liberty of action that he had eagerly
improved, in a way that, he humbly trusted, would not be thought
altogether unworthy of their approbation. While searching for minerals
among the cliffs, his attention had been drawn to certain animals that
are called monkeys, in the language of those regions; which, from
very obvious affinities of a physical nature, there was some reason to
believe might have had a common origin with the monikin species.
The academy would at once see how desirable it was to learn all the
interesting particulars of the habits, language, customs, marriages,
funerals, religious opinions, traditions, state of learning, and general
moral condition of this interesting people, with a view to ascertain
whether they were merely one of those abortions, to which, it is known,
nature is in the practice of giving birth, in the outward appearance
of their own species, or whether, as several of their best writers had
plausibly maintained, they were indeed a portion of those whom they
had been in the habit of designating as the "lost monikins." He had
succeeded in getting access to a family of these beings, and in passing
an entire day in their society. The result of his investigations was,
that they were truly of the monikin family, retaining much of the
ingenuity and many of the spiritual notions of their origin, but with
their intellects sadly blunted, and perhaps their improvable qualities
annihilated, by the concussion of the elements that had scattered them
abroad upon the face of the earth, houseless, hopeless, regionless
wanderers. The vicissitudes of climate, and a great alteration of
habits, had certainly wrought some physical changes; but there still
remained sufficient scientific identity to prove they were monikins.
They even retained, in their traditions, some glimmerings of the
awful catastrophe by which they were separated from the rest of their
fellow-creatures; but these necessarily were vague and profitless.
Having touched on several other points connected with these very
extraordinary facts, the Doctor concluded by saying that he saw but one
way in which this discovery could be turned to any practical advantage,
beyond the confirmation it afforded of the truth of their own annals.
He suggested the expediency of fitting out expeditions to go among these
islands and seize upon a number of families, which, being transported
into Leaphigh, might found a race of useful menials, who, while they
would prove much less troublesome than those who possessed all the
knowledge of monikins, would probably be found more intelligent and
useful than any domestic animal which they at present owned. This happy
application of the subject met with decided commendation. I observed
that most of the elderly females put their heads together on the spot,
and appeared to be congratulating each other on the prospect of being
speedily relieved from their household cares.

Dr. Reasono next spoke of his departure from St. Helena, and of his
finally landing in Portugal. Here, agreeably to his account, he engaged
certain Savoyards to act as his couriers and guides during a tour he
intended to make through Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, France, etc.,
etc., etc. I listened with admiration. Never before had I so lively
a perception of the vast difference that is effected in our views of
matters and things, by the agency of an active philosophy, as was now
furnished by the narrative of the speaker. Instead of complaining of the
treatment he had received, and of the degradations to which he and his
companions had been subjected, he spoke of it all as so much prudent
submission, on his part, to the customs of the countries in which he
happened to find himself, and as the means of ascertaining a thousand
important facts, both moral and physical, which he proposed to submit
to the academy in a separate memoir another day. At present, he was
admonished by the clock to conclude, and he would therefore hasten his
narrative as much as possible.

The Doctor, with great ingenuousness, confessed that he could gladly
have passed a year or two longer in those distant and highly interesting
portions of the earth; but he could not forget that he had a duty to
perform to the friends of two noble families. The Journey of Trial
had been completed under the most favorable auspices, and the ladies
naturally became anxious to return home. They had accordingly passed
into Great Britain, a country remarkable for maritime enterprise, where
he immediately commenced the necessary preparations for their sailing. A
ship had been procured under the promise of allowing it to be freighted,
free of custom-house charges, with the products of Leaphigh. A thousand
applications had been made to him for permission to be of his party,
the natives naturally enough wishing to see a civilized country; but
prudence had admonished him to accept of those only who were the most
likely to make themselves useful. The king of Great Britain, no mean
prince in human estimation, had committed his only son and heir-apparent
to his care, with a view to his improvement by travelling; and the
lord high admiral himself had asked permission to take command of an
expedition that was of so much importance to knowledge in general, and
to his own profession in particular.

Here Dr. Reasono ascended our tribune and presented Bob to the academy
as the Prince-Royal of Great Britain, and Captain Poke as her lord high
admiral! He pointed out certain peculiarities about the former, the smut
in particular, which had become pretty effectually incorporated with
the skin, as so many signs of royal birth; and ordering the youngster to
uncase, he drew forth the union-jack that the lad carefully kept
about his nether part as a fender, and exhibited it as his armorial
bearings - a modification of its uses that would not have been very far
out of the way, had another limb been substituted for the agent. As for
Captain Poke, he requested the academicians to study his nautical air
in general, as furnishing sufficient proof of his pursuits, and of the
ordinary appearance of human sea-men.

Turning to me, I was then introduced to all present as the
travelling governor and personal attendant of Bob, and as a very
respectable person in my way. He added, that he believed, also, I had
some pretension to be the discoverer of something that was called the
social-stake system; which, he dared to say, was a very creditable
discovery for one of my opportunities.

By this prompt substitution of employments, I found I had effectually
changed places with the cabin-boy; who, instead of waiting on me, was,
in future, to receive that trifling attention at my hands. The mates
were presented as two rear-admirals at nurse, and the crew was said to
be composed of so many post-captains in the navy of Great Britain. To
conclude, the audience was given to understand that we were all brought
to Leaphigh, like the minerals from St. Helena, as so many specimens of
the human species!

I shall not deny that Dr. Reasono had taken a very different view of
himself and his acts, as well as of me and my acts, from those I had
all along entertained myself; and yet, on reflection, it is so common to
consider ourselves in lights very different from those in which we are
viewed by others that I could not, on the whole, complain as much of his
representations as I had at first thought it might become me to do. At
all events, I was completely spared the necessity of blushing for my
generosity and disinterestedness, and in other respects was saved the
pain of viewing any part of my own conduct under a consciousness of its
attracting attention by its singularity on the score of merit. I must
say, nevertheless, that I was both surprised and a little indignant; but
the sudden and unexpected turn that had been given to the whole affair,
threw me so completely off my centre, that for the life of me, I could
not say a word in my own behalf. To make the matter worse, that monkey
Chatterino nodded to me kindly, as if he would show the spectators that,
on the whole, he thought me a very good sort of fellow!

After the lecture was over, the audience approached to examine us,
taking a great many amiable liberties with our persons, and otherwise
showing that we were deemed curiosities worthy of their study. The
king's cousin, too, was not neglectful of us, but he had it announced to
the assembly that we were entirely welcome to Leaphigh; and that, out of
respect to Dr. Reasono, we were all promoted to the dignity of "honorary
monikins," for the entire period of our stay in the country. He also
caused it to be proclaimed that, if the boys annoyed us in the streets,
they should have their tails curled with birch curling-irons. As for the
Doctor himself, it was proclaimed that, in addition to his former title
of F. U. D. G. E., he was now perferred* to be even M. O. R. E., and
that he was also raised to the dignity of an H. O. A. X., the very
highest honor to which any savant of Leaphigh could attain. [*sic]

At length curiosity was appeased, and we we're permitted to descend
from the tribune; the company ceasing to attend to us, in order to pay
attention to each other. As I had time now to recollect myself, I
did not lose a moment in taking the two mates aside, to present a
proposition that we should go, in a body, before a notary, and enter
a protest against the unaccountable errors into which Dr. Reasono had
permitted himself to fall, whereby the truth was violated, the rights
of persons invaded, humanity dishonored, and the Leaphigh philosophy
misled. I cannot say that my arguments were well received; and I was
compelled to quit the two rear-admirals, and to go in quest of the crew,
with the conviction that the former had been purchased. An appeal to the
reckless, frank, loyal natures of the common seamen, I thought,
would not fail to meet with better success. Here, too, I was fated to
encounter disappointment. The men swore a few hearty oaths, and affirmed
that Leaphigh was a good country. They expected pay and rations, as a
matter of course, in proportion to their new rank; and having tasted the
sweets of command, they were not yet prepared to quarrel with their good
fortune, and to lay aside the silver tankard for the tar-pot.

Quitting the rascals, whose heads really appeared to be turned by their
unexpected elevation, I determined to hunt up Bob, and by dint of Mr.
Poke's ordinary application, compel him, at least, in despite of the
union-jack, to return to a sense of his duty, and to reassume his old
post as the servitor of my wants. I found the little blackguard in
the midst of a bevy of monikinas of all ages, who were lavishing their
attentions on his worthless person, and otherwise doing all they could
to eradicate everything like humility, or any good quality that might
happen to remain in him. He certainly gave me a fair opportunity to
commence the attack, for he wore the union-jack over his shoulder, in
the manner of a royal mantle, while the females of inferior rank
pressed about him to kiss its hem! The air with which he received this
adulation, fairly imposed on even me; and fearful that the monikinas

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Monikins → online text (page 18 of 34)