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essence of lopped tails represents the average of Leaplow brains, being
a compound of all the tails in the country; and, as a daily journal is
addressed to the average intellect of the community, there is a singular
fitness between the readers and the readees. To complete my stock of
information on this head, however, will you just allow me to
inquire what is the effect of this system on the totality of Leaplow
intelligence?"

"Wonderful! As we are a commonwealth, it is necessary to have a unity
of sentiment on all leading matters, and by thus compounding all the
extremes of our reasons we get what is called 'public opinion'; which
public opinion is uttered through the public journals - "

"And a most patriotic patriot is always chosen to be the inspector of
the mill," interrupted the brigadier.

"Better and better! you send all the finer parts of your several
intellects to be ground up and kneaded together; the compound is sold to
the journalists, who utter it anew, as the results of the united wisdom
of the country - "

"Or, as public opinion. We make great account of reason in all our
affairs, invariably calling ourselves the most enlightened nation on
earth; but then we are especially averse to anything like an insulated
effort of the mind, which is offensive, anti-republican, aristocratic
and dangerous. We put all our trust in this representation of brains,
which is singularly in accordance with the fundamental base of our
society, as you must perceive."

"We are a commercial people, too," put in the brigadier; "and being much
accustomed to the laws of insurance, we like to deal in averages."

"Very true, brother Downright, very true; we are particularly averse to
anything like inequality. Ods zooks! it is almost as great an offence
for a monikin to know more than his neighbors, as it is for him to act
on his own impulses. No - no - we are truly a free and an independent
commonwealth, and we hold every citizen as amenable to public opinion,
in all he does, says, thinks, or wishes."

"Pray, sir, do both of the two great political lines send their tails to
the same mills, and respect the same general sentiments?"

"No, sir; we have two public opinions in Leaplow."

"TWO public opinions!"

"Certainly, sir; the horizontal and the perpendicular."

"This infers a most extraordinary fertility of thought, and one that I
hold to be almost impossible!"

Here the commodore and the brigadier incontinently both laughed as hard
as they could; and that, too, directly in my face.

"Dear me, Sir John - why, my dear Sir John! you are really the drollest
creature!" - gasped the judge, holding his sides - "the very funniest
question I have ev - ev - ever encountered!" He now stopped to wipe his
eyes; after which he was better able to express himself. "The same
public opinion, forsooth! - Dear me - dear me, that I should not have made
myself understood! - I commenced, my good Sir John, by telling you that
we deal in duplicates, on a hint from nature; and that we act on the
rotatory principle. In obedience to the first, we have always two public
opinions; and, although the great political landmarks are drawn in what
may be called a stationary sense, they, too, are in truth rotatory.
One, which is thought to lie parallel to the fundamental law, or the
constitutional meridian of the country, is termed the horizontal, and
the other the perpendicular line. Now, as nothing is really stationary
in Leaplow, these two great landmarks are always acting, likewise, on
the rotatory principle, changing places periodically; the perpendicular
becoming the horizontal, and vice versa; they who toe their respective
marks, necessarily taking new views of things as they vary the line of
sight. These great revolutions are, however, very slow, and are quite as
imperceptible to those who accompany them, as are the revolutions of our
planet to its inhabitants."

"And the gyrations of the patriots, of which the judge has just now
spoken," added the brigadier, "are much the same as the eccentric
movements of the comets that embellish the solar system, without
deranging it by their uncertain courses."

"No, sir, we should be poorly off, indeed, if we had but ONE public
opinion," resumed the judge. "Ecod, I do not know what would become of
the most patriotic patriots in such a dilemma!"

"Pray, sir, let me ask, as you draw for places, if you have as many
places as there are citizens?"

"Certainly, sir. Our places are divided, firstly, into the two great
subdivisions of the 'inner' and the 'outer.' Those who toe the mark on
the most popular line occupy the former, and those who toe the mark on
the least popular line take all the rest, as a matter of course. The
first, however, it is necessary to explain, are the only places worth
having. As great care is had to keep the community pretty nearly equally
divided - "

"Excuse the interruption - but in what manner is this effected?"

"Why, as only a certain number can toe the mark, we count all those who
are not successful in getting up to the line, as outcasts; and, after
fruitlessly hanging about our skirts for a time, they invariably go
over to the other line; since it is better to be first in a village than
second in Rome. We thus keep up something like an equilibrium in the
state, which, as you must know, is necessary to liberty. The minority
take the outer places, and all the inner are left to the majority. Then
comes another subdivision of the places; that is to say, one division
is formed of the honorary, and another of the profitable places. The
honorary, or about nine-tenths of all the inner places, are divided,
with great impartiality, among the mass of those who have toed the mark
on the strongest side, and who usually are satisfied with the glory of
the victory. The names of the remainder are put into the wheels to be
drawn for against the prizes, on the rotatory principle."

"And the patriots, sir; - are they included in this chance medley?"

"Far from it. As a reward for their dangers, they have a little wheel to
themselves, although they, also, are compelled to submit to the rotatory
principle. Their cases differ from those of the others, merely in the
fact that they always get something."

I would gladly have pursued the conversation, which was opening a flood
of light upon my political understanding; but just then, a fellow with
the air of a footman entered, carrying a packet tied to the end of his
cauda. Turning round, he presented his burden, with profound respect,
and withdrew. I found that the packet contained three notes with the
following addresses:

"To His Royal Highness Bob, Prince of Wales, etc., etc., etc."

"To My Lord High Admiral Poke, etc., etc., etc."

"To Master Goldencalf, Clerk, etc., etc., etc."

Apologizing to my guests, the seal of my own note was eagerly opened. It
read as follows:

"The Right Honorable the Earl of Chatterino, lord of the bed-chamber in
waiting on his majesty, informs Master John Goldencalf, clerk, that he
is commanded to attend the drawing-room, this evening, when the nuptial
ceremony will take place between the Earl of Chatterino and the Lady
Chatterissa, the first maid of honor to Her Majesty the Queen.

"N. B. The gentlemen will appear full dress."

On explaining the contents of my note to the judge, he informed me that
he was aware of the approaching ceremony, as he had also an invitation
to be present, in his official character. I begged, as a particular
favor, England having no representative at Leaphigh, that he would do
me the honor to present me, in his capacity of a foreign minister.
The envoy made no sort of objection, and I inquired as to the costume
necessary to be observed; as, so far as I had seen, it was good-breeding
at Leaphigh to go naked. The envoy had the goodness to explain, that,
although, in point of mere attire, clothing was extremely offensive to
the people of both Leaphigh and Leaplow, yet, in the former country, no
one could present himself at court, foreign ministers excepted, without
a cauda. As soon as we understood each other on these points, we
separated, with an understanding that I was to be in readiness (together
with my companions, of whose interest I had not been forgetful) to
attend the envoy and the brigadier, when they should call for me, at an
hour that was named.




CHAPTER XVIII. A COURT, A COURT-DRESS, AND A COURTIER - JUSTICE IN
VARIOUS ASPECTS, AS WELL AS HONOR.


My guests were no sooner gone, than I sent for the landlady, to inquire
if any court-dresses were to be had in the neighborhood. She told
me plenty might certainly be had, that were suited to the monikin
dimensions, but she much doubted whether there was a tail in all
Leaphigh, natural or artificial, that was at all fit for a person of my
stature. This was vexatious; and I was in a brown study, calling up all
my resources for the occasion, when Mr. Poke entered the inn, carrying
in his hand two as formidable ox-tails as I remember ever to have seen.
Throwing one towards me, he said the lord high admiral of Leaphigh
had acquainted him that there was an invitation out for the prince and
himself, as well as for the governor of the former, to be present at
court within an hour. He had hurried off from what he called a very
good dinner, considering there was nothing solid (the captain was
particularly fond of pickled pork), to let me know the honor that was
intended us; and on the way home, he had fallen in with Dr. Reasono,
who, on being acquainted with his errand, had not failed to point out
the necessity of the whole party coming en habit de cour. Here was a
dilemma, with a vengeance; for the first idea that struck the captain
was, "the utter impossibility of finding anything in this way, in all
Leaphigh, befitting a lord high admiral of his length of keel; for,
as to going in an ordinary monikin queue, why, he should look like a
three-decked ship, with a brig's spar stepped for a lower mast!" Dr.
Reasono, however, had kindly removed the embarrassment, by conducting
him to the cabinet of natural history, where three suitable appendages
had been found, viz., two fine relics of oxen, [Footnote: Cauda
Bovum. - BUF.] and another, a capital specimen, that had formerly been
the mental lever, or, as the captain expressed it, "the steering oar"
of a kangaroo. The latter had been sent off, express, with a kind
consideration for the honor of Great Britain, to Prince Bob, who was at
a villa of one of the royal family, in the neighborhood of Aggregation.

I was greatly indebted to Noah, for his dexterity in helping me to a
good fit with my court-dress. There was not time for much particularity,
for we were in momentary expectation of Judge People's Friend's return.
All we could do, therefore, was to make a belt of canvas (the captain
being always provided with needles, palm, etc., in his bag), and to
introduce the smaller end of the tail through a hole in the belt,
drawing its base tight up to the cloth, which, in its turn, was stitched
round our bodies. This was but an indifferent substitute for the natural
appendage, it is true; and the hide had got to be so dry and unyielding,
that it was impossible for the least observant person to imagine
there was a particle of brains in it. The arrangement had also another
disadvantage. The cauda stuck out nearly at right angles with the
position of the body, and besides occupying much more space than would
probably be permitted in the royal presence, "it gave any jackanapes,"
as Noah observed, "the great advantage over us, of making us yaw at
pleasure, since he might use the outriggers as levers." But a seaman is
inexhaustible in expedients. Two "back-stays," or "bob-stays" (for the
captain facetiously gave them both appellations) were soon "turned in,"
and the tails were "stayed in, in a way to bring them as upright as
trysail masts"; to which spars, indeed, according to Noah's account of
the matter, they bore no small resemblance.

The envoy-extraordinary of Leaplow, accompanied by his friend, Brigadier
Downright, arrived just as we were dressed; and a most extraordinary
figure the former cut, if truth must be said. Although obliged to be
docked, according to the Leaplow law, to six inches, and brought down to
a real bob, by both the public opinions of his country, for this was one
of the few points on which these antagonist sentiments were perfectly
agreed, he now appeared in just the largest brush I remember to have
seen appended to a monikin! I felt a strong inclination to joke the
rotatory republican on this coquetry; but then I remembered how sweet
any stolen indulgence becomes; and, for the life of me, I could not give
utterance to a bon-mot. The elegance of the minister was rendered the
more conspicuous by the simplicity of the brigadier, who had contrived
to moustache his dock, a very short one at the best, in such a manner as
to render it nearly invisible. On my expressing a doubt to Mr. Downright
about his being admitted in such a costume, he snapped his fingers,
and gave me to understand he knew better. He appeared as a brigadier of
Leaplow (I found afterwards that he was in truth no soldier, but that
it was a fashion among his countrymen to travel under the title of
brigadier), and this was his uniform; and he should like to see the
chamberlain who would presume to call in question the state of his
wardrobe! As it was no affair of mine, I prudently dropped the subject,
and we were soon in the court of the palace.

I shall pass over the parade of guards, the state bands, the
sergeant-trumpeters, the crowd of footmen and pages, and conduct the
reader at once to the ante-chamber. Here we found the usual throng
composed of those who live in the smiles of princes. There was a great
deal of politeness, much bowing and curtseying, and the customary amount
of genteel empressement to be the first to bask in the sunshine of
royalty. Judge People's Friend, in his character of a foreign minister,
was privileged; and we had enjoyed the private entree, and were now, of
right, placed nearest to the great doors of the royal apartments. Most
of the diplomatic corps were already in attendance, and, quite as a
matter of course, there were a great many cordial manifestations, of
the ardent attachment that bound them and their masters together, in
the inviolable bonds of a most sacred amity. Judge People's Friend,
according to his own account of the matter, represented a great
nation - a very great nation - and yet I did not perceive that he met with
a warm - a very warm - reception. However, as he seemed satisfied with
himself, and all around him, it would have been unkind, not to say rude,
in a stranger to disturb his self-esteem; and I took especial care,
therefore, not to betray, by the slightest hint, my opinion that a
good many near his person seemed to think him and his artificial queue
somewhat in the way. The courtiers of Leaphigh, in particular, who are
an exceedingly exclusive and fastidious corps, appeared to regard
the privileges of the judge with an evil eye; and one or two of them
actually held their noses as he flourished his brush a little too near
their sacred faces, as if they found its odor out of fashion. While
making these silent observations, a page cried out from the lower part
of the saloon, "Room for His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Great
Britain!" The crowd opened, and that young blackguard Bob walked up
the avenue, in state. He wore the turnspit garment as the base of his
toilet; but the superstructure was altogether more in keeping with the
rascal's assumed character. The union-jack was thrown over his shoulder
in the fashion of a mantle, and it was supported by the cook and steward
of the Walrus (two blacks), both clothed as alligators. The kangaroo's
tail was rigged in a way to excite audible evidences of envy in the
heart of Mr. Poke. The stepping of it, the captain whispered, "did the
young dog great credit, for it looked as natural as the best wig he had
ever seen; and then, in addition to the bob-stay, it had two guys, which
acted like the yoke-lines of a boat, or in such a way, that by holding
one in each hand, the brush could be worked 'starboard and larboard'
like a rudder." I have taken this description mainly from the mouth of
the captain, and most sincerely do I hope it may be intelligible to the
reader.

Bob appeared to be conscious of his advantages; for, on reaching the
upper end of the room, he began whisking his tail, and flourishing it
to the right and left, so as to excite a very perceptible and lively
admiration in the mind of Judge People's Friend - an effect that so much
the more proved the wearer's address, for that high functionary was
bound ex officio to entertain a sovereign contempt for all courtly
vanities. I saw the eye of the captain kindle, however, and when the
insolent young coxcomb actually had the temerity to turn his back on his
master, and to work his brush under his very nose, human nature could
endure no more. The right leg of my lord high admiral slowly retired,
with somewhat of the caution of the cat about to spring, and then it
was projected forward, with a rapidity that absolutely lifted the crown
prince from the floor.

The royal self-possession of Bob could not prevent an exclamation of
pain, as well as of surprise, and some of the courtiers ran forward
involuntarily to aid him - for courtiers always ran involuntarily to
the succor of princes. At least a dozen of the ladies offered their
smelling-bottles, with the most amiable assiduity and concern. To
prevent any disagreeable consequences, however, I hastened to acquaint
the crowd that in Great Britain, it is the usage to cuff and kick the
whole royal family; and that, in short, it is no more than the customary
tribute of the subject to the prince. In proof of what I said, I took
good care to give the saucy young scoundrel a touch of my own homage.
The monikins, who know that different customs prevail in different
nations, hastened to compliment the young scion of royalty in the same
manner; and both the cook and steward relieved their ennui by falling
into the track of imitation. Bob could not stand the last applications;
and he was about to beat a retreat, when the master of ceremonies
appeared, to conduct him to the royal presence.

The reader is not to be misled by the honors that were paid to the
imaginary crown prince, and to suppose that the court of Leaphigh
entertained any peculiar respect for that of Great Britain. It was
merely done on the principle that governed the conduct of our own
learned sovereign, King James I., when he refused to see the
amiable Pocahontas of Virginia, because she had degraded royalty by
intermarrying with a subject. The respect was paid to the caste, and not
to the individual, to his species, or to his nation.

Let his privileges come from what cause they would, Bob was glad enough
to get out of the presence of Captain Poke - who had already pretty
plainly threatened, in the Stunin'tun dialect, to unship his cauda - into
that of the majesty of Leaphigh. A few minutes afterwards, the doors
were thrown open, and the whole company advanced into the royal
apartments.

The etiquette of the court of Leaphigh differs in many essential
particulars from the etiquette of any other court in the monikin region.
Neither the king, nor his royal consort, is ever visible to any one in
the country, so far as is vulgarly known. On the present occasion,
two thrones were placed at opposite extremities of the salon, and a
magnificent crimson damask curtain was so closely drawn before each,
that it was quite impossible to see who occupied it. On the lowest step
there stood a chamberlain or a lady of the bed-chamber, who, severally,
made all the speeches, and otherwise enacted the parts of the
illustrious couple. The reader will understand, therefore, that all
which is here attributed to either of these great personages, was in
fact performed by one or the other of the substitutes named, and that
I never had the honor of actually standing face to face with their
majesties. Everything that is now about to be related, in short, was
actually done by deputy, on the part of the monarch and his wife.

The king himself merely represents a sentiment, all the power belonging
to his eldest first cousin of the masculine gender, and any intercourse
with him is entirely of a disinterested or of a sentimental
character. He is the head of the church - after a very secular fashion,
however; - all the bishops and clergy therefore got down on their knees
and said their prayers; though the captain suggested that it might be
their catechisms; I never knew which. I observed, also, that all his
law officers did the same thing; but as THEY never pray, and do not
know their catechisms, I presume the genuflections were to beg something
better than the places they actually filled. After this, came a long
train of military and naval officers, who, soldier-like, kissed his
paw. The civilians next had a chance, and then it was our turn to be
presented.

"I have the honor to present the lord high admiral of Great Britain to
your majesty," said Judge People's Friend, who had waived his official
privilege of going first, in order to do us this favor in person; it
having been decided, on a review of all the principles that touched the
case, that nothing human could take precedence of a monikin at court,
always making the exception in favor of royalty, as in the case of
Prince Bob.

"I am happy to see you at my court, Admiral Poke," the king politely
rejoined, manifesting the tact of high rank in recognizing Noah by his
family name, to the great surprise of the old sealer.

"King!"

"You were about to remark? - " most graciously inquired his majesty, a
little at a loss to understand what his visitor would be at.

"Why, I could not contain my astonishment at your memory, Mr. King,
which has enabled you to recall a name that you probably never before
heard!"

There was now a great, and to me, a very unaccountable confusion in the
circle. It would seem, that the captain had unwittingly trespassed on
two of the most important of the rules of etiquette, in very mortal
points. He had confessed to the admission of an emotion as vulgar as
that of astonishment in the royal presence, and he had intimated that
his majesty had a memory; a property of the mind which, as it might
prove dangerous to the liberties of Leaphigh, were it left in the
keeping of any but a responsible minister, it had long been decided it
was felony to impute to the king. By the fundamental law of the land,
the king's eldest first-cousin of the masculine gender, may have as many
memories as he please, and he may use them, or abuse them, as he shall
see fit, either in private or in the public service; but it is held to
be utterly unconstitutional and unparliamentary, and, by consequence,
extremely underbred, to insinuate, even in the most remote manner,
that the king himself has either a memory, a will, a determination, a
resolution, a desire, a conceit, an intention, or, in short, any other
intellectual property, that of a "royal pleasure" alone excepted. It
is both constitutional and parliamentary to say the king has a "royal
pleasure" provided the context goes to prove that this "royal pleasure"
is entirely at the disposition of his eldest first-cousin of the
masculine gender.

When Mr. Poke was made acquainted with his mistake, he discovered a
proper contrition; and the final decision of the affair was postponed,
in order to have the opinion of the judges on the propriety of taking
bail, which I promptly offered to put in, in behalf of my old shipmate.
This disagreeable little interruption temporarily disposed of, the
business of the drawing-room went on.

Noah was next conducted to the queen, who was much inclined (always by
deputy) to overlook the little mistake into which he had fallen with her
royal consort, and to receive him graciously.

"May it please your majesty, I have the honor to present to your
majesty's royal notice the Lord Noah Poke, the lord high admiral of a
distant and but little known country, called Great Britain," said
the gold stick of the evening - Judge People's Friend being afraid of
committing Leaplow, and declining to introduce the captain to any one
else.

"Lord Poke is a countryman of our royal cousin, the Prince Bob!"
observed the queen, in an exceedingly gracious manner.

"No, marm," put in the sealer, promptly, "your cousin Bob is no cousin
of mine; and if it were lawful for your majesty to have a memory, or an
inclination, or anything else in that way, I should beg the favor of you



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Monikins → online text (page 20 of 34)