James Fenimore Cooper.

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"And in a day or two, we shall proceed to the rectory?"

"The day after to-morrow, if you have strength."

"And to-morrow?"

"Anna will see you."

"And the next day?"

"Nay, not quite so soon, Jack; but the moment we think you perfectly
restored, she shall share your fortunes for the remainder of your common
probation."




CHAPTER XXX. EXPLANATIONS - A LEAVE-TAKING - LOVE - CONFESSIONS, BUT NO
PENITENCE.


A night of sweet repose left me refreshed, and with a pulse that denoted
less agitation than on the preceding day. I awoke early, had a bath, and
sent for Captain Poke to take his coffee with me, before we parted;
for it had been settled, the previous evening, that he was to proceed
towards Stunin'tun forthwith. My old messmate, colleague, co-adventurer,
and fellow-traveller, was not slow in obeying the summons. I confess his
presence was a comfort to me, for I did not like looking at objects that
had been so inexplicably replaced before my eyes, unsupported by the
countenance of one who had gone through so many grave scenes in my
company.

"This has been a very extraordinary voyage of ours, Captain Poke," I
remarked, after the worthy sealer had swallowed sixteen eggs, an omelet,
seven cotelettes, and divers accessories. "Do you think of publishing
your private journal?"

"Why, in my opinion, Sir John, the less that either of us says of the
v'y'ge the better."

"And why so? We have had the discoveries of Columbus, Cook, Vancouver,
and Hudson - why not those of Captain Poke?"

"To own the truth, we sealers do not like to speak of our cruising
grounds - and, as for these monikins, after all, what are they good for?
A thousand of them wouldn't make a quart of 'ile, and by all accounts
their fur is worth next to nothin'."

"Do you account their philosophy for nothing? and their
jurisprudence? - you, who were so near losing your head, and who did
actually lose your tail, by the axe of the executioner?"

Noah placed a hand behind him, fumbling about the seat of reason, with
evident uneasiness. Satisfied that no harm had been done, he very coolly
placed half a muffin in what he called his "provision hatchway."

"You will give me this pretty model of our good old 'Walrus,' captain?"

"Take it, o' Heaven's sake, Sir John, and good luck to you with it. You,
who give me a full-grown schooner, will be but poorly paid with a toy."

"It's as like the dear old craft as one pea is like another!"

"I dare say it may be. I never knew a model that hadn't suthin' of the
original in it."

"Well, my good shipmate, we must part. You know I am to go and see the
lady who is soon to be my wife, and the diligence will be ready to take
you to Havre, before I return."

"God bless you! Sir John - God bless you!" Noah blew his nose till
it rung like a French horn. I thought his little coals of eyes were
glittering, too, more than common, most probably with moisture. "You're
a droll navigator, and make no more of the ice than a colt makes of
a rail. But though the man at the wheel is not always awake the heart
seldom sleeps."

"When the 'Debby and Dolly' is fairly in the water, you will do me the
pleasure of letting me know it."

"Count on me, Sir John. Before we part, I have, however, a small favor
to ask."

"Name it."

Here Noah drew out of his pocket a sort of basso relievo carved in pine.
It represented Neptune armed with a harpoon instead of a trident; the
captain always contending that the god of the seas should never carry
the latter, but that, in its place, he should be armed either with the
weapon he had given him, or with a boat-hook. On the right of Neptune
was an English gentleman holding out a bag of guineas. On the other was
a female who, I was told, represented the goddess of liberty, while
it was secretly a rather flattering likeness of Miss Poke. The face of
Neptune was supposed to have some similitude to that of her husband. The
captain, with that modesty which is invariably the companion of merit in
the arts, asked permission to have a copy of this design placed on
the schooner's stern. It would have been churlish to refuse such a
compliment; and I now offered Noah my hand, as the time for parting had
arrived. The sealer grasped me rather tightly, and seemed disposed to
say more than adieu.

"You are going to see an angel, Sir John."

"How! - Do you know anything of Miss Etherington?"

"I should be as blind as an old bumboat else. During our late v'y'ge, I
saw her often."

"This is strange! - But there is evidently something on your mind, my
friend; speak freely."

"Well, then, Sir John, talk of anything but of our v'y'ge, to the dear
crittur. I do not think she is quite prepared yet to hear of all the
wonders we saw."

I promised to be prudent; and the captain, shaking me cordially by
the hand, finally wished me farewell. There were some rude touches of
feeling in his manner, which reacted on certain chords in my own system;
and he had been gone several minutes before I recollected that it
was time to go to the Hotel de Castile. Too impatient to wait for a
carriage, I flew along the streets on foot, believing that my own fiery
speed would outstrip the zigzag movement of a fiacre or a cabriolet tie
flace.

Dr. Etherington met me at the door of his appartement, and led me to an
inner room without speaking. Here he stood gazing, for some time, in my
face, with paternal concern.

"She expects you, Jack, and believes that you rang the bell."

"So much the better, dear sir. Let us not lose a moment; let me fly and
throw myself at her feet, and implore her pardon."

"For what, my good boy?"

"For believing that any social stake can equal that which a man feels in
the nearest, dearest ties of earth!"

The excellent rector smiled, but he wished to curb my impatience.

"You have already every stake in society, Sir John Goldencalf," he
answered - assuming the air which human beings have, by a general
convention, settled shall be dignified - "that any reasonable man can
desire. The large fortune left by your late father, raises you, in this
respect, to the height of the richest in the land; and now that you are
a baronet, no one will dispute your claim to participate in the councils
of the nation. It would perhaps be better, did your creation date a
century or two nearer the commencement of the monarchy; but, in this
age of innovations, we must take things as they are, and not as we might
wish to have them."

I rubbed my forehead, for the doctor had incidentally thrown out an
embarrassing idea.

"On your principle, my dear sir, society would be obliged to begin with
its great-grandfathers to qualify itself for its own government."

"Pardon me, Jack, if I have said anything disagreeable - no doubt all
will come right in heaven. Anna will be uneasy at our delay."

This suggestion drove all recollection of the good rector's social-stake
system, which was exactly the converse of the social-stake system of
my late ancestor, quite out of my head. Springing forward, I gave him
reason to see that he would have no farther trouble in changing the
subject. When we had passed an antechamber, he pointed to a door, and
admonishing me to be prudent, withdrew.

My hand trembled as it touched the door-knob, but the lock yielded. Anna
was standing in the middle of the room (she had heard my footsteps), an
image of womanly loveliness, womanly faith, and womanly feeling. By a
desperate effort, she was, however, mistress of her emotions. Though her
pure soul seemed willing to fly to meet me, she obviously restrained the
impulse, in order to spare my nerves.

"Dear Jack!" - and both her soft, white, pretty little hands met me, as I
eagerly approached.

"Anna! - dearest Anna!" - I covered the rosy fingers with kisses.

"Let us be tranquil, Jack, and if possible, endeavor to be reasonable,
too."

"If I thought this could really cost one habitually discreet as you an
effort, Anna?"

"One habitually discreet as I, is as likely to feel strongly on meeting
an old friend, as another."

"I think it would make me perfectly happy, could I see thee weep."

As if waiting only for this hint, Anna burst into a flood of tears.
I was frightened, for her sobs became hysterical and convulsed. Those
precious sentiments which had been so long imprisoned in her gentle
bosom, obtained the mastery, and I was well paid for my selfishness,
by experiencing an alarm little less violent than her own outpouring of
feeling.

Touching the incidents, emotions, and language of the next half hour,
it is not my intention to be very communicative. Anna was ingenuous,
unreserved, and, if I might judge by the rosy blushes that suffused
her sweet face, and the manner in which she extricated herself from my
protecting arms, I believe I must add, she deemed herself indiscreet in
that she had been so unreserved and ingenuous.

"We can now converse more calmly, Jack," the dear creature resumed,
after she had erased the signs of emotion from her cheeks - "more calmly,
if not more sensibly."

"The wisdom of Solomon is not half so precious as the words I have just
heard - and as for the music of spheres - "

"It is a melody that angels only enjoy."

"And art not thou an angel?"

"No, Jack, only a poor, confiding girl; one instinct with the affections
and weaknesses of her sex, and one whom it must be your part to sustain
and direct. If we begin by calling each other by these superhuman
epithets, we may awake from the delusion sooner than if we commence with
believing ourselves to be no other than what we really are. I love you
for your kind, excellent, and generous heart, Jack; and as for these
poetical beings, they are rather proverbial, I believe, for having no
hearts at all."

As Anna mildly checked my exaggeration of language - after ten years of
marriage I am unwilling to admit there was any exaggeration of idea - she
placed her little velvet hand in mine again, smiling away all the
severity of the reproof.

"Of one thing, I think you may rest perfectly assured, dear girl," I
resumed, after a moment's reflection. "All my old opinions concerning
expansion and contraction are radically changed. I have carried out the
principle of the social-stake system in the extreme, and cannot say that
I have been at all satisfied with its success. At this moment I am the
proprietor of vested interests which are scattered over half the world.
So far from finding that I love my kind any more for all these
social stakes, I am compelled to see that the wish to protect one, is
constantly driving me into acts of injustice against all the others.
There is something wrong, depend on it, Anna, in the old dogmas of
political economists!"

"I know little of these things, Sir John, but to one ignorant as
myself, it would appear that the most certain security for the righteous
exercise of power is to be found in just principles."

"If available, beyond a question. They who contend that the debased and
ignorant are unfit to express their opinions concerning the public weal,
are obliged to own that they can only be restrained by force. Now, as
knowledge is power, their first precaution is to keep them ignorant; and
then they quote this very ignorance, with all its debasing consequences,
as an argument against their participating in authority with themselves.
I believe there can be no safe medium between a frank admission of the
whole principle - "

"You should remember, dear Goldencalf, that this is a subject on which I
know but little. It ought to be sufficient for us that we find things as
they are; if change is actually necessary, we should endeavor to effect
it with prudence and a proper regard to justice."

Anna, while kindly leading me back from my speculations, looked both
anxious and pained.

"True - true" - I hurriedly rejoined, for a world would not tempt me to
prolong her suffering for a moment. "I am foolish and forgetful, to
be talking thus at such a moment; but I have endured too much to be
altogether unmindful of ancient theories. I thought it might be
grateful to you, at least, to know, Anna, that I have ceased to look
for happiness in my affections for all, and am only so much the better
disposed to turn in search of it to one."

"To love our neighbor as ourself, is the latest and highest of the
divine commands," the dear girl answered, looking a thousand times more
lovely than ever, for my conclusion was very far from being displeasing
to her. "I do not know that this object is to be attained by centring
in our persons as many of the goods of life as possible; but I do think,
Jack, that the heart which loves one truly, will be so much the better
disposed to entertain kind feelings towards all others."

I kissed the hand she had given me, and we now began to talk a little
more like people of the world, concerning our movements. The interview
lasted an hour longer, when the heaven. "You never yet were so unkind to
one who was offensive; much less could you willingly have plotted this
cruelty to one you regard!"

Anna could no longer control herself, but her cheeks were wetted with
the usual signs of feeling in her sex. Then smiling in the midst of
this little outbreaking of womanly sensibility, her countenance became
playful and radiant.

"That letter ought not to be altogether proscribed, neither, Jack. Had
it not been written, you would never have visited Leaphigh, nor
Leaplow, nor have seen any of those wonderful spectacles which are here
recorded."

The dear creature laid her hand on a roll of manuscript which she had
just returned to me, after its perusal. At the same time, her face
flushed, as vivid and transient feelings are reflected from the features
of the innocent and ingenuous, and she made a faint effort to laugh.

I passed a hand over my brow, for whenever this subject is alluded to
between us, I invariably feel that there is a species of mistiness, in
and about the region of thought. I was not displeased, however, for
I knew that a heart which loved so truly would not willingly cause
me pain, nor would one habitually so gentle and considerate, utter a
syllable that she might have reason to think would seriously displease.

"Hadst thou been with me, love, that journey would always be remembered
as one of the pleasantest events of my life, for, while it had its
perils and its disagreeables, it had also its moments of extreme
satisfaction."

"You will never be an adept in political saltation, John!"

"Perhaps not - but here is a document that will render it less necessary
than formerly."

I threw her a packet which had been received that morning from town, by
a special messenger, but of whose contents I had not yet spoken. Anna
was too young a wife to open it without an approving look from my fond
eye. On glancing over its contents, she perceived that I was raised to
the House of Peers by the title of Viscount Householder. The purchase of
three more boroughs, and the influence of my old friend Lord Pledge, had
done it all.

The sweet girl looked pleased, for I believe it is in female nature
to like to be a viscountess; but, throwing herself into my arms, she
protested that her joy was at my elevation and not at her own.

"I owed you this effort, Anna, as some acknowledgment for your faith and
disinterestedness in the affair of Lord M'Dee."

"And yet, Jack, he had neither high cheek-bones, nor red hair; and his
accent was such as might please a girl less capricious than myself!"

This was said playfully and coquettishly, but in a way to make me feel
how near folly would have been to depriving me of a treasure, had the
heart I so much prized been less ingenuous and pure. I drew the dear
creature to my bosom, as if afraid my rival might yet rob me of her
possession. Anna looked up, smiling through her tears; and, making an
effort to be calm, she said, in a voice so smothered as to prove how
delicate she felt the subject to be: -

"We will speak seldom of this journey, dear John, and try to think of
the long and dark journey which is yet before us. We will speak of it,
however, for there should be nothing totally concealed between us."

I kissed her serene and humid eyes, and repeated what she had just said,
syllable for syllable. Anna has not been unmindful of her words;
for rarely, indeed, has she touched on the past, and then oftener in
allusion to her own sorrows, than in reference to my impressions.

But, while the subject of my voyage to the monikin region is, in
a measure, forbidden between me and my wife, there exists no such
restraint as between me and other people. The reader may like to know,
therefore, what effect this extraordinary adventure has left on my mind,
after an interval of ten years.

There have been moments when the whole has appeared a dream; but, on
looking back, and comparing it with other scenes in which I have been an
actor, I cannot perceive that this is not quite as indelibly stamped
on my memory as those. The facts themselves, moreover, are so very like
what I see daily in the course of occurrence around me, that I have come
to the conclusion, I did go to Leaphigh in the way related, and that I
must have been brought back during the temporary insanity of a fever.
I believe, therefore, that there are such countries as Leaphigh and
Leaplow; and after much thought, I am of opinion that great justice has
here been done to the monikin character in general.

The result of much meditation on what I witnessed, has been to produce
sundry material changes in my former opinions, and to unsettle even many
of the notions in which I may be said to have been born and bred. In
order to consume as little of the reader's time as possible, I shall set
down a summary of my conclusions, and then take my leave of him, with
many thanks for his politeness in reading what I have written. Before
completing my task in this way, however, it will be well to add a word
on the subject of one or two of my fellow-travellers.

I never could make up my mind relating to the fact whether we did or did
not actually eat Brigadier Downright. The flesh was so savory, and it
tasted so delicious after a week of philosophical meditation on nuts,
and the recollection of its pleasures is so very vivid, that I am
inclined to think nothing but a good material dinner could have left
behind it impressions so lively, I have had many melancholy thoughts
on this subject, especially in November; but observing that men are
constantly devouring each other, in one shape or another, I endeavor to
make the best of it, and to persuade myself that a slight difference in
species may exonerate me from the imputation of cannibalism.

I often get letters from Captain Poke. He is not very explicit on the
subject of our voyage, it is true; but, on the whole, I have decided
that the little ship he constructed was built on the model of, and named
after, our own Walrus instead of our own Walrus being built on the model
of, and named after, the little ship constructed by Captain Poke. I
keep the latter, therefore, to show my friends as a proof of what I tell
them, knowing the importance of visible testimony with ordinary minds.

As for Bob and the mates, I never heard any more of them. The former
most probably continued a "kickee" until years and experience enabled
him to turn the tables on humanity, when, as is usually the case
with Christians, he would be very likely to take up the business of
a "kicker" with so much the greater zeal on account of his early
sufferings.

To conclude, my own adventures and observations lead to the following
inferences, viz.:

That every man loves liberty for his own sake and very few for the sake
of other people.

That moral saltation is very necessary to political success at Leaplow,
and quite probably in many other places.

That civilization is very arbitrary, meaning one thing in France,
another thing at Leaphigh, and still a third in Dorsetshire.

That there is no sensible difference between motives in the polar region
and motives anywhere else.

That truth is a comparative and local property, being much influenced by
circumstances; particularly by climate and by different public opinions.

That there is no portion of human wisdom so select and faultless that it
does not contain the seeds of its own refutation.

That of all the 'ocracies (aristocracy and democracy included) hypocrisy
is the most flourishing.

That he who is in the clutches of the law may think himself lucky if he
escape with the loss of his tail.

That liberty is a convertible term, which means exclusive privileges in
one country, no privileges in another, and inclusive privileges in all.

That religion is a paradox, in which self-denial and humility are
proposed as tenets, in direct contradiction to every man's senses.

That phrenology and caudology are sister sciences, one being quite as
demonstrable as the other, and more too.

That philosophy, sound principles and virtue, are really delightful;
but, after all, that they are no more than so many slaves of the belly;
a man usually preferring to eat his best friend to starving.

That a little wheel and a great wheel are as necessary to the motion
of a commonweath, as to the motion of a stage-coach, and that what this
gains in periphery that makes up in activity, on the rotatory principle.

That it is one thing to have a king, another to have a throne, and
another to have neither.

That the reasoning which is drawn from particular abuses, is no
reasoning for general uses.

That, in England, if we did not use blinkers, our cattle would break our
necks; whereas, in Germany we travel at a good pace, allowing the horse
the use of his eyes; and in Naples we fly, without even a bit!

That the converse of what has just been said of horses is true of men,
in the three countries named.

That occultations of truth are just as certain as the aurora boreal is,
and quite as easily accounted for.

That men who will not shrink from the danger and toil of penetrating the
polar basin, will shrink from the trouble of doing their own thinking,
and put themselves, like Captain Poke, under the convoy of a God-like.

That all our wisdom is insufficient to protect us from frauds, one
outwitting us by gyrations and flapjacks, and another by adding new
joints to the cauda.

That men are not very scrupulous touching the humility due to God, but
are so tenacious of their own privileges in this particular, they will
confide in plausible rogues rather than in plain-dealing honesty.

That they who rightly appreciate the foregoing facts, are People's
Friends, and become the salt of the earth - yea, even the Most Patriotic
Patriots!

That it is fortunate "all will come right in heaven," for it is certain
too much goes wrong on earth.

That the social-stake system has one distinctive merit: that of causing
the owners of vested rights to set their own interests in motion, while
those of their fellow-citizens must follow, as a matter of course,
though perhaps a little clouded by the dust raised by their leaders.

That he who has an Anna, has the best investment in humanity; and that
if he has any repetition of his treasure, it is better still.

That money commonly purifies the spirit as wine quenches thirst; and
therefore it is wise to commit all our concerns to the keeping of those
who have most of it.

That others seldom regard us in the same light we regard ourselves;
witness the manner in which Dr. Reasono converted me from a benefactor
into the travelling tutor of Prince Bob.

That honors are sweet even to the most humble, as is shown by the
satisfaction of Noah in being made a lord high admiral.

That there is no such stimulant of humanity, as a good moneyed stake in
its advancement.

That though the mind may be set on a very improper and base object, it
will not fail to seek a good motive for its justification, few men being
so hardened in any grovelling passion, that they will not endeavor to
deceive themselves, as well as their neighbors.

That academies promote good fellowship in knowledge, and good fellowship
in knowledge promotes F. U. D. G. E.'s, and H. O. A. X.'s.

That a political rolling-pin, though a very good thing to level rights
and privileges, is a very bad thing to level houses, temples, and other
matters that might be named.

That the system of governing by proxy is more extended than is commonly
supposed; in one country a king resorting to its use, and in another the
people.

That there is no method by which a man can be made to covet a tail, so
sure as by supplying all his neighbors, and excluding him by an especial



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Monikins → online text (page 33 of 34)