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say, "that the executive of ANY country, I will not say merely of our
own, should possess, or exercise, even admitting that he does possess
them, such unheard of powers? Our condition is worse than that of the
Mussulmans, who in losing their money usually lose their heads, and are
left in a happy insensibility to their sufferings: but, alas! there
is an end of the much boasted liberty of America! The executive has
swallowed up all the other branches of the government, and the next
thing will be to swallow up us. Our altars, our firesides, and our
persons will shortly be invaded; and I much fear that my next letter
will be received by you long after all correspondence shall be
prohibited, every means of communication cut off, and we ourselves shall
be precluded from writing, by being chained like beasts of burden to the
car of a bloody tyrant." Then followed as pretty a string of epithets
as I remember to have heard from the mouth of the veriest shrew at
Billingsgate.

I could not but admire the virtue of the "social-stake system," which
kept men so sensibly alive to all their rights, let them live where they
would, or under what form of government, which was so admirably suited
to sustain truth and render us just. In reply I sent back epithet for
epithet, echoed all the groans of my correspondent, and railed as became
a man who was connected with a losing concern.

This closed my correspondence for the present, and I arose wearied with
my labors, and yet greatly rejoicing in their fruits. It was now late,
but excitement prevented sleep; and before retiring for the night I
could not help looking in upon my guests. Captain Poke had gone to a
room in another part of the hotel, but the family of amiable strangers
were fast asleep in the antechamber. They had supped heartily as I was
assured, and were now indulging in a happy but temporary oblivion - to
use an improved expression - of all their wrongs. Satisfied with this
state of things, I now sought my own pillow, or, according to a favorite
phrase of Mr. Noah Poke, I also "turned in."




CHAPTER IX. THE COMMENCEMENT OF WONDERS, WHICH ARE THE MORE
EXTRAORDINARY ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR TRUTH.


I dare say my head had been on the pillow fully an hour before sleep
closed my eyes. During this time I had abundant occasion to understand
the activity of what are called the "busy thoughts." Mine were feverish,
glowing, and restless. They wandered over a wild field; one that
included Anna, with her beauty, her mild truth, her womanly softness,
and her womanly cruelty; Captain Poke and his peculiar opinions; the
amiable family of quadrupeds and their wounded sensibilities; the
excellences of the social-stake system; and, in short, most of that
which I had seen and heard during the last four-and-twenty hours. When
sleep did tardily arrive, it overtook me at the very moment that I
had inwardly vowed to forget my heartless mistress, and to devote
the remainder of my life to the promulgation of the doctrine of the
expansive-super-human-generalized-affection-principle, to the utter
exclusion of all narrow and selfish views, and in which I resolved to
associate myself with Mr. Poke, as with one who had seen a great deal of
this earth and its inhabitants, without narrowing down his sympathies in
favor of any one place or person in particular, Stunin'tun and himself
very properly excepted.

It was broad daylight when I awoke on the following morning. My spirits
were calmed by rest, and my nerves had been soothed by the balmy
freshness of the atmosphere. It appeared that my valet had entered and
admitted the morning air, and then had withdrawn as usual to await the
signal of the bell before he presumed to reappear. I lay many minutes
in delicious repose, enjoying the periodical return of life and reason,
bringing with it the pleasures of thought and its ten thousand agreeable
associations. The delightful reverie into which I was insensibly
dropping was, however, ere long arrested by low, murmuring, and, as I
thought, plaintive voices at no great distance from my own bed. Seating
myself erect, I listened intently and with a good deal of surprise; for
it was not easy to imagine whence sounds so unusual for that place and
hour could proceed. The discourse was earnest and even animated; but
it was carried on in so low a tone that it would have been utterly
inaudible but for the deep quiet of the hotel. Occasionally a word
reached my ear, and I was completely at fault in endeavoring to
ascertain even the language. That it was in neither of the five great
European tongues I was certain, for all these I either spoke or read;
and there were particular sounds and inflections that induced me to
think that it savored of the most ancient of the two classics. It is
true that the prosody of these dialects, at the same time that it is
a shibboleth of learning, is a disputed point, the very sounds of the
vowels even being a matter of national convention; the Latin word dux,
for instance, being ducks in England, docks in Italy, and dukes in
France: yet there is a 'je ne sais quoi,' a delicacy in the auricular
taste of a true scholar, that will rarely lead him astray when his ears
are greeted with words that have been used by Demosthenes or Cicero.
[Footnote: Or Chichero, or Kickero, whichever may happen to suit the
prejudices of the reader.] In the present instance I distinctly heard
the word my-bom-y-nos-fos-kom-i-ton, which I made sure was a verb in the
dual number and second person, of a Greek root, but of a signification
that I could not on the instant master, but which beyond a question
every scholar will recognize as having a strong analogy to a well-known
line in Homer. If I was puzzled with the syllables that accidentally
reached me, I was no less perplexed with the intonations of the voices
of the different speakers. While it was easy to understand they were of
the two sexes, they had no direct affinity to the mumbling sibilations
of the English, the vehement monotony of the French, the gagging
sonorousness of the Spaniards, the noisy melody of the Italians, the
ear-splitting octaves of the Germans, or the undulating, head-over-heels
enunciation of the countrymen of my particular acquaintance Captain
Noah Poke. Of all the living languages of which I had any knowledge, the
resemblance was nearer to the Danish and Swedish than to any other;
but I much doubted at the time I first heard the syllables, and still
question, if there is exactly such a word as my-bom-y-nos-fos-kom-i-ton
to be found in even either of those tongues. I could no longer support
the suspense. The classical and learned doubts that beset me grew
intensely painful; and arising with the greatest caution, in order
not to alarm the speakers, I prepared to put an end to them all by the
simple and natural process of actual observation.

The voices came from the antechamber, the door of which was slightly
open. Throwing on a dressing-gown, and thrusting my feet into slippers,
I moved on tiptoe to the aperture, and placed my eye in such a situation
as enabled me to command a view of the persons of those who were still
earnestly talking in the adjoining room. All surprise vanished the
moment I found that the four monkeys were grouped in a corner of the
apartment, where they were carrying on a very animated dialogue, the two
oldest of the party (a male and a female) being the principal speakers.
It was not to be expected that even a graduate of Oxford, although
belonging to a sect so proverbial for classical lore that many of them
knew nothing else, could at the first hearing decide upon the analogies
and character of a tongue that is so little cultivated even in that
ancient sea of learning. Although I had now certainly a direct clew to
the root of the dialect of the speakers, I found it quite impossible to
get any useful acquaintance with the general drift of what was passing
among them. As they were my guests, however, and might possibly be in
want of some of the conveniences that were necessary to their habits, or
might even be suffering under still graver embarrassments, I conceived
it to be a duty to waive the ordinary usages of society, and at once
offer whatever it was in my power to bestow, at the risk of interrupting
concerns that they might possibly wish to consider private. Using the
precaution, therefore, to make a little noise, as the best means of
announcing my approach, the door was gently opened, and I presented
myself to view. At first I was a little at a loss in what manner to
address the strangers; but believing that a people who spoke a language
so difficult of utterance and so rich as that I had just heard, like
those who use dialects derived from the Slavonian root, were most
probably the masters of all others; and remembering, moreover, that
French was a medium of thought among all polite people, I determined to
have recourse to that tongue. "Messieurs et mesdames," I said,
inclining my body in salutation, "mille pardons four cette intrusion feu
convenable" - but as I am writing in English it may be well to translate
the speeches as I proceed; although I abandon with regret the advantage
of going through them literally, and in the appropriate dialect in which
they were originally spoken.

"Gentlemen and ladies," I said, inclining my body in salutation, "I ask
a thousand pardons for this inopportune intrusion on your retirement;
but overhearing a few of what I much fear are but too well-grounded
complaints, touching the false position in which you are placed as the
occupant of this apartment, and in that light your host, I have ventured
to approach, with no other desire than the wish that you would make me
the repository of all your griefs, in order, if possible, that they may
be repaired as soon as circumstances shall in any manner allow."

The strangers were very naturally a little startled at my unexpected
appearance, and at the substance of what I had just said. I observed
that the two ladies were apparently in some slight degree even
distressed, the younger turning her head on one side in maiden modesty,
while the elder, a duenna sort of looking person, dropped her eyes to
the floor, but succeeded in better maintaining her self-possession and
gravity. The eldest of the two gentlemen approached me with dignified
composure, after a moment of hesitation, and returning my salute by
waving his tail with singular grace and decorum, he answered as follows.
I may as well state in this place that he spoke the French about as well
as an Englishman who has lived long enough on the continent to fancy he
can travel in the provinces without being detected for a foreigner. Au
reste, his accent was slightly Russian, and his enunciation whistling
and harmonious. The females, especially in some of the lower keys of
their voices, made sounds not unlike the sighing tones of the Eolian
harp. It was really a pleasure to hear them; but I have often had
occasion to remark that, in every country but one, which I do not care
to name, the language when uttered by the softer sex takes new charms,
and is rendered more delightful to the ear.

"Sir," said the stranger, when he had done waving his tail, "I should do
great injustice to my feelings, and to the monikin character in general,
were I to neglect expressing some small portion of the gratitude I feel
on the present occasion. Destitute, houseless, insulted wanderers and
captives, fortune has at length shed a ray of happiness on our miserable
condition, and hope begins to shine through the cloud of our distress,
like a passing gleam of the sun. From my very tail, sir, in my own name
and in that of this excellent and most prudent matron, and in those of
these two noble and youthful lovers, I thank you. Yes! honorable and
humane being of the genus homo, species Anglicus, we all return our most
tail-felt acknowledgments of your goodness!"

Here the whole party gracefully bent the ornaments in question over
their heads, touching their receding foreheads with the several tips,
and bowed. I would have given ten thousand pounds at that moment to
have had a good investment in tails, in order to emulate their form of
courtesy; but naked, shorn, and destitute as I was, with a feeling of
humility I was obliged to put my head a little on one shoulder and give
the ordinary English bob, in return for their more elaborate politeness.

"If I were merely to say, sir," I continued, when the opening
salutations were thus properly exchanged, "that I am charmed at this
accidental interview, the word would prove very insufficient to express
my delight. Consider this hotel as your own; its domestics as your
domestics; its stores of condiments as your stores of condiments, and
its nominal tenant as your most humble servant and friend. I have been
greatly shocked at the indignities to which you have hitherto been
exposed, and now promise you liberty, kindness, and all those attentions
to which it is very apparent you are fully entitled by your birth,
breeding, and the delicacy of your sentiments. I congratulate myself
a thousand times for having been so fortunate as to make your
acquaintance. My greatest desire has always been to stimulate the
sympathies; but until to-day various accidents have confined the
cultivation of this heaven-born property in a great measure to my own
species; I now look forward, however, to a delicious career of new-born
interests in the whole of the animal creation, I need scarcely say in
that of quadrupeds of your family in particular."

"Whether we belong to the class of quadrupeds or not, is a question
that has a good deal embarrassed our own savans" returned the stranger.
"There is an ambiguity in our physical action that renders the point a
little questionable; and therefore, I think, the higher castes of our
natural philosophers rather prefer classing the entire monikin species,
with all its varieties, as caudae-jactans, or tail-wavers; adopting
the term from the nobler part of the animal formation. Is not this the
better opinion at home, my Lord Chatterino?" he asked, turning to the
youth, who stood respectfully at his side.

"Such, I believe, my dear Doctor, was the last classification sanctioned
by the academy," the young noble replied, with a readiness that proved
him to be both well-informed and intelligent, and at the same time with
a reserve of manner that did equal credit to his modesty and breeding.
"The question of whether we are or are not bipeds has greatly agitated
the schools for more than three centuries."

"The use of this gentleman's name," I hastily rejoined, "my dear sir,
reminds me that we are but half acquainted with each other. Permit me to
waive ceremony, and to announce myself at once as Sir John Goldencalf,
Baronet, of Householder Hall, in the kingdom of Great Britain, a poor
admirer of excellence wherever it is to be found, or under whatever
form, and a devotee of the system of the 'social-stake.'"

"I am happy to be admitted to the honor of this formal introduction, Sir
John. In return I beg you will suffer me to say that this young nobleman
is, in our own dialect, No. 6, purple; or, to translate the appellation,
my Lord Chat-terino. This young lady is No. 4, violet, or, my Lady
Chatterissa. This excellent and prudent matron is No. 4,626,243, russet,
or, Mistress Vigilance Lynx, to translate her appellation also into the
English tongue; and that I am No. 22,817, brown-study color, or, Dr.
Reasono, to give you a literal signification of my name - a poor disciple
of the philosophers of our race, an LL.D., and a F.U.D.G.E., the
travelling tutor of this heir of one of the most illustrious and the
most ancient houses of the island of Leaphigh, in the monikin section of
mortality."

"Every syllable, learned Dr. Reasono, that falls from your revered lips
only whets curiosity and adds fuel to the flame of desire, tempting me
to inquire further into your private history, your future intentions,
the polity of your species, and all those interesting topics that
will readily suggest themselves to one of your quick apprehension and
extensive acquirements. I dread being thought indiscreet, and yet,
putting yourself in my position, I trust you will overlook a wish so
natural and so ardent."

"Apology is unnecessary, Sir John, and nothing would afford me greater
satisfaction than to answer any and every inquiry you may be disposed to
make."

"Then, sir, to cut short all useless circumlocution, suffer me to ask at
once an explanation of the system of enumeration by which you indicate
individuals? You are called No. 22,817, brown-study color - "

"Or Dr. Reasono. As you are an Englishman, you will perhaps understand
me better if I refer to a recent practice of the new London police. You
may have observed that the men wear letters in red or white, and numbers
on the capes of their coats. By the letters the passenger can refer to
the company of the officer, while the number indicates the individual.
Now, the idea of this improvement came, I make no doubt, from our
system, under which society is divided into castes, for the sake of
harmony and subordination, and these castes are designated by colors
and shades of colors that are significant of their stations and
pursuits - the individual, as in the new police, being known by the
number. Our own language being exceedingly sententious, is capable
of expressing the most elaborate of these combinations in a very few
sounds. I should add that there is no difference in the manner of
distinguishing the sexes, with the exception that each is numbered
apart, and each has a counterpart color to that of the same caste in
the other sex. Thus purple and violet are both noble, the former being
masculine and the latter feminine, and russet being the counterpart of
brown-study color."

"And - excuse my natural ardor to know more - and do you bear these
numbers and colors marked on your attire in your own region?"

"As for attire, Sir John, the monikins are too highly improved, mentally
and physically, to need any. It is known that in all cases extremes
meet. The savage is nearer to nature than the merely civilized being,
and the creature that has passed the mystifications of a middle state
of improvement finds himself again approaching nearer to the habits, the
wishes, and the opinions of our common mother. As the real gentleman is
more simple in manners than the distant imitator of his deportment; as
fashions and habits are always more exaggerated in provincial towns
than in polished capitals; or as the profound philosopher has less
pretensions than the tyro, so does our common genus, as it draws nearer
to the consummation of its destiny and its highest attainments, learn
to reject the most valued usages of the middle condition, and to return
with ardor towards nature as to a first love. It is on this principle,
sir, that the monikin family never wear clothes."

"I could not but perceive that the ladies have manifested some
embarrassment ever since I entered - is it possible that their delicacy
has taken the alarm at the state of my toilet?"

"At the toilet itself, Sir John, rather than at its state, if I must
speak plainly. The female mind, trained as it is with us from infancy
upwards in the habits and usages of nature, is shocked by any
departure from her rules. You will know how to make allowances for
the squeamishness of the sex, for I believe it is much alike in this
particular, let it come from what quarter of the earth it may."

"I can only excuse the seeming want of politeness by my ignorance, Dr.
Reasono. Before I ask another question the oversight shall be repaired.
I must retire into my own chamber for an instant, gentlemen and ladies,
and I beg you will find such sources of amusement as first offer until I
can return. There are nuts, I believe, in this closet; sugar is usually
kept on that table, and perhaps the ladies might find some relaxation by
exercising themselves on the chairs. In a single moment I shall be with
you again."

Hereupon I withdrew into my bed-chamber, and began to lay aside the
dressing-gown as well as my shirt. Remembering, however, that I was but
too liable to colds in the head, I returned to ask Dr. Reasono to
step in where I was for an instant. On mentioning the difficulty, this
excellent person assumed the office of preparing his female friends
to overlook the slight innovation of my still wearing the nightcap and
slippers.

"The ladies would think nothing of it," the philosopher good-humoredly
remarked, by way of lessening my regrets at having wounded their
sensibilities, "were you even to appear in a military cloak and Hessian
boots, provided it was not thought that you were of their acquaintance
and in their immediate society. I think you must have often remarked
among the sex of your own species, who are frequently quite indifferent
to nudities (their prejudices running counter to ours) that appear in
the streets, but which would cause them instantly to run out of the
room when exhibited in the person of an acquaintance; these conventional
asides being tolerated everywhere by a judicious concession of
punctilios that might otherwise become insupportable."

"The distinction is too reasonable to require another word of
explanation, dear sir. Now let us rejoin the ladies, since I am at
length in some degree fit to be seen."

I was rewarded for this bit of delicate attention by an approving smile
from the lovely Chatterissa, and good Mistress Lynx no longer kept her
eyes riveted on the floor, but bent them on me with looks of admiration
and gratitude.

"Now that this little contre-temps is no longer an obstacle," I resumed,
"permit me to continue those inquiries which you have hitherto answered
with so much amenity and so satisfactorily. As you have no clothes,
in what manner is the parallel between your usage and that of the new
London police practically completed?"

"Although we have no clothes, nature, whose laws are never violated with
impunity, but who is as beneficent as she is absolute, has furnished us
with a downy covering to supply their places wherever clothes are needed
for comfort. We have coats that defy fashions, require no tailors, and
never lose their naps. But it would be inconvenient to be totally clad
in this manner; and, therefore, the palms of the hands are, as you see,
ungloved; the portions of the frame on which we seat ourselves are
left uncovered, most probably lest some inconvenience should arise from
taking accidental and unfavorable positions. This is the part of the
monikin frame the best adapted for receiving paint, and the numbers of
which I have spoken are periodically renewed there, at public offices
appointed for that purpose. Our characters are so minute as to escape
the human eye; but by using that opera-glass, I make no doubt that you
may still see some of my own enregistration, although, alas! unusual
friction, great misery, and, I may say, unmerited wrongs, have nearly
un-monikined me in this, as well as in various other particulars."

As Dr. Reasono had the complaisance to turn round, and to use his tail
like the index of a black-board, by aid of the glass I very distinctly
traced the figures to which he alluded. Instead of being in paint,
however, as he had given me reason to anticipate, they seemed to be
branded, or burnt in, indelibly, as we commonly mark horses, thieves,
and negroes. On mentioning the fact to the philosopher, it was explained
with his usual facility and politeness.

"You are quite right, sir," he said; "the omission of paint was to
prevent tautology, an offence against the simplicity of the monikin
dialect, as well as against monikin taste, that would have been
sufficient, under our opinions, even to overturn the government."

"Tautology!"

"Tautology, Sir John; on examining the background of the picture, you
will perceive that it is already of a dusky, sombre hue; now, this being
of a meditative and grave character, has been denominated by our academy
the 'brown-study color'; and it would clearly have been supererogatory
to lay the same tint upon it. No, sir; we avoid repetitions even in our
prayers, deeming them to be so many proofs of an illogical and of an
anti-consecutive mind."

"The system is admirable, and I see new beauties at each moment. You
enjoy the advantage, for instance, under this mode of enumeration, of
knowing your acquaintances from behind, quite as well as if you met them
face to face!"

"The suggestion is ingenious, showing an active and an
observant mind; but it does not quite reach the motive of the
politico-numerical-identity system of which we are speaking. The objects



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Monikins → online text (page 9 of 34)