James Fenimore Cooper.

Works (Volume 17) online

. (page 19 of 35)
Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 17) → online text (page 19 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Stunin'tun, and he believed this was pretty much
the way at New-York, or he might say with the



THE MOtflKINS. 263

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, scien
tific, 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, &c., 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 spe
cimens of rock, which he submitted to the learned
present, inviting their attention to its character, and
asking, with great mineralogical confidence, if it did



264 THE MONIKINS.

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 phi
losopher 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 lei low-crea
tures; 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 con
nected with mere human greatness, the little strug
gles 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
gome reason to believe might have had a common
origin with the monikin species. The academy



THE MONIKINS. 265

would at once see how desirable it was to learn
all the interesting particulars of the habits, lan
guage, customs, marriages, funerals, religious opi
nions, 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 ap
pearance of their own species, or whether, as seve
ral 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 intel
lects sadly blunted, and perhaps their improvable
qualities annihilated, by the concussion of the ele
ments 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 a suffi
cient scientific identity to prove they were monikins.
They even retained, in their traditions, some glim
merings of the awful catastrophe by which they
were separated from the rest of their fellow-crea
tures ; but they 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 prac
tical advantage, beyond the confirmation it afforded
of the truth of their own annals. He suggested the
expediency of fitting out expeditions to go among



260 THE MONIKINS.

.hese 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 pos
sessed all the knowledge of monikins, would proba
bly 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 cer
tain Savoyards to act as his couriers and guides
during a tour he intended to make through Portu
gal, Spain, Switzerland, France, &c. &c. &c. 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 com
panions had been subjected, he spoke of it all as so
much prudent submission, on his part, to the cus
toms of the countries in which he happened to find
himself, and as the means of ascertaining a thou
sand 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



THE MON1KINS. 267

that he could gladly have passed a 5- ear or two
longer in those distant and highly interesting por
tions 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 coun
try remarkable for maritime enterprise, where he
immediately commenced the necessary prepara
tions 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 Bri
tain, no mean prince in human estimation, had
committed his only son and heir-apparent to his
care, with a view to his improvement by travel
ling; and the Lord High Admiral himself had
asked permission to take command of an expedi
tion 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 peculiar
ities 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



268 , THE MOJV1KINS.

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 seamen.

Turning to me, I was then introduced to all
present as the travelling governor and personal
attendant of Bob, and as a very respectable per
son 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 dis
covery 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 dif
ferent from those in which we are viewed by
others, that I could not, on the whole, complain as
much of his representations as T 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 re
spects was saved the pain of viewing any part



THE MONIKINS. 269

of my own conduct under a consciousness of it
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 a fellow !

After the lecture was over, the audience ap
proached to examine us, taking a great many
amiable liberties with our persons, and otherwise
showing that we were deemed curiosities wor
thy 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 preferred 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 Leap-
high could attain.

At length curiosity was appeased, and we were
permitted to descend from the tribune ; the com
pany 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 ?o, in a body, before a notary, and entei
23*



270 THE MONIKINS.

a protest against the unaccountable errors into
which Dr. Reasono had permitted himself to fall,
whereby the truth was violated, the rights of per
sons invaded, humanity dishonored, and the Leap-
high philosophy misled. I cannot say that my ar
guments 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 appear
ed 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 servi
tor 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 per
son, 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 female? of in
ferior rank pressed about him to kiss its hem ! The
air with which he received this adulation, fainy
imposed on even me ; and, fearful that the monikinas
nflight mob me, should I attempt to undeceive them



THE MONIKINS. 271

for monikinas, let them be of what species they
may, always hug a delusion, I abandoned my
hostile intentions, for the moment, and hurried after
Mr. Poke, little doubting my ability of bringing
one of his natural rectitude of mind, to a right way
of thinking.

The Captain heard my remonstrances with a
decent respect. He even seemed to enter into my
feelings with a proper degree of sympathy He
very frankly admitted that I had not been well
treated by Dr. Reasono, and he appeared to think
that a private conversation with that individual
might yet possibly have the effect of bringing him
to a more reasonable representation of facts. But,
as to any sudden and violent appeal to public opin
ion for justice, or an ill-advised recourse to a nota
ry, he strenuously objected to both. The purport
of his remarks was somewhat as follows :

" He was not acquainted with the Leaphigh law
of protests, and, in consequence, we might spend
our money in paying fees, without reaping any ad
vantage ; the Doctor, moreover, was a philosopher,
an F. U. D. G. E., and an H. O. A. X., and these were
fearful odds to contend against in any country, and
more especially in a foreign country; he had an
innate dislike for law-suits ; the loss of my station
was certainly a grievance, but, still, it might be
borne ; as for himself, he never asked for the office
of Lord High Admiral of Great Britain, but, as it
had been thrust upon him, why, he would do his
best to sustain the character ; he knew his friends
at Stunin'tun would be glad to hear of his promo
tion, for, though in his country there were no Lords,
nor even any Admirals, his countrymen were always
exceedingly rejoiced whenever any of their fellow-
citizens were preferred to those stations by any body
but themselves, seeming to think an honor confer
red on one, was an honor conferred on the whole



272 THE MOiMKIKS.

nation ; he liked to confer nonor on his own nation,
for no people on 'arth tuck up a notion of this sort,
and divided it among themselves in a way to give
each a share, sooner than the people of the States,
though they were very cautious about leaving any
portion of the credit in first hands, and, therefore,
he was disposed to keep as much as he could, while
it was in his power ; he believed he was a better
seaman than most of the Lord High Admirals who
had gone before him, and he had no fears on that
score ; he wondered whether his promotion made
Miss Poke Lady High Admiral ; as I seemed great
ly put out about, my own rank, he would give me
the acting appointment of a chaplain, (he did n't
think I was qualified to be a sea-officer,) and no
doubt I had interest enough at home to get it con
firmed ; a great statesman in his country had said,
" that few die and none resigned," and he did n't
like to be the first to set new fashions ; for his part,
he rather looked upon Dr. Reasono as his friend,
and it was unpleasant to quarrel with one's friends;
he was willing to do any thing, in reason, but re
sign, and if I could persuade the Doctor to say he
had fallen into a mistake in my particular case, and
that I had been sent to Leaphigh as a Lord High
Ambassador, Lord High Priest, or Lord High any
thing else, except Lord High Admiral, why, he was
ready to swear to it though he now gave notice
that, in the event of such an arrangement, he should
claim to rank me in virtue of the date of his own
commission; if he gave up his appointment a minute
sooner than was absolutely necessary, he should
lose his own self-respect, and never dare look Miss
Poke in the face, again ; on the whole, he should
do no such thing ; and, finally, he wished me a
good morning, as he was about to make a call oo
the Lord High Admiral of Leaphigh/



THE MONIK1NS. 273



CHAPTEB

New lords, new laws Gyration, rotation, and another na
tion ; also an invitation.

I FELT that my situation had now become ex
ceedingly peculiar. It is true that my modesty had
been unexpectedly spared, by the very ingenious
turn Dr. Reasono had given to the history of our
connexion with each other; but I could not see that
I had gained any other advantage by the expedient.
All my own species had, in a sense, cut me ; and I
was obliged to turn despondingly, and not without
humiliation, towards the inn, where the banquet
ordered by Mr. Poke waited our appearance.

I had reached the great square, when a tap on
the knee drew my attention to one at my side. The
applicant for notice was a monikin, who had all the
physical peculiarities of a subject of Leaphigh, and
yet, who was to be distinguished from most of the
inhabitants of that country, by a longer and less
cultivated nap to his natural garment, greater
shrewdness about the expression of the eyes and
the mouth, a general air of business, and, for a
novelty, a bob-cauda. He was accompanied by posi
tively the least well-favored being of the species I
had yet seen. I was addressed by the former.

" Good morning, Sir John Goldencalf," he com
menced, with a sort of jerk, that I afterwards
learned was meant for a diplomatic salutation;
" you have not met with the very best treatment
to-day, and I have been waiting for a good oppor
tunity to make my condolences, and to offer my
services."



274 THE MOMKIXP.

" Sir, you are only too good, I do feel a little
wronged ; and I must say, sympathy is most grate-
lil to my feelings. You will, however, allow me
to express my surprise at your being acquainted
with my real name, as well as with my misfor
tunes ?"

" Why, sir, to own the truth, I belong to an ex
amining people. The population is very much
scattered in my country, and we have fallen into a
practice of inquiry that is very natural to such a
state of things. I think you must have observed
that in passing along a common highway, you
rarely meet another without a nod; while thou
sands are met in a crowded street without even a
glance of the eye. We develop this principle, sir;
and never let any fact escape us, for the want of a
laudable curiosity."

" You are not a subject of Leaphigh, then ?"

" God forbid ! No, sir, I am a citizen of Leap-
low, a great and a glorious republic that lies three
days' sail from this island ; a new nation, which is
in the enjoyment of all the advantages of youth and
vigor, and which is a perfect miracle for the bold
ness of its conceptions, the purity of its institutions,
and its sacred respect for the rights of monikins. 1
have the honor to be, moreover, the Envoy Extra
ordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the repub
lic to the King of Leaphigh, a nation from which
we originally sprung, but which we have left far
behind us in the race of glory and usefulness. I
ought to acquaint you with my name, sir, in return
for the advantage I possess on this head, in relation
to yourself."

Hereupon my new acquaintance put into my
hand one of his visiting-cards, which contained as
follows :



THE MONIK1NS. 275

General-Commodore-Judge-Colonel,

PEOPLE'S FRIEND:

Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipo
tentiary from the Republic of Leaplow
near his Majesty the King of Leaphigh.

* Sir," said I, pulling off my hat with a profound
reverence, " I was not aware to whom I had the
honor of speaking. You appear to fill a variety
of employments, and I make no doubt, with equal
skill."

" Yes, sir, I believe I am about as good at one
of my professions, as at another."

" You will permit me to observe, however, Gene
ral a a Judge a a I scarcely know, dear
sir, which of these titles is the most to your taste ?"

" Use which you please, sir. I began with Gen
eral, but had got as low as Colonel before I left
home. People's Friend is the only appellation of
which I am at all tenacious. Call me People's
Friend, sir, and you may call me anything else you
find most convenient."

" Sir, you are only too obliging. May I ventura
to ask if you have really, propria persona, filled all
these different stations in life r

" Certainly, sir I hope you do not mistake me
for an impostor !"

" As far from it as possible. But a judge and a
commodore, for instance, are characters whose
duties are so utterly at variance, in human affairs,
that I will allow I find the conjunction, even in a
monikin, a little extraordinary."

'Not at all, sir. I was duly elected to each,
served my time out in them all, and have honorable
discharges to show in every instance."

" You must have found some perplexity in the
performance of duties so very different ?"



270 THE MOXIK1.VS

" Ah I see you have been long enough in Leap-
high to imbibe some of its prejudices ! It is a sad
country for prejudice. I got my foot mired in some
of them myself, as soon as it touched the land.
Why, sir, my card is an illustration of what we
call, in Leaplow, rotation in office."

" Rotation in office !"

" Yes, sir, rotation in office ; a system that we
invented for our personal convenience, and which
is likely to be firm, as it depends on principles that
are eternal."

" Will you suffer me to inquire, Colonel, if it has
any affinity to the social-stake system V

" Not in the least. That, as I understand it, is a
stationary, while this is a rotatory system. Nothing
is simpler. We have in Leaplow two enormous
boxes made in the form of wheels. Into one we
put the names of the citizens, and into the other the
names of the offices. We then draw forth, in the
manner of a lottery; and the thing ;s settled for a
twelvemonth."

" I find this rotatory plan exceedingly simple
pray, sir, does it work as well as it promises'?"

"To perfection. We grease the wheels, of
course, periodically."

"And are not frauds sometimes committed by
those who are selected to draw the tickets ?"

"Oh! they are chosen precisely in the same



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 17) → online text (page 19 of 35)