James Fenimore Cooper.

Works (Volume 17) online

. (page 33 of 35)
Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 17) → online text (page 33 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

I looked at my friend the Brigadier for an expla
nation. After running his eye over the articles in
the journals, the latter smiled, and cast a look of
commiseration at our colleague.

" You have certainly committed a grave fault
here, my friend," he said, " and one that is seldom
forgiven in Leaplow perhaps I might say never,
during the occultation of the great moral postulate,
as happens to be the case at present."

" Tell me my sins at once, Brigadier," cried
Noah, with the look of a martyr, " and put me out
of pain."

' You have forgotten to display a motive for your
stand during the late hot discussion; and, as a mat
ter of course, the community ascribes the worst
that monikin ingenuity can devise. Such an over
sight would ruin even a God-like !"

" But, rny dear Mr. Downright," I kindly inter-
oosed, " our colleague, in this instance, is supposed
o have acted on principle."

The Brigadier looked up, turning nis nose into


the air, like a pup that has not yet opened its
eyes, and then intimated that he could not see the
quality I had named, it being obscured by the pas
sage of the orb of Pecuniary Interest before its
disk. I now began to comprehend the case, which
really was much more grave than, at first, I could
have believed possible- Noah himself seemed stag
gered ; for, I believe, he had fallen on the simple
and natural expedient of inquiring what he himself
would have thought of the conduct of a colleague
who had given a vote on a subject so weighty, with
out exposing a motive.

" Had the Captain owned but a foot square of
earth, at the end of the causeway," observed the
Brigadier, mournfully, "the matter might be cleared
up ; but as things are, it is, beyond dispute, a most
unfortunate occurrence."

"But Sir John voted with me, and he is no more
a freeholder in Leaplow, than I am myself."

" True ; but Sir John voted with the bulk of his
political friends."

"All the Horizontals were not in the majority;
for at least twenty went, on this occasion, with the

" Undeniable yet every monikin of them had *
visible motive. This owned a lot by the way-side ;
that had houses on the island, and another was the
heir of a great proprietor at the same point of the
road. Each and all had their distinct and positive
interests at stake, and not one of them was guilty
of so great a weakness as to leave his cause to be
defended by the extravagant pretension of mere
Principle !"

" My God-like, the greatest of all the Riddles,
absented himself, and did not vote at all."

"Simply because he had no good ground to
justify any course he might take. No public moni-

458 THE MOMhINs.

kin can expect to escape censure, if he fail to put
his friends in the way of citing some plausible and
intelligible motive for his conduct."

" How, sir ! cannot a man, once in his life, do
an act without being bought like a horse or a dog
and escape with an inch of character ?"

" I shall not take upon myself to say what men
can do," returned the Brigadier ; " no doubt they
manage this affair better than it is managed here ;
but, so far as monikins are concerned, there is no
course more certain to involve a total loss of char
acter I may say so destructive to reputation even
for intellect as to act without a good, apparent
and substantial motive."

" In the name of God, what is to be done, Briga

" I see no other course than to resign. Your con
stituents must very naturally have lost all confi
dence in you ; for one who so very obviously neg
lects his ow r n interests, it cannot be supposed will
be very tenacious about protecting the interests of
others. If you would escape with the little charac
ter that is left, you will forthwith resign. I do not
perceive the smallest chance for you by going
through Gyration No. 4, both public opinions uni
formly condemning the monikin who acts without
a pretty obvious, as well as a pretty weighty, mo

Noah made a merit of necessity; and, after some
further deliberation between us, he signed his name
to the following letter to the Speaker, which was
drawn up on the spot, by the Brigadier.

MR. SPEAKER: The state of my health obliges me tc
return the high political trust which has been confided to me
by the citizens of Bivouac, into the hands from which it was
received. In tendering my resignation, I wish to express the


great regret with which I part from colleagues so every way
worthy of profound respect and esteem, and I beg you to
assure them, that wherever fate may hereafter lead me,
I shall ever retain the deepest regard for every honorable
member with whom it has been my good fortune to serve.
The emigrant interest, in particular, will ever be the nearest
and dearest to my heart

Signed, NOAH POKE.

The Captain did not affix his name to this let
ter without many heavy sighs, and divers throes
of ambition ; for even a mistaken politician yields
to necessity with regret. Having changed the
word emigrant to that of " immigrant," however,
he put as good a face as possible on the matter,
and wrote the fatal signature. He then left the
house, declaring that he didn't so much begrudge
his successor the pay. as nothing but nuts were to
be had with the money; and that, as for himself, he
felt as sneaking as he believed was the case with
Nebuchadnezzar, when he was compelled to get
down on all-fours, and eat grass.


Some explanations A human appetite A dinner, and a
bonne bouche.

THE Brigadier and myself remained behind to
discuss the general bearings of this unexpected

" Your rigid demand for motives, my good sir,"
I remarked, "reduces the Leaplaw political moral
ity very much, after all, to the level of the social-
stake system of our part of the world."

" They both depend on the crutch of personal


interests, it is true ; though there is, between them
the difference of the interests of a part and of the
interests of the whole."

"And could a part act less commendably than
the whole appear to have acted in this instance ?'

" You forget that Leaplow, just at this moment,
is under a moral eclipse. I shall not say that these
eclipses do not occur often, but they occur quite as
frequently in other parts of the region, as they occur
here. We have three great modes of controlling
montkin affairs, viz. the one, the few, and the
many "

" Precisely the same classification exists among
men !" I interrupted.

" Some of our improvements are reflected back
wards ; twilight following as well as preceding the
passage of the sun," quite coolly returned the Briga
dier. " We think that the many come nearest to
balancing the evil, although we are far from be
lieving even them to be immaculate. Admitting
that the tendencies to wrong are equal in the three
systems, (which we do not, however, for we think
our own has the least,) it is contended that the
many escape one great source of oppression and
injustice, by escaping the onerous provisions which
physical weakness is compelled to make, in order
to protect itself against physical strength."

" This is reversing a very prevalent opinion
among men, sir, who usually maintain that the
tyranny of the many is the worst sort of all tyran
nies." '

" This opinion has got abroad simply because the
lion has not been permitted to draw his own picture.
As cruelty is commonly the concomitant of coward
ice, so is oppression nine times out of ten the result
of weakness. It is natural for the few to dread the
many, while it is not natural for the many to dread


the few. Then, under institutions in which the
many rule, certain great principles that are founded
on natural justice, as a matter of course, are openly
recognized ; and it is rare, indeed, that they do not,
more or less, influence the public acts. On the other
hand, the control of a few requires that these same
truths should be either mistified or entirely smo
thered ; and the consequence is injustice."

" But, admitting all your maxims, Brigadier, as
regards the few and the many, you must yourself
allow that here, in your beloved Leaplow itself,
monikins consult their own interests ; and this, after
all, is acting on the fundamental principle of the
great European social-stake system."

" Meaning that the goods of the world ought to
be the test of political power. By the sad confusion
which exists among us, at this moment, Sir John,
you must perceive that we are not exactly under
the most salutary of all possible influences. I take
it that the great desideratum of society is to be
governed by certain great moral truths. The infer
ences and corollaries of these truths are principles,
which come of heaven. Now, agreeably to the
monikin dogmas, the love of money is ' of the earth,
earthy ;' and, at the first blush, it would not seem
to be quite safe to receive such an inducement as
the governing motive of one monikin, and, by a
pretty fair induction, it would seem to be equally
unwise to admit it for a good many. You will
remember, also, that when none but the rich have
authority, they control not only their own property,
but that of others who have less. Your principle
supposes, that in taking care of his own, the elector
of wealth must take care of what belongs to the
rest of the community ; but our experience shows
that a monikin can be particularly careful of him
self, and singularly negligent of his neighbor. There*


fore do we hold that money is a bad foundation for

" You unsettle everything, Brigadier, without
finding a substitute."

" Simply because it is easy to unsettle everything,
and very difficult to find substitutes. But, as re
spects the base of society, I merely doubt the wisdom
of setting up a qualification that we all know depends
on an unsound principle. I much fear, Sir John,
that, so long as monikins are monikins, we shall
never be quite perfect ; and as to your social-stake
system, I am of opinion that as society is composed
of all, it may be well to hear what all have to say
about its management."

" Many men, and, I dare say, many monikins,
are not to be trusted even with the management of
their own concerns."

" Very true ; but it does not follow that other
men, or other monikins, will lose sight of their own
interests on this account, if vested with the right
to act as their substitutes. You have been long
enough a legislator, now, to have got some idea
how difficult it is to make even a direct and respon
sible representative respect entirely the interests and
wishes of his constituents ; and the fact will show
you how little he will be likely to think of others,
who believes that he acts as their master and not
as their servant"

" The amount of all this, Brigadier, is that you
nave little faith in monikin disinterestedness, in any
shape ; that you believe he who is intrusted with
power will abuse it ; and therefore you choose to
divide the trust, in order to divide the abuses ; that
the love of money is an 'earthy' quality, and not to
be confided in as the controlling power of a state ;
and, finally, that the social-stake system is radically


wrong, inasmuch as it is no more than carrying
out a principle that is in itself defective 1"

My companion gaped, like one content to leave
the matter there. I wished him a good morning,
and walked up stairs in quest of Noah, whose car
nivorous looks had given me considerable uneasi
ness. The Captain was out; and, after searching
for him in the streets, for an hour or two, I returned
to our abode fatigued and hungry.

At no great distance from our own door, I met
Judge People's Friend, shorn and dejected, and I
stopped to say a kind word, before going up the
ladder. It was quite impossible to see a gentleman,
whom one had met in good society and in better
fortunes, with every hair shaved from his body, his
apology for a tail still sore from its recent amputa
tion, and his entire mien expressive of republican
humility, without a desire to condole with him. I
expressed my regrets, therefore, as succinctly as
possible, encouraging him with the hope of seeing
a new covering of down before long, but delicately
abstaining from any allusion to the cauda, whose
loss I knew was irretrievable. To my great surprise,
however, the Judge answered cheerfully ; discard
ing, for the moment, every appearance of self-
abasement and mortification.

"How is this?" I cried ; "you are not then mise

"Very far from it, Sir John I never was in
better spirits, or had better prospects, in my life."

I remembered the extraordinary manner in which
the Brigadier had saved Noah's head, and was fully
resolved not to be astonished at any manifestation
of monikin ingenuity. Still I could not forbear de
manding an explanation.

"Why, it may seem odd to you, Sir John, to find
a politician, who is apparently in the depths of des


pair, really on the eve of a glorious preferment.
Such, however, is in fact my case. In Leaplow,
humility is everything. The monikin who will take
care and repeat sufficiently often that he is just
the poorest devil going, that he is absolutely unfit
for even the meanest employment in the land, and
in other respects ought to be hooted out of society,
may very safely consider himself in a fair way to
be elevated to some of the dignities he declares
himself the least fitted to fill."

" In such a case, all he will have to do, then,
will be to make his choice, and denounce himself
loudest touching his especial disqualifications for that
very station 1"

" You are apt, Sir John, and would succeed, if
you would only consent to remain among us!" said
the Judge, winking.

"I begin to see into your management after
all, you are neither miserable nor ashamed 1"

"Not the least in the world. It is of more im
portance for monikins of my calibre to seem to be
anything than to be it. My fellow-citizens are
usually satisfied with this sacrifice ; and, now Prin
ciple is eclipsed, nothing is easier."

" But how happens it, Judge, that one of your
surprising dexterity and agility should be caught
tripping ? I had thought you particularly expert,
and infallible in all the gyrations. Perhaps the
little affair of the cattda has leaked out ?"

The Judge laughed in my face.

" I see you know little of us, after all, Sir John.
Here have we proscribed caudce, as anti-republican,
both public opinions setting their faces against them ;
and yet a monikin may wear one abroad a mile
long with impunity, if he will just submit to a new
dock when he comes home, and swear that he >s

'JOO *)tl>


the most miserable wretch going. If he can throw
in a favorable word, too, touching the Leaplo\*
cats and dogs Lord bless you, sir! they would
pardon treason !"

" I begin to comprehend your policy, Judge, if
not your polity. Leaplow being a popular govern
ment, it becomes necessary that its public agents
should be popular too. Now, as monikins naturally
delight in their own excellencies, nothing so dis
poses them to give credit to another, as his profes
sions that he is worse than themselves."

The Judge nodded and grinned.

" But another word, dear sir as you feel your
self constrained to commend the cats and dogs of
Leaplow, do you belong to that school of philocats,
who take their revenge for their amenity to the
quadi pads, by berating their fellow-creatures 1"

The Judge started, and glanced about him as if
he dreaded a thief-taker. Then earnestly imploring
me to respect his situation, he added in a whisper,
that the subject of t u e people was sacred with him,
that he rarely spokt of them without a reverence,
and that his favorable sentiments in relation to the
cats and dogs were not dependent on any particu
lar merits of the animals themselves, but merely
because they were the people's cats and dogs.
Fearful that I might say something still more dis
agreeable, the Judge hastened to take his leave, and
I never saw him afterwards. I make no doubt,
however, that in good time his hair grew as he
grew again into favor, and that he found the means
to exhibit the proper length of tail on all suitable

A crowd in the street now caught my attention.
On approaching it, a colleague who was there was
kind enough to explain its cause.

It would seem that certain Leaphighers had been


travelling in Leaplow ; and, not satisfied with this
liberty, they had actually written books concerning
things that they had seen, and things that they had
not seen. As respects the latter, neither of the pub
lic opinions was very sensitive, although many of
them reflected severely on the Great National
Allegory and the sacred rights of monikins; but as
respects the former, there was a very lively excite
ment. These writers had the audacity to say that
the Leaplowers had cut off all their caudce, and the
whole community was convulsed at an outrage so
unprecedented. It was one thing to take such a
step, and another to have it proclaimed to the
world in books. If the Leaplowers had no tails, it
was clearly their own fault. Nature had formed
them with tails. They had bobbed themselves
on a republican principle ; and no one's principles
ought to be thrown into his face, in this rude
manner, more especially during a moral eclipse.

The dispensers of the essence of lopped tails
threatened vengeance; caricaturists were put in
requisition; some grinned, some menaced, some
swore, and all read !

I left the crowd, taking the direction of my door
again, pondering on this singular state of society,
in which a peculiarity that had been deliberately
and publicly adopted, should give rise to a sensi
tiveness of a character so unusual. I very well
knew that men are commonly more ashamed of
natural imperfections than of those which, in a
great measure, depend on themselves; but then men
are, in their own estimation at least, placed by
nature at the head of creation, and in that capacity
it is reasonable to suppose they will be jealous of
their natural privileges. The present case was
rather Leaplow than generic; and I could only
account for it, by supposing that Nature had placoa


certain nerves in the wrong part of the Leaplow

On entering the house, a strong smell of roasted
meat saluted my nostrils, causing a very unphi-
losophical pleasure to the olfactory nerves, a plea
sure which acted very directly, too, on the gastric
juices of the stomach. In plain English, I had very
sensible evidence that it was not enough to trans
port a man to the monikin region, send him to par
liament and keep him on nuts for a week, to render
him exclusively ethereal. I found it was vain " tc
kick against the pricks." The odor of roasted
meat was stronger than all the facts just named,
and I was fain to abandon philosophy, and surren
der to the belly. I descended incontinently to the
kitchen, guided by a sense no more spiritual than
that which directs the hound in the chase.

On opening the door of our refectory, such a
delicious perfume greeted the nose, that I melted
like a romantic girl at the murmur of a waterfall,
and, losing sight of all the sublime truths so lately
acquired, I was guilty of the particular human
weakness which is usually described as having the
" mouth water."

The sealer had quite taken leave of his monikin
forbearance, and was enjoying himself in a pecu
liarly human manner. A dish of roasted meat was
lying before him, and his eyes fairly glared as he
turned them from me to the viand, in a way to ren
der it a little doubtful whether I was a welcome
visiter. But that honest old principle of seamen
which never refuses to share equally with an ancien
messmate, got the better even of his voracity.

" Sit down, Sir John," the Captain cried, without
ceasing to masticate, " and make no bones of it.
To own the fact, the latter are almost as good as
the flesh. I never tasted a sweeter morsel !"

468 THE

I did not wait for a second invitation, the reader
may be sure ; and in less than ten minutes the dish
was as clear as a table that had been swept by
harpies. As this work is intended for one in which
truth is rigidly respected, I shall avow that I do not
remember any cultivation of sentiment which gave
me half so much satisfaction as that short and hur
ried repast. I look back to it, even now, as to the
very beau ideal of a dinner ! Its fauh was in the
quantity, and not in quality.

I gazed greedily about for more. Just then, I
caught a glimpse of a face that seemed looking at
me with melancholy reproach. The truth flashed
upon me in a flood of horrible remorse. Rushing
upon Noah like a tiger, I seized him by the throat,
jd cried, in a voice of despair :

" Cannibal ! what hast thou done ?"

" Loosen your gripe, Sir John we do not relish
these hugs at Stunin'tun."

" Wretch ! thou hast made me the participator
of thy crime! We have eaten Brigadier Down
right !"

" Loosen, Sir John, or human natur 5 will rebel."

" Monster ! give up thy unholy repast dost not
BCC a million reproaches in the eyes of the innocent
victim of thy insatiable appetites ?"

" Cast off, Sir John, r -ast off, while we are friends,
I care not if I have swallowed all the Brigadiers in
Leaplow off hands !"

" Never, monster ! until thou disgorgest thy un
holy meal \"

Noah could endure no more ; but, seizing me by
the throat, on the retaliating principle, I soon had
some such sensations as one would be apt to feel
f his gullet were in a vice. I shall not attempt to
describe very minutely the miracle that followed.
Hanging ought to be an effectual remedy for many


delusions ; for, in my case, the bow-string I was
under certainly did wonders in a very short time.
Gradually the whole scene changed. First came a
mist, then a vertigo ; and finally, as the Captain re
laxed his hold, objects appeared in new forms, and in
stead of being in our lodgings in Bivouac, I found my
self in my old apartment in the Rue de Rivoli, Paris.

" King !" exclaimed Noah, who stood before me,
red in the face with exertion; "this is no boy's
play, and if it's to be repeated, I shall use a lash
ing ! Where would be the harm, Sir John, if a
man had eaten a monkey ?"

Astonishment kept me mute. Every object, just
as I had left it the morning we started for London,
on our way to Leaphigh, was there. A table, in
the centre of the room, was covered with sheets of
paper closely written over, which, on examination,
I found contained this manuscript as far as the last
chapter. Both the Captain and myself were attired
as usual ; I a la Parisienne, and he a la Stunin'tun.
A small ship, very ingeniously made, and very
accurately rigged, lay on the floor, with "Walrus"
written on her stern. As my bewildered eye caught
a glimpse of this vessel, Noah informed me that,
having nothing to do except to look after my wel
fare, (a polite way of characterizing his ward over
my person, as I afterwards found,) he had employed
his leisure in constructing the toy.

All was inexplicable. There was really the
smell of meat. I had also that peculiar sensa
tion of fullness which is apt to succeed a dinner,
and a dish well filled with bones was in plain view.
I took up one of the latter, in order to ascertain its
genus. The Captain kindly informed me that it
was the remains of a pig, which it had cost him a
great deal of trouble to obtain, as the French viewed
the act of eating a pig but very little less heinous


Jian the act of eating a child. Suspicions began to
trouble me, and I now turned to look for the head
and reproachful eye of the Brigadier.

The head was where I had just before seen it,
visible over the top of a trunk ; but it was so far
raised as to enable me to see that it was still planted
on its shoulders. A second look, enabled me to
distinguish the meditative, philosophical countenance
of Dr. Reasono, who was still in the hussar-jacket
and petticoat, though, being in the house, he had
very properly laid aside the Spanish hat with be
draggled feathers.

A movement followed in the ante-chamber, and
a hurried conversation, in a low earnest tone, suc
ceeded. The Captain disappeared, and joined the
speakers. I listened intently, but could not catch
any of the intonations of a dialect founded on the
decimal principle. Presently the door opened, and
Dr. Etherington stood before me !

The good divine regarded me long and earnestly.
Tears filled his eyes, and, stretching out both hands

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 17) → online text (page 33 of 35)