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Chapter 3

  • [The author studies to learn the language. The Houyhnhnm, his master, assist_n teaching him. The language described. Several Houyhnhnms of quality com_ut of curiosity to see the author. He gives his master a short account of hi_oyage.]
  • My principal endeavour was to learn the language, which my master (for so _hall henceforth call him), and his children, and every servant of his house,
  • were desirous to teach me; for they looked upon it as a prodigy, that a brut_nimal should discover such marks of a rational creature. I pointed to ever_hing, and inquired the name of it, which I wrote down in my journal-book whe_ was alone, and corrected my bad accent by desiring those of the family t_ronounce it often. In this employment, a sorrel nag, one of the under-
  • servants, was very ready to assist me.
  • In speaking, they pronounced through the nose and throat, and their languag_pproaches nearest to the High-Dutch, or German, of any I know in Europe; bu_s much more graceful and significant. The emperor Charles V. made almost th_ame observation, when he said "that if he were to speak to his horse, i_hould be in High-Dutch."
  • The curiosity and impatience of my master were so great, that he spent man_ours of his leisure to instruct me. He was convinced (as he afterwards tol_e) that I must be a YAHOO; but my teachableness, civility, and cleanliness,
  • astonished him; which were qualities altogether opposite to those animals. H_as most perplexed about my clothes, reasoning sometimes with himself, whethe_hey were a part of my body: for I never pulled them off till the family wer_sleep, and got them on before they waked in the morning. My master was eage_o learn "whence I came; how I acquired those appearances of reason, which _iscovered in all my actions; and to know my story from my own mouth, which h_oped he should soon do by the great proficiency I made in learning an_ronouncing their words and sentences." To help my memory, I formed all _earned into the English alphabet, and writ the words down, with th_ranslations. This last, after some time, I ventured to do in my master'_resence. It cost me much trouble to explain to him what I was doing; for th_nhabitants have not the least idea of books or literature.
  • In about ten weeks time, I was able to understand most of his questions; an_n three months, could give him some tolerable answers. He was extremel_urious to know "from what part of the country I came, and how I was taught t_mitate a rational creature; because the YAHOOS (whom he saw I exactl_esembled in my head, hands, and face, that were only visible), with som_ppearance of cunning, and the strongest disposition to mischief, wer_bserved to be the most unteachable of all brutes." I answered, "that I cam_ver the sea, from a far place, with many others of my own kind, in a grea_ollow vessel made of the bodies of trees: that my companions forced me t_and on this coast, and then left me to shift for myself." It was with som_ifficulty, and by the help of many signs, that I brought him to understan_e. He replied, "that I must needs be mistaken, or that I said the thing whic_as not;" for they have no word in their language to express lying o_alsehood. "He knew it was impossible that there could be a country beyond th_ea, or that a parcel of brutes could move a wooden vessel whither the_leased upon water. He was sure no HOUYHNHNM alive could make such a vessel,
  • nor would trust YAHOOS to manage it."
  • The word HOUYHNHNM, in their tongue, signifies a HORSE, and, in its etymology,
  • the PERFECTION OF NATURE. I told my master, "that I was at a loss fo_xpression, but would improve as fast as I could; and hoped, in a short time,
  • I should be able to tell him wonders." He was pleased to direct his own mare,
  • his colt, and foal, and the servants of the family, to take all opportunitie_f instructing me; and every day, for two or three hours, he was at the sam_ains himself. Several horses and mares of quality in the neighbourhood cam_ften to our house, upon the report spread of "a wonderful YAHOO, that coul_peak like a HOUYHNHNM, and seemed, in his words and actions, to discover som_limmerings of reason." These delighted to converse with me: they put man_uestions, and received such answers as I was able to return. By all thes_dvantages I made so great a progress, that, in five months from my arrival _nderstood whatever was spoken, and could express myself tolerably well.
  • The HOUYHNHNMS, who came to visit my master out of a design of seeing an_alking with me, could hardly believe me to be a right YAHOO, because my bod_ad a different covering from others of my kind. They were astonished t_bserve me without the usual hair or skin, except on my head, face, and hands;
  • but I discovered that secret to my master upon an accident which happene_bout a fortnight before.
  • I have already told the reader, that every night, when the family were gone t_ed, it was my custom to strip, and cover myself with my clothes. It happened,
  • one morning early, that my master sent for me by the sorrel nag, who was hi_alet. When he came I was fast asleep, my clothes fallen off on one side, an_y shirt above my waist. I awaked at the noise he made, and observed him t_eliver his message in some disorder; after which he went to my master, and i_ great fright gave him a very confused account of what he had seen. This _resently discovered, for, going as soon as I was dressed to pay my attendanc_pon his honour, he asked me "the meaning of what his servant had reported,
  • that I was not the same thing when I slept, as I appeared to be at othe_imes; that his vale assured him, some part of me was white, some yellow, a_east not so white, and some brown."
  • I had hitherto concealed the secret of my dress, in order to distinguis_yself, as much as possible, from that cursed race of YAHOOS; but now I foun_t in vain to do so any longer. Besides, I considered that my clothes an_hoes would soon wear out, which already were in a declining condition, an_ust be supplied by some contrivance from the hides of YAHOOS, or othe_rutes; whereby the whole secret would be known. I therefore told my master,
  • "that in the country whence I came, those of my kind always covered thei_odies with the hairs of certain animals prepared by art, as well for decenc_s to avoid the inclemencies of air, both hot and cold; of which, as to my ow_erson, I would give him immediate conviction, if he pleased to command me:
  • only desiring his excuse, if I did not expose those parts that nature taugh_s to conceal." He said, "my discourse was all very strange, but especiall_he last part; for he could not understand, why nature should teach us t_onceal what nature had given; that neither himself nor family were ashamed o_ny parts of their bodies; but, however, I might do as I pleased." Whereupon _irst unbuttoned my coat, and pulled it off. I did the same with my waistcoat.
  • I drew off my shoes, stockings, and breeches. I let my shirt down to my waist,
  • and drew up the bottom; fastening it like a girdle about my middle, to hide m_akedness.
  • My master observed the whole performance with great signs of curiosity an_dmiration. He took up all my clothes in his pastern, one piece after another,
  • and examined them diligently; he then stroked my body very gently, and looke_ound me several times; after which, he said, it was plain I must be a perfec_AHOO; but that I differed very much from the rest of my species in th_oftness, whiteness, and smoothness of my skin; my want of hair in severa_arts of my body; the shape and shortness of my claws behind and before; an_y affectation of walking continually on my two hinder feet. He desired to se_o more; and gave me leave to put on my clothes again, for I was shudderin_ith cold.
  • I expressed my uneasiness at his giving me so often the appellation of YAHOO,
  • an odious animal, for which I had so utter a hatred and contempt: I begged h_ould forbear applying that word to me, and make the same order in his famil_nd among his friends whom he suffered to see me. I requested likewise, "tha_he secret of my having a false covering to my body, might be known to non_ut himself, at least as long as my present clothing should last; for as t_hat the sorrel nag, his valet, had observed, his honour might command him t_onceal it."
  • All this my master very graciously consented to; and thus the secret was kep_ill my clothes began to wear out, which I was forced to supply by severa_ontrivances that shall hereafter be mentioned. In the meantime, he desired "_ould go on with my utmost diligence to learn their language, because he wa_ore astonished at my capacity for speech and reason, than at the figure of m_ody, whether it were covered or not;" adding, "that he waited with som_mpatience to hear the wonders which I promised to tell him."
  • Thenceforward he doubled the pains he had been at to instruct me: he brough_e into all company, and made them treat me with civility; "because," as h_old them, privately, "this would put me into good humour, and make me mor_iverting."
  • Every day, when I waited on him, beside the trouble he was at in teaching, h_ould ask me several questions concerning myself, which I answered as well a_ could, and by these means he had already received some general ideas, thoug_ery imperfect. It would be tedious to relate the several steps by which _dvanced to a more regular conversation; but the first account I gave o_yself in any order and length was to this purpose:
  • "That I came from a very far country, as I already had attempted to tell him,
  • with about fifty more of my own species; that we travelled upon the seas in _reat hollow vessel made of wood, and larger than his honour's house. _escribed the ship to him in the best terms I could, and explained, by th_elp of my handkerchief displayed, how it was driven forward by the wind. Tha_pon a quarrel among us, I was set on shore on this coast, where I walke_orward, without knowing whither, till he delivered me from the persecution o_hose execrable YAHOOS." He asked me, "who made the ship, and how it wa_ossible that the HOUYHNHNMS of my country would leave it to the management o_rutes?" My answer was, "that I durst proceed no further in my relation,
  • unless he would give me his word and honour that he would not be offended, an_hen I would tell him the wonders I had so often promised." He agreed; and _ent on by assuring him, that the ship was made by creatures like myself; who,
  • in all the countries I had travelled, as well as in my own, were the onl_overning rational animals; and that upon my arrival hither, I was as muc_stonished to see the HOUYHNHNMS act like rational beings, as he, or hi_riends, could be, in finding some marks of reason in a creature he wa_leased to call a YAHOO; to which I owned my resemblance in every part, bu_ould not account for their degenerate and brutal nature. I said farther,
  • "that if good fortune ever restored me to my native country, to relate m_ravels hither, as I resolved to do, everybody would believe, that I said th_hing that was not, that I invented the story out of my own head; and (wit_ll possible respect to himself, his family, and friends, and under hi_romise of not being offended) our countrymen would hardly think it probabl_hat a HOUYHNHNM should be the presiding creature of a nation, and a YAHOO th_rute."