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Gulliver's Travels by  John Lang


 

 

GULLIVER IS LEFT ASHORE IN A STRANGE LAND, AND IS CAPTURED BY A GIANT

[55] GULLIVER was not a man who liked to stop at home, or in one place, for any length of time, and he had been but little more than two months in England with his wife and family, when the old longing to travel in far-away lands again came over him.

He had made money by showing the cattle and sheep which he had brought from Blefuscu, and he now sold them for six hundred pounds. He had also, through the death of an uncle, received some other property, and was able to leave with his wife a sum of about fifteen hundred pounds, besides a small [56] yearly amount. His mind being thus free from care as to the well-being of his family, he said good-bye to them, and went on board the Adventure, a small ship which was about to sail for Surat, in the East Indies.

From the time of leaving England until they reached the Cape of Good Hope, the wind was almost constantly fair, and the vessel made a very good passage. At the Cape, however, the ship's casks needed to be filled with fresh water, and whilst this was being done it was found that the vessel was leaking so badly that most of the cargo had to be taken out of her. Before the leak could be stopped and the cargo re-shipped, the captain fell ill. Thus many months passed before the ship could continue her voyage.

Leaving the Cape of Good Hope, they sailed through the Straits of Madagascar on their way to India, and a few days after passing the Straits a wind which is called the South-West Monsoon sprang up. This wind each year begins to blow in the Indian Ocean in May, and it blows with- [57] out ceasing for several months. The time when Gulliver's ship was there, was at what is called the Break of the Monsoon, when the wind is very furious, and the rain falls in blinding sheets, such as are never seen in England.

The storm struck the Adventure  very severely, and raised a most dangerous sea. For weeks this continued, and never a sight of the sun could be got. The vessel drove before the wind until no man on board could guess in what part of the world they were. Every day the captain sent a man up to the fore topmast to look out for land, and every night sail was taken off the ship, so that she should go more slowly, lest in the dark she might run on some unknown rock.

One morning, very early, the lookout man spied land far off, and the Adventure ran in towards it as close as the captain dared, and cast anchor. Then a boat with twelve men was sent to the shore, which was about three miles away, to try to get water to fill the ship's casks. [58] Gulliver asked that he might be allowed to go ashore with the men. When they reached the land, no river or spring of water was to be seen, and the sailors went a great way along the beach looking for it. Gulliver went by himself, inland, thinking that from a hill he might discover some signs of people or of houses. But all the country within sight was rocky and bare, without trees or grass.

He was soon weary, and began to return towards the place where the boat had been left.

When at last he came in sight of the sea, to his horror, already far from the shore, he beheld the boat, the men rowing with frantic haste towards the Adventure. On the ship herself, the anchor was being got up, sails let fall, and everything made ready to be off in a hurry as soon as the boat should join her.


[Illustration]

WADING THROUGH THE WAVES WAS AN ENORMOUS MAN.

Nearer land, wading knee-deep through the waves, with great strides that set the water foaming, stumbling sometimes as his [59] feet came against the sharp pointed rocks, but always gaining on the boat, was an enormous man, bigger even than a giant in a fairy tale.

Gulliver looked for a moment, his knees giving way with fear. Then he turned and ran for his life. It seemed to him as if his feet were weighted with lead; as if at every step something were dragging him back. It must be a dream, sometimes he thought, and he would wake presently to find himself snug in his hammock on board ship.

But it was no dream, and ever as he ran, over his shoulder he could see the head of the monster showing above the cliff, as he still kept up his chase of the boat.

At length, with hard-drawn breath and thumping heart, Gulliver scrambled up and over a high and very steep hill. On the side farthest from the sea, to his great surprise he found cultivated fields, fields of huge size, and the grass in them, which looked as if it were meant for hay, was fully twenty feet high.

[60] Presently he came to what seemed to be a wide road, though afterwards he found that it was but a footpath which the people used, through a field of barley. Along this he walked for quite an hour. On each side the ripe crop rose above his head between thirty and forty feet, and he could see nothing else but the sky overhead. It was like walking along a cutting in a dense forest.

At last he came to the end of the field, which was fenced with a hedge near one hundred and twenty feet in height. The trees by the hedgerow were taller than anything he had ever seen or imagined. Between this field and the next was a stile with four steps, each step six feet high, and on top a stone of over twenty feet.

Gulliver could not get over, and he began to look for a gap in the hedge through which to creep. But as he looked he heard a noise.

Coming through the other field towards the stile was a monstrous man, as tall as [61] that one from whom he had just fled. To Gulliver's eyes he seemed to be as high as a steeple, and he stepped about ten yards at every stride.

Sick with fear, and with sinking heart, Gulliver ran and hid in the corn. From there he watched the giant come to the top of the stile, turn round, and in a gruff, roaring voice that filled the air like thunder, call back to some one in the other field.

At his call there came seven other great men, each with a gigantic reaping-hook, as big as half a dozen scythes, in his hand. These men seemed to be farm labourers, for presently, having sharpened their hooks, they began to reap the corn in which Gulliver lay hid.

This frightened him still more, and he crept as far as he possibly could from the reapers. But the stalks of corn were so close together, seldom more than a foot apart, that sometimes it was with great difficulty that he could squeeze his body between them.

[62] Soon he came to a place where the crop had been laid by wind and rain, and now he could go forward no farther, whilst on either side was the same tangled jungle. The stalks of the corn were so twisted together that it was not possible to force his way through, and the heads of the fallen barley-ears ran through his clothes and pierced his body like thorns. And ever the swish of the reapers" hooks drew nearer.

Now truly the fear of death was on him, and too late he wished that he had listened to his wife and to his friends when they advised him to stop at home.

Swish, swish, came the hooks; and the foot of one of the reapers was so close to him that in one other stride he must be crushed, like a frog under the hoof of an ox. Or, maybe, the hook would cut him in two. Gulliver crouched close to the ground, but as the great foot began to move, fear overcame him, and in his agony of mind he cried aloud, a shrill, long-drawn yell. The huge foot stopped short. Everywhere round [63] about him the giant peered in wonder, and at last spied Gulliver.

Very cautiously, and as if he feared to be bitten, the giant seized him behind, under the arms, and held him up, the better to look at him. It was useless to struggle, and though his ribs were pinched so that it was hardly possible to breathe, Gulliver kept quite still, feeling indeed as helpless and despairing as a rabbit in the fangs of a weasel.

Every second he expected to be dashed to the ground, as one might throw down some reptile or noxious beast that one wished to destroy. And as he was held at a height from the ground of nearly sixty feet, he knew that even if by accident he were to slip through the giant's fingers, and fall that distance, he must be killed.

So, though Gulliver could breathe only with great difficulty, he kept still. But the pain of the squeezing of his ribs caused him to groan piteously, and even at last to weep. He could only clasp his hands together and [64] gasp out a few humble words. To his wonder and relief, the giant seemed to understand that he was being hurt, and appeared pleased and interested to find that so small a creature could speak, even though it was not possible to make any meaning out of the little thing's words. Handling him now more gently, the giant ran and showed Gulliver to his master.

The farmer looked long and with great interest at him, lifting up the lappets of his coat with a straw, and with his breath blowing aside Gulliver's hair, which had fallen over his face, that he might better examine him. Then putting him on the ground, the farmer and his men sat round in a circle, laughingly watching his movements, and all loudly talking at the same time.

It was best to put a bold face on the matter, thought Gulliver, and he marched backwards and forwards very bravely. Then going up to the farmer and making a low bow, he offered him his purse, in which were some Spanish gold coins.

[65] The man took the purse in the palm of his hand, and turned it over two or three times with the point of a pin which he took out of his sleeve; then he shook his head, as if to say that this was beyond him, and handed it back. Gulliver thereupon opened the purse, and making a sign to the farmer to put his hand on the ground, poured into his palm all the gold.

But it was no use. The farmer wet the tip of his little finger on his tongue, picked up one coin after the other, and looked at them, shook his head with a puzzled look, and gave them back.

Presently the farmer sent his men back to their work, and taking his handkerchief out of his pocket, spread it, doubled, on his hand, which he held on the ground so that Gulliver might step on to it. Gulliver walked on, and for greater safety lay down, when the farmer covered him up all but his head, and carried him home.

"Look!" said he to his wife, "see what I"ve brought you!" But the woman screamed, [66] and jumped back as if her husband had offered to put an ugly spider on her neck. This hurt Gulliver's feelings a good deal, for he had always thought himself to be a man pleasing to look at.

However, when dinner was brought in, the woman minced up some meat and crumbled a little bread for him, and soon with the greatest delight she was watching him eat. So pleased was she that presently she got for him her smallest wine-glass, and filled it with a kind of cider.

With difficulty Gulliver raised the glass (for it held nearly as much as a horse could drink in England), and drank the woman's health, making her a low bow as he set the glass down. Thereat everybody at table laughed so loud that Gulliver's ears rang with the sound, and he was almost deafened.

The table was of great height from the ground, nearly thirty feet, and Gulliver kept well away from the edge, in fear that he might fall over. But one of the children, seeing this, seized him by the legs and held [67] him high in air, whereat poor Gulliver trembled with fright, lest by accident he should be dropped. But to this sort of play the farmer put a speedy stop by soundly boxing his son's ears.

Presently Gulliver heard behind him a curious rumbling noise, very loud and disagreeable. Turning round, he found that this was caused by a huge cat, which sat purring in its mistress's lap. Its great yellow eyes were watching him, and from the size of its head he judged that the animal must be at least three times as big as a bullock.

This upset Gulliver's nerves somewhat, but thinking it wise to pretend that he felt no fear, he walked steadily up to the cat's head. It was a relief to find that she shrank from him, and seemed to be much more afraid of him than he of her. Dogs too there were in the room, great beasts many times larger than an elephant, but of them he did not have the same distrust as of the cat.

[68] After dinner, a nurse brought in the youngest child, one not more than a year old. No sooner did the infant set eyes on Gulliver than it began to bawl to have him as a plaything. The mother very foolishly put him into its hand, whereupon the baby at once crammed Gulliver's head into its mouth, which caused him to let out such a yell of dismay that the frightened infant dropped him. This was a very narrow escape, for had it not chanced that the mother caught him in her apron, Gulliver would most certainly have had his neck broken in the fall.


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