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Gulliver's Travels by  John Lang


 

 

GULLIVER IS TAKEN AS A PRISONER TO THE CAPITAL OF LILLIPUT

[17] THE city was not reached till the following day, and Gulliver had to spend the night lying where he was, guarded on each side by five hundred men with torches and bows and arrows, ready to shoot him if he should attempt to move.

In the morning, the King and all his court, and thousands of the people, came out to gaze on the wonderful sight. The trolly, with Gulliver on it, stopped outside the walls, alongside a very large building which had once been used as a temple, but the use of which had been given up owing to a murder having been committed in it.

The door of this temple was quite four feet [18] high and about two feet wide, and on each side, about six inches from the ground, was a small window. Inside the building the King's blacksmiths fastened many chains, which they then brought through one of these little windows and padlocked round Gulliver's left ankle. Then his bonds were cut, and he was allowed to get up. He found that he could easily creep through the door, and that there was room inside to lie down.

His chains were nearly six feet long, so that he could get a little exercise by walking backwards and forwards outside. Always when he walked, thousands of people thronged around to look at him; even the King himself used to come and gaze by the hour from a high tower which stood opposite.

One day, just as Gulliver had crept out from his house and had got on his feet, it chanced that the King, who was a very fine-looking man, taller than any of his people, came riding along on his great white [19] charger. When the horse saw Gulliver move it was terrified, and plunged and reared so madly that the people feared that a terrible accident was going to happen, and several of the King's guards ran in to seize the horse by the head. But the King was a good horseman, and managed the animal so well that very soon it got over its fright, and he was able to dismount.


[Illustration]

SEVERAL OF THE KING'S GUARDS RAN IN TO SEIZE THE HORSE BY THE HEAD.

Then he gave orders that food should be brought for Gulliver,—twenty little carts full, and ten of wine; and he and his courtiers, all covered with gold and silver, stood around and watched him eating. After the King had gone away the people of the city crowded round, and some of them began to behave very badly, one man even going so far as to shoot an arrow at Gulliver which was not far from putting out one of his eyes. But the officer in command of the soldiers who were on guard ordered his men to bind and push six of the worst behaved of the crowd within reach of Gulliver, who at once seized five of them and put them in his coat pocket. The [20] sixth he held up to his mouth and made as if he meant to eat him, whereupon the wretched little creature shrieked aloud with terror, and when Gulliver took out his knife, all the people, even the soldiers, were dreadfully alarmed. But Gulliver only cut the man's bonds, and let him run away, which he did in a very great hurry. And when he took the others out of his pocket, one by one, and treated them in the same way, the crowd began to laugh. After that the people always behaved very well to Gulliver, and he became a great favourite. From all over the kingdom crowds flocked to see the Great Man Mountain.

In the meantime, as Gulliver learned later, there were frequent meetings of the King's council to discuss the question of what was to be done with him. Some of the councillors feared lest he might break loose and cause great damage in the city. Some were of opinion that to keep and feed so huge a creature would cause a famine in the land, or, at the least, that the expense would be [21] greater than the public funds could bear; they advised, therefore, that he should be killed—shot in the hands and face with poisoned arrows. Others, however, argued that if this were done it would be a very difficult thing to get rid of so large a dead body, which might cause a pestilence to break out if it lay long unburied so near the city.

Finally, the King and his council gave orders that each morning the surrounding villages should send into the city for Gulliver's daily use six oxen, forty sheep, and a sufficient quantity of bread and wine.

It was also commanded that six hundred persons should act as his servants; that three hundred tailors were to make for him a suit of clothes; and that six professors from the University were to teach him the language of the country.

When Gulliver could speak the language, he learned a great deal about the land in which he now found himself. It was called Lilliput, and the people, Lilliputians. These Lilliputians believed that their kingdom and [22] the neighbouring country of Blefuscu were the whole world. Blefuscu lay far over the sea, to these little people dim and blue on the horizon, though to Gulliver the distance did not seem to be more than a mile. The Lilliputians knew of no land beyond Blefuscu. And as for Gulliver himself, they believed that he had fallen from the moon, or from one of the stars; it was impossible, they said, that so big a race of men could live on the earth. It was quite certain that there could not be food enough for them. They did not believe Gulliver's story. He must have fallen from the moon!

Almost the first thing that Gulliver did when he knew the language fairly well, was to send a petition to the King, praying that his chains might be taken off and that he might be free to walk about. But this he was told could not then be granted. He must first, the King's council said, "swear a peace" with the kingdom of Lilliput, and afterwards, if by continued good behaviour he gained their confidence, he might be freed.

[23] Meantime, by the King's orders, two high officers of state were sent to search him. Gulliver lifted up these officers in his hand and put them into each of his pockets, one after the other, and they made for the King a careful list of everything found there.

Gulliver afterward saw this inventory. His snuff-box they had described as a "huge silver chest, full of a sort of dust." Into that dust one of them stepped, and the snuff, flying up in his face, caused him nearly to sneeze his head off. His pistols they called "hollow pillars of iron, fastened to strong pieces of timber," and the use of his bullets, and of his powder (which he had been lucky enough to bring ashore dry, owing to his pouch being water-tight), they could not understand, whilst of his watch they could make nothing. They called it "a wonderful kind of engine, which makes an incessant noise like a water-wheel." But some fancied that it was perhaps a kind of animal. Certainly it was alive.

[24] All these things, together with his sword, which he carried slung to a belt round his waist, Gulliver had to give up, first, as well as he could, explaining the use of them. The Lilliputians could not understand the pistols, and to show his meaning, Gulliver was obliged to fire one of them. At once hundreds of the little people fell down as if they had been struck dead by the noise. Even the King, though he stood his ground, was sorely frightened. Most of Gulliver's property was returned to him, but the pistols and powder and bullets, and his sword, were taken away and put, for safety, under strict guard.

As the King and his courtiers gained more faith in Gulliver, and became less afraid of his breaking loose and doing some mischief, they began to treat him in a more friendly way than they had hitherto done, and showed him more of the manners and customs of the country. Some of these were very curious.

One of the sports of which they were most fond was rope dancing, and there was no [25] more certain means of being promoted to high office and power in the state than to possess great cleverness in that art. Indeed, it was said that the Lord High Treasurer had gained and kept his post chiefly through his great skill in turning somersaults on the tight rope. The Chief Secretary for private affairs ran him very close, and there was hardly a Minister of State who did not owe his position to such successes. Few of them, indeed, had escaped without severe accidents at one time or another, whilst trying some specially difficult feat, and many had been lamed for life. But however many and bad the falls, there were always plenty of other persons to attempt the same or some more difficult jump.

Taught by his narrow escape from a serious accident when his horse first saw Gulliver, the King now gave orders that the horses of his army, as well as those from the Royal stables, should be exercised daily close to the Man Mountain. Soon they became so used to the sight of him that they would [26] come right up to his foot without starting or shying. Often the riders would jump their chargers over Gulliver's hand as he held it on the ground, and once the King's hunts-man, better mounted than most of the others, actually jumped over his foot, shoe and all,—a wonderful leap.

Gulliver saw that it was wise to amuse the King in this and other ways, because the more his Majesty was pleased with him the sooner was it likely that his liberty would be granted. So he asked one day that some strong sticks, about two feet in height, should be brought to him. Several of these he fixed firmly in the ground, and across them, near the top, he lashed four other sticks, enclosing a square space of about two and a half feet. Then to the uprights, about five inches lower than the crossed sticks, he tied his pocket handkerchief, and stretched it tight as a drum.

When the work was finished, he asked the King to let a troop of cavalry exercise on this stage. His Majesty was delighted with [27] the idea, and for several days nothing pleased him more than to see Gulliver lift up the men and horses, and to watch them go through their drill on this platform. Sometimes he would even be lifted up himself and give the words of command; and once he persuaded the Queen, who was rather timid, to let herself be held up in her chair within full view of the scene. But a fiery horse one day, pawing with his hoof, wore a hole in the handkerchief, and came down heavily on its side, and after this Gulliver could no longer trust the strength of his stage.


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