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Gulliver's Travels by  John Lang


 

 

GULLIVER SAILS FOR THE SOUTH SEAS, AND IS WRECKED ON THE COAST OF LILLIPUT

[5] AT FIRST, everything went well, but after leaving the South Seas, when steering for the East Indies, the ship was driven by a great storm far to the south. The gale lasted so long that twelve of the crew died from the effects of the hard work and the bad food, and all the others were worn out and weak. On a sailing ship, when the weather is very heavy, all hands have to be constantly on deck, and there is little rest for the men. Perhaps a sail, one of the few that can still be carried in such a gale, may be blown to ribbons by the furious wind, and a new one has to be bent on.

[6] The night, perhaps, is dark, the tattered canvas is thrashing with a noise like thunder, the ship burying her decks under angry black seas every few minutes. The men's hands are numb with the cold and the wet, and the hard, dangerous work aloft. There is no chance of going below when their job is done, to "turn in" between warm, dry blankets in a snug berth. Possibly even those who belong to the "watch below" may have to remain on deck. Or, if they have the good fortune to be allowed to go below, they may no sooner have dropped off asleep (rolled round in blankets which perhaps have been wet ever since the gale began) than there is a thump, thump overhead, and one of the watch on deck bellows down the forecastle-hatch, "All hands shorten sail." And out they must tumble again, once more to battle with the hungry, roaring seas and the raging wind. So, when there has been a long spell of bad weather, it is no wonder that the men are worn out. And when, as was the case in Gulliver's ship, the food also [7] is bad, it is easy to understand why so many of the crew had died.

It was on the 5th of November, the beginning of summer in latitudes south of the Equator. The storm had not yet cleared off, and the weather was very thick, the wind coming in furious squalls that drove the ship along at great speed, when suddenly from the lookout man came a wild cry—"Breakers ahead!"

But so close had the vessel come to the rocks before they were seen through the thick driving spray, that immediately, with a heavy plunge, she crashed into the reef, and split her bows.

Gulliver and six of the crew lowered a boat and got clear of the wreck and of the breakers. But the men were so weak from overwork that they could not handle the boat in such a sea, and very soon, during a fierce squall, she sank. What became of the men Gulliver never knew, for he saw none of them ever again. Probably they were drowned at once, for they were too [8] weak to keep long afloat in a sea breaking so heavily.

And indeed, Gulliver himself was like to have been lost. He swam till no strength or feeling was left in his arms and legs, swam bravely, his breath coming in great sobs, his eyes blinded with the salt seas that broke over his head. Still he struggled on, utterly spent, until at last, in a part where the wind seemed to have less force, and the seas swept over him less furiously, on letting down his legs he found that he was within his depth. But the shore shelved so gradually that for nearly a mile he had to wade wearily through the shallow water, till, fainting almost with fatigue, he reached dry land.

By this time darkness was coming on, and there were no signs of houses or of people. He staggered forward but a little distance, and then, on the short, soft turf, sank down exhausted.

Before leaving the ship, Gulliver had drunk a large quantity of brandy. Perhaps [9] that caused him to sleep more than usually sound.

When he woke, the sun was shining, and he tried to rise; but not by any means could he stir hand or foot. Gulliver had fallen asleep lying on his back, and now he found that his arms and legs were tightly fastened to the ground. Across his body were numbers of thin but strong cords, and even his hair, which was very long, was pegged down so securely that he could not turn his head.

All round about him there was a confused sound of voices, but he could see nothing except the sky, and the sun shone so hot and fierce into his eyes that he could scarcely keep them open.

Soon he felt something come gently up his left leg, and forward on to his breast almost to his chin. Looking down as much as possible, he saw standing there a very little man, not more than six inches high, armed with a bow and arrows.

Then many more small men began to [10] swarm over him. Gulliver let out such a roar of wonder and fright that they all turned and ran, many of them getting bad falls in their hurry to get out of danger. But very quickly the little people came back again.

This time, with a great struggle Gulliver managed to break the cords that fastened his left arm, and at the same time, by a violent wrench that hurt him dreadfully, he slightly loosened the strings that fastened his hair, so that he was able to turn his head a little to one side. But the little men were too quick for him, and got out of reach before he could catch any of them.

Then he heard a great shouting, followed by a shrill little voice that called sharply,—"Tolgo phonac."  Immediately, arrows like needles were shot into his hand, and another volley struck him in the face. Poor Gulliver covered his face with his hand, and lay groaning with pain.


[Illustration]

HIS ARMS AND LEGS WERE TIGHTLY FASTENED TO THE GROUND.

Again he struggled to get loose. But the harder he fought for freedom, the more the [11] little men shot arrows into him, and some of them even tried to run their spears into his sides.

When he found that the more he struggled the more he was hurt, Gulliver lay still, thinking to himself that at night at least, now that his left hand was free, he could easily get rid of the rest of his bonds. As soon as the little people saw that he struggled no more, they ceased shooting at him; but he knew from the increasing sound of voices that more and more of the little soldiers were coming round him.

Soon, a few yards from him, on the right, he heard a continued sound of hammering, and on turning his head to that side as far as the strings would let him, he saw that a small wooden stage was being built. On to this, when it was finished, there climbed by ladders four men, and one of them (who seemed to be a very important person, for a little page boy attended to hold up his train) immediately gave an order. At once about fifty of the soldiers ran forward and cut the [12] strings that tied Gulliver's hair on the left side, so that he could turn his head easily to the right.

Then the person began to make a long speech, not one word of which could Gulliver understand, but it seemed to him that sometimes the little man threatened, and sometimes made offers of kindness.

As well as he could, Gulliver made signs that he submitted. Then, feeling by this time faint with hunger, he pointed with his fingers many times to his mouth, to show that he wanted something to eat.

They understood him very well. Several ladders were put against Gulliver's sides, and about a hundred little people climbed up and carried to his mouth all kinds of bread and meat. There were things shaped like legs, and shoulders, and saddles of mutton. Very good they were, Gulliver thought, but very small, no bigger than a lark's wings; and the loaves of bread were about the size of bullets, so that he could take several at a mouthful. The people [13] wondered greatly at the amount that he ate.

When he signed that he was thirsty, they slung up on to his body two of their biggest casks of wine, and having rolled them forward to his hand they knocked out the heads of the casks. Gulliver drank them both off at a draught, and asked for more, for they held only about a small tumblerful each. But there was no more to be had.

As the small people walked to and fro over his body, Gulliver was sorely tempted to seize forty or fifty of them and dash them on the ground, and then to make a further struggle for liberty. But the pain he had already suffered from their arrows made him think better of it, and he wisely lay quiet.

Soon another small man, who from his brilliant uniform seemed to be an officer of very high rank, marched with some others on to Gulliver's chest and held up to his eyes a paper which Gulliver understood to be an order from the King of the country. The [14] officer made a long speech, often pointing towards something a long way off, and (as Gulliver afterwards learned) told him that he was to be taken as a prisoner to the city, the capital of the country.

Gulliver asked, by signs, that his bonds might be loosed. The officer shook his head and refused, but he allowed some of his soldiers to slack the cords on one side, whereby Gulliver was able to feel more comfortable. After this, the little people drew out the arrows that still stuck in his hands and face, and rubbed the wounds with some pleasant-smelling ointment, which so soothed his pain that very soon he fell sound asleep. And this was no great wonder, for, as he afterwards understood, the King's physicians had mixed a very strong sleeping draught with the wine that had been given him.

Gulliver awoke with a violent fit of sneezing, and with the feeling of small feet running away from off his chest.

Where was he? Bound still, without doubt, but no longer did he find himself lying [15] on the ground. It puzzled him greatly that now he lay on a sort of platform. How had he got there?

Soon he began to realise what had happened; and later, when he understood the language, he learned all that had been done to him whilst he slept. Before he dropped asleep, he had heard a rumbling as of wheels, and the shouts of many drivers. This, it seemed, was caused by the arrival of a huge kind of trolly, a few inches high, but nearly seven feet long, drawn by fifteen hundred of the King's largest horses.

On this it was meant that he should be taken to the city. By the use of strong poles fixed in the ground, to which were attached many pulleys, and the strongest ropes to be found in the country, nine hundred men managed to hoist him as he slept. They then put him on the trolly, where they again tied him fast.

It was when they were far on their way to the City that Gulliver awoke. The trolly had stopped for a little to breathe the horses, and [16] one of the officers of the King's Guard who had not before seen Gulliver, climbed with some friends up his body. Whilst looking at his face, the officer could not resist the temptation of putting the point of his sword up Gulliver's nose, which so tickled him that he woke, sneezing violently.


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