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Gulliver's Travels by  John Lang


 

 

GULLIVER IS SHOWN ALL OVER THE COUNTRY, AND AT LAST IS BOUGHT BY THE QUEEN

[69] THE farmer now went back to his fields, to look after the workmen, and left Gulliver to the care of his wife. By this time, what with the excitement he had undergone, and the amount of running he had done when trying to escape, Gulliver was very tired and sleepy. The woman, noticing that he yawned a great deal, put him in her own bed, a huge thing nearly sixty feet wide and over twenty feet from the floor. On this she left him, and he lay alone in the vast room, covered up by one of the woman's handkerchiefs.

Soon he fell asleep, and dreamt of home and of his wife, which but made his grief the greater when he awoke.

[70] As he lay there, longing for home, and very wretched, a movement of the curtains disturbed him. Raising himself on his elbow, he saw two enormous rats, as big as mastiffs, which had run up the curtains, and were hunting about over the bed. Soon one of them came up to him, and as Gulliver jumped up, placed its paws on his shoulders, and made a dash to seize him by the throat with its teeth.

Fortunately Gulliver still had his sword by his side, and drawing it he struck with all his strength. By great good luck the sword ripped up the brute's stomach, and it fell helpless and bleeding. The other rat, seeing its companion fall, fled with a loud squeak of fear, but before it got out of reach Gulliver gave it a tremendous slash on the back, which brought torrents of blood. Gulliver measured the dead rat's tail. It was two yards long all but one inch.


[Illustration]

GULLIVER GAVE THE RAT A TREMENDOUS SLASH ON THE BACK.

As he walked about on the bed, rather short of breath after this fight, and not a little nervous lest the other rat should return, [71] the farmer's wife came in, and seeing him splashed all over with blood, she screamed loudly and took him in her hand, expecting to find that he had been badly hurt. But Gulliver, smiling, made signs that no harm had come to him, and pointed to the dead rat. The woman was greatly pleased to find him safe and unhurt, and one of the maids took up the rat with a pair of tongs and threw it out of the window.

Amongst the farmer's children was a girl of about nine years of age. This child took so great a fancy for Gulliver that she was never happy except when playing with him; indeed she treated him very much as if he were a live doll. The first night that he passed in the farmer's house, the girl fitted up for him the baby's cradle. This she put on a hanging shelf, in order to keep him safe from the rats, with which the place swarmed. After a few alterations had been made in it, this was Gulliver's bed as long as he remained with that family.

The girl also took great pleasure in making [72] clothes for him, being very clever with her needle, and she constantly used to wash these clothes, and even sometimes insisted on putting them on him with her own hands. From her, too, he quickly learnt enough of the language to make himself understood. Gulliver always called the child "Glumdalclitch," which in the tongue of the country means "little nurse." As long as he remained in that land she had the care of him.

Amongst his neighbours there was much talk about the strange little creature that the farmer had found in his fields. Gulliver was to them a never-ending wonder. They were never weary of telling each other the latest news of him,—how tame he was; how he never attempted to bite nor to run away; how he certainly had a language of his own, and had even learned already to speak a few words in their tongue; how beautifully made he was, just, in fact, like a human being, though he was so ridiculously small.

One of those neighbours was an old man, a miser, who one night came to look at [73] Gulliver. To this man nothing was of any interest unless money could be made out of it, and he was the cause of much future misery and trouble to Gulliver. No sooner did the old man set eyes on him, peering in a short-sighted way through his spectacles, than it was easy to see that some scheme was in his mind.

Presently said he to Gulliver's master—"Now, here is a great chance. If you were to show this little creature next market-day, and make each person pay to look at him, you would certainly get a lot of money. Hundreds of people would be willing to pay to see him."

Gulliver could see that the farmer and the old man were talking about him, and next morning Glumdalclitch told him all her father's plans. She was very angry, for she wanted to keep Gulliver all to herself. But her father had been greatly taken by the old miser's idea of thus making money.

"Tut! Tut! Tut!" said he, "run away, [74] like a good little girl, and don't bother me. You don't understand such things."

Glumdalclitch wept so much at this that Gulliver was made almost as wet as if he had been out in a heavy thunderstorm. It was very uncomfortable and damp. Even his shoes were wet.

The idea that he was to be made a peep-show was most distressing to Gulliver, but it was quite useless to say anything.

The farmer lived not far from a big town, and next market-day off he set on horseback, with Glumdalclitch sitting behind him on a pillion (which is a sort of pad fixed behind the saddle).

Glumdalclitch carried Gulliver with her in a box, which she had lined with a thick quilt from the baby's bed. There was a little door for him to go in and out by, and there were holes bored for air; but it was a most uncomfortable journey. The horse went nearly forty feet at each step, and Gulliver was dreadfully bumped about and shaken in his box, and he felt very sick. It was worse than going to sea for the first time.

[75] At the inn where they stopped, the farmer hired a large room. Then he sent the town crier round with his bell to give notice to the people that "a most wonderful little creature had been picked up, and was to be seen at the "Green Eagle" Inn, a creature looking like a human being and able to speak a few words, and which could perform a hundred funny tricks." Gulliver felt that he was being treated with as little respect as if he had been a monkey.

The old miser was right. People flocked in hundreds to see him, and the crowd became so large that the farmer refused at last to allow more than thirty people in the room at one time. Even then, their curiosity was so great that he had to make with benches a kind of fence round the table on which Gulliver went through his performances. Over and over, hour after hour, he had to let the spectators see him go through cutlass drill with his hanger, till he was almost dead from fatigue.

But there was little rest now for Gulliver, even when at the farmer's house. People, [76] with their families, came from hundreds of miles around to see him, and for each set of people there was the same weary performance, bowing to the audience, saying in their own tongue, "Ladies and Gentlemen you are very welcome," then drawing his hanger, and going through his cutlass drill. It was very weary work, and the close air of the crowded rooms began to tell on Gulliver's health.

But so much money did his master make by these performances, and by those on market-days, that he now made up his mind to take Gulliver to the capital of the country, a city three thousand miles away, to exhibit him there. They started on horseback in the same way they had gone to the market town, Glumdalclitch sitting on a pillion behind her father. But this time she had a better box for Gulliver, comfortably padded inside, and with a bed in it for him to lie on. This she strapped round her waist.

At every town and village that they passed through, Gulliver had to give an exhibition, so that by the time the city was [77] reached he was little better than a skeleton, quite worn out with the hard work and the constant bumping about whilst they travelled.

But the more money the fanner made out of him, the more he wanted to get. At last Gulliver grew so thin that his master feared that he was certainly going to die. This would be a very serious loss, and the man began to wonder if it might not be possible to sell him to some one else whilst he was not yet too ill to move about.

It happened just at this time, after Gulliver had been shown a few times in the city, that the Queen of the country, having heard of him from some of the court ladies, sent a message commanding the farmer to bring him to the palace. Her Majesty, when she saw him, was charmed with his looks and manners, and asked him if he would be content to live at Court.

Gulliver bowed very low, and most politely answered that if it were left to himself, nothing could make him more proud than to devote his life to the service of so beautiful [78] a lady. The Queen was greatly pleased, and at once asked his master if he would care to sell.

The farmer cunningly replied that he was a very poor man, as her Majesty could see, and that to part with Gulliver would mean the loss of his chief means of living. If, however, her Most Gracious Majesty wanted to buy, he would sell, to her, for no more than one thousand pieces of gold.

The bargain was quickly made, and it was also arranged that Glumdalclitch was to remain in the Queen's service, in order to take care of Gulliver. Then the farmer, thinking that Gulliver could not live a month, went away full of joy at having made so good a bargain.

After this there was rest, and Gulliver very quickly regained his health.

Many were the disputes between the learned men of the country as to what Gulliver really was, and how he had lived before being picked up by the farmer. He was too feeble, they said, to defend himself against the attacks of wild animals; too [79] slow of foot to catch even field-mice for his food. Yet his teeth showed that he was a flesh-eating animal. How then had he lived?

Some argued that his chief food had been snails, and various insects. But this idea was rejected with scorn by other scholars, and the quarrel did not seem likely soon to end.

Each side thought the arguments of the other to be hardly worth answering, and their own side of the question to be unanswerable. On but one point could they agree, and this was that certainly Gulliver was not a dwarf, because the Queen's favourite dwarf, who was by far the smallest that had ever been known in the country, was quite thirty feet in height, whilst this little creature was barely six.

To Gulliver's own explanation of where he came from, they scarcely listened; they only smiled with contempt. "It was absurd," they said; "quite impossible." Finally, they gave it as their opinion that he was a freak of nature.


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