Journeys Through Bookland is a web novel completed by Charles Herbert Sylvester.
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[Footnote 6: _Lingua Franca_ was the name given to a mixed dialect used in some parts of the Mediterranean coasts as means of communication between people of different nationalities. It consisted largely of corrupted Italian words.]
After about two hours the court retired, and I was left with a strong guard to prevent the impertinence and probably the malice of the rabble, who were very impatient to crowd about me as near as they durst, and some of them had the impudence to shoot their arrows at me as I sat on the ground by the door of my house, whereof one very narrowly missed my left eye. But the colonel ordered six of the ringleaders to be seized, and thought no punishment so proper as to deliver them bound into my hands, which some of his soldiers accordingly did, pushing them forward with the b.u.t.t ends of their pikes into my reach. I took them all in my right hand, put five of them into my coat pocket, and as to the sixth, I made a countenance as if I would eat him alive. The poor man squalled terribly, and the colonel and his officers were in much pain, especially when they saw me take out my penknife; but I soon put them out of fear, for looking mildly, and immediately cutting the strings he was bound with, I set him gently on the ground, and away he ran. I treated the rest in the same manner, taking them one by one out of my pocket, and I observed both the soldiers and people were highly delighted at this mark of my clemency, which was represented very much to my advantage at court.
Toward night I got with some difficulty into my house, where I lay on the ground, and continued to do so about a fortnight, during which time the emperor gave orders to have a bed prepared for me. Six hundred beds of the common measure were brought in carriages, and worked up in my house; an hundred and fifty of their beds sewn together made up the breadth and length, and these were four double, which, however, kept me but very indifferently from the hardness of the floor, that was of smooth stone. By the same computation they provided me with sheets, blankets, and coverlets, tolerable enough for one who had been so long inured to hardships as I.
In the meantime the emperor held frequent councils, to debate what course should be taken with me; and I was afterward a.s.sured by a particular friend, a person of great quality, who was looked upon to be as much in the secret as any, that the court was under many difficulties concerning me. They apprehended my breaking loose; that my diet would be very expensive, and might cause a famine. Sometimes they determined to starve me, or at least to shoot me in the face and hands with poisoned arrows, which would soon despatch me.
In the midst of these consultations, several officers of the army went to the door of the great council-chamber, and two of them, being admitted, gave an account of my behavior to the six criminals above mentioned, which made so favorable an impression in the breast of his majesty and the whole board in my behalf, that an imperial commission was issued out obliging all the villages nine hundred yards round the city to deliver in every morning six beeves, forty sheep, and other victuals for my sustenance; together with a proportionable quant.i.ty of bread, and wine, and other liquors; for the payment of which his majesty gave orders upon his treasury. An establishment was also made of six hundred persons to be my domestics, who had board wages allowed for their maintenance, and tents built for them, very conveniently on each side of my door. It was likewise ordered that three hundred tailors should make me a suit of clothes, after the fashion of the country; that six of his majesty’s greatest scholars should be employed to instruct me in their language; and, lastly, that the emperor’s horses, and those of the n.o.bility, and troops of guard, should be frequently exercised in my sight, to accustom themselves to me.
All these orders were duly put in execution; and in about three weeks I made a great progress in learning their language; during which time the emperor frequently honored me with his visits, and was pleased to a.s.sist my masters in teaching me. We began already to converse together in some sort: and the first words I learned were to express my desire that he would please to give me my liberty; which I every day repeated on my knees. His answer, as I could apprehend it, was, that this must be a work of time, not to be thought on without the advice of his council, and that first I must swear a peace with him and his kingdom. However, that I should be used with all kindness. And he advised me to acquire, by my patience and discreet behavior, the good opinion of himself and his subjects.
He desired I would not take it ill, if he gave orders to certain proper officers to search me; for probably I might carry about me several weapons, which must needs be dangerous things, if they answered the bulk of so prodigious a person. I said his majesty should be satisfied; for I was ready to strip myself, and turn up my pockets before him. This, I delivered part in words and part in signs.
He replied, that by the laws of the kingdom, I must be searched by two of his officers; that he knew this could not be done without my consent and a.s.sistance; that he had so good an opinion of my generosity and justice as to trust their persons in my hands; that whatever they took from me should be returned when I left the country, or paid for at the rate which I would set upon them.
I took up the two officers in my hands, put them first into my coat pockets, and then into every other pocket about me, except my two fobs, and another secret pocket I had no mind should be searched, wherein I had some little necessaries that were of no consequence to any but myself. In one of my fobs there was a silver watch, and in the other a small quant.i.ty of gold in a purse.
[Footnote 7: In England this word means not the ribbon or guard which hangs from a watch, but the small pocket in the waistband of the trousers, in which the watch is carried.]
These gentlemen, having pen, ink, and paper about them, made an exact inventory of everything they saw; and when they had done desired I would set them down, that they might deliver it to the emperor. This inventory I afterwards translated into English, and is word for word as follows:
“_Imprimis_ in the right coat pocket of the great man-mountain (for so I interpret the words _quinbus flestrin), after the strictest search, we found only one great piece of coa.r.s.e cloth, large enough to be a footcloth for your majesty’s chief room of state.
[Footnote 8: _Imprimis_ is a word from the Latin, and means _in the first place._]
“In the left pocket we saw a huge silver chest, with a cover of the same metal, which we, the searchers, were not able to lift. We desired it should be opened, and one of us, stepping into it, found himself up to the mid-leg in a sort of dust, some part whereof, flying up to our faces, set us both a-sneezing for several times together.
“In his right waistcoat pocket we found a prodigious bundle of white, thin substances, folded one over another, about the bigness of three men, tied with a strong cable, and marked with black figures, which we humbly conceive to be writings, every letter almost half as large as the palm of our hands.
“In the left there was a sort of engine, from the back of which were extended twenty long poles, resembling the palisadoes before your majesty’s court; wherewith we conjecture the man-mountain combs his head; for we did not always trouble him with questions, because we found it a great difficulty to make him understand us.
“In the large pocket, on the right side of his middle cover (so I translate the word _ranfu-lo,_ by which they meant my breeches), we saw a hollow pillar of iron, about the length of a man, fastened to a strong piece of timber larger than the pillar; and upon one side of the pillar were huge pieces of iron sticking out, cut into strange figures, which we know not what to make of.
“In the left pocket, another engine of the same kind.
“In the smaller pocket, on the right side, were several round, flat pieces of white and red metal, of different bulk; some of the white, which seemed to be silver, were so large and heavy that my comrade and I could hardly lift them.
“In the left pocket were two black pillars irregularly shaped; we could not, without difficulty, reach the top of them, as we stood at the bottom of his pocket. One of them was covered and seemed all of a piece; but at the upper end of the other there appeared a white, round substance, about twice the bigness of our heads. Within each of these was enclosed a prodigious plate of steel; which, by our orders, we obliged him to show us, because we apprehended they might be dangerous engines. He took them out of their cases, and told us that, in his own country, his practice was to shave his beard with one of these, and to cut his meat with the other.
“There were two pockets which we could not enter; these he called his fobs; they were two large slits cut into the top of his middle cover, but squeezed close by the pressure of his belly. Out of the right fob hung a great silver chain, with a wonderful kind of engine at the bottom. We directed him to draw out whatever was at the end of that chain, which appeared to be a globe, half silver, and half of some transparent metal; for, on the transparent side, we saw certain strange figures circularly drawn, and thought we could touch them, till we found our fingers stopped by that lucid substance. He put this engine to our ears, which made an incessant noise like that of a water-mill: and we conjecture it is either some unknown animal, or the G.o.d that he worships; but we are more inclined to the latter opinion, because he a.s.sured us (if we understood him right, for he expressed himself very imperfectly), that he seldom did anything without consulting it. He called it his oracle, and said it pointed out the time for every action of his life.
“From the left fob he took out a net, almost large enough for a fisherman, but contrived to open and shut like a purse, and served him for the same use: we found therein several ma.s.sy pieces of yellow metal, which, if they be real gold, must be of immense value.
“Having thus, in obedience to your majesty’s commands, diligently searched all his pockets, we observed a girdle about his waist, made of the hide of some prodigious animal, from which, on the left side, hung a sword of the length of five men; and on the right, a bag or pouch divided into two cells, each cell capable of holding three of your majesty’s subjects. In one of these cells were several globes or b.a.l.l.s, of a most ponderous metal, about the bigness of our heads, and required a strong hand to lift them; the other cell contained a heap of certain black grains, but of no great bulk or weight, for we could hold above fifty of them in the palms of our hands.
“This is an exact inventory of what we found about the body of the man-mountain, who used us with great civility, and due respect to your majesty’s commission. Signed and sealed on the fourth day of the eighty-ninth moon of your majesty’s auspicious reign.
[Ill.u.s.tration: GULLIVER AND THE PISTOL]
“CLEFREN FRELOCK, MARSI FRELOCK.”
When this inventory was read over to the emperor he directed me, although in very gentle terms, to deliver up the several particulars. He first called for my scimitar, which I took out, scabbard and all. In the meantime he ordered three thousand of his choicest troops (who then attended him) to surround me at a distance, with their bows and arrows just ready to discharge; but I did not observe it, for mine eyes were wholly fixed upon his majesty. He then desired me to draw my scimitar, which, although it had got some rust by the sea-water, was in most parts exceeding bright. I did so, and immediately all the troops gave a shout between terror and surprise: for the sun shone clear, and the reflection dazzled their eyes, as I waved the scimitar to and fro in my hand. His majesty, who is a most magnanimous prince, was less daunted than I could expect: he ordered me to return it into the scabbard, and cast it on, the ground as gently as I could, about six foot from the end of my chain.
The next thing he demanded was one of the hollow iron pillars: by which he meant my pocket pistols. I drew it out, and at his desire, as well as I could, expressed to him the use of it; and charging it only with powder, which, by the closeness of my pouch, happened to escape wetting in the sea (an inconvenience against which all prudent mariners take special care to provide), I first cautioned the emperor not to be afraid, and then I let it off in the air. The astonishment here was much greater than at the sight of my scimitar. Hundreds fell down as if they had been struck dead; and even the emperor, although he stood his ground, could not recover himself in time. I delivered up both my pistols in the same manner as I had done my scimitar, and then my pouch of powder and bullets; begging him that the former might be kept from the fire, for it would kindle with the smallest spark, and blow up his imperial palace into the air.
[Ill.u.s.tration: GULLIVER’S WATCH IS BORNE AWAY.]
I likewise delivered up my watch, which the emperor was very curious to see, and commanded two of his tallest yeomen of the guards to bear it on a pole upon their shoulders, as draymen in England do a barrel of ale.
He was amazed at the continual noise it made, and the motion of the minute-hand, which he could easily discern; for their sight is much more acute than ours: and asked the opinions of his learned men about him, which were various and remote, as the reader may well imagine without my repeating; although, indeed, I could not perfectly understand them.
I then gave up my silver and copper money, my purse with nine large pieces of gold and some smaller ones; my knife and razor, my comb and silver snuffbox, my handkerchief, and journal-book. My scimitar, pistols, and pouch were conveyed in carriages to his majesty’s stores; but the rest of my goods were returned to me.
I had, as I before observed, one private pocket, which escaped their search, wherein there was a pair of spectacles (which I sometimes use for the weakness of mine eyes), a pocket perspective, and several other little conveniences; which being of no consequence to the emperor, I did not think myself bound in honor to discover, and I apprehended they might be lost or spoiled if I ventured them out of my possession.
[Footnote 9: _Perspective_ is an old name for telescope]
About two or three days before I was set at liberty, there arrived an express to inform his majesty that some of his subjects, riding near the place where I was first taken up, had seen a great black substance lying on the ground, very oddly shaped, extending its edges round, as wide as his majesty’s bedchamber, and rising up in the middle as high as a man; that it was no living creature, as they at first apprehended, for it lay on the gra.s.s without motion, and some of them had walked round it several times; that, by mounting upon each other’s shoulders, they had got to the top, which was flat and even, and stamping upon it, they found it was hollow within; that they humbly conceived it might be something belonging to the man-mountain; and, if his majesty pleased, they would undertake to bring it with only five horses.
I presently knew what they meant, and was glad at heart to receive this intelligence. It seems, upon my first reaching the sh.o.r.e after our shipwreck I was in such confusion that, before I came to the place where I went to sleep, my hat, which I had fastened with a string to my head while I was rowing, and which had stuck on all the time I was swimming, fell off after I came to land; the string, as I conjecture, breaking by some accident which I never observed, but thought my hat had been lost at sea. I entreated his imperial majesty to give orders it might be brought to me as soon as possible, describing to him the use and the nature of it: and the next day the wagoners arrived with it, but not in a very good condition; they had bored two holes in the brim, within an inch and a half of the edge, and fastened two hooks in the holes; these hooks were tied by a long cord to the harness, and thus my hat was dragged along for above half an English mile; but the ground in that country being extremely smooth and level, it received less damage than I expected.
[Footnote 10: Can you see any reason for introducing this long account of the finding of Gulliver’s hat? We have grown accustomed, in the pages past, to thinking of the Lilliputians in contrast with Gulliver, but does it not give us a new idea of their diminutive size to see them thus contrasted with Gulliver’s hat?]
_III. The War with Blefuscu_
I had sent so many memorials and pet.i.tions for my liberty, that his majesty at length mentioned the matter, first in the cabinet, and then in a full council; where it was opposed by none except Skyresh Bolgolam, who was pleased, without any provocation, to be my mortal enemy. But it was carried against him by the whole board, and confirmed by the emperor. That minister was _galbet_, or admiral of the realm, very much in his master’s confidence, and a person well versed in affairs, but of a morose and sour complexion. However, he was at length persuaded to comply; but prevailed that the articles and conditions upon which I should be set free, and to which I must swear, should be drawn up by himself.
[Footnote 11: _Complexion_ here means disposition.]
These articles were brought to me by Skyresh Bolgolam in person, attended by two under-secretaries and several persons of distinction.
After they were read, I was demanded to swear to the performance of them; first in the manner of my own country, and afterward in the method prescribed by their laws; which was, to hold my right foot in my left hand, to place the middle finger of my right hand on the crown of my head, and my thumb on the tip of my right ear.
I swore and subscribed to these articles with great cheerfulness and content, although some of them were not so honorable as I could have wished; which proceeded wholly from the malice of Skyresh Bolgolam, the high admiral; whereupon my chains were immediately unlocked, and I was at full liberty. The emperor himself in person did me the honor to be by at the whole ceremony. I made my acknowledgments by prostrating myself at his majesty’s feet: but he commanded me to rise; and after many gracious expressions, which, to avoid the censure of vanity I shall not repeat, he added, that he hoped I should prove a useful servant, and well deserve all the favors he had already conferred upon me, or might do for the future.
One morning, about a fortnight after I had obtained my liberty, Reldresal, princ.i.p.al secretary (as they style him) of private affairs, came to my house, attended only by one servant. He ordered his coach to wait at a distance, and desired I would give him an hour’s audience; which I readily consented to, on account of his quality and personal merits, as well as of the many good offices he had done me during my solicitations at court. I offered to lie down, that he might the more conveniently reach my ear; but he chose rather to let me hold him in my hand during our conversation. He began with compliments on my liberty; said he might pretend to some merit in it; but, however, added, that if it had not been for the present situation of things at court perhaps I might not have obtained it so soon.
“For,” said he, “as flourishing a condition as we may appear to be in to foreigners, we labor under two mighty evils; a violent faction at home, and the danger of an invasion by a most potent enemy from abroad. As to the first, you are to understand that for above seventy moons past there have been two struggling parties in this empire, under the names _Tramecksan_ and _Slamecksan_, from the high and low heels of their shoes, by which they distinguish themselves. It is alleged, indeed, that the high heels are most agreeable to our ancient const.i.tution; but, however this be, his majesty hath determined to make use of only low heels in the administration of the government, and all offices in the gift of the crown, as you cannot but observe; and particularly that his majesty’s imperial heels are lower, at least by a _drurr_, than any of his court (_drurr_ is a measure about the fourteenth part of an inch). The animosities between these two parties run so high that they will neither eat nor drink, nor talk with each other. We compute the _Tramecksan_, or high heels, to exceed us in number; but the power is wholly on our side. We apprehend his imperial highness, the heir to the crown, to have some tendency toward the high heels; at least we can plainly discover one of his heels higher than the other, which gives him a hobble in his gait.
[Footnote 12: These little people measure time by _moons_ or months, rather than by the longer division of years.]
“Now, in the midst of these intestine disquiets, we are threatened with an invasion from the island of Blefuscu, which is the other great empire of the universe, almost as large and powerful as this of his majesty.
For, as to what we have heard you affirm, that there are other kingdoms and states in the world, inhabited by human creatures as large as yourself, our philosophers are in much doubt, and would rather conjecture that you dropped from the moon or one of the stars; because it is certain that an hundred mortals of your bulk would in a short time destroy all the fruits and cattle of his majesty’s dominions; besides, our histories of six thousand moons make no mention of any other regions than the two great empires of Lilliput and Blefuscu; which two mighty powers have, as I was going to tell you, been engaged in a most obstinate war for thirty-six moons past. It began upon the following occasion:
“It is allowed on all hands that the primitive way of breaking eggs, before we eat them, was upon the larger end; but his present majesty’s grandfather, while he was a boy, going to eat an egg, and breaking it according to the ancient practice, happened to cut one of his fingers; whereupon, the emperor, his father, published an edict, commanding all his subjects, upon great penalties, to break the smaller end of their eggs. The people so highly resented this law that our histories tell us there have been six rebellions raised on that account; wherein one emperor lost his life, and another his crown.
“These civil commotions were constantly fomented by the monarchs of Blefuscu; and when they were quelled the exiles always fled for refuge to that empire. It is computed that eleven thousand persons have at several times suffered death rather than submit to break their eggs at the smaller end. Many hundred large volumes have been published upon this controversy; but the books of the Big-endians have been long forbidden, and the whole party rendered incapable by law of holding employments. During the course of these troubles, the emperors of Blefuscu did frequently expostulate by their amba.s.sadors, accusing us of making a schism in religion by offending against a fundamental doctrine of our great prophet l.u.s.trog, in the fifty-fourth chapter of the Blundecral (which is their Alcoran). This, however, is thought to be a mere strain upon the text; for the words are these: that all true believers shall break their eggs at the convenient end. And which is the convenient end seems, in my humble opinion, to be left to every man’s conscience, or at least in the power of the chief magistrate to determine.
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