Chapter Eighteen

The author tries to forget her labour pains and worries, by scribing the story of her husband’s adventures in Lilliput. Lemuel prevails to win his freedom, though under strict conditions; his Release Contract; the author explains Gulliver’s apparent meekness. 

Redriff, Friday the 5th of  March, 1703
A typical child birth in the 17th century
Artist: Abraham Bosse (1602-1676).
Illustration of the use of the Obstetrical Forceps.
Artist: Unknown
A detailed illustration of the Artemisia vulgaris or Mugworts. It is still used medicinally, especially in Chinese, Japanese and South Korean traditional medicine. In the West, where we know better, it is used as a herb to flavor food.
Artists: Walther Müller, C.F. Schmidt, and K. Gunther.
An illustration of Lemuel's nightmare.
Artist: Unknown.
Admiral Skyresh Bolgolam, a tiny man, spreading much fear.
Artist: Herbert Cole (1900)
Bolgolam reads the contract to Lemuel.
Artist: Andrea di Cione di Arcangelo (c. 1308–1368) 
Gulliver performing the Lilliputian oath.
Artist: Coppin
Lemuel is ready to sign his release-form.
Artist: Unknown

BETTY was also born on the Sabbath[90]. This must be a good omen. I just sent Johnny to the Penny Post with a note to my sister Stella to come and attend the birthing. Of course I can handle it on my own, and Mrs. Poppins[91] will soon come round with all the neighbours, but Stella will never forgive me if I do not pretend to need her.

      Yesterday I fell into exceedingly sharp travail in great extremity, but the pains are still bearable and far between, and writing has always helped me forget my w

                                                                           o

                                                                             r

                                                                               r

                                                                                 i[92]

      I had to stop there to breathe. Might Stella and Johnny come when it is all over? As long as the baby lives, God willing, please, please, please.

 

      Poor Betty, it is the first birthing she will attend, and she is already seven. She is a brave child and tries to hide her worries from me. Bless her

      Is it getting nearer? I remember, with George, rest his soul, four years ago nearly, the child stayed in the birth for a good three days. The neighbours came and went, and Mrs. Poppins said that it was normal, not to worry. As a good Christian, she insisted I should embrace the spiritual rewards of my toil.

      “It might be our just punishment for the sins of Eve,” She said, looking at all the neighbours that crowded the room, “and it might be a Test of God. It is His rod that hits you. Should you pass the Test, should you kiss the rod, God Almighty will certainly reward you."

 

      And she hastened to add: "If not in this world, than in the next.”

      If I was not confined and in so much pain, and if it was not for all the eyewitnesses around my birthing-chair, and if I would not have cared for my children’s reputation, I would have strangled her right there and then.

 

      While my good neighbours nodded righteously, I silently cursed the rod of God, and that of Lemuel’s.

 

      I did not know it then, but I do know now, that while I was rolling in agony, due of Lemuel’s rod and no one else’s, my wretched husband was having the time of his life with the Lilliputian Lovers.

      But even if I were not in such horrible pain I would never discuss the Will or Justice of God with Mrs. Poppins. I sometimes wish I could find solace in Him, like all other women seem to do. But I cannot find it within me.

      Mrs. Poppins was insistently praying while setting her tools, and despite my pains (or maybe because of them?) I could not banish the thought that it was more than Religious Duty for her to praise the Lord in our ears. After all, she got her Certificate from the Bishop of London, and had to pay a good fee to renew it, with every visitation of his, did she not?[93] That was why she was so keen on presenting her Certificate, and telling me what was written there, even though I saw it already four years, seven years, ten years, and thirteen year ago, with each birth I gave.

 

      She said, as she always did, that knowing her credentials would ease my pains and hasten the delivery. Groaning, I was silently praying that this time Mrs. Poppins would not need to perform a quick Baptism of my baby.

 

      Well, I only trust Mrs. Poppins because I told her once about Willughby’s and she agreed with his views wholeheartedly.[94]

      After the third night of that torture, four years ago, Mrs. Poppins said my baby does need help coming out and she insisted that everyone leave the room. I think they were all quite disappointed, except for my poor, tired little Johnny. The dear boy was so worried for me, and could not endure the sight of my anguish.

      Mrs. Poppins reclined the birthing chair and covered my face with a cloth, so I could not quite see what she was doing.

 

      Still, with all the agony I suffered, as I grasped the stools’ handles with all my might, I could sense that she was inserting something into me[95] and the next thing I knew my belly felt hollow and the baby was in my arms.

 

      His head was strangely elongated and he was not breathing.

 

      With the tips of my fingers I tenderly touched the tiny heels and elbows that kicked me so vigorously, just a few days before, and prayed that he would survive. Silently weeping, I envisioned him growing up to become a big lad, fighting and kicking. I imagined how he would be fighting out there in the big world, to protect us.

      Well, it was not to be.

 

      When Mrs. Poppins straightened herself from betwixt my legs, proudly presenting the placenta and ready to place it on my baby’s head, to ensure his good eyesight, she immediately noticed that something was wrong.

 

      She grabbed my baby from my arms.

 

      I was too fatigued to ask her if the baby would live. With all the pains I still endured, I was not sure if I myself would live to see daybreak. Tears welled in my eyes and I could vaguely see Mrs. Poppins rubbing my baby’s head and breast with something; I remember the smell of garlic. Now that I think of it, she might not have been using it to ward-off the demons, but to resuscitate my poor, dead baby.[96]  Oh, I pray I shall not have to smell garlic during this labour!

      I should not think of all that now. I am sure my baby is healthy and will survive! And me, too… The Gypsy foretold that I will have three children, and will live to see them all die in old age![97]

      I better distract myself now. Perhaps it is time to start the fire and shut the windows.[98] I will get Betty to do that now. She is doing all my bending over for the last month.

 

      If only Lemuel were here, I could wish him my heartburns and back-aches…

      Well, I will continue his story in Lilliput. I did not write for nearly 3 months now.

 

      I console myself with Mrs. Poppins’ conviction that the more difficult to carry the baby in the belly, the healthier it will be outside of it.

 

      Oh, I should not think about the pains anymore.

 

      I hear Betty coming back with the mugwort and saffron[99]

      That is better. This drink surely kills the pain and it even tastes nice, but I should not make another portion. It might put me to sleep, and I do crave it.[100]

     Well now. I left Lemuel’s story after he was serviced by the Lovers.

 

      My wretched lucky husband.

 

      I know that if he were here now, the baby would surely survive.

 

      No.

 

      Think about something else. How Gulliver was released from his Prison-Temple and set free!

 

      Yes, I will write about that now:

*

BUT first I must tell, shortly, that Lemuel was coaxed by Bolgolam and Reldresal, without them knowing of each other, to join their respective parties.

 

      Bolgolam was dropping hints of threats and punishments, lest Gulliver would not join the S-party (the Slamecksans), while Reldresal was cajoling him to join the T-party (the Tramecksans,) promising Honour and Love.

 

      Lemuel’s pride was well catered for by these entreaties, but he also sensed – sensibly - that he should stay, as much as possible, above Lilliputian politics. He did tell me that he was nursing hopes to eventually establish his own party: the L-Party. (No, not the ‘Lemuel party,’ but the ‘Liberal party!’) Because of his hasty escape from Lilliput he did not get to fulfil his political ambitions.

      The morning after that decisive debate, in which the T and S parties discussed his fate in Court, Lemuel, who had a hard time falling asleep, woke up from a nightmare:

 

      He was wading away from Lilliput, in the shallow waters, wearing 600 Lilliputian high-heeled shoes on his right foot, and 600 Lilliputian low-heeled shoes on his left foot.

 

      He was surrounded by Lilliputian boats, each manned by a Bolgolam, and all those Bolgolams were screaming at him to go back!

 

      Go back to your World! To your Wife and Children!

      When Lemuel jerked up in his Lilliputian bed (made indeed out of 600 Lilliputian beds) he was shocked to hear Bolgolam’s screams, commanding him to step out.

 

      In an instant Lemuel remembered that the day before was the Big-Day.

 

      Though he was not aware of the details of the Court discussions, he was acutely aware that his fate was at stake.

 

      Tired and anxious, he hastily emerged from his Prison-Temple, and his heart sank when he saw the sombre delegation that was facing him.

      It was headed by the feared Admiral Skyresh Bolgolam, the Admiral of the Realm. Bolgolam marched towards Lemuel on his low-heeled, green polished shoes, attended by two under-secretaries, and several other persons of lesser distinction, (as Lemuel could surmise by their high heels.)

      Skyresh Bolgolam demanded that Gulliver kneel on the ground with his head bowed and his hands behind his back (which was the custom of keeping all chained prisoners; except that Lilliputian prisoners would also have their heads covered with a sack. Luckily, there was no sack large enough for my Lemuel’s head.)

      Kneeling with his forehead on the ground, Lemuel feared that an execution was at hand.

 

      His own.

 

      He prayed silently for the salvation of his soul, and to meet us, his wife and children, soon in the afterlife. But as time passed and he felt no tiny blades on his neck, he gradually came to realise that the purpose of that posture was simply to disgrace him.

 

      It worked.

 

      As much as he was bigger than his tormentors, he could not help feeling humiliated in this position.

      His chief concern was that Bolgolam would soon ask him where his affinity lay, with the T-Party or with the S-Men. Lemuel was racking his brain all this while how to get out of this entanglement, but he could not come up with any polite or safe response to this dreaded question.

 

      So you can imagine his relief when he heard Bolgolam announcing that he has a special message from His Royal Highness to Gulliver. He unrolled a large scroll and commenced:

“From the most mighty Emperor of Lilliput, delight and

terror of the Universe, whose dominions extend five

thousand Blustrugs to the extremities of the globe[101]; Monarch of all Monarchs, taller than the sons of Man;

whose feet press down to the Centre, and whose head

strikes against the sun: pleasant as spring, comfortable

as summer, fruitful as autumn, dreadful as winter.

Etc. etc.[102]

 

      Here Bolgolam took a deep breath and demanded to know if Gulliver was all right, for Lemuel’s shoulders were shaking violently and he was almost choking with laughter, which he was desperately trying to conceal.

      “I am alright,” snivelled Lemuel “I humbly beg your pardon. I am so moved to know that the great Emperor could spare a few moments for my insignificant self. Pray, continue.”

      “Well,” Bolgolam went on reading:

“His most sublime Majesty proposes to the Man-Mountain, lately arrived to our Celestial Dominions, the following Articles, which by a solemn oath upon the Holly Blundecral and the portable Lullupiter Lapis he shall be obliged to perform, in return for his confined freedom.”

      Lemuel hastened to agree, ever so relieved.

 

      A confined freedom sounded so much better than an execution. He felt that he could live with a confined freedom, as long as he was not killed.

      And so Lemuel was requested to swear his oath, first in the manner of his own country, (which, Gulliver told them, was by saying ‘I Swear’ while holding one’s hand on one’s chest, above one’s heart and the other hand, fingers crossed, behind one’s back) and afterwards in the method prescribed by Lilliputian laws, which was to place the Holy Blundecral and the portable Lullupiter Lapis on his head, to place the middle finger of his right hand on the crown of his head, above the Holy book, and his thumb on the tip of his right ear and to hold his right foot in his left hand[103].

      This choreography was successfully performed, to the cheers of Lilliputian onlookers, and only then could Lemuel hear the precise articles on which he already swore, which were:

First, The Man-Mountain shall not depart from Our Dominions, without Our License under Our Great Seal.

Secondly, He shall not presume to come into Our Metropolis, without Our express Order; at which time the Inhabitants shall have two hours warning to keep within their Doors.

 

Thirdly, The said Man-Mountain shall confine his walks to Our principal high roads, and not offer to walk or lie down in a meadow or field of Zea maize, Triticum aestivum or Cannabaceae.[104]

 

Fourthly, He will not take to the said roads under the influence of Glimigrim[105], and he shall take the utmost care not to trample upon the bodies of any of Our obedient subjects, their horses or carriages, nor take any of Our said subjects into his hands, without their consent.

   If, on the other hand, the said Man-Mountain will wish to marry, he should do so with at least 12 Lilliputian virgins, but not more than 70. Needless to say, the said Man-Mountain should refrain from producing offspring.

   In any case, the Man-Mountain is obliged to assist all Lilliputian men in their Matrimonial duties, if they so wish, in return for food and board. To assist the Man-Mountain in maintaining nightly peace and order, We appoint him a Chamberlain, Little Lalcon, whose duty will be to hand out numbers and guarantee satisfaction to all.

 

“Fifth, Every evening Our Principal Secretary Of Private Affairs, General Reldresal will come to the Liberty-Temple[106] to receive the said Man-Mountain’s report of his conduct and contribution to the benefit of Our glorious Lilliput.

   If, as a result of this audience, Our Principal Secretary Of Private Affairs, General Reldresal requires extraordinary dispatch, the Man-Mountain shall be obliged to carry him in his pocket and return him back safe to Our Imperial Presence.

   Likewise, the Man-Mountain shall be obliged to carry Our Imperial Family wherever and whenever We so desire.

“Sixth, He shall be Our ally against Our enemies in the island of Blefuscu, and he shall do his utmost to destroy their fleet, which is now preparing to invade Us.

   Should the said Man-Mountain perish in the process, his inheritors will get a framed likeness of Us, as is Our custom with every fallen Lilliputian.

   We respect, remember and are truly grateful to Our heroes.

“Seventh, The said Man-Mountain shall, at least once a day, or as nature permits, produce fertilisers for Our fields, to be gathered inside The Ancient Volcano next his Liberty-Temple and to be distributed throughout the land.

   At his times of leisure, the said Man-Mountain shall also be aiding and assisting Our workmen, in helping to raise certain great stones, towards covering the wall of the principal park, and other of Our royal buildings and fortifications.

“Eighth, The said Man-Mountain shall, in two moons time, deliver to Us an exact survey of the circumference of our dominions by a computation of his own paces round the coast.

“Lastly, That upon his solemn oath to observe all the above articles, the said Man-Mountain shall have a daily allowance of meat and drink sufficient for the support of 1728 of our Subjects, with free access to Our Royal Person, and other marks of Our favour. In return, the said Man-Mountain solemnly swears to produce daily ten hogsheads of manure to be distributed all over Our Kingdom as We see fit.

“Given at our Belfaborac Palace at Mildendo the twelfth Day of the Ninety-first Moon of our Reign.”

      The document thus read, Gulliver’s chains were immediately unlocked, and he was at full liberty, confined as he was, only to the Articles above.

      My Lemuel was loyal to his word, and though he was big and strong enough to easily crush the Lilliputians as soon as he was freed, he also realised that he could not get very far from the island, and surely could not get back home by swimming.

 

      Gulliver was mightier than the Lilliputians, but the ocean was mightier than Gulliver. He might be big enough to destroy all the Lilliputians, but he depended on them for his survival. And as he realized that he needed the Lilliputians, he hoped he could make himself useful for them, too, at least until he would be saved. For he always nurtured the hope that somehow, and against all odds, some miracle would happen, and he would return home to us, safely.

      With these thoughts, Lemuel prostrated himself at Bolgolam’s feet. Making sure that no Lilliputian was trapped underneath him, he humbly laid himself on the ground, his nose at the same height as Bolgolm’s.

 

      Curtly, Bolgolam commanded Lemuel to rise, but demanded that Lemuel will be sitting down; and after many courteous expressions from Bolgolam’s aides, Bolgolam concluded that he hoped the Man-Mountain should prove a useful servant, and well deserving of all the favours the Emperor had already conferred upon him, or might confer upon him in the future.

      Yes, Lemuel’s vanity was well catered for.

 

      Back in England, he could never have dreamt to be admitted at Court, let alone gaze at our King. While here in Lilliput, at that moment in time, Lemuel was as happy and proud as he could be: a free man, liked and protected by the Mighty Power, the Emperor of Lilliput!

      His future seemed to be as good as it could ever be.

 

      At least so long as he could avoid this Bolgolam creature.