Chapter Twenty

A letter from Captain Biddel awakens fears and worries. The author recalls Gulliver’s reception at Court; He is immediately swept into Court Intrigues and lands the new Office of SHINBET, having triumphed over other candidates.

Redriff, Tuesday the 15th of  June, 1703
Mary had to sit down, shocked to get a letter from Biddel.
Artist: Pieter de Hooch (1629-1684)
Gulliver carving trees.
Artist: Grandville (1803-1847)
Gulliver joins Court ativities.
Artist: J.J. Grandville
The Empress enjoys the sight of jumping men. 
Artist: Unknown
The Empress with her natural jewels.
Artist: John Hoskins (1589-1664)
Lemuel walks the rope.
Artist: Unknown

I cannot believe it. This rascal, Biddel, sent me a letter.

 

      Me!

 

      As if he did not realise that it was because of me that Mr. Gulliver kicked him out of our house a year ago, when he wanted to recruit my husband on a kidnap voyage to Lilliput[119].

 

      I clearly remember his scared glances at me when Mr. Gulliver pushed him out the door. He thought I was out of my senses, because I spoke Lilliputian with my husband..! At the time we found it very droll, realising that he was convinced I was a mad woman. Lemuel and I had merry times, reliving that moment. I think it was one of the last times I spoke Lilliputian with Lemuel. One week later he was already on board the “Adventure”, heading to Surat.

      Silly me, months later I was still hoping that if I practiced my Lilliputian aloud, it would bring Lemuel back to us. How could I have envisioned Betty's bitter tears when she ran home one day, beaming with happy expectations, only to discover that I was not talking to her father; that he was not back home yet? My heart shuddered when I tried to comfort her, and I vowed not to utter another word in Lilliputian, until Lemuel would be back.

 

      Silly, silly me.

 

      Now I am sure that only if I keep this vow, my Lemuel will be back. Oh dear me. All those silly, gullible vows.

 

      Again and again I do everything I can to gain some control over my life, only to realise again and again how helpless I am in the face of... of... destiny?

 

      Is life predestined? I cannot believe it is. By whom would it be?

 

      Oh, I am so confused. I wish I could be so silly as to believe in God.

      I feel that I would not be able to face all my hardships without the conviction that Lemuel does love me. But is it true? No word from him for so long.. Still, when I cling on to the folly of his eternal love, I feel strong enough to move mountains.

      Except this morning, when I held Biddel's letter in my shaking hands. I am engulfed by fears. They haunt me all these hours.

 

      Would he be vengeful? Would he dare harm my kids?

 

      Oh, Lemuel, why have you forsaken me? How could a weak, lone woman defend herself and her brood?

      Biddel did not leave a return address. This loathsome man might appear at my doorstep any day now... Perhaps I should just start speaking Lilliputian to him, to scare him away? But then, what about my vow? And what if Betty will be home when he comes? It would break her poor heart again. 

      I hope my children face no risk from him. This wretched Biddel was cruel enough to want to kidnap Lilliputians and sell them here for show…

      Despite all what Lemuel told me about the hardships and dangers he suffered in Lilliput, I still feel compassion for these little creatures. It was instilled in me by my Lemuel. He also told me about the fine treatments he got there.

 

      Well, here is what he told me about his Royal reception at the Lilliputian Court. Perchance writing all this might distract me from my fears of Biddel…

*

AS soon as Lemuel finished constructing two stools from twelve of the tallest local trees, his impending visit to the Palace in Mildendo was announced. The population was instructed again to stay indoors and they all watched his prodigious progress toward the Royal Inner Court, carrying in both arms these humongous seats.

      When Lemuel approached the Inner Court, he placed one stool outside of it and the other inside, and carefully stepped from one to the other, safely landing right in front of the Palace, in front of the wide Royal Balcony.

 

      The Royal Orchestra burst out in magnanimous music. Holding his red, high-heeled shoes in his hand, General Reldresal climbed ceremoniously onto Lemuel’s left shoulder, to guide him through the Protocol.

 

      A Lilliputian woman came forward, cradling in her arms a tiny baby, which Lemuel could hardly see, and which she fearfully held up to Gulliver, to hold and kiss, as tradition dictates.

      Fearful of dropping the infant, Lemuel held his palm next to the woman, while she, urged by the Emperor’s soldiers' spikes and trembling all over, placed the bundle onto Lemuel’s open, rather shaky palm. The baby did not seem to mind, and even shrieked in delight as it was lifted higher and higher, but when Lemuel’s face and protruding lips came nearer, it shrilled fearfully and wet its swaddle[120] and Lemuel’s hand.

      “That will suffice.” General Reldresal comforted Lemuel. “Just give it back to its mother. A little lōtium[121] never harmed anyone, certainly not a Man-Mountain.”

      The ceremony thus concluded, the wide doors of the balcony were opened by colourfully clad servants, and Turquoise-robed Admiral Skyresh Bolgolam stepped onto the balcony, staring up into Gulliver’s face.

      Lemuel’s heart sank.

 

      “Know, Man-Mountain, that you are graced by his Grace, His Royal Highness, the Emperor of Lilliput and the rest of the Universe!

 

      "Only by his pity on you, are you fortunate to breathe Lilliputian wholesome air, and to serve His Majesty!”

 

      Lemuel bowed his head in deeply felt gratitude, following closely General Reldresal’s whispered instructions, and the Admiral stepped back, revealing behind him the assembling Lilliputian Parliament.

 

      “You are privileged to join His Royal Diversion and Office Nominating. For reasons which are beyond my humble perception, Our Good Emperor sees in you One of Us. As such you should put yourself forward for an Office at Court. I am sorry to say.” Added Bolgolam with spite.

      Lemuel was nevertheless very touched, but also apprehensive.

 

      General Reldresal assured him that the process was quite harmless.

 

      “This diversion is only practiced by those persons who are candidates for great employments and high favor at Court.” Explained General Reldresal, holding onto Gulliver’s ear and whispering into it, while Lemuel strained to see what was going on inside the large hall, across the balcony.

 

      He was almost sure he could dimly see the Empress there.

 

      Reldresal continued his explanations:

      “We are trained in this Art from our youth, but do not worry, you do not have to be of noble birth or liberal education, to take part in this competition.

      "Everybody knows, for example, that Admiral Skyresh Bolgolam, was the only Blefuscudian ever to seek refuge in Lilliput. Though he was born in Blefusu, our Enemies’ island, to a family of Cannabaceae distributors, he has managed by patience, practice and a pathological lack of fear, to demonstrate fantastic political skills, rope walking, jumping and otherwise amusing Our Emperor, until he landed the most powerful Office of the Admiralty of the Realm.”

      “Is the Empress…” Lemuel was going to ask if the Empress was there, too, but then he thought he heard the General saying something about walking on rope.

 

      “Why would he need to walk on rope?”

      “That is self-evident.” Said the General patiently. “You will soon see for yourself. It is great fun, too. You know, of course,” he added modestly, “that I have the reputation of being the best in it.”

      “Oh.. but why..?”

      “The Diversion today is for the new office of “Secret Holding Information New Board Evaluation Technology”

      “That is a long title,” said Lemuel.

      “You are quite right.” Said the General “We call it shortly “SHINBET”

      “A catchy name” Approved Lemuel “It sound ominous, too. Is the Empress also here?”

      “Of course” Said the General. “None of the Ladies would want to miss this in the world. The Emperor tried to ban the presence of women in these Auditions, since it seems to excite them to no extent, resulting in fresh demands to amend the Matrimony Laws. Unfortunately, this attempt resulted with the compromise to let the Ladies sit at the front row. Their glee and heavy breathing are quite distracting, I have to warn you.”

      Lemuel did not want to appear too much obsessed with the Empress, so he tried to change the subject: “And who are the candidates for this SHINBET Office?”

      “There are three candidates today: you can see them warming-up inside: Clefrin and Marsi, the Frelocs.”

      “Oh, I remember them” said Lemuel “They are the ones who frisked me when I arrived. And who is the third candidate?”

      “Why, it is you, of course.” The General said. “Do not worry; the job is tailored for you. They stand no chance against you”.

      “But.. but.. what IS this Office, anyway? I am very honoured, of course” he hastened to add “But I am not sure I am up to the challenge. After all, I only just arrived..” In truth, he was afraid to make a fool of himself, in front of the Empress.

      “Do not worry.” Said the General “You can always count on me. I will help you. We are friends” And to demonstrate his friendship, he gave a friendly punch to Lemuel’s jaw, hitting a tooth.

      “Ouch,” said Lemuel, “Thanks. Do I have to jump?”

      “No, heavens, no. It would be totally unfair for you to compete in Jumping against any Lilliputian, even myself! You will see what Clefrin and Marsi do, and then it will be your turn.”

      Clefrin and Marsi stepped onto the balcony.

 

      They were not wearing the Khaki army uniforms which they wore while searching Lemuel. Marsi was dressed in red and wearing low-heeled shoes, while Clefrin was wearing green, and masterfully balancing himself on a pair of green high heels.

      Walking to the balcony’s edge, they stood on both sides of Lemuel’s head, turned to the Emperor, who was sitting inside the big hall, and bowed deeply.

      At last Lemuel could clearly see the Empress, in a magnificent brown dress that enhanced the beauty of her bare breasts.

 

      Lemuel was irritated to note that one of the Ladies seemed bent on blocking his view, desperately trying to position herself in Lemuel's line of vision. Later he learned that this was Lady Flimnap, who, contrary to her husband, was resolute to gain Lemuel's favours.

      “Our Dear Emperor” recited the Frelocs in unison, “We, as mortal as we are, salute you, and to prove this, we humbly petition to entertain His Majesty, with a dance on the rope.”

      “What?!” said Gulliver “I think my Lilliputian is not that good. Did I understand right? Dancing on Rope?!”

      But he needed not wait for General Reldresal to answer.

 

      The Emperor roared “Permission granted!” and to the cheers of the court and wives, a contraption of sticks and tight rope was brought on to the balcony. It was a slender white thread, extended about two feet, and six inches from the ground.

 

      Clefrin and Marsi removed their upper coats, and adjusted their wigs. They stepped in unison towards the rope, stood with their backs to each other, took three steps in opposing directions, away from each other, and then, simultaneously, each put his right hand into his pocket and pulled it out, waving a bundle of cloth.

 

      From the sound of it Lemuel judged that it was full of coins.

 

      This was apparently the sign for a number of Dignitaries of the Court to rush out to the balcony, some bobbing on high heels, but still quite fast. Five fought for a position in front of Clefrin and six were heaving in front of Marsi.

      “Fine, Marsi, you may start, then!” Announced the Emperor.

      A hush enveloped the hall, as Marsi pranced on his high heels towards the rope, flanked by his six aides, who were whispering in his ears.

 

      Lemuel could not quite hear what was said but he did think that he heard them whispering numbers. Marsi was nodding in agreement to each and every one of them and when they approached the rope, they grabbed Marsi’s arms, three on each side, and hauled him onto the rope.

 

      Wobbling violently, and holding onto the six hands for dear life, Marsi managed to take a couple of steps, before he lost balance and fell into his six aides’ arms.

      “You see, there is nothing to it,” said the General to Lemuel, as the public inside the hall clapped approvingly and Marsi and his team stepped aside, still negotiating numbers.

      “It is quite beyond me” Mumbled Lemuel. “How do you expect me to.. to..”

      “Oh, you will do better than both of them, I am sure” reassured him the General. “Clefrin will not manage to balance any more than Marsi.”

      But Clefrin seemed rather cheerful, and his five aides, also whispering numbers, were smirking self-assuredly as they hastened Clefrin onto the rope.

 

      He too was not stable at first, but making good use of the five arms that were extended to him, managed to take three, four and then five steps… Crestfallen Marsi and his former aides walked into the hall while Clefrin was taking his sixth and seventh step, and he almost reached the other side, but for the Empress, whose slender figure and blinding white breasts suddenly came into view.

 

      She was so much taken by the excitement of the Diversion that she stepped forward onto the balcony, with Lady Flimnap in tow.

 

      This caused a great commotion among the aides and even Clefrin was not impartial to this sight, and they all fell in a heap to the ground.

      “Bravo!” Exclaimed the Empress and the General whispered into Lemuel’s ear “Her Highness wants you to win, you know.”

      “Really? Why? How.. how come?” Stammered Lemuel.

 

      The sight of the Empress’ cleavage and erect nipples has also distracted him from the rope entertainment, and the General’s remark brought him painfully back to reality.

      “No time to squander!” called General Reldresal “It is your turn now. You can do it!”

      “What.. how.. you do not expect me to..”

      “Of course not.” Said the General. “You let your fingers do the walking” and with his tiny fingers he demonstrated to Lemuel what to do.

      The whole Court was by now on the balcony, but Lemuel had only eyes for the Empress.

 

      Hesitatingly, he hovered with his right hand over the balcony.

 

      A sigh of awe engulfed the crowd.

 

      Lemuel made a fist and let his Index and Middle fingers stretch and reach the floor. Gratified by the Lilliputians approval, and urged on by General Reldresal, Lemuel’s confidence was increasing.

 

      He bent his fingers in a deep courtesy to the Emperor and the Empress, and when they both acknowledged his good manners with a Royal, graceful nod, Lemuel walked his fingers towards the stretched rope.

      He breathed deeply and took a careful aim: sprang his fingers onto the rope, and carefully walked them, step after careful step, from one end of the rope to the other.

 

      A huge, happy roar arose, and Lemuel, ever the fool for recognition, turned his hand and walked his fingers all the way back!

      They were all in rapture. The General was jumping up and down on Lemuel’s shoulder (carefully holding onto Lemuel’s earlobe) and screaming: “You did it! I knew it! I never doubted you, my dear Man-Mountain!”

      “Thank you, Reldresal, thank you all!” Lemuel was now waiving his triumphant hand “I could not have done it without you!”

      “I know.” Said the General “And you can count on my support also when you head the SHINBET, do not worry!”

      “Oh, my Goodness.” Gasped Lemuel “I totally forgot. How stupid of me to win this contest. What will become of me next..?”

 
 
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