Chapter Twenty-Four

Stella is happy. The author agrees to meet the prospective husband, provided she will be able to spend time at the Wells. Lemuel is intercepted and is ordered to a secret rendezvous on the beach; He is given his first spying mission as the Officer of SHINBET.

Redriff, Monday  the 18th  of August, 1703
In Mary's time matchmaking on the basis of financial value was a common, accepted practice.
The views of Mary's memories of Sadler’s Wells.
Artist: Unknown. Yet copyright The V&A Museum
Mary trusts that no one will notice her escape from Sadlers Wells, with the Lilliputian hidden on her person.
Artist: Unknown.
Careful not to step on any living specimen, Gulliver edges his way in Mildendo. 
Artist: William Andrew Pogany (1882-1955)
Gulliver is about to be surprised. Very surprised. 
Based on William Andrew Pogany (1882-1955)
Gulliver on the Lilliputian beach, on earlier, happier occasions.
Artist: Nadir Quinto (1918-1994)
Gulliver performing hte Lilliputian Oath.
Artist: Grandville
Were they expecting Lemuel to spot and report on Lilliputian smugglers?
Artist: George Morland (1763–1804)
Bolgolam retreating by sea.
Artist: Unknown.

MY plotting seems to bear fruits! Stella was ever so thrilled that I “agreed” to meet Mr. John Lowsley, my second husband.

 

      I did not want her to suspect that I have other intentions, so I only said I agreed to a non-formal meeting between this young widow (me) and that old widower, Mr. Lowsley.

 

      He is also a hosier, and she is bent on making our family rule the world's socks-markets. “First we conquer Northamptonshire, (she wrote to me in her letter) and then we take Berlin!”

 

      What an ambitious sister I have. She must have taken it from our father. I, like my mother, prefer to read and write.

      Mr. John Lowsley lives in Northamptonshire, a twenty hours coach drive from Stella's home. Of course I do not intend to take this tiresome, two days journey.

 

      I wrote to Stella that I must prepare myself for my future husband by properly enjoying the waters at Sadler’s Wells first. Islington is but a short walk from Stella’s home, our childhood home, and Stella will surely ascent to my last wish as a widow.

      Years ago, so many years ago, when Stella and I were but little girls, we spent many a Sunday afternoon in Islington, strolling at our leisure among the trees and flowers, feasting our eyes on the marvellous dresses of lovely women. Locking arms with Stella, I pretended that I was a beautiful woman, and that Stella was a strong, handsome man...

 

      We never set foot inside that wooden imposing house of Sadler’s Wells Musick-House, where the famous ferruginous Water was served to thirsty spectators of musick and dance entertainment. We were too young for that, but I always longed to be a grown-up, to put on a fancy bonnet, and hanging on a handsome man’s arm, to promenade into that exciting, secrets-full Sadler’s Wells Musick-House.

      Now, my handsome man is lost somewhere at sea, Stella claims that he is dead, and I am to wed another.

 

      Strange, how the Road of Life lets us see Life’s events totally different, when we reach another milestone. Anticipating my first marriage felt so much different than the second...

      But I am not going to wed this widower.

 

      I go through the motions, because I want to help Lemuel’s little friends. That is the least I can do to profess my eternal love for him. I will go as far as Sadler’s Wells Musick-House, hanging on James’ arm (my sister’s handsome boy will be glad to chaperone me there) and once I accomplish my mission, I will find a fine excuse to wave off this ridiculous marriage and go back home to Redriff.

 

      To await the safe return of my Lemuel.

 

      Or to die a widow.

      When I will be at Sadler’s Wells, my plan is to somehow steal the poor Lilliputians. I will release them and hide them all on my person. They are used to fly about with Lemuel, so they will keep quiet inside my pockets till we reach Newgate Street.

 

      I will tell Stella that I do not feel well and I will insist on returning back home.

 

      With my Lilliputians, hiding in my luggage!

 

      Once we will reach Redriff, I am sure I will be able to hide them till Lemuel will be back, and then we will find a way of getting them back home to Lilliput. Johnny and Betty are big enough to keep the secret, I am sure.

      But first I have to convince Stella to change her plans. She is a cunning fox, my sister!

      Officially, I am to be chaperoned by James, her sixteen-year-old son. While her boy will be discussing the financial details, I am expected to be beautiful and keep quiet. I am flattered that Stella thinks I can do both, and at the same time!

 

      She is convinced that Mr. Lowsley will fall madly in love with me, and that they will merge their businesses as soon as the priest will bless our marriage.

      According to her plan, we are to leave from Black Swan in Holborn by the Thursday morning stagecoach to York, which leaves punctually at five a Clock in the morning. We will arrive on Friday evening at the Cock and Bull Inn, where Mr. Lowsley will come to call on us.

 

      We are to insist on staying at the Cock and Bull, but to relent the next day to Mr. Lowsley’s invitation to stay at his home. On Saturday night I shall pretend to have a fever and to faint in Mr. Lowsley’s arms. Etc. etc. 

      But, since I know that she expects me to stay with Mr. Lowsley in Northampton, to prepare the wedding, I wrote to her that I insist on taking the waters before we take to the road.

 

      I have my plans, too!

 

      Of course I do not intend to marry Mr. John Lowsley, no matter how rich or how old he might be. I am loyal to my Lemuel, and will always be.

 

      And I am bent on trying to rescue the poor Lilliputian refugees who are forced to perform at Sadler’s Wells.

 

      Yes, I know that some of the Lilliputians were quite abusive towards my Lemuel, three years back, but still, I pity these refugees and feel no vengeance.

      Here is what happened to Lemuel after his secret Audience with the Emperor and the Empress:

*

HE was walking back to his Liberty-Temple, deep in thoughts, scanning the ground without paying much attention.

 

      By then Lemuel had gotten used to automatically make sure he was not trampling on any Lilliputian human or animal. Only occasionally did he still feel the unsettling crack under his foot, when he stepped on tiny animals, such as Lilliputian mice or birds that were too small for him to notice from high above, or too slow to escape from under his boot.

      He was deep in thought about the Emperor’s bizarre ideas on Politics and Human Nature, not to mention the elusive Top Secret, of which he still has had no clue.

      Suddenly he was shocked out of his reveries by shrill voices:

      “Halt! Man-Mountain! Halt!”

      “What.. where?”

      Lemuel looked down and saw a few yards ahead of him several Lilliputians waving frantically, pointing at an old Lilliputian lady slowly crossing the road. She was wearing the traditional blue sac, which only allowed her a front vision through the eyes-slit.

 

      Crossing the road ever so slowly, she was not able to see the approach of the Man-Mountain, and being so old, she was probably also hard of hearing, and did not hear the people’s cries.

 

      Lemuel froze where he was and watched the old lady making her ever so slow progress to the other side of the road.

      Lemuel bent down.

      “May I help?”

      “Oh!” the old lady raised her head, in shock “It is you, the Man-Mountain! I heard about your strong hand and soft heart. Yes, please!” she croaked on “I wish to go to the beach, for fresh air. Could you please transport me there?”

      “By all means” said Lemuel and scooped her up carefully in his palm. But as he straightened up the old lady removed her blue sac, and Lemuel was shocked to discover that he was holding none other than the feared Skyresh Bolgolam, in disguise!

      Lemuel had to make a frantic effort not to drop the mighty Lilliputian.

 

      Bolgolam seemed to be just as averse to the close proximity to Lemuel.

      “Man-Mountain, take hold of yourself, you beast.” He grumped as he folded the blue sac, which covered his fancy uniform. “This is a secret meeting. It never happened. Now pretend to take the old lady to the beach, and do it quick!”

      As carefully as he only could, Lemuel stepped over the field to the nearest beach. It was but a couple of steps away, but Lemuel tried to make the journey last for as long as he could, pretending that he was walking slowly, in fear of trampling on Lilliputian creatures.

 

      He could not fathom why Bolgolam would intercept him in this secret manner. Was this going to be his last day on earth?

 

      Wishing he could squash his tormentor, and fearing to do so, Lemuel finally did reach the Lilliputian beach. It was still populated with late-bathing Lilliputian families who were, as always, thrilled to see Lemuel walk by. They waived and yelled greetings at him, the children shrieking, running after him, certain they could catch-up with his long strides. He waved back his greetings with his free hand, a bit relieved that these eyewitnesses might prevent Bolgolam from executing him right there and then.

 

      But Bolgolam instructed Lemuel to continue walking along the beach a few more steps, until they reached a deserted stretch of sand with rocky hills all around it. It was far enough from any Lilliputian habitation, said Bolgolam and instructed Lemuel to sit on the sand, bending so that the surrounding rocks would hide them from view.

      “That is better.” He said. “Now place me there, on that ledge” and he pointed to a shelf of rock where he could stand, a bit above Lemuel’s eye level and still be concealed from the rest of the world.

      Lemuel obeyed and discreetly wiped his sweaty palm on his pants. Glancing at the sea, he could see it extending to no end. Straining his eyes he scanned the horizon, as he always did when he was near the Lilliputian beaches, always hoping to see a British sail, or any sail, but to no avail.

 

      What he did see was a Lilliputian war-ship anchored a few yards away.

      “They can see us from there…” He ventured.

      “These are my men, of course. Nothing to worry about.” Bolgolam retorted curtly.

      “Oh, that is good” Lemuel rather hoped to have had unbiased witnesses to the crime he feared Bolgolam was intending to commit upon him.

 

      But he did not have much time for such gloomy thoughts.

      “Man-Mountain, this meeting never took place.”

      “Of course” asserted Lemuel, and immediately went on to swear in the Lilliputian complicated way, while Bolgolam did the same.

 

      With this ceremony over, Bolgolam announced dramatically:

      “Man-Mountain, the Moment Of Truth Has Arrived!”

      Lemuel wished he could run someplace and hide.

 

      Silly wish, of course, but Bolgolam seemed to have the power of bringing out the little child in Gulliver, the child that could never satisfy his ambitious, portentous father. Well, by now Lemuel knew better than to speak back to Bolgolam, so he just nodded politely, trying to seem nonplussed, as he knew a real giant should.

      “I am pleased to welcome you among us, Slamecksans.” A trace of a benevolent smile could be seen on Bolgolam’s lips, but that did not reassure my Lemuel at all. “You made a wise choice to be an S-man, which you will never regret.”

      “I did? Oh, of course I did.” Lemuel hastened to say.

      “As I already told you, Man-Mountain, I know everything.”

      “You do.” Lemuel could not help deriving some hope from Bolgolam’s being so clearly misinformed.

      “As a loyal S-man, you should now report to me on your meeting today with Our Emperor. Yes. I know everything, and I want to hear it from you!”

      That was quite worrying, and Lemuel was pressed for words:

      “I just reported to him on my survey of the Lilliputian Empire. You know, that was in my Contract, Article Number Eight.”

      “I know that.” Retorted Bolgolam. “But I think you should do the survey all over again. I have severe doubts about your findings.”

      Lemuel’s professional pride was hurt again. “I am a certified surveyor, Skyresh Bolgolam, I had much occasion to study this in my travels to remote countries all over the world!”

      “So you say,” said Bolgolam haughtily, “so you say. But did you see anything suspicious while you were inspecting our shores?”

      Lemuel had a strange sense that all this has already happened to him before “No,” he said, somewhat irritated “It is the usual landscape, only smaller than what I am used to.”

      “These are your pitiful delusions, Man-Mountain! Lilliput is the mightiest nation in the universe. Never forget this!”

      “Of course.” Lemuel assented in haste.

      “But did you see people hiding? Anyone crossing by boat to Blefuscu at night, for example?”

      Now Lemuel was sure: these were the exact same questions the Emperor has posed to him but a while ago. What could be behind these interrogations? Are they together in this plot against him, or did each one of them have his own reasons for this examination?

 

      Carefully, he answered: “No, I did not see anything. If they were hiding, how could I have seen them? And, I conducted my survey during the day, of course.”

      “Of course!” Bolgolam was furious “That was your mistake! How can you catch them during the day, when they only operate at night?!”

      “Catch? Catch who?”

      “Never you mind. I want a full report on the nightly activities on the Blefuscuian Channel. Be very careful, those beastly Blefuscudians can be very dangerous! I need you for the impending war. Tell your Chamberlain, Little Lalcon, to inform the women that you will be back next week. That you are sent on a mission of the SHINBET.”

      The SHINBET!

 

      Lemuel was suddenly reminded that he was holding this high office. Gingerly, he posed the assumption that, as the head of the SHINBET, he was not obliged to get orders from Bolgolam...

      “You are wrong there, too, Man-Mountain. Do not try my patience.” Snapped Bolgolam. “The office of the SHINBET is under the jurisdiction of the Admiralty of the Realm, and that is Me. Ask the Emperor, if you dare to doubt me. He will tell you.”

 

      Lemuel felt lost, and kept silent.

      “War is imminent and we have chatted enough. Your mission is clear, I presume? Do not make me repeat it, I defy you!”

      So Lemuel nodded feebly his assent.

 

      Next, Bolgolam instructed Lemuel to transport him to the war-ship. And as soon as Lemuel planted Bolgolam on the deck, the war-ship raised anchor and set sail. Obeying Bolgolam’s commands, Lemuel blew on the sails as hard as he could and the war-ship disappeared around the rock.

      Bolgolam’s final words echoed in Lemuel's head, as he scanned, crestfallen, the horizon, not seeing any human ship, anywhere:

      “We will meet next week, Man-Mountain, and I want a full report! You can expect our meeting when you least expect it!”