The author's character and person is challenged by freakish events. She triumphs over these trials and tribulations, again, thanks to her unending love and loyalty.
Redriff, Wednesday the 30th of June, 1703
Betty telling her nightmare to her mother.
Artist: Adam Buck ((1759–1833)
In such a menacing way, Biddle approached Mary.
Artist: N.C. Wyeth (1882–1945)
Biddle (R) kidnapping Lilliputians.
Artist: Geoff Campion (1916-1997)
Mary sees Lilliputians for the first time in her life.
Artist: Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675)
Some of the captured Lilliputians in Biddel's prison-box.
Artist: Kevin O'Neill
Business is business, and a handshake is a binding signature.
I am still shivering. Luckily my children did not wake up from all the racket, and I did manage to fix-up my dress when Betty called for me, crying.
She had a bad dream, she said.
She dreamed that little people were trying to steal me away from home.
I kissed her tears and promised her that no such thing will ever happen, but I was shocked to realise how much she obviously did hear, without being woken up!
It started just when I was about to turn to bed myself, when a gentle knock on the door deceived me to think that it was one of my neighbour women, missing a candle, or a flint. Instead I saw this heavily clad, big man, aggressively pushing his way into my home, my sanctuary, my shelter, heaving a big box onto my kitchen table!
Stumbling back, I was reaching for a knife, but he was faster and stronger. He pulled me to him, covered my mouth – and nose! - with his big sweaty paw and whispered coarsely right into my ear. I still want to vomit when I remember his warm, stinking breath:
“Stay put, nasty woman” he said. “Do you not remember me? I wrote to you that I would come by.”
It was that abominable Captain Biddel!
I nodded vigorously, as much as I could, being short of breath and full of disgust, and he let me loose.
“I need your help here.” He said, to my utter surprise. “We can be partners, if you insist.”
And he proceeded to tell me something, which I could not follow. I was trying to catch my breath; I was silently praying that my children would not make a sound; I was fighting with myself not to glance in the direction of that door, behind which was the bed I was sharing with them.
And while he was blabbering, I thought I was hallucinating, for I could clearly hear tiny voices conversing in Lilliputian, somewhere in my kitchen!
So all I could think of saying was: “Mr. Gulliver is coming soon. You should talk to him.”
“I asked round.” He said, “I know your man is still at sea. You need not lie to me. He is not coming back any time now.”
And as he heaved himself onto my bench, he produced his flintlock pistol, gunpowder and bullets and placed them on my table.
As if he thought I would cower away from it, as if he thought I would not dare, or would not know how to charge a pistol!
“He was a fool not to join me in my expedition, your man. Up until now, it was plain sailing. But, darn, I would not come to you if it was not for the fact that the merchandise refuse to collaborate.”
“Did you..” I uttered, in total disbelief. “You did not..”
“Oh, yes, I did.” He laughed coarsely. “I sailed back to where we picked up your man and started circling till we found the island of the little creatures. That was not so hard to do, and it only took us a couple of days. Catching the lot was also easy enough, though there were not that many living items left.
"It looked like they were butchering one another for quite some time before we arrived. Those little islands were in ruins.
"But we snatched what we saw and packed them as good we could. Most of the items survived the trip. But unlike Negros, who are intelligent enough to start slaving, these little idiots just stand there, perhaps they are crying, I cannot tell.”
“Of course they would!” I was almost crying myself “Would you not shed a tear if you had lost your home and your country, violated by fearsome giants?”
“Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!” was Biddel's heartless response. “But you seem to care for them. That is good. I dare not whip them, for fear their value will drop. Anyway, I would not manage to do that in that box, and I am certain they would scatter away should I let them out of it for a good whip.”
I was in total shock and my countenance was probably showing it, since he laughed again and said:
“Oh, my, my. Obviously, we have a midgets-lover here. So kindly explain to them that which is in their own good!”
“What do you mean?” I mumbled, still at a loss.
“You speak their tongue, I know that well enough. I have a good ear for strange languages, and a good memory to boot. What they say to each other sounds to me just like what I heard you say to your silly man, a year gone.”
I could not deny it, and he was threateningly reaching for his pistol. What is more – I must admit – I was eager and curious to see the Lilliputians he kept in that box!
“But..” I mumbled on, “what do you want me to say to them?”
“Oh, stupid woman” He said. “Is it not plain enough? I want them to Perform! I want them to laugh and sing and jump and dance, when folk have paid me to gaze at them!
"Kindly explain to them,” he continued, mockingly “that if they do, I will feed them and clothe them and might even give them a Sabbath every now and then. But if they will not collaborate...” and he left that sentence hanging ominously in the air.
Well, it was a sore sight.
When he opened the box I saw in what miserable conditions those poor Lilliputians had spent their sea voyage and land trip. Cramped into this hastily timbered little prison were 13 human creatures and about 30 flocks and herds.
The light that suddenly flooded them allowed me to see them clearly, while they were helplessly frozen for a while. Three of the male seemed to be Hurgus, of a higher breed: their clothing was shinier and they seemed to be better fed. One of them was obviously a Tramecksan, judging by his red cloths. The others – 3 males and 7 females – were huddled together in one corner of the box, near the animals. I could clearly hear them saying to each other:
The Tramecksan was first to recover. He hushed them, brushed invisible dust from his red coat, and called out to me:
“Borach Lill, Flestrin! Hek lill san!”
I was so glad to see them. My whole being was awash with warm feelings of gratitude. These people, who clearly had known my Lemuel, were to me a sudden gift from heaven. But I was careful to speak Lilliputian in a hushed voice, so as not to upset my little Betty, should she happen to wake up:
“Who are you, dear sir? Did you know my Husband?”
They were all calling to each other at once. The Tramecksan silenced them again and called up to me:
“Big Mountain Woman, I am exceedingly honoured to acquaint myself: I am Treasurer Flimnap, or leastways I was the Treasurer of our most beloved Emperor, back in our fatherland, Lilliput. Nowadays I am lamentably reduced to be the head of these gloomy innocent prisoners. And may I intrude on your privacy, Madam, to ask you who your highness is? And how did it transpire that you speak our tongue? I do not recall ever having the honour of your introduction...”
“Tell them, tell them” Biddel was urging me. “I do not have the whole night for this.”
But I could not help laughing in joy: “They are so cute!“
“I know they are. That is why I think we could make a fortune, you and I, when we show them in fairs all over our great country!”
“What a horrid idea!” I said, horrified.
“Come, come, woman. What else would you do with them here? If they want to eat and clothe, they need to work, like any other breathing creature! Go ahead, tell them, or...”
And he started walking round my table, approaching me ever so ominously.
I slowly edged the other way, while speaking in Lilliputian to the little people inside that prison-box. They listened attentively, as they were turning round, following me.
“My most esteemed Treasurer Flimnap” I said “This man here, Captain Biddel...” I pointed at him, and the Captain raised his hat and bowed his head, “Captain Biddel wants to take care of you, feed you and clothe you.”
One of the two other Hurgus, a blue-clad Slamecksan, was excitedly saying to the Tramecksan, Flimnap: “This Female-Mountain speaks Lilliputian! We surely can trust her, no?”
“Even if she is but a woman!” added the other Slamecksan.
Flimnap was glancing at the rest of them, the ten Lilliputians that constituted his folk, and seeing that they were agreeing with the Slamecksans, he pushed those two away and said:
“I can attend to this, no doubt. I gave you my solemn word, all along, that I will shepherd you out of these dire straights and bring us all back safely to our beloved Lilliput. You shall see, we shall overcome!”
He turned back up to me and before I could say anything he said: “I will pose no conditions to you, woman. Just let my people go!”
“What is he saying?” Biddel was now standing right behind me.
“He is asking if you will free them.”
“Ha,” said Biddel cunningly, “Tell him that if they behave, I will let them loose with a good Corrody, to boot. I will establish for them their own “Chatham Chest!”
“Captain Biddel here says that he will, but first you have to do as he says.”
They were whispering among themselves, and I could not follow what they were saying to each other, but I did gather that they were leaning towards assent, and pressing Flimnap to strike a deal. He turned up to me and asked:
“What is it, Woman-Mountain, that we are required to do?”
“He is asking what they should do,” I told Biddel.
“Good job, woman!” Biddel was getting excited, and pressed himself nearer to me.
I must admit, at that point, with my excitement to see the Lilliputians and speak once more the secret language I shared with my Lemuel, I did feel such happiness growing within me.
For a moment I could even imagine that it was Lemuel, pressing himself behind me, and even though I knew it was Biddel's tool which I felt rousing, I did get wet...
He must have felt it, too, that Biddel, for he was breathing heavier:
“Tell them that they should sing, you know, like this” and he burst with a pathetic demonstration of a song. Even the Lilliputians were now laughing.
Biddel's mood was rising. “They should dance!” and he turned around, flapping his arms clumsily. The Lilliputians were rolling with merriment on their prison's floor. I smiled, trying not to burst out in outright mock.
“Can they play music? Ask them, ask them!” urged me Biddel, again pressing himself behind me.
“Captain Biddel here is asking if you can play music.” I said, smiling.
The Lilliputians were nodding eagerly. “That would be lovely, if the Captain would furnish us with materials, we could build our music instruments.”
“They can,” I told Biddel, and he responded enthusiastically:
“Oh, tell them to sing us one of the songs of Lilliput!”
They were excitedly talking to each other and finally Flimnap turned up to me and said earnestly:
“You should know, Woman-Mountain, that till now we wept, yea, we wept, when we remembered Lilliput. And now he that led us captive asks of us words of song. Our tormentor, Captain Biddel asks of us mirth: 'Sing me one of the songs of Lilliput.' We will do that,” said Flimnap, now turning to his flock: “we will build our harps anew, we will sing and be merry. But we shall never forget thee, O Lilliput! Let our right hands forget their cunning!”
He was a bit overdoing it, I thought, but the Lilliputians were nodding eagerly, and Flimnap carried on: “Let our tongues cleave to the roofs of our mouths, if we remember thee not, if we set not Mildendo above our chiefest joy!”
The Lilliputians were now clapping enthusiastically and Captain Biddel, who was visibly moved too, told me: “He is my kind of guy. I want to shake his hand. Tell him, tell him!”
Flimnap was eager for a private word, and vowed not to run away when he would be let out of the prison to shake hands with Biddel. But he was clearly reluctant to be picked up by Biddel, so I stretched my hand and scooped the little fellow in my palm, ever so gently and slowly, for I knew, from Lemuel’s stories, that a rapid assent would be a shocking experience for such a little person. I slowly lowered him onto my kitchen table, and let him loose.
Once he was out in the free world and out of earshot of his fellow Lilliputians, Flimnap bowed deeply to Biddel and said in a low voice:
“We can be partners, my dear Captain Biddel. These people, as you saw, will do anything I tell them to do. But you must understand that they have to know who is the boss here. Me. You must build for me a special cabin. A real bed. I need new clothes. In Red.”
Captain Biddel laughed heartily when he heard my translation and stretched out his forefinger to Flimnap. They shook hand and finger in assent and winked at each other.
“Your word,” said Flimnap, “is their command, as long as my word is your command. Are we understood?”
At this point the captain was so pleased with himself, with me, with Flimnap and with the whole world, that he just laughed even heartier:
“This is fantastic. I can already see them dancing to my tune. I am ever indebted to you, my dear Mrs. Gulliver.” He pressed himself yet even nearer to me and whispered in my ear: “Tell him that they will also have to make love to each other, on some late night shows, for extra money. Tell him, tell him,” he urged me, and in his excitement, planted a wet kiss on my neck, which, despite my despising him, sent shivers of pleasure down my spine...
Before I could translate anything, Flimnap was screaming: “Did he say Gulliver?! Did he?!”
I mumbled in Lilliputian, as I was trying to push Biddel off me: “Yes, I am Mrs. Lemuel Gulliver. Surely, you remember my husband?”
“I remember him all too well!”
Flimnap was now screaming with all his little might, his face reddening and his fists up in the air at us. Biddel was trying to undress me, bent on executing his lust, and as I was desperately trying to squeeze out of his sweaty clasp, I could still see in the corner of my eye, on the other side of the box, inside their prison, the other Lilliputians huddling fearfully together, their good spirits deflated and gone.
“Gulliver?” I heard them saying to one another worriedly “Did Flimnap say Gulliver?”
“If this woman is in,” Flimnap turned to Biddel, ignoring me altogether, “the deal is off!” And he started walking away, towards the edge of the table.
As much as he was clearly bent on making love to me, Biddel was also keeping an eye on his merchandise. When he saw that Flimnap was heading away, Biddel let go of me and clasped the poor Lilliputian in his fist.
Unknowingly, Flimnap saved me from being raped.
“What is wrong with him?” Biddel asked me “Where does he think he is going?”
Waving frantically his arms, Flimnap was screaming to Biddel “Gulliver NO!” Somehow he did learn his first word in the English language. “NO Gulliver!” he went on and on.
Biddel looked puzzled. And suspicious. And confused.
“What has he got against you?”
“I have no idea.” was all I could say, even though I started understanding that which was going on in that little head of Flimnap.
Biddel just nodded to Flimnap, repeating to him: “Alright, Gulliver no!” he shoved him back into that prison box, closed it, and turned to me:
“You proved yourself to be a good partner. Now let us make love.”
What was he thinking, the rogue!
This time I was saved by the little voice of my Betty, calling for me from the next room.
“Darn it.” Said Biddel. “Well, perhaps when I come to give you your share, we will be able to consummate our business union in bed, too.”
He hastily locked the prison-box and was gone.
I fixed my hair and cloths and rushed to comfort Betty.
Now that she has fallen asleep again I am too awake and nervous to go to sleep. I thought writing down that which has just transpired would calm me down, but I find that I am now even more anxious than before...
It cannot be that I fancy this horrid Biddel, surely. But it was such a good feeling to be treated as a woman again... Oh Lemuel, why have you forsaken me, and when will you be back? Will you ever make love to me again?
I am so nervous, even my handwriting, I see, is still shaky.
In the past writing Lemuel’s story always consoled me. Perhaps I should just keep on writing now the story of Lemuel in Lilliput. Perhaps I should write about the reasons why Flimnap hates me so, why he took so violently against Mr. Gulliver. It started, indeed, when Lemuel gained the post of Head of SHINBET.
It's nearly morning. I will do that tomorrow. Surely.