Chapter Twenty-Three

Captain Biddel's Lilliputian peep show performs at Sadler's Wells, and the author learns about it from an ad in the London Gazette. She resolves to try and help them, because of the fine way her Lemuel was received by the Lilliputian Emperor two and half years before: The Emperor trusted Lemuel and confided to him the true History of Lilliput and its Politics.

Redriff, Tuesday  the 10th  of July, 1703
When Mary said goodbye to Lemuel, on June 20th, 1702, she vowed to wait for him, if it takes forever.
Artist: Unknown
Amazingly, this piece of paper has survived these 300 years, almost perfectly preserved among the pages of May Burton-Gulliver's manuscript!
The ill-fated moment, when Gulliver, in his naivety, showing White-Spot, the Lilliputian cow to Biddel.
Artist: Grandville.
Though his feet are surrounded by numerous Lilliputians, Gulliver has a private audience with the Emperor. 
Artist: Grandville
Gulliver surveying Lilliput, blocking the road. 
Artist: Unknown
Part of the ceremony. 
Artist: Unknown
Top to Bottom: Those who pathetically try to imitate the Emperor, mixing-up their foot-ware; A couple of S-party members and their low heels; A T-party member, proud of his high morals, as they're represented by his shoes.
Artist: Grandville
The Empress is ready to snigger behind her fan.
Artist: Unknown
Cannabis seems to play a major role in Lilliput.
Artist: W. Miller

JUST as my clever Johnny predicted, Stella was back here on a visit, this time to coerce me into marriage.

      “You know as well as I do,” she said, “that Gulliver is dead at sea. How do you intend to survive, soon his allowance will run out? Did you not have enough of the shame, wearing the badge and begging for Alms[131]? No, my dear sister, it is either marriage for you or the Spike.[132] So, your only salvation, and that of your children, is in marriage - and I will take care of that.”

      I was obstinate. I tried telling her that there was no tangible evidence of Lemuel's demise and anyway, I vowed that I would wait for him. If it takes forever, I will wait for him!

      “Come, come, sister” she said, condescending “we do not need an official testimony. We will get a Bann for Marriage[133] and that will suffice.”

      She did not even bother responding to my vehement proclamation of my love for Lemuel! She just stormed out, claiming she was in a hurry, must be back home that same day. She is now an important merchant-woman, and aids her rich husband with his hosiery business, my sister does.

 

      But before she left, she uttered a most ominous promise:

      “Get ready, Mary Burton, for you will come with me on my next business travel to Northhampton, where you are to meet your future husband!“

      And gone she was, the impudent. I was desolate. I still am. I was plotting how to liberate myself from this bond. I was even contemplating selling this home and moving with my innocent children somewhere where Stella would never find us. I was even conspiring to commit suicide, when my eye fell on the London Gazette,[134] which my sister left behind in her hurry.

      An Advertisement caught my eye. It read:

      “A very strange group of Midgets, called ILLIPUTIANS, lately brought from the East-Indies, being the first that ever was in England, is daily to be seen at Sadler's Wells on Islington Road, from nine a Clock in the Morning till Eight at Night.”

      Sadler's Wells[135]!

 

      That is just a short walk from my sister’s house in Newgate Street!

 

      I resolved to pay her a visit, and try to convince her that my Poor Health requires that I partake of the Waters. She will do anything to get me married again, so I am sure to spend enough time at the Wells to accidentally run into that Biddel. Perhaps then I will be able to convince this creature to treat his ״ILLIPUTIANS״ somewhat better than forcing them to perform from nine a Clock in the Morning till Eight at Night.

 

      I shudder to think what feats my Lilliputian friends are forced to perform after Eight at night...

      This is so distressing.

 

      And to think that it is all my Lemuel's fault, for revealing the mere existence of Lilliput to Captain Biddel.

 

      And my Lemuel was used by the Emperor so majestically.

 

      True, the Empress' lust was almost my Lemuel's destruction, but all in all, these poor Lilliputians-in-Exile do not deserve the fate they now suffer from Biddel.

      I tenderly remember what Lemuel told me about his meeting with Emperor:

*

“Welcome, Man-Mountain” said the Emperor, as he opened the large doors to the balcony and stepped outside. “I gave orders that we shall be alone, but please, come nearer, so that I can whisper directly into your ear”.

      Lemuel’s heart swelled with pride. A private, intimate audience with the Emperor!

      That morning, when General Reldresal came galloping to summon Lemuel to Court as soon as possible, my Lemuel was weary of the prospect of another transport mission across Lilliput. He had not been to his Liberty-Temple for quite some time, having flown the Royal House in his pockets for so many days and nights.

      Therefore, when Reldresal told him that instead of a transport mission, he was to have a private Audience with His Highness, Gulliver took quite eagerly the few steps from his Liberty-Palace to Mildendo, with Reldresal and his horse in his pockets (to save the poor guy the half-hour gallop he otherwise would have had to take.)

      Upon the Emperor's request for more privacy, Gulliver, most willingly, dragged his stool nearer to the palace-wall. He leaned his cheek on the balustrade, so that his ear was strategically positioned at the edge of the balcony. As he did so, he noticed a shadow within the room, behind the Emperor.

      “You met my wife, Her Royal Highness, I recall,” said the Emperor dryly. “She is the only witness to this meeting, I hope you do not mind.”

      Do not mind!

 

      Lemuel was so excited, he was already perspiring. He took out his handkerchief to wipe-off his brow and noticed that the Empress, stepping a bit nearer, swooned and needed to lean on a chair. Lemuel was certain that his heart and the Empress’ were beating to the same, ancient wild beat.

      “Excellent,” said the Emperor, “Do cover us with this foot-cloth. One can never be too careful.”

      Lemuel placed the handkerchief on his head and secured its other tip over the open doors across the balcony. Under the cover of the handkerchief, the Emperor proceeded:

      “Go ahead; tell me all about your first mission. I commanded that you explore Our shores and deduce Our size.”

      Lemuel commenced to whisper the data on the size and circumference of His Emperor's Empire, but, as he was progressing with his learned report, he was quite hurt when the Emperor was whispering into Lemuel’s ear, slyly and insistently:

 

      “Are you sure?” and “Perhaps you should go out and check it again?”

      After Lemuel’s resolute whispered protestations and proclamations that he was a qualified surveyor, having occasioned to practice this profession in the course of his numerous voyages, the Emperor relented, and changed the subject:

      “During your survey, Man-Mountain,” Whispered the Emperor, “Did you see anything suspicious?”

      “No,” Lemuel whispered back, “It is the usual landscape, only smaller than what I am used to.”

      “Stop bragging” whispered the Emperor sharply. “Your size is of no consequence here. You are Our subject and as such, you are at Our Royal mercy!”

      “True, I humbly beg Your pardon, Your Majesty” Whispered Lemuel.

      “We forgive you” Whispered the Emperor magnanimously and proceeded: “Did you see people hiding? Crossing by boats to our enemy’s shores at night?”

      Lemuel was baffled “If they were hiding, how could I have seen them? And, I conducted my survey during the day, of course.”

      “Darling…” He suddenly heard the Empress’ voice, and his heart leaped to his throat.

      “Yes, woman?” The Emperor turned to her, and Lemuel’s heart sank back: she was not addressing him.

      “It does not matter now, darling” the Empress whispered to the Emperor, “Let us move on with The Plan!”

      “Do not push me, woman,” Snapped the Emperor in a harsh whisper “All in good time!”

      He turned back to Lemuel and whispered on:

 

      “What you are about to hear, is Top Secret. If you will ever repeat this to anyone, I will deny it all, of course, and will execute you for slandering your Monarch. Understood?”

      As dreadful as this sounded, Lemuel was very curious to know what might be the Emperor’s Top Secret, and he nodded his consent.

      “That is not enough.” Snapped the Emperor “Do it properly!”

      “Darling…” It was the Empress, again. “Everyone will see! Make him swear with his fingers, under the carpet.”

      “You have reason, woman” Grumbled the Emperor. “Go ahead, Man-Mountain, do as you are told! Swear as you do in your own country, and then do the Lilliputian oath. Hurry up, we do not have much time.”

      Lemuel started by crossing his fingers, and saying ‘I Swear,’ and continued in the Lilliputian tradition[136], all the while keeping his handkerchief over his head, covering both the Emperor and the Empress.

      “That will do,” said the Emperor, though he could not mask his awe. “Now listen carefully, for I will say this only once. It is a long and tedious story.”

      And he commenced to unravel the complex Lilliputian politics:

      As it was, the Lilliputians were labouring under two mighty evils - revealed the Emperor - a violent faction at home, and the danger of an invasion, by a most potent enemy, from abroad.

      “As to the first,” said the Emperor “you probably noticed that We have two struggling parties in Our Empire, the High and Low Heels, under the names of Tramecksan, the T-party and Slamecksan, the S-party. We sometimes distinguish between them by their colors, Red and Blue. This most useful state of affairs is holding for above ten moons past.”

      Lemuel was curious: “Pray, why is it useful?”

      “My Holy Blundecral,” Said the Emperor “I keep forgetting that you are but a savage and have no understanding in Refined Politics.

 

      "Having struggling parties is essential for every Monarch.

 

      "True, seventy moons past we had thirty-two parties struggling for power, but our wise ancestors recognised that this was too confusing for the masses and it even gave the dangerous impression that any Lilliputian could just start a new party.

      “During the course of six-and-thirty moons my wise forefathers managed, with careful manoeuvres, threats and manipulations to trim down Our Court, and, as of but ten moons ago, we are blessed with the sufficient number of two parties, the S’s and the T’s.

 

      "To make it even easier for the masses, we distinguish between them quite conveniently by their heels and by their colours.

 

      "It is a double-edged solution: while a Lilliputian glances down to see what sort of dignitary he is facing, he has to bow his head, and this gives Our dignitaries a priceless satisfaction.”

      “But,” ventured Lemuel “Why two parties? Why not just one? Surely that would be even simpler..?”

      The Emperor sighed and exchanged a tired glance with his wife “Sorry, woman, this is going to take longer than I thought. Bear up!”

      “It is quite alright, Darling, pray proceed. I do find it very exiting to see you taming the giant!”

      The Emperor laughed kindly and pinched his wife's cheek.

 

      Lemuel felt the ugly monster of jealousy raise its head: If ever he would be alone, and intimate, with the Empress, the woman he so desired, he would never be able to pinch her cheek without chopping her head off.

      The Emperor, ignorant of Lemuel's complaint, went on:

 

      “If we were to have only one party, the masses would feel that they have no choice; that this Party is imposed on them. As it is now, the S’s and the T’s suffice to convince the masses that they are governed by a fair system, which expresses all of My citizens' political visions.

 

      "Everybody is happy: the Lilliputians feel that they have a choice, the Politicians of the S’s and the T’s have each other to squabble with, and We can go ahead, uninterrupted, to execute Our Own Plans, while in Our Court, Our Politicians are busy fighting with each other for the crumbs that fall off Our Table.

 

      "People all over Lilliput amuse themselves with political discussions. They are quarrelling with each other about what they think We should do, and this gives them a healthy illusion of Power.”

      Gulliver admitted that this sounded convincing, as well as convenient.

      “As long as the Lilliputians are bombarded with information about which they can do nothing but gossip to their hearts' content, they feel that they are part and party to that which is going on in Court and that they have political power!”

      "The Emperor could not help laughing: “They discuss these bits and pieces of information which We leak out, or invent, and they feel superior to Our Court, thinking that they would lead Lilliput better than We do!”

      The Empress sniggered behind her fan and Lemuel ventured, hoping to please the Royal Couple: “That is ridiculous. It surely takes proper breeding and much learning to be a Leader!”

      The Royal Couple burst out laughing.

      “Of course it does not.” Retorted the Emperor ,“you have still so much to learn!”

      The Empress giggled and Lemuel felt his face was reddening with shame.

      “Anyone can be a leader. The challenge is to be perceived as a potent Leader. Because, in fact, no leader is ever needed. This is another Top Secret I share with you, seeing that you have so much to learn, and knowing that no Lilliputian will ever grasp this truth.

      “If Our Court and all of Our Administration were to disappear tomorrow by some mysterious force, you can rest assured: no Lilliputian would ever notice Our absence.

 

      "Well, at least not in a negative sense.

 

      "Lilliputians would continue to work their fields, make, sell and buy goods, eat, drink and be merry, fulfil their Matrimonial duties to everyone’s content. Why would they not? It might take a few months before they would notice that no tax collector came by, or that no new stories about scandals in Court were heard lately, but soon they would get used to that, too.”

      “That is awful,” gasped Lemuel. “Will they not feel abandoned?”

      “It is most gratifying,” said the Emperor “that even you, Man-Mountain, are convinced that Leaders are necessary. You renew my hope in Lilliputian-kind.

 

      "You see, even We sometimes lay awake at night, fearful that Our Lilliputians might discover that We are not necessary at all. That is why Our forefathers wrote the Blundecral, you know.”

      “No... I do not know.” Lemuel was truly finding all this hard to follow “Never heard of the origins of the Blundecral before this day.”

      “Dear me, I keep forgetting that you are a total ignoramus. Our Blundecral is the Holy Book which was written by one of my fore-fore-fore-fathers, Our great prophet Lustrog.

 

      "He was very holy and had numerous ways of communicating with Our Creator and bringing back the gospel of the One and Only Truth. Lustrog was also chosen by Our Creator to discover the Cannabaceae, which brings me to what We actually want to discuss with you today.”

      “Oh, the Cannabaceae. I have noticed the abundance of Cannabaceae fields in Lilliput. I gather it is one of Your Highness’ main produce?”

      “And for once, you are right!” exclaimed the Emperor. “The Sacred Knowledge of cultivating and using Cannabaceae is closely guarded and is passed on in Our Family from generation to generation.”

      “Move on, dear, please” The Empress whispered impatiently. “I need to get some fresh air.”

      “We are almost there, woman.” Snapped the Emperor. “You insisted on being at this Audience, so bear up!”

      “If I may,” ventured Lemuel “Her Royal Highness does seem a bit pale. Shall I take her in my palm for some fresh air?”

      “We will hear of no such thing.” Barked the Emperor and turned to His Empress, whispering: “I[137] know you abhor this creature. So far you have demonstrated much stamina, I grant you that. So, if you wish, you may depart. I will conclude this on my own.”

      The Empress glanced at Lemuel, who pretended to hear nothing, and whispered back: “No, darling, let us resume this tomorrow. We can suffer to postpone The Plan one more day, can we not?”