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I was born in Nottinghamshire and was the third of five sons. My father was not a rich man, but he was able to send me to Cambridge University, where I studied for three years. When I left college, I continued my studies and became a doctor. But I always wanted to travel, and so I made several voyages as a ship’s doctor. When I married my wife Mary, however, I planned to stay at home for a while. But after a few years I discovered I was not earning enough money from my patients. I decided to go to sea again, and this time I joined a ship sailing to the islands in the South Pacific Ocean. We started our journey from Bristol on May 4th, 1699. At first our voyage went well. We sailed across the Atlantic, round the coast of Africa and into the Indian Ocean. But before we could reach the Pacific, a violent storm hit us and drove us to the north-west of Tasmania. The wind drove our ship on to a rock, which broke the ship in half.
Some of the sailors and I managed to get a boat into the water, and we rowed away to look for land. But when we were too tired to row any more, a great wave hit our small boat, and we all fell into the sea. I do not know what happened to my companions, but I suppose they were all drowned. The wind and waves pushed me along as I struggled to keep my head above water. I became very tired and soon felt I could not swim any more. Luckily, just then my feet touched the ground. I walked out of the sea and on to a beach, where there wasTnysign of any people or houses. I was so exhausted that I lay down and went to sleep. When I woke up next morning, and tried to get up, I could not move. I was lying on my back and my whole body, my arms and legs were strongly fastened to the ground. Even my hair, which was long and thick, was tied to the ground.
The sun began to grow hot, and I was very uncomfortable. Soon I felt something alive moving along my leg and up my body to my face, and when I looked down, I saw a very small human being, only fifteen centimetres tall. He had a bow and arrow in his hands, and there were forty more of these little men following him. I was so surprised that I gave a great shout. They all jumped back, very frightened, and some hurt themselves by falling off my body. Meanwhile, I was struggling to unfasten myself, but just as I managed to pull my left arm free of the ropes, I felt a hundred arrows land on my free hand, and more arrows on my face and body. This was very painful, and made me cry aloud. I lay quietly, to see what would happen next. When they saw I was no longer struggling, they quickly built a platform next to my head, and an official climbed up there to speak to me. Although I could not understand his language, I understood that they would be friendly towards me – if I did not try to harm them.
By now I was extremely hungry, so I used sign language to beg the official for food. He seemed to understand me, because immediately ladders were put against my sides and little men climbed up with baskets of food and drink. They were surprised at how much I could eat and drink. In-just one mouthful I ate three of their meat dishes and three of their loaves of bread. I drank two of their barrels of wine, and was still thirsty, because that was only half a litre. While they were bringing me food, I wondered whether to pick up a handful of the little men and throw them to their death. But I was afraid they would shoot at me again, and anyway I was grateful for their kindness in giving me food and drink, so I did not move. After some time, another official climbed up to the platform and spoke to me. From his signs I understood that they were going to move me.
The King of this country (which was called Lilliput) had ordered his people to carry me to the capital city, about a kilometre away. I made signs to ask whether I could be untied, but the official politely refused. While I was eating, a platform had been prepared to carry me. The people of Lilliput, known as the Lilliputians, are very intelligent and clever with their hands. For me, five hundred men built a special wooden platform with twentytwo wheels. Nine hundred of the strongest men worked for about three hours to lift me on to the platform, and one thousand five hundred of the King’s largest horses (each eleven and a half centimetres high) pulled me to the capital. I did not know about any of this, because they had put a sleeping powder in my wine, and I was in a deep sleep.
The King had decided I would stay in the largest available building, j ust outside the city gates. Its door was only a metre high and half a metre wide, so I could only just get inside on my hands and knees. My guards put ninety-one chains on my left leg, so that I could not escape. Then they cut the ropes that tied me and I was able to get to my feet. As I stood up, I heard cries of astonishment all around me. I felt rather miserable, but at least I could walk about now, in a two-metre circle. I was certainly an interesting sight for the Lilliputians, who had come out of the city in crowds of several thousand to see me. Now I had a good view of the countryside. The fields looked like flowerbeds in a garden, and even the tallest trees were only two metres high.
I was soon visited by the King himself. He has a strong, handsome face, and is very popular among his people. He arrived with his Queen, his children, and his lords and ladies, all dressed in beautiful gold and silver clothes. In order to make conversation easier, I lay on my side so that my face was close to him. I spoke to him in all the languages I knew, but we still could not understand each other. The King ordered his people to make me a bed, using six hundred Lilliputian beds. It was not very comfortable, but it was better than sleeping on the stone floor. He ordered the crowds of sightseers to go back to their homes, so that the work of the country could continue and I would not be annoyed. For a long time he discussed with his lords in private what should be done with me. I was told all this later by a good friend of mine.
Clearly, such a large person could be a danger to his small people. At last it was decided that, as I had behaved so well up to now, I would be kept alive. Food and drink would be brought to me every day from all the villages, six hundred people would be my servants, three hundred men would make me a new suit, and six teachers would teach me their language. And so in about three weeks I began to speak the language of Lilliput. The King often visited me, and every time he came, I asked him to take off my chains. He explained that first I must promise not to fight against Lilliput or hurt Lilliputians, and that I must be searched for weapons. I agreed to both these things and carefully picked up two of his officers in my hands. I put them first in one pocket, then moved them to all my other pockets, except two which I kept secret. As they searched, they wrote down in a notebook details of all the things they found. Afterwards I read some of their report: ‘In the second coat pocket we found two very large pieces of wood, and inside them were great pieces of metal, very sharp. In another pocket there was a most wonderful engine, at the end of a long chain. The engine was inside a huge round container, which was made half of silver and half of another metal. This second metal was very strange as we could see through it to some mysterious writing and pictures.
The engine made a continuous loud noise.’ The officers could not guess what these things were, but they were, of course, my two pocket knives and my watch. They also found my comb, a purse with several gold and silver coins, my gun and bullets. The King wanted to know what the gun was used for. ‘Bring it out,’ he ordered me, ‘and show me how it works.’ I took the gun out and put a bullet into it. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ I warned the King. Then I fired the gun into the air. It was the loudest noise the Lilliputians had ever heard. Hundreds of them thought they were dead, and fell down. The King himself was very frightened. As I gave my gun to the officials to keep, I warned them to be careful with it. They allowed me to keep all my other things, and I hoped that one day soon I would be free. I was careful to behave as well as possible, to persuade the King to give me my freedom. Lilliputians soon began to lose their fear of me.
They called me the Man-Mountain. Sometimes I lay down and let them dance on my hand, and from time to time children came to play games in my hair. By now I was able to speak their language well. One day the King invited me to watch the regular entertainments, which are greatly enjoyed by him, his family, and his lords and ladies. I was most interested in the rope-dancing. A very thin rope is fixed thirty centimetres above the ground. People who want to become the King’s most important officials jump and dance on this rope, and whoever jumps highest without falling gets the best job. Sometimes the King orders his lords to dance on the rope, to show that they can still do it. This sport is, of course, rather dangerous, and there are occasional deaths as a result. It seems a strange way of choosing officials. There was another interesting entertainment. The King holds a stick in front of him, and sometimes moves it up and down. One by one, people come up to him and jump over the stick or crawl under it. They go on jumping and crawling as the King moves the stick. The winner is the one who jumps and crawls for the longest time, and he receives a blue ribbon to wear round his waist. The second best receives a red ribbon, and the third best gets a green one. Many of the Lilliput lords wear their ribbons proudly at all times. I had certainly never seen entertainment like this in any of the countries I had visited before.
Some days later a strange black thing was seen on the beach where I had first arrived in Lilliput. When the people realized it was not alive, they decided that it must belong to the Man-Mountain, and the King ordered them to bring it to me. I thought I knew wftat it was. When it arrived, it was rather dirty because it had been pulled along the ground by horses. But I was delighted to see that it was in fact my hat. I had lost it in the sea when swimming away from the ship. I begged the King so often for my freedom that at last he and his lords agreed that I need not be a prisoner any longer. However, I had to promise certain things: • to help the Lilliputians in war and peace • to give two hours’ warning before a visit to their capital, so that people could stay indoors • to be careful not to step on any Lilliputians or their animals • to carry important messages for the King if necessary • to help the King’s workmen carry heavy stones • to stay in Lilliput until the King allowed me to leave. On his side the King promised I would receive food and drink, enough for 1,724 Lilliputians. I agreed to everything at once. My chains were broken, and I was free at last! The first thing I did was visit the capital city.
The people were warned, so that they would not be in danger. I stepped carefully over the city wall, which was less than a metre high, and walked slowly through the two main streets. It is usually a very busy city, with shops and markets full of people, but today the streets were empty. There were crowds watching me from every window. In the middle of the city is the King’s palace. The King had invited me to enter it, so I stepped over the surrounding wall into the ………
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