Stories of Gulliver's Travels Told to the Children - John Lang

Gulliver's Last Days in Brobdingnag, and How He Got Away

Gulliver had now been in Brobdingnag for nearly two years, and he had become quite used to the people and to their ways. Nor was he often unhappy.

Yet he did not quite give up hope that some day he should again see England, though how this great good fortune was to come to him he could not foresee. The ship in which he had come was the first that had ever been known to be driven within sight of that coast, and it was not likely that another would soon appear. Moreover, if one should ever be seen, the King had given strict orders that it was at once to be taken out of the water, and, with all its crew and passengers, brought to him.

He was most anxious that Gulliver should, if possible, marry some woman of his own size and nation, and should settle in Brobdingnag, and it did not seem to concern the King that Gulliver already had a wife at home.

Gulliver, however, felt that he would rather die than leave children to be carried about the country in cages, like so many canary-birds, or perhaps to be sold to rich persons as curiosities. So he began again to weary for a chance of escape, and a great yearning to see the wife and children he had left in England came over him. He longed to see, and once more to speak to, people of his own size; to walk in fields or streets without fear of being trodden under foot by some huge mountain of a man.

And at last there came deliverance from his bondage in a very surprising way.

The King and Queen made a journey to the south coast of the country, and as was always the case in their shorter journeys, Gulliver and Glumdalclitch were taken with them. In preparation for this journey, Gulliver had some alterations and improvements made in his box, one of which was a sliding window in the roof, which he could open at pleasure, so as to give him more air when the weather was hot. He had also had a silken hammock slung from corner to corner, so that he might sleep with less discomfort when his box was strapped to a servant's waist during a journey.

But in spite of these improvements, when the end of their journey to the coast was reached, Gulliver was very tired, and he had, besides, caught a feverish cold.

A great longing came over him once more to look on the ocean, for that way lay home.

He pretended that his cold was worse than it really was, and he said that if they would but carry him down to the sea-shore he thought the air would do him good.

Glumdalclitch at this time was also unwell, and was thus unable herself to carry him, so she handed him and his box to a page, telling him, with tears, to be very careful. The boy carried him to the shore and set the box down.

There Gulliver sat, gazing wistfully across the yellow sand and over the rocks to the great cape that lay dim in the distance, whilst his thoughts travelled far over the sea to his home and all that he feared he had lost for ever.

Feeling very depressed and out of spirits, he told the page that he meant to have a sleep in his hammock, and as soon as he had gone into his box the boy shut down the window in the roof, and probably went off bird-nesting.

Gulliver never knew exactly what happened.

He had not been long asleep when he was awakened by a violent jerk at his box, followed by the feeling that he was being carried through the air at great speed. There was no bumping, after the first jerk; the motion was quite smooth.

Gulliver called out at the top of his voice, several times, but got no answer. He rushed to one of the windows, but from there could see nothing but clouds and sky.

Overhead there was the continual sound of the beat of wings. Then he guessed that whilst the page was away, some huge eagle must have swooped down and picked up his box by the ring on top.

Soon the noise of the wings became louder and quicker, and the box began to be tossed up and down so violently that he had to cling to his hammock. Then two or three furious bangs, as if the eagle that had carried him off were being attacked by another, and suddenly he felt himself falling, falling, down, down, down. A minute of horrible suspense, a sickening crash; then darkness.

After a few seconds, the light came back, and he found that his box was floating in the sea, right side up. The iron plates on the bottom, and the weight of his body and of the various things in his room, kept the box floating at a depth sufficient to prevent it upsetting. But the woodwork had been strained when the box pitched in the sea from so great a height, and the water began to ooze in.

Gulliver stopped the leaks in the sides and bottom of the box fairly well, and the water never got very deep inside. He slid open the window in the roof, to give himself more air, but try as he might, he could not climb out of the box on to the roof, and for hours he sat, feeling that in a very little time he must certainly be drowned, like a rat in a cage. How he longed for Glumdalclitch to come to his rescue.

After many hours, when he had come almost to wish that the worst might happen, and an end be put to his misery and suspense, he heard a kind of grating noise on the side of the box where the staples were fixed. This was followed by a tugging and a heeling over of the box, so that sometimes the water reached nearly to the top of the windows. What could be the reason, he wondered!

Gulliver mounted on a chair, and having put his handkerchief on the end of a stick, waved it out of the window in the roof, and shouted as loud as he could. But all to no purpose.

Still the feeling continued that the box was moving. The water seemed to slide slowly past the windows, and presently the box bumped against something hard, and was tossed about a good deal. Then again came the sound as of a cable being passed through an iron ring, and Gulliver felt as if his house was being raised out of the water; the sea no longer washed against the windows.

"Help!" shouted Gulliver, and again waved his handkerchief through the hole in the roof. This time there was an answer. "Below! Ahoy!" roared a voice. It was a joyful sound to Gulliver. English words met his ears once more!

The owner of the voice told him that he was quite safe, and alongside a British ship. The carpenter was coming to saw a hole by which he could be got out.

"There is no need for that," said Gulliver. "Just tell one of your crew to put his finger in the ring at top, and lift the box out of the sea, and carry it into the captain's cabin. It will be quite easy to raise the lid then."

It never occurred to Gulliver that he was no longer in Brobdingnag; that he was now amongst people of his own size.

Presently the carpenter came and cut a large hole in the roof, down which a ladder was put. Gulliver climbed out, feeling very weak and shaken. His box was alongside a large ship, the crew of which had been trying, by means of the capstan and a hawser rove from the end of one of the yard-arms, to hoist the box on deck.

He was taken on board, and the Captain seeing his condition, and, like all the crew, believing from his way of speaking that he was mad, gave him brandy and made him lie down in his own cabin.

After a long sleep, Gulliver went on deck, where he found that the crew of the ship had got all his property out of the box, and after Breaking up as many of its timbers as they could use on board, had let the remainder float astern, where it had now sunk.

A good supper did much to improve Gulliver's condition. Whey they were alone, the Captain asked him by what accident he came to be adrift at sea in that huge chest. He also said that about noon that day he had noticed something floating in the sea a long way from the ship, and that he had sent a boat to discover what it was. The men, however, when they found that it was a floating house, were afraid to touch it, and had returned to ship.

The captain had then himself gone in the boat, and had been rowed several times round the box, and had finally ordered the men to pass a hawser through the staples in the side and tow it alongside his ship. There they had noticed his handkerchief waved from the hole in the roof and had heard his shout.

Gulliver asked whether he or any of the crew had seen one or more enormous birds flying in the air about the time that the box was first sighted. Three eagles, the captain said, had been seen by one of the crew, but they were no larger than is usual.

"How far are we from land?" then asked Gulliver. To which the Captain replied that to the best of his reckoning they were at least three hundred miles from the nearest coast. Gulliver assured him that this must be a mistake, for when he dropped into the sea it was not more than two hours from the time when he left the land. Whereupon the Captain looked very gravely at him, and advised him to go back to bed. He thought Gulliver was raving.

Then Gulliver told the Captain all his story, from the time he had last left England. The Captain stared very hard, without saying anything. But when Gulliver showed him various things that he had brought away from Brobdingnag,—the comb made from the bristles of the King's beard; a collection of pins, each about a foot long; some wasps" stings; combings from the Queen's hair; a gold ring from her finger which she had one day thrown over Gulliver's neck; and other things (including his breeches, which were made from the skin of a mouse), the Captain could no longer help believing that he heard only the truth.

Gulliver offered him the gold ring, but the Captain would accept nothing but a tooth which a doctor had drawn from the jaw of one of the Queen's footmen in mistake for a decayed one in which the man had toothache. The Captain had taken a great fancy to this tooth, which was about a foot long and four inches in thickness.

Nine months after Gulliver came on board, the ship reached England. But it was long ere he became accustomed to the small size of the people at home. Indeed, when first he landed, more than once he got into serious quarrels by calling out to persons whom he saw coming towards him, "Hi! Get out of the way!"

"Get out of the way yourself," they answered. And then there was trouble.

To Gulliver they looked so small, after being for years used to see only Brobdingnagians, that he could not rid his mind of the fear that he might crush them under his feet.

His whole conduct was so strange, that at first even his wife and daughter thought that he was mad.

But soon he fell into his old ways, and before he went away again from home he was quite like other people.

These are not the only voyages that Gulliver made. He saw afterwards many other surprising things, but about these you may learn later.