After an incident with a Lilliputian drunk driver, I suspected Lilliputian attitudes toward drinking were different than our own. The banquet in observance of the eve of the national Lilliputian elections further confirmed my suspicions. The Donkgop, Medid Wherding, led off the festivities with a speech delivered in a strange, loud, booming voice.
“Fellow countrymen and women, citizens all, we are met here tonight to observe the great national elections which fall on the morrow,” began the high executive. “In observance of the national law and support of the national constitution, it is fitting that we open the ceremonies of the evening in drinking three ruquats of that most exhilarating liquor, thgbainbut; also it is highly appropriate that the honorable gentleman who drafted the noble law requiring the citizens of this land to drink at least four ruquats daily should, on such an occasion as this, offer the toast to which we may drink in unison. Ladies and gentlemen, the Honorable Randew Olvedts.”
As a puffy-eyed, cherry-beaked little fellow staggered to his feet, the air filled with a strange wailing whistle to the great volume of which everyone present contributed. At first, I thought this to be the Lilliputian equivalent of a “Bronx Cheer”, since it was difficult to see how those present could be sincere in showing respect to such an obviously dissolute and dissipated individual. In this I was mistaken. The peculiar wailing to which I have alluded was the approved method of applause employed in that country.
“Sfellow cshitizens, it is with great spleasure I ashk you to trink to the successh of our leader, the worth Donkgop Medish Wherdong, and to the continuance and further successh of the great guzzshel law. Lesh ush trink and pe merry for tomorrow we may go dry.”
Following suit of the weaving gentleman who offered the toast, every person present lifted a cup as large as half an egg shell and drained the contents thereof. These bowls were so large that all but the strongest of those people present employed both hands in lifting them to their lips. A glance from Nitpooperler Hirear, who occupied a place at the Donkgop’s table immediately before me, indicated clearly that I was expected to take part in the drinking of the toast. Fortunately for me, especially since the toast was not completed until everybody had drained three bowls, I was supplied with a Lilliputian bowl for this purpose, and not with one proportionate to my size. Even as it was, so strong was the liquor that my ears soon rang, and I felt somewhat dizzy. Lilliputians are certainly persons of no mean or trivial alcoholic capacity, else I do not see how any of them could remain conscious after such prodigious draughts. Banquet customs of Lilliput, though as boresome as our own, differ from them in several minor respects. For instance, it is the custom in that country to do all the speaking before the food is served, which has numerous advantages. Not only does the speaker gain in this order of things by reason of the fact that he has the ears of his listeners before they have become torpid with gluttony or stupefied with drink, but the listeners gain in that they know they at least have something to look forward to, in that they will eventually get something to eat, if only they have patience.
That night, several Lilliputian “hosts and hostesses” spent the night on the Night-Hawk. In the morning, as we sat down to breakfast, my guests enlightened be further on the matter of the Lilliputian drinking laws.
When I had lifted them all one at a time to the top of the mess table, where their breakfast awaited them, I seated myself and commenced to eat. For some reason incomprehensible to me, the others did not follow suit but sat ogling one another as though there was some deep current of distrust flowing among them. At length, Watwil broke the silence to ask the Admiral if the Night-Hawk lay outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Lilliputian nation, to which the Admiral replied in the negative, saying that it lay within that jurisdiction by several thousand scandunks.
“Then, perhaps, our guest would not mind moving his vessel beyond the twelve-quink limit,” suggested the Admiral’s wife.
Still not understanding what could be clouding the minds of my friends, I replied that I would be glad to move the ship, but for the fact that I had considerable difficulty in manning it alone, and that should I weigh anchor I ran considerable danger of not being able to anchor the Night-Hawk as advantageously as I then had her anchored, owing to the threefold difficulty of approaching the moving island, of catching anchor in undersea soil of that island, and of keeping the vessel from going aground.
“In that event,” Watwil haughtily asserted, “we must either return to the capital without having breakfasted here, or we must prevail upon our guest, Man Mountain Gulliver, to provide us with drink to the end that we may obey the law in letter as well as in spirit.”
I saw a gloomy shadow fall over the faces of all at this remark of Watwil as though a disagreeable truth had been uttered which would have left them happier had it not been said.
“Does your law require you to drink before breakfast?” I inquired.
“That it does,” answered Hirear, “and on election days two ruquats before breakfast.”
I could plainly see that Hirear and the Admiral were not elated over the prospect of having to drink so early in the morning, and I would have hazarded a guess that all of the others were of the same mind, but, being mutually distrustful, if not hypocritical, they were determined to make a brave outer show of observing the law, whether or no. Not wishing to have my friends leave, and wanting even less to violate again the Lilliputian law, I went at once to a cabinet where a bottle of spiritus frumenti was kept for medicinal purposes. Bringing this out along with an eye dropper, four thimbles, a small salt shaker, and a miniature night chamber that one of the crew had been given as a souvenir in some dive along the river front in New Orleans, I proceeded to serve drinks in a manner which, while not strictly in accord with all the more fastidious points of Lilliputian fashion did, nevertheless, accomplish the same ends, — namely — satisfy the law, salve self-opinion of those who would appear noble and law-abiding in the eyes of their neighbors, and get everybody including myself busting tipsy again.
After I too had satisfied the law by the insistent entreaties of my “hosts and hostesses” I lost a large measure of my contempt for the law. After all, I reasoned there was something to be said in support of such laws.
It was only a few minutes until aching heads and the petty unimportant things in life were forgotten. As we breakfasted, the Admiral, who thus far I had considered a stiff, unbending sort of gentleman, gave me a surprise with his levity and jocularity in telling a number of anecdotes, some of which concerned prominent Lilliputians and all of which had a distinct frankness about them that either Boccaccio or Chaucer would have been glad to own.