by Judith Johnson Sherwin
Originally published in Playboy April 1977, here reproduced without permission.
Can a woman a little less than a mile high find happiness with a little white mouse? Over and over again, through all the changes of season, I have asked myself that question. And each day, and each year, and each new region of the earth’s anatomy gives a different answer.
When he first was brought under my father’s roof, after having been washed ashore in the detritus of some picayune maritime disaster, no more than two inches high and quivering with such terror as only the most delicate of ivory dolls might know, I thought him as pretty a toy as a young girl could ask. No other child of my acquaintance could boast of having an entire miniature man of her own, alive, to play dollhouse with. Such a perfect little ivory treasure he was, with his torn velvet knee breeches, his wind-and-sea-tattered lace cuffs, his outlandishly tied cravat and the ludicrous shards of a powdered wig raveling out over the back of his jacket collar and right ear. I had never imagined such a ridiculous costume on a male animal. The men of our country dressed–dare I say even now, in spite of the great proofs he later gave of his manliness–in a much more masculine fashion. And the manners, the foolish japes, that contortion which he called making a leg, the bizarre gestures, the adorable squeaking of that tiny voice. It was quite like having a performing dog, a monkey and a clown all under the one powdered, bedraggled wig.
At first my mother demurred at my keeping him, since she feared that such small vermin might very well carry lice or other pestilence smaller than themselves on their bodies to infect us. However, when once she had satisfied herself by inspection, much to the little thing’s terror and dismay, of his cleanliness and freedom from every kind of noisome infestation, she was content to let me play with him for hour upon hour, the more especially as that activity kept me so well occupied that she seldom had need to trouble herself with me. Hence it happened that I spent my days, first teaching him some few words of command, and then training him in the management of a bit of twisted wire, that he might amuse me by jumping back and forth through its opening.
On occasion, it would happen that my father would bring some rude peasant or other into my chamber, there to demand that I remove my new plaything from the box wherein I kept him mewed and put him through the tricks he had by that time mastered. On these occasions, not all my mother’s protestations, both as to the impropriety of my father’s allowing men into his daughter’s bedchamber and as to the annoyance of being obliged to follow after these visitors with a broom, would avail to turn my father from his purpose. Indeed, his usual response to my mother’s entreaties, a rough epithet and a clip of his hand across her mouth, was not often lacking. Which, when I witnessed, I much marveled at the fabled pleasures of marriage or of men’s society, that might avail to lead even so harsh a termagant as my mother into such condition as that I daily saw her endure and forbear to challenge. And for what? For the mere pleasure of mastery over that part of a man which they say wants no bone to stiffen it. For, were I to be quite candid, I should have to acknowledge that with all beings other than my father, who possessed this one means to keep her in order, my mother knew how to return in kind all that was given her. How much more delightful appeared the company of my enticing figurine, which might not dare to challenge me, even were his tiny brain able to entertain such an idea.
Alas, soon enough I was forced to share him. Such crowds of hangerson, such a gallimaufry of gawkers flocked to my father’s halls to peep and marvel that my father and I were forced to take up residence at an inn, which might better accommodate the tramplings of the multitude than our rude cottage. In addition, so much incensed had my mother become with the constant traffic through our doors that she brought in a pailful of pig swill, emptied it over my father’s boots and bade him set his guests to work if this liked him not. Even at the inn, adverse though the conditions were, I found it possible, with much exercise of the will, to maintain that sense of proprietorship proper to the sole owner of a rare wonder of nature. And when, after some several months, I was carried to the great house of the ruler of our country, there to be left by my father, where I was obliged to share my manikin with the females of my new master’s household, his wife, his daughters and his chosen ladies of pleasure, I felt too much singled out by destiny to complain overmuch at our common ownership.
At first I had feared to be in somewhat the same position in respect to the ladies of the household that my manikin held in respect to me; namely, an object of ridicule, both for my ignorance of courtly ways and for the lowliness of my origins. However, I found that so great was our shared understanding of the peculiarities of our possession that rather than being laughed at for an outsider, I was revered and deferred to for the greater extent of my expertise in the ways of this unique animal. On becoming aware of the full felicities of my position, my self-regard as much increased as did my self-assurance. Frequently thereafter, I found myself able, by the judicious threat of a temporary withholding of my manikin’s favors, to prefer to the court many of my female relatives. At the last, my exile had been much assuaged by the presence of my sisters, cousins and others of my household, in various menial positions about the environs, though I forbore to bring my mother to join in my happiness. Truly, I might be said to be the foundation of the most part of the fortunes of my family, which thought comforts me greatly in my present exile.
How we all exclaimed at the cunning tricks of our little elf, his delightful errors, his pretty, helpless ways. How we delighted in the daily revelation of his many areas of ignorance, the lack of breeding so characteristic of that strange country from whence he came. Nevertheless, my companions and I took the greatest of pains to spare his feelings. From the first day, when he lay curled up, sleeping the sleep of exhaustion on a heap of canary feathers in a shoe box in my great-aunt’s vestibule, my aunt having remained with me as guardian of my innocence after my father’s necessary departure, we forced ourselves to giggle silently, if at all. More often we held back our laughter and contented ourselves with a raised eyebrow or a discreet smirk at the corner of a mouth, behind a fan, passed seriatim around the room from one young lady to another, as sign of our quietly shared mirth.
Not that we were entirely the slaves of his modesty. It amused us to examine, under a strong light, the small perfections of his form. Perhaps we were too masterfully precipitate for his timidities, but it was not a week before the young queen’s sisters, their nursemaids and I had him stripped. Although, to prevail upon him to endure this with less than his habitual outcry, I must own that we found it necessary to practice a small deception on him, which caused him to believe that I and all the others were mere children, not above nine or ten years of age, instead of the bouncing adolescents and finished young ladies many of us were. Even this he proved unwilling to accept and pretended in the end to be convinced by our fine words of what he well knew by our actions and figures to be false, as a salve to his poor remains of modesty. Having thus overborne his feeble efforts at reason, strip him we did, and much marveled at the elegant attention to detail, the fidelity to nature the Great Maker of all things had observed in His manufacture of this diminished replica of our brothers. We never tired, even those of us who were already no strangers to the arts of love, of delighting in the grace with which his minute organs had been made. Often, indeed, my sisters and I would engage in the most savage warfare at the chessboard, the sole prize being the privilege of stroking his delicate, bird-fine thigh, or resting his pretty member on a forefinger, while we marveled at the speed and sensitivity with which it, so to speak, pricked up its tiny cars. So unthreatening a toy it was, even the youngest, the most impressionable child would not fear to learn the mechanisms of love from observation of its shy and shrinking features.
At first our pet was much too tender to support these public demonstrations of his powers. He would complain, whimper, plead to be let off, cling to the little wire hoop I had made him so long ago and beg to be allowed once more to prove his powers upon it. Often, with no provocation but a glance or an overly bold gesture from one of us, his poor flower would wilt away into a drooping ghost of its former self. We would have to reassure him most patiently of our respect for him, of our admiration for his character as well as for his person, of our determination to preserve his bodily integrity. Sometimes our promises of care were insufficient to cope with the desperate energy of his fears. And most amusing it was to see this china doll of ours twist in all directions, scurry under the queen’s commode or attempt to conceal himself behind the hairs that had fallen out of the brushes of the ladies in waiting in his frantic efforts to avoid the necessary exhibit of his talents. But in this I cannot entirely blame him, since my older sister did in her enthusiams tend to pinch too hard, which caused him on more than one occasion to dread that his manhood had been bruised beyond repair.
How many times he found himself too sore and weary to support us. At such moments he would cover his eyes and weep, for all the world like some delicate virgin who had been despoiled of her only treasure and cast onto the dust heap, to hang on, a whining dependent, at the fireside of her ravishers. How many times we attempted to reason with him, pointing out that men were, in fact, completely different from women, that what was perhaps an insupportable agony to a young girl, the public exhibition of her parts in action, should be a cause for pride and the most vigorous demonstration of his skills in the male animal. To all this, his only reply, accompanied with many sighs, tears and sniffs, had been, “I will not be the object of your amusement.” How determined he was, the poor wanton, not to be one. How constantly he tried to deny us the sight of his trembling male nature as it woke. And how inevitably he failed each time. The merest stirring of the air around his member would do our turn.
In truth, I remember the first time my new master’s fille de joie passed in her attentions from the mere passive admiration of his body to a more active and even genitally participatory enjoyment. She had but then returned from performing her duties in the royal chamber and had thrown herself upon my couch, pouting and sighing, to recover herself. Lying thus on her side, resting on one elbow, her hair falling lightly over her left shoulder, she allowed our treasure to parade up and down her slanting arm, rather as a parakeet might be sent up and down according as the hand is raised or lowered, while breathing on him very gently, so as not to blow him away, from as far as she could hold her head back, her neck at an awkward and not entirely attractive angle. The little toy had paid her its compliment of standing to attention. The idea occurred to her to lift him and lay him to her breast, while gently rolling him from side to side, so that his member very delicately brushed the tip of her nipple. In the course of a few moments, her nipple pursed itself and stood up. And he, whether in fear for his life, that she might bruise him more severely if she were left to manipulate him at her discretion, or out of a sudden excess of weariness with the passive pose, or for sheer loneliness and despair at ever resuming congress with the women of his own order, cried out in a tremulous squeak, “Oh, let me do it,” and began to fret his tiny parts gently back and forth across her giant tit.
To all our surprise, our royal master’s mistress found this most piercingly sweet, so that she began to toss and murmur and cajole him to greater efforts. Perhaps, in the performance of her duties, she had found too slight a degree of gratification, or perhaps the mere powerlessness of this little toy, chancing to climb on her so soon after her submission to one who held all power over her, caused her to experience a renewal of her fires. A moment, toward the climax, he wilted, and whimpered with terror at her tempestuous heavings, being convinced, no doubt, that he would be thrown off her to a distance of 50 yards or crushed between her breasts in the throes of any earthquake of passion. So vilely did his imagination paint to him the dangers of his situation that the convulsion of his fear caused him to lose control of his functions, and he deposited on her broad breast even such sign its it parakeet or a canary, might leave of its terror and anguish. Keen was his embarrassment, loud his lamentation, at the humiliation to which his fear had brought him. Nonetheless, with many tender expressions of her regard, taking him in her hand and stroking him, assuring him that there was neither offense nor bad odor in the droppings of so tiny a fowl as he, while flicking off the offending powder with her fingernail, the fortunate lady at length prevailed upon him to continue his exertions.
On her assurances that she would try not to toss him, he resumed his labors, scurrying like a little insect from one twin pinnacle to the other, until at last she was shaken by so fearful an upheaval that he was forced to embrace the mountain in order not to slide off, and in that embrace his body paid its minute, milky tribute to her. Nor were we at all insensible of the tremendous courage, almost indomitable, of that small flagstaff of his, that in the very ecstasy of terror yet found the means to stiffen itself and plunge, triumphant, into the embrace of its fate. Some of us questioned whether he might not be so far a lover of his own sufferings as to be capable of arousal only under the spur of terror or of pain. Even as we debated this, expressing, all the while, as quietly as we might, our admiration for the heroism of his endeavors, our soldier of fortune collapsed, whining and spent, under the shadow of that monstrous breast. Later, when we had deposited him in his nest to recover, my cousin asked the fortunate lady what the transaction had felt like. The lady replied, “It tickled, rather like a mouse’s tiny paws skittering around on me. Really, I think it was more the idea than anything else that brought me off. He was so helpless, so cute, so much at my mercy for all I cared to do.” And therein was she not far wrong.
After that, the others were not slow to offer their flanks and nipples for him to scale. Lest his timorous scruples might cause him to demur at being toyed with amorously be a group of young women of the royal household, we had all resolved to continue in our deception of him. Thus he was enabled to persist in the belief, supported in part by the pressure of his increasing desires, that what he had to do with was no more than a group of huge children and innocents. So it was as wonders of the natural world that he attempted us, not as women. Gradually, as he found himself in less danger of crushing while he maintained a more mobile role for himself, thus keeping for the most part out of our fingers, our soldier permitted his explorations to range farther afield, a heroic ascent of the ear of one, using nail parings for pitons, a perilous exploration, armed with rope and tough boots, of the navel of another. On occasion, one or another of us might be honored to feel the delicate brush of his tongue, as he tasted the salt of our bodies, the strong and intoxicating liquors of our sweat, for he made shift, like any wise explorer, to live off the country.
To me, without any doubt, belongs the glory of his defloration. How well I remember the splendors of that day. I had stretched myself out, belly up, on my royal mistress’ bed, and lifted up my skirts so that he might the better climb me, being in too much haste to remove my bodice or stays. How great was my delight, my astonishment, when I felt the tentative footsteps, the tiny rolling of his body on mine, the delicate brushing of his bravest part, descend not alone past my belly and flanks but with much backtracking and occasional pauses to recuperate, slip down into the folds of jungle below. At first he struggled up and out almost immediately, hauling himself hand over hand along a rope of woven hair that had been anchored to my left knee, as he protested that the atmosphere of those moist and heated places was like to overcome him. Gradually, however, by much coaxing and promising of extra treats with his afternoon tea, in particular the fine crumbs of a sort of social tea biscuit that he especially savored, he was persuaded to venture himself again in those cavernous swells and ditches. And he deserves credit for his courage. More than once on that and subsequent explorations, he was in mortal danger of being squeezed out like a lemon by the excited closing of those thighs that so delighted in him. At the last, it took two of my lady’s serving-women, and my mother’s cousin, holding onto my feet with might and main, to keep me from damaging him in the throes of my ecstasy, as he skittered and tickled me into my moment.
How well I remember the sharpness of his heels, rather like the teeth of a comb gently fretting me, when he climbed onto the rosy bud between the folds and did a sort of gentle jig thereon. I could not see his wig fall off, and his hair toss out wildly on all sides of his face, as the rhythm of his dance became more hurried, nor could I see when he flung himself down upon that blushing prominence to brush his minuscule rod against me there, but I understood from my great-aunt, who reported to me every action of his exciting progress, that this last was the sole burden of his endeavors, at that moment of moments when what I felt was only the most delicate displacing of a hair. And, strange to say, it was the delicacy, the timidity, the restraint, the almost nonexistence of this amorous tickling that excited me to greater pleasures than the most determined and hardy assault might have brought on. For I remembered too well what sounds of struggle and harsh effort used to resound from the bed of my parents when similarly engaged. More than this, I remembered the look of my royal master’s filles de joie when they returned from the amatory arena, either bruised within or still unslaked, and reflecting, no doubt, that whatever the outcome, it had been brought to term not by their efforts and the performance of their sole will but by the powers, indulged or withheld, of another. So I was well pleased to endure so slight a sensation, so tenuous a hint of connection, that whatever the outcome, it might be imputed more to the effort and to the workings of my powerful imagination than to whatever bodily congress might here pretend to take place. In all truth, that dancing pinprick was but the factual anchor to the world, the pretext upon which my will was focused, that allowed what followed its natural appearance of event. Although, of course, from his point of view, the exploit doubtless took all his strength to produce even that slight suggestion of sensation upon which my mind took its full liberty to act.
At last he resolved to venture into my center and, having signaled to my holders to yank my legs yet farther apart, he walked into the opening of my body, lying down when the ceiling of the tunnel grew too low and proceeding as far as he might first on knees and belly and then with a kind of swimming motion, nose to the ground. You can imagine my passing great delight. Surely, never any woman in history held a whole, adult man alive in the great cavern of her body, at the moment of his joy and hers. True, we almost lost him then, for he passed out from the heat and let go the end of rope he held to assure his return passage. We feared lest he prove impossible to retrieve. But a determined effort at expulsion, under the instruction of the most experienced elderly midwife in the apartments, and a moment of digital exploration, very hesitantly pursued, so as not to risk damage to our brave minnow, produced the prize, and we drew him out, soaked and unconscious, and restored him with a few drops of raspberry sherbet.
Later, when he and I were on much more open terms with each other, I asked him what that first great experience had been like for him. He said, with that ridiculous aping of courtesy I so loved in him, “My dear, I cannot hold that voyage out to others for its sensual beauties, although I wish that I could. But as a scientific event, as an unparalleled fulfillment of a man’s wildest dreams, as the most exact satisfaction imaginable of one’s very natural and, in general, ungratified curiosity, this was an experience I would not have denied myself for a year of quieter pleasures. To walk alive into a female body, and thence to be drawn out again… it certainly overshadows fox hunting as a sport.”
Of course, now that I had been so distinguished among all women, my companions could not omit to experience the same sweet explorations. Our poppet was forced to repeat his great journey into the heart of darkness with every woman in the house. Eventually, we wearied of having to hold each other’s thighs in order to make sure of his safety, and so devised a sort of sling to hold each willing victim, so that those of us who no longer took delight in the spectacle of a female body, thighs spread, gaping, heaving itself to completion at the prodding of an invisible mate, might go about our business without having to fear we were denying a sister her rightful joys.
But now the time approached when our delight began to wilt, when he drooped most wretchedly in a corner behind the powder box and refused to emerge, claiming that he was, at last, played out. Much we dreaded lest we had not in our enthusiasm for the sport caused him irremediably to overextend himself. For a while, we allowed him to languish in peace. But after more than enough time had passed to put him on his feet again, it became my task to use both threats and chastisement, to which end I employed a whip made of one of the lesser hairs from the queen’s nurse maid’s field of Venus. Most tender I was, and careful of my poppet, so that the fear of chastisement, and the most delicate reminders of its forcefulness, might prevail upon our only joy more than the very fact of pain or injury. For we did desire him to continue in a form of loving bondage, not to resent and struggle against our decrees. And therein were we true to the very nature of the beast, for it is grained into male creatures that they do love their servitude best when spurred with fear and trembling.
We prevailed. Our mouse was persuaded to become a man again. Quaking, wringing his hands, uttering many peevish complaints, the miniature conqueror of all our affections returned to the worship of his mistresses. How tremendous it felt to submit once more to the desperate tickling of the tiny feather that was his manhood. How titillating the thought that it lay in my power alone to spoil that weak divining rod forever or to spare it for yet another sounding of my body. For among the many joys of my commerce with him, surely the most subtle and persuasive was this, that after the fearful explorer had found out the mouth of my river and had beat his way with boots and machete through the tangled copses at the head of the delta into the main strait, or channel, it was impossible to perceive by any sense known to woman the ejaculation of his seed, although he assured me most religiously that he had not withheld it. Herein, in spite of all my vigor, I was forced to be at his mercy for the full assurance of my womanly powers. For he had it in his control, by dint of the very invisibility of his responses, to persuade me that I had failed to delight him or that I had triumphed over his weaker will and carried him to pleasure once again. More than this, it was in his sole power to deceive me whenever he chose, to pretend to delights and transports that might have been quite foreign to his knowledge, with a mere twitch of his body to deceive my most anxiously hovering and passionate attentiveness to his unseen and unfelt needs. How many times he found it necessary to assure me, on bended knees, of my efficacy as a mistress. How many times I forced myself in plain foolish fondness to believe. Indeed, though he was often repelled by the physical surroundings that held him so terribly to their purpose, we all believed that our homunculus remained too much the slave of his scientific passions ever to deny his tribute to the continents he explored. It was the mere idea of penetration into the seat of our mystery and our rule, he assured me more than once, that overcame the determined asceticism of his body. Such a wealth of observation of the interior actions of the female body in the moment for which it was made has surely never been granted to the most objective and intrepid of investigators, and my mouseling was deeply sensible of the honor fortune had done him.
At length he wearied of his confinement in the cause of science to such an extent that no chastisement and no threat of lasting damage was sufficient to arouse him from his torpor. By this time, my companions had also tired of toying with him and, less the creatures of their imaginations than I, had gone on to amusements more befitting the size and temper of their appetites. I alone was left to mourn the loss of his dear attributes. Desperate, I brought him out from his nest behind the powder puffs.
“What can I do to make my little man wake again?” I asked him.
He shook his head, with the most heartbreakingly inaudible sigh, and the seed-pearl tears embellished his ivory cheeks. After a while, when I had not ceased to cajole and adjure him to reveal to me the secret of his true desires, he told me, with fear and regret, and the most delicate, timid shrinking aside of his whole body, that nothing would delight him or recall him to the prospect of life in the wretched vale of his torments, but that he be placed in a small cockle or boat, given a string of dried and salted provisions and a skin of fresh water and set free to drift with the winds until such time as fate might bring him to his home again. In vain I pleaded. In vain I demonstrated to him the dangers of his course, the unlikelihood of his ever arriving on his country’s shores when he had no slightest inkling of what direction should claim his boat, the fearful uncertainties of his thus venturing out from under the protection of my shadow. In vain I reasoned. His weeping and whimpering would not cease, though at times it became so choked up within him that I feared never to hear the chirping of that cherished voice again. Finally, my heart almost softened with pity, I cast for some last argument that might prove tenacious enough to hold him to me.
“But what shall I do for a flute,” I whispered, “when my little music man is gone?”
“You may get yourself an instrument more equal to you,” the heartless darling replied.
“What?” I cried. “Give myself over to some gross creature that might hold me in bondage? That might enforce me to pleasure him when I’d no mind for the act? That might command the opening and closing of my channels? That could not be thrust out or overwhelmed when once he’d gained entrance? To do thus, for a moment’s mere tickling pleasure? Surely you jest. Why, there’s not a sane woman in all the world would so surrender herself, except she were made mad with lust.”
He flushed, whether with shame or anger I know not. “I have surrendered myself in such wise, until my memories choke me. Is it not harsh and unfeeling in you to be so brutal in your mastery, so adamant against giving it up, when you see nought but such simple justice will do me comfort?”
Here our further converse went as all such domestic quarrels do. He reproached me that I had ravished him; I pointed out that I had but done to him what in his inmost heart he did desire and that, when done, it had much pleasured him. He assured me that he might in no wise continue as the toy or poppet of his mate; I chided him for a foolish chuck that knew not its own nature, for it was the nature of man ever to continue in bondage to his lusts, and for what else was he made but so to serve and nourish us? He desired me to have done with so using him and find another; I demanded of him who should swim the straits of my body, who brush his fine feather against the points of my breasts?
“For what instrument shall I finger, what song wake from silence, when this pipe that sounds my deepest resonances is gone?” quoth I. “How shall you live without me to protect you, to comfort you when your flag is down, to raise your spirits? If I may not have one weaker than myself to shelter, my little songbird, what manner of paltry thing am I? What creature shall I defend from the greed of my sisters, from the territorial imperative of their lusts, when my vulnerable mouseling is reft from me?”
Amid many sighs and tears fetched deep from his slender body, he informed me that never again would he serve me in that manner, neither as object of my protective passions nor as the gilded instrument of my desires. I was almost ready to crush him from pure pique. In that dread moment, he saw the full extent of his danger and implored me to stay my hand. “Though I can no longer bring myself to swive you,” he whispered, “and truly, lady, I’d have you believe it lies not in me, I’d engage there to be no shortage of men in my proud though puny nation who might revel in such a chance to show their mettle. Picture to yourself, my dearest monstress, not one little man like me but a whole nation of homunculi to feed that mouth of yours. True it is that to do that journey more than once is not for every man. But I dare be sworn there is no man alive under my country’s skies who would not count himself favored of fortune to try it once. Why, I’d wager you a pickle against a barrel of herring that we might travel around the country fairs with a great tent and a sling such as we use in these apartments to hold your legs. I would hazard a barnyard of cocks I could get at least five quid apiece to let them at you.”
My heart’s joy at such a prospect passed all containing. You must remember, gentle reader, that I was but a foolish girl and knew not the world. I almost crushed him in my transports then and there. Some childish scruples I entertained to leave my home and my nation. For I feared to travel with none but him I had ravished for my guide, through lands where my youth and inexperience might not suffice to protect him. And I did find myself also sensible of some mild reluctance to forfeit, for so amazing a prospect as this he had discovered to me, the likelihood of ever knowing the embraces of a man whose arms might encompass more of me than my little finger. Yet the more I reflected on those powers that the wiser of my sex surrender when they subject themselves to the tender embraces of such as my father or my lord the king, the more I determined to remain well pleased to do without such surrenders. For how might the combat of an equal marriage bed compare with such sweet combat as I knew? Or how measure the proving of my will, the testing of my mettle, the demonstration to myself of my perfect self-control that I caused myself to undergo each moment of not crushing him, against such paltry testing as would ensue were I to measure myself against one so much my equal that I stood in no peril of ending his manhood with each act of congress? So, in the end, I weighed the amorous embraces of a putative nation of pygmies against those of my own race and preferred the former. It was a choice I have never regretted, not through all the profound erotic reverses that have since befallen me.
Long past midnight of a certain day, I carried him down to the sea in my breast pocket, well padded and strapped to a wooden spoon for his protection in the event of our separation. Once at the shore, I stripped, save for a fillet about my hair, in the top of which he nested with his spoon, like the man in the crow’s-nest of a whaler. Two days and two nights I swam, guided only by his sad remnants of navigational knowledge, while we frightened away the shipping, causing more than one pilot to believe that he had sighted a giant white whale. In the end, by pure serendipity, we reached the shores of Ireland, in the very dead of night, and the natives all fast in their hovels most fortunately drinking themselves seven seas over into their poteen.
There my pilot directed me to swim up the mouth of a small rivulet that bore the name Liffey. When we were far enough inland, we crawled ashore, obliterating some 100 or so hovels in our progress. As my small protector later heard, the surviving natives took themselves to have been plagued by a great slug or a giant snail heaved up from the bed of the river. In much dread, they forbore to go near that part of the country until my prolonged inactivity had caused them to forget the worst of their fears. The more quickly to bring about this lulling of their nervous alarms, I lay by quietly near a huge lake that my crawling had hollowed out that it might collect the waters of the mountains, while my manikin went about laying hands on the materials we should need. For it grew plain that, given the terror of the populace, we must forgo our first plan of going about the countryside challenging any that would to mount me. Both my protector and, at the last, after some argument, my better reason became convinced that the fright of these insects would so overmaster them that none would ever dare approach me closer than half a mile, unless compelled, which distance did not permit erotic contact.
Since it was not possible for my small master to drive the whole countryside before him like sheep into my womb, we must find some greater persuasion than his oratorical or bodily force. This seeing, we agreed that in order to lull their puny fears, I should suffer myself to be so bound that I might, to their little wits that had known neither measure nor experience of me, appear both helpless and harmless. Much at first I protested at this apparent limiting of my freedom. Should I, that had fled my native land and the embraces of my natural mates for fear of even the most minute surrender of my perfect self-sufficiency, now suffer my very person to be contained within coarse bonds? My protector here caused me to understand, by much urging and reasoning, that the bonds would of necessity be less real than apparent, and the loss of liberty likewise. For there existed nowhere in the country such strong cord as might suffice to hold me in truth. All that was necessary or possible was to find some tissue that might have in it enough of the appearance of tensile strength to create in these creatures’ minds the illusion of restraint. Once they were well convinced that I was held fast, beyond all ability of my strength to break free and crush them, they might mount me as they list, free to amuse themselves in the delusions both of my helplessness and of their absolute power over me. This, the while I remained fully at liberty to amuse myself in the firm knowledge that it was in me the absolute power lay. For it rested in my sole will to break my hairthin bonds and crack their skulls like so many walnuts, and to pick out the meats thereof, whenever it should so please me.
It was thus that my Lemuel and I took up our strange life together, he as the impresario, I as the star, of Little Lem’s Mountain Peep Show. Great delight I drew in those days from the mere appearance of bodily passivity and from the activity of the will required to maintain it. For often my pleasures in their swarmings into my interior were so keen that I might hardly keep from clapping shut the door and mewing them up in me till they drowned. For that very fear, the most part of them dared not venture as my Lemuel had, but remained on the woody hillocks around my nether mouth, or perched astride the rosy mount that there protruded, rapping with their slender crops against its top. Some chanced thence to be toppled, when the inevitable spasm shook that red-tipped hill, into the gulf that yawned at its foot, but were soon extracted by their fellows. And sometimes as many as a dozen of them danced or rolled or bestrode that part at a clip.
At first the cryer of my talents took great care to release my bonds once every three nights that I might stretch my limbs and restore the circulation. But after some months, lulled by my appearance of harmlessness, the villagers came back. They rebuilt their hovels in the shadows of my flanks and thighs. Children came to clamber in the underbrush of my armpits, goats to scale the wooded cliffs of my skull and to leap from crag to crag over my brows. Too long I delayed, fearing lest I damage so many thousands of these vermin beyond recall. For I had begun to follow the daily drama of their lives, and in so doing was grown too pitiful of their petty weaknesses to crush them. Truth to tell, what wrong we are hardy to commit on an unsuspecting environment when we know ourselves to be strangers, just passing through. We cannot bring ourselves to attempt once the acquaintance has become so close that they have grown into our very pores, as these poor fleas and microbes had grown into mine. So in my gentleness I forbore to stir lest I unseat them, and found at last to my shock that my muscles, through long disuse, had grown so slack that they might no longer suffice to free me unaided.
On this reversal of my fair fortunes, I begged my sweet Lemuel to warn the villagers that they might remove themselves from my loins and belly. But he, fearing both the ruin of his fortunes and the loss of his life, refused, since he foresaw that in their anger at thus being evicted they might turn, not on me that had been their fertile soil, but on the landlord that did let it to them. Some several seasons, therefore, I abode in this species of Irish paralysis, the natural habitat of every worm or rabbit that wished to crawl on or into me. At the length, so encrusted with dirt and bushes I became, and so grieved at my ill state, that I found that even the penetration of my marginalia by the smallest and purest little boy virgin no longer sufficed to ignite my womanly passions. Much troubled in my mind, I bespoke my small master gently and sadly, with so deep a sigh that several dozen goats were dislodged from my rocky bosom and sent hurtling groundward. “You must understand, my dearest,” said I, “that the certainty of dominance is become an erotic necessity for me. Helpless and atrophied as I find my powers here, I am no longer able to summon up any desire for these explorations of my body. You must therefore excuse me from further endurance of them.”
“Why, as for that,” quoth my master, “if you cannot desire them, you must submit to them without desire. But you, who have so thoroughly approved how far desire is a function of the mind, cannot here refuse to set your mind to desiring, for your own comfort, that bondage which you must endure, will you or nil you. Therefore cease to repine, and turn your will to rejoicing, for events have so worked out your life that false feigning and mere shows of weakness are no longer required of you. That passivity which was once part of the hypocritical shows women are prone to is now grown most real.”
Thus did he respond to my entreaties. Much anguished grew my mind when I saw how ungenerous this, my fair lord, had grown to me who had of my own free will put all I had, my self, my mind, my freedom, into his keeping, for no cause but love and pity and mutual joy. So shaken as I was by a fit of weeping, I turned my head to one side and began to thrash from side to side, howling, roaring and flinging myself about in my grief. Thus it befell that what I would never have found the strength to do through action of my will, grief and pain gave both energy and blindness to accomplish. Heedless of all consequences, my great body tossed the whole tribe of lice free of me. On seeing what I was about, my little Lemuel, who had taken refuge in some manner of mousehole, poked his head up out of the rocks that hid its entrance and besought me what I was thinking of, so to imperil him in this wise.
“Faith,” I said, “I’ve given over thinking of you. I’ll go home to my mother and father, let them rant how they will. I have been a fille de joie long enough.” Thereupon, I shook him off and swam the whole way back in less than a day and a half, so frenzied was I to be gone from those parts. I have understood, from later conversations, that as soon as I was well away he let publish a most false and misleading account of his voyage to our land, making much of his affairs with royalty and omitting all mention of our love, of my escape with him, of his long use of me and of the great disaster that destroyed a whole portion of his country during my departure from its tattered inner regions. And no sooner had I departed than the wandering fever took him, for sore he missed me once I was clean gone, and he also was off on voyage. We did not chance to meet again for many a year.
It is not my purpose to describe my return to my own home, nor my reunion with my father and mother and great-aunt, nor their berating of me both for the free life I had led and for my ill provision for their old age in having let go that treasure fortune had granted us which might have sufficed to keep us all in comfortable idleness. Much I protested that having once given up my self-determination I knew too well the price paid ever to have kept the tiny author of all my misfortunes in sequestration from his. Let it be enough to tell you, gentle reader, that in the end I married, surrendering no more of my liberty to that indignity, and no less, than I had to the illusory bonds of my beloved Lemuel. The pleasures of marriage with an equal were not, as I had feared, less than those I had known, but they were not more. For a while there was some slight novelty in toying with an instrument I need not fear to crush, one that I might take in my lips or even fret with my tongue with no ill consequence. This novelty wore off in the space of a year, as I came to understand that my mate was no true equal for me, having been given the overlordship both by custom and by the inabi1ity of his sexual nature to awake except by proof of that overlordship. For it lay not in him to consider his member a flute, a feather, a toy, nor any other delicate thing, but his need was to use it only as rod or scepter. Often I laughed in my heart to hear him cajole me that I should be not affeared of its great size and tremendous aspect, for it would do me no hurt.
“What, that small thing,” I thought in my heart. “Why, what manner of mote distorts your sight, that you think it so huge an object? Were it the length of a shovel handle I’d have cause to fear.” But I said nought of this, understanding that it knew not how to stand up at all unless to flattery. And I bore children, and was bound further in love by them, and made less myself each year I owned their mastery.
It so chanced that when the youngest of my babies had attained the age of seven years, I grew weary of this tender bondage also, for their voices were always to be heard calling me, which I well loved, and their arms always felt entangling me, which likewise I loved, and my husband was also either always absent, leaving me to them, or always present, entangling me in the heaviness of his many needs, so that there was no clear way of pleasing me. So on a day I shook off all this weight of human ties, much more lightly than I had shaken off those almost imaginary bonds Lemuel had bound me with, and set myself to voyage once again. And so returned, past a number of ships which did let fly harpoons at me and went down bubbling, the greatest of which left one sole survivor clinging to a cask in the foam, to the mouth of the Liffey once more. After dragging myself ashore, blotting out a new encrustation of farms which had grown up during the generations of my absence, I made my way to the great lake, where I had lain so many years, which still bore the outlines of my form, although much blurred with algae and weeds. There, in a cave on the bank of the inlet of my little finger, I found a madman dwelling, encrusted all in vines and excrement, snorting and whinnying like a stallion. My beloved, even like me, had returned from the last of his voyages.
Gently I lifted this wretched lover of mine and laid him to my breast, unmindful of the powder of droppings that fell from his hind parts, since to my nostrils such tiny specks were clean through very insignificance. Great happiness I had to hold him so, and he great happiness to be held, for he had known no such generous passion as mine in his later travels. Nor had I known any bonds so little onerous as his, which carried no weight of responsibility to them. Much did he struggle, in gratitude for my continued affections, to bestow on me the habitual and tangible sign of his high regard. Most gently I submitted to the renewal of those attentions which I no longer desired, lest my cruel turning away of such external marks of affection might afflict the inner man. At length I understood, as he did also, that time and ill-health had taken so great a toll of his powers, that all his will might not avail to raise that pitiful soldier of his to attention. Tenderly I scooped him off the underside of my left breast, where he lay shuddering and exhausted, and raised him to a level with my eyes.
“Dearest,” I said, so choked with my compassion for him that I might hardly speak. “What can you be thinking of? That was not what I returned to you for. My poor chicken. Not what I loved in you at all. Let us be easy with each other.” Then, whether for mortification at having this great gift he’d thought to give me so little desired, or for relief at no longer needing or knowing how to give it, he wept, and I might have wept also, but for my fear of overwhelming him in my tears. With the most tender and cherishing of smiles, I laid my sweetheart down on a nest of leaves, where he abode weeping and looking up at me, and I blinking away my tears, in a perfect balance of love and grief, looking down at him, for the space of a sennight.
Thus my tenderness cured him of his madness, as his cured me of my freedom, and we resumed the entanglements of our life together, neither knowing who was in the right, if either of us might be. He hired a crier to do his showing of me, so that he might be freed to record his knowledge and hatred of the world, the while my patience earned his bread for him. And we found that now, when we were forever freed from the mere sexual tie both by the inability of either of us to desire it, and by the eagerness of those tiny insects, his poor countrymen, to venture me, our closeness grew all the more, until at the last we need not ever speak, nor be awake at the same moment, nor even in the same part of the country, but dwelt always together in that great country of our deep regard, and of memory, and of the pursuit of perfect knowledge.
At the last we were defeated by a disparity neither of us had foreseen. For even as my body, being so much the greater and stronger of the two, required more space and provender for its sustenance, so it also required a greater voyage in time to go the same route to senility and death. After no more than a year, I saw my beloved poppet droop away beyond repair, not the mere withering of the sexual parts, for it was long since I had availed myself of those, but of the whole man. One night, smiling sweetly upon me, he lay down in my armpit, curled up in the nest of down there like a kitten against its mother’s furred flanks, or like an ant in the hill alive, with its fellows, where the deep humming of their business might lull it asleep. In the morning he did not stir, for all my calling. What an exile was there, far from my love, too far ever to join with him again, though he lay in my armpit like a flower under a weed.
Long years I kept him planted in me, until his soft parts that had so delighted me wore to powder, and until the bones grew bare as pins. Then I knotted the greatest of them, the thighs and the pelvis, into a brooch that I might wear upon my bosom, and so wore him next to my heart for the time left me. Nor did I ever think to arise and go now, when there was no further need for me to support him, for I was bound forever to the scenes of our great love. Many revolutions of the heavens his bones lay upon me, and I content with them. Yet I lost them forever, no more than a month ago, when I chanced to forget myself and stretch to relieve my stiffness of limb. And in my stretching and sighing, I heard my jewel fall, and his small bones crunch under my side before I might stop myself.
So old as I am, I count myself the more fortunate in the days of this, the third tiny overlord to hawk my attractions, in that I am so huge to the sight of these dull insects that they do not even realize they are topping a mountain of some centuries of their years, and a good 95 of the world’s years as my body measures them. Were I in my own country, no man but would avoid me as a foul hag. Here I am still one of the wonders of the physical world. Even now I lament that tide that draws me near death. Why must our years have so quick an ending; I am but at the beginning of my road.
It occurs to me that I have taken but little advantage of my freedom. How much there is that I have not known. I would be born next time round as a tiny doll, as tiny to a man as my Lemuel was to me, when he first began to do his hitch with Glumdalclitch. And then I shall climb the bodies of these men, flick their great ear lobes and the corners of their mountainous mouths with my needle of a tongue, crawl onto their giant male parts like a melting worm, tunnel myself into them like some small parasite of the sun. And when the spasm strikes those parts of theirs as it strikes all things, then shall I expire in that great flood of milk like a mote of dust drowned in heaven’s fierce light. Surely, in that as-yet-unknown world, as surely as the sun swallows up all things and expels them again, I shall be the first woman to walk into the body of a man. For the sake of that great science of love in which we perish, it is not enough to hold still and forgive and be known. It is time for me to take a journey into knowledge.