196 GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
advanced; but, on account of my being a stranger, care was taken to have it made so clean that the dust was not offensive. However, this was a peculiar grace, not allowed to any but persons of the highest rank, when they desire an admittance. Nay, sometimes the floor is strewed with dust on purpose, when the person to be admitted happens to have powerful enemies at Court. And I have seen a great lord with his mouth so crammed, that, when he had crept to the proper distance from the throne, he was not able to speak a word. Neither is there any remedy; because it is capital for those who receive an audience, to spit or wipe their mouths in his Majesty's presence. There is, indeed, another custom, which I cannot altogether approve of: when the king hath a mind to put any of his nobles to death, in a gentle, indulgent manner, he commands the floor to be strewed with a certain brown powder, of a deadly composition, which, being licked up, infallibly kills him in twenty-four hours. But in justice to this prince's great clemency, and the care he hath of his subjects' lives (wherein it were much to be wished, that the monarchs of Europe would imitate him) it must be mentioned for his honour, that strict orders are given to have the infected parts of the floor well washed, after every such execution; which if his domestics neglect, they are in danger of incurring his royal displeasure. I myself heard him give directions that one of his pages should be whipped, whose turn it was to give notice about washing the floor after an execution, but maliciously had omitted it, by which neglect, a young lord of great hopes, coming to an audience, was unfortunately poisoned, although the king, at that time, had no design against his life. But this good prince was so gracious as to forgive the poor page his whipping, upon promise that he would do so no more, without special orders.
To return from this digression; when I had crept within four yards of the throne, I raised myself gently upon my knees, and then, striking my forehead seven times on the