Stories from the Arabian Nights - Amy Steedman




The First Voyage

My father left me a great deal of money when I was a young man, but I spent it so quickly and foolishly that I began to see it would soon all be gone. This made me stop and think, for I did not like the idea of being poor. So I counted up all the money that remained, and made up my mind that I would trade with it. I joined a company of merchants, and we set sail in a good ship, meaning to go from place to place, and sell or exchange our goods at whatever towns we stopped. And so began my first voyage.

"For the first few days I could think of nothing but the heaving of the waves; but by and by I began to feel better, and never again was I at all unhappy upon the sea. One afternoon, when the wind had suddenly dropped and we were lying becalmed, we found ourselves near a little low green island, which looked like a meadow, and only just showed above the sea. The captain of the ship gave us permission to land, and presently we were all enjoying ourselves on the green meadow. We walked about for some time and then sat down to rest, and some of us set to work to light a fire, that we might make our evening meal.

"But scarcely had the fire begun to burn, when we heard loud shouts from the ship warning us to come back at once, for what we had taken to be an island was indeed the back of a sleeping whale. My companions all rushed to the boats, but before I could follow them the great monster dived down and disappeared, leaving me struggling in the water.

"I clung to a piece of wood which we had brought from the ship to make the fire, and I could only hope that I would soon be picked up by my companions. But alas! there was so much confusion on board that no one missed me, and as a wind sprang up the captain set sail, and I was left alone at the mercy of the waves.

"All night long I floated, and when morning came I was so tired and weak that I thought I must die. But just then a great wave lifted me up and threw me against the steep side of an island, and to my joy I managed to climb the cliff and rest on the green grass above.

"Soon I began to feel better, and as I was very hungry I went to look for something to eat. I found some plants which tasted good, and a spring of clear water, and having made a good meal, I walked about the island to see what I would find next.

"Before long I came to a great meadow where a horse was tied, and as I stood looking at it, I heard men's voices which sounded as if they came from under the earth. Then from an underground cave a man appeared, who asked me who I was and where I came from. He took me into the cave where his companions were, and they told me they were the grooms belonging to the king of the island, whose horses they brought to feed in the meadow. They gave me a good meal, and told me it was very lucky that I had come just then, for next day they meant to retut4 to their master, and would show me the wall" which I could never have found for myself.

"So we set off together early next morning, and when we reached the city I was very kindly received by the King. He listened to the story of my adventures, and then bade his servants see that I wanted for nothing.

"As I was a merchant I took great interest in the shipping, and often went down to the quay to see the boats unload. One day when I was looking over a cargo which had just been landed, what was my astonishment to see a number of bales with my own name marked on them. I went at once to captain and asked him who was the owner of these bales of goods.

"'Ah!' replied the captain, 'they belonged to a merchant of Bagdad called Sindbad. But he, alas! perished in a dreadful way soon after we sailed, for with a number of people belonging to my ship he landed on what looked like a green island, but which was really the back of a great sleeping whale. As soon as the monster felt the warmth of the fire which they had lighted on his back, he woke up and dived below the sea. Many of my men were drowned, and amongst them poor Sindbad. Now I mean to sell his goods that I may give the money to his relations when I find them.'

"'Captain,' said I, 'these bales are mine, for I am that Sindbad who thou sayest was drowned.'

"'What wickedness there is in the world,' cried the captain. 'How canst thou pretend to be Sindbad when I saw him drowned before my eyes?'

"But presently, when I had told him all that had happened to me, and when the other merchants from the ship knew me to be the true Sindbad, he was overjoyed, and ordered that the bales should be at once given to me.

"Now I was able to give the King a handsome present, and after I had traded with my goods for sandal-wood, nutmegs, ginger, pepper and cloves, I set sail once more with the kind old captain. On the way home I was able to sell all my spices at a good price, so that when I landed I found I had a hundred thousand sequins.

"My family were delighted to see me again, and I soon bought some land and built a splendid house, in which I meant to live happily and forget all the troubles through which I had passed."

Here Sindbad ended the story of his First Voyage. He ordered the music to strike up and the feast to go on, and when it was over he gave the poor porter Hindbad a hundred gold pieces, and told him to come back at the same time next evening if he wished to hear the tale of the Second Voyage.

Hindbad went joyfully home, and you can imagine how happy the poor family were that night.

Next evening he set out once more for Sindbad's house, dressed in his best clothes. There he enjoyed a splendid supper as before, and when it was over Sindbad said, "My friends, I will now tell you the story of my Second Voyage, which I think you will find even more wonderful than that of my first."