Stories from the Arabian Nights - Amy Steedman




The Last Voyage

"I had now made up my mind that nothing would tempt me to leave my home again, and that I would seek for no more adventures.

"One day, however, as I was feasting with my friends, one of my servants came to tell me that a messenger from the Caliph awaited my pleasure.

"'What is thy errand?' I asked when the messenger was presented to me.

"'The Caliph desires thy presence at once,' answered the messenger.

"Thus was I obliged to set out immediately for the palace.

"'Sindbad,' said the Caliph, when I had bowed myself to the ground before him, 'I have need of thy services. I desire to send a letter and a gift to the King of Serendib, and thou shalt be the bearer of them.'

"Then indeed did my face fall, and I became pale as death.

"'Commander of the Faithful,' I cried, 'do with me as thou wilt, but I have made a vow never to leave my home again.'

"Then I bold him all my adventures, which caused him much astonishment. Nevertheless, he urged me to do as he wished, and seeing that there was no escape, I consented.

"I set sail at the Caliph's command, and after a good voyage I at last reached the island of Serendib, where I received a hearty welcome. I told the officers of the court what my errand was, and they led me to the palace, where I bowed myself to the ground before the great King.

"'Sindbad,' he said kindly, 'thou art welcome. I have often thought of thee, and wished to see thy face again.'

"So I presented the Caliph's letter, and the rich present he had sent, which pleased the King well. When a few days had passed, I begged to be allowed to depart, and after receiving many gifts I once more set sail for home.

"But alas! the return journey began badly. We had not sailed many days, when we were pursued by pirates, who captured the ship, and took prisoners all those who were not killed. I, amongst others, was carried ashore and sold by a pirate to a rich merchant.

"'What is thy trade?' asked the merchant when he had bought me.

"' I am a merchant,' I answered, 'and know no trade.'

"'Canst thou shoot with a bow and arrow?' asked my master.

"This I said I could do, and putting one in my hand he led me out to a great forest and bade me climb into a high tree.

"'Watch there,' he said, 'until thou shalt see a herd of elephants pass by. Then try to shoot one, and if thou art fortunate, come at once and tell me.'

"All night I watched, and saw nothing, but in the morning a great number of elephants came thundering by, and I shot several arrows among them. One big elephant fell to the ground, and lay there while the rest passed on; so, as soon as it was safe, I climbed down and carried the news to my master. Together we buried the huge animal and marked the place, so that we might return to fetch the tusks.

"I continued this work for some time, and killed many elephants, until one night I saw to my horror that the elephants, instead of passing on, had surrounded the tree in which I sat, and were stamping and trumpeting, until the very earth shook. Then one of them seized the tree with his trunk, and tore it up by the roots, laying it flat on the ground.

"I was almost senseless with terror, but the next moment I felt myself gently lifted up by an elephant's trunk, and placed on his back. I clung on with all my might, as the elephant carried me through the forest, until at last we came to the slope of a hill, which was covered with bleached bones and tusks.

"Here the elephant gently laid me down, and left me alone. I gazed around on this great treasure of ivory, and I could not help wondering at the wisdom of these animals. They had evidently brought me here to show me that I could get ivory without killing any more of their number. For this, I felt sure, was the elephants' burying-place.

"I did not stay long on the hill, but gathering a few tusks together I sped back to the town, that I might tell my tale to the merchant. 'My poor Sindbad,' he cried, when he saw me, 'I thought thou wert dead, for I found the uprooted tree, and never expected to look upon thy face again.'

"Great was his delight when I told him of the Hill of Ivory, and when we had gone there together, and he saw for himself the wonders I had described, he was filled with astonishment.

"'Sindbad,' he cried, 'thou too shalt have a share of this great wealth. And first of all I shall give thee thy freedom. Until now, year by year have all my slaves been killed by the elephants, but now we need no longer run any risks, for here is ivory enough to enrich the whole island.'

"So I was set free, and loaded with honours, and when the trade winds brought the ships that traded in ivory, I bade good-bye to the island, and set sail for home, carrying with me a great cargo of ivory and other treasures.

"As soon as I landed I went to the Caliph, who was overjoyed to see me.

"'Great has been my anxiety, O Sindbad,' he said, 'for I feared some evil had befallen thee.'

"When, therefore, I had told him of my adventures, he was the more astonished, and ordered that all my story should be written in letters of gold, and placed among his treasures.

"Then I returned to my own house, and ever since have remained at home in peace and safety."

Thus Sindbad finished the story of his voyages, and turning to Hindbad, he said: "And now, friend Hindbad, what dost thou think of the way I have earned my riches? Is it not just that I should live in enjoyment and ease?"

"O my lord," cried Hindbad, bowing before Sindbad, and kissing his hand, "great have been thy labours and perils, and truly dost thou deserve thy riches. My troubles are as nothing compared to thine. Long mayest thou live and prosper!"

Sindbad was well pleased with this answer, and he ordered that Hindbad should dine every day at his table, and receive his golden pieces, so that all his life he might have reason to remember the adventures of Sindbad the Sailor.