Stories from the Arabian Nights - Amy Steedman




The Second Voyage

"I was very happy for some time at home, but before long I began to grow weary of leading an idle life. I longed to be upon the sea again, to feel the good ship bounding over the waves, and to hear the wind whistling through the rigging.

"So I set to work at once and bought all kinds of goods that I might sell again in foreign lands, and then, having found a suitable ship, I set sail with other merchants, and so began my second voyage.

"We stopped at many places, and sold our goods at a great profit, and all went well until one day when we landed on a new island. It was a most beautiful place, fair as the garden of Eden, where exquisite flowers made a perfect rainbow of colour, and delicious fruits hung in ripe clusters above.

"Here, under the shadow of a tree, I sat down to rest and to feast my eyes upon all the loveliness around. I ate the food I had brought with me, drank my wine, and then closed my eyes. The soft music of the stream which flowed close by was like a song in my ears, and, before I knew what I was doing, I fell asleep.

"I cannot tell how long I slept, but when at last I opened my eyes, I could not see my companions anywhere, and when I looked towards the sea, to my horror I found the ship was gone. It was sailing away, a white speck in the distance, and here was I, left alone upon this desert island. I cried aloud and wrung my hands with grief, and wished with all my heart that I had stayed safely at home. But what was the use of wishing that now?

"So I climbed into a high tree, and looked around to see if I could by any means find a way of escape from the island. First I looked towards the sea, but there was no hope for me there, and then I turned and looked inland. The first thing that caught my eye was a huge white dome, that seemed to rise from the centre of the island, unlike anything I had ever seen before.

I climbed down the tree, and made my way towards the white dome as quickly as I could, but when I reached it, it puzzled me more than ever. It was like a great smooth ball, much too slippery to climb, and into it there was no door or entrance of any sort. I walked round and round it, wondering what it could be, when suddenly a dark shadow fell upon everything and it grew black as night.

I gazed upwards in great fear, and knew that the shadow was cast by a great bird with outspread wings hovering over the place where I stood and shutting out heaven's light. As I looked, it suddenly came swooping down, and sat upon the white dome.

"Then it flashed into my mind that this must be the bird which I had heard sailors talk of, called a roc, and the smooth white ball must be its egg.

Quick as thought, I unbound my turban, and twisted it into a rope. Then I wound it round and round my waist, and tied the two ends tightly round the roc's leg, which was close to where I stood.

"'It will fly away soon, and carry me away with it off this desert island,' I said to myself joyfully.

"And sure enough, before very long I felt myself lifted off the ground, and carried up and up until it seemed as if we had reached the clouds. Then the huge bird began to sink down again, and when it reached the ground I quickly untied my, turban, and set myself free.

I was so small, compared to the roc, that it had never even noticed me, but darted off towards a great black object lying near, which it seized with its beak and carried off. Imagine my horror when I looked again and saw other dark objects, and discovered that they were great black snakes.

"Here was I, in a deep valley, with mountains rising sheer up on every side, and nothing to be seen among the rocks but those terrible black snakes.

"'Oh!' I cried, 'why did I ever try to leave the desert island? I have indeed only come into worse misfortune.'

"As I looked around, I noticed that the ground was strewn with sparkling stones, which seemed to quiver with light, and when I looked nearer, I found they were diamonds of extraordinary size, although lying about like common pebbles. At first I was delighted, but they soon ceased to please me, for I feared each moment I might be seized by one of the terrible snakes.

"These snakes were so large that they could easily have swallowed an elephant, and although they lay quiet during the day, and hid themselves for fear of the roc, at night they came out in search of food. I managed to find a cave among the rocks before nightfall, and there I sat in fear and trembling until morning, when I once more went out into the valley.

"As I sat thinking what I should do next, I saw a great piece of raw meat come bounding down into the valley, from rock to rock. Then another piece followed, and another, until several large pieces lay at my feet.

"Then I remembered a tale which travellers had told me about the famous Diamond Valley. They said that every year, when the young eagles were hatched, merchants went to the heights above, and rolled down great pieces of raw meat into the valley. The diamonds on which the meat fell would often stick into the soft flesh, and then when the eagles came, and carried off the meat to feed their young ones, the merchants would beat them off their nests, and take the diamonds out of the meat.

I had never believed this wonderful tale, but now indeed I knew it to be true, and felt sure that I was in the famous Diamond Valley.

"I had quite given up all hope of escape, for there was no possible way of climbing out of the valley, but as I watched the eagles carry off the lumps of raw meat, I thought of a plan, and hope revived.

"First of all I searched around, and filled all my pockets with the biggest diamonds I could find. Then I chose out the largest piece of meat and fastened myself securely to it, with the rope made out of my turban. I knew that the eagles would soon come for more food, so I lay flat on the ground, with the meat uppermost, and holding on tightly, I waited for what would happen next. I had not long to wait before a gigantic eagle came swooping down. It seized the meat and carried it and me swiftly up, until it reached its nest high among the mountain rocks. And no sooner had it dropped me into the nest, than a man climbed out from behind the rock, and with loud cries frightened the eagle away. Then this man, who was the merchant to whom the nest belonged, came eagerly to look for his piece of meat. When he saw me, he started back in surprise and anger.

"'What doest thou here?' he asked roughly. 'How dost thou dare to try and steal my diamonds?'

"'Have patience,' I answered calmly, 'I am no thief, and when thou hast heard my story thou wilt pity and not blame me. As for diamonds, I have some here which will more than make up to thee for thy disappointment.'

"Then I told him and the other merchants all my adventures, and they cast up their eyes to heaven in surprise at my courage, and the wonderful manner in which I had managed to escape so many dangers. Pulling out a handful of diamonds, I then passed the precious stones round among them, and they all declared them to be the finest they had ever seen.

"' Thou shalt chose one, to make up for thy disappointment,' I said to the merchant who had found me.

"'I will choose this small one,' he replied, picking out one of the least of the glistening heap.

"I urged him to take a larger one, but he only shook his head.

"'This one will bring me all the wealth I can desire,' he said 'and I need no longer risk my life seeking for more.'

"Then we all set off for the nearest port, where we found a ship ready to carry us home. We had many adventures on the way, but at last we reached our journey's end, and when I had sold my diamonds I had so much money that I gave a great deal to the poor, and lived in even greater splendour than before."

Here Sindbad paused, and ordered that another hundred gold pieces should be given to Sindbad, and that he should depart. But next evening when the guests had all assembled again and Hindbad had also returned, Sindbad began once more to tell them a story of his adventures, and this he called, the Story of the Third Voyage.