Stories from the Arabian Nights - Amy Steedman




The Third Voyage

"I spent such a peaceful time at home that the memory of all the hardships which I had endured faded from my mind, and I began to long for fresh adventures. I felt I was too young to sit quietly at home in idleness, so I made up my mind to buy more goods and set out on another voyage to trade, as I had done before.

"The voyage began most prosperously. I sold my goods at every port, and I fancied I had escaped misfortune, when one day a terrible storm began to rage. We were driven out of our course, and the captain could not tell where we were until we came to the lee side of an island. Here we were forced to seek shelter from the storm and to cast anchor, but when the captain looked earnestly at the island, he wrung his hands and tore his hair.

"'We are lost!' he cried, 'for this is no other than the Mountain of Apes.'

"Then he explained to us that no one had ever escaped alive from this island, for the people who lived here were more like apes than men, and there were so many of them that it was useless to try to fight them.

"And even as he spoke a crowd of small creatures appeared on the shore and began to swim out towards the ship. As they came nearer we could see that they were dwarfs, as ugly as apes, being covered with hair like red fur, and having little gleaming yellow eyes. There were so many of them that they seized the ship at once and dragged it to the shore, and when they had landed us there, they sailed off to another island.

Very sorrowfully we wandered about, searching for fruit or roots to eat, and when evening came on we saw a towering palace before us, where we hoped to find shelter and safety.

The palace had a great ebony door, which we pushed open, and we then entered the courtyard. Now it surprised us greatly to find no one there, and as we gazed around all that we could see was a large heap of bones, and a great many spits for roasting.

"We were still looking curiously about, when a loud thundering noise made our eyes turn towards the ebony door which was slowly opening, and there, outlined against the crimson and gold of the sunset sky, we saw the most horrible black monster words can describe. He was pitch black and as tall as a palm tree, and in the middle of his forehead was one red eye, which gleamed like a burning coal. His mouth, which was like the opening into a dark well, had lips like a camel's, which hung down over his chest, while his ears, huge as an elephant's, flapped back over his shoulders, and his nails were like the sharp talons of a bird of prey.

"As soon as we saw this terrible giant we all fainted with terror, but when our senses returned we saw him watching us carefully with his one red shining eye. Presently he stooped down and seized me by the back of my neck and held me high in the air, turning me round and round, and pinching me to feel how fat I was. Finding I was little else than skin and bone, he set me down and caught up each of my companions in turn, pinching and prodding them, until he came to the captain, who was the fattest of us all. Then a horrible smile spread itself over his face, and he thrust a spit through him and set him down to roast.

Sindbad and the monster

HE SEIZED ME BY THE BACK OF MY NECK.


"After the giant had finished his supper he lay down to sleep, and his snores all night long were like thunder. Then early in the morning he arose and went out, leaving us alone.

"As soon as he was gone we began to moan and wring our hands over our great misfortune. We left the palace at once to seek for some hiding-place, but could find no shelter anywhere on the island and were obliged to return to the palace at night. When he came home the giant seized another of our company and supped off him, as he had supped off our poor captain the night before.

"Next morning, when the giant went out, we rushed from the palace, determined rather to throw ourselves into the sea than reĽ turn to be roasted and eaten. But when we reached the shore one of our number stopped us. 'Is it not forbidden by Allah,' he asked, 'to take away one's own life? Rather let us band together to put to death this dreadful monster.'

"'Thou speakest fairly,' I answered. 'Now, O my brothers, listen to my words. Let us make rafts of this driftwood and set them ready to launch upon the sea, so that if our plan of killing the giant be not successful, we may yet escape.'

"To this they all agreed, and by nightfall we had finished the rafts and left them ready on the seashore.

"Then, with heavy hearts, we returned to the palace, knowing that again one of us must be sacrificed. But after the giant had finished his meal, and his thundering snores shook the solid ground, we crept quickly to the fire and seized two of the great iron spits. These we thrust into the heart of the glowing coals and waited until they were red hot. Then we carried them noiselessly over to where the giant lay asleep, and, with all our might, we plunged the red-hot spits into his great red eye.

"With a terrible howl of pain and rage, the giant awoke. He sprang to his feet and threw out his arms to catch us, but as he could not see where we were, we managed to escape, and lay down flat in corners where he could not find us.

"Bellowing with rage, he reached the ebony door, and disappeared into the darkness, and the night air was filled with the sound of his roaring.

"Without losing a moment we set out for the beach where we had left our rafts, and sat there waiting to know if the giant was dead, or if we had still more to fear from him.

"Alas! with the opening day we heard sounds of thundering steps, and saw the wounded giant coming towards us, led by two other giants, as tall and hideous as himself.

"Casting our rafts loose we tried to escape, but the giants caught up great rocks and hurled them after us into the sea, so that all the rafts were swamped, except the one on which I and two of my companions were floating. We, however, managed to escape, and rowing with all our might, landed ere long upon another island.

"Here we found the most delicious fruits, and we were resting happily after our terrible danger, eating and enjoying ourselves, when suddenly a horrible hissing sound fell upon our ears. We sat spellbound with terror, and before we could move a huge serpent glided upon us, and seizing one of my two companions, swallowed him whole.

"'Ah!' we cried, as we fled from the spot, 'we have but escaped one horror to meet with another more terrible. How shall we now escape this horrible serpent?'

"On and on we ran until we came to a tall tree, and into it we climbed, having gathered enough fruit to satisfy our hunger.

"But that night as I sat on the highest possible bough of the tree, the hiss of the serpent woke me from my sleep, and I saw him coiling around the tree until he reached my poor companion, whom he seized and carried off.

"'Alas!' I said to myself, 'there is indeed no way of escape. Let me now throw myself off the cliffs and drown in the sea rather than be swallowed alive.'

"But when I reached the shore I once more remembered that I had no right to take my own life, so I returned and gathered together all the brushwood, reeds, and thorns which I could find. These I tied into strong fagots, and with great care built a kind of round hut under the tree. I tied the top of it firmly together and took care to leave no hole through which the serpent might find an entrance.

"All night long that dreadful hissing sounded in my ears, and I could hear the serpent gliding round and round my hut, where I lay trembling and half dead with fear. Then, when day broke, and I was once more safe, I fled to the seashore, quite determined this time to drown myself rather than face such another night of fear.

"But, Allah be thanked! what should I see as I reached the shore, but a ship sailing close to the island. I shouted and waved my turban, and, to my joy, I saw that a boat was being put off to rescue me.

"As soon as I got aboard I told my story, and every one was filled with pity, and treated me with the greatest kindness. They gave me pew clothes, for mine were in rags, and did everything they could for my comfort to we sailed away, and presently we came to An island which is covered with trees of sandal-wood. Here we cast anchor, and as the merchants were landing to trade with the people of the island, the captain called me to film.

"'Listen to my words,' he began; 'thou art

Poor and a stranger, and I would help thee.

Seest thou here these goods? They belonged to a merchant of Bagdad who sailed in my ship, but who, alas! was left by mistake upon a desert island. I desire to do the best I can with his goods, that I may restore the money to his relations. Therefore soak thou take them and trade well with them, and a share of the profits shall be thine.'

"So be it," I answered, "but what was the name of this merchant?'

"'His name,' answered the captain, 'was Sindbad the Sailor.'

"Then I saw that the bales were marked with my own private mark, and turning to the captain I asked, "Is the merchant indeed dead?"

"'Alas! I fear that there is no hope that he can have escaped,' answered the captain,

"' Look well at me,' I cried. 'Nast thou not seen my face before? I am that Sindbad who was left behind on the Island of the Roe,'

"Then I told him all my adventures, and as he listened he began to know me again, and, with great joy, gave me all my goods and all the money he had made for me by trading in other islands.

"Ere long we arrived at Bagdad, and my gains were so great that I could not count them. So I bought more land and gave much money to the poor, and soon forgot all the dangers and difficulties through which I had passed."

So ended the story of the Third Voyage, and Sindbad again ordered that Hindbad should receive a hundred gold pieces, and that he should return next night to hear the tale of the Fourth Voyage.