Part 3 out of 6
no good by reason of my fear of what lay before me. However, as I
was so far from being a tempting morsel, I was allowed to wander
about freely, and one day, when all the blacks had gone off upon
some expedition leaving only an old man to guard me, I managed
to escape from him and plunged into the forest, running faster
the more he cried to me to come back, until I had completely
For seven days I hurried on, resting only when the darkness stopped me,
and living chiefly upon cocoanuts, which afforded me both meat
and drink, and on the eighth day I reached the seashore and saw a party
of white men gathering pepper, which grew abundantly all about.
Reassured by the nature of their occupation, I advanced towards them
and they greeted me in Arabic, asking who I was and whence I came.
My delight was great on hearing this familiar speech, and I willingly
satisfied their curiosity, telling them how I had been shipwrecked,
and captured by the blacks. "But these savages devour men!" said they.
"How did you escape?" I repeated to them what I have just told you,
at which they were mightily astonished. I stayed with them until
they had collected as much pepper as they wished, and then they
took me back to their own country and presented me to their king,
by whom I was hospitably received. To him also I had to relate
my adventures, which surprised him much, and when I had finished he
ordered that I should be supplied with food and raiment and treated
The island on which I found myself was full of people, and abounded
in all sorts of desirable things, and a great deal of traffic
went on in the capital, where I soon began to feel at home
and contented. Moreover, the king treated me with special favour,
and in consequence of this everyone, whether at the court or in
the town, sought to make life pleasant to me. One thing I remarked
which I thought very strange; this was that, from the greatest
to the least, all men rode their horses without bridle or stirrups.
I one day presumed to ask his majesty why he did not use them,
to which he replied, "You speak to me of things of which I have never
before heard!" This gave me an idea. I found a clever workman,
and made him cut out under my direction the foundation of a saddle,
which I wadded and covered with choice leather, adorning it
with rich gold embroidery. I then got a lock-smith to make me
a bit and a pair of spurs after a pattern that I drew for him,
and when all these things were completed I presented them to the king
and showed him how to use them. When I had saddled one of his horses
he mounted it and rode about quite delighted with the novelty,
and to show his gratitude he rewarded me with large gifts.
After this I had to make saddles for all the principal officers
of the king's household, and as they all gave me rich presents I
soon became very wealthy and quite an important person in the city.
One day the king sent for me and said, "Sindbad, I am going to ask
a favour of you. Both I and my subjects esteem you, and wish
you to end your days amongst us. Therefore I desire that you
will marry a rich and beautiful lady whom I will find for you,
and think no more of your own country."
As the king's will was law I accepted the charming bride he presented
to me, and lived happily with her. Nevertheless I had every intention
of escaping at the first opportunity, and going back to Bagdad.
Things were thus going prosperously with me when it happened that
the wife of one of my neighbours, with whom I had struck up quite
a friendship, fell ill, and presently died. I went to his house
to offer my consolations, and found him in the depths of woe.
"Heaven preserve you," said I, "and send you a long life!"
"Alas!" he replied, "what is the good of saying that when I have
but an hour left to live!"
"Come, come!" said I, "surely it is not so bad as all that.
I trust that you may be spared to me for many years."
"I hope," answered he, "that your life may be long, but as for me,
all is finished. I have set my house in order, and to-day I shall
be buried with my wife. This has been the law upon our island
from the earliest ages--the living husband goes to the grave
with his dead wife, the living wife with her dead husband.
So did our fathers, and so must we do. The law changes not,
and all must submit to it!"
As he spoke the friends and relations of the unhappy pair began
to assemble. The body, decked in rich robes and sparkling
with jewels, was laid upon an open bier, and the procession started,
taking its way to a high mountain at some distance from the city,
the wretched husband, clothed from head to foot in a black mantle,
When the place of interment was reached the corpse was lowered,
just as it was, into a deep pit. Then the husband, bidding farewell
to all his friends, stretched himself upon another bier, upon which
were laid seven little loaves of bread and a pitcher of water, and he
also was let down-down-down to the depths of the horrible cavern,
and then a stone was laid over the opening, and the melancholy
company wended its way back to the city.
You may imagine that I was no unmoved spectator of these proceedings;
to all the others it was a thing to which they had been accustomed
from their youth up; but I was so horrified that I could not help
telling the king how it struck me.
"Sire," I said, "I am more astonished than I can express to you
at the strange custom which exists in your dominions of burying
the living with the dead. In all my travels I have never before
met with so cruel and horrible a law."
"What would you have, Sindbad?" he replied. "It is the law
for everybody. I myself should be buried with the Queen if she
were the first to die."
"But, your Majesty," said I, "dare I ask if this law applies
to foreigners also?"
"Why, yes," replied the king smiling, in what I could but consider
a very heartless manner, "they are no exception to the rule if they
have married in the country."
When I heard this I went home much cast down, and from that time
forward my mind was never easy. If only my wife's little finger
ached I fancied she was going to die, and sure enough before very
long she fell really ill and in a few days breathed her last.
My dismay was great, for it seemed to me that to be buried
alive was even a worse fate than to be devoured by cannibals,
nevertheless there was no escape. The body of my wife, arrayed in
her richest robes and decked with all her jewels, was laid upon
the bier. I followed it, and after me came a great procession,
headed by the king and all his nobles, and in this order we reached
the fatal mountain, which was one of a lofty chain bordering the sea.
Here I made one more frantic effort to excite the pity of the king
and those who stood by, hoping to save myself even at this last moment,
but it was of no avail. No one spoke to me, they even appeared
to hasten over their dreadful task, and I speedily found myself
descending into the gloomy pit, with my seven loaves and pitcher
of water beside me. Almost before I reached the bottom the stone
was rolled into its place above my head, and I was left to my fate.
A feeble ray of light shone into the cavern through some chink,
and when I had the courage to look about me I could see that I
was in a vast vault, bestrewn with bones and bodies of the dead.
I even fancied that I heard the expiring sighs of those who,
like myself, had come into this dismal place alive. All in vain
did I shriek aloud with rage and despair, reproaching myself for
the love of gain and adventure which had brought me to such a pass,
but at length, growing calmer, I took up my bread and water,
and wrapping my face in my mantle I groped my way towards the end
of the cavern, where the air was fresher.
Here I lived in darkness and misery until my provisions were exhausted,
but just as I was nearly dead from starvation the rock was rolled away
overhead and I saw that a bier was being lowered into the cavern,
and that the corpse upon it was a man. In a moment my mind was made up,
the woman who followed had nothing to expect but a lingering death;
I should be doing her a service if I shortened her misery.
Therefore when she descended, already insensible from terror,
I was ready armed with a huge bone, one blow from which left her dead,
and I secured the bread and water which gave me a hope of life.
Several times did I have recourse to this desperate expedient,
and I know not how long I had been a prisoner when one day I fancied
that I heard something near me, which breathed loudly. Turning to
the place from which the sound came I dimly saw a shadowy form which
fled at my movement, squeezing itself through a cranny in the wall.
I pursued it as fast as I could, and found myself in a narrow crack
among the rocks, along which I was just able to force my way.
I followed it for what seemed to me many miles, and at last saw
before me a glimmer of light which grew clearer every moment until
I emerged upon the sea shore with a joy which I cannot describe.
When I was sure that I was not dreaming, I realised that it was
doubtless some little animal which had found its way into the cavern
from the sea, and when disturbed had fled, showing me a means of escape
which I could never have discovered for myself. I hastily surveyed
my surroundings, and saw that I was safe from all pursuit from
The mountains sloped sheer down to the sea, and there was no road
across them. Being assured of this I returned to the cavern,
and amassed a rich treasure of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and jewels
of all kinds which strewed the ground. These I made up into bales,
and stored them into a safe place upon the beach, and then waited
hopefully for the passing of a ship. I had looked out for two days,
however, before a single sail appeared, so it was with much
delight that I at last saw a vessel not very far from the shore,
and by waving my arms and uttering loud cries succeeded in attracting
the attention of her crew. A boat was sent off to me, and in answer
to the questions of the sailors as to how I came to be in such
a plight, I replied that I had been shipwrecked two days before,
but had managed to scramble ashore with the bales which I pointed
out to them. Luckily for me they believed my story, and without
even looking at the place where they found me, took up my bundles,
and rowed me back to the ship. Once on board, I soon saw that the
captain was too much occupied with the difficulties of navigation
to pay much heed to me, though he generously made me welcome,
and would not even accept the jewels with which I offered to pay
my passage. Our voyage was prosperous, and after visiting many lands,
and collecting in each place great store of goodly merchandise,
I found myself at last in Bagdad once more with unheard of riches
of every description. Again I gave large sums of money to the poor,
and enriched all the mosques in the city, after which I gave myself up
to my friends and relations, with whom I passed my time in feasting
Here Sindbad paused, and all his hearers declared that the adventures
of his fourth voyage had pleased them better than anything they
had heard before. They then took their leave, followed by Hindbad,
who had once more received a hundred sequins, and with the rest had
been bidden to return next day for the story of the fifth voyage.
When the time came all were in their places, and when they had eaten
and drunk of all that was set before them Sindbad began his tale.
Not even all that I had gone through could make me contented with a
quiet life. I soon wearied of its pleasures, and longed for change
and adventure. Therefore I set out once more, but this time in a ship
of my own, which I built and fitted out at the nearest seaport.
I wished to be able to call at whatever port I chose, taking my own time;
but as I did not intend carrying enough goods for a full cargo,
I invited several merchants of different nations to join me.
We set sail with the first favourable wind, and after a long
voyage upon the open seas we landed upon an unknown island which
proved to be uninhabited. We determined, however, to explore it,
but had not gone far when we found a roc's egg, as large as the one
I had seen before and evidently very nearly hatched, for the beak
of the young bird had already pierced the shell. In spite of all I
could say to deter them, the merchants who were with me fell upon it
with their hatchets, breaking the shell, and killing the young roc.
Then lighting a fire upon the ground they hacked morsels from the bird,
and proceeded to roast them while I stood by aghast.
Scarcely had they finished their ill-omened repast, when the air
above us was darkened by two mighty shadows. The captain of my ship,
knowing by experience what this meant, cried out to us that the parent
birds were coming, and urged us to get on board with all speed.
This we did, and the sails were hoisted, but before we had made
any way the rocs reached their despoiled nest and hovered about it,
uttering frightful cries when they discovered the mangled remains
of their young one. For a moment we lost sight of them, and were
flattering ourselves that we had escaped, when they reappeared
and soared into the air directly over our vessel, and we saw
that each held in its claws an immense rock ready to crush us.
There was a moment of breathless suspense, then one bird loosed
its hold and the huge block of stone hurtled through the air,
but thanks to the presence of mind of the helmsman, who turned
our ship violently in another direction, it fell into the sea close
beside us, cleaving it asunder till we could nearly see the bottom.
We had hardly time to draw a breath of relief before the other rock
fell with a mighty crash right in the midst of our luckless vessel,
smashing it into a thousand fragments, and crushing, or hurling into
the sea, passengers and crew. I myself went down with the rest,
but had the good fortune to rise unhurt, and by holding on to a piece
of driftwood with one hand and swimming with the other I kept myself
afloat and was presently washed up by the tide on to an island.
Its shores were steep and rocky, but I scrambled up safely and threw
myself down to rest upon the green turf.
When I had somewhat recovered I began to examine the spot in which I
found myself, and truly it seemed to me that I had reached a garden
of delights. There were trees everywhere, and they were laden
with flowers and fruit, while a crystal stream wandered in and out
under their shadow. When night came I slept sweetly in a cosy nook,
though the remembrance that I was alone in a strange land made me
sometimes start up and look around me in alarm, and then I wished
heartily that I had stayed at home at ease. However, the morning
sunlight restored my courage, and I once more wandered among
the trees, but always with some anxiety as to what I might see next.
I had penetrated some distance into the island when I saw an old
man bent and feeble sitting upon the river bank, and at first I
took him to be some ship-wrecked mariner like myself. Going up
to him I greeted him in a friendly way, but he only nodded his head
at me in reply. I then asked what he did there, and he made signs
to me that he wished to get across the river to gather some fruit,
and seemed to beg me to carry him on my back. Pitying his age
and feebleness, I took him up, and wading across the stream I bent
down that he might more easily reach the bank, and bade him get down.
But instead of allowing himself to be set upon his feet (even now it
makes me laugh to think of it!), this creature who had seemed to me
so decrepit leaped nimbly upon my shoulders, and hooking his legs
round my neck gripped me so tightly that I was well-nigh choked,
and so overcome with terror that I fell insensible to the ground.
When I recovered my enemy was still in his place, though he had released
his hold enough to allow me breathing space, and seeing me revive
he prodded me adroitly first with one foot and then with the other,
until I was forced to get up and stagger about with him under the trees
while he gathered and ate the choicest fruits. This went on all day,
and even at night, when I threw myself down half dead with weariness,
the terrible old man held on tight to my neck, nor did he fail
to greet the first glimmer of morning light by drumming upon me
with his heels, until I perforce awoke and resumed my dreary march
with rage and bitterness in my heart.
It happened one day that I passed a tree under which lay several
dry gourds, and catching one up I amused myself with scooping
out its contents and pressing into it the juice of several
bunches of grapes which hung from every bush. When it was full
I left it propped in the fork of a tree, and a few days later,
carrying the hateful old man that way, I snatched at my gourd as I
passed it and had the satisfaction of a draught of excellent wine
so good and refreshing that I even forgot my detestable burden,
and began to sing and caper.
The old monster was not slow to perceive the effect which my draught
had produced and that I carried him more lightly than usual, so he
stretched out his skinny hand and seizing the gourd first tasted
its contents cautiously, then drained them to the very last drop.
The wine was strong and the gourd capacious, so he also began
to sing after a fashion, and soon I had the delight of feeling
the iron grip of his goblin legs unclasp, and with one vigorous
effort I threw him to the ground, from which he never moved again.
I was so rejoiced to have at last got rid of this uncanny old man
that I ran leaping and bounding down to the sea shore, where, by the
greatest good luck, I met with some mariners who had anchored off
the island to enjoy the delicious fruits, and to renew their supply
They heard the story of my escape with amazement, saying, "You fell
into the hands of the Old Man of the Sea, and it is a mercy that he
did not strangle you as he has everyone else upon whose shoulders
he has managed to perch himself. This island is well known as
the scene of his evil deeds, and no merchant or sailor who lands
upon it cares to stray far away from his comrades." After we had
talked for a while they took me back with them on board their ship,
where the captain received me kindly, and we soon set sail,
and after several days reached a large and prosperous-looking
town where all the houses were built of stone. Here we anchored,
and one of the merchants, who had been very friendly to me on
the way, took me ashore with him and showed me a lodging set apart
for strange merchants. He then provided me with a large sack,
and pointed out to me a party of others equipped in like manner.
"Go with them," said he, "and do as they do, but beware of losing
sight of them, for if you strayed your life would be in danger."
With that he supplied me with provisions, and bade me farewell,
and I set out with my new companions. I soon learnt that the
object of our expedition was to fill our sacks with cocoanuts,
but when at length I saw the trees and noted their immense height
and the slippery smoothness of their slender trunks, I did not at
all understand how we were to do it. The crowns of the cocoa-palms
were all alive with monkeys, big and little, which skipped from
one to the other with surprising agility, seeming to be curious
about us and disturbed at our appearance, and I was at first
surprised when my companions after collecting stones began to throw
them at the lively creatures, which seemed to me quite harmless.
But very soon I saw the reason of it and joined them heartily,
for the monkeys, annoyed and wishing to pay us back in our own coin,
began to tear the nuts from the trees and cast them at us with angry
and spiteful gestures, so that after very little labour our sacks
were filled with the fruit which we could not otherwise have obtained.
As soon as we had as many as we could carry we went back to the town,
where my friend bought my share and advised me to continue the same
occupation until I had earned money enough to carry me to my own country.
This I did, and before long had amassed a considerable sum.
Just then I heard that there was a trading ship ready to sail,
and taking leave of my friend I went on board, carrying with me
a goodly store of cocoanuts; and we sailed first to the islands
where pepper grows, then to Comari where the best aloes wood
is found, and where men drink no wine by an unalterable law.
Here I exchanged my nuts for pepper and good aloes wood, and went
a-fishing for pearls with some of the other merchants, and my divers
were so lucky that very soon I had an immense number, and those
very large and perfect. With all these treasures I came joyfully
back to Bagdad, where I disposed of them for large sums of money,
of which I did not fail as before to give the tenth part to the poor,
and after that I rested from my labours and comforted myself with
all the pleasures that my riches could give me.
Having thus ended his story, Sindbad ordered that one hundred
sequins should be given to Hindbad, and the guests then withdrew;
but after the next day's feast he began the account of his sixth
voyage as follows.
It must be a marvel to you how, after having five times met with
shipwreck and unheard of perils, I could again tempt fortune and
risk fresh trouble. I am even surprised myself when I look back,
but evidently it was my fate to rove, and after a year of repose
I prepared to make a sixth voyage, regardless of the entreaties
of my friends and relations, who did all they could to keep me
at home. Instead of going by the Persian Gulf, I travelled
a considerable way overland, and finally embarked from a distant
Indian port with a captain who meant to make a long voyage.
And truly he did so, for we fell in with stormy weather which drove
us completely out of our course, so that for many days neither
captain nor pilot knew where we were, nor where we were going.
When they did at last discover our position we had small ground
for rejoicing, for the captain, casting his turban upon the deck
and tearing his beard, declared that we were in the most dangerous
spot upon the whole wide sea, and had been caught by a current which
was at that minute sweeping us to destruction. It was too true!
In spite of all the sailors could do we were driven with frightful
rapidity towards the foot of a mountain, which rose sheer out
of the sea, and our vessel was dashed to pieces upon the rocks at
its base, not, however, until we had managed to scramble on shore,
carrying with us the most precious of our possessions. When we
had done this the captain said to us:
"Now we are here we may as well begin to dig our graves at once,
since from this fatal spot no shipwrecked mariner has ever returned."
This speech discouraged us much, and we began to lament over our
The mountain formed the seaward boundary of a large island,
and the narrow strip of rocky shore upon which we stood was strewn
with the wreckage of a thousand gallant ships, while the bones
of the luckless mariners shone white in the sunshine, and we
shuddered to think how soon our own would be added to the heap.
All around, too, lay vast quantities of the costliest merchandise,
and treasures were heaped in every cranny of the rocks, but all
these things only added to the desolation of the scene. It struck
me as a very strange thing that a river of clear fresh water,
which gushed out from the mountain not far from where we stood,
instead of flowing into the sea as rivers generally do,
turned off sharply, and flowed out of sight under a natural archway
of rock, and when I went to examine it more closely I found that
inside the cave the walls were thick with diamonds, and rubies,
and masses of crystal, and the floor was strewn with ambergris.
Here, then, upon this desolate shore we abandoned ourselves to
our fate, for there was no possibility of scaling the mountain,
and if a ship had appeared it could only have shared our doom.
The first thing our captain did was to divide equally amongst us
all the food we possessed, and then the length of each man's life
depended on the time he could make his portion last. I myself could
live upon very little.
Nevertheless, by the time I had buried the last of my companions
my stock of provisions was so small that I hardly thought I should
live long enough to dig my own grave, which I set about doing,
while I regretted bitterly the roving disposition which was always
bringing me into such straits, and thought longingly of all the comfort
and luxury that I had left. But luckily for me the fancy took me
to stand once more beside the river where it plunged out of sight
in the depths of the cavern, and as I did so an idea struck me.
This river which hid itself underground doubtless emerged again
at some distant spot. Why should I not build a raft and trust
myself to its swiftly flowing waters? If I perished before I
could reach the light of day once more I should be no worse off
than I was now, for death stared me in the face, while there was
always the possibility that, as I was born under a lucky star,
I might find myself safe and sound in some desirable land.
I decided at any rate to risk it, and speedily built myself a stout
raft of drift-wood with strong cords, of which enough and to spare
lay strewn upon the beach. I then made up many packages of rubies,
emeralds, rock crystal, ambergris, and precious stuffs, and bound
them upon my raft, being careful to preserve the balance, and then
I seated myself upon it, having two small oars that I had fashioned
laid ready to my hand, and loosed the cord which held it to the bank.
Once out in the current my raft flew swiftly under the gloomy archway,
and I found myself in total darkness, carried smoothly forward
by the rapid river. On I went as it seemed to me for many nights
and days. Once the channel became so small that I had a narrow
escape of being crushed against the rocky roof, and after that I
took the precaution of lying flat upon my precious bales.
Though I only ate what was absolutely necessary to keep myself alive,
the inevitable moment came when, after swallowing my last morsel
of food, I began to wonder if I must after all die of hunger.
Then, worn out with anxiety and fatigue, I fell into a deep sleep,
and when I again opened my eyes I was once more in the light of day;
a beautiful country lay before me, and my raft, which was tied
to the river bank, was surrounded by friendly looking black men.
I rose and saluted them, and they spoke to me in return, but I could
not understand a word of their language. Feeling perfectly bewildered
by my sudden return to life and light, I murmured to myself in Arabic,
"Close thine eyes, and while thou sleepest Heaven will change thy
fortune from evil to good."
One of the natives, who understood this tongue, then came forward saying:
"My brother, be not surprised to see us; this is our land, and as we
came to get water from the river we noticed your raft floating
down it, and one of us swam out and brought you to the shore.
We have waited for your awakening; tell us now whence you come
and where you were going by that dangerous way?"
I replied that nothing would please me better than to tell them,
but that I was starving, and would fain eat something first.
I was soon supplied with all I needed, and having satisfied
my hunger I told them faithfully all that had befallen me.
They were lost in wonder at my tale when it was interpreted to them,
and said that adventures so surprising must be related to their king
only by the man to whom they had happened. So, procuring a horse,
they mounted me upon it, and we set out, followed by several
strong men carrying my raft just as it was upon their shoulders.
In this order we marched into the city of Serendib, where the natives
presented me to their king, whom I saluted in the Indian fashion,
prostrating myself at his feet and kissing the ground; but the
monarch bade me rise and sit beside him, asking first what was
"I am Sindbad," I replied, "whom men call `the Sailor,' for I
have voyaged much upon many seas."
"And how come you here?" asked the king.
I told my story, concealing nothing, and his surprise and delight
were so great that he ordered my adventures to be written in letters
of gold and laid up in the archives of his kingdom.
Presently my raft was brought in and the bales opened in his presence,
and the king declared that in all his treasury there were no such
rubies and emeralds as those which lay in great heaps before him.
Seeing that he looked at them with interest, I ventured to say that I
myself and all that I had were at his disposal, but he answered
"Nay, Sindbad. Heaven forbid that I should covet your riches;
I will rather add to them, for I desire that you shall not leave
my kingdom without some tokens of my good will." He then commanded
his officers to provide me with a suitable lodging at his expense,
and sent slaves to wait upon me and carry my raft and my bales to my
new dwelling place. You may imagine that I praised his generosity
and gave him grateful thanks, nor did I fail to present myself
daily in his audience chamber, and for the rest of my time I amused
myself in seeing all that was most worthy of attention in the city.
The island of Serendib being situated on the equinoctial line,
the days and nights there are of equal length. The chief city
is placed at the end of a beautiful valley, formed by the highest
mountain in the world, which is in the middle of the island.
I had the curiosity to ascend to its very summit, for this was the
place to which Adam was banished out of Paradise. Here are found
rubies and many precious things, and rare plants grow abundantly,
with cedar trees and cocoa palms. On the seashore and at the mouths
of the rivers the divers seek for pearls, and in some valleys
diamonds are plentiful. After many days I petitioned the king that I
might return to my own country, to which he graciously consented.
Moreover, he loaded me with rich gifts, and when I went to take
leave of him he entrusted me with a royal present and a letter to
the Commander of the Faithful, our sovereign lord, saying, "I pray
you give these to the Caliph Haroun al Raschid, and assure him of
I accepted the charge respectfully, and soon embarked upon
the vessel which the king himself had chosen for me. The king's
letter was written in blue characters upon a rare and precious
skin of yellowish colour, and these were the words of it:
"The King of the Indies, before whom walk a thousand elephants,
who lives in a palace, of which the roof blazes with a hundred
thousand rubies, and whose treasure house contains twenty thousand
diamond crowns, to the Caliph Haroun al Raschid sends greeting.
Though the offering we present to you is unworthy of your notice,
we pray you to accept it as a mark of the esteem and friendship
which we cherish for you, and of which we gladly send you this token,
and we ask of you a like regard if you deem us worthy of it.
The present consisted of a vase carved from a single ruby,
six inches high and as thick as my finger; this was filled with
the choicest pearls, large, and of perfect shape and lustre;
secondly, a huge snake skin, with scales as large as a sequin,
which would preserve from sickness those who slept upon it.
Then quantities of aloes wood, camphor, and pistachio-nuts; and lastly,
a beautiful slave girl, whose robes glittered with precious stones.
After a long and prosperous voyage we landed at Balsora, and I made
haste to reach Bagdad, and taking the king's letter I presented
myself at the palace gate, followed by the beautiful slave,
and various members of my own family, bearing the treasure.
As soon as I had declared my errand I was conducted into the
presence of the Caliph, to whom, after I had made my obeisance,
I gave the letter and the king's gift, and when he had examined
them he demanded of me whether the Prince of Serendib was really
as rich and powerful as he claimed to be.
"Commander of the Faithful," I replied, again bowing humbly before him,
"I can assure your Majesty that he has in no way exaggerated his wealth
and grandeur. Nothing can equal the magnificence of his palace.
When he goes abroad his throne is prepared upon the back of an elephant,
and on either side of him ride his ministers, his favourites,
and courtiers. On his elephant's neck sits an officer, his golden lance
in his hand, and behind him stands another bearing a pillar of gold,
at the top of which is an emerald as long as my hand. A thousand
men in cloth of gold, mounted upon richly caparisoned elephants,
go before him, and as the procession moves onward the officer
who guides his elephant cries aloud, `Behold the mighty monarch,
the powerful and valiant Sultan of the Indies, whose palace
is covered with a hundred thousand rubies, who possesses twenty
thousand diamond crowns. Behold a monarch greater than Solomon
and Mihrage in all their glory!'"
"Then the one who stands behind the throne answers: "This king,
so great and powerful, must die, must die, must die!"
"And the first takes up the chant again, `All praise to Him
who lives for evermore.'"
"Further, my lord, in Serendib no judge is needed, for to the king
himself his people come for justice."
The Caliph was well satisfied with my report.
"From the king's letter," said he, "I judged that he was a wise man.
It seems that he is worthy of his people, and his people of him."
So saying he dismissed me with rich presents, and I returned
in peace to my own house.
When Sindbad had done speaking his guests withdrew, Hindbad having
first received a hundred sequins, but all returned next day to hear
the story of the seventh voyage, Sindbad thus began.
Seventh and Last Voyage
After my sixth voyage I was quite determined that I would go
to sea no more. I was now of an age to appreciate a quiet life,
and I had run risks enough. I only wished to end my days in peace.
One day, however, when I was entertaining a number of my friends,
I was told that an officer of the Caliph wished to speak to me,
and when he was admitted he bade me follow him into the presence of
Haroun al Raschid, which I accordingly did. After I had saluted him,
the Caliph said:
"I have sent for you, Sindbad, because I need your services.
I have chosen you to bear a letter and a gift to the King of Serendib
in return for his message of friendship."
The Caliph's commandment fell upon me like a thunderbolt.
"Commander of the Faithful," I answered, "I am ready to do all that
your Majesty commands, but I humbly pray you to remember that I am
utterly disheartened by the unheard of sufferings I have undergone.
Indeed, I have made a vow never again to leave Bagdad."
With this I gave him a long account of some of my strangest adventures,
to which he listened patiently.
"I admit," said he, "that you have indeed had some extraordinary
experiences, but I do not see why they should hinder you from doing
as I wish. You have only to go straight to Serendib and give
my message, then you are free to come back and do as you will.
But go you must; my honour and dignity demand it."
Seeing that there was no help for it, I declared myself willing
to obey; and the Caliph, delighted at having got his own way,
gave me a thousand sequins for the expenses of the voyage.
I was soon ready to start, and taking the letter and the present I
embarked at Balsora, and sailed quickly and safely to Serendib.
Here, when I had disclosed my errand, I was well received,
and brought into the presence of the king, who greeted me with joy.
"Welcome, Sindbad," he cried. "I have thought of you often,
and rejoice to see you once more."
After thanking him for the honour that he did me, I displayed the
Caliph's gifts. First a bed with complete hangings all cloth of gold,
which cost a thousand sequins, and another like to it of crimson stuff.
Fifty robes of rich embroidery, a hundred of the finest white
linen from Cairo, Suez, Cufa, and Alexandria. Then more beds
of different fashion, and an agate vase carved with the figure
of a man aiming an arrow at a lion, and finally a costly table,
which had once belonged to King Solomon. The King of Serendib
received with satisfaction the assurance of the Caliph's friendliness
toward him, and now my task being accomplished I was anxious to depart,
but it was some time before the king would think of letting me go.
At last, however, he dismissed me with many presents, and I lost
no time in going on board a ship, which sailed at once, and for four
days all went well. On the fifth day we had the misfortune to fall
in with pirates, who seized our vessel, killing all who resisted,
and making prisoners of those who were prudent enough to submit at once,
of whom I was one. When they had despoiled us of all we possessed,
they forced us to put on vile raiment, and sailing to a distant island
there sold us for slaves. I fell into the hands of a rich merchant,
who took me home with him, and clothed and fed me well, and after
some days sent for me and questioned me as to what I could do.
I answered that I was a rich merchant who had been captured by pirates,
and therefore I knew no trade.
"Tell me," said he, "can you shoot with a bow?"
I replied that this had been one of the pastimes of my youth,
and that doubtless with practice my skill would come back to me.
Upon this he provided me with a bow and arrows, and mounting me with
him upon his own elephant took the way to a vast forest which lay far
from the town. When we had reached the wildest part of it we stopped,
and my master said to me: "This forest swarms with elephants.
Hide yourself in this great tree, and shoot at all that pass you.
When you have succeeded in killing one come and tell me."
So saying he gave me a supply of food, and returned to the town,
and I perched myself high up in the tree and kept watch. That night
I saw nothing, but just after sunrise the next morning a large
herd of elephants came crashing and trampling by. I lost no time
in letting fly several arrows, and at last one of the great animals
fell to the ground dead, and the others retreated, leaving me free
to come down from my hiding place and run back to tell my master
of my success, for which I was praised and regaled with good things.
Then we went back to the forest together and dug a mighty trench
in which we buried the elephant I had killed, in order that when it
became a skeleton my master might return and secure its tusks.
For two months I hunted thus, and no day passed without my securing,
an elephant. Of course I did not always station myself in the
same tree, but sometimes in one place, sometimes in another.
One morning as I watched the coming of the elephants I was surprised
to see that, instead of passing the tree I was in, as they usually did,
they paused, and completely surrounded it, trumpeting horribly,
and shaking the very ground with their heavy tread, and when I
saw that their eyes were fixed upon me I was terrified, and my
arrows dropped from my trembling hand. I had indeed good reason
for my terror when, an instant later, the largest of the animals
wound his trunk round the stem of my tree, and with one mighty
effort tore it up by the roots, bringing me to the ground entangled
in its branches. I thought now that my last hour was surely come;
but the huge creature, picking me up gently enough, set me upon
its back, where I clung more dead than alive, and followed
by the whole herd turned and crashed off into the dense forest.
It seemed to me a long time before I was once more set upon my feet
by the elephant, and I stood as if in a dream watching the herd,
which turned and trampled off in another direction, and were soon
hidden in the dense underwood. Then, recovering myself, I looked
about me, and found that I was standing upon the side of a great hill,
strewn as far as I could see on either hand with bones and tusks
of elephants. "This then must be the elephants' burying place,"
I said to myself, "and they must have brought me here that I might
cease to persecute them, seeing that I want nothing but their tusks,
and here lie more than I could carry away in a lifetime."
Whereupon I turned and made for the city as fast as I could go,
not seeing a single elephant by the way, which convinced me that
they had retired deeper into the forest to leave the way open
to the Ivory Hill, and I did not know how sufficiently to admire
their sagacity. After a day and a night I reached my master's house,
and was received by him with joyful surprise.
"Ah! poor Sindbad," he cried, "I was wondering what could have become
of you. When I went to the forest I found the tree newly uprooted,
and the arrows lying beside it, and I feared I should never see
you again. Pray tell me how you escaped death."
I soon satisfied his curiosity, and the next day we went together
to the Ivory Hill, and he was overjoyed to find that I had told him
nothing but the truth. When we had loaded our elephant with as
many tusks as it could carry and were on our way back to the city,
"My brother--since I can no longer treat as a slave one who has
enriched me thus--take your liberty and may Heaven prosper you.
I will no longer conceal from you that these wild elephants have
killed numbers of our slaves every year. No matter what good advice
we gave them, they were caught sooner or later. You alone have
escaped the wiles of these animals, therefore you must be under the
special protection of Heaven. Now through you the whole town will
be enriched without further loss of life, therefore you shall not
only receive your liberty, but I will also bestow a fortune upon you."
To which I replied, "Master, I thank you, and wish you all prosperity.
For myself I only ask liberty to return to my own country."
"It is well," he answered, "the monsoon will soon bring the ivory
ships hither, then I will send you on your way with somewhat to pay
So I stayed with him till the time of the monsoon, and every
day we added to our store of ivory till all his ware-houses
were overflowing with it. By this time the other merchants
knew the secret, but there was enough and to spare for all.
When the ships at last arrived my master himself chose the one
in which I was to sail, and put on board for me a great store of
choice provisions, also ivory in abundance, and all the costliest
curiosities of the country, for which I could not thank him enough,
and so we parted. I left the ship at the first port we came to,
not feeling at ease upon the sea after all that had happened to me
by reason of it, and having disposed of my ivory for much gold,
and bought many rare and costly presents, I loaded my pack animals,
and joined a caravan of merchants. Our journey was long and tedious,
but I bore it patiently, reflecting that at least I had not to
fear tempests, nor pirates, nor serpents, nor any of the other perils
from which I had suffered before, and at length we reached Bagdad.
My first care was to present myself before the Caliph, and give him
an account of my embassy. He assured me that my long absence had
disquieted him much, but he had nevertheless hoped for the best.
As to my adventure among the elephants he heard it with amazement,
declaring that he could not have believed it had not my truthfulness
been well known to him.
By his orders this story and the others I had told him were written
by his scribes in letters of gold, and laid up among his treasures.
I took my leave of him, well satisfied with the honours and rewards he
bestowed upon me; and since that time I have rested from my labours,
and given myself up wholly to my family and my friends.
Thus Sindbad ended the story of his seventh and last voyage,
and turning to Hindbad he added:
"Well, my friend, and what do you think now? Have you ever heard
of anyone who has suffered more, or had more narrow escapes than
I have? Is it not just that I should now enjoy a life of ease
Hindbad drew near, and kissing his hand respectfully, replied, "Sir, you
have indeed known fearful perils; my troubles have been nothing compared
to yours. Moreover, the generous use you make of your wealth proves
that you deserve it. May you live long and happily in the enjoyment
Sindbad then gave him a hundred sequins, and hence-forward counted
him among his friends; also he caused him to give up his profession
as a porter, and to eat daily at his table that he might all his
life remember Sindbad the Sailor.
The Little Hunchback
In the kingdom of Kashgar, which is, as everybody knows,
situated on the frontiers of Great Tartary, there lived long ago
a tailor and his wife who loved each other very much. One day,
when the tailor was hard at work, a little hunchback came and sat at
the entrance of the shop, and began to sing and play his tambourine.
The tailor was amused with the antics of the fellow, and thought
he would take him home to divert his wife. The hunchback having
agreed to his proposal, the tailor closed his shop and they set
When they reached the house they found the table ready laid for supper,
and in a very few minutes all three were sitting before a beautiful
fish which the tailor's wife had cooked with her own hands.
But unluckily, the hunchback happened to swallow a large bone,
and, in spite of all the tailor and his wife could do to help him,
died of suffocation in an instant. Besides being very sorry for
the poor man, the tailor and his wife were very much frightened on
their own account, for if the police came to hear of it the worthy
couple ran the risk of being thrown into prison for wilful murder.
In order to prevent this dreadful calamity they both set about
inventing some plan which would throw suspicion on some one else,
and at last they made up their minds that they could do no better than
select a Jewish doctor who lived close by as the author of the crime.
So the tailor picked up the hunchback by his head while his wife
took his feet and carried him to the doctor's house. Then they
knocked at the door, which opened straight on to a steep staircase.
A servant soon appeared, feeling her way down the dark staircase
and inquired what they wanted.
"Tell your master," said the tailor, "that we have brought a very sick
man for him to cure; and," he added, holding out some money, "give him
this in advance, so that he may not feel he is wasting his time."
The servant remounted the stairs to give the message to the doctor,
and the moment she was out of sight the tailor and his wife carried
the body swiftly after her, propped it up at the top of the staircase,
and ran home as fast as their legs could carry them.
Now the doctor was so delighted at the news of a patient (for he
was young, and had not many of them), that he was transported
"Get a light," he called to the servant, "and follow me as fast as
you can!" and rushing out of his room he ran towards the staircase.
There he nearly fell over the body of the hunchback, and without knowing
what it was gave it such a kick that it rolled right to the bottom,
and very nearly dragged the doctor after it. "A light! a light!"
he cried again, and when it was brought and he saw what he had done
he was almost beside himself with terror.
"Holy Moses!" he exclaimed, "why did I not wait for the light?
I have killed the sick man whom they brought me; and if the sacred
Ass of Esdras does not come to my aid I am lost! It will not be long
before I am led to jail as a murderer."
Agitated though he was, and with reason, the doctor did not forget
to shut the house door, lest some passers-by might chance to see
what had happened. He then took up the corpse and carried it
into his wife's room, nearly driving her crazy with fright.
"It is all over with us!" she wailed, "if we cannot find some
means of getting the body out of the house. Once let the sun
rise and we can hide it no longer! How were you driven to commit
such a terrible crime?"
"Never mind that," returned the doctor, "the thing is to find a way
out of it."
For a long while the doctor and his wife continued to turn over
in their minds a way of escape, but could not find any that seemed
good enough. At last the doctor gave it up altogether and resigned
himself to bear the penalty of his misfortune.
But his wife, who had twice his brains, suddenly exclaimed, "I have
thought of something! Let us carry the body on the roof of the house
and lower it down the chimney of our neighbour the Mussulman."
Now this Mussulman was employed by the Sultan, and furnished
his table with oil and butter. Part of his house was occupied
by a great storeroom, where rats and mice held high revel.
The doctor jumped at his wife's plan, and they took up the hunchback,
and passing cords under his armpits they let him down into the
purveyor's bed-room so gently that he really seemed to be leaning
against the wall. When they felt he was touching the ground they
drew up the cords and left him.
Scarcely had they got back to their own house when the purveyor
entered his room. He had spent the evening at a wedding feast,
and had a lantern in his hand. In the dim light it cast he was
astonished to see a man standing in his chimney, but being naturally
courageous he seized a stick and made straight for the supposed thief.
"Ah!" he cried, "so it is you, and not the rats and mice, who steal
my butter. I'll take care that you don't want to come back!"
So saying he struck him several hard blows. The corpse fell on
the floor, but the man only redoubled his blows, till at length it
occurred to him it was odd that the thief should lie so still and make
no resistance. Then, finding he was quite dead, a cold fear took
possession of him. "Wretch that I am," said he, "I have murdered
a man. Ah, my revenge has gone too far. Without tho help of Allah
I am undone! Cursed be the goods which have led me to my ruin."
And already he felt the rope round his neck.
But when he had got over the first shock he began to think of some
way out of the difficulty, and seizing the hunchback in his arms he
carried him out into the street, and leaning him against the wall
of a shop he stole back to his own house, without once looking
A few minutes before the sun rose, a rich Christian merchant,
who supplied the palace with all sorts of necessaries, left his house,
after a night of feasting, to go to the bath. Though he was
very drunk, he was yet sober enough to know that the dawn was at hand,
and that all good Mussulmen would shortly be going to prayer.
So he hastened his steps lest he should meet some one on his way
to the mosque, who, seeing his condition, would send him to prison
as a drunkard. In his haste he jostled against the hunchback,
who fell heavily upon him, and the merchant, thinking he was being
attacked by a thief, knocked him down with one blow of his fist.
He then called loudly for help, beating the fallen man all
The chief policeman of the quarter came running up, and found
a Christian ill-treating a Mussulman. "What are you doing?"
he asked indignantly.
"He tried to rob me," replied the merchant, "and very nearly
"Well, you have had your revenge," said the man, catching hold
of his arm. "Come, be off with you!"
As he spoke he held out his hand to the hunchback to help him up,
but the hunchback never moved. "Oho!" he went on, looking closer,
"so this is the way a Christian has the impudence to treat
a Mussulman!" and seizing the merchant in a firm grasp he took
him to the inspector of police, who threw him into prison till
the judge should be out of bed and ready to attend to his case.
All this brought the merchant to his senses, but the more he thought
of it the less he could understand how the hunchback could have died
merely from the blows he had received.
The merchant was still pondering on this subject when he was
summoned before the chief of police and questioned about his crime,
which he could not deny. As the hunchback was one of the Sultan's
private jesters, the chief of police resolved to defer sentence
of death until he had consulted his master. He went to the palace
to demand an audience, and told his story to the Sultan, who only answered,
"There is no pardon for a Christian who kills a Mussulman.
Do your duty."
So the chief of police ordered a gallows to be erected, and sent
criers to proclaim in every street in the city that a Christian
was to be hanged that day for having killed a Mussulman.
When all was ready the merchant was brought from prison and led
to the foot of the gallows. The executioner knotted the cord firmly
round the unfortunate man's neck and was just about to swing him
into the air, when the Sultan's purveyor dashed through the crowd,
and cried, panting, to the hangman,
"Stop, stop, don't be in such a hurry. It was not he who did
the murder, it was I."
The chief of police, who was present to see that everything was
in order, put several questions to the purveyor, who told him the
whole story of the death of the hunchback, and how he had carried
the body to the place where it had been found by the Christian merchant.
"You are going," he said to the chief of police, "to kill an
innocent man, for it is impossible that he should have murdered
a creature who was dead already. It is bad enough for me
to have slain a Mussulman without having it on my conscience
that a Christian who is guiltless should suffer through my fault."
Now the purveyor's speech had been made in a loud voice, and was
heard by all the crowd, and even if he had wished it, the chief
of police could not have escaped setting the merchant free.
"Loose the cords from the Christian's neck," he commanded,
turning to the executioner, "and hang this man in his place,
seeing that by his own confession he is the murderer."
The hangman did as he was bid, and was tying the cord firmly,
when he was stopped by the voice of the Jewish doctor beseeching
him to pause, for he had something very important to say.
When he had fought his way through the crowd and reached the chief
"Worshipful sir," he began, "this Mussulman whom you desire
to hang is unworthy of death; I alone am guilty. Last night
a man and a woman who were strangers to me knocked at my door,
bringing with them a patient for me to cure. The servant opened it,
but having no light was hardly able to make out their faces,
though she readily agreed to wake me and to hand me the fee for
my services. While she was telling me her story they seem to have
carried the sick man to the top of the staircase and then left
him there. I jumped up in a hurry without waiting for a lantern,
and in the darkness I fell against something, which tumbled headlong
down the stairs and never stopped till it reached the bottom.
When I examined the body I found it was quite dead, and the corpse
was that of a hunchback Mussulman. Terrified at what we had done,
my wife and I took the body on the roof and let it down the chimney
of our neighbour the purveyor, whom you were just about to hang.
The purveyor, finding him in his room, naturally thought he was a thief,
and struck him such a blow that the man fell down and lay motionless
on the floor. Stooping to examine him, and finding him stone dead,
the purveyor supposed that the man had died from the blow he
had received; but of course this was a mistake, as you will see from
my account, and I only am the murderer; and although I am innocent
of any wish to commit a crime, I must suffer for it all the same,
or else have the blood of two Musselmans on my conscience.
Therefore send away this man, I pray you, and let me take his place,
as it is I who am guilty."
On hearing the declaration of the Jewish doctor, the chief of police
commanded that he should be led to the gallows, and the Sultan's
purveyor go free. The cord was placed round the Jew's neck,
and his feet had already ceased to touch the ground when the voice
of the tailor was heard beseeching the executioner to pause one
moment and to listen to what he had to say.
"Oh, my lord," he cried, turning to the chief of police,
"how nearly have you caused the death of three innocent people!
But if you will only have the patience to listen to my tale,
you shall know who is the real culprit. If some one has to suffer,
it must be me! Yesterday, at dusk, I was working in my shop with a
light heart when the little hunchback, who was more than half drunk,
came and sat in the doorway. He sang me several songs, and then
I invited him to finish the evening at my house. He accepted
my invitation, and we went away together. At supper I helped him
to a slice of fish, but in eating it a bone stuck in his throat,
and in spite of all we could do he died in a few minutes. We felt deeply
sorry for his death, but fearing lest we should be held responsible,
we carried the corpse to the house of the Jewish doctor. I knocked,
and desired the servant to beg her master to come down as fast
as possible and see a sick man whom we had brought for him to cure;
and in order to hasten his movements I placed a piece of money
in her hand as the doctor's fee. Directly she had disappeared I
dragged the body to the top of the stairs, and then hurried away
with my wife back to our house. In descending the stairs the doctor
accidentally knocked over the corpse, and finding him dead believed
that he himself was the murderer. But now you know the truth set
him free, and let me die in his stead."
The chief of police and the crowd of spectators were lost in astonishment
at the strange events to which the death of the hunchback had given rise.
"Loosen the Jewish doctor," said he to the hangman, "and string up
the tailor instead, since he has made confession of his crime.
Really, one cannot deny that this is a very singular story,
and it deserves to be written in letters of gold."
The executioner speedily untied the knots which confined the doctor,
and was passing the cord round the neck of the tailor, when the
Sultan of Kashgar, who had missed his jester, happened to make
inquiry of his officers as to what had become of him.
"Sire," replied they, "the hunchback having drunk more than was
good for him, escaped from the palace and was seen wandering about
the town, where this morning he was found dead. A man was arrested
for having caused his death, and held in custody till a gallows
was erected. At the moment that he was about to suffer punishment,
first one man arrived, and then another, each accusing themselves
of the murder, and this went on for a long time, and at the
present instant the chief of police is engaged in questioning
a man who declares that he alone is the true assassin."
The Sultan of Kashgar no sooner heard these words than he ordered
an usher to go to the chief of police and to bring all the persons
concerned in the hunchback's death, together with the corpse,
that he wished to see once again. The usher hastened on his errand,
but was only just in time, for the tailor was positively swinging
in the air, when his voice fell upon the silence of the crowd,
commanding the hangman to cut down the body. The hangman,
recognising the usher as one of the king's servants, cut down
the tailor, and the usher, seeing the man was safe, sought the chief
of police and gave him the Sultan's message. Accordingly, the chief
of police at once set out for the palace, taking with him the tailor,
the doctor, the purveyor, and the merchant, who bore the dead
hunchback on their shoulders.
When the procession reached the palace the chief of police prostrated
himself at the feet of the Sultan, and related all that he knew of
the matter. The Sultan was so much struck by the circumstances that he
ordered his private historian to write down an exact account of what
had passed, so that in the years to come the miraculous escape of the
four men who had thought themselves murderers might never be forgotten.
The Sultan asked everybody concerned in the hunchback's affair
to tell him their stories. Among others was a prating barber,
whose tale of one of his brothers follows.
Story of the Barber's Fifth Brother
As long as our father lived Alnaschar was very idle. Instead of working
for his bread he was not ashamed to ask for it every evening, and to
support himself next day on what he had received the night before.
When our father died, worn out by age, he only left seven hundred
silver drachmas to be divided amongst us, which made one hundred
for each son. Alnaschar, who had never possessed so much money
in his life, was quite puzzled to know what to do with it.
After reflecting upon the matter for some time he decided to lay it
out on glasses, bottles, and things of that sort, which he would
buy from a wholesale merchant. Having bought his stock he next
proceeded to look out for a small shop in a good position, where he
sat down at the open door, his wares being piled up in an uncovered
basket in front of him, waiting for a customer among the passers-by.
In this attitude he remained seated, his eyes fixed on the basket,
but his thoughts far away. Unknown to himself he began to talk
out loud, and a tailor, whose shop was next door to his, heard quite
plainly what he was saying.
"This basket," said Alnaschar to himself, "has cost me a hundred drachmas--
all that I possess in the world. Now in selling the contents
piece by piece I shall turn two hundred, and these hundreds I
shall again lay out in glass, which will produce four hundred.
By this means I shall in course of time make four thousand drachmas,
which will easily double themselves. When I have got ten thousand I
will give up the glass trade and become a jeweller, and devote all
my time to trading in pearls, diamonds, and other precious stones.
At last, having all the wealth that heart can desire, I will buy
a beautiful country house, with horses and slaves, and then I will
lead a merry life and entertain my friends. At my feasts I will
send for musicians and dancers from the neighbouring town to amuse
my guests. In spite of my riches I shall not, however, give up trade
till I have amassed a capital of a hundred thousand drachmas, when,
having become a man of much consideration, I shall request the hand
of the grand-vizir's daughter, taking care to inform the worthy
father that I have heard favourable reports of her beauty and wit,
and that I will pay down on our wedding day 3 thousand gold pieces.
Should the vizir refuse my proposal, which after all is hardly to
be expected, I will seize him by the beard and drag him to my house."
When I shall have married his daughter I will give her ten of the best
eunuchs that can be found for her service. Then I shall put on my most
gorgeous robes, and mounted on a horse with a saddle of fine gold,
and its trappings blazing with diamonds, followed by a train
of slaves, I shall present myself at the house of the grand-vizir,
the people casting down their eyes and bowing low as I pass along.
At the foot of the grand-vizir's staircase I shall dismount,
and while my servants stand in a row to right and left I shall
ascend the stairs, at the head of which the grand-vizir will be
waiting to receive me. He will then embrace me as his son-in-law,
and giving me his seat will place himself below me. This being done
(as I have every reason to expect), two of my servants will enter,
each bearing a purse containing a thousand pieces of gold.
One of these I shall present to him saying, "Here are the thousand
gold pieces that I offered for your daughter's hand, and here,"
I shall continue, holding out the second purse, "are another
thousand to show you that I am a man who is better than his word."
After hearing of such generosity the world will talk of nothing else.
I shall return home with the same pomp as I set out, and my wife
will send an officer to compliment me on my visit to her father,
and I shall confer on the officer the honour of a rich dress and
a handsome gift. Should she send one to me I shall refuse it and
dismiss the bearer. I shall never allow my wife to leave her rooms
on any pretext whatever without my permission, and my visits to her
will be marked by all the ceremony calculated to inspire respect.
No establishment will be better ordered than mine, and I shall take
care always to be dressed in a manner suitable to my position.
In the evening, when we retire to our apartments, I shall sit
in the place of honour, where I shall assume a grand demeanour
and speak little, gazing straight before me, and when my wife,
lovely as the full moon, stands humbly in front of my chair I shall
pretend not to see her. Then her women will say to me, "Respected lord
and master, your wife and slave is before you waiting to be noticed.
She is mortified that you never deign to look her way; she is
tired of standing so long. Beg her, we pray you, to be seated."
Of course I shall give no signs of even hearing this speech,
which will vex them mightily. They will throw themselves at my feet
with lamentations, and at length I will raise my head and throw a
careless glance at her, then I shall go back to my former attitude.
The women will think that I am displeased at my wife's dress and
will lead her away to put on a finer one, and I on my side shall
replace the one I am wearing with another yet more splendid.
They will then return to the charge, but this time it will take
much longer before they persuade me even to look at my wife.
It is as well to begin on my wedding-day as I mean to go on for the
rest of our lives.
The next day she will complain to her mother of the way she has
been treated, which will fill my heart with joy. Her mother
will come to seek me, and, kissing my hands with respect,
will say, "My lord" (for she could not dare to risk my anger
by using the familiar title of "son-in-law"), "My lord, do not,
I implore you, refuse to look upon my daughter or to approach her.
She only lives to please you, and loves you with all her soul."
But I shall pay no more heed to my mother-in-law's words than I
did to those of the women. Again she will beseech me to listen
to her entreaties, throwing herself this time at my feet, but all
to no purpose. Then, putting a glass of wine into my wife's hand,
she will say to her, "There, present that to him yourself, he cannot
have the cruelty to reject anything offered by so beautiful a hand,"
and my wife will take it and offer it to me tremblingly with tears
in her eyes, but I shall look in the other direction. This will
cause her to weep still more, and she will hold out the glass crying,
"Adorable husband, never shall I cease my prayers till you have done
me the favour to drink." Sick of her importunities, these words
will goad me to fury. I shall dart an angry look at her and give
her a sharp blow on the cheek, at the same time giving her a kick
so violent that she will stagger across the room and fall on to
"My brother," pursued the barber, "was so much absorbed in his dreams
that he actually did give a kick with his foot, which unluckily hit
the basket of glass. It fell into the street and was instantly
broken into a thousand pieces."
His neighbour the tailor, who had been listening to his visions,
broke into a loud fit of laughter as he saw this sight.
"Wretched man!" he cried, "you ought to die of shame at behaving
so to a young wife who has done nothing to you. You must be
a brute for her tears and prayers not to touch your heart.
If I were the grand-vizir I would order you a hundred blows from
a bullock whip, and would have you led round the town accompanied
by a herald who should proclaim your crimes."
The accident, so fatal to all his profits, had restored my brother
to his senses, and seeing that the mischief had been caused by his
own insufferable pride, he rent his clothes and tore his hair,
and lamented himself so loudly that the passers-by stopped to listen.
It was a Friday, so these were more numerous than usual.
Some pitied Alnaschar, others only laughed at him, but the vanity
which had gone to his head had disappeared with his basket of glass,
and he was loudly bewailing his folly when a lady, evidently a person
of consideration, rode by on a mule. She stopped and inquired
what was the matter, and why the man wept. They told her that he
was a poor man who had laid out all his money on this basket
of glass, which was now broken. On hearing the cause of these loud
wails the lady turned to her attendant and said to him, "Give him
whatever you have got with you." The man obeyed, and placed in my
brother's hands a purse containing five hundred pieces of gold.
Alnaschar almost died of joy on receiving it. He blessed the lady
a thousand times, and, shutting up his shop where he had no longer
anything to do, he returned home.
He was still absorbed in contemplating his good fortune, when a knock came
to his door, and on opening it he found an old woman standing outside.
"My son," she said, "I have a favour to ask of you. It is the hour
of prayer and I have not yet washed myself. Let me, I beg you,
enter your house, and give me water."
My brother, although the old woman was a stranger to him, did not
hesitate to do as she wished. He gave her a vessel of water and then
went back to his place and his thoughts, and with his mind busy over
his last adventure, he put his gold into a long and narrow purse,
which he could easily carry in his belt. During this time the old
woman was busy over her prayers, and when she had finished she
came and prostrated herself twice before my brother, and then
rising called down endless blessings on his head. Observing her
shabby clothes, my brother thought that her gratitude was in reality
a hint that he should give her some money to buy some new ones,
so he held out two pieces of gold. The old woman started back
in surprise as if she had received an insult. "Good heavens!"
she exclaimed, "what is the meaning of this? Is it possible that you
take me, my lord, for one of those miserable creatures who force
their way into houses to beg for alms? Take back your money.
I am thankful to say I do not need it, for I belong to a beautiful
lady who is very rich and gives me everything I want."
My brother was not clever enough to detect that the old woman had
merely refused the two pieces of money he had offered her in order
to get more, but he inquired if she could procure him the pleasure
of seeing this lady.
"Willingly," she replied; "and she will be charmed to marry you,
and to make you the master of all her wealth. So pick up your money
and follow me."
Delighted at the thought that he had found so easily both a
fortune and a beautiful wife, my brother asked no more questions,
but concealing his purse, with the money the lady had given him,
in the folds of his dress, he set out joyfully with his guide.
They walked for some distance till the old woman stopped at a
large house, where she knocked. The door was opened by a young
Greek slave, and the old woman led my brother across a well-paved
court into a well-furnished hall. Here she left him to inform
her mistress of his presence, and as the day was hot he flung
himself on a pile of cushions and took off his heavy turban.
In a few minutes there entered a lady, and my brother perceived at
the first glance that she was even more beautiful and more richly
dressed than he had expected. He rose from his seat, but the lady
signed to him to sit down again and placed herself beside him.
After the usual compliments had passed between them she said,
"We are not comfortable here, let us go into another room,"
and passing into a smaller chamber, apparently communicating
with no other, she continued to talk to him for some time.
Then rising hastily she left him, saying, "Stay where you are,
I will come back in a moment."
He waited as he was told, but instead of the lady there entered a huge
black slave with a sword in his hand. Approaching my brother with
an angry countenance he exclaimed, "What business have you here?"
His voice and manner were so terrific that Alnaschar had not strength
to reply, and allowed his gold to be taken from him, and even
sabre cuts to be inflicted on him without making any resistance.
As soon as he was let go, he sank on the ground powerless to move,
though he still had possession of his senses. Thinking he was dead,
the black ordered the Greek slave to bring him some salt, and between
them they rubbed it into his wounds, thus giving him acute agony,
though he had the presence of mind to give no sign of life.
They then left him, and their place was taken by the old woman,
who dragged him to a trapdoor and threw him down into a vault filled
with the bodies of murdered men.
At first the violence of his fall caused him to lose consciousness,
but luckily the salt which had been rubbed into his wounds had by
its smarting preserved his life, and little by little he regained
his strength. At the end of two days he lifted the trapdoor
during the night and hid himself in the courtyard till daybreak,
when he saw the old woman leave the house in search of more prey.
Luckily she did not observe him, and when she was out of sight he
stole from this nest of assassins and took refuge in my house.
I dressed his wounds and tended him carefully, and when a month
had passed he was as well as ever. His one thought was how to
be revenged on that wicked old hag, and for this purpose he had
a purse made large enough to contain five hundred gold pieces,
but filled it instead with bits of glass. This he tied round
him with his sash, and, disguising himself as an old woman,
he took a sabre, which he hid under his dress.
One morning as he was hobbling through the streets he met his
old enemy prowling to see if she could find anyone to decoy.
He went up to her and, imitating the voice of a woman, he said,
"Do you happen to have a pair of scales you could lend me?
I have just come from Persia and have brought with me five hundred
gold pieces, and I am anxious to see if they are the proper weight."
"Good woman," replied the old hag, "you could not have asked
anyone better. My son is a money-changer, and if you will follow
me he will weigh them for you himself. Only we must be quick or he
will have gone to his shop." So saying she led the way to the same
house as before, and the door was opened by the same Greek slave.
Again my brother was left in the hall, and the pretended son
appeared under the form of the black slave. "Miserable crone,"
he said to my brother, "get up and come with me," and turned
to lead the way to the place of murder. Alnaschar rose too,
and drawing the sabre from under his dress dealt the black such
a blow on his neck that his head was severed from his body.
My brother picked up the head with one hand, and seizing the body
with the other dragged it to the vault, when he threw it in and sent
the head after it. The Greek slave, supposing that all had passed
as usual, shortly arrived with the basin of salt, but when she
beheld Alnaschar with the sabre in his hand she let the basin fall
and turned to fly. My brother, however, was too quick for her,
and in another instant her head was rolling from her shoulders.
The noise brought the old woman running to see what was the matter,
and he seized her before she had time to escape. "Wretch!" he cried,
"do you know me?"
"Who are you, my lord?" she replied trembling all over. "I have
never seen you before."
"I am he whose house you entered to offer your hypocritical prayers.
Don't you remember now?"
She flung herself on her knees to implore mercy, but he cut her
in four pieces.
There remained only the lady, who was quite ignorant of all that
was taking place around her. He sought her through the house,
and when at last he found her, she nearly fainted with terror at
the sight of him. She begged hard for life, which he was generous
enough to give her, but he bade her to tell him how she had got into
partnership with the abominable creatures he had just put to death.
"I was once," replied she, "the wife of an honest merchant, and that
old woman, whose wickedness I did not know, used occasionally to
visit me. "Madam," she said to me one day, "we have a grand wedding
at our house to-day. If you would do us the honour to be present,
I am sure you would enjoy yourself." I allowed myself to be persuaded,
put on my richest dress, and took a purse with a hundred pieces of gold.
Once inside the doors I was kept by force by that dreadful black,
and it is now three years that I have been here, to my great grief."
"That horrible black must have amassed great wealth, remarked my brother.
"Such wealth," returned she, "that if you succeed in carrying it
all away it will make you rich for ever. Come and let us see
how much there is."
She led Alnaschar into a chamber filled with coffers packed with gold,
which he gazed at with an admiration he was powerless to conceal. "Go,"
she said, "and bring men to carry them away."
My brother did not wait to be told twice, and hurried out into
the streets, where he soon collected ten men. They all came back
to the house, but what was his surprise to find the door open,
and the room with the chests of gold quite empty. The lady had been
cleverer than himself, and had made the best use of her time. However,
he tried to console himself by removing all the beautiful furniture,
which more than made up for the five hundred gold pieces he had lost.
Unluckily, on leaving the house, he forgot to lock the door,
and the neighbours, finding the place empty, informed the police,
who next morning arrested Alnaschar as a thief. My brother tried to bribe
them to let him off, but far from listening to him they tied his hands,
and forced him to walk between them to the presence of the judge.
When they had explained to the official the cause of complaint,
he asked Alnaschar where he had obtained all the furniture that he
had taken to his house the day before.
"Sir," replied Alnaschar, "I am ready to tell you the whole story,
but give, I pray you, your word, that I shall run no risk of punishment."
"That I promise," said the judge. So my brother began at the
beginning and related all his adventures, and how he had avenged
himself on those who had betrayed him. As to the furniture,
he entreated the judge at least to allow him to keep part to make
up for the five hundred pieces of gold which had been stolen from him.
The judge, however, would say nothing about this, and lost no time
in sending men to fetch away all that Alnaschar had taken from
the house. When everything had been moved and placed under his roof
he ordered my brother to leave the town and never more to enter it
on peril of his life, fearing that if he returned he might seek
justice from the Caliph. Alnaschar obeyed, and was on his way
to a neighbouring city when he fell in with a band of robbers,
who stripped him of his clothes and left him naked by the roadside.
Hearing of his plight, I hurried after him to console him for
his misfortunes, and to dress him in my best robe. I then brought
him back disguised, under cover of night, to my house, where I
have since given him all the care I bestow on my other brothers.
The Story of the Barber's Sixth Brother
There now remains for me to relate to you the story of my sixth brother,
whose name was Schacabac. Like the rest of us, he inherited
a hundred silver drachmas from our father, which he thought
was a large fortune, but through ill-luck, he soon lost it all,
and was driven to beg. As he had a smooth tongue and good manners,
he really did very well in his new profession, and he devoted
himself specially to making friends with the servants in big houses,
so as to gain access to their masters.
One day he was passing a splendid mansion, with a crowd of servants
lounging in the courtyard. He thought that from the appearance
of the house it might yield him a rich harvest, so he entered
and inquired to whom it belonged.
"My good man, where do you come from?" replied the servant. "Can't you
see for yourself that it can belong to nobody but a Barmecide?"
for the Barmecides were famed for their liberality and generosity.
My brother, hearing this, asked the porters, of whom there were several,
if they would give him alms. They did not refuse, but told him
politely to go in, and speak to the master himself.
My brother thanked them for their courtesy and entered the building,
which was so large that it took him some time to reach the apartments
of the Barmecide. At last, in a room richly decorated with paintings,
he saw an old man with a long white beard, sitting on a sofa,
who received him with such kindness that my brother was emboldened
to make his petition.
"My lord," he said, "you behold in me a poor man who only lives
by the help of persons as rich and as generous as you."
Before he could proceed further, he was stopped by the astonishment
shown by the Barmecide. "Is it possible," he cried, "that while I
am in Bagdad, a man like you should be starving? That is a state
of things that must at once be put an end to! Never shall it be said
that I have abandoned you, and I am sure that you, on your part,
will never abandon me."
"My lord," answered my brother, "I swear that I have not broken
my fast this whole day."
"What, you are dying of hunger?" exclaimed the Barmecide.
"Here, slave; bring water, that we may wash our hands before meat!"
No slave appeared, but my brother remarked that the Barmecide did
not fail to rub his hands as if the water had been poured over them.
Then he said to my brother, "Why don't you wash your hands too?"
and Schacabac, supposing that it was a joke on the part of the
Barmecide (though he could see none himself), drew near, and imitated
When the Barmecide had done rubbing his hands, he raised his voice,
and cried, "Set food before us at once, we are very hungry."
No food was brought, but the Barmecide pretended to help himself
from a dish, and carry a morsel to his mouth, saying as he did so,
"Eat, my friend, eat, I entreat. Help yourself as freely as if
you were at home! For a starving man, you seem to have a very
"Excuse me, my lord," replied Schacabac, imitating his gestures
as before, "I really am not losing time, and I do full justice
to the repast."
"How do you like this bread?" asked the Barmecide. "I find it
particularly good myself."
"Oh, my lord," answered my brother, who beheld neither meat nor bread,
"never have I tasted anything so delicious."
"Eat as much as you want," said the Barmecide. "I bought
the woman who makes it for five hundred pieces of gold,
so that I might never be without it."
After ordering a variety of dishes (which never came) to be placed on
the table, and discussing the merits of each one, the Barmecide declared
that having dined so well, they would now proceed to take their wine.
To this my brother at first objected, declaring that it was forbidden;
but on the Barmecide insisting that it was out of the question
that he should drink by himself, he consented to take a little.
The Barmecide, however, pretended to fill their glasses so often,
that my brother feigned that the wine had gone into his head,
and struck the Barmecide such a blow on the head, that he fell to
the ground. Indeed, he raised his hand to strike him a second time,
when the Barmecide cried out that he was mad, upon which my brother
controlled himself, and apologised and protested that it was
all the fault of the wine he had drunk. At this the Barmecide,
instead of being angry, began to laugh, and embraced him heartily.
"I have long been seeking," he exclaimed, "a man of your description,
and henceforth my house shall be yours. You have had the good
grace to fall in with my humour, and to pretend to eat and to drink
when nothing was there. Now you shall be rewarded by a really
Then he clapped his hands, and all the dishes were brought that
they had tasted in imagination before and during the repast,
slaves sang and played on various instruments. All the while
Schacabac was treated by the Barmecide as a familiar friend,
and dressed in a garment out of his own wardrobe.
Twenty years passed by, and my brother was still living with
the Barmecide, looking after his house, and managing his affairs.
At the end of that time his generous benefactor died without heirs,
so all his possessions went to the prince. They even despoiled
my brother of those that rightly belonged to him, and he,
now as poor as he had ever been in his life, decided to cast
in his lot with a caravan of pilgrims who were on their way
to Mecca. Unluckily, the caravan was attacked and pillaged by
the Bedouins, and the pilgrims were taken prisoners. My brother
became the slave of a man who beat him daily, hoping to drive him
to offer a ransom, although, as Schacabac pointed out, it was
quite useless trouble, as his relations were as poor as himself.
At length the Bedouin grew tired of tormenting, and sent him on
a camel to the top of a high barren mountain, where he left him
to take his chance. A passing caravan, on its way to Bagdad,
told me where he was to be found, and I hurried to his rescue,
and brought him in a deplorable condition back to the town.
"This,"--continued the barber,--"is the tale I related
to the Caliph, who, when I had finished, burst into fits of laughter.
"Well were you called `the Silent,'" said he; "no name was ever
better deserved. But for reasons of my own, which it is not necessary
to mention, I desire you to leave the town, and never to come back."
"I had of course no choice but to obey, and travelled about for several
years until I heard of the death of the Caliph, when I hastily
returned to Bagdad, only to find that all my brothers were dead.
It was at this time that I rendered to the young cripple the important
service of which you have heard, and for which, as you know,
he showed such profound ingratitude, that he preferred rather
to leave Bagdad than to run the risk of seeing me. I sought him
long from place to place, but it was only to-day, when I expected
it least, that I came across him, as much irritated with me as ever"--
So saying the tailor went on to relate the story of the lame man
and the barber, which has already been told.
"When the barber," he continued, "had finished his tale, we came
to the conclusion that the young man had been right, when he
had accused him of being a great chatter-box. However, we wished
to keep him with us, and share our feast, and we remained at table
till the hour of afternoon prayer. Then the company broke up,
and I went back to work in my shop.
"It was during this interval that the little hunchback, half drunk
already, presented himself before me, singing and playing on his drum.
I took him home, to amuse my wife, and she invited him to supper.
While eating some fish, a bone got into his throat, and in spite
of all we could do, he died shortly. It was all so sudden that we
lost our heads, and in order to divert suspicion from ourselves,
we carried the body to the house of a Jewish physician. He placed
it in the chamber of the purveyor, and the purveyor propped it up in
the street, where it was thought to have been killed by the merchant.
"This, Sire, is the story which I was obliged to tell to satisfy
your highness. It is now for you to say if we deserve mercy
or punishment; life or death?"
The Sultan of Kashgar listened with an air of pleasure which filled
the tailor and his friends with hope. "I must confess," he exclaimed,
"that I am much more interested in the stories of the barber and
his brothers, and of the lame man, than in that of my own jester.
But before I allow you all four to return to your own homes, and have
the corpse of the hunchback properly buried, I should like to see
this barber who has earned your pardon. And as he is in this town,
let an usher go with you at once in search of him."
The usher and the tailor soon returned, bringing with them an old man
who must have been at least ninety years of age. "O Silent One,"
said the Sultan, "I am told that you know many strange stories.
Will you tell some of them to me?"
"Never mind my stories for the present," replied the barber,
"but will your Highness graciously be pleased to explain why this Jew,
this Christian, and this Mussulman, as well as this dead body,
are all here?"
"What business is that of yours?" asked the Sultan with a smile;
but seeing that the barber had some reasons for his question,
he commanded that the tale of the hunch-back should be told him.
"It is certainly most surprising," cried he, when he had heard it all,
"but I should like to examine the body." He then knelt down, and took
the head on his knees, looking at it attentively. Suddenly he burst
into such loud laughter that he fell right backwards, and when he
had recovered himself enough to speak, he turned to the Sultan.
"The man is no more dead than I am," he said; "watch me." As he
spoke he drew a small case of medicines from his pocket and rubbed
the neck of the hunchback with some ointment made of balsam. Next he
opened the dead man's mouth, and by the help of a pair of pincers
drew the bone from his throat. At this the hunch-back sneezed,
stretched himself and opened his eyes.
The Sultan and all those who saw this operation did not know which
to admire most, the constitution of the hunchback who had apparently
been dead for a whole night and most of one day, or the skill of
the barber, whom everyone now began to look upon as a great man.
His Highness desired that the history of the hunchback should be
written down, and placed in the archives beside that of the barber,
so that they might be associated in people's minds to the end of time.
And he did not stop there; for in order to wipe out the memory of
what they had undergone, he commanded that the tailor, the doctor,
the purveyor and the merchant, should each be clothed in his presence
with a robe from his own wardrobe before they returned home.
As for the barber, he bestowed on him a large pension, and kept him
near his own person.
The Adventures of Prince Camaralzaman and the Princess Badoura
Some twenty days' sail from the coast of Persia lies the isle of the
children of Khaledan. The island is divided into several provinces,
in each of which are large flourishing towns, and the whole forms
an important kingdom. It was governed in former days by a king
named Schahzaman, who, with good right, considered himself one of
the most peaceful, prosperous, and fortunate monarchs on the earth.
In fact, he had but one grievance, which was that none of his four
wives had given him an heir.
This distressed him so greatly that one day he confided his grief
to the grand-vizir, who, being a wise counsellor, said: "Such matters
are indeed beyond human aid. Allah alone can grant your desire,
and I should advise you, sire, to send large gifts to those holy men
who spend their lives in prayer, and to beg for their intercessions.
Who knows whether their petitions may not be answered!"
The king took his vizir's advice, and the result of so many prayers for
an heir to the throne was that a son was born to him the following year.
Schahzaman sent noble gifts as thank offerings to all the mosques
and religious houses, and great rejoicings were celebrated in honour
of the birth of the little prince, who was so beautiful that he
was named Camaralzaman, or "Moon of the Century."
Prince Camaralzaman was brought up with extreme care by an excellent
governor and all the cleverest teachers, and he did such credit to them
that when he was grown up, a more charming and accomplished young man
was not to be found. Whilst he was still a youth the king, his father,
who loved him dearly, had some thoughts of abdicating in his favour.
As usual he talked over his plans with his grand-vizir, who,
though he did not approve the idea, would not state all his objections.
"Sire," he replied, "the prince is still very young for the cares
of state. Your Majesty fears his growing idle and careless,
and doubtless you are right. But how would it be if he were first
to marry? This would attach him to his home, and your Majesty
might give him a share in your counsels, so that he might gradually
learn how to wear a crown, which you can give up to him whenever
you find him capable of wearing it."
The vizir's advice once more struck the king as being good,
and he sent for his son, who lost no time in obeying the summons,
and standing respectfully with downcast eyes before the king asked
for his commands.
"I have sent for you," said the king, "to say that I wish you to marry.
What do you think about it?"
The prince was so much overcome by these words that he remained
silent for some time. At length he said: "Sire, I beg you
to pardon me if I am unable to reply as you might wish.
I certainly did not expect such a proposal as I am still so young,
and I confess that the idea of marrying is very distasteful to me.
Possibly I may not always be in this mind, but I certainly feel
that it will require some time to induce me to take the step
which your Majesty desires."
This answer greatly distressed the king, who was sincerely grieved
by his objection to marriage. However he would not have recourse
to extreme measures, so he said: "I do not wish to force you;
I will give you time to reflect, but remember that such a step
is necessary, for a prince such as you who will some day be called
to rule over a great kingdom."
From this time Prince Camaralzaman was admitted to the royal council,
and the king showed him every mark of favour.
At the end of a year the king took his son aside, and said:
"Well, my son, have you changed your mind on the subject of marriage,
or do you still refuse to obey my wish?"
The prince was less surprised but no less firm than on the
former occasion, and begged his father not to press the subject,
adding that it was quite useless to urge him any longer.
This answer much distressed the king, who again confided his trouble
to his vizir.
"I have followed your advice," he said; "but Camaralzaman declines
to marry, and is more obstinate than ever."
"Sire," replied the vizir, "much is gained by patience, and your
Majesty might regret any violence. Why not wait another year and then
inform the Prince in the midst of the assembled council that the good
of the state demands his marriage? He cannot possibly refuse again
before so distinguished an assemblage, and in our immediate presence."
The Sultan ardently desired to see his son married at once, but he
yielded to the vizir's arguments and decided to wait. He then visited
the prince's mother, and after telling her of his disappointment
and of the further respite he had given his son, he added:
"I know that Camaralzaman confides more in you than he does in me.
Pray speak very seriously to him on this subject, and make him realize
that he will most seriously displease me if he remains obstinate,
and that he will certainly regret the measures I shall be obliged
to take to enforce my will."
So the first time the Sultana Fatima saw her son she told him she
had heard of his refusal to marry, adding how distressed she felt
that he should have vexed his father so much. She asked what reasons
he could have for his objections to obey.
"Madam," replied the prince, "I make no doubt that there are as
many good, virtuous, sweet, and amiable women as there are others
very much the reverse. Would that all were like you! But what revolts
me is the idea of marrying a woman without knowing anything at all
about her. My father will ask the hand of the daughter of some
neighbouring sovereign, who will give his consent to our union.
Be she fair or frightful, clever or stupid, good or bad, I must
marry her, and am left no choice in the matter. How am I to know
that she will not be proud, passionate, contemptuous, and recklessly
extravagant, or that her disposition will in any way suit mine?"
"But, my son," urged Fatima, "you surely do not wish to be the last
of a race which has reigned so long and so gloriously over this kingdom?"
"Madam," said the prince, "I have no wish to survive the king,
my father, but should I do so I will try to reign in such a manner
as may be considered worthy of my predecessors."
These and similar conversations proved to the Sultan how useless it
was to argue with his son, and the year elapsed without bringing
any change in the prince's ideas.
At length a day came when the Sultan summoned him before the council,
and there informed him that not only his own wishes but the good
of the empire demanded his marriage, and desired him to give his
answer before the assembled ministers.
At this Camaralzaman grew so angry and spoke with so much heat
that the king, naturally irritated at being opposed by his son
in full council, ordered the prince to be arrested and locked up
in an old tower, where he had nothing but a very little furniture,
a few books, and a single slave to wait on him.
Camaralzaman, pleased to be free to enjoy his books, showed himself
very indifferent to his sentence.
When night came he washed himself, performed his devotions,
and, having read some pages of the Koran, lay down on a couch,
without putting out the light near him, and was soon asleep.
Now there was a deep well in the tower in which Prince
Camaralzaman was imprisoned, and this well was a favourite
resort of the fairy Maimoune, daughter of Damriat, chief of a
legion of genii. Towards midnight Maimoune floated lightly
up from the well, intending, according to her usual habit,
to roam about the upper world as curiosity or accident might prompt.
The light in the prince's room surprised her, and without disturbing
the slave, who slept across the threshold, she entered the room,
and approaching the bed was still more astonished to find it occupied.
The prince lay with his face half hidden by the coverlet.
Maimoune lifted it a little and beheld the most beautiful youth
she had ever seen.
"What a marvel of beauty he must be when his eyes are open!"
she thought. "What can he have done to deserve to be treated
She could not weary gazing at Camaralzaman, but at length,
having softly kissed his brow and each cheek, she replaced
the coverlet and resumed her flight through the air.
As she entered the middle region she heard the sound of great wings
coming towards her, and shortly met one of the race of bad genii.
This genie, whose name was Danhasch, recognised Maimoune with terror,
for he knew the supremacy which her goodness gave her over him.
He would gladly have avoided her altogether, but they were so near
that he must either be prepared to fight or yield to her, so he at once
addressed her in a conciliatory tone:
"Good Maimoune, swear to me by Allah to do me no harm, and on my
side I will promise not to injure you."
"Accursed genie!" replied Maimoune, "what harm can you do me?
But I will grant your power and give the promise you ask. And now
tell me what you have seen and done to-night."
"Fair lady," said Danhasch, "you meet me at the right moment to hear
something really interesting. I must tell you that I come from the
furthest end of China, which is one of the largest and most powerful
kingdoms in the world. The present king has one only daughter, who is
so perfectly lovely that neither you, nor I, nor any other creature
could find adequate terms in which to describe her marvellous charms.
You must therefore picture to yourself the most perfect features,
joined to a brilliant and delicate complexion, and an enchanting
expression, and even then imagination will fall short of the reality."
"The king, her father, has carefully shielded this treasure from
the vulgar gaze, and has taken every precaution to keep her from
the sight of everyone except the happy mortal he may choose to be
her husband. But in order to give her variety in her confinement he
has built her seven palaces such as have never been seen before.
The first palace is entirely composed of rock crystal, the second
of bronze, the third of fine steel, the fourth of another and more
precious species of bronze, the fifth of touchstone, the sixth
of silver, and the seventh of solid gold. They are all most
sumptuously furnished, whilst the gardens surrounding them are
laid out with exquisite taste. In fact, neither trouble nor cost
has been spared to make this retreat agreeable to the princess.
The report of her wonderful beauty has spread far and wide, and many
powerful kings have sent embassies to ask her hand in marriage.
The king has always received these embassies graciously, but says
that he will never oblige the princess to marry against her will,
and as she regularly declines each fresh proposal, the envoys have
had to leave as disappointed in the result of their missions as they
were gratified by their magnificent receptions.
"Sire," said the princess to her father, "you wish me to marry,
and I know you desire to please me, for which I am very grateful.
But, indeed, I have no inclination to change my state,
for where could I find so happy a life amidst so many beautiful
and delightful surroundings? I feel that I could never be as happy
with any husband as I am here, and I beg you not to press one on me."
"At last an embassy came from a king so rich and powerful that the
King of China felt constrained to urge this suit on his daughter.
He told her how important such an alliance would be, and pressed
her to consent. In fact, he pressed her so persistingly that the
princess at length lost her temper and quite forgot the respect due
to her father. "Sire," cried she angrily, "do not speak further
of this or any other marriage or I will plunge this dagger in my
breast and so escape from all these importunities."
"The king of China was extremely indignant with his daughter and replied:
"You have lost your senses and you must be treated accordingly."
So he had her shut in one set of rooms in one of her palaces,
and only allowed her ten old women, of whom her nurse was the head,
to wait on her and keep her company. He next sent letters to all
the kings who had sued for the princess's hand, begging they would
think of her no longer, as she was quite insane, and he desired
his various envoys to make it known that anyone who could cure her
should have her to wife.
"Fair Maimoune," continued Danhasch, "this is the present state
of affairs. I never pass a day without going to gaze on this
incomparable beauty, and I am sure that if you would only
accompany me you would think the sight well worth the trouble,
and own that you never saw such loveliness before."
The fairy only answered with a peal of laughter, and when at length
she had control of her voice she cried, "Oh, come, you are making
game of me! I thought you had something really interesting to tell
me instead of raving about some unknown damsel. What would you say
if you could see the prince I have just been looking at and whose
beauty is really transcendent? That is something worth talking about,
you would certainly quite lose your head."
"Charming Maimoune," asked Danhasch, "may I inquire who and what
is the prince of whom you speak?"
"Know," replied Maimoune, "that he is in much the same case as
your princess. The king, his father, wanted to force him to marry,
and on the prince's refusal to obey he has been imprisoned in an old
tower where I have just seen him."
"I don't like to contradict a lady," said Danhasch, "but you must
really permit me to doubt any mortal being as beautiful as my princess."
"Hold your tongue," cried Maimoune. "I repeat that is impossible."
"Well, I don't wish to seem obstinate," replied Danhasch, "the best
plan to test the truth of what I say will be for you to let me
take you to see the princess for yourself."
"There is no need for that," retorted Maimoune; "we can satisfy
ourselves in another way. Bring your princess here and lay
her down beside my prince. We can then compare them at leisure,
and decide which is in the right."
Danhasch readily consented, and after having the tower where the prince
was confined pointed out to him, and making a wager with Maimoune as to
the result of the comparison, he flew off to China to fetch the princess.
In an incredibly short time Danhasch returned, bearing the
sleeping princess. Maimoune led him to the prince's room,
and the rival beauty was placed beside him.
When the prince and princess lay thus side by side, an animated
dispute as to their respective charms arose between the fairy
and the genius. Danhasch began by saying:
"Now you see that my princess is more beautiful than your prince.
Can you doubt any longer?"
"Doubt! Of course I do!" exclaimed Maimoune. "Why, you must
be blind not to see how much my prince excels your princess.
I do not deny that your princess is very handsome, but only look
and you must own that I am in the right."
"There is no need for me to look longer," said Danhasch, "my first
impression will remain the same; but of course, charming Maimoune,
I am ready to yield to you if you insist on it."
"By no means," replied Maimoune. "I have no idea of being under
any obligation to an accursed genius like you. I refer the matter
to an umpire, and shall expect you to submit to his verdict."
Danhasch readily agreed, and on Maimoune striking the floor with her
foot it opened, and a hideous, hump-backed, lame, squinting genius,
with six horns on his head, hands like claws, emerged. As soon as he
beheld Maimoune he threw himself at her feet and asked her commands.
"Rise, Caschcasch," said she. "I summoned you to judge between me
and Danhasch. Glance at that couch, and say without any partiality
whether you think the youth or the maiden lying there the more beautiful."
Caschcasch looked at the prince and princess with every token
of surprise and admiration. At length, having gazed long without
being able to come to a decision, he said
"Madam, I must confess that I should deceive you were I to declare
one to be handsomer than the other. There seems to me only one
way in which to decide the matter, and that is to wake one after
the other and judge which of them expresses the greater admiration
for the other."
This advice pleased Maimoune and Danhasch, and the fairy at once
transformed herself into the shape of a gnat and settling on
Camaralzaman's throat stung him so sharply that he awoke. As he did
so his eyes fell on the Princess of China. Surprised at finding
a lady so near him, he raised himself on one arm to look at her.
The youth and beauty of the princess at once awoke a feeling to which his
heart had as yet been a stranger, and he could not restrain his delight.
"What loveliness! What charms! Oh, my heart, my soul!" he exclaimed,
as he kissed her forehead, her eyes and mouth in a way which would
certainly have roused her had not the genie's enchantments kept
"How, fair lady!" he cried, "you do not wake at the signs of