Stories of Arabian Nights -
One thousand one Arabian Nights
The Third Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor
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After a very short time the pleasant easy life
I led made me quite forget the perils of my two voyages. Moreover, as I was
still in the prime of life, it pleased me better to be up and doing. So once
more providing myself with the rarest and choicest merchandise of Bagdad, I
conveyed it to Balsora, and set sail with other merchants of my acquaintance for
distant lands. We had touched at many ports and made much profit, when one day
upon the open sea we were caught by a terrible wind which blew us completely out
of our reckoning, and lasting for several days finally drove us into harbour on
a strange island.
"I would rather have come to anchor anywhere than here," quoth our captain.
"This island and all adjoining it are inhabited by hairy savages, who are
certain to attack us, and whatever these dwarfs may do we dare not resist, since
they swarm like locusts, and if one of them is killed the rest will fall upon
us, and speedily make an end of us."
These words caused great consternation among all the ship's company, and only
too soon we were to find out that the captain spoke truly. There appeared a vast
multitude of hideous savages, not more than two feet high and covered with
reddish fur. Throwing themselves into the waves they surrounded our vessel.
Chattering meanwhile in a language we could not understand, and clutching at
ropes and gangways, they swarmed up the ship's side with such speed and agility
that they almost seemed to fly.
You may imagine the rage and terror that seized us as we watched them, neither
daring to hinder them nor able to speak a word to deter them from their purpose,
whatever it might be. Of this we were not left long in doubt. Hoisting the
sails, and cutting the cable of the anchor, they sailed our vessel to an island
which lay a little further off, where they drove us ashore; then taking
possession of her, they made off to the place from which they had come, leaving
us helpless upon a shore avoided with horror by all mariners for a reason which
you will soon learn.
Turning away from the sea we wandered miserably inland, finding as we went
various herbs and fruits which we ate, feeling that we might as well live as
long as possible though we had no hope of escape. Presently we saw in tho far
distance what seemed to us to be a splendid palace, towards which we turned our
weary steps, but when we reached it we saw that it was a castle, lofty, and
strongly built. Pushing back the heavy ebony doors we entered the courtyard, but
upon the threshold of the great hall beyond it we paused, frozen with horror, at
the sight which greeted us. On one side lay a huge pile of bones--human bones,
and on the other numberless spits for roasting! Overcome with despair we sank
trembling to the ground, and lay there without speech or motion. The sun was
setting when a loud noise aroused us, the door of the hall was violently burst
open and a horrible giant entered. He was as tall as a palm tree, and perfectly
black, and had one eye, which flamed like a burning coal in the middle of his
forehead. His teeth were long and sharp and grinned horribly, while his lower
lip hung down upon his chest, and he had ears like elephant's ears, which
covered his shoulders, and nails like the claws of some fierce bird.
At this terrible sight our senses left us and we lay like dead men. When at last
we came to ourselves the giant sat examining us attentively with his fearful
eye. Presently when he had looked at us enough he came towards us, and
stretching out his hand took me by the back of the neck, turning me this way and
that, but feeling that I was mere skin and bone he set me down again and went on
to the next, whom he treated in the same fashion; at last he came to the
captain, and finding him the fattest of us all, he took him up in one hand and
stuck him upon a spit and proceeded to kindle a huge fire at which he presently
roasted him. After the giant had supped he lay down to sleep, snoring like the
loudest thunder, while we lay shivering with horror the whole night through, and
when day broke he awoke and went out, leaving us in the castle.
When we believed him to be really gone we started up bemoaning our horrible
fate, until the hall echoed with our despairing cries. Though we were many and
our enemy was alone it did not occur to us to kill him, and indeed we should
have found that a hard task, even if we had thought of it, and no plan could we
devise to deliver ourselves. So at last, submitting to our sad fate, we spent
the day in wandering up and down the island eating such fruits as we could find,
and when night came we returned to the castle, having sought in vain for any
other place of shelter. At sunset the giant returned, supped upon one of our
unhappy comrades, slept and snored till dawn, and then left us as before. Our
condition seemed to us so frightful that several of my companions thought it
would be better to leap from the cliffs and perish in the waves at once, rather
than await so miserable an end; but I had a plan of escape which I now unfolded
to them, and which they at once agreed to attempt.
"Listen, my brothers," I added. "You know that plenty of driftwood lies along
the shore. Let us make several rafts, and carry them to a suitable place. If our
plot succeeds, we can wait patiently for the chance of some passing ship which
would rescue us from this fatal island. If it fails, we must quickly take to our
rafts; frail as they are, we have more chance of saving our lives with them than
we have if we remain here."
All agreed with me, and we spent the day in building rafts, each capable of
carrying three persons. At nightfall we returned to the castle, and very soon in
came the giant, and one more of our number was sacrificed. But the time of our
vengeance was at hand! As soon as he had finished his horrible repast he lay
down to sleep as before, and when we heard him begin to snore I, and nine of the
boldest of my comrades, rose softly, and took each a spit, which we made red-hot
in the fire, and then at a given signal we plunged it with one accord into the
giant's eye, completely blinding him. Uttering a terrible cry, he sprang to his
feet clutching in all directions to try to seize one of us, but we had all fled
different ways as soon as the deed was done, and thrown ourselves flat upon the
ground in corners where he was not likely to touch us with his feet.
After a vain search he fumbled about till he found the door, and fled out of it
howling frightfully. As for us, when he was gone we made haste to leave the
fatal castle, and, stationing ourselves beside our rafts, we waited to see what
would happen. Our idea was that if, when the sun rose, we saw nothing of the
giant, and no longer heard his howls, which still came faintly through the
darkness, growing more and more distant, we should conclude that he was dead,
and that we might safely stay upon the island and need not risk our lives upon
the frail rafts. But alas! morning light showed us our enemy approaching us,
supported on either hand by two giants nearly as large and fearful as himself,
while a crowd of others followed close upon their heels. Hesitating no longer we
clambered upon our rafts and rowed with all our might out to sea. The giants,
seeing their prey escaping them, seized up huge pieces of rock, and wading into
the water hurled them after us with such good aim that all the rafts except the
one I was upon were swamped, and their luckless crews drowned, without our being
able to do anything to help them. Indeed I and my two companions had all we
could do to keep our own raft beyond the reach of the giants, but by dint of
hard rowing we at last gained the open sea. Here we were at the mercy of the
winds and waves, which tossed us to and fro all that day and night, but the next
morning we found ourselves near an island, upon which we gladly landed.
There we found delicious fruits, and having satisfied our hunger we presently
lay down to rest upon the shore. Suddenly we were aroused by a loud rustling
noise, and starting up, saw that it was caused by an immense snake which was
gliding towards us over the sand. So swiftly it came that it had seized one of
my comrades before he had time to fly, and in spite of his cries and struggles
speedily crushed the life out of him in its mighty coils and proceeded to
swallow him. By this time my other companion and I were running for our lives to
some place where we might hope to be safe from this new horror, and seeing a
tall tree we climbed up into it, having first provided ourselves with a store of
fruit off the surrounding bushes. When night came I fell asleep, but only to be
awakened once more by the terrible snake, which after hissing horribly round the
tree at last reared itself up against it, and finding my sleeping comrade who
was perched just below me, it swallowed him also, and crawled away leaving me
half dead with terror.
When the sun rose I crept down from the tree with hardly a hope of escaping the
dreadful fate which had over-taken my comrades; but life is sweet, and I
determined to do all I could to save myself. All day long I toiled with frantic
haste and collected quantities of dry brushwood, reeds and thorns, which I bound
with faggots, and making a circle of them under my tree I piled them firmly one
upon another until I had a kind of tent in which I crouched like a mouse in a
hole when she sees the cat coming. You may imagine what a fearful night I
passed, for the snake returned eager to devour me, and glided round and round my
frail shelter seeking an entrance. Every moment I feared that it would succeed
in pushing aside some of the faggots, but happily for me they held together, and
when it grew light my enemy retired, baffled and hungry, to his den. As for me I
was more dead than alive! Shaking with fright and half suffocated by the
poisonous breath of the monster, I came out of my tent and crawled down to the
sea, feeling that it would be better to plunge from the cliffs and end my life
at once than pass such another night of horror. But to my joy and relief I saw a
ship sailing by, and by shouting wildly and waving my turban I managed to
attract the attention of her crew.
A boat was sent to rescue me, and very soon I found myself on board surrounded
by a wondering crowd of sailors and merchants eager to know by what chance I
found myself in that desolate island. After I had told my story they regaled me
with the choicest food the ship afforded, and the captain, seeing that I was in
rags, generously bestowed upon me one of his own coats. After sailing about for
some time and touching at many ports we came at last to the island of Salahat,
where sandal wood grows in great abundance. Here we anchored, and as I stood
watching the merchants disembarking their goods and preparing to sell or
exchange them, the captain came up to me and said,
"I have here, brother, some merchandise belonging to a passenger of mine who is
dead. Will you do me the favour to trade with it, and when I meet with his heirs
I shall be able to give them the money, though it will be only just that you
shall have a portion for your trouble."
I consented gladly, for I did not like standing by idle. Whereupon he pointed
the bales out to me, and sent for the person whose duty it was to keep a list of
the goods that were upon the ship. When this man came he asked in what name the
merchandise was to be registered.
"In the name of Sindbad the Sailor," replied the captain.
At this I was greatly surprised, but looking carefully at him I recognised him
to be the captain of the ship upon which I had made my second voyage, though he
had altered much since that time. As for him, believing me to be dead it was no
wonder that he had not recognised me.
"So, captain," said I, "the merchant who owned those bales was called Sindbad?"
"Yes," he replied. "He was so named. He belonged to Bagdad, and joined my ship
at Balsora, but by mischance he was left behind upon a desert island where we
had landed to fill up our water-casks, and it was not until four hours later
that he was missed. By that time the wind had freshened, and it was impossible
to put back for him."
"You suppose him to have perished then?" said I.
"Alas! yes," he answered.
"Why, captain!" I cried, "look well at me. I am that Sindbad who fell asleep
upon the island and awoke to find himself abandoned!"
The captain stared at me in amazement, but was presently convinced that I was
indeed speaking the truth, and rejoiced greatly at my escape.
"I am glad to have that piece of carelessness off my conscience at any rate,"
said he. "Now take your goods, and the profit I have made for you upon them, and
may you prosper in future."
I took them gratefully, and as we went from one island to another I laid in
stores of cloves, cinnamon, and other spices. In one place I saw a tortoise
which was twenty cubits long and as many broad, also a fish that was like a cow
and had skin so thick that it was used to make shields. Another I saw that was
like a camel in shape and colour. So by degrees we came back to Balsora, and I
returned to Bagdad with so much money that I could not myself count it, besides
treasures without end. I gave largely to the poor, and bought much land to add
to what I already possessed, and thus ended my third voyage.
When Sindbad had finished his story he gave another hundred sequins to Hindbad,
who then departed with the other guests, but next day when they had all
reassembled, and the banquet was ended, their host continued his adventures.
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