Arabian Nights: The Second Voyage of Sindbad

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“As I had the honour to tell you yesterday, I had resolved, after my first voyage, to pass the rest of my days in tranquillity at Bagdad. But the desire of seeing foreign countries and carrying on some traffic by sea returned. I bought merchandise and set off a second time with some merchants whose probity I could rely on. We embarked in a good vessel, and recommending ourselves to the care of Allah, we began our voyage.

“We went from island to island, and bartered our goods very profitably. One day we landed on one which was covered with a variety of fruit trees, but so desert that we could not discover any habitation, or the trace of a human being. We walked in the meadows and along the brooks that watered them; and whilst some of my companions were amusing themselves with gathering fruits and flowers, I took out some of the wine and provisions I had brought with me, and seated myself by a little stream under some trees, which afforded a delightful shade. When I had satisfied my hunger, sleep gradually stole over my senses. I cannot say how long I slept, but when I awoke the ship was no longer in view. I was much surprised at this circumstance, and rose to look for my companions, but they were all gone; and I could only just descry the vessel in full sail, at such a distance that I soon lost sight of it.

“You may imagine what were my reflections when I found myself in this dismal state. I thought I should have died with grief. I reproached myself a thousand times for my folly in not being contented with my first voyage, which ought to have satisfied my craving for adventure; but all my regrets were of no avail, and my repentance came too late. At length I resigned myself to the will of Heaven; and not knowing what would become of me, I ascended a high tree, from whence I looked on all sides, to try if I could not discover some object to inspire me with hope. Casting my eyes towards the sea, I could discern only water and sky; but perceiving on the land side a white spot, I descended from the tree, and taking up the remainder of myprovisions, I walked towards the object. As I approached, I perceived it to be a ball of prodigious size, and when I got near enough to touch it, I found it was soft. Iwalked round it to see if there was an opening, but could find none; and the ball appeared so smooth that any attempt to climb it would have been fruitless. Its circumference might be about fifty paces.

“The sun was then near setting; the air grew suddenly dark, as if obscured by a thick cloud. I was surprised at this change, but how much did my amazement increase, when I perceived it to be occasioned by a bird of most extraordinary size, which was flying towards me. I recollected having heard sailors speak of a bird called a roc; and I concluded that the great white ball which had drawn my attention must be the egg of this bird. I was not mistaken; for shortly afterwards it lighted on the white ball, and placed itself as if to sit upon it. When I saw this huge fowl coming I drew near to the egg, so that I had one of the claws of the bird just before me; this claw was as big as the trunk of a large tree. I tied myself to the claw with the linen of my turban, in hopes that the roc, when it took its flight the next morning, would carry me with it out of that desert island. My project succeeded; for at break of day the roc flew away, and bore me to such a height that I could no longer distinguish the earth; then it descended with such rapidity that I almost lost my senses. When the roc had alighted, I quickly untied the knot that bound me to its foot, and had scarcely released myself when it darted on a serpent of immeasurable length, and seizing the snake in its beak, flew away.

“The place in which the roc left me was a very deep valley, surrounded on all sides by mountains of such height that their summits were lost in the clouds, and so steep that there was no possibility of climbing them. This was a fresh embarrassment; for I had no reason to rejoice at my change of situation, when I compared it with the island I had left.

“As I walked along this valley, I remarked that it was strewn with diamonds, some of which were of astonishing size. I amused myself for some time by examining them, but soon perceived from afar some objects which destroyed my pleasure, and created in me great fear. These were a great number of serpents, so long and large that the smallest of them would have swallowed an elephant with ease. During the daytime they hid themselves in caves from the roc, their mortal enemy, and only came out when it was dark. I passed the day in walking about the valley, resting myself occasionally when an opportunity offered; and when the sun set I retired into a small cave, where I thought I should be in safety. I closed the entrance, which was low and narrow, with a stone large enough to protect me from the serpents, but which yet allowed a little light to pass into the cave. I supped on part of myprovisions , and could plainly hear the serpents which began to make their appearance. Their tremendous hissings caused me great fear, and, as you may suppose, I did not pass a very quiet night. When the day appeared the serpents retired. I left my cave with trembling, and may truly say that Iwalked a long time on diamonds, without feeling the least desire to possess them. At last I sat down, and notwithstanding my agitation, after making another meal off myprovisions I fell asleep, for I had not once closed my eyes during all the previous night. I had scarcely began to doze, when something falling near me, with a great noise, awoke me. It was a large piece of fresh meat, and at the same moment I saw a number of other pieces rolling down the rocks from above.

“I had always supposed the account to be fictitious which I had heard related by seamen and others, of the Valley of Diamonds, and of the means by whichmerchants procured these precious gems. I now knew it to be true. The method of proceeding is this: The merchants go to the mountains which surround the valley about the time that the eagles hatch their young. They cut large pieces of meat, and throw them into the valley; and the diamonds on which the lumps of meat fall stick to them. The eagles, which are larger and stronger in that country than in any other, seize these pieces of meat, to carry to their young at the top of the rocks. Themerchants then run to the eagles’ nests, and by various noises oblige the birds to retreat, and then take the diamonds that have stuck to the pieces of meat. I had supposed it impossible ever to leave this valley, and began to look on it as my tomb; but now I changed my opinion, and turned my thoughts to the preservation of my life. I began by collecting the largest diamonds I could find, and with these I filled my leather bag in which I had carried myprovisions . I then took one of the largest pieces of meat, and tied it tight round me with the linen of my turban; in this state I laid myself on the ground, tightly securing my leather bag round me.

” I had not been long in this position before the eagles began to descend, and each seized a piece of meat, with which it flew away. One of the strongest darted on the piece to which I was attached, and carried me up with it to its nest. Themerchants then began their cries to frighten away the eagles; and when they had obliged the birds to quit their prey, one of them approached, but was much surprised and alarmed on seeing me. He soon, however, recovered from his fear; and instead of inquiring by what means I came there, began to quarrel with me for trespassing on what he called his property. ‘You will speak to me with pity instead of anger,’ said I, ‘when you learn by what means I reached this place. Console yourself; for I have diamonds for you as well as for myself; and my diamonds are more valuable than those of all the othermerchants added together. I have myself chosen some of the finest at the bottom of the valley, and have them in this bag.’ Saying this, I showed him my store. I had scarcely finished speaking, when the othermerchants, perceiving me, flocked round me with great astonishment, and their wonder was still greater when I related my history.

“They conducted me to the place where they lived together, and on seeing my diamonds they all expressed their admiration, and declared they had never seen any to equal them in size or quality. The nest into which I had been transported belonged to one of these merchants, for each merchant has his own; I entreated him, therefore, to choose for himself from my stock as many as he pleased. He contented himself with taking only one, and that too was the smallest I had, and as I pressed him to take more, without fear of wronging me, he refused. ‘No,’ said he, ‘I am very well satisfied with this, which is sufficiently valuable to spare me the trouble of making any more voyages to complete my little fortune.’

“The merchants had been for some days in that spot, and as they now appeared to be contented with the diamonds they had collected, we set off all together on the following day, and travelled over high mountains, which were infested by prodigious serpents; but we had the good fortune to escape them. We reached the nearest port in safety, and from thence embarked for the Isle of Roha, where I exchanged some of my diamonds for valuable merchandise. We set sail for other islands; and at last, after having touched at several ports, we reached Balsora, from which place I returned to Bagdad. The first thing I did was to distribute a great deal of money amongst the poor; and I enjoyed with credit and honour the remainder of my immense riches, which I had acquired with such labour and fatigue.”

Here Sindbad closed the relation of his second voyage. He again ordered a hundred sequins to be given to Hindbad, whom he invited to come on the morrow to hear the history of the third.

The guests returned home: and the following day repaired at the usual hour to the house of Sindbad; where the porter, who had almost forgotten his poverty, also made his appearance. They sat down to table; and when the repast was ended, Sindbad began to tell the story of his third voyage.

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