The pleasures I enjoyed again had charm enough to make me forget all the troubles and calamities I had undergone, without curing me of my inclination to make new voyages.
Therefore I bought goods, ordered them to be packed up and loaded, and set out with them for the best seaport; and there, that I might not be obliged to depend upon a captain, but have a ship at my own command, I waited till one was built on purpose at my own expense. When the ship was ready, I went on board with my goods; but not having enough to load her, I took on board with me several merchants of different nations, with their merchandise.
We sailed with the first fair wind, and after a long voyage, the first place we touched at was a desert island, where we found an egg of a roc, equal in size to that I formerly mentioned. There was a young roc in it just ready to be hatched, and the bill of it began to appear.
The merchants whom I had taken on board my ship, and who landed with me, broke the egg with hatchets, and made a hole in it, from whence they pulled out the young roc piece by piece, and roasted it. I had earnestly persuaded them not to meddle with the egg, but they would not listen to me.
Scarcely had they made an end of their feast, when there appeared in the air, at a considerable distance from us, two great clouds. The captain whom I hired to manage my ship, knowing by experience what it meant, cried that it was the cock and hen roc that belonged to the young one, and pressed us to re-embark with all speed, to prevent the misfortune which he saw would otherwise befall us. We made haste to do so, and set sail with all possible diligence.
In the meantime the two rocs approached with a frightful noise, which they redoubled when they saw the egg broken, and their young one gone. But having a mind to avenge themselves, they flew back towards the place from whence they came, and disappeared for some time, while we made all the sail we could to prevent that which unhappily befell us.
They returned, and we observed that each of them carried between their talons stones, or rather rocks, of a monstrous size. When they came directly over my ship, they hovered, and one of them let fall a stone; but by the dexterity of the steersman, who turned the ship with the rudder, it missed us, and falling by the side of the ship into the sea, divided the water so that we could see almost to the bottom. The other roc, to our misfortune, threw the stone so exactly upon the middle of the ship that it split into a thousand pieces. The mariners and passengers were all killed by the stone, or sunk. I myself had the last fate; but as I came up again I fortunately caught hold of a piece of the wreck, and swimming sometimes with one hand and sometimes with the other, but always holding fast to my board, the wind and the tide favouring me, I came to an island, where the beach was very steep. I overcame that difficulty however, and got ashore.
I sat down upon the grass, to recover myself a little from my fatigue, after which I got up, and went into the island to view it. It seemed to be a delicious garden. I found trees everywhere, some of them bearing green and others ripe fruits, and streams of fresh pure water, with pleasant windings and turnings. I ate of the fruits, which I found excellent, and drank of the water, which was very pleasant.
Night being come, I lay down upon the grass in a convenient place enough, but I could not sleep for an hour at a time, my mind was so disturbed with the fear of being alone in so desert a place. Thus I spent the best part of the night in fretting, and reproached myself for my imprudence in not staying at home, rather than undertaking this last voyage. These reflections carried me so far, that I began to form a design against my own life, but daylight dispersed these melancholy thoughts, and I got up, and walked among the trees, but not without apprehensions of danger.
When I was a little advanced into the island, I saw an old man who appeared very weak and feeble. He sat upon the bank of a stream, and at first I took him to be one who had been shipwrecked like myself. I went towards him and saluted him, but he only bowed his head a little. I asked him what he did there, but instead of answering he made a sign for me to take him upon my back and carry him over the brook, signifying that it was to gather fruit.
I believed him really to stand in need of my help, so took him upon my back, and having carried him over, bade him get down, and for that end stooped that he might get off with ease: but instead of that (which I laugh at every time I think of it), the old man, who to me had appeared very decrepit, clasped his legs nimbly about my neck, and then I perceived his skin to resemble that of a cow. He sat astride upon my shoulders, and held my throat so tight that I thought he would have strangled me, the fright of which made me faint away and fall down.
Notwithstanding my fainting, the ill-natured old fellow kept fast about my neck, but opened his legs a little to give me time to recover my breath. When I had done so, he thrust one of his feet against my stomach, and struck me so rudely on the side with the other, that he forced me to rise up against my will. Having got up, he made me walk under the trees, and forced me now and then to stop, to gather and eat fruit such as we found. He never left me all day, and when I lay down to rest by night, he laid himself down with me, always holding fast about my neck. Every morning he pushed me to make me wake, and afterwards obliged me to get up and walk, and pressed me with his feet. You may judge then what trouble I was in, to be loaded with such a burden as I could by no means rid myself of.
One day I found in my way several dry calabashes that had fallen from a tree; I took a large one, and, after cleaning it, pressed into it some juice of grapes, which abounded in the island. Having filled the calabash, I set it in a convenient place; and coming hither again some days after, I took up my calabash, and setting it to my mouth found the wine to be so good that it presently made me not only forget my sorrow, but grow vigorous, and so light-hearted that I began to sing and dance as I walked along.
The old man, perceiving the effect which this drink had upon me, and that I carried him with more ease than I did before, made a sign for me to give him some of it. I gave him the calabash, and the liquor pleasing his palate, he drank it all off. He became drunk immediately, and the fumes getting up into his head he began to sing after his manner, and to dance upon my shoulders. His jolting about made him sick, and he loosened his legs from about me by degrees; so finding that he did not press me as before, I threw him upon the ground, where he lay without motion, and then I took up a great stone, with which I crushed his head to pieces.
I was extremely rejoiced to be freed thus for ever from this cursed old fellow, and walked along the shore of the sea, where I met the crew of a ship that had cast anchor to take in water to refresh themselves. They were extremely surprised to see me, and to hear the particulars of my adventures. ‘You fell,’ said they, ‘into the hands of the old man of the sea, and are the first that has ever escaped strangling by him. He never left those he had once made himself master of till he destroyed them, and he has made this island famous for the number of men he has slain; so that the merchants and mariners who landed upon it dared not advance into the island but in numbers together.’
After having informed me of these things they carried me with them to the ship; the captain received me with great satisfaction when they told him what had befallen me. He put out again to sea, and after some days’ sail we arrived at the harbour of a great city, where the houses were built of good stone.
One of the merchants of the ship, who had taken me into his friendship, asked me to go along with him, and took me to a place appointed as a retreat for foreign merchants. He gave me a great bag, and having recommended me to some people of the town, who were used to gather cocoa-nuts, he desired them to take me with them to do the like: ‘Go,’ said he, ‘follow them, and do as you see them do, and do not separate from them, otherwise you endanger your life.’ Having thus spoken, he gave me provisions for the journey, and I went with them.
We came to a great forest of trees, extremely straight and tall, their trunks so smooth that it was not possible for any man to climb up to the branches that bore the fruit. All the trees were cocoa-nut trees, and when we entered the forest we saw a great number of apes of all sizes, that fled as soon as they perceived us, and climbed up to the top of the trees with surprising swiftness.
The merchants with whom I was gathered stones, and threw them at the apes on the top of the trees. I did the same, and the apes, out of revenge, threw cocoa-nuts at us as fast and with such gestures as sufficiently testified their anger and resentment: we gathered up the cocoa-nuts, and from time to time threw stones to provoke the apes; so that by this stratagem we filled our bags with cocoa- nuts, which it had been impossible for us to do otherwise.
When we had gathered our number, we returned to the city, where the merchant who sent me to the forest gave me the value of the cocoa- nuts I had brought; ‘Go on,’ said he, ‘and do the like every day, until you have money enough to carry you home.’ I thanked him for his good advice, and gathered together as many cocoa-nuts as amounted to a considerable sum.
The vessel in which I came sailed with merchants who loaded her with cocoa-nuts. I expected the arrival of another, whose merchants landed speedily for the like loading. I embarked on board the same all the cocoa-nuts that belonged to me, and when she was ready to sail I went and took leave of the merchant who had been so kind to me; but he could not embark with me because he had not finished his business.
We set sail towards the islands where pepper grows in great plenty. From thence we went to the Isle of Comari, where the best sort of wood of aloes grows, and whose inhabitants have made it an inviolable law to drink no wine themselves, nor to suffer any kind of improper conduct. I exchanged my cocoa-nuts in those two islands for pepper and wood of aloes, and went with other merchants pearl- fishing. I hired divers, who fetched me up those that were very large and pure. Then I embarked joyfully in a vessel that happily arrived at Balsora; from thence I returned to Bagdad, where I made vast sums by my pepper, wood of aloes, and pearls. I gave the tenth of my gains in alms, as I had done upon my return from other voyages, and endeavoured to ease myself from my fatigue by diversions of all sorts.
Fairy Tales from the Arabian Nights.
Edited by E. Dixon
The text of the present selection from the Arabian Nights is that of Galland, 1821, slightly abridged and edited. The edition is designed virginibus puerisque.