In the reign of the same caliph, Haroun al Raschid, of whom we have already heard, there lived at Bagdad a poor porter, called Hindbad. One day, when the weather was excessively hot, he was employed to carry a heavy burden from one end of the town to the other. Being much fatigued, he took off his load, and sat upon it, near a large mansion.
He was much pleased that he stopped at this place, for the agreeable smell of wood of aloes and of pastils, that came from the house, mixing with the scent of the rose water, completely perfumed and embalmed the air. Besides, he heard from within a concert of instrumental music, accompanied with the harmonious notes of nightingales and other birds. This charming melody, and the smell of several sorts of savory dishes, made the porter conclude there was a feast, with great rejoicings within. His business seldom leading him that way, he knew not to whom the mansion belonged; but he went to some of the servants, whom he saw standing at the gate in magnificent apparel, and asked the name of the proprietor.
"How," replied one of them, "do you live in Bagdad, and know not that this is the house of Sindbad the sailor, that famous voyager, who has sailed round the world?"
The porter lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, loud enough to be heard, "Almighty Creator of all things, consider the difference between Sindbad and me! I am every day exposed to fatigues and calamities, and can scarcely get coarse barley bread for myself and my family, while happy Sindbad profusely expends immense riches, and leads a life of continual pleasure. What has he done to obtain from Thee a lot so agreeable? And what have I done to deserve one so wretched?"
While the porter was thus indulging his melancholy, a servant came out of the house, and taking him by the arm, bade him follow him, for Sindbad, his master, wanted to speak to him.
The servant brought him into a great hall, where a number of people sat round a table covered with all sorts of savory dishes. At the upper end sat a comely, venerable gentleman, with a long white beard, and behind him stood a number of officers and domestics, all ready to attend his pleasure. This person was Sindbad. Hindbad, whose fear was increased at the sight of so many people, and of a banquet so sumptuous, saluted the company, trembling. Sindbad bade him draw near, and seating him at his right hand, served him himself, and gave him excellent wine, of which there was abundance upon the sideboard.
Now Sindbad had himself heard the porter complain through the window, and this it was that induced him to have him brought in. When the repast was over, Sindbad addressed his conversation to Hindbad, and inquired his name and employment, and said, "I wish to hear from your own mouth what it was you lately said in the street."
At this request, Hindbad hung down his head in confusion, and replied, "My lord, I confess that my fatigue put me out of humor and occasioned me to utter some indiscreet words, which I beg you to pardon."
"Do not think I am so unjust," resumed Sindbad, "as to resent such a complaint. But I must rectify your error concerning myself. You think, no doubt, that I have acquired without labor and trouble the ease and indulgence which I now enjoy. But do not mistake; I did not attain to this happy condition without enduring for several years more trouble of body and mind than can well be imagined. Yes, gentlemen," he added, speaking to the whole company, "I assure you that my sufferings have been of a nature so extraordinary as would deprive the greatest miser of his love of riches; and as an opportunity now offers, I will, with your leave, relate the dangers I have encountered, which I think will not be uninteresting to you."
My father was a wealthy merchant of much repute. He bequeathed me a large estate, which I wasted in riotous living. I quickly perceived my error, and that I was misspending my time, which is of all things the most valuable. I remembered the saying of the great Solomon, which I had frequently heard from my father, "A good name is better than precious ointment," and again, "Wisdom is good with an inheritance." Struck with these reflections, I resolved to walk in my father's ways, and I entered into a contract with some merchants, and embarked with them on board a ship we had jointly fitted out.
We set sail, and steered our course toward the Indies, through the Persian Gulf, which is formed by the coasts of Arabia Felix on the right, and by those of Persia on the left. At first I was troubled with seasickness, but speedily recovered my health, and was not afterward subject to that complaint.
In our voyage we touched at several islands, where we sold or exchanged our goods. One day, while under sail, we were becalmed near a small island, but little elevated above the level of the water, and resembling a green meadow. The captain ordered his sails to be furled, and permitted such persons as were so inclined to land; of this number I was one.
But while we were enjoying ourselves in eating and drinking, and recovering ourselves from the fatigue of the sea, the island on a sudden trembled, and shook us terribly.
The trembling of the island was perceived on board the ship, and we were called upon to reëmbark speedily, or we should all be lost; for what we took for an island proved to be the back of a sea monster. The nimblest got into the sloop, others betook themselves to swimming; but as for myself, I was still upon the island when it disappeared into the sea, and I had only time to catch hold of a piece of wood that we had brought out of the ship to make a fire. Meanwhile the captain, having received those on board who were in the sloop, and taken up some of those that swam, resolved to improve the favorable gale that had just risen, and hoisting his sails pursued his voyage, so that it was impossible for me to recover the ship.
Thus was I exposed to the mercy of the waves all the rest of the day and the following night. By this time I found my strength gone, and despaired of saving my life, when happily a wave threw me against an island. The bank was high and rugged, so that I could scarcely have got up had it not been for some roots of trees which I found within reach. When the sun arose, though I was very feeble, both from hard labor and want of food, I crept along to find some herbs fit to eat, and had the good luck not only to procure some, but likewise to discover a spring of excellent water, which contributed much to recover me. After this I advanced farther into the island, and at last reached a fine plain, where I perceived some horses feeding. I went toward them, when I heard the voice of a man, who immediately appeared, and asked me who I was. I related to him my adventure, after which, taking me by the hand, he led me into a cave, where there were several other people, no less amazed to see me than I was to see them.
I partook of some provisions which they offered me. I then asked them what they did in such a desert place; to which they answered that they were grooms belonging to the maharaja, sovereign of the island, and that every year they brought thither the king's horses for pasturage. They added that they were to return home on the morrow, and had I been one day later I must have perished, because the inhabited part of the island was a great distance off, and it would have been impossible for me to have got thither without a guide.
Next morning they returned to the capital of the island, took me with them, and presented me to the maharaja. He asked me who I was, and by what adventure I had come into his dominions. After I had satisfied him, he told me he was much concerned for my misfortune, and at the same time ordered that I should want for nothing; which commands his officers were so generous and careful as to see exactly fulfilled.
Being a merchant, I frequented men of my own profession, and particularly inquired for those who were strangers, that perchance I might hear news from Bagdad, or find an opportunity to return. For the maharaja's capital is situated on the seacoast, and has a fine harbor, where ships arrive daily from the different quarters of the world. I frequented also the society of the learned Indians, and took delight to hear them converse; but withal, I took care to make my court regularly to the maharaja, and conversed with the governors and petty kings, his tributaries, that were about him. They put a thousand questions respecting my country; and I, being willing to inform myself as to their laws and customs, asked them concerning everything which I thought worth knowing.
There belongs to this king an island named Cassel. They assured me that every night a noise of drums was heard there, whence the mariners fancied that it was the residence of Gegial. I determined to visit this wonderful place, and in my way thither saw fishes of one hundred and two hundred cubits long, that occasion more fear than hurt; for they are so timorous that they will fly upon the rattling of two sticks or boards. I saw likewise other fish, about a cubit in length, that had heads like owls.
As I was one day at the port after my return, the ship arrived in which I had embarked at Bussorah. I at once knew the captain, and I went and asked him for my bales. "I am Sindbad," said I, "and those bales marked with his name are mine."
When the captain heard me speak thus, "Heavens!" he exclaimed, "whom can we trust in these times! I saw Sindbad perish with my own eyes, as did also the passengers on board, and yet you tell me you are that Sindbad. What impudence is this! And what a false tale to tell, in order to possess yourself of what does not belong to you!"
"Have patience," replied I. "Do me the favor to hear what I have to say."
The captain was at length persuaded that I was no cheat; for there came people from his ship who knew me, paid me great compliments, and expressed much joy at seeing me alive. At last he recollected me himself, and embracing me, "Heaven be praised," said he, "for your happy escape! I cannot express the joy it affords me. There are your goods; take and do with them as you please."
I took out what was most valuable in my bales, and presented them to the maharaja, who, knowing my misfortune, asked me how I came by such rarities. I acquainted him with the circumstance of their recovery. He was pleased at my good luck, accepted my present, and in return gave me one much more considerable. Upon this I took leave of him, and went aboard the same ship after I had exchanged my goods for the commodities of that country. I carried with me wood of aloes, sandals, camphor, nutmegs, cloves, pepper, and ginger. We passed by several islands, and at last arrived at Bussorah, from whence I came to this city, with the value of one hundred thousand sequins.
Sindbad stopped here, and ordered the musicians to proceed with their concert, which the story had interrupted. When it was evening, Sindbad sent for a purse of one hundred sequins, and giving it to the porter, said, "Take this, Hindbad, return to your home, and come back to-morrow to hear more of my adventures." The porter went away, astonished at the honor done him, and the present made him. The account of this adventure proved very agreeable to his wife and children, who did not fail to return thanks for what Providence had sent them by the hand of Sindbad.
Hindbad put on his best robe next day, and returned to the bountiful traveler, who received him with a pleasant air, and welcomed him heartily. When all the guests had arrived, dinner was served, and continued a long time. When it was ended, Sindbad, addressing himself to the company, said, "Gentlemen, be pleased to listen to the adventures of my second voyage. They deserve your attention even more than those of the first."
Upon which every one held his peace, and Sindbad proceeded.
Thank you for reading!