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In the reign of the same caliph Haroun al Rusheed, whom I have already mentioned, 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, and having still a great way to go, he came into a street where a refreshing breeze blew on his face, and the pavement was sprinkled with rose-water. As he could not desire a better place to rest and recruit himself, he took off his load and sat upon it, near a large mansion.
He was much pleased that he stopped in 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, peculiar to the climate. This charming melody, and the smell of several sorts of savoury 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 to satisfy his curiosity, 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 Sinbad, the sailor, that famous voyager, who has sailed round the world?" The porter, who had heard of this Sinbad's riches, could not but envy a man whose condition he thought to be as happy as his own was deplorable: and his mind being fretted with these reflections, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said loud enough to be heard, "Almighty creator of all things, consider the difference between Sinbad and me! I am every day exposed to fatigues and calamities, and can scarcely get coarse barley-bread for myself and my family, whilst happy Sinbad 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?" Having finished his expostulation, he struck his foot against the ground, like a man absorbed in grief and despair.
Whilst 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 Sinbad, his master, wanted to speak to him.
Sir, your majesty may easily imagine, that the repining Hindbad was not a little surprised at this compliment. For, considering what he had said, he was afraid Sinbad had sent for him to punish him: therefore he would have excused himself, alleging, that he could not leave his burden in the middle of the street. But Sinbad's servants assured him they would look to it, and were so urgent with him, that he was obliged to yield.
The servants brought him into a great hall, where a number of people sat round a table, covered with all sorts of savoury 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 personage was Sinbad. The porter, whose fear was increased at the sight of so many people, and of a banquet so sumptuous, saluted the company trembling. Sinbad 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.
When the repast was over, Sinbad addressed his conversation to Hindbad; and calling him brother, according to the manner of the Arabians, when they are familiar one with another, enquired his name and employment.
"My lord," answered he, "my name is Hindbad." "I am very glad to see you," replied Sinbad; "and I daresay the same on behalf of all the company: but I wish to hear from your own mouth what it was you lately said in the street." Sinbad had himself heard the porter complain through the window, and this it was that induced him to have him brought in.
At this request, Hindbad hung down his head in confusion, and replied, "My lord, I confess that my fatigue put me out of humour, and occasioned me to utter some indiscreet words, which I beg you to pardon." "Do not think I am so unjust," resumed Sinbad, "as to resent such a complaint. I consider your condition, and instead of upbraiding, commiserate you. But I must rectify your error concerning myself. You think, no doubt, that I have acquired, without labour 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 can assure you, my troubles were so extraordinary, that they were calculated to discourage the most covetous from undertaking such voyages as I did, to acquire riches. Perhaps you have never heard a distinct account of my wonderful adventures, and the dangers I encountered, in my seven voyages; and since I have this opportunity, I will give you a faithful account of them, not doubting but it will be acceptable."
As Sinbad wished to relate his adventures chiefly on the porter's account, he ordered his burden to be carried to the place of its destination, and then proceeded.
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Scott, Jonathan (1754-1829). The Arabian Nights Entertainments. London: Pickering and Chatto, 1890. 4 Volumes. Project Gutenberg.
1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM