[Go back to The Third Voyage]
The pleasures and amusements which I enjoyed after my third voyage had not charms sufficient to divert me from another. My passion for trade, and my love of novelty, again prevailed. I therefore settled my affairs, and having provided a stock of goods fit for the traffic I designed to engage in, I set out on my journey. I took the route of Persia, travelled over several provinces, and then arrived at a port, where I embarked. We hoisted our sails, and touched at several ports of the continent, and some of the eastern islands, and put out to sea: we were overtaken by such a sudden gust of wind, as obliged the captain to lower his yards, and take all other necessary precautions to prevent the danger that threatened us. But all was in vain our endeavours had no effect; the sails were split in a thousand pieces, and the ship was stranded; several of the merchants and seamen were drowned and the cargo was lost.
I had the good fortune, with several of the merchants and mariners, to get upon some planks, and we were carried by the current to an island which lay before us. There we found fruit and spring water, which preserved our lives. We staid all night near the place where we had been cast ashore, without consulting what we should do; our misfortune had so much dispirited us that we could not deliberate.
Next morning, as soon as the sun was up, we walked from the shore, and advancing into the island, saw some houses, which we approached. As soon as we drew near, we were encompassed by a great number of negroes, who seized us, shared us among them, and carried us to their respective habitations.
I, and five of my comrades, were carried to one place; here they made us sit down, and gave us a certain herb, which they made signs to us to eat. My comrades not taking notice that the blacks ate none of it themselves, thought only of satisfying their hunger, and ate with greediness. But I, suspecting some trick, would not so much as taste it, which happened well for me; for in little time after, I perceived my companions had lost their senses, and that when they spoke to me, they knew not what they said.
The negroes fed us afterwards with rice, prepared with oil of cocoa-nuts; and my comrades, who had lost their reason, ate of it greedily. I also partook of it, but very sparingly. They gave us that herb at first on purpose to deprive us of our senses, that we might not be aware of the sad destiny prepared for us; and they supplied us with rice to fatten us; for, being cannibals, their design was to eat us as soon as we grew fat. This accordingly happened, for they devoured my comrades, who were not sensible of their condition; but my senses being entire, you may easily guess that instead of growing fat, as the rest did, I grew leaner every day. The fear of death under which I laboured, turned all my food into poison. I fell into a languishing distemper, which proved my safety; for the negroes, having killed and eaten my companions, seeing me to be withered, lean, and sick, deferred my death.
Meanwhile I had much liberty, so that scarcely any notice was taken of what I did, and this gave me an opportunity one day to get at a distance from the houses, and to make my escape. An old man, who saw me, and suspected my design, called to me as loud as he could to return; but instead of obeying him, I redoubled my speed, and quickly got out of sight. At that time there was none but the old man about the houses, the rest being abroad, and not to return till night, which was usual with them. Therefore, being sure that they could not arrive time enough to pursue me, I went on till night, when I stopped to rest a little, and to eat some of the provisions I had secured; but I speedily set forward again, and travelled seven days, avoiding those places which seemed to be inhabited, and lived for the most part upon cocoa- nuts, which served me both for meat and drink. On the eighth day I came near the sea, and saw some white people like myself, gathering pepper, of which there was great plenty in that place. This I took to be a good omen, and went to them without any scruple.
The people who gathered pepper came to meet me as soon as they saw me, and asked me in Arabic who I was, and whence I came? I was overjoyed to hear them speak in my own language, and satisfied their curiosity, by giving them an account of my shipwreck, and how I fell into the hands of the negroes. "Those negroes," replied they, "eat men, and by what miracle did you escape their cruelty?" I related to them the circumstances I have just mentioned, at which they were wonderfully surprised.
I staid with them till they had gathered their quantity of pepper, and then sailed with them to the island from whence they had come. They presented me to their king, who was a good prince. He had the patience to hear the relation of my adventures, which surprised him; and he afterwards gave me clothes, and commanded care to be taken of me.
The island was very well peopled, plentiful in everything, and the capital a place of great trade. This agreeable retreat was very comfortable to me after my misfortunes, and the kindness of this generous prince completed my satisfaction. In a word, there was not a person more in favour with him than myself; and, consequently, every man in court and city sought to oblige me; so that in a very little time I was looked upon rather as a native than a stranger.
I observed one thing, which to me appeared very extraordinary. All the people, the king himself not excepted, rode their horses without saddle, bridle, or stirrups. This made me one day take the liberty to ask the king how it came to pass? His majesty answered, that I talked to him of things which nobody knew the use of in his dominions.
I went immediately to a workman, and gave him a model for making the stock of a saddle. When that was done, I covered it myself with velvet and leather, and embroidered it with gold. I afterwards went to a smith, who made me a bit, according to the pattern I shewed him, and also some stirrups. When I had all things completed, I presented them to the king, and put them upon one of his horses. His majesty mounted immediately, and was so pleased with them, that he testified his satisfaction by large presents. I could not avoid making several others for the ministers and principal officers of his household, who all of them made me presents that enriched me in a little time. I also made some for the people of best quality in the city, which gained me great reputation and regard.
As I paid my court very constantly to the king, he said to me one day, "Sinbad, I love thee; and all my subjects who know thee, treat thee according to my example. I have one thing to demand of thee, which thou must grant." "Sir," answered I, "there is nothing but I will do, as a mark of my obedience to your majesty, whose power over me is absolute." "I have a mind thou shouldst marry," replied he, "that so thou mayst stay in my dominions, and think no more of thy own country." I durst not resist the prince's will, and he gave me one of the ladies of his court, noble, beautiful, and rich. The ceremonies of marriage being over, I went and dwelt with my wife, and for some time we lived together in perfect harmony. I was not, however, satisfied with my banishment, therefore designed to make my escape the first opportunity, and to return to Bagdad; which my present settlement, how advantageous soever, could not make me forget.
At this time the wife of one of my neighbours, with whom I had contrasted a very strict friendship, fell sick, and died. I went to see and comfort him in his affliction, and finding him absorbed in sorrow, I said to him as soon as I saw him, "God preserve you and grant you a long life." "Alas!" replied he, "how do you think I should obtain the favour you wish me? I have not above an hour to live." "Pray," said I, "do not entertain such a melancholy thought; I hope I shall enjoy your company many years." "I wish you," he replied, "a long life; but my days are at an end, for I must be buried this day with my wife. This is a law which our ancestors established in this island, and it is always observed inviolably. The living husband is interred with the dead wife, and the living wife with the dead husband. Nothing can save me; every one must submit to this law."
While he was giving me an account of this barbarous custom, the very relation of which chilled my blood, his kindred, friends, and neighbours, came in a body to assist at the funeral. They dressed the corpse of the woman in her richest apparel, and all her jewels, as if it had been her wedding-day; then they placed her on an open coffin, and began their march to the place of burial. The husband walked at the head of the company, and followed the corpse. They proceeded to a high mountain, and when they had reached the place of their destination, they took up a large stone, which covered the mouth of a deep pit, and let down the corpse with all its apparel and jewels. Then the husband, embracing his kindred and friends, suffered himself to be put into another open coffin without resistance, with a pot of water, and seven small loaves, and was let down in the same manner. The mountain was of considerable length, and extended along the sea- shore, and the pit was very deep. The ceremony being over, the aperture was again covered with the stone, and the company returned.
It is needless for me to tell you that I was a most melancholy spectator this funeral, while the rest were scarcely moved, the custom was to them so familiar. I could not forbear communicating to the king my sentiment respecting the practice: "Sir," I said, "I cannot but feel astonished at the strange usage observed in this country, of burying the living with the dead. I have been a great traveller, and seen many countries, but never heard of so cruel a law." "What do you mean, Sinbad?" replied the king: "it is a common law. I shall be interred with the queen, my wife, if she die first." "But, Sir," said I, "may I presume to ask your majesty, if strangers be obliged to observe this law?" "Without doubt," returned the king (smiling at the occasion of my question), "they are not exempted, if they be married in this island."
I returned home much depressed by this answer; for the fear of my wife's dying first, and that I should be interred alive with her, occasioned me very uneasy reflections. But there was no remedy; I must have patience, and submit to the will of God. I trembled however at every little indisposition of my wife. Alas! in a little time my fears were realized, for she fell sick, and died.
Judge of my sorrow; to be interred alive, seemed to me as deplorable a termination of life as to be devoured by cannibals. It was necessary, however, to submit. The king and all his court expressed their wish to honour the funeral with their presence, and the most considerable people of the city did the same. When all was ready for the ceremony, the corpse was put into a coffin, with all her jewels and her most magnificent apparel. The procession began, and as second actor in this doleful tragedy, I went next the corpse, with my eyes full of tears, bewailing my deplorable fate. Before we reached the mountain, I made an attempt to affect the minds of the spectators: I addressed myself to the king first, and then to all those that were round me; bowing before them to the earth, and kissing the border of their garments, I prayed them to have compassion upon me. "Consider," said I, "that I am a stranger, and ought not to be subject to this rigorous law, and that I have another wife and children in my own country." Although I spoke in the most pathetic manner, no one was moved by my address; on the contrary, they ridiculed my dread of death as cowardly, made haste to let my wife's corpse into the pit, and lowered me down the next moment in an open coffin, with full of water and seven loaves. In short, the fatal ceremony being performed, they covered over the mouth of the pit, notwithstanding my grief and piteous lamentations.
As I approached the bottom, I discovered by the aid of the little light that came from above the nature of this subterranean place, it seemed an endless cavern, and might be about fifty fathom deep. I was annoyed by an insufferable stench proceeding from the multitude of bodies which I saw on the right and left; nay, I fancied that I heard some of them sigh out their last. However, when I got down, I immediately left my coffin, and getting at a distance from the bodies, held my nose, and lay down upon the ground, where I stayed a considerable time, bathed in tears. At last, reflecting on my melancholy case, "It is true," said I, "that God disposes all things according to the degrees of his providence; but, unhappy Sinbad, hast thou any but thyself to blame that thou art brought to die so strange a death? Would to God thou hadst perished in some of those tempests which thou hast escaped! then thy death had not been so lingering, and so terrible in all its circumstances. But thou hast drawn all this upon thyself by thy inordinate avarice. Ah, unfortunate wretch! shouldst thou not rather have remained at home, and quietly enjoyed the fruits of thy labour?"
Such were the vain complaints with which I filled the cave, beating my head and breast out of rage and despair, and abandoning myself to the most afflicting thoughts. Nevertheless, I must tell you, that instead of calling death to my assistance in that miserable condition, I felt still an inclination to live, and to do all I could to prolong my days. I went groping about, with my nose stopped, for the bread and water that was in my coffin, and took some of it. Though the darkness of the cave was so great that I could not distinguish day and night, yet I always found my coffin again, and the cave seemed to be more spacious and fuller of bodies than it had appeared to be at first. I lived for some days upon my bread and water, which being all spent, I at last prepared for death.
As I was thinking of death, I heard the stone lifted up from the mouth of the cave, and immediately the corpse of a man was let down When reduced to necessity, it is natural to come to extreme resolutions. While they let down the woman I approached the place where her coffin was to be put, and as soon as I perceived they were again covering the mouth of the cave, gave the unfortunate wretch two or three violent blows over the head, with a large bone; which stunned, or, to say the truth, killed her. I committed this inhuman action merely for the sake of the bread and water that was in her coffin, and thus I had provision for some days more. When that was spent, they letdown another dead woman, and a living man; I killed the man in the same manner, and, as there was then a sort of mortality in the town, by continuing this practice I did not want for provisions.
One day after I had dispatched another woman, I heard something tread, and breathing or panting as it walked. I advanced towards that side from whence I heard the noise, and on my approach the creature puffed and blew harder, as if running away from me. I followed the noise, and the thing seemed to stop sometimes, but always fled and blew as I approached. I pursued it for a considerable time, till at last I perceived a light, resembling a star; I went on, sometimes lost sight of it, but always found it again, and at last discovered that it came through a hole in the rock, large enough to admit a man.
Upon this, I stopped some time to rest, being much fatigued with the rapidity of my progress: afterwards coming up to the hole, I got through, and found myself upon the sea shore. I leave you to guess the excess of my joy: it was such, that I could scarcely persuade myself that the whole was not a dream.
But when I was recovered from my surprise, and convinced of the reality of my escape, I perceived what I had followed to be a creature which came out of the sea, and was accustomed to enter the cavern and feed upon the bodies of the dead.
I examined the mountain, and found it to be situated betwixt the sea and the town, but without any passage to or communication with the latter; the rocks on the sea side being high and perpendicularly steep. I prostrated myself on the shore to thank God for this mercy, and afterwards entered the cave again to fetch bread and water, which I ate by daylight with a better appetite than I had done since my interment in the dark cavern
I returned thither a second time, and groped among the coffins for all the diamonds, rubies,, pearls, gold bracelets, and rich stuffs I could find; these I brought to the shore, and tying them up neatly into bales, with the cords that let down the coffins, I laid them together upon the beach, waiting till some ship might appear, without fear of rain, for it was then the dry season.
After two or three days, I perceived a ship just come out of the harbour, making for the place where I was. I made a sign with the linen of my turban, and called to the crew as loud as I could. They heard me, and sent a boat to bring me on board, when they asked by what misfortune I came thither; I told them that I had suffered shipwreck two days before, and made shift to get ashore with the goods they saw. It was fortunate for me that these people did not consider the place where I was, nor enquire into the probability of what I told them; but without hesitation took me on board with my goods. When I came to the ship, the captain was so well pleased to have saved me, and so much taken up with his own affairs, that he also took the story of my pretended shipwreck upon trust, and generously refused some jewels which I offered him.
We passed by several islands, and among others that called the isle of Bells, about ten days' sail from Serendib, with a regular wind, and six from that of Kela, where we landed. This island produces lead mines, Indian canes, and excellent camphire.
The king of the isle of Kela is very rich and powerful, and the isle of Bells, which is about two days journey in extent, is also subject to him. The inhabitants are so barbarous that they still eat human flesh. After we had finished our traffic in that island, we put to sea again, and touched at several other ports; at last I arrived happily at Bagdad with infinite riches, of which it is needless to trouble you with the detail. Out of gratitude to God for his mercies, I contributed liberally towards the support of several mosques, and the subsistence of the poor, gave myself up to the society of my kindred and friends, enjoying myself with them in festivities and amusements.
Here Sinbad finished the relation of his fourth voyage, which appeared more surprising to the company than the three former. He made a new present of one hundred sequins to Hindbad, whom he requested to return with the rest next day at the same hour to dine with him, and hear the story of his fifth voyage. Hindbad and the other guests took their leave and retired. Next morning when they all met, they sat down at table, and when dinner was over, Sinbad began the relation of his fifth voyage as follows.
[Go to The Fifth Voyage]
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