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Being returned from my sixth voyage, said Sinbad, I absolutely laid aside all thoughts of travelling; for, besides that my age now required rest, I was resolved no more to expose myself to such risks as I had encountered; so that I thought of nothing but to pass the rest of my days in tranquillity. One day as I was treating my friends, one of my servants came and told me that an officer of the caliph's enquired for me. I rose from table, and went to him. "The caliph," he said, "has sent me to tell you, that he must speak with you." I followed the officer to the palace, where being presented to the caliph, I saluted him by prostrating myself at his feet. "Sinbad," said he to me, "I stand in need of your service; you must carry my answer and present to the king of Serendib. It is but just I should return his civility."
This command of the caliph was to me like a clap of thunder. "Commander of the faithful," I replied, "I am ready to do whatever your majesty shall think fit to command; but I beseech you most humbly to consider what I have undergone. I have also made a vow never to go out of Bagdad." Hence I took occasion to give him a full and particular account of all my adventures, which he had the patience to hear out.
As soon as I had finished, "I confess," said he, "that the things you tell me are very extraordinary, yet you must for my sake undertake this voyage which I propose to you. You will only have to go to the isle of Serendib, and deliver the commission which I give you. After that you are at liberty to return. But you must go; for you know it would not comport with my dignity, to be indebted to the king of that island." Perceiving that the caliph insisted upon my compliance, I submitted, and told him that I was willing to obey. He was very well pleased, and ordered me one thousand sequins for the expences of my journey.
I prepared for my departure in a few days, and as soon as the caliph's letter and present were delivered to me, I went to Bussorah, where I embarked, and had a very happy voyage. Having arrived at the isle of Serendib, I acquainted the king's ministers with my commission, and prayed them to get me speedy audience. They did so, and I was conducted to the palace in an honourable manner, where I saluted the king by prostration, according to custom. That prince knew me immediately, and testified very great joy at seeing me. "Sinbad," said he, "you are welcome; I have many times thought of you since you departed; I bless the day on which we see one another once more." I made my compliment to him, and after having thanked him for his kindness, delivered the caliph's letter and present, which he received with all imaginable satisfaction.
The caliph's present was a complete suit of cloth of gold, valued at one thousand sequins; fifty robes of rich stuff, a hundred of white cloth, the finest of Cairo, Suez, and Alexandria; a vessel of agate broader than deep, an inch thick, and half a foot wide, the bottom of which represented in bass relief a man with one knee on the ground, who held bow and an arrow, ready to discharge at a lion. He sent him also a rich tablet, which, according to tradition, belonged to the great Solomon. The caliph's letter was as follows:
"Greeting, in the name of the sovereign guide of the right way, from the dependent on God, Haroon al Rusheed, whom God hath set in the place of vicegerent to his prophet, after his ancestors of happy memory, to the potent and esteemed Raja of Serendib.
"We received your letter with joy, and send you this from our imperial residence, the garden of superior wits. We hope when you look upon it, you will perceive our good intention and be pleased with it. Adieu."
The king of Serendib was highly gratified that the caliph answered his friendship. A little time after this audience, I solicited leave to depart, and had much difficulty to obtain it. I procured it however at last, and the king, when he dismissed me, made me a very considerable present. I embarked immediately to return to Bagdad, but had not the good fortune to arrive there so speedily as I had hoped. God ordered it otherwise.
Three or four days after my departure, we were attacked by corsairs, who easily seized upon our ship, because it was no vessel of force. Some of the crew offered resistance, which cost them their lives. But for myself and the rest, who were not so imprudent, the corsairs saved us on purpose to make slaves of us.
We were all stripped, and instead of our own clothes, they gave us sorry rags, and carried us into a remote island, where they sold us.
I fell into the hands of a rich merchant, who, as soon as he bought me, carried me to his house, treated me well, and clad me handsomely for a slave. Some days after, not knowing who I was, he asked me if I understood any trade? I answered, that I was no mechanic, but a merchant, and that the corsairs, who sold me, had robbed me of all I possessed. "But tell me," replied he, "can you shoot with a bow?" I answered, that the bow was one of my exercises in my youth. He gave me a bow and arrows, and, taking me behind him upon an elephant, carried me to a thick forest some leagues from the town. We penetrated a great way into the wood, and when he thought fit to stop, he bade me alight; then shewing me a great tree, "Climb up that," said he, "and shoot at the elephants as you see them pass by, for there is a prodigious number of them in this forest, and if any of them fall, come and give me notice." Having spoken thus, he left me victuals, and returned to the town, and I continued upon the tree all night.
I saw no elephant during that time, but next morning, as soon as the sun was up, I perceived a great number. I shot several arrows among them, and at last one of the elephants fell, when the rest retired immediately, and left me at liberty to go and acquaint my patron with my booty. When I had informed him, he gave me a good meal, commended my dexterity, and caressed me highly. We went afterwards together to the forest, where we dug a hole for the elephant; my patron designing to return when it was rotten, and take his teeth to trade with.
I continued this employment for two months, and killed an elephant every day, getting sometimes upon one tree, and sometimes upon another. One morning, as I looked for the elephants, I perceived with extreme amazement, that, instead of passing by me across the forest as usual, they stopped, and came to me with a horrible noise, in such number that the plain was covered, and shook under them. They encompassed the tree in which I was concealed, with their trunks extended, and all fixed their eyes upon. At this alarming spectacle I continued immoveable, and was so much terrified, that my bow and arrows fell out of my hand.
My fears were not without cause; for after the elephants had stared upon me some time, one of the largest of them put his trunk round the foot of the tree, plucked it up, and threw it on the ground; I fell with the tree, and the elephant taking me up with his trunk, laid me on his back, where I sat more like one dead than alive, with my quiver on my shoulder. He put himself afterwards at the head of the rest, who followed him in troops, carried me a considerable way, then laid me down on the ground, and retired with all his companions. Conceive, if you can, the condition I was in: I thought myself in a dream. After having lain some time, and seeing the elephants gone, I got up, and found I was upon a long and broad hill, almost covered with the bones and teeth of elephants. I confess to you, that this object furnished me with abundance of reflections. I admired the instinct of those animals; I doubted not but that was their burying place, and that they carried me thither on purpose to tell me that I should forbear to persecute them, since I did it only for their teeth. I did not stay on the hill, but turned towards the city, and, after having travelled a day and a night, I came to my patron. I met no elephant in my way, which made me think they had retired farther into the forest, to leave me at liberty to come back to the hill without any obstacle.
As soon as my patron saw me; "Ah, poor Sinbad," exclaimed he, "I was in great trouble to know what was become of you. I have been at the forest, where I found a tree newly pulled up, and a bow and arrows on the ground, and after having sought for you in vain, I despaired of ever, seeing you more. Pray tell me what befell you, and by what good chance thou art still alive." I satisfied his curiosity, and going both of us next morning to the hill, he found to his great joy that what I had told him was true. We loaded the elephant which had carried us with as many teeth as he could bear; and when we were returned, "Brother," said my patron, "for I will treat you no more as my slave, after having made such a discovery as will enrich me, God bless you with all happiness and prosperity. I declare before him, that I give you your liberty. I concealed from you what I am now going to tell you.
"The elephants of our forest have every year killed us a great many slaves, whom we sent to seek ivory. For all the cautions we could give them, those crafty animals destroyed them one time or other. God has delivered you from their fury, and has bestowed that favour upon you only. It is a sign that he loves you, and has some use for your service in the world. You have procured me incredible wealth. Formerly we could not procure ivory but by exposing the lives of our slaves, and now our whole city is enriched by your means. Do not think I pretend to have rewarded you by giving you your liberty, I will also give you considerable riches. I could engage all our city to contribute towards making your fortune, but I will have the glory of doing it myself."
To this obliging declaration I replied, "Patron, God preserve you. Your giving me my liberty is enough to discharge what you owe me, and I desire no other reward for the service I had the good fortune to do to you and your city, but leave to return to my own country." "Very well," said he, "the monsoon will in a little time bring ships for ivory. I will then send you home, and give you wherewith to bear your charges." I thanked him again for my liberty and his good intentions towards me. I staid with him expecting the monsoon; and during that time, we made so many journeys to the hill, that we filled all our warehouses with ivory. The other merchants, who traded in it, did the same, for it could not be long concealed from them.
The ships arrived at last, and my patron, himself having made choice of the ship wherein I was to embark, loaded half of it with ivory on my account, laid in provisions in abundance for my passage, and besides obliged me to accept a present of some curiosities of the country of great value. After I had returned him a thousand thanks for all his favours, I went aboard. We set sail, and as the adventure which procured me this liberty was very extraordinary, I had it continually in my thoughts.
We stopped at some islands to take in fresh provisions. Our vessel being come to a port on the main land in the Indies, we touched there, and not being willing to venture by sea to Bussorah, I landed my proportion of the ivory, resolving to proceed on my journey by land. I made vast sums of my ivory, bought several rarities, which I intended for presents, and when my equipage was ready, set out in company with a large caravan of merchants. I was a long time on the way, and suffered much, but endured all with patience, when I considered that I had nothing to fear from the seas, from pirates, from serpents, or from the other perils to which I had been exposed.
All these fatigues ended at last, and I arrived safe at Bagdad. I went immediately to wait upon the caliph, and gave him an account of my embassy. That prince said he had been uneasy, as I was so long in returning, but that he always hoped God would preserve me. When I told him the adventure of the elephants, he seemed much surprised, and would never have given any credit to it had he not known my veracity. He deemed this story, and the other relations I had given him, to be so curious, that he ordered one of his secretaries to write them in characters of gold, and lay them up in his treasury. I retired well satisfied with the honours I received, and the presents which he gave me; and ever since I have devoted myself wholly to my family, kindred, and friends.
Sinbad here finished the relation of his seventh and last voyage, and then addressing himself to Hindbad, "Well, friend," said he, "did you ever hear of any person that suffered so much as I have done, or of any mortal that has gone through so many vicissitudes? Is it not reasonable that, after all this I should enjoy a quiet and pleasant life?" As he said this, Hindbad drew near to him, and kissing his hand, said, "I must acknowledge, sir, that you have gone through many imminent dangers; my troubles are not comparable to yours: if they afflict me for a time, I comfort myself with the thoughts of the profit I get by them. You not only deserve a quiet life, but are worthy of all the riches you enjoy, because you make of them such a good and generous use. May you therefore continue to live in happiness and joy till the day of your death!" Sinbad gave him one hundred sequins more, received him into the number of his friends, desired him to quit his porter's employment, and come and dine every day with him, that he might have reason to remember Sinbad the voyager.
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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