The Arabian Nights Entertainments by Andrew Lang - HTML preview
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me. But I was too late. The palace opened and the genius appeared, who,
turning angrily to the princess, asked indignantly,
"What is the matter, that you have sent for me like this?"
"A pain in my heart," she replied hastily, "obliged me to seek the aid of this little
bottle. Feeling faint, I slipped and fell against the talisman, which broke. That is
"You are an impudent liar!" cried the genius. "How did this hatchet and those
shoes get here?"
"I never saw them before," she answered, "and you came in such a hurry that
you may have picked them up on the road without knowing it." To this the genius
only replied by insults and blows. I could hear the shrieks and groans of the
princess, and having by this time taken off my rich garments and put on those in
which I had arrived the previous day, I lifted the trap, found myself once more in
the forest, and returned to my friend the tailor, with a light load of wood and a
heart full of shame and sorrow.
The tailor, who had been uneasy at my long absence, was, delighted to see me;
but I kept silence about my adventure, and as soon as possible retired to my
room to lament in secret over my folly. While I was thus indulging my grief my
host entered, and said, "There is an old man downstairs who has brought your
hatchet and slippers, which he picked up on the road, and now restores to you,
as he found out from one of your comrades where you lived. You had better
come down and speak to him yourself." At this speech I changed colour, and my
legs trembled under me. The tailor noticed my confusion, and was just going to
inquire the reason when the door of the room opened, and the old man
appeared, carrying with him my hatchet and shoes.
"I am a genius," he said, "the son of the daughter of Eblis, prince of the genii. Is
not this hatchet yours, and these shoes?" Without waiting for an answer--which,
indeed, I could hardly have given him, so great was my fright--he seized hold of
me, and darted up into the air with the quickness of lightning, and then, with
equal swiftness, dropped down towards the earth. When he touched the ground,
he rapped it with his foot; it opened, and we found ourselves in the enchanted
palace, in the presence of the beautiful princess of the Ebony Isle. But how
different she looked from what she was when I had last seen her, for she was
lying stretched on the ground covered with blood, and weeping bitterly.
"Traitress!" cried the genius, "is not this man your lover?"
She lifted up her eyes slowly, and looked sadly at me. "I never saw him before,"
she answered slowly. "I do not know who he is."
"What!" exclaimed the genius, "you owe all your sufferings to him, and yet you
dare to say he is a stranger to you!"
"But if he really is a stranger to me," she replied, "why should I tell a lie and
cause his death?"
"Very well," said the genius, drawing his sword, "take this, and cut off his head."
"Alas," answered the princess, "I am too weak even to hold the sabre. And
supposing that I had the strength, why should I put an innocent man to death?"
"You condemn yourself by your refusal," said the genius; then turning to me, he
added, "and you, do you not know her?"
"How should I?" I replied, resolved to imitate the princess in her fidelity. "How
should I, when I never saw her before?"
"Cut her head off," then, "if she is a stranger to you, and I shall believe you are
speaking the truth, and will set you at liberty."
"Certainly," I answered, taking the sabre in my hands, and making a sign to the
princess to fear nothing, as it was my own life that I was about to sacrifice, and
not hers. But the look of gratitude she gave me shook my courage, and I flung
the sabre to the earth.
"I should not deserve to live," I said to the genius, "if I were such a coward as to
slay a lady who is not only unknown to me, but who is at this moment half dead
herself. Do with me as you will-- I am in your power--but I refuse to obey your
"I see," said the genius, "that you have both made up your minds to brave me,
but I will give you a sample of what you may expect." So saying, with one sweep
of his sabre he cut off a hand of the princess, who was just able to lift the other to
wave me an eternal farewell. Then I lost consciousness for several minutes.
When I came to myself I implored the genius to keep me no longer in this state of
suspense, but to lose no time in putting an end to my sufferings. The genius,
however, paid no attention to my prayers, but said sternly, "That is the way in
which a genius treats the woman who has betrayed him. If I chose, I could kill
you also; but I will be merciful, and content myself with changing you into a dog,
an ass, a lion, or a bird--whichever you prefer."
I caught eagerly at these words, as giving me a faint hope of softening his wrath.
"O genius!" I cried, "as you wish to spare my life, be generous, and spare it
altogether. Grant my prayer, and pardon my crime, as the best man in the whole
world forgave his neighbour who was eaten up with envy of him." Contrary to my
hopes, the genius seemed interested in my words, and said he would like to hear
the story of the two neighbours; and as I think, madam, it may please you, I will
tell it to you also.
The Story of the Envious Man and of Him Who Was Envied
In a town of moderate size, two men lived in neighbouring houses; but they had
not been there very long before one man took such a hatred of the other, and
envied him so bitterly, that the poor man determined to find another home,
hoping that when they no longer met every day his enemy would forget all about
him. So he sold his house and the little furniture it contained, and moved into the
capital of the country, which was luckily at no great distance. About half a mile
from this city he bought a nice little place, with a large garden and a fair-sized
court, in the centre of which stood an old well.
In order to live a quieter life, the good man put on the robe of a dervish, and
divided his house into a quantity of small cells, where he soon established a
number of other dervishes. The fame of his virtue gradually spread abroad, and
many people, including several of the highest quality, came to visit him and ask
Of course it was not long before his reputation reached the ears of the man who
envied him, and this wicked wretch resolved never to rest till he had in some way
worked ill to the dervish whom he hated. So he left his house and his business to
look after themselves, and betook himself to the new dervish monastery, where
he was welcomed by the founder with all the warmth imaginable. The excuse he
gave for his appearance was that he had come to consult the chief of the
dervishes on a private matter of great importance. "What I have to say must not
be overheard," he whispered; "command, I beg of you, that your dervishes retire
into their cells, as night is approaching, and meet me in the court."
The dervish did as he was asked without delay, and directly they were alone
together the envious man began to tell a long story, edging, as they walked to
and fro, always nearer to the well, and when they were quite close, he seized the
dervish and dropped him in. He then ran off triumphantly, without having been
seen by anyone, and congratulating himself that the object of his hatred was
dead, and would trouble him no more.
But in this he was mistaken! The old well had long been inhabited (unknown to
mere human beings) by a set of fairies and genii, who caught the dervish as he
fell, so that he received no hurt. The dervish himself could see nothing, but he
took for granted that something strange had happened, or he must certainly have
been dashed against the side of the well and been killed. He lay quite still, and in
a moment he heard a voice saying, "Can you guess whom this man is that we
have saved from death?"
"No," replied several other voices.
And the first speaker answered, "I will tell you. This man, from pure goodness of
heart, forsook the town where he lived and came to dwell here, in the hope of
curing one of his neighbours of the envy he felt towards him. But his character
soon won him the esteem of all, and the envious man's hatred grew, till he came
here with the deliberate intention of causing his death. And this he would have
done, without our help, the very day before the Sultan has arranged to visit this
holy dervish, and to entreat his prayers for the princess, his daughter."
"But what is the matter with the princess that she needs the dervish's prayers?"
asked another voice.
"She has fallen into the power of the genius Maimoum, the son of Dimdim,"
replied the first voice. "But it would be quite simple for this holy chief of the
dervishes to cure her if he only knew! In his convent there is a black cat which
has a tiny white tip to its tail. Now to cure the princess the dervish must pull out
seven of these white hairs, burn three, and with their smoke perfume the head of
the princess. This will deliver her so completely that Maimoum, the son of
Dimdim, will never dare to approach her again."
The fairies and genii ceased talking, but the dervish did not forget a word of all
they had said; and when morning came he perceived a place in the side of the
well which was broken, and where he could easily climb out.
The dervishes, who could not imagine what had become of him, were enchanted
at his reappearance. He told them of the attempt on his life made by his guest of
the previous day, and then retired into his cell. He was soon joined here by the
black cat of which the voice had spoken, who came as usual to say good-morning to his master. He took him on his knee and seized the opportunity to pull
seven white hairs out of his tail, and put them on one side till they were needed.
The sun had not long risen before the Sultan, who was anxious to leave nothing
undone that might deliver the princess, arrived with a large suite at the gate of
the monastery, and was received by the dervishes with profound respect. The
Sultan lost no time in declaring the object of his visit, and leading the chief of the
dervishes aside, he said to him, "Noble scheik, you have guessed perhaps what I
have come to ask you?"
"Yes, sire," answered the dervish; "if I am not mistaken, it is the illness of the
princess which has procured me this honour."
"You are right," returned the Sultan, "and you will give me fresh life if you can by
your prayers deliver my daughter from the strange malady that has taken
possession of her."
"Let your highness command her to come here, and I will see what I can do."
The Sultan, full of hope, sent orders at once that the princess was to set out as
soon as possible, accompanied by her usual staff of attendants. When she
arrived, she was so thickly veiled that the dervish could not see her face, but he
desired a brazier to be held over her head, and laid the seven hairs on the
burning coals. The instant they were consumed, terrific cries were heard, but no
one could tell from whom they proceeded. Only the dervish guessed that they
were uttered by Maimoum the son of Dimdim, who felt the princess escaping
All this time she had seemed unconscious of what she was doing, but now she
raised her hand to her veil and uncovered her face. "Where am I?" she said in a
bewildered manner; "and how did I get here?"
The Sultan was so delighted to hear these words that he not only embraced his
daughter, but kissed the hand of the dervish. Then, turning to his attendants who
stood round, he said to them, "What reward shall I give to the man who has
restored me my daughter?"
They all replied with one accord that he deserved the hand of the princess.
"That is my own opinion," said he, "and from this moment I declare him to be my
Shortly after these events, the grand-vizir died, and his post was given to the
dervish. But he did not hold it for long, for the Sultan fell a victim to an attack of
illness, and as he had no sons, the soldiers and priests declared the dervish heir
to the throne, to the great joy of all the people.
One day, when the dervish, who had now become Sultan, was making a royal
progress with his court, he perceived the envious man standing in the crowd. He
made a sign to one of his vizirs, and whispered in his ear, "Fetch me that man
who is standing out there, but take great care not to frighten him." The vizir
obeyed, and when the envious man was brought before the Sultan, the monarch
said to him, "My friend, I am delighted to see you again." Then turning to an
officer, he added, "Give him a thousand pieces of gold out of my treasury, and
twenty waggon-loads of merchandise out of my private stores, and let an escort
of soldiers accompany him home." He then took leave of the envious man, and
went on his way.
Now when I had ended my story, I proceeded to show the genius how to apply it
to himself. "O genius," I said, "you see that this Sultan was not content with
merely forgiving the envious man for the attempt on his life; he heaped rewards
and riches upon him."
But the genius had made up his mind, and could not be softened. "Do not
imagine that you are going to escape so easily," he said. "All I can do is to give
you bare life; you will have to learn what happens to people who interfere with
As he spoke he seized me violently by the arm; the roof of the palace opened to
make way for us, and we mounted up so high into the air that the earth looked
like a little cloud. Then, as before, he came down with the swiftness of lightning,
and we touched the ground on a mountain top.
Then he stooped and gathered a handful of earth, and murmured some words
over it, after which he threw the earth in my face, saying as he did so, "Quit the
form of a man, and assume that of a monkey." This done, he vanished, and I was
in the likeness of an ape, and in a country I had never seen before.
However there was no use in stopping where I was, so I came down the
mountain and found myself in a flat plain which was bounded by the sea. I
travelled towards it, and was pleased to see a vessel moored about half a mile
from shore. There were no waves, so I broke off the branch of a tree, and
dragging it down to the waters edge, sat across it, while, using two sticks for
oars, I rowed myself towards the ship.
The deck was full of people, who watched my progress with interest, but when I
seized a rope and swung myself on board, I found that I had only escaped death
at the hands of the genius to perish by those of the sailors, lest I should bring ill-luck to the vessel and the merchants. "Throw him into the sea!" cried one. "Knock
him on the head with a hammer," exclaimed another. "Let me shoot him with an
arrow," said a third; and certainly somebody would have had his way if I had not
flung myself at the captain's feet and grasped tight hold of his dress. He
appeared touched by my action and patted my head, and declared that he would
take me under his protection, and that no one should do me any harm.
At the end of about fifty days we cast anchor before a large town, and the ship
was immediately surrounded by a multitude of small boats filled with people, who
had come either to meet their friends or from simple curiosity. Among others, one
boat contained several officials, who asked to see the merchants on board, and
informed them that they had been sent by the Sultan in token of welcome, and to
beg them each to write a few lines on a roll of paper. "In order to explain this
strange request," continued the officers, "it is necessary that you should know
that the grand-vizir, lately dead, was celebrated for his beautiful handwriting, and
the Sultan is anxious to find a similar talent in his successor. Hitherto the search
has been a failure, but his Highness has not yet given up hope."
One after another the merchants set down a few lines upon the roll, and when
they had all finished, I came forward, and snatched the paper from the man who
held it. At first they all thought I was going to throw it into the sea, but they were
quieted when they saw I held it with great care, and great was their surprise
when I made signs that I too wished to write something.
"Let him do it if he wants to," said the captain. "If he only makes a mess of the
paper, you may be sure I will punish him for it. But if, as I hope, he really can
write, for he is the cleverest monkey I ever saw, I will adopt him as my son. The
one I lost had not nearly so much sense!"
No more was said, and I took the pen and wrote the six sorts of writing in use
among the Arabs, and each sort contained an original verse or couplet, in praise
of the Sultan. And not only did my handwriting completely eclipse that of the
merchants, but it is hardly too much to say that none so beautiful had ever before
been seen in that country. When I had ended the officials took the roll and
returned to the Sultan.
As soon as the monarch saw my writing he did not so much as look at the
samples of the merchants, but desired his officials to take the finest and most
richly caparisoned horse in his stables, together with the most magnificent dress
they could procure, and to put it on the person who had written those lines, and
bring him to court.
The officials began to laugh when they heard the Sultan's command, but as soon
as they could speak they said, "Deign, your highness, to excuse our mirth, but
those lines were not written by a man but by a monkey."
"A monkey!" exclaimed the Sultan.
"Yes, sire," answered the officials. "They were written by a monkey in our
"Then bring me the monkey," he replied, "as fast as you can."
The Sultan's officials returned to the ship and showed the royal order to the
"He is the master," said the good man, and desired that I should be sent for.
Then they put on me the gorgeous robe and rowed me to land, where I was
placed on the horse and led to the palace. Here the Sultan was awaiting me in
great state surrounded by his court.
All the way along the streets I had been the object of curiosity to a vast crowd,
which had filled every doorway and every window, and it was amidst their shouts
and cheers that I was ushered into the presence of the Sultan.
I approached the throne on which he was seated and made him three low bows,
then prostrated myself at his feet to the surprise of everyone, who could not
understand how it was possible that a monkey should be able to distinguish a
Sultan from other people, and to pay him the respect due to his rank. However,
excepting the usual speech, I omitted none of the common forms attending a
When it was over the Sultan dismissed all the court, keeping with him only the
chief of the eunuchs and a little slave. He then passed into another room and
ordered food to be brought, making signs to me to sit at table with him and eat. I
rose from my seat, kissed the ground, and took my place at the table, eating, as
you may suppose, with care and in moderation.
Before the dishes were removed I made signs that writing materials, which stood
in one corner of the room, should be laid in front of me. I then took a peach and
wrote on it some verses in praise of the Sultan, who was speechless with
astonishment; but when I did the same thing on a glass from which I had drunk
he murmured to himself, "Why, a man who could do as much would be cleverer
than any other man, and this is only a monkey!"
Supper being over chessmen were brought, and the Sultan signed to me to know
if I would play with him. I kissed the ground and laid my hand on my head to
show that I was ready to show myself worthy of the honour. He beat me the first
game, but I won the second and third, and seeing that this did not quite please I
dashed off a verse by way of consolation.
The Sultan was so enchanted with all the talents of which I had given proof that
he wished me to exhibit some of them to other people. So turning to the chief of
the eunuchs he said, "Go and beg my daughter, Queen of Beauty, to come here.
I will show her something she has never seen before."
The chief of the eunuchs bowed and left the room, ushering in a few moments
later the princess, Queen of Beauty. Her face was uncovered, but the moment
she set foot in the room she threw her veil over her head. "Sire," she said to her
father, "what can you be thinking of to summon me like this into the presence of a
"I do not understand you," replied the Sultan. "There is nobody here but the
eunuch, who is your own servant, the little slave, and myself, yet you cover
yourself with your veil and reproach me for having sent for you, as if I had
committed a crime."
"Sire," answered the princess, "I am right and you are wrong. This monkey is
really no monkey at all, but a young prince who has been turned into a monkey
by the wicked spells of a genius, son of the daughter of Eblis."
As will be imagined, these words took the Sultan by surprise, and he looked at
me to see how I should take the statement of the princess. As I was unable to
speak, I placed my hand on my head to show that it was true.
"But how do you know this, my daughter?" asked he.
"Sire," replied Queen of Beauty, "the old lady who took care of me in my
childhood was an accomplished magician, and she taught me seventy rules of
her art, by means of which I could, in the twinkling of an eye, transplant your
capital into the middle of the ocean. Her art likewise teaches me to recognise at
first sight all persons who are enchanted, and tells me by whom the spell was
"My daughter," said the Sultan, "I really had no idea you were so clever."
"Sire," replied the princess, "there are many out-of-the-way things it is as well to
know, but one should never boast of them."
"Well," asked the Sultan, "can you tell me what must be done to disenchant the
"Certainly; and I can do it."
"Then restore him to his former shape," cried the Sultan. "You could give me no
greater pleasure, for I wish to make him my grand-vizir, and to give him to you for
"As your Highness pleases," replied the princess.
Queen of Beauty rose and went to her chamber, from which she fetched a knife
with some Hebrew words engraven on the blade. She then desired the Sultan,
the chief of the eunuchs, the little slave, and myself to descend into a secret
court of the palace, and placed us beneath a gallery which ran all round, she
herself standing in the centre of the court. Here she traced a large circle and in it
wrote several words in Arab characters.
When the circle and the writing were finished she stood in the middle of it and
repeated some verses from the Koran. Slowly the air grew dark, and we felt as if
the earth was about to crumble away, and our fright was by no means diminished
at seeing the genius, son of the daughter of Eblis, suddenly appear under the
form of a colossal lion.
"Dog," cried the princess when she first caught sight of him, "you think to strike
terror into me by daring to present yourself before me in this hideous shape."
"And you," retorted the lion, "have not feared to break our treaty that engaged
solemnly we should never interfere with each other."
"Accursed genius!" exclaimed the princess, "it is you by whom that treaty was
"I will teach you how to give me so much trouble," said the lion, and opening his
huge mouth he advanced to swallow her. But the princess expected something of
the sort and was on her guard. She bounded on one side, and seizing one of the
hairs of his mane repeated two or three words over it. In an instant it became a
sword, and with a sharp blow she cut the lion's body into two pieces. These
pieces vanished no one knew where, and only the lion's head remained, which
was at once changed into a scorpion. Quick as thought the princess assumed the
form of a serpent and gave battle to the scorpion, who, finding he was getting the
worst of it, turned himself into an eagle and took flight. But in a moment the
serpent had become an eagle more powerful still, who soared up in the air and
after him, and then we lost sight of them both.
We all remained where we were quaking with anxiety, when the ground opened
in front of us and a black and white cat leapt out, its hair standing on end, and
miauing frightfully. At its heels was a wolf, who had almost seized it, when the cat
changed itself into a worm, and, piercing the skin of a pomegranate which had
tumbled from a tree, hid itself in the fruit. The pomegranate swelled till it grew as
large as a pumpkin, and raised itself on to the roof of the gallery, from which it fell
into the court and was broken into bits. While this was taking place the wolf, who
had transformed himself into a cock, began to swallow the seed of the
pomegranate as fast as he could. When all were gone he flew towards us,
flapping his wings as if to ask if we saw any more, when suddenly his eye fell on
one which lay on the bank of the little canal that flowed through the court; he
hastened towards it, but before he could touch it the seed rolled into the canal
and became a fish. The cock flung himself in after the fish and took the shape of
a pike, and for two hours they chased each other up and down under the water,
uttering horrible cries, but we could see nothing. At length they rose from the
water in their proper forms, but darting such flames of fire from their mouths that
we dreaded lest the palace should catch fire. Soon, however, we had much
greater cause for alarm, as the genius, having shaken off the princess, flew
towards us. Our fate would have been sealed if the princess, seeing our danger,
had not attracted the attention of the genius to herself. As it was, the Sultan's
beard was singed and his face scorched, the chief of the eunuchs was burned to
a cinder, while a spark deprived me of the sight of one eye. Both I and the Sultan
had given up all hope of a rescue, when there was a shout of "Victory, victory!"
from the princess, and the genius lay at her feet a great heap of ashes.
Exhausted though she was, the princess at once ordered the little slave, who
alone was uninjured, to bring her a cup of water, which she took in her hand.
First repeating some magic words over it, she dashed it into my face saying, "If
you are only a monkey by enchantment, resume the form of the man you were
before." In an instant I stood before her the same man I had formerly been,
though having lost the sight of one eye.
I was about to fall on my knees and thank the princess but she did not give me
time. Turning to the Sultan, her father, she said, "Sire, I have gained the battle,
but it has cost me dear. The fire has penetrated to my heart, and I have only a
few moments to live. This would not have happened if I had only noticed the last
pomegranate seed and eaten it like the rest. It was the last struggle of the
genius, and up to that time I was quite safe. But having let this chance slip I was
forced to resort to fire, and in spite of all his experience I showed the genius that I
knew more than he did. He is dead and in ashes, but my own death is
approaching fast." "My daughter," cried the Sultan, "how sad is my condition! I
am only surprised I am alive at all! The eunuch is consumed by the flames, and
the prince whom you have delivered has lost the sight of one eye." He could say
no more, for sobs choked his voice, and we all wept together.
Suddenly the princess shrieked, "I burn, I burn!" and death came to free her from
I have no words, madam, to tell you of my feelings at this terrible sight. I would
rather have remained a monkey all my life than let my benefactress perish in this
shocking manner. As for the Sultan, he was quite inconsolable, and his subjects,
who had dearly loved the princess, shared his grief. For seven days the whole
nation mourned, and then the ashes of the princess were buried with great pomp,
and a superb tomb was raised over her.
As soon as the Sultan recovered from the severe illness which had seized him
after the death of the princess he sent for me and plainly, though politely,
informed me that my presence would always remind him of his loss, and he
begged that I would instantly quit his kingdom, and on pain of death never return
to it. I was, of course, bound to obey, and not knowing what was to become of
me I shaved my beard and eyebrows and put on the dress of a calender. After
wandering aimlessly through several countries, I resolved to come to Bagdad
and request an audience of the Commander of the Faithful.
And that, madam, is my story.
The other Calender then told his story.
Story of the Third Calendar, Son of a King
My story, said the Third Calender, is quite different from those of my two friends.
It was fate that deprived them of the sight of their right eyes, but mine was lost by
my own folly.
My name is Agib, and I am the son of a king called Cassib, who reigned over a
large kingdom, which had for its capital one of the finest seaport towns in the
When I succeeded to my father's throne my first care was to visit the provinces
on the mainland, and then to sail to the numerous islands which lay off the shore,
in order to gain the hearts of my subjects. These voyages gave me such a taste
for sailing that I soon determined to explore more distant seas, and commanded
a fleet of large ships to be got ready without delay. When they were properly
fitted out I embarked on my expedition.
For forty days wind and weather were all in our favour, but the next night a terrific
storm arose, which blew us hither and thither for ten days, till the pilot confessed
that he had quite lost his bearings. Accordingly a sailor was sent up to the
masthead to try to catch a sight of land, and reported that nothing was to be seen
but the sea and sky, except a huge mass of blackness that lay astern.
On hearing this the pilot grew white, and, beating his breast, he cried, "Oh, sir,
we are lost, lost!" till the ship's crew trembled at they knew not what. When he
had recovered himself a little, and was able to explain the cause of his terror, he
replied, in answer to my question, that we had drifted far out of our course, and
that the following day about noon we should come near that mass of darkness,
which, said he, is nothing but the famous Black Mountain. This mountain is
composed of adamant, which attracts to itself all the iron and nails in your ship;
and as we are helplessly drawn nearer, the force of attraction will become so
great that the iron and nails will fall out of the ships and cling to the mountain,
and the ships will sink to the bottom with all that are in them. This it is that causes
the side of the mountain towards the sea to appear of such a dense blackness.
As may be supposed--continued the pilot--the mountain sides are very rugged,
but on the summit stands a brass dome supported on pillars, and bearing on top
the figure of a brass horse, with a rider on his back. This rider wears a
breastplate of lead, on which strange signs and figures are engraved, and it is
said that as long as this statue remains on the dome, vessels will never cease to
perish at the foot of the mountain.
So saying, the pilot began to weep afresh, and the crew, fearing their last hour
had come, made their wills, each one in favour of his fellow.
At noon next day, as the pilot had foretold, we were so near to the Black
Mountain that we saw all the nails and iron fly out of the ships and dash
themselves against the mountain with a horrible noise. A moment after the
vessels fell asunder and sank, the crews with them. I alone managed to grasp a
floating plank, and was driven ashore by the wind, without even a scratch. What
was my joy on finding myself at the bottom of some steps which led straight up
the mountain, for there was not another inch to the right or the left where a man
could set his foot. And, indeed, even the steps themselves were so narrow and
so steep that, if the lightest breeze had arisen, I should certainly have been
blown into the sea.
When I reached the top I found the brass dome and the statue exactly as the
pilot had described, but was too wearied with all I had gone through to do more
than glance at them, and, flinging myself under the dome, was asleep in an
instant. In my dreams an old man appeared to me and said, "Hearken, Agib! As
soon as thou art awake dig up the ground underfoot, and thou shalt find a bow of
brass and three arrows of lead. Shoot the arrows at the statue, and the rider shall
tumble into the sea, but the horse will fall down by thy side, and thou shalt bury
him in the place from which thou tookest the bow and arrows. This being done
the sea will rise and cover the mountain, and on it thou wilt perceive the figure of
a metal man seated in a boat, having an oar in each hand. Step on board and let
him conduct thee; but if thou wouldest behold thy kingdom again, see that thou
takest not the name of Allah into thy mouth."
Having uttered these words the vision left me, and I woke, much comforted. I
sprang up and drew the bow and arrows out of the ground, and with the third
shot the horseman fell with a great crash into the sea, which instantly began to
rise, so rapidly, that I had hardly time to bury the horse before the boat
approached me. I stepped silently in and sat down, and the metal man pushed
off, and rowed without stopping for nine days, after which land appeared on the
horizon. I was so overcome with joy at this sight that I forgot all the old man had
told me, and cried out, "Allah be praised! Allah be praised!"
The words were scarcely out of my mouth when the boat and man sank from
beneath me, and left me floating on the surface. All that day and the next night I
swam and floated alternately, making as well as I could for the land which was
nearest to me. At last my strength began to fail, and I gave myself up for lost,
when the wind suddenly rose, and a huge wave cast me on a flat shore. Then,
placing myself in safety, I hastily spread my clothes out to dry in the sun, and
flung myself on the warm ground to rest.
Next morning I dressed myself and began to look about me. There seemed to be
no one but myself on the island, which was covered with fruit trees and watered
with streams, but seemed a long distance from the mainland which I hoped to
reach. Before, however, I had time to feel cast down, I saw a ship making directly
for the island, and not knowing whether it would contain friends or foes, I hid
myself in the thick branches of a tree.
The sailors ran the ship into a creek, where ten slaves landed, carrying spades
and pickaxes. In the middle of the island they stopped, and after digging some
time, lifted up what seemed to be a trapdoor. They then returned to the vessel
two or three times for furniture and provisions, and finally were accompanied by
an old man, leading a handsome boy of fourteen or fifteen years of age. They all
disappeared down the trapdoor, and after remaining below for a few minutes
came up again, but without the boy, and let down the trapdoor, covering it with
earth as before. This done, they entered the ship and set sail.
As soon as they were out of sight, I came down from my tree, and went to the
place where the boy had been buried. I dug up the earth till I reached a large
stone with a ring in the centre. This, when removed, disclosed a flight of stone
steps which led to a large room richly furnished and lighted by tapers. On a pile
of cushions, covered with tapestry, sat the boy. He looked up, startled and
frightened at the sight of a stranger in such a place, and to soothe his fears, I at
once spoke: "Be not alarmed, sir, whoever you may be. I am a king, and the son
of a king, and will do you no hurt. On the contrary, perhaps I have been sent here
to deliver you out of this tomb, where you have been buried alive."
Hearing my words, the young man recovered himself, and when I had ended, he
said, "The reasons, Prince, that have caused me to be buried in this place are so
strange that they cannot but surprise you. My father is a rich merchant, owning
much land and many ships, and has great dealings in precious stones, but he
never ceased mourning that he had no child to inherit his wealth.
"At length one day he dreamed that the following year a son would be born to
him, and when this actually happened, he consulted all the wise men in the
kingdom as to the future of the infant. One and all they said the same thing. I was
to live happily till I was fifteen, when a terrible danger awaited me, which I should
hardly escape. If, however, I should succeed in doing so, I should live to a great
old age. And, they added, when the statue of the brass horse on the top of the
mountain of adamant is thrown into the sea by Agib, the son of Cassib, then
beware, for fifty days later your son shall fall by his hand!
"This prophecy struck the heart of my father with such woe, that he never got
over it, but that did not prevent him from attending carefully to my education till I
attained, a short time ago, my fifteenth birthday. It was only yesterday that the
news reached him that ten days previously the statue of brass had been thrown
into the sea, and he at once set about hiding me in this underground chamber,
which was built for the purpose, promising to fetch me out when the forty days
have passed. For myself, I have no fears, as Prince Agib is not likely to come
here to look for me."
I listened to his story with an inward laugh as to the absurdity of my ever wishing
to cause the death of this harmless boy, whom I hastened to assure of my
friendship and even of my protection; begging him, in return, to convey me in his
father's ship to my own country. I need hardly say that I took special care not to
inform him that I was the Agib whom he dreaded.
The day passed in conversation on various subjects, and I found him a youth of
ready wit and of some learning. I took on myself the duties of a servant, held the
basin and water for him when he washed, prepared the dinner and set it on the