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The Seven Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor

  • IN the times of the Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid there lived in Bagdad a poor
  • porter named Hindbad, who on a very hot day was sent to carry a heavy load
  • from one end of the city to the other. Before he had accomplished half the
  • distance he was so tired that, finding himself in a quiet street where the
  • pavement was sprinkled with rose water, and a cool breeze was blowing, he set
  • his burden upon the ground, and sat down to rest in the shade of a grand
  • house. Very soon he decided that he could not have chosen a pleasanter place;
  • a delicious perfume of aloes wood and pastilles came from the open windows and
  • mingled with the scent of the rose water which steamed up from the hot
  • pavement. Within the palace he heard some music, as of many instruments
  • cunningly played, and the melodious warble of nightingales and other birds,
  • and by this, and the appetising smell of many dainty dishes of which he
  • presently became aware, he judged that feasting and merry making were going
  • on. He wondered who lived in this magnificent house which he had never seen
  • before, the street in which it stood being one which he seldom had occasion to
  • pass. To satisfy his curiosity he went up to some splendidly dressed servants
  • who stood at the door, and asked one of them the name of the master of the
  • mansion.
  • "What," replied he, "do you live in Bagdad, and not know that here lives the
  • noble Sindbad the Sailor, that famous traveller who sailed over every sea upon
  • which the sun shines?"
  • The porter, who had often heard people speak of the immense wealth of Sindbad,
  • could not help feeling envious of one whose lot seemed to be as happy as his
  • own was miserable. Casting his eyes up to the sky he exclaimed aloud,
  • "Consider, Mighty Creator of all things, the differences between Sindbad's
  • life and mine. Every day I suffer a thousand hardships and misfortunes, and
  • have hard work to get even enough bad barley bread to keep myself and my
  • family alive, while the lucky Sindbad spends money right and left and lives
  • upon the fat of the land! What has he done that you should give him this
  • pleasant life— what have I done to deserve so hard a fate?"
  • So saying he stamped upon the ground like one beside himself with misery and
  • despair. Just at this moment a servant came out of the palace, and taking him
  • by the arm said, "Come with me, the noble Sindbad, my master, wishes to speak
  • to you."
  • Hindbad was not a little surprised at this summons, and feared that his
  • unguarded words might have drawn upon him the displeasure of Sindbad, so he
  • tried to excuse himself upon the pretext that he could not leave the burden
  • which had been entrusted to him in the street. However the lackey promised him
  • that it should be taken care of, and urged him to obey the call so pressingly
  • that at last the porter was obliged to yield.
  • He followed the servant into a vast room, where a great company was seated
  • round a table covered with all sorts of delicacies. In the place of honour sat
  • a tall, grave man whose long white beard gave him a venerable air. Behind his
  • chair stood a crowd of attendants eager to minister to his wants. This was the
  • famous Sindbad himself. The porter, more than ever alarmed at the sight of so
  • much magnificence, tremblingly saluted the noble company. Sindbad, making a
  • sign to him to approach, caused him to be seated at his right hand, and
  • himself heaped choice morsels upon his plate, and poured out for him a draught
  • of excellent wine, and presently, when the banquet drew to a close, spoke to
  • him familiarly, asking his name and occupation.
  • "My lord," replied the porter, "I am called Hindbad."
  • "I am glad to see you here," continued Sindbad. "And I will answer for the
  • rest of the company that they are equally pleased, but I wish you to tell me
  • what it was that you said just now in the street." For Sindbad, passing by the
  • open window before the feast began, had heard his complaint and therefore had
  • sent for him.
  • At this question Hindbad was covered with confusion, and hanging down his
  • head, replied, "My lord, I confess that, overcome by weariness and ill-humour,
  • I uttered indiscreet words, which I pray you to pardon me."
  • "Oh!" replied Sindbad, "do not imagine that I am so unjust as to blame you. On
  • the contrary, I understand your situation and can pity you. Only you appear to
  • be mistaken about me, and I wish to set you right. You doubtless imagine that
  • I have acquired all the wealth and luxury that you see me enjoy without
  • difficulty or danger, but this is far indeed from being the case. I have only
  • reached this happy state after having for years suffered every possible kind
  • of toil and danger.
  • "Yes, my noble friends," he continued, addressing the company, "l assure you
  • that my adventures have been strange enough to deter even the most avaricious
  • men from seeking wealth by traversing the seas. Since you have, perhaps, heard
  • but confused accounts of my seven voyages, and the dangers and wonders that I
  • have met with by sea and land, I will now give you a full and true account of
  • them, which I think you will be well pleased to hear."
  • As Sindbad was relating his adventures chiefly on account of the porter, he
  • ordered, before beginning his tale, that the burden which had been left in the
  • street should be carried by some of his own servants to the place for which
  • Hindbad had set out at first, while he remained to listen to the story.