We set sail with the first favourable wind, and after a long voyage upon the open seas, we landed upon an unknown island which proved to be uninhabited. We determined, however, to explore it, but had not gone far when we found a roc's egg, as large as the one I had seen before and evidently very nearly hatched, for the beak of the young bird had already pierced the shell.
In spite of all I could say to deter them, the merchants who were with me fell upon it with their hatchets, breaking the shell and killing the young roc. Then lighting a fire upon the ground, they hacked morsels from the bird and proceeded to roast them while I stood by aghast.
Scarcely had they finished their ill-omened repast when the air above us was darkened by two mighty shadows. The captain of my ship, knowing by experience what this meant, cried out to us that the parent birds were coming and urged us to get on board with all speed. This we did, and the sails were hoisted, but before we had made any way, the rocs reached their despoiled nest and hovered about it, uttering frightful cries when they discovered the mangled remains of their young one.
For a moment we lost sight of them, and were flattering ourselves that we had escaped, when they reappeared and soared into the air directly over our vessel, and we saw that each held in its claws an immense rock ready to crush us. There was a moment of breathless suspense, abd then one bird loosed its hold and the huge block of stone hurtled through the air, but thanks to the presence of mind of the helmsman, who turned our ship violently in another direction, it fell into the sea close beside us, cleaving it asunder till we could nearly see the bottom.
When I had somewhat recovered, I began to examine the spot in which I found myself, and truly it seemed to me that I had reached a garden of delights. There were trees everywhere, and they were laden with flowers and fruit, while a crystal stream wandered in and out under their shadow. When night came I slept sweetly in a cosy nook, though the remembrance that I was alone in a strange land made me sometimes start up and look around me in alarm, and then I wished heartily that I had stayed at home at ease.
However, the morning sunlight restored my courage, and I once more wandered among the trees, but always with some anxiety as to what I might see next. I had penetrated some distance into the island when I saw an old man bent and feeble sitting upon the river bank, and at first I took him to be some ship-wrecked mariner like myself. Going up to him I greeted him in a friendly way, but he only nodded his head at me in reply. I then asked what he did there, and he made signs to me that he wished to get across the river to gather some fruit, and seemed to beg me to carry him on my back.
Pitying his age and feebleness, I took him up, and wading across the stream, I bent down that he might more easily reach the bank, and bade him get down. But instead of allowing himself to be set upon his feet (even now it makes me laugh to think of it!), this creature, who had seemed to me so decrepit, leaped nimbly upon my shoulders and hooking his legs round my neck gripped me so tightly that I was well-nigh choked, and so overcome with terror that I fell insensible to the ground.
When I recovered my enemy was still in his place, though he had released his hold enough to allow me breathing space, and seeing me revive, he prodded me adroitly first with one foot and then with the other until I was forced to get up and stagger about with him under the trees while he gathered and ate the choicest fruits. This went on all day and, even at night when I threw myself down half dead with weariness, the terrible old man held on tight to my neck, nor did he fail to greet the first glimmer of morning light by drumming upon me with his heels until I perforce awoke and resumed my dreary march with rage and bitterness in my heart.
Next: Fifth Voyage (cont.)