Seventh and Last Voyage (cont.)
(see previous page for audio)For two months I hunted thus, and no day passed without my securing an elephant. Of course I did not always station myself in the same tree, but sometimes in one place, sometimes in another.
One morning as I watched the coming of the elephants, I was surprised to see that, instead of passing the tree I was in as they usually did, they paused and completely surrounded it, trumpeting horribly and shaking the very ground with their heavy tread, and when I saw that their eyes were fixed upon me, I was terrified, and my arrows dropped from my trembling hand. I had indeed good reason for my terror when, an instant later, the largest of the animals wound his trunk round the stem of my tree and, with one mighty effort, tore it up by the roots, bringing me to the ground entangled in its branches. I thought now that my last hour was surely come, but the huge creature, picking me up gently enough, set me upon its back, where I clung more dead than alive, and, followed by the whole herd, turned and crashed off into the dense forest.
It seemed to me a long time before I was once more set upon my feet by the elephant, and I stood, as if in a dream, watching the herd, which turned and trampled off in another direction, and were soon hidden in the dense underwood. Then, recovering myself, I looked about me and found that I was standing upon the side of a great hill, strewn as far as I could see on either hand with bones and tusks of elephants. "This then must be the elephants' burying place," I said to myself, "and they must have brought me here that I might cease to persecute them, seeing that I want nothing but their tusks, and here lie more than I could carry away in a lifetime."
Whereupon I turned and made for the city as fast as I could go, not seeing a single elephant by the way, which convinced me that they had retired deeper into the forest to leave the way open to the Ivory Hill, and I did not know how sufficiently to admire their sagacity. After a day and a night I reached my master's house and was received by him with joyful surprise.
"Ah! poor Sindbad," he cried, "I was wondering what could have become of you. When I went to the forest I found the tree newly uprooted, and the arrows lying beside it, and I feared I should never see you again. Pray tell me how you escaped death."
I soon satisfied his curiosity, and the next day we went together to the Ivory Hill, and he was overjoyed to find that I had told him nothing but the truth. When we had loaded our elephant with as many tusks as it could carry and were on our way back to the city, he said: "My brother — since I can no longer treat as a slave one who has enriched me thus — take your liberty, and may Heaven prosper you. I will no longer conceal from you that these wild elephants have killed numbers of our slaves every year. No matter what good advice we gave them, they were caught sooner or later. You alone have escaped the wiles of these animals; therefore, you must be under the special protection of Heaven. Now through you the whole town will be enriched without further loss of life; therefore, you shall not only receive your liberty, but I will also bestow a fortune upon you."
To which I replied, "Master, I thank you, and wish you all prosperity. For myself, I only ask liberty to return to my own country."
"It is well," he answered; "the monsoon will soon bring the ivory ships hither, and then I will send you on your way with somewhat to pay your passage."
So I stayed with him till the time of the monsoon, and every day we added to our store of ivory till all his ware-houses were overflowing with it. By this time the other merchants knew the secret, but there was enough and to spare for all.
When the ships at last arrived, my master himself chose the one in which I was to sail and put on board for me a great store of choice provisions, also ivory in abundance and all the costliest curiosities of the country, for which I could not thank him enough, and so we parted. I left the ship at the first port we came to, not feeling at ease upon the sea after all that had happened to me by reason of it, and, having disposed of my ivory for much gold and bought many rare and costly presents, I loaded my pack animals and joined a caravan of merchants. Our journey was long and tedious, but I bore it patiently, reflecting that at least I had not to fear tempests, nor pirates, nor serpents, nor any of the other perils from which I had suffered before, and at length we reached Bagdad.
My first care was to present myself before the Caliph and give him an account of my embassy. He assured me that my long absence had disquieted him much, but he had nevertheless hoped for the best. As to my adventure among the elephants, he heard it with amazement, declaring that he could not have believed it had not my truthfulness been well known to him.
By his orders this story and the others I had told him were written by his scribes in letters of gold and laid up among his treasures. I took my leave of him, well satisfied with the honours and rewards he bestowed upon me, and since that time I have rested from my labours and given myself up wholly to my family and my friends.
Thus Sindbad ended the story of his seventh and last voyage.