Sixth Voyage (end)
(see previous page for audio)I accepted the charge respectfully, and soon embarked upon the vessel which the king himself had chosen for me. The king's letter was written in blue characters upon a rare and precious skin of yellowish colour, and these were the words of it: "The King of the Indies, before whom walk a thousand elephants, who lives in a palace of which the roof blazes with a hundred thousand rubies, and whose treasure house contains twenty thousand diamond crowns, to the Caliph Haroun al Raschid sends greeting. Though the offering we present to you is unworthy of your notice, we pray you to accept it as a mark of the esteem and friendship which we cherish for you, and of which we gladly send you this token, and we ask of you a like regard if you deem us worthy of it. Adieu, Brother."
The present consisted of a vase carved from a single ruby, six inches high and as thick as my finger; this was filled with the choicest pearls, large, and of perfect shape and lustre; secondly, a huge snake skin, with scales as large as a sequin, which would preserve from sickness those who slept upon it. Then quantities of aloes wood, camphor, and pistachio-nuts — and lastly, a beautiful slave girl, whose robes glittered with precious stones.
After a long and prosperous voyage, we landed at Balsora, and I made haste to reach Bagdad, and taking the king's letter, I presented myself at the palace gate, followed by the beautiful slave and various members of my own family, bearing the treasure.
As soon as I had declared my errand, I was conducted into the presence of the Caliph, to whom, after I had made my obeisance, I gave the letter and the king's gift, and when he had examined them, he demanded of me whether the Prince of Serendib was really as rich and powerful as he claimed to be.
"Commander of the Faithful," I replied, again bowing humbly before him, "I can assure your Majesty that he has in no way exaggerated his wealth and grandeur. Nothing can equal the magnificence of his palace. When he goes abroad, his throne is prepared upon the back of an elephant, and on either side of him ride his ministers, his favourites, and courtiers. On his elephant's neck sits an officer, his golden lance in his hand, and behind him stands another bearing a pillar of gold, at the top of which is an emerald as long as my hand. A thousand men in cloth of gold, mounted upon richly caparisoned elephants, go before him, and as the procession moves onward the officer who guides his elephant cries aloud, 'Behold the mighty monarch, the powerful and valiant Sultan of the Indies, whose palace is covered with a hundred thousand rubies, who possesses twenty thousand diamond crowns. Behold a monarch greater than Solomon and Mihrage in all their glory!' Then the one who stands behind the throne answers: 'This king, so great and powerful, must die, must die, must die!' And the first takes up the chant again, 'All praise to Him who lives for evermore.' Further, my lord, in Serendib no judge is needed, for to the king himself his people come for justice."
The Caliph was well satisfied with my report. "From the king's letter," said he, "I judged that he was a wise man. It seems that he is worthy of his people, and his people of him."
So saying he dismissed me with rich presents, and I returned in peace to my own house.
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