Third Voyage (end)
(see previous page for audio)When the sun rose, I crept down from the tree with hardly a hope of escaping the dreadful fate which had over-taken my comrades, but life is sweet, and I determined to do all I could to save myself. All day long I toiled with frantic haste and collected quantities of dry brushwood, reeds and thorns, which I bound with faggots, and, making a circle of them under my tree, I piled them firmly one upon another until I had a kind of tent in which I crouched like a mouse in a hole when she sees the cat coming.
You may imagine what a fearful night I passed, for the snake returned eager to devour me and glided round and round my frail shelter, seeking an entrance. Every moment I feared that it would succeed in pushing aside some of the faggots, but happily for me they held together, and when it grew light, my enemy retired, baffled and hungry, to his den.
As for me, I was more dead than alive! Shaking with fright and half-suffocated by the poisonous breath of the monster, I came out of my tent and crawled down to the sea, feeling that it would be better to plunge from the cliffs and end my life at once than pass such another night of horror. But to my joy and relief, I saw a ship sailing by and, by shouting wildly and waving my turban, I managed to attract the attention of her crew.
A boat was sent to rescue me, and very soon I found myself on board, surrounded by a wondering crowd of sailors and merchants eager to know by what chance I found myself in that desolate island. After I had told my story, they regaled me with the choicest food the ship afforded, and the captain, seeing that I was in rags, generously bestowed upon me one of his own coats.
After sailing about for some time and touching at many ports, we came at last to the island of Salahat, where sandalwood grows in great abundance. Here we anchored, and as I stood watching the merchants disembarking their goods and preparing to sell or exchange them, the captain came up to me and said, "I have here, brother, some merchandise belonging to a passenger of mine who is dead. Will you do me the favour to trade with it, and when I meet with his heirs I shall be able to give them the money, though it will be only just that you shall have a portion for your trouble."
I consented gladly, for I did not like standing by idle. Whereupon he pointed the bales out to me and sent for the person whose duty it was to keep a list of the goods that were upon the ship. When this man came he asked in what name the merchandise was to be registered.
"In the name of Sindbad the Sailor," replied the captain.
At this I was greatly surprised, but looking carefully at him, I recognised him to be the captain of the ship upon which I had made my second voyage, though he had altered much since that time. As for him, believing me to be dead, it was no wonder that he had not recognised me.
"So, captain," said I, "the merchant who owned those bales was called Sindbad?"
"Yes," he replied. "He was so named. He belonged to Bagdad and joined my ship at Balsora, but by mischance he was left behind upon a desert island where we had landed to fill up our water-casks, and it was not until four hours later that he was missed. By that time the wind had freshened, and it was impossible to put back for him."
"You suppose him to have perished then?" said I.
"Alas! yes," he answered.
"Why, captain!" I cried, "look well at me. I am that Sindbad who fell asleep upon the island and awoke to find himself abandoned!"
The captain stared at me in amazement, but was presently convinced that I was indeed speaking the truth and rejoiced greatly at my escape.
"I am glad to have that piece of carelessness off my conscience at any rate," said he. "Now take your goods and the profit I have made for you upon them, and may you prosper in future."
I took them gratefully and, as we went from one island to another ,I laid in stores of cloves, cinnamon, and other spices. In one place I saw a tortoise which was twenty cubits long and as many broad, and also a fish that was like a cow and had skin so thick that it was used to make shields. Another I saw that was like a camel in shape and colour.
So by degrees we came back to Balsora, and I returned to Bagdad with so much money that I could not myself count it, besides treasures without end. I gave largely to the poor and bought much land to add to what I already possessed, and thus ended my third voyage.
Next: Fourth Voyage