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Saturday, April 7, 2007

2nd Voyage of Sindbad

On my return from my first voyage, I have decided to spend the rest of my days quietly in Bagdad, but very soon I grew tired of such an idle life and longed once more to go travel the seas.
I purchased, goods that were suitable selling in the places I intended to visit, and embarked for the second time in a good ship with other merchants whom I knew to be honorable men. We went from island to island, often making excellent bargains, until one day we landed at a spot which, though covered with fruit trees and had springs of excellent water, appeared to have neither houses nor people. While my companions wandered here and there gathering flowers and fruit I sat down in a shady place, and, having heartily enjoyed the food and the wine I had brought with me, I fell asleep, lulled by the murmur of a clear brook which flowed close by.
How long I slept I do not know , but when I opened my eyes and up on my feet, I realized with horror that I was alone and that the ship was gone. I ran aimlessly, uttering cries of despair, and when from the shore I saw my ship under full sail just disappearing upon the horizon, I wished bitterly that I had been content to stay at home in safety. But since wishes could do me no good, I started looking for a means of escape. I had climbed a tall tree and first looked towards the sea; but found nothing hopeful there. Then I turned landward, and was excited to see a huge dazzling white object at a distance but I could not make out what it might be.
Descending from the tree I hastily collected what remained of my food and set off as fast as I could go towards the white object. As I drew near it seemed to me to be a white ball of immense size and height, and when I could touch it, I found it marvelously smooth and soft. As it was impossible to climb it, I walked around it looking for some opening, but there was none. I counted, however, that it was at least fifty feet around. By this time the sun was near setting, but quite suddenly it fell dark, something like a huge black cloud came swiftly over me, and I saw with amazement that it was a bird of extraordinary size which was hovering near. Then I remembered that I had often heard the sailors speak of a wonderful bird called a roc, and it occurred to me that the white object which had so puzzled me must be its egg.
Sure enough the bird settled slowly down upon it, covering it with its wings to keep it warm, and I cowered close beside the egg in such a position that one of the bird's feet, which was as large as the trunk of a tree, was just in front of me. Taking off my turban I bound myself securely to it with the linen in the hope that the roc, when it took flight next morning, would carry me away with it from the desolate island. And this was precisely what did happen. At dawn, the bird rose into the air carrying me up and up till I could no longer see the earth, and then suddenly it descended so swiftly that I almost lost consciousness. When I became aware that the roc had settled and that I was once again upon solid ground, I hastily unbound my turban from its foot and freed myself, and that not a moment too soon; for the bird, pouncing upon a huge snake, killed it with a few blows from its powerful beak, and seizing it up rose into the air once more and soon disappeared from my view. When I had looked about me I began to doubt if I had gained anything by leaving the desolate island.
The valley in which I found myself was deep and narrow, and surrounded by mountains which towered into the clouds, and were so steep and rocky that there was no way of climbing up their sides. As I wandered about, seeking anxiously for some means of escaping from this trap, I observed that the ground was strewed with diamonds, some of them were huge in size. This sight gave me great pleasure, but my delight turned into fear when I saw also many horrible snakes that were so long and so large that the smallest of them could have swallowed an elephant with ease. Fortunately for me they seemed to hide in caverns of the rocks by day, and only came out by night, probably because of their enemy the roc.
All day long I wandered up and down the valley, and when it grew dark I crept into a little cave, and blocked the entrance with a stone, I ate part of my little store of food and lay down to sleep, but all through the night the serpents crawled to and fro, hissing horribly, so that I could scarcely sleep. I was thankful when the morning light appeared, and when I judged by the silence that the serpents had retreated to their dens I came tremblingly out of my cave and wandered up and down the valley once more, kicking the diamonds contemptuously out of my path, for I felt that they were indeed vain things to a man in my situation. At last, overcome with weariness, I sat down upon a rock, but I had hardly closed my eyes when I was startled by something which fell to the ground with a thud next to me.
It was a huge piece of fresh meat, and as I stared at it several more pieces rolled over the cliffs in different places. I had always thought that the stories the sailors told of the famous valley of diamonds, and of the cunning way which some merchants had devised for getting at the precious stones, were mere travelers' tales invented to give pleasure to the listeners, but now I perceived that they were surely true. These merchants came to the valley at the time when the eagles, which keep their nests in the rocks, had hatched their young. The merchants then threw great lumps of meat into the valley. These, falling with so much force upon the diamonds, were sure to take up some of the precious stones with them, when the eagles pounced upon the meat and carried it off to their nests to feed their hungry broods. Then the merchants, scaring away the parent birds with shouts and drums, would secure their diamonds. Until this moment I had looked upon the valley as my grave, for I had seen no possibility of getting out of it alive, but now I took courage and began to plan my escape. I began by picking up all the largest diamonds I could find and storing them carefully in the leathern wallet which had held my food; this I tied securely to my belt. I then chose the piece of meat which seemed most suited to my purpose, and with the aid of my turban bound it firmly to my back; this done I laid down upon my face and awaited the coming of the eagles. I soon heard the flapping of their mighty wings above me, and had the satisfaction of feeling one of them seize upon my piece of meat, and me with it, and rise slowly towards his nest, into which he presently dropped me. Luckily for me the merchants were on the watch, and making noise with their drums they rushed to the nest scaring away the eagle. Their amazement was great when they discovered me, and also their disappointment. They started abusing me for having robbed them of their usual profit. I said: "I am sure, if you knew all that I have suffered, you would show more kindness towards me, and as for diamonds, I have enough here of the very best for all of us" So saying I showed them the diamonds. They then took me to their camp and examined my diamonds, they told me that they had never seen diamonds so big and beautiful.
I gave some diamonds to the merchants and kept the rest with me. I stayed with the merchants several days, and then as they were journeying homewards I gladly accompanied them. Our way lay across high mountains infested with frightful serpents, but we had the good luck to escape them and came at last to the seashore. Then we sailed to the isle of Rohat where the camphor trees grow to such a size that a hundred men could shelter under one of them with ease. The sap flows from an incision made high up in the tree into a vessel hung there to receive it, and soon hardens into the substance called camphor, but the tree itself withers up and dies when it has been so treated.
In this same island we saw the rhinoceros, an animal which is smaller than the elephant and larger than the buffalo. It has one horn about a yard long which is solid, but has a furrow from the base to the tip. Upon it is traced in white lines the figure of a man. The rhinoceros fights with the elephant, and transfixing him with his horn carries him off upon his head, but becoming blinded with the blood of his enemy, he falls helpless to the ground, and then comes the roc, and clutches them both up in his talons and takes them to feed his young. This doubtless astonishes you, but if you do not believe my tale go to Rohat and see for yourself. Before we left I exchanged one of my diamonds for much goodly merchandise by which I profited greatly on our homeward way. At last we reached Basra, and from there to Bagdad. First I gave away large sums of money to the poor, after which I settled down to enjoy tranquilly the riches I had gained with so much toil and pain.
Having thus related the adventures of his second voyage, Sindbad again bestowed a hundred gold coins upon Hindbad, inviting him to come again on the following day and hear how he fared upon his third voyage.

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