ABD AL-RAHMAN THE MAGHRIBI'S STORY OF THE RUKH. [FN#176]
There was once a man of the people of West Africa who had journeyed far and wide and traversed many a desert and a tide. He was once cast upon an island, where he abode a long while and, returning thence to his native country, brought with him the quill of a wing feather of a young Rukh, whilst yet in egg and unhatched; and this quill was big enough to hold a goat skin of water, for it is said that the length of the Rukh chick's wing, when he cometh forth of the egg, is a thousand fathoms. The folk marvelled at this quill, when they saw it, and the man who was called Abd al-Rahman the Moor (and he was known, to boot, as the Chinaman, for his long sojourn in Cathay), related to them the following adventure, one of many of his traveller's tales of marvel. He was on a voyage in the China seas--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Four Hundred and Fifth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abd al-Rahman, the Moorman, the Chinaman, was wont to tell wondrous tales amongst which was the following. He was on a voyage in the China seas with a company of merchants, when they sighted an island from afar; so they steered for it and, making fast thereto, saw that it was large and spacious. The ship's crew went ashore to get wood and water, taking with them hatchets and ropes and water skies (the travellers accompanying them), and presently espied a great dome, white and gleaming, an hundred cubits long. So they made towards it and drawing near, found that it was an egg of the Rukh and fell on it with axes and stones and sticks till they uncovered the young bird and found the chick as it were a firm set hill. So they plucked out one of the wing feathers, but could not do so, save by helping one another, for all the quills were not full grown, after which they took what they could carry of the young bird's flesh and cutting the quill away from the vane, returned to the ship. Then they set sail and putting out to sea, voyaged with a fair wind all that night, till the sun rose; and while everything went well, they saw the Rukh come flying after them, as he were a vast cloud, with a rock in his talons, like a great heap bigger than the ship. As soon as he poised himself in air over the vessel, he let fall the rock upon it; but the craft, having great way on her, outwent the rock, which fell into the sea with a loud crash and a horrible. So Allah decreed their deliverance and saved them from doom; and they cooked the young bird's flesh and ate it. Now there were amongst them old white bearded men; and when they awoke on the morrow, they found that their beards had turned black, nor did any who had eaten of the young Rukh grow gray ever after. Some said the cause of the return of youth to them and the ceasing of hoariness from them was that they had heated the pot with arrow wood, whilst others would have it that it came of eating the Rukh chick's flesh; and this is indeed a wonder of wonders. [FN#177] And a story is related of