THE FOURTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD THE SAILOR.
he pleasures I took after my third voyage had not charms enough to divert me from another. I was again prevailed upon by my passion for traffic and curiosity to see new things. I therefore settled my affairs, and having provided a stock of goods fit for the places where I designed to trade, I set out on my journey. I took the way of Persia, of which I travelled over several provinces, and then arrived at a port, where I embarked. We set sail, and having touched at several ports of the mainland and some of the eastern islands, we put out to sea, and were overtaken by a sudden gust of wind that obliged the captain to furl his sails, and to take all other necessary precautions to prevent the danger that threatened us. But all was in vain; our endeavours had no effect, the sails were torn into a thousand pieces, and the ship was stranded; so that a great many of the merchants and seamen were drowned, and the cargo lost.
I had the good fortune, with several of the merchants and mariners, to get a plank, and we were carried by the current to an island which lay before us: there we found fruit and spring water, which preserved our lives. We stayed all night near the place where the sea cast us ashore, without consulting what we should do, our misfortune had dispirited us so much.
Next morning, as soon as the sun was up, we walked from the shore, and advancing into the island, saw some houses, to which we went; and as soon as we came thither we were encompassed by a great number of black men, who seized us, shared us among them, and carried us to their respective habitations.
I and five of my comrades were carried to one place; they made us sit down immediately, and gave us a certain herb, which they made signs to us to eat. My comrades, not taking notice that the black men ate none of it themselves, consulted only the satisfying of their own hunger, and fell to eating with greediness: but I, suspecting some trick, would not so much as taste it, which happened well for me; for in a little time I perceived my companions had lost their senses, and that when they spoke to me they knew not what they said.
The black men fed us afterwards with rice, prepared with oil of cocoanuts, and my comrades, who had lost their reason, ate of it greedily. I ate of it also, but very sparingly. The black men gave us that herb at first on purpose to deprive us of our senses, that we might not be aware of the sad destiny prepared for us; and they gave us rice on purpose to fatten us, for, being cannibals, their design was to eat us as soon as we grew fat. They did accordingly eat my comrades, who were not aware of their condition; but my senses being entire, you may easily guess that instead of growing fat, as the rest did, I grew leaner every day. The fear of death under which I laboured turned all my food into poison. I fell into a languishing illness which proved my safety, for the black men having killed and eaten up my companions, seeing me to be withered, lean, and sick, deferred my death till another time.
Meanwhile, I had a great deal of liberty, so that there was scarcely any notice taken of what I did, and this gave me an opportunity one day to get at a distance from the houses, and to make my escape. An old man who saw me, and suspected my design, called to me as loud as he could to return, but instead of obeying him, I redoubled my pace, and quickly got out of sight. At that time there was none but the old man about the houses, the rest being away, and not to come home till night, which was pretty usual with them; therefore, being sure that they could not come in time to pursue me, I went on till night, when I stopped to rest a little, and to eat some of the provisions I had taken care to bring; but I speedily set forward again, and travelled seven days, avoiding those places which seemed to be inhabited, and living for the most part upon cocoanuts, which served me for both meat and drink. On the eighth day I came near the sea, and all of a sudden saw white people like myself, gathering pepper, of which there was great plenty in that place. This I took to be a good omen, and went to them without any scruple.
The people who gathered pepper came to meet me as soon as they saw me, and asked me in Arabic who I was, and whence I came. I was overjoyed to hear them speak in my own language, and satisfied their curiosity by giving them an account of my shipwreck, and how I fell into the hands of the black men. 'Those black men,' replied they, 'are cannibals, and by what miracle did you escape their cruelty?' I told them the same story I now tell you, at which they were wonderfully surprised.
I stayed with them till they had gathered their quantity of pepper, and then sailed with them to the island from whence they came. They presented me to their king, who was a good prince. He had the patience to hear the relation of my adventures, which surprised him, and he afterwards gave me clothes, and commanded care to be taken of me.
The island was very well peopled, plentiful in everything, and the capital was a place of great trade. This agreeable retreat was very comfortable to me after my misfortune, and the kindness of this generous prince towards me completed my satisfaction. In a word, there was not a person more in favour with him than myself; and, in consequence, every man in court and city sought to oblige me, so that in a very little time I was looked upon rather as a native than a stranger.
I observed one thing which to me appeared very extraordinary. All the people, the king himself not excepted, rode their horses without bridle or stirrups. This made me one day take the liberty to ask the king how that came to pass. His majesty answered, that I talked to him of things which nobody knew the use of in his dominions. I went immediately to a workman, and gave him a model for making the stock of a saddle. When that was done, I covered it myself with velvet and leather, and embroidered it with gold. I afterwards went to a locksmith, who made me a bridle according to the pattern I showed him, and then he made me also some stirrups. When I had all things completed, I presented them to the king, and put them upon one of his horses. His majesty mounted immediately, and was so pleased with them, that he testified his satisfaction by large presents to me. I could not avoid making several others for his ministers and the principal officers of his household, who all of them made me presents that enriched me in a little time. I also made some for the people of best quality in the city, which gained me great reputation and regard.
As I paid court very constantly to the king, he said to me one day, 'Sinbad, I love thee; and all my subjects who know thee treat thee according to my example. I have one thing to demand of thee, which thou must grant.'
'Sir,' answered I, 'there is nothing but I will do, as a mark of my obedience to your majesty, whose power over me is absolute.'
'I have a mind thou shouldst marry,' replied he, 'that so thou mayst stay in my dominion, and think no more of thy own country.'
I dared not resist the prince's will, and so he gave me one of the ladies of his court, a noble, beautiful, and rich lady. The ceremonies of marriage being over, I went and dwelt with the lady, and for some time we lived together in perfect harmony. I was not, however, very well satisfied with my condition, and therefore designed to make my escape on the first occasion, and to return to Bagdad, which my present settlement, how advantageous soever, could not make me forget.
While I was thinking on this, the wife of one of my neighbours, with whom I had contracted a very close friendship, fell sick and died. I went to see and comfort him in his affliction, and finding him swallowed up with sorrow, I said to him as soon as I saw him, 'God preserve you and grant you a long life.'
'Alas!' replied he, 'how do you think I should obtain that favour you wish me? I have not above an hour to live.'
'Pray,' said I, 'do not entertain such a melancholy thought; I hope it will not be so, but that I shall enjoy your company for many years.'
'I wish you,' said he, 'a long life; but for me my days are at an end, for I must be buried this day with my wife. This is a law which our ancestors established in this island, and always observed inviolably. The living husband is interred with the dead wife, and the living wife with the dead husband. Nothing can save me; every one must submit to this law.'
While he was entertaining me with an account of this barbarous custom, the very hearing of which frightened me cruelly, his kindred, friends and neighbours came in a body to assist at the funerals. They put on the corpse the woman's richest apparel, as if it had been her wedding-day, and dressed her with all her jewels; then they put her into an open coffin, and lifting it up, began their march to the place of burial. The husband walked at the head of the company, and followed the corpse. They went up to a high mountain, and when they came thither, took up a great stone, which covered the mouth of a very deep pit, and let down the corpse, with all its apparel and jewels. Then the husband, embracing his kindred and friends, suffered himself to be put into another open coffin without resistance, with a pot of water, and seven little loaves, and was let down in the same manner as they let down his wife. The mountain was pretty long, and reached to the sea. The ceremony being over, they covered the hole again with the stone, and returned.
It is needless to say that I was the only melancholy spectator of this funeral, whereas the rest were scarcely moved at it, the practice was so customary to them. I could not forbear speaking my thoughts on this matter to the king. 'Sir,' said I, 'I cannot but wonder at the strange custom in this country of burying the living with the dead. I have been a great traveller, and seen many countries, but never heard of so cruel a law.'
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