The Arabian Nights
( Originally Published 1877 )
Who wrote the Stories ?
WHO knows ? Not Captain Mayne Reid ; though had he been born a Persian, and lived long time enough ago, and been a Caliph with a long beard and a cimiter — instead of a captain in the Mexican war, with a Colt's revolver and a goatee, — and had he seen the cloud of dust which Ali-Baba saw, I think he could have made out the band of forty robbers under it, and the cave, and all the rest.
But Mayne Reid didn't see the cloud of dust which covered those robbers (and which is very apt to cover all gangs of public robbers), and did not live so long ago, and therefore did not write " The Arabian Nights." Nor did Mrs. Hannah More, for the book is not in her style ; nor did the author of " Little Women."
You could never guess who wrote "The Arabian Nights," —for nobody knows when those stories were first written. It seems very odd that a book should be made, and no one able to tell when it was made. The publishers don't allow such things to happen nowadays. Yet it is even so with the book we are talking of. Of course it is possible to fix the date of the many translations of " The Arabian Nights " which have been made into the languages of Europe from the old Arabic manuscripts. Thus it was in the year 1704 that a certain Antoine Galland, a distinguished Oriental scholar of Paris, who had travelled in the East, and who had collected many curious manuscripts and medals, published a French translation of what was called "The Thousand and One Nights." This was in the time of the gay court of Louis the Fourteenth ; and the fine ladies of the court — those of them who could read — all devoured the book ; and the school-boys throughout France (though there were not many school-boys in those days outside of the great cities) all came to know the wonderful stories of Aladdin and of Ali-Baba. Remember that this was about the time when the great Duke of Marlboro' was winning his famous victories on the Continent, — specially that of Blenheim ; about which an English poet, Dr. Southey, has written a quaint little poem, which you should read. It was in the lifetime, too, of Daniel Defoe, — who wrote that ever-charming story of Robinson Crusoe some twelve or fourteen years later ; and the first newspaper in America — called "The Boston News Letter " —was printed in the same year in which Antoine Galland published his translation of "The Thousand and One Nights." If you should go to Paris, and be curious to see it, you can find in the Imperial Library, or the National Library (or whatever those changeable French people may call it now), the very manuscript of Antoine Galland.
Some years afterward there was a new and fuller translation by another Oriental scholar, who had succeeded M. Galland as professor of Arabic in the Royal College. Then there followed, in the early part of this century, translations into English ; and I suppose that American boys in the days of President Monroe took their first taste of those gorgeous Arabian tales.
But the completest of all the collections was made by a German scholar, Mr. Von Hammer, in the year 1824—not so far back but that your fathers and mothers may remember little stray paragraphs in the papers, which made mention of how a German scholar had traced these old Arabian tales back to a very dim antiquity in India ; and how he believed they had thence gone into Persia, where the great men of the stories all became Caliphs ; and how they floated thence, by hear-say, into Arabia (which was a country of scribes and scholars in the days of Haroun al Raschid) ; and how they there took form in the old Arabic manuscripts which Antoine Galland had found and translated. But during the century that had passed since M. Galland's death, other and fuller Arabic copies had been found, with new tales added, and with other versions of the tales first told.
But what we call the machinery of the stories was always much the same ; and the same Genii flashed out in smoke and flame, and the same cimiters went blazing and dealing death through all the copies of "The Thousand and One Nights."
But why came that title of "The Thousand and One Nights," which belonged, and still belongs, to all the European collections of these old Arabian stories ? I will tell you why ; and in telling you why, I shall give you the whole background on which all these various Arabian stories, wherever found, are arrayed. And the background is itself a story, and this is the way it runs : —
The Vizier's Daughter
Once there lived a wicked Sultan of Persia, whose name was Schahriar ; and he had many wives—like the Persian Shah who went journeying into England a few summers ago ; and he thought of his wives as stock-owners think of their cattle — and I fear the present Persian Shah thinks no otherwise.
Well, when this old Schahriar found that his wives were faithless and deceitful, — as all wives will be who are esteemed no more than cattle, — he vowed that he would cut off all chance of their sinning by making an end of them : so it happened that whatever new wife he espoused one day, he killed upon the next.
You will think the brides were foolish to marry him ; but many women keep on making as foolish matches all the world over; and she who marries a sot, or the man who promises to be a sot, is killed slowly, instead of being killed quickly with a bow-string, — as the Schahriar did his work.
Besides, all women of the East were slaves, as they are mostly now, and subject to whatever orders the Sultan might make.
Now, it happened that this old Schahriar had a vizier, or chief officer under him, who executed all his murderous orders, and who was horrified by the cruelties he had to commit. And this same vizier had a beautiful and accomplished daughter, who was even more horrified than her father ; and she plotted how she might stay the bloody actions of the Schahriar.
She could gain no access to him, and could hope to win no influence over him, except by becoming his bride ; but, if she became his bride, she would have but one day to live. So, at least, thought her sisters and her father. She, of course, found it very hard to win the consent of her father, the vizier, to her plan ; but at last she succeeded, and so arranged matters that the Schahriar should command her to be his bride.
The fatal marriage-day came, and the vizier was in an agony of grief and alarm. The morning after the espousals, he waited — in an ecstasy of fear — the usual order for the slaughter of the innocent bride ; but to his amazement and present relief, the order was postponed to the following day.
This bride, whose name was Scheherazade, — known now to school-boys and school-girls all over the world, — was most beguiling of speech, and a most charming story-teller. And on the day of her marriage she had commenced the narration of a most engrossing story to her husband the Schahriar; and had so artfully timed it, and measured out its length, that, when the hour came for the Sultan to set about his cares of office, she should be at its most interesting stage. The Sultan had been so beguiled by the witchery of her narrative, and so eager to learn the issue, that he put off the execution of his murderous design, in order to hear the termination of the story on the following night.
And so rich was the narration, and so great was the art of the princess Scheherazade, that she kept alive the curiosity and wonder of her husband, the Sultan, — day after day, and week after week, and month after month, — until her fascinating stories had lasted for a thousand and one nights.
If you count up these you will find they make a period of two years and nine months—during which she had beguiled the Sultan, and stayed the order for her execution. In the interval, children had been born to her ; and she had so won upon her husband, that he abolished his cruel edict forever, — on condition that from time to time she should tell over again those enchanting stories. And the stories she told on those thousand and one nights, and which have been recited since in every language of Europe, thousands and thou-sands of times, are the Arabian Nights tales.
If this account is not true in all particulars, it is at least as true as the stories are.
A good woman sacrificed herself to work a deed of benevolence. That story, at any rate, is true, and is being repeated over and over in lives all around us.
But, after all, the question is not answered as to who wrote "The Arabian Nights." I doubt if it ever will be answered truly. Who cares, indeed ? I dare say that youngsters in these days of investigation committees are growing up more curious and inquiring than they used to be ; but I know well I cared or thought nothing about the authorship in those old school days when I caught my first reading of Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp.
What a night it was ! What a feast ! I think I could have kissed the hand that wrote it.
A little red morocco-bound book it was, with gilt edges to the leaves, that I had borrowed from Tom Spooner; and Tom Spooner's aunt had loaned it to him, and she thought all the world of it, and had covered it in brown paper, and I mustn't soil it, or dog's-ear it. And I sat down with it — how well I remember ! — at a little square-legged red table in the north recitation-room at E school ; and there was a black hole in the top of the table—where Dick Linsey, who was a military character, and freckled, had set off a squib of gunpowder (and got trounced for it) ; and the smell of the burnt powder lingered there, and came up gratefully into my nostrils, as I read about the sulphurous clouds rolling up round the wonderful lamp, and the Genie coming forth in smoke and flames !
What delight ! If I could only fall in with an old peddler with a rusty lamp, — such as Aladdin's, — wouldn't I rub it !
And with my elbows fast on the little red table, and my knees fast against the square legs, and the smell of the old squib regaling me, I thought what I would order the Genie to do, if I ever had a chance :— A week's holiday to begin with ; and the Genie should be requested to set the school "principal" down, green spectacles and all, in the thickest of the woods some-where on the " mountain." Saturday afternoons should come twice a week — at the very least ; turkey, with stuffing, every day except oyster day. I would have a case of pocket-knives " Rogers' superfine cutlery "—(though Kingsbury always insisted that " Wostenholm's " were better) brought into my closet, and would give them out, cautiously, to the clever boys. I would have a sled, brought .by the Genie, that would beat Ben Brace's " Reindeer," he bragged so much about, — by two rods, at least. I would have a cork jacket, with which I could swim across Snipsic Lake, where it was widest, — twice over, — and think nothing of it. I would have a cavern, like the salt mines in Cracow, Poland (as pictured in Parley's Geography); only, in-stead of salt, it should all be rock-candy ; and I would let in clever fellows and pretty girls, and the homely ones, too — well, as often as every Wednesday.
Ah, well-a-day ! we never come to the ownership of such caverns ! We never find a peddler with the sort of lamp that will bring any sort of riches — with wishing.
But, my youngsters, there is a Genie that will come to any boy's command, and will work out amazing things for you all through boyhood, and all through life ; and his name is — Industry.
And now, if your lessons are all done, and if you will keep in mind what I have said about " The Arabian Nights," and their history, we will have a taste of these Eastern stories.
Aladdin and his Lamp
Aladdin was the son of a poor old woman who lived in a city of China. His father was dead, and he didn't work as he should have done to support his old mother : in fact, all his early life was not the sort of one out of which men are apt to grow into heroes.
He was idling in the streets one day— as idle fellows will — when he met a strange man with a dark face, who asked Aladdin his name, and told him he was a relative of his father's, and would befriend him ; and thereupon he gave him some gold coins, with which Aladdin ran off home.
After a few days this strange man (who was a magician — though Aladdin couldn't know that) met the boy again, and gave him more money, and paid a visit to his old mother, and promised to set up the boy in trade, which he did do — furnishing him silks to sell, or whatever the city people would be apt to buy. And this same strange dark man used to take Aladdin about the city, and show him all the wonderful sights ; and finally led him one day far beyond the city walls, to a retired place between two mountains. There with the help of Aladdin he builds a fire (a great many of the wonders of these tales turn upon the secret power of fire) ; then he utters a few magical words, and the ground opens, showing an iron plate, which Aladdin lifts, and to ! there appear steps going down into a cavern in the earth.
The magician instructs Aladdin how he is to descend, —tells him what halls of treasure he will pass through, and gardens with splendid fruit, — tells him how he must touch nothing till he reaches the farthest chamber, where he will find an iron lamp in a niche of the wall. This he must seize upon, and bring back : after he has secured this, he may pluck as much of the fruit as he chooses. Lastly he puts on the boy's finger a ring, which will give him safety and help.
So Aladdin enters, — marches through the great glittering corridors (which, though they were deep under ground, were as light as day), — passes through the gar-dens, and reaches and seizes the lamp.
He picks some of the fruit in the garden ; but what seemed fruit are only topazes and diamonds and pearls. Of course he fills his purse and his pockets ; and, arrived at the steps, the magician asks him to hand up the lamp.
But Aladdin is cautious : perhaps he suspects a little false play on the part of the magician, and he refuses until he shall have come fairly out.
At this the magician in a rage utters again a few magical words, and the ground and iron door close on poor Aladdin. He wanders in despair up and down. He calls out ; but who can hear him in those depths ? At last he betakes himself to prayer ; and, in the act of clasping his hands, he rubs slightly the ring upon his finger. Upon this a great Genie appears in smoke and flame, by whose power he is placed outside once more, and he wanders back to his mother's house in the city.
I don't know what became of his shop and stock of goods ; or what became of his pocket-full of rubies and diamonds. The story doesn't say ; but it does say that he felt hungry on one occasion, when there was no bread in the house, and no money. So he determined to sell the old lamp : the mother thinks no one will buy it, except she brighten it up a little. But she has no sooner set to work at the scouring, than smoke and flame fill the place, and out of the smoke and flame comes a terrible Genie, who offers to do Aladdin's bidding.
Aladdin wants food ; and straightway, the Genie having vanished, slaves come in from some unknown quarter, and bring silver and gold dishes heaped up with meats and fruits such as these humble people had never tasted before. And when after some days the meats are gone, the gold dishes are sold to a Jew, and they have money for months longer. Two or three times in the course of a year this is repeated : the lamp is rubbed ; the Genie comes ; the food in golden dishes is sent up ; the dishes are sold. I don't think Aladdin can have made a very good bargain with the Jew who bought his dishes. For my part, I think I should have commanded the Genie to bring a good batch of " current funds," and bought my own dishes. But Aladdin didn't.
He began shortly to have ambitious views about getting up in the world. He had seen the Sultan's daughter, and, approving of her looks, thought he would like to marry her. He sent his old mother to " interview " the Sultan on the subject.
People at the court hooted her at the first ; but she bore great gifts of jewels and gold, — so great that at last the Sultan listened, and promised that at the end of a certain time his daughter would receive the addresses of this unknown lover.
But, as the Sultan had already the rare jewels in his own keeping, he did not keep very fast in mind poor Aladdin ; and so Aladdin woke one morning to hear the bells ringing for the marriage of the Sultan's daughter. However, by the aid of the lamp and the Genie, he put difficulties in the way of this new marriage ; and sent such splendid gifts that at last he won his purpose ; and his marriage day with the beautiful daughter of the Sultan was really appointed. He built a magnificent palace — all through the Genie of the lamp — in which he was to live ; and he purposely left one window in the great hall unfinished, and then he challenged the best work-people of the Sultan to complete it.
The Sultan sent his cunningest workmen, and his whole stock of jewels, to make the window of the palace as perfect as the rest. But they could not do it. The laborers were not cunning enough, and the jewels were not rare enough. So Aladdin ordered them away ; and then (with his lamp, and a little rubbing of it) he called his Genie, and all was finished in an hour's time.
The Sultan's daughter seems to have liked Aladdin ; and they lived very happily together for a while in this palace. I dare say the old people of the court thought Aladdin an upstart, and perhaps they didn't visit him notwithstanding his wife's position.
Meantime, what has become of that African magi. cian? He had gone away—across Tartary possibly, and by way of Bagdad very likely, to his own country, --thinking poor Aladdin was buried in the cavern. But, by his magic, he learned after a time how things had turned in China : so he travelled back to get possession of the wonderful lamp. The way in which he did this was a very shrewd way ; for he disguised himself as a peddler of new and flash trinkets, and offered to change them for old candlesticks or old lamps.
If he had lived in our time, he would have found that women love old candlesticks very much more than any new things ; but it was not so then ; and he went to the gates of this splendid Aladdin palace, bawling his wares, and offering to change new lamps for old ones. And some slave — I suppose an upper chambermaid — re-ported what he said to the princess Buddir al Buddoor (which was the name of Aladdin's bride). And she hinted to the princess that an old lamp stood always on her master's table, which was so ugly and old, that it would be much better to have a new one in place of it.
The princess Buddir thought the same ; and, Aladdin being away a-hunting, the bargain was made.
What do you think came of it ? Why, next morning, when the Sultan waked up, he looked over to admire the fine palace of his son-in-law, and behold ! there was no palace there ! The African magician (by the aid of the lamp) had whisked it away into his own country.
Poor Aladdin, when he came back from hunting, had a sorry time of it, and the Sultan threatened to take off his head. But he begged grace for two months or so, in which time he hoped to get things straight again.
What way should he turn ? He knew it must all come of the lamp ; but where to find it ? He thought if he could discover the princess, he might learn some-thing about the lamp ; though I am afraid he lamented the loss of the lamp more than he did the loss of the princess. He remembered the ring the magician had given him, and gave it a good rubbing ; sure enough, the old Genie that had met him in the cavern came back in smoke and flame. The Genie couldn't give back his bride to him ; but it transported him over land and sea in a twinkling, and set him down under the walls of his lost palace, which was standing now in the magician's country, just as complete and beautiful as it stood before in China. This was very wonderful. I suppose if the African newspapers of that time re-marked upon it, they probably said, — " We observe that a fine residence has gone up on Pyramid Street, adding much to the value of property in that locality, and doing credit to the taste and enterprise of our fellow towns-man Mr. Magic."
Aladdin saw through the blinds of a window of the residence the beloved Buddir (I suppose he called her Budd, or perhaps Rosebud) ; and she saw him, and sent her maid to open the postern, or whatever the gate was called ; and he came in, and learned how it had all happened. And Rosebud said the magician came every day, and was trying to win her affections. Aladdin told her not to bluff him outright ; but to treat him kindly, and ask him to take supper with her. Then he goes to a drug-shop near by, and buys a powder, — sulphate of morphia, perhaps, —and, returning quietly and secretly, causes the powder to be put in the magician's cup.
That is the end of the magician. The lamp — as you will have guessed—was in his bosom ; and Aladdin takes it out — rubs it, and whisks his palace — Rose-bud and all — back to China once more.
The Sultan is delighted to find things on their old footing. And I suppose the China newspapers said, " We are gratified to see that the residence of our friend Col. Aladdin is again in position, and occupied by the esteemed family of the colonel. Its temporary displacement is said to have been due to a slight earth-quake, against which in future we understand that the colonel has abundantly provided. Mrs. Col. Aladdin, née Buddir, is, we learn, in her usual health, not having suffered, as was at first reported, by the catastrophe."
Things were now going on very swimmingly with Aladdin ; and they would have continued thus, had not an old lady who boasted of being very religious (which is not a thing to boast of) put herself in the way of Princess Budd, and so won upon her, that Rosebud thought she would do nothing without taking the advice of Fatima, —which was the name of the pretended holy woman.
Rosebud asked Fatima how she liked her palace, and her crockery, and her great Hall. Fatima liked it all very well, except the Hall, which she thought wanted a Roc's egg hung up in the middle.
It must have been a very great hall ; for a Roc's egg was so large that when it lay upon the plain it looked like a round-topped temple.
But perhaps Budd had never seen one — probably not. She asked Aladdin to get her a Roc's egg. So he takes to his lamp, and calls up his Genie.
For once the Great Slave was raging with anger. The house shook ; flames darted from the eyes of the Genie. Aladdin did not know that the Roc was own cousin to this creature of smoke and flame—and that they were much attached to each other.
The Genie at last cooled down, and told Aladdin how it was ; and told him, besides, that the holy woman was no woman at all — only a brother of the wicked magician, who had murdered the true Fatima, and had made his way into the palace to destroy Aladdin, and get possession of the Wonderful Lamp.
So Aladdin determined to meet the tricks of the magician with a trick of his own. He pretended to be sick, and summoned the holy woman to comfort him : he watched her narrowly, and saw that under the folds of her gown she had a dagger in hand. Seizing his chance, he snatched it from her, and plunged it in her bosom ; and that was the end of the other magician.
Rosebud was greatly shocked ; for she thought still it was Fatima who was murdered. She dried her tears when Aladdin told her the true story. And ever after they lived together in great comfort, and kept the Wonderful Lamp till they died.
And who do you think has the Lamp now ? Nobody knows.
It seems strange that such a lazy, good-for-nothing fellow as Aladdin is said to be in the beginning of the story, should have come to such great luck. Such boys in our day don't come to any thing good or great. The only way I can account for it is — by supposing that there was really no lamp at all, and that the old story-teller intended what he calls the Lamp to mean — only Industry and Watchfulness — which, as long as Aladdin kept and used, brought him riches and honor ; and whenever he lost hold on them — every thing turned out badly.
A Great Traveller
In the time of the great Haroun al Raschid -----
You don't know who the great Haroun al Raschid was ?
He was a real Eastern monarch, surnamed The Just, who lived about eleven hundred years ago in Bagdad. He loved science, and loved letters ; he loved fair women, and he loved pearls and jewels.
I don't know if all is true that the histories tell about him ; but he must have been a grand monarch, and lived in more luxury than most monarchs.
I can't forget the stories of him, which an old teacher of my boyish days put in my mind. They cling so to my memory, that I never, hear the sweetly-flowing name of Haroun al Raschid, but I seem to see great gardens full of bloom, and thrones with jewels crusted on them, and sparkling fountains, and flashing swords, and silken turbans, and troops of camels, and palm-trees lifting their tops into the dreamy haze of East-ern countries. Then, again, I see the great Caliph seated on his jewelled throne, and the Grand Vizier, Jaeffer, in attendance on him — looking lovingly upon the beautiful face of the Princess — the daughter of Haroun. Poor Jaeffer ! He came to look too lovingly upon the beautiful face of the Princess ; and the great Caliph clipped off his head with a cimeter. This is history I am telling you now ; and this really and truly happened. It has made a great blot upon the fame of Haroun al Raschid, who, — for all this, was the most brilliant and the justest monarch of those centuries ; and he lived in the age of Charlemagne.
Well—it was in the time of this great Caliph Haroun al Raschid, and in his great city of Bagdad, that a porter named Hindbad, very poor, and very tired, and very hungry, — one day sat at the gate of a rich, tall palace, snuffing the odors of the rich dinner that was being served within.
The by-standers told him he was at the door of the great traveller and merchant — Sindbad. But it did not console the poor fellow to know that the rich man had a name almost like his own.
" Alas ! " said he (nobody says "Alas ! " now, whatever happens), "Alas, why has Allah, the great God, given to this man plenty, and to poor Hindbad only poverty?"
Some one of the by-standers — very likely the door-keeper — reported this speech of the poor fellow to Sindbad ; and Sindbad ordered him brought in, and gave him a place at his table, and then and there commenced the story of those dangerous voyages of his, and of those trials and labors, which had made him rich. I suppose he wanted to make poor Hindbad understand that riches do not fall from the clouds, and that very many who enjoy them have come to them through long struggles and dangers — if nothing worse.
Sindbad said that he was the son of a merchant ; and that on his first voyage he was one day becalmed beside what seemed a great green island ; and that he, with several of the crew, went ashore, and after wandering about some time suddenly felt the land quake and heave under them. This was not strange ; for what they had taken to be an island was in reality only the back of a huge sea-monster sleeping on the water. Before he had fairly rolled over and gone down, most of the men made their escape in the boat; but poor Sindbad was not quick enough, so he was overwhelmed in the sea. Luckily he seized upon a log as he rose, and clambering upon it, floated upon it a day and a night, and at last was swept into the bay of a real island where he had many adventures, but ended with getting home safely, and with the wonderful recovery of all the goods he had taken out in his ship.
On his second voyage he was cast away again ; and upon the island where he landed he came upon one of those wonderful Roc's eggs of which a picture was given you a little way back. Of course he had no idea what it could be ; but while he gazed upon it in wonderment the sky was darkened, and the mother-bird came sailing to her nest. He was so near the egg, that the great Roc (which was large enough to carry off an elephant in its claws) sat down upon her egg and poor Sindbad. He made himself as small as he could ; and then with some cord he had in his pocket —what does he do but lash himself to the ankle, or to one of the toes, of the great bird !
Was there ever such a bird ? To tell truth, I don't think Sindbad's story is very good authority ; but there was an old Venetian traveller named Marco Polo, who went all across Asia some years later than the time of Haroun, and he says he heard of the Roc ; and people told him it could carry up an elephant and a rhinoceros together. But then, Marco Polo, though he was a real traveller, told some stories that it is hard to believe.
Why did Sindbad tie himself to the leg of the great Roc ? The truth is, there was nothing to eat on the great plain where the Roc's nest was ; and he was so badly off, that he thought he could not fare worse in going wherever the Roc might take him. He doesn't seem to have been at all afraid that the Roc would devour him ; and he had as good a reason for wishing to change his place of residence as many people have now every May-day.
The Roc, when it flew, took him up, — so high, he could see no ground : he was swept through the clouds, and great clouds were below him. Then at last, swooping down in great circles over sea and over land, the Roc alighted in a barren valley hemmed in on all sides by high mountains. From the account Sindbad gave of it, it must have been very much like the famous valley of Yosemite in California. Yet I don't think it was the Yosemite. However, he untied himself hastily ; and presently after, the Roc, having taken up a huge serpent in his beak, soared away.
Sindbad found himself without food. There were no houses in this mountain valley ; there were no fruits ; huge serpents in plenty, and—strange to say — great store of diamonds scattered all over the surface of the ground. But all around him the cliffs were so steep that there was no hope of climbing away ; least of all, if he should load himself with diamonds. It was a dreadful night he passed after his air-voyage tied to the leg of the Roc. There was no shelter except in a crevice of the cliffs — too narrow for the great serpents to creep in. The next day, as he wandered about, faint with hunger, he suddenly felt a shock of something falling on the ground near him ; and, on looking carefully, he found that this falling matter was nothing less than big rounds of uncooked beef. He saw, too, that these fragments of meat were directly pounced upon by gigantic eagles, which swooped down and bore them off. He remembered then to have heard of some distant valley where the diamond-collectors took this way to gather jewels they could not otherwise reach — the diamonds sticking fast in the flesh, and the eagles bearing all to their nests in the cliffs, where the merchants found them. Marco Polo, if I remember rightly, tells this story too.
Seeing how the case stood, Sindbad gathered a great package of the finest diamonds to be found —tied the package to his girdle in front ; then tied a round of beef to his girdle behind, and lay down flat, with his face to the ground. He trusted that some great eagle would lift him, and the meat, and diamonds, and all.
And there came a mammoth bird, — not so large as a roc, by any means, — but yet equal to the work. Slowly but surely, Sindbad was borne up by it from the earth — borne away to the cliffs, and dropped into a nest of young eaglets, where the diamond-searchers were in waiting to snatch the jewels.
You may be sure they were very much surprised to see Sindbad, and were astonished when he showed them the treasures in his package. However, he gave them a generous share, — visited their city, saw the king, — as was usual for strangers, — and finally sailed away with a rich load of jewels for home. And this was the end of his second voyage.
On his third voyage, this unlucky Sindbad was wrecked again. He saves his life, indeed, and with a few of his comrades wanders upon the shores of a strange country, where at last he enters the doors of a great palace. It must have been a rude palace; for there were bones of men upon the floor, — fresh bones too ; and a great fire in the palace chimney-place, and fearful-looking spits. Sindbad and the men with him crouched in the corner ; and the walls around them shook, as the master of the palace came stalking in. He had a horrible figure. If you have ever read Homer, you must remember the great one-eyed Cy-clop, who lived in a cavern, and devoured the companions of Ulysses. Well, this monstrous creature, into whose palace Sindbad had wandered, was one-eyed, like the Cyclop, and far more hideous to look upon. His teeth were long and pointed, and his ears were like the ears of an elephant, and flapped upon his shoulders.
You may be sure he saw these castaway sailors with that great red eye of his ; and presently coming up and pinching one or two between his fingers, to find the fat-test of them, he picked out one ; then he lifted him as a cook would lift a partridge, and thrust him through with one of those cruel spits. The sailors knew then what the fire meant, and the men's bones ; and I suspect Sindbad must have been glad he was in so lean condition ; for he had been one of the first this mon strous creature had taken in hand.
Having eaten, the monster slept,—they generally sleep pretty soundly, — though his snoring was some thing dreadful to listen to. Sindbad and the men with him crept slily out from their corner, while the monster slept ; and, putting eight or nine of the iron spits in the fire until they were well heated, thrust them all at once into the one eye that was in the middle of the giant's forehead. Then they all made for the shore with as much haste as they could. They put together rafts out of timbers lying there—dreading every moment lest the blinded giant should find his way to them. They finished their rafts, however, and had pushed off, when, with a howling that echoed all along the shores, they saw the giant striding toward them, — led by another. and followed by some half-dozen others. In the Greek story—as you will find when you come to read it — there were only three of the Cyclops family—which seems quite enough. This company of Eastern giants did not reach the shore till Sindbad and his friends had paddled a long way off : but they were not safe ; for the giants. began pelting them with stones, and battered their rafts in pieces. Somehow Sindbad saved himself upon a log, and drifted into a far-away bay, where he landed with one or two companions. He had a wonderful escape here from huge serpents, who devoured the men with him ; and, from a tall tree into which he had climbed, he sees a ship off shore, and waves his turban, and is seen, and is taken off, and carried to his home again, — managing somehow to carry a great deal of money back with him from this voyage, as he did from all the others.
He makes seven voyages in all, of which he tells the story in seven succeeding days, to that old porter Hindbad, of whom I spoke in the beginning. And he not only tells the stories to Hindbad ; but he gives him a bag of golden coin every time he has finished a story of a voyage. I presume that Hindbad thought them very excellent stories, and would have dearly liked to hear more of them.
And he is not the only one who has thought them good. I cannot tell you the half of his wonderful adventures. Once, when cast away, he comes, with the sailors who were saved with him, upon another Roc's egg ; which his companions -- never having seen one before — commence hewing in pieces. In a moment the air is darkened ; the great birds, whose nests these wanderers have disturbed, hang over them like a cloud ; and when they would escape by taking to their boats, the birds, like the great Cyclops, take huge rocks, and sailing in the air above the ships, drop their burden, and make a wreck of the vessels.
That lucky Sindbad escapes, as he always manages to do ; but in the new lands to which he is floated upon a piece of the wreck, he finds one of the strangest of all his adventures. The trees are beautiful, and the streams of water there are sweet-smelling flowers too ; and in this country, which seems as if it were altogether only a pleasant garden, he meets an old man, with long white beard, and deep-set prying eyes, limping along by the bank of a stream. Sindbad, at the beckoning of this droll-looking old man, takes him on his shoulders to help him across the stream. But no sooner is he upon Sindbad's back than his legs seem to grow long, and cling about the poor sailor, and his fingers stretch out into claws that hold him fast ; and he settles to his place upon Sindbad's shoulders as if he grew there. Sindbad stoops for the old man to come down ; but the old man does not come down : instead of it, he chuckles, and gives Sindbad a punch in his ribs, and urges him to go forward.
And forward this poor sailor of Bagdad is compelled to go ; over hill and brook, and through valleys, and past wide plains, — by noon, by night, — this terrible old Man of the Sea keeps his place, and comes near to choking Sindbad with the tightness of his hug. He makes Sind-bad stay when he would pluck fruit from the trees ; he warns him to go faster, when, through fatigue, he halts and trembles under this terrible load.
Hindbad — being a porter — and used to carrying bur-dens on his shoulders, must have listened very wonderingly to this story of a load which could not be shaken off. Had it been a cask or a box, there would have been more hope ; but a burden in the shape of a man is a very hard thing to shake off.
And how was Sindbad rid of him at last ? Why, one day (after he had carried the old man a week or more), he saw some empty gourds lying on the ground ; and, taking one of them, he pressed the juice—from some of the delicious grapes that grew all around — into it, and then hung his gourd upon a tree. The juice turned into wine after some days, as grape-juice is very apt to do. And when he came to drink it, — being faint with the continual burden of that horrible Man of the Sea,—the old man snuffed the wine, and beckoned to Sindbad to give him a taste of it. And he took another, and an-other, and another taste, — as wine-drinkers when once started are inclined to do, — until at last Sindbad felt the old man loosening his hold : and he lay down with him ; and the hold was loosened more and more, until the old man had fallen off from his shoulders in a drunken sleep. Then Sindbad seized whatever weapon he could find, — stones, I presume, — and made an end of his tormentor.
Sindbad does not say so in his story ; but I think this old Man of the Sea belonged to a dreadful tribe called Badd-Habbidtz, stray members of which are found very often in the East nowadays, and sometimes in the West. If you ever meet one, I advise you not to let him get settled down on your shoulders.
Sindbad prospers again when once he has shaken off this obstinate old man : he makes friends in that beautiful country ; gathers great cargoes of tea and spices, and sails back with new and richer stores than ever to the dear old City of Bagdad.
There he lived always afterward in a princely house (if we may believe those who made the pictures for the " Arabian Nights " ), and was befriended by the Caliph Haroun al Raschid, who certainly lived and did a great many wonderful things — whatever may be true of the voyaging Sindbad and of the porter Hindbad.
Bagdad, too, was a real city, and is a city still. You will find it on your maps of Asia, lying a little eastward of the great sandy wastes of Arabia, upon the banks of the river Tigris, which is a branch of the river Euphrates, on which, as tradition says, once bloomed the Garden of Paradise.
Sindbad must have sailed on his great voyages down through the Tigris, —then through the Euphrates, and so out into the Persian Gulf. You can go there now by the same track over which Sindbad carried home his treasures. But I fear you would be disappointed in the city.
You would find low houses and narrow streets, and a Turkish governor in red woollen cap in place of the great Caliph. You would find the palaces and grand temples and hanging gardens ruined, and only be reminded of the days of Arabian Nights by the blazing noonday heats, by the camels coming in with their burdens, by the waving palm-trees, and by the tomb, which is still standing, of the beautiful Zobeide, who was the favorite wife of the great Caliph.
For my part, I am content to stay away from the Turkish city of Bagdad of to-day. I am sure that the sight of its outlying valleys —whatever herds of sheep and cattle might be feeding on them —would not be equal to the image I have in mind when I read the Vision of Mirza ; and in the city itself, I am quite sure that I should miss the great stretch of brilliant streets — the jewelled palaces —the troops of laden camels—the flashing cimeters — the rustle of silks—the fair Persians—the veiled princesses—the Shahs and Schahriars — the delightful Zobeides, — which come into my thought when I read the " Arabian-Nights " stories of the times of the magnificent Haroun al Raschid.