Seventh and Last Voyage
After my sixth voyage I was quite determined that I would go to sea no more. I was now old enough to appreciate a quiet life, and I had taken enough risks. I only wished to end my days in peace. One day, however, when I was entertaining a number of my friends, I was told that an officer of the Caliph wished to speak to me, and when he was admitted he asked me follow him into the presence of the Caliph Haroun al Raschid, which I did. After I had bowed to him, the Caliph said,”I have sent for you, Sinbad, because I need your services. I have chosen you to deliver a letter and a gift to the King of Serendib in return for his message of friendship.”
The Caliph’s order fell upon me like a thunderbolt.
“Your Majesty,” I answered, “I am ready to do all that your Majesty commands, but I humbly beg you to remember that I am utterly exhausted by all my previous voyages. Indeed, I have made a vow never again to leave Baghdad.”
With this I told him of some of my strangest adventures, to which he listened patiently.
“I admit,” said he, “that you have indeed had some extraordinary experiences, but I do not see why they should stop you from doing as I wish. You have only to go straight to Serendib and give my message. Then you are free to come back and do as you like. But you must go. My honour and dignity demand it.”
Seeing that I had no choice, I declared myself willing to obey, and the Caliph, delighted, gave me a thousand gold coins for the expenses of the voyage. I was soon ready to start, and taking the letter and the present I embarked at Basra, and sailed quickly and safely to Serendib. Here, when I had explained my mission, I was warmly welcomed, and brought to the king, who greeted me with joy.
“Welcome, Sinbad,” he cried. “I have thought of you often, and rejoice to see you once more.”
After thanking him for the honour that he did me, I displayed the Caliph’s gifts. First a bed decorated with cloth of gold, which cost a thousand gold coins. Fifty robes of rich embroidery, a hundred of the finest white linen from Cairo, Suez, Cufa, and Alexandria. Then more beds of different styles, and an agate vase carved with the figure of a man aiming an arrow at a lion, and finally a costly table, which had once belonged to King Solomon. The King of Serendib received all this with great satisfaction, and now my task being accomplished I was anxious to depart. However, it was some time before the king would think of letting me go. At last, however, he let me go with many presents, and I lost no time in going on board a ship, which sailed at once. For four days all went well. On the fifth day we had the misfortune to meet pirates, who seized our vessel, killing all who resisted, and making prisoners of those who were sensible enough to surrender at once. When they had taken all we possessed, they forced us to put on rags and sailing to a distant island there sold us for slaves. I fell into the hands of a rich merchant, who took me home with him and clothed and fed me well. After some days he sent for me and questioned me as to what I could do.
I answered that I was a rich merchant who had been captured by pirates, and therefore I knew no trade.
“Tell me,” said he, “Can you shoot with a bow?”
I replied that this had been one of the pastimes of my youth, and that surely with practice my skill would come back to me.
Upon this he provided me with a bow and arrows, and mounting me with him upon his own elephant went to a vast forest which lay far from the town. When we had reached the wildest part of it we stopped, and my master said to me: “This forest swarms with elephants. Hide yourself in this great tree, and shoot at all that pass you. When you have succeeded in killing one come and tell me.”
He gave me a supply of food, and returned to the town, and I sat myself high up in the tree and kept watch. That night I saw nothing, but just after sunrise the next morning a large herd of elephants came crashing and trampling by. I lost no time in shooting several arrows, and at last one of the great animals fell to the ground dead, and the others ran off, leaving me free to come down from my hiding place and run back to tell my master of my success, for which I was praised and rewarded with good things. Then we went back to the forest together and dug a mighty trench in which we buried the elephant I had killed, in order that when it became a skeleton my master might return and secure its tusks.
For two months I hunted and no day passed without my killing, an elephant. Of course I did not always place myself in the same tree, but sometimes in one place, sometimes in another. One morning as I watched the approach of the elephants I was surprised to see that, instead of passing the tree I was in, as they usually did, they paused, and completely surrounded it, trumpeting horribly, and shaking the very ground with their heavy tread, and when I saw that their eyes were fixed upon me I was terrified, and my arrows dropped from my trembling hand. I had indeed good reason for my terror when, an instant later, the largest of the animals wound his trunk round the trunk of my tree, and with one mighty effort tore it up by the roots, bringing me to the ground entangled in its branches. I thought now that my last hour was surely come; but the huge creature, picking me up gently enough, set me upon its back, where I clung, and followed by the whole herd turned and crashed off into the dense forest. It seemed to me a long time before I was once more set upon my feet by the elephant, and I stood as if in a dream watching the herd, which turned and trampled off in another direction, and were soon hidden in the dense undergrowth. Then, recovering myself, I looked about me, and found that I was standing upon the side of a great hill, covered as far as I could see on either side with bones and tusks of elephants. “This then must be the elephants’ burying place,” I said to myself, “and they must have brought me here that I might stop killing them, seeing that I want nothing but their tusks. Here lie more than I could carry away in a lifetime.”
I turned and made for the city as fast as I could go. After a day and a night I reached my master’s house, and was received by him with joyful surprise.
“Ah! Poor Sinbad,” he cried, “I was wondering what could have become of you. When I went to the forest I found the tree newly uprooted, and the arrows lying beside it, and I feared I should never see you again. Tell me how you escaped death.”
I soon satisfied his curiosity, and the next day we went together to the Ivory Hill, and he was overjoyed to find that I had told him nothing but the truth. When we had loaded our elephant with as many tusks as it could carry and were on our way back to the city, he said, “My brother, since I can no longer treat you as a slave because you have made me so rich take your freedom and may Heaven protect you. You must know that these wild elephants have killed numbers of our slaves every year. No matter what good advice we gave them, they were caught sooner or later. You alone have escaped these animals. Therefore you must be under the special protection of Heaven. Now through you the whole town will be enriched without further loss of life, therefore you shall not only receive your freedom, but I will also give a fortune to you.”
To which I replied, “Master, I thank you, and wish you all good fortune. For myself I only ask freedom to return to my own country.”
“It is well,” he answered, “the monsoon will soon bring the ivory ships here. Then I will send you on your way.”
So I stayed with him till the time of the monsoon, and every day we added to our store of ivory till all his warehouses were overflowing with it. By this time the other merchants knew the secret, but there was enough for all. When the ships at last arrived my master himself chose the one in which I was to sail, and put on board for me a great amount of the best food and also much ivory, and all the most precious curiosities of the country, for which I could not thank him enough, and so we parted. I left the ship at the first port we came to, not feeling at ease upon the sea after all that had happened to me and having traded my ivory for much gold, and bought many rare and costly presents, I loaded my pack animals, and joined a caravan of merchants. Our journey was long and tedious, but I accepted it patiently, thinking that at least I did not have to fear storms, nor pirates, nor giant snakes, nor any of the other dangers from which I had suffered before, and at last we reached Baghdad. My first care was to present myself before the Caliph, and tell him of my trip. He told me that my long absence had worried him greatly, but he had nevertheless hoped for the best. As to my adventure among the elephants he heard it with amazement, declaring that he could not have believed it had not my truthfulness been well known to him.
By his orders this story and the others I had told him were written in letters of gold, and placed in the Grand library among his treasures. I left him, well satisfied with the honours and rewards he gave upon me; and since that time I have rested from my work, and given myself up to my family and my friends.
Thus Sinbad ended the story of his seventh and last voyage, and turning to Hindbad he added:
“Well, my friend, and what do you think now? Have you ever heard of anyone who has suffered more, or had more narrow escapes than I have? Is it not fair that I should now enjoy a life of ease and tranquility?”
Hindbad drew near, and kissing his hand respectfully, replied, “Sir, you have indeed known fearful dangers. My troubles have been nothing compared to yours. Moreover, the generous use you make of your wealth proves that you deserve it. May you live long and happily in the enjoyment of it.”
Sinbad then gave him a hundred gold coins, and from then on counted him among his friends. Also he made him give up his work as a porter, and to eat everyday at his table so that he might all his life remember Sinbad the Sailor.