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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 30/114 -

At the sight of these steps, for there was not a bit of ground either on the right or left whereon a man could set his foot, I gave thanks to God, and recommended myself to his holy protection. I began to mount the steps, which were so narrow, rugged, and hard to get up, that had the wind blown ever so little, it would have thrown me down into the sea; but at last I got up to the top without any accident; I came into the dome, and, kneeling on the ground, gave God thanks for his mercies to me.

I passed the night under the dome, and, in my sleep, an old grave man appeared to me, and said, Hearken, Agib, as soon as thou art awake, dig up the ground under thy feet; thou shalt find a bow of brass, and three arrows of lead, that are made under certain constellations, to deliver mankind from so many calamities that threaten them. Shoot the three arrows at the statue, and the rider shall fall into the sea, but the horse will fall down by thy side, which thou must bury in the same place from whence you took the bow and arrows. This being done, the sea will swell and rise up to the foot of the dome that stands upon the top of the mountain; when it is come up so high, thou shalt see a boat with one man and an oar in each hand. This man is also of metal, different from that thou hast thrown down; step on board to him without mentioning the name of God, and let him conduct thee. He will in ten days time bring thee into another sea, where thou shalt find an opportunity to get home to thy country safe and sound, provided, as I have told thee, thou dost not mention the name of God during the whole voyage.

These were the contents of the old man's discourse. When I awaked, I was very much comforted by the vision, and did not fail to observe every thing that he had commanded me. I took the bow and arrows out of the ground, shot them at the horseman, with the third arrow I overthrew him, and he full into the sea, as the horse fell by my side, which I buried in the place whence I took the bow and arrows. In the mean time the sea swelled, and rose up by degrees. When it came as high as the foot of the dome that stood upon the top of the mountain, I saw afar off a boat rowing towards me, and I returned God thanks that every thing succeeded according to my dream.

At last the boat came ashore, and I saw the man was made of metal, according as I had dreamed. I stepped aboard, and took great heed not to pronounce the name of God, neither spoke I one word at all; I sat down, and the man of metal began to row off from the mountain. He rowed without ceasing, till the ninth day that I saw some islands, which put me in hopes that I was out of all the danger that I was afraid of. The excess of joy made me forget what I was forbidden to do; God's name be blessed, said I, the Lord be praised!

I had no sooner spoken these words than the boat sunk with the man of metal, and, leaving me upon the surface, I swam the remaining part of the day towards that land which appeared nearest to me. A very dark night succeeded, and, not knowing whereabouts I was, I swam at a venture; my strength began at last to fail, and I despaired of being able to save myself, when the wind began to blow hard, and a wave as big as a mountain threw me on a flat, where it left me, and drew back. I made haste to get ashore, fearing another wave might wash me back again. The first thing I did was to strip and wring the water out of my clothes, and then I laid them down to dry on the sand, which was still pretty warm by the heat of the day.

Next morning the sun dried my clothes betimes; I put them on, and went forward to see whereabouts I was. I had not walked very far till I found I was got upon a little desert island, though very pleasant, where grew several sorts of trees and wild fruits; but I perceived it was very far from the continent, which much diminished the joy I conceived for having escaped the danger of the seas. Notwithstanding, I recommended myself to God, and prayed him to dispose of me according to his good-will and pleasure; at the same time I saw a vessel coming from the main-land, before the wind, directly to the island. I doubted not that they were coming to anchor there, and being uncertain what sort of people they might be, whether friends or foes, thought it not safe for me to be seen: I got up into a very thick tree, from whence I might safely view them. The vessel came into a little creek, where ten slaves landed, carrying a spade and other instruments fit for digging up the ground; they went towards the middle of the island, where I saw them stop, and dig the ground a long while, after which I thought I saw them lift a trap-door. They returned again to the vessel, and unloaded several sorts of provisions and furniture, which they carried to that place where they had broken ground, and so went downward, which made me suppose it was a subterraneous dwelling.

I saw them once more go to the ship, and return soon after with an old man, who led a very handsome young lad in his hand, of about fourteen or fifteen years of age; they all went down at the trap-door; and being come up again, having let down the trap-door, and covered it over with earth, they returned to the creek where the ship lay, but I saw not the young man in their company; this made me believe that he staid behind in that place under ground, at which I could not but be extremely astonished.

The old man and the slaves went on board again, and the vessel being got under sail, steered its course towards the mainland. When I perceived they were at such a distance that they could not see me, I came down from the tree, went directly to the place where I had seen the ground broken, and removed the earth by degrees, till I found a stone that was two or three feet square. I lifted it up, and saw it covered the head of the stairs, which were also of stone; I went down, and came into a large room, where there was laid a foot-carpet, with a couch covered with tapestry, and cushions of rich stuff, upon which the young man sat with a fan in his hand. I saw all this by the light of two tapers, together with the fruits and flower-pots he had standing about him. The young lad was startled at the sight of me; but, to rid him of his fear, I spoke to him as I came in thus: Whoever you be, sir, do not fear any thing: a king, and the son of a king, as I am, is not capable of doing you any prejudice. On the contrary, it is probable that your good destiny has brought me hither to deliver you out of this tomb, where it seems they have buried you alive, for reasons unknown to me. But that which makes me wonder, and that which I cannot conceive, (for you must know that I have been witness to all that hath passed since your coming into this island) is, that you suffered yourself to be buried in this place without any resistance.

The young man recovered himself at these words, and prayed me, with a smiling countenance, to sit down by him; which when I had done, he said, Prince, I am to acquaint you with a matter so odd in itself that it cannot but surprise you.

My father is a merchant-jeweller, who has acquired, through his ingenuity in his calling, a great estate; he hath a great many slaves, and also deputies whom he employs to go as supercargoes to sea with his own ships, on purpose to maintain the correspondence he has at several courts, which he furnishes with such precious stones as they want.

He had been married a long while, and without issue, when he understood by a dream that he should have a son, though his life would be but short, at which he was very much concerned when he awaked. Some days after, my mother acquainted him that she was with child, and the time which she supposed to be that of her conception agreed exactly with the day of his dream. She was brought to bed of me at the end of nine months, which occasioned great joy in the family.

My father, who had observed the very moment of my birth, consulted astrologers about my nativity, who told him, Your son shall live very happy till the age of fifteen, when he will be in danger of losing his life, and hardly be able to escape it; but if his good destiny preserve him beyond that time, he will live to grow very old. It will be then, said they, when the statue of brass that stands upon the top of the mountain of adamant, shall be thrown down into the sea by Prince Agib, son of King Cassib; and, as the stars prognosticate, your son shall be killed fifty days afterwards by that prince.

As the event of this part of the prediction about the statue agrees exactly with my father's dream, it afflicted him so much that he was struck to the very heart with it. In the mean time, he took all imaginable care of my education, until this present year, which is the fifteenth of my age; and he had notice given him yesterday that the statue of brass had been thrown into the sea about ten days ago by the same prince I told you of. This news has cost him so many tears, and has alarmed him so much, that he looks not like himself.

Upon these predictions of the astrologers, he has sought by all means possible to falsify my horoscope, and to preserve my life. It is not long since he took the precaution to build me this subterranean habitation to hide me in till the expiration of the fifty days after the throwing down of the statue; and therefore, since it was that this had happened ten days ago, he came hastily hither to hide me, and promised at the end of forty days to come again and fetch me out. As for my own part, I am in good hopes, and cannot believe that Prince Agib will come to seek for me in a place under ground in the midst of a desert island. This, my lord, is what I have to say to you.

Whilst the jeweller's son was telling me this story, I laughed in myself at those astrologers who had foretold that I should take away his life; for I thought myself so far from being likely to verify what they said, that he had scarcely done speaking when I told him with great joy, Dear sir, put your confidence in the goodness of God, and fear nothing; you may consider it as a debt you was to pay, but that you are acquitted of it from this very hour. I am glad that, after my shipwreck, I came so fortunately hither to defend you against all those that would attempt your death; I will not leave you till the forty days are expired, of which the foolish astrologers have made you so apprehensive; and in the mean time I will do you all the service that lies in my power; after which I shall have the benefit of getting to the main-land in your vessel, with leave of your father and yourself; and when I am returned into my kingdom, I shall remember the obligations I owe you, and endeavour to demonstrate my acknowledgments in a suitable manner.

This discourse of mine encouraged the jeweller's son, and made him have confidence in me. I took care not to tell him I was the very Agib whom he dreaded, lest I should put him into a fright, and took as much care not to give him any cause to suspect it. We passed the time in several discourses, till night came on. I found the young lad of a ready wit, and ate with him of his

The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 30/114

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