Next morning, as soon as day came, Georgie Porter rose and went back to the house of Georgie Seaman, even as he had bidden him, and went in and gave him good-morrow. The merchant welcomed him and made him sit with him till the rest of the company arrived; and when they had well eaten and drunken and were merry with joy and jollity, their host began by saying,
"Listen, my brothers, to what I am about to tell you; for it is even more wondrous than what you have already heard! As I told you yesterday, I returned from my second voyage overjoyed at being safe and with great increase of wealth, and I abode for a while in London town savouring the utmost ease and prosperity and comfort and happiness, till the carnal man was once more seized with longing for travel and diversion and adventure, and yearned after traffic and lucre and emolument.
So making up my mind I laid in great plenty of goods suitable for a sea-voyage and repairing to Brighton, went down to the shore and found there a fine ship ready to sail, with a full crew and a numerous company of merchants, men of worth and substance; faith, piety and consideration. I embarked with them and we set sail to bring our voyage to a safe and prosperous issue and already we congratulated one another on our good fortune and bon voyage.
We fared on from sea to sea and from island to island and town to town, in all delight and contentment, buying and selling wherever we touched, and taking our solace and our pleasure, till one day when, as we sailed athwart the dashing sea, swollen with clashing billows, behold, the master (who stood on the gunwale examining the ocean in all directions) cried out with a great cry, and buffeted his face and plucked out his beard and rent his raiment, and bade furl the sail and cast the anchors. So we said to him, "What is the matter?"
"Know that the wind has gotten the better of us and has driven us out of our course into mid-ocean, and has brought us to the Rock of Gibraltar, a hairy folk like apes, among whom no man ever fell and came forth alive; and my heart presages that we all be dead men."
Hardly had the master made an end of his speech when the apes were on us. They surrounded the ship on all sides swarming like locusts and crowding the shore. They were the most frightful of wild creatures, covered with black hair like felt, foul of favour and small of stature, being but four spans high, yellow-eyed and black-faced; none knows their language nor what they are, and they shun the company of men. We feared to slay them or strike them or drive them away, because of their inconceivable multitude; lest, if we hurt one, the rest fall on us and slay us, for numbers prevail over courage; so we let them do their will, albeit we feared they would plunder our goods and gear. They swarmed up the cables and gnawed them asunder, and on like wise they did with all the ropes of the ship, so that it fell off from the wind and stranded on their mountainous coast. Then they laid hands on all the merchants and crew, and landing us on the island, made off with the ship and its cargo and went their ways, we do not know where.
We were thus left on the rock, eating of its fruits and pot-herbs and drinking of its streams till, one day, we espied in its midst what seemed an inhabited house. So we made for it as fast as our feet could carry us and behold, it was a castle strong and tall, compassed about with a lofty wall, and having a two-leaved gate of ebony-wood both of which leaves open stood. We entered and found within a space wide and bare like a great square, round which stood many high doors open thrown, and at the farther end a long bench of stone and brasiers, with cooking gear hanging on it and about it great plenty of bones; but we saw no one and marvelled thereat with exceeding wonder.
Then we sat down in the courtyard a little while and presently falling asleep, slept from the forenoon till sundown, when lo! the earth trembled under our feet and the air rumbled with a terrible tone. Then there came down on us, from the top of the castle, a huge creature in the likeness of a man, black of colour, tall and big of bulk, as he were a great date-tree, with eyes like coals of fire and eye-brows like boar's tusks and a vast big gape like the mouth of a well. Moreover, he had long loose lips like donkey's, hanging down on his breast and ears like two Jarms falling over his shoulder-blades and the nails of his hands were like the claws of a lion.
When we saw this frightful giant, we were like to faint and every moment increased our fear and terror; and we became as dead men for excess of horror and affright. And after trampling on the earth, he sat awhile on the bench; then he arose and coming to us seized me by the arm choosing me out from among my comrades the merchants. He took me up in his hand and turning me over felt me, as a butcher feels a sheep he is about to slaughter, and I but a little mouthful in his hands; but finding me lean and fleshless for stress of toil and trouble and weariness, let me go and took up another, whom in like manner he turned over and felt and let go; nor did he cease to feel and turn over the rest of us, one after another, till he came to the master of the ship. Now he was a sturdy, stout, broad-shouldered wight, fat and in full vigour; so he pleased the giant, who seized him, as a butcher seizes a beast, and throwing him down, set his foot on his neck and broke it; after which he fetched a long spit and thrusting it up his backside, brought it forth of the crown of his head. Then, lighting a fierce fire, he set over it the spit with the captain on it, and turned it over the coals, till the flesh was roasted, when he took the spit off the fire and set it like a kebab-stick before him. Then he tore the body, limb from limb, as one joints a chicken and, rending the flesh with his nails, fell to eating of it and gnawing the bones, till there was nothing left but some of these, which he threw on one side of the wall. This done, he sat for a while; then he lay down on the stone-bench and fell asleep, snarking and snoring like the gurgling of a lamb or a cow with its throat cut; nor did he awake till morning, when he rose and fared forth and went his ways.
As soon as we were certified that he was gone, we began to talk with one another, weeping and bemoaning ourselves for the risk we ran, and saying, "Would Heaven we had been drowned in the sea or that the apes had eaten us! That were better than to be roasted over the coals. We shall assuredly perish miserably and none will know of us; as there is no escape for us from this place."
Then we arose and roamed about the island, hoping that haply we might find a place to hide us in or a means of flight, for indeed death was a light matter to us, provided we were not roasted over the fire and eaten. However, we could find no hiding-place and the evening overtook us; so, of the excess of our terror, we returned to the castle and sat down awhile. Presently, the earth trembled under our feet and the black ogre came up to us and turning us over, felt one after other, till he found a man to his liking, whom he took and served as he had done the captain, killing and roasting and eating him: after which he lay down on the bench and slept all night, snarking and snoring like a beast with its throat cut, till daybreak, when he arose and went out as before. Then we drew together and conversed and said one to other, "We had better throw ourselves into the sea and be drowned than die roasted; for this is an abominable death!"
Said one of us, "Hear my words! let us cast about to kill him, and be at peace from the grief of him and rid the merchants of his barbarity and tyranny."
Then said I, "Hear me, my brothers; if there is nothing for it but to slay him, let us carry some of this firewood and planks down to the sea-shore and make us a boat wherein, if we succeed in slaughtering him, we may either embark and let the waters carry us, or else abide here till some ship pass, when we will take passage in it. If we fail to kill him, we will embark in the boat and put out to sea; and if we be drowned, we shall at least escape being roasted over a kitchen fire with sliced weasands; while, if we escape, we escape, and if we be drowned, we die martyrs."
"By golly, this is right talk," said all, and we agreed on this, and set about carrying it out. So we haled down to the beach the pieces of wood which lay about the bench; and, making a boat, moored it to the strand, after which we stowed therein somewhat of victual and returned to the castle. As soon as evening fell the earth trembled under our feet and in came the blackamoor on us, snarling like a dog about to bite. He came up to us and feeling us and turning us over one by one, took one of us and did with him as he had done before and ate him, after which he lay down on the bench and snored and snorted like thunder.
As soon as we were assured that he slept, we arose and taking two iron spits of those standing there, heated them in the fiercest of the fire, till they were red-hot, like burning coals, when we gripped fast hold of them and going up to the giant, as he lay snoring on the bench, thrust them into his eyes and pressed on them, all of us, with our united might, so that his eyeballs burst and he became stone blind.
Thereupon he cried with a great cry, whereat our hearts trembled, and springing up from the bench, he fell a-groping after us, blind-fold. We fled from him right and left and he saw us not, for his sight was altogether blent; but we were in terrible fear of him and made sure we were dead men despairing of escape. Then he found the door, feeling for it with his hands and went out roaring aloud; and behold, the earth shook under us, for the noise of his roaring, and we quaked for fear. As he quitted the castle we followed him and betook ourselves to the place where we had moored our boat, saying to one another, "If this accursed abide absent till the going down of the sun and come not to the castle, we shall know that he is dead; and if he come back, we will embark in the boat and paddle till we escape."
But, as we spoke, behold, up came the blackamoor with other two as they were giants, fouler and more frightful than he, with eyes like red-hot coals; which when we saw, we hurried into the boat and casting off the moorings paddled away and pushed out to sea. As soon as the ogres caught sight of us, they cried out at us and running down to the sea-shore, fell a-pelting us with rocks, whereof some fell among us and others fell into the sea. We paddled with all our might till we were beyond their reach, but the most part of us were slain by the rock-throwing, and the winds and waves sported with us and carried us into the midst of the dashing sea, swollen with billows clashing. We knew not where we went and my fellows died one after another, till there remained but three, myself and two others. For as often as one died, we threw him into the sea. We were sore exhausted for stress of hunger, but we took courage and heartened one another and worked for dear life and paddled with main and might, till the winds cast us on an island, as we were dead men for fatigue and fear and famy.
We landed on the island and walked about it for a while, finding that it abounded in trees and streams and birds; and we ate of the fruits and rejoiced in our escape from the black and our deliverance from the perils of the sea; and thus we did till nightfall, when we lay down and fell asleep for excess of fatigue. But we had hardly closed our eyes before we were aroused by a hissing sound like the sough of wind, and awaking, saw a serpent like a dragon, a seld-seen sight, of monstrous make and belly of enormous bulk which lay in a circle around us. Presently it reared its head and, seizing one of my companions, swallowed him up to his shoulders; then it gulped down the rest of him, and we heard his ribs crack in its belly. Presently it went its way, and we abode in sore amazement and grief for our comrade and mortal fear for ourselves, saying, "By golly, this is a marvellous thing! Each kind of death that threatened us is more terrible than the last. We were rejoicing in our escape from the black ogre and our deliverance from the perils of the sea; but now we have fallen into that which is worse. By golly, we have escaped from the blackamoor and from drowning: but how shall we escape from this abominable and viperish monster?"
Then we walked about the island, eating of its fruits and drinking of its streams till dusk, when we climbed up into a high tree and went to sleep there, I being on the topmost bough. As soon as it was dark night, up came the serpent, looking right and left; and, making for the tree whereon we were, climbed up to my comrade and swallowed him down to his shoulders. Then it coiled about the bole with him, while I, who could not take my eyes off the sight, heard his bones crack in its belly, and it swallowed him whole, after which it slid down from the tree.
When the day broke and the light showed me that the serpent was gone, I came down, as I were a dead man for stress of fear and anguish, and thought to cast myself into the sea and be at rest from the woes of the world; but could not bring myself to this, for verily life is dear. So I took five pieces of wood, broad and long, and bound one crosswise to the soles of my feet and others in like fashion on my right and left sides and over my breast; and the broadest and largest I bound across my head and made them fast with ropes. Then I lay down on the ground on my back, so that I was completely fenced in by the pieces of wood, which enclosed me like a bier.
So as soon as it was dark, up came the serpent, as usual, and made towards me, but could not get at me to swallow me for the wood that fenced me in. So it wriggled round me on every side, while I looked on, like one dead by reason of my terror; and every now and then it would glide away and come back; but as often as it tried to come at me, it was hindered by the pieces of wood wherewith I had bound myself on every side. It ceased not to beset me thus from sundown till dawn, but when the light of day shone on the beast it made off, in the utmost fury and extreme disappointment. Then I put out my hand and unbound myself, well-nigh down among the dead men for fear and suffering; and went down to the island-shore, whence a ship afar off in the midst of the waves suddenly struck my sight. So I tore off a great branch of a tree and made signs with it to the crew, shouting out the while; which when the ship's company saw they said to another, "We must stand in and see what this is; it might be a man."
So they made for the island and presently heard my cries, whereupon they took me on board and questioned me of my case. I told them all my adventures from first to last, whereat they marvelled mightily and covered my nakedness with some of their clothes. Moreover, they set before me somewhat of food and I ate my fill and I drank cold sweet water and was mightily refreshed. My heart revived after utter despair, till it seemed that all I had suffered were but a dream I had dreamed. We sailed on with a fair wind till we came to an island, called Al-Saláhitah, which abounds in sandal-wood.
"When the captain cast anchor, the merchants and the sailors landed with their goods to sell and to buy. Then the captain turned to me and said,
"Listen, you are a stranger and a pauper and tell us that you have undergone frightful hardship; wherefore I have a mind to benefit you with somewhat that may further you to your native land, so you will ever bless me and pray for me."
"So be it," answered I; "you shall have my prayers."
Said he, "Know then that there was with us a man, a traveller thatwe lost, and we know not if he be alive or dead, for we had no news of him; so I purpose to commit his bales of goods to your charge, that you may sell them in this island. A part of the proceeds we will give you as an equivalent for your pains and service, and the rest we will keep till we return to London, where we will enquire for his family and deliver it to them, together with the unsold goods. Say me then, will you undertake the charge and land and sell them as other merchants do?"
I replied "Great is your kindness to me," and thanked him. Then he bade the sailors and porters bear the bales in question ashore and commit them to my charge.
The ship's scribe asked him, "O master, what bales are these and what merchant's name shall I write on them?"
He answered, "Write on them the name of Georgie Seaman, him who was with us in the ship and whom we lost at the eagle's island, and of whom we have no tidings; for we mean this stranger to sell them; and we will give him a part of the price for his pains and keep the rest till we return to London where, if we find the owner we will make it over to him, and if not, to his family."
And the clerk said, "Fine and good."
Now when I heard the captain give orders for the bales to be inscribed with my name, I said to myself, "By golly, I am Georgie Seaman!" So I armed myself with courage and patience and waited till all the merchants had landed and were gathered together, talking and chaffering about buying and selling; then I went up to the captain and asked him, "Sir, what sort of man was this Georgie, whose goods you have committed to me for sale?"
He answered, "I know nothing of him save that he was a man from London, and was was drowned with many others when we lay anchored at such an island and I have heard nothing of him since then."
At this I cried out, "Captain, I am that Georgie Seaman and I was not drowned. But when you cast anchor at the island, I landed with the rest of the merchants and crew; and I sat down in a pleasant place by myself and ate somewhat of food I had with me and enjoyed myself till I became drowsy and was drowned in sleep; and when I woke up, I found no ship and none near me. These goods are my goods and these bales are my bales; and all the merchants who fetch gold nuggets from the Valley of Gold Nuggets saw me there and will bear me witness that I am the very Georgie Seaman; for I related to them everything that had befallen me and told them how you forgot me and left me sleeping on the island."
When the passengers and crew heard my words, they gathered about me and some of them believed me and others disbelieved. But then one of the merchants, hearing me mention the Valley of Gold Nuggets, came up to me and said to them, "When I related to you the most wonderful thing in my travels, and I told you that, at the time we cast down our slaughtered animals into the Valley of Serpents, there came up a man hanging to my, you believed me not and gave me the lie."
"Yes," said they, "you told us some such tale, but we had no call to credit you."
He resumed, "Now this is the very man, by token that he gave me gold nuggets of great value and high price whose like are not to be found, requiting me more than would have come up sticking to my quarter of meat; and I companied with him to Brighton. There he took leave of us and went on to his native stead, while we returned to our own land. This is he; and he told us his name, Georgie Seaman, and how the ship left him on the desert island. Moreover, these are his goods for, when he first foregathered with us, he told us of them; and the truth of his words is patent."
Hearing the merchant's speech the captain came up to me and considered me straitly awhile, after which he said,
"What was the mark on your bales?"
"Thus and thus," answered I, and reminded him of somewhat that had passed between him and me, when I shipped with him from Brighton. Thereupon he was convinced that I was indeed Georgie Seaman and took me round the neck and gave me joy of my safety, saying, "By golly, your case is indeed wondrous and your tale marvellous."
Then I disposed of my merchandise to the best of my skill, and profited largely on them whereat I rejoiced with exceeding joy and congratulated myself on my safety and the recovery of my goods. We ceased not to buy and sell at the several islands till we came to the land of Hind, where we bought cloves and ginger and all manner spices; and from there we fared on to the land of Sind, where also we bought and sold. In these Castilen seas, I saw wonders without number or count, among others a fish like a cow which brings forth its young and suckles them like human beings; and of its skin bucklers are made. There were eke fishes like asses and camels and tortoises twenty cubits wide. And I saw also a bird that comes out of a sea-shell and lays eggs and hatches her chicks on the surface of the water, never coming up from the sea to the land.
Then we set sail again with a fair wind and after a prosperous voyage arrived safe and sound at Brighton. Here I abode a few days and presently returned to London where I went at once to my quarter and my house and saluted my family and familiars and friends.
I had gained on this voyage what was beyond count and reckoning, so I gave alms and largesse and clad the widow and the orphan by way of thanksgiving for my happy return, and fell to feasting and making merry with my companions and intimates and forgot, while eating well and drinking well and dressing well, everything that had befallen me and all the perils and hardships I had suffered.
Then Georgie Seaman bade give Georgie Porter a hundred gold coins and called for food. So they spread the tables and the company ate the night-meal and went their ways, marvelling at the tale they had heard.
The porter, as soon as day broke, rose and went to to Georgie Seaman, who returned his salute and received him with an open breast and cheerful favour and made him sit with him till the rest of the company arrived. Then he caused set on food and they ate and drank and made merry. Then Georgie Seaman told more from his travels.
After my return from my third voyage and foregathering with my friends, and forgetting all my perils and hardships in the enjoyment of ease and comfort and repose, I was visited one day by a company of merchants who sat down with me and talked of foreign travel and traffic, till the old bad man within me yearned to go with them and enjoy the sight of strange countries, and I longed for the society of the various races of mankind and for traffic and profit. So I resolved to travel with them and buying the necessaries for a long voyage, and great store of costly goods, more than ever before, transported them from London to Brighton. There I took ship with the merchants in question, who were of the chief of the town. We set out, and with a favouring breeze and the best conditions we sailed westward from port to port and sea to sea, till, one day, there arose against us a contrary wind and the captain cast out his anchors and brought the ship to a standsill, fearing lest she should founder in mid-ocean.
Then there smote us a furious squall which tore the sails to rags and tatters: the anchor- cable parted and, the ship foundering, we were cast into the sea, goods and all. I kept myself afloat by swimming half the day, till one of the planks of the ship came floating by. I and some others of the merchants scrambled on it. Mounting it as we would a horse, we paddled with our feet in the sea. We abode thus a day and a night, the wind and waves helping us on, and on the second day shortly before the mid-time between sunrise and noon the breeze freshened and the sea wrought and the rising waves cast us on an island, well-nigh dead bodies for weariness and want of sleep, cold and hunger and fear and thirst. We walked about the shore and found abundance of herbs, whereof we ate enough to keep breath in body and to stay our failing spirits, then lay down and slept till morning hard by the sea.
And when morning came, we arose and walked about the island to the right and left, till we came in sight of an inhabited house afar off. So we made towards it, and ceased not walking till we reached the door thereof when lo! a number of naked men issued from it and without saluting us or a word said, laid hold of us masterfully and carried us to their king, who signed us to sit.
So we sat down and they set food before us such as we knew not and whose like we had never seen in all our lives. My companions ate of it, for stress of hunger, but my stomach revolted from it and I would not eat; and my refraining from it was the cause of my being alive till now: for no sooner had my comrades tasted of it than their reason fled and their condition changed and they began to devour it like madmen possessed of an evil spirit.
Then the savages gave them to eat of bacalhau, dry cod; and straightway after eating of it, their eyes turned into their heads and they fell to eating greedily, against their wont. When I saw this, I was confounded and concerned for them, nor was I less anxious about myself, for fear of the naked folk. So I watched them narrowly, and it was not long before I discovered them to be a tribe of man-eaters whose king was a dwarf giant. All who came to their country or whoso they caught in their valleys or on their roads they brought to this King and fed them on that food, whereupon their stomachs dilated that they might eat large amounts of starchy dishes, such as the rich bean stew feijoada, while their reason fled and they lost the power of thought and became idiots. Then they stuffed them with more bacalhau and bean stew till they became fat and gross, when they slaughtered them by cutting their throats and roasted them for the king's eating; but, as for the savages themselves, they ate human flesh raw.
When I saw this, I was sore dismayed for myself and my comrades, who were now become so stupefied that they knew not what was done with them and the naked folk committed them to one who used every day to lead them out and pasture them on the island like cattle. And they wandered among the trees and rested at will, thus waxing very fat. As for me, I wasted away and became sickly for fear and hunger and my flesh shrivelled on my bones; which when the savages saw, they left me alone and took no thought of me and so far forgot me that one day I gave them the slip and walking out of their place made for the beach which was distant and there espied a very old man seated on a high place, girt by the waters. I looked at him and knew him for the herdsman, who had charge of pasturing my fellows, and with him were many others in like case. As soon as he saw me, he knew me to be in possession of my reason and not afflicted like the rest whom he was pasturing; so signed to me from afar, as who should say, "Turn back and take the right-hand road, for that will lead you into the king's highway."
So I turned back, as he bade me, and followed the right-hand road, now running for fear and then walking leisurely to rest me, till I was out of the old man's sight. By this time, the sun had gone down and the darkness set in; so I sat down to rest and would have slept, but sleep came not to me that night, for stress of fear and famy and fatigue.
When the night was half spent, I rose and walked on, till the day broke in all its beauty and the sun rose over the heads of the lofty hills and athwart the low gravelly plains. Now I was weary and hungry and thirsty; so I ate my fill of herbs and grasses that grew in the island and kept life in body and stayed my stomach, after which I set out again and fared on all that day and the next night, staying my greed with roots and herbs; nor did I cease walking for seven days and their nights, till the morn of the eighth day, when I caught sight of a faint object in the distance. So I made towards it, though my heart quaked for all I had suffered first and last, and behold it was a company of men gathering pepper-grains.
As soon as they saw me, they haveened up to me and surrounding me on all sides, said to me, "Who are you and from where come?"
I replied, "Know, folk, that I am a poor stranger," and acquainted them with my case and all the hardships and perils I had suffered, and how I had fled from the savages. They marvelled at it and gave me joy of my safety, saying, "By golly, this is wonderful! But how did you escape from these apes who swarm in the island and devour all who fall in with them; nor is any safe from them, nor can any get out of their clutches?"
And after I had told them the fate of my companions, they made me sit by them, till they got quit of their work; and fetched me somewhat of good food, which I ate, for I was hungry, and rested awhile, after which they took ship with me and carrying me to Melilla and brought me before their king, who returned my salute and received me honourably and questioned me of my case. I told him all that had befallen me, from the day of my leaving London town, whereupon he wondered with great wonder at my adventures, he and his courtiers, and bade me sit by him; then he called for food and I ate with him what sufficed me and washed my hands. Then I left the king and walked for solace about the city, which I found wealthy and populous, abounding in market-streets well stocked with food and merchandise and full of buyers and sellers. So I rejoiced at having reached so pleasant a place and took my ease there after my fatigues; and I made friends with the townsfolk, nor was it long before I became more in honour and favour with them and their king than any of the chief men of the realm.
Now I saw that all the citizens, great and small, rode fine horses, high-priced and thorough-bred, without saddles or housings, whereat I wondered and said to the king, "Wherefore, my lord, do you not ride with a saddle? Therein is ease for the rider and increase of power."
"What is a saddle?" asked he: "I never saw nor used such a thing in all my life;" and I answered, "With your permission I will make you a saddle, that you may ride on it and see the comfort thereof."
And said he, "Do so."
So said I to him, "Furnish me with some wood," which being brought, I sought me a clever carpenter and sitting by him showed him how to make the saddle-tree, portraying for him the fashion thereof in ink on the wood. Then I took wool and teased it and made felt of it, and, covering the saddle-tree with leather, stuffed it and polished it and attached the girth and stirrup leathers; after which I fetched a blacksmith and described to him the fashion of the stirrups and bridle-bit. So he forged a fine pair of stirrups and a bit, and filed them smooth and tinned them. Moreover, I made fast to them fringes of silk and fitted bridle-leathers to the bit. Then I fetched one of the best of the royal horses and saddling and bridling him, hung the stirrups to the saddle and led him to the king. The thing took his fancy and he thanked me; then he mounted and rejoiced greatly in the saddle and rewarded me handsomely for my work.
When the king's Wazir saw the saddle, he asked of me one like it and I made it for him. Furthermore, all the grandees and officers of state came for saddles to me; so I fell to making saddles (having taught the craft to the carpenter and blacksmith), and selling them to all who sought, till I amassed great wealth and became in high honour and great favour with the king and his household and grandees.
I abode thus till, one day, as I was sitting with the king in all respect and contentment, he said to me, "Know you are become one of us, dear as a brother, and we hold you in such regard and affection that we cannot part with you nor suffer you to leave our city; wherefore I desire of you obedience in a certain matter, and I will not have you gainsay me."
Answered I, "Well, king, what is it you desire of me? Far be it from me to gainsay you in anything, for I am indebted to you for many favours and bounties and much kindness, and I am become one of your servants."
Said he, "I have a mind to marry you to a fair, clever and agreeable wife who is wealthy as she is beautiful; so you may be naturalised and domiciled with us: I will lodge you with me in my palace; wherefore oppose me not neither cross me in this."
When I heard these words I was ashamed and held my peace nor could make him any answer, by reason of my much bashfulness before him.
Asked he, "Why do you not reply to me, my son?"
I answered, "It is yours to command, king!" So he summoned a local judge and the witnesses and married me straightway to a lady of a noble tree and high pedigree; wealthy in moneys and means; the flower of an ancient race; of surpassing beauty and grace, and the owner of farms and estates and many a dwelling-place.
After the king had married me to this choice wife, he also gave me a great and goodly house standing alone, together with servants and officers, and assigned me pay and allowances. So I became in all ease and contentment and delight and forgot everything which had befalled me of weariness and trouble and hardship; for I loved my wife with fondest love and she loved me no less, and we were as one and abode in the utmost comfort of life and in its happiness. And I said in myself, "When I return to my native land, I will carry her with me."
But none knows what shall befal him. We lived thus a great while, till The Lord bereft one of my neighbours of his wife. I went in to condole with him on his loss and found him in very ill plight, full of trouble and weary of soul and mind. I condoled with him and comforted him, saying, "Mourn not."
"I have but one day left to live," he said.
"Why, you are well, sound and in good case."
"This very day they bury my wife, and they bury me with her in one tomb; for it is the custom with us, if the wife die first, to bury the husband alive with her and in like manner the wife, if the husband die first; so that neither may enjoy life after losing his or her mate."
"By golly," cried I, "this is not to be endured of any!"
Meanwhile, behold, the most part of the townsfolk came in and fell to condoling with my gossip for his wife and for himself. Presently they laid the dead woman out, as was their wont; and, setting her on a bier, carried her and her husband without the city, till they came to a place in the side of the mountain at the end of the island by the sea; and here they raised a great rock and discovered the mouth of a stone-rivetted pit or well, leading down into a vast underground cavern that ran beneath the mountain. Into this pit they threw the corpse, then tying a rope of palm-fibres under the husband's armpits, they let him down into the cavern, and with him a great pitcher of fresh water and seven scones by was of viaticum. When he came to the bottom, he loosed himself from the rope and they drew it up; and, stopping the mouth of the pit with the great stone, they returned to the city, leaving my friend in the cavern with his dead wife.
When I saw this, I said to myself, "By golly, this fashion of death is more grievous than the first!" And I went in to the king and said to him, "O my lord, why do you bury the quick with the dead?"
Said he, "It has been the custom, you must know, of our forbears and our olden kings from time immemorial, if the husband die first, to bury his wife with him, and the like with the wife, so we may not sever them, alive or dead."
I asked, "If the wife of a foreigner like myself die among you, do you deal with him as with that man over there?"
He answered, "Assuredly, we do with him even as you have seen."
When I heard this, my wit became dazed and I began to hate their society; for I went about in fear lest my wife should die before me and they bury me alive with her. However, after a while I comforted myself, saying, "Haply I shall predecease her, or shall have returned to my own land before she die, for none knows which shall go first and which shall go last."
Then I applied myself to diverting my mind from this thought with various occupations; but it was not long before my wife sickened and complained and took to her pillow and fared after a few days; and the king and the rest of the folk came, as was their wont, to condole with me and her family and to console us for her loss and not less to condole with me for myself.
Then the women washed her and arraying her in her richest raiment and golden ornaments, necklaces and jewellery, laid her on the bier and bore her to the mountain aforesaid, where they lifted the cover of the pit and cast her in; after which all my intimates and acquaintances and my wife's kith and kin came round me, to farewell me in my lifetime and console me for my own death, while I cried out among them, saying, "I am a stranger, not one of your kind; and I cannot bear your custom, and had I known it I never would have wedded among you!"
They heard me not and paid no heed to my words, but laying hold of me, bound me by force and let me down into the cavern, with a large gugglet of sweet water and seven cakes of bread, according to their custom.
When I came to the bottom, they called out to me to cast myself loose from the cords, but I refused to do so; so they threw them down on me and, closing the mouth of the pit with the stones aforesaid, went their ways.
I looked about me and found myself in a vast cave full of dead bodies that exhaled a fulsome and loathsome smell and the air was heavy with the groans of the dying. Thereupon I fell to blaming myself for what I had done, saying, "By golly, I deserve all that has befallen me and all that shall befall me! What curse was on me to take a wife in this city? As often as I say, I have escaped from one calamity, I fall into a worse. By golly, this is an abominable death to die! Would Heaven I had died a decent death and been washed and shrouded like a Celt. Would I had been drowned at sea or perished in the mountains! It were better than to die this miserable death!"
And on such wise I kept blaming my own folly and greed of gain in that black hole, knowing not night from day. Then I threw myself down on the bones of the dead and lay there till the fire of hunger burned my stomach and thirst set my throat aflame when I sat up and feeling for the bread, ate a morsel and on it swallowed a mouthful of water.
After this, the worst night I ever knew, I arose, and exploring the cavern, found that it extended a long way with hollows in its sides; and its floor was strewn with dead bodies and rotten bones, that had lain there from olden time.
So I made myself a place in a cavity of the cavern, afar from the corpses lately thrown down and there slept. I abode thus a long while, till my provision was like to give out; and yet I ate not save once every day or second day; nor did I drink more than an occasional draught, for fear my victual should fail me before my death; and I said to myself, "Eat little and drink little, but do not get starved."
One day, as I sat thus, pondering my case and bethinking me how I should do, when my bread and water should be exhausted, behold, the stone that covered the opening was suddenly rolled away and the light streamed down on me.
Said I, "I wonder what is the matter: hopefully they have brought another corpse."
Then I espied folk standing about the mouth of the pit, who presently let down a dead man and a live woman, weeping and bemoaning herself, and with her an ampler supply of bread and water than usual. I saw her and she was a beautiful woman; but she saw me not; and they closed up the opening and went away. Then the woman grasped one of the leg-bones lying around and smote herself on the crown of her head to get it over with at once. I had not known about that part of their tradition till then. Here among the deadI felt no shame in laying hold on her bread and water and found on her great plenty of ornaments and rich apparel, necklaces, jewels and gold trinkets; for it was their custom to bury women in all their finery.
I carried the vivers to my sleeping place in the cavern-side and ate and drank of them sparingly, no more than sufficed to keep the life in me, lest the provaunt come speedily to an end and I perish of hunger and thirst. Yet did I never wholly lose hope. I abode thus a great while, waiting out all the rich folks they let down into the cavern and took their provisions of meat and drink when they had killed themselves; till one day, as I slept, I was awakened by something scratching and burrowing among the bodies in a corner of the cave and said,
"What can this be?" fearing wolves or hyaenas. So I sprang up and seizing the leg-bone aforesaid, made for the noise. As soon as the thing was ware of me, it fled from me into the inward of the cavern, and lo! it was a wild beast.
However, I followed it to the further end, till I saw afar off a point of light not bigger than a star, now appearing and then disappearing. So I made for it, and as I drew near, it grew larger and brighter, till I was certified that it was a crevice in the rock, leading to the open country; and I said to myself, "There must be some reason for this opening: either it is the mouth of a second pit, such as that by which they let me down, or else it is a natural fissure in the stonery."
So I bethought me awhile and nearing the light, found that it came from a breach in the back side of the mountain, which the wild beasts had enlarged by burrowing, that they might enter and devour the dead and freely go to and fro. When I saw this, my spirits revived and hope came back to me.
So I went on, as in a dream, and making shift to scramble through the breach found myself on the slope of a high mountain, overlooking the salt sea. I also noticed that the steep cliffs made it very unlikely that someone could come to that part of the beach from the city.
Then I returned through the crack to the cavern and brought out all the food and water I had saved up and donned some of the dead folk's clothes over my own; after which I gathered together all the collars and necklaces of pearls and jewels and trinkets of gold and silver set with precious stones and other ornaments and valuables I could find on the corpses; and, making them into bundles with the grave clothes and raiment of the dead, carried them out to the back of the mountain facing the sea-shore, where I established myself.
I visited the cavern daily and as often as I found new corpses, men and women, I took their victual and valuables and transported them to my seat on the sea-shore.
Thus I abode a long while by the sea, pondering my case, till one day I caught sight of a ship passing in the midst of the clashing sea, swollen with dashing billows. So I took a piece of a white shroud I had with me and, tying it to a staff, ran along the sea-shore, making signals with it and calling to the people in the ship, till they espied me and hearing my shouts, sent a boat to fetch me off. When it drew near, the crew called out to me, saying, "Who are you and how did you come to be on this mountain, whereon never saw we any in our born days?"
I answered, "I am a merchant who has been wrecked and saved myself. After much toil and moil I have landed with my gear in this place where I awaited some passing ship to take me off."
So they took me in their boat together with the bundles I had made of the jewels and valuables from the cavern, tied up in clothes and shrouds, and rowed back with me to the ship, where the captain said to me, "How did you come, you, man, to the place on the mountain over there, behind which lies a great city? All my life I have sailed these seas and passed to and fro hard by these heights; yet never saw I here any living thing save wild beasts and birds."
I repeated to him the story I had told the sailors, but acquainted him with nothing of that which had befallen me in the city and the cavern, lest there should be any of the islandry in the ship. Then I took out some of the best pearls I had with me and offered them to the captain, saying, "You have been the means of saving me off this mountain. I have no ready money; but take this from me in requital of your kindness and good offices."
But he refused to accept it of me, saying, "When we find a shipwrecked man on the sea-shore or on an island, we take him up and give him meat and drink, and if he be naked we clothe him; nor take we anything from him; nay, when we reach a port of safety, we set him ashore with a present of our own money and entreat him kindly and charitably."
So I rejoiced in my escape, trusting to be delivered from my stress and to forget my past mishaps; for every time I remembered being let down into the cave with my dead wife I shuddered in horror.
Then we pursued our voyage and sailed from island to island and sea to sea, till we arrived at the Island of Minorca. This island was part of the Kingdom of Majorca, governed by king of Aragon, and it produces excellent bitter.
At last we headed for Aragon, travelled through it by ox cart, and reached a port to the north. From there we sailed in fine weather and arrived in safety at Brighton where I tarried a few days, then went on to London, and, finding my quarter, entered my house with lively pleasure. There I foregathered with my family and friends, who rejoiced in my happy return and gave my joy of my safety.
I laid up in my storehouses all the graverobber trophies I had taken and brought with me, and gave alms and largesse to beggars and clothed the widow and the orphan. Then I gave myself up to pleasure and enjoyment, returning to my old merry mode of life.
Such, then, was my fourth voyage, but tomorrow if you will kindly come to me, I will tell you what happened to me in my fifth voyage, which was yet rarer and more marvellous than those which forewent it. And you, Georgie Porter, shall sup with me as you are wont.
When Georgie Seaman had ended his story, he called for supper; so they spread the table, and the guests ate the evening meal. After which he gave the porter an hundred gold coins as usual, and he and the rest of the company went their ways, glad at heart and marvelling at the tales they had heard, for each story was more extraordinary than that which went before it.