After my return from my sixth voyage, which brought me abundant profit, I resumed my former life in all possible joyance and enjoyment and mirth and making merry day and night; and I tarried some time in this solace and satisfaction till my soul began once more to long to sail the seas and see foreign countries and company with merchants and hear new things.
So having made up my mind, I packed up in bales a quantity of precious stuffs suited for sea-trade and repaired with them from London to Brighton, where I found a ship ready for sea, and in her a company of considerable merchants. I shipped with them and becoming friends, we set forth on our venture, in health and safety; and sailed with a fair wind, till we came to a city called Tlemcen; but after we had left it, as we fared on in all cheer and confidence, devising of traffic and travel, behold, there sprang up a violent head-wind and a tempest of rain fell on us and drenched us and our goods.
So we covered the bales with our cloaks and garments and drugget and canvas, lest they be spoiled by the rain. But the captain arose and tightening his girdle tucked up his skirts and, climbed to the mast-head, whence he looked out right and left and gazing at the passengers and crew fell to buffeting his face and plucking out his beard. So we cried to him, "O skipper, what is the matter?"; and he replied saying, "The wind has gotten the mastery of us and has driven us into the uttermost of the seas of the world. It seems to be the Faroe Islands."
Then he came down from the mast-head and opening his sea-chest, pulled out a bag of blue cotton, from which he took a powder like ashes. This he set in a saucer wetted with a little water and, after waiting a short time, smelt and tasted it; and then he took out of the chest a booklet, wherein he read awhile and said weeping, "Know that in this book is a marvellous matter, denoting that whoso comes here shall surely die, without hope of escape; for that this ocean is called the Sea sepulchre of Odin and therein are serpents of vast bulk and fearsome aspect: and whatever ship comes to these climes there rises to her a great draken out of the sea and swallows her up with all and everything on board her."
Hearing these words from the captain great was our wonder, but hardly had he made an end of speaking, when the ship was lifted out of the water and let fall again. Presently we heard a terrible great cry like the loud-pealing thunder, whereat we were terror-struck and became as dead men, giving ourselves up for lost. Then behold, there came up to us a huge sea serpent, as big as a tall mountain, at whose sight we became wild for affight and, weeping sore, made ready for death, marvelling at its vast size and gruesome semblance; when lo! a second sea serpent made its appearance than which we had seen nothing more monstrous.
So we bemoaned ourselves of our lives and farewelled one another; but suddenly up came a third sea serpent bigger than the two first; whereupon we lost the power of thought and reason and were stupefied for the excess of our fear and horror. Then the three sea serpents began circling round about the ship and the third and biggest opened his mouth to swallow it, and we looked into its mouth and behold, it was wider than the gate of a city and its throat was like a long valley.
Then suddenly a violent squall of wind arose and smote the ship, which rose out of the water and settled on a great reef, the haunt of sea-monsters, where it broke up and fell asunder into planks and all and everything on board were plunged into the sea. As for me, I tore off all my clothes but my gown and swam a little way, till I happened on one of the ship's planks whereto I clung and bestrode it like a horse, while the winds and the waters sported with me and the waves carried me up and cast me down; and I was in most piteous plight for fear and distress and hunger and thirst. Then I reproached myself for what I had done and my soul was weary after a life of ease and comfort; and I said to myself, "This time I repent my lust for gain and venture."
Thus I abode two days, stranded on a rocky island abounding in streams and sheep. I drank of its waters till I was refreshed and my life returned to me and my strength and spirits were restored.
Then I walked about till I found on the further side, a great river of sweet water, running with a strong current; whereupon I called to mind the boat-raft I had made aforetime and said to myself, "Needs must I make another; hopefully I may free me from this strait. If I escape, I have my desire, and if I perish I shall be at peace and shall rest from toil and moil."
So I rose up and gathered together great store of pieces of wood from the shipwreck and so contrived a raft. I embarked on it and committed myself to the current, and it bore me on for the first day and the second and the third after leaving the island; while I lay in the raft, eating not and drinking, when I was athirst, of the water of the river, till I was weak and giddy as a chicken, for stress of fatigue and famy and fear.
At the end of this time I came to a high mountain island. The current surrounding it overpowered me and I gave myself up for lost. But my rafter stopped with me at a great and goodly town of Torshavn, grandly edified and containing much people. And when the townsfolk saw me on the raft, dropping down with the current, they threw me out ropes which I had not strength enough to hold; then they tossed a net over the craft and drew it ashore with me, whereupon I fell to the ground among them, as I were a dead man, for stress of fear and hunger and lack of sleep.
After awhile, there came up to me out of the crowd an old man of reverend aspect, well stricken in years, who welcomed me and threw over me abundance of handsome clothes, wherewith I covered my nakedness. Then he carried me to the and brought me skerpikjøt, that is, well aged, wind-dried mutton. When I came out, he bore me to his house, where his people made much of me and, seating me in a pleasant place, set rich food before me, whereof I ate my fill and returned thanks. Thereupon his pages fetched me hot water, and I washed my hands, and his handmaids brought me napkins, with which I dried them and wiped my mouth. Also the old man set apart for me an apartment in a part of his house and charged his pages and servant-girls to wait on me and do my will and supply my wants. They were assiduous in my service, and I abode with him in the guest-chamber for three days, taking my ease of good eating and good drinking and good scents till life returned to me and my terrors subsided and my heart was calmed and my mind was eased. On the fourth day my host, came in to me and said,
"You cheer us with your company, my son! Say: will you now come down with me to the beach and sell your goods and take their price? I have ordered my servants to remove your stock-in-trade from the sea and they have piled it on the shore."
I was silent awhile and said to myself, "What mean these words and what goods have I?" Then said he, "O my son, be not troubled nor careful, but come with me to the market and if any offer for your goods what price contents you, take it; but, if you be not satisfied, I will lay them up for you in my warehouse, against a fitting occasion for sale."
So I bethought me of my case and said to myself, "Do his bidding and see what are these goods!"; and I said to him, "I may not gainsay you in anything for it looks like Thor's blessing is on all you do."
Accordingly he guided me to the market-street, where I found that he had taken in pieces the raft which carried me and which was of stout wood and I heard the broker calling it for sale. Then the merchants came and opened the gate of bidding for the wood and bid against one another till its price reached a thousand gold pieces, when they left bidding and my host said to me, "Hear, my son, this is the current price of your goods in hard times like these: will you sell them for this or shall I lay them up for you in my storehouses, till such time as prices rise?"
"O my lord," answered I, "the business is in your hands: do as you will."
Then asked he, "Will you sell the wood to me, my son, for an hundred gold pieces over and above what the merchants have bidden for it?" and I answered, "Yes, I have sold it to you for monies received."
So, he bade his servants transport the wood to his storehouses and, carrying me back to his house, seated me and counted out to me the purchase money; after which he laid it in bags and setting them in a privy place, locked them up with an iron padlock and gave me its key. Some days after this, the old man said to me, "O my son, I have somewhat to propose to you, wherein I trust you will do my bidding."
Said I, "What is it?" Said he, "I am a very old man and have no son; but I have a daughter who is young in years and fair of favour and endowed with abounding wealth and beauty. Now I have a mind to marry her to you, that you may abide with her in this our country, and I will make you master of all I have in hand for I am an old man and you shall stand in my stead."
I was silent for shame and made him no answer, whereupon he continued, "Do my desire in this, my son, for I wish but your weal; and if you will but do as I say, you shall have her at once and be as my son; and all that is under my hand or that comes to me shall be your. If you have a mind to traffic and travel to your native land, none shall hinder you, and your property will be at your sole disposal; so do as you will."
"By golly, here I am a stranger and have undergone many hardships: while for stress of that which I have suffered nothing of judgment or knowledge is left to me. It is for you, therefore, to decide what I shall do."
Hereupon he sent his servants for the officials and the witnesses and married me to his daughter, making us for a noble marriage-feast and high festival. When I went in to her, I found her perfect in beauty and loveliness and symmetry and grace, clad in rich raiment and covered with a profusion of ornaments and necklaces and other trinkets of gold and silver and precious stones, worth a mint of money, a price none could pay.
She pleased me and we loved each other; and I abode with her in solace and delight of life, till her father died. So we shrouded him and buried him, and I laid hands on the whole of his property and all his servants and servants became mine. Moreover, the merchants installed me in his office, for he was their Chief; and none of them bought anything but with his knowledge and by his leave. And now his rank passed on to me.
When I became acquainted with the townsfolk, I found that at the beginning of each month they were transformed, in that their faces changed and they became like birds and they put forth wings wherewith they flew to the upper regions of the firmament and none remained in the city save the women and children; and I said in my mind, "When the first of the month comes, I will ask one of them to carry me with them, where they go."
So when the time came and their complexion changed and their forms altered, I went in to one of the townsfolk and said to him, "Carry me with you, that I might divert myself with the rest and return with you."
"This may not be," answered he; but I ceased not to solicit him and I importuned him till he consented. Then I went out in his company, without telling any of my family or servants or friends, and he took me on his back and flew up with me so high in air, that I heard the angels. But then there came out a fire from heaven and all but consumed the company; whereupon they fled from it and descended with curses on me and, casting me down on a high mountain, went away, exceeding wroth with me, and left me there alone. As I found myself in this plight, I repented of what I had done and reproached myself for having undertaken that for which I was unable, saying, "No sooner am I delivered from one affliction than I fall into a worse."
And I continued in this case knowing not where I should go, when lo! there came up two young men, as they were moons, each using as a staff a rod of red gold. So I approached them and saluted them; and when they returned my polite greeting, I said to them, "Who are you and what are you?"
Said they, "We are the servants of this mountain;" and, giving me a rod of red gold they had with them, went their ways and left me. I walked on along the mountain-ridge staying my steps with the staff and pondering the case of the two youths, when behold, a serpent came forth from under the mountain, with a man in her jaws. She had swallowed him even to below his navel, and he was crying out. So I went up to the serpent and smote her on the head with the golden staff, whereupon she cast the man forth of her mouth.
Then I smote her a second time, and she turned and fled; whereupon the man came up to me and said,
"Since you delivered me from the serpent, I will never leave you, and you shall be my comrade on this mountain."
"Welcome," answered I; so we fared on along the mountain, till we fell in with a company of folk, and I looked and saw among them the very man who had carried me and cast me down there. I went up to him and spake him fair, excusing myself to him and saying, "O my comrade, it is not thus that friend should deal with friend."
Said he, "It was you who well-nigh destroyed us."
Said I, "Pardon me, for I had no knowledge of this matter; but this time I swear not to say a word."
So he relented and consented to carry me with him on these terms. Then I gave the wand of gold to him whom I had delivered from the serpent and bade him farewell, and my friend took me on his back and flew with me as before, till he brought me to the city and set me down in my own house. My wife came to meet me and saluting m, gave me joy of my safety and then said,
"Beware of going forth hereafter with those people."
"And how did your father with them?" asked I; and she answered, "My father was not of them, neither did he as they; and as now he is dead methinks you had better sell all we have and with the price buy merchandise and journey to your own country and people, and I with you; for I care not to tarry in this city, my father and my mother being dead."
So I sold all the old man's property piecemeal, and looked for one who should be journeying from there to Brighton that I might join myself to him. And while thus doing I heard of a company of townsfolk who had a mind to make the voyage, but could not find them a ship; so they bought wood and built them a great ship wherein I took passage with them, and paid them all the hire. Then we embarked, I and my wife, with all our moveables, leaving our houses and domains and so forth, and set sail, and ceased not sailing from island to island and from sea to sea, with a fair wind and a favouring, till we arrived at Brighton safe and sound.
I made no stay there, but freighted another vessel and, transferring my goods to her, set out forthright for London town, where I arrived in safety, and entering my quarter and repairing to my house, foregathered with my family and friends and familiars who laid up my goods in my warehouses. When my people who, reckoning the period of my absence on this my seventh voyage, had found it to be seven and twenty years, and had given up all hope of me, heard of my return, they came to welcome me and to give me joy of my safety; and I related to them all that had befallen me; whereat they marvelled with exceeding marvel. Then I forswore travel. "Consider, therefore, Georgie Porter," continued Georgie Seaman, "what sufferings I have undergone and what perils and hardships I have endured before coming to my present state."
Georgie Porter said, "Pardon me the wrong thoughts I had of you in this matter."
And they ceased not from friendship and fellowship until the shatterer of castles came to them.