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Short Stories

      The Garden of Delights   (The Fifth Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor)

Not even all that I had gone through could make me satisfied with a quiet life. I was soon tired of all its joy and happiness, and awaited for change and a new adventurous. Therefore I decided once more, but this time in a ship of my own, which I built and fitted out at the nearest seaport. I wished to be able to call at whatever port I chose, taking my own time; but as I did not plan carrying enough goods for a full freight, I invited several merchants of different nations to join with me.

We put sail with the first promising wind, and after a long voyage upon the open seas we landed upon an unknown island which proved to be deserted. We decided, however, to discover it, but had not gone far when we found a roc's egg, as large as the one I had seen before and seemed to be nearly hatched, for the beak of the young bird had already cut the upper portion of the shell. In fact of all I could say to frighten them, the merchants who were with me fell upon it with their chop, breaking the shell, and killing the young roc. Then lighting a fire upon the ground they chop morsels from the bird, and started to roast them while I stood beside with great horror.

Hardly had they finished their fateful feast, when the air above us was darkened by two large shadows. The captain of my ship, knowing by experience what this meant, cried out to us that the parent birds were coming, and plead us to get on the ship with all speed. This we did, and the sails were hoisted, but before we had made any way the rocs reached their violated nest and linger about it, expressing horrible cries when they discovered the garbled remains of their young one. For a moment we lost sight of them, and were pleasing ourselves that we had escaped, when they returned and rise into the air directly over our vessel, and we saw that each held in its claws an huge rock ready to crush us.

There was a moment of gasping anxiety, then one bird release its hold and the huge rock fell, but thanks to the God, who turned our ship intensely in another direction, it fell into the sea close beside us, slashing till we could nearly see the bottom. We had hardly time to draw a breath of relief before the other rock fell with a mighty crash right in the center of our vessel, smashing it into a thousand pieces, and crushing, or throwing into the sea, the passengers and crew.

I myself went down with the all the rest, but had the good luck to rise safe, and by holding on to a piece of wood with one hand and swimming with the other I kept myself floating onto the piece of the wood and was presently washed up by the tide on to an island. Its shores were steep and rocky, but I twisted up safely and threw myself down to rest upon the green lawn.

When I had to some extent improved, I began to move around and examine the spot in which I found myself, and truly it seemed to me that I had reached a garden of delights. There were trees everywhere, and they were overloaded with flowers and fruit, while a crystal stream wandered in and out under their shadow. When night came I slept sweetly in a pleasant corner, though the memory that I was alone in a strange land made me sometimes start up and look around me in distress, and then I wished heartily that I had stayed at home at relieve. However, the morning sunlight gathered my courage, and I once more meander among the trees, but always with some tension as to what I might see the next.

I had entered some distance into the island when I saw an old man bent and thin sitting upon the river bank, and at first I took him to be some accidentally mariner like myself. Going near him I acknowledged him in a friendly way, but he only shooked his head at me in reply. I then asked what he did there, and he made signs to me that he wished to get across the river to gather some fruit, and seemed to beg me to carry him on my back. Pitying his age and thinness, I took him upon my back, and lining across the stream

I bent down that he might more easily reach the bank, and asked him get down. But instead of allowing himself to be down upon his feet, this creature who had seemed to me so weak climb upon my shoulders, and hooking his legs round my neck hold me so tightly that I was almost suffocated, and so overcome with terror that I fell to the ground.

When I improved myself, I found that my enemy was still in his place, though he had released his hold enough to allow me breathing space, and seeing me arise he poked me capably first with one foot and then with the other, until I was forced to get up and sway about with him under the trees while he gathered and ate the choicest fruits.

This went on all day, and even at night, when I threw myself down half dead with weariness, the terrible old man held on tight to my neck, nor did he fail to greet the first gleam of morning light by throbbing upon me with his heels, until I perforce awoke and resumed my lifeless stride with anger and bitterness in my heart.