My story, said the Third Calender,
is quite different from those of my two friends.
It was fate that deprived them of the sight of their
right eyes, but mine was lost by my own folly.
My name is Agib, and I am the son
of a king called Cassib, who reigned over a large
kingdom, which had for its capital one of the finest
seaport towns in the world.
When I succeeded to my father’s
throne my first care was to visit the provinces on
the mainland, and then to sail to the numerous islands
which lay off the shore, in order to gain the hearts
of my subjects. These voyages gave me such a
taste for sailing that I soon determined to explore
more distant seas, and commanded a fleet of large ships
to be got ready without delay. When they were
properly fitted out I embarked on my expedition.
For forty days wind and weather were
all in our favour, but the next night a terrific storm
arose, which blew us hither and thither for ten days,
till the pilot confessed that he had quite lost his
bearings. Accordingly a sailor was sent up to
the masthead to try to catch a sight of land, and
reported that nothing was to be seen but the sea and
sky, except a huge mass of blackness that lay astern.
On hearing this the pilot grew white,
and, beating his breast, he cried, “Oh, sir,
we are lost, lost!” till the ship’s crew
trembled at they knew not what. When he had
recovered himself a little, and was able to explain
the cause of his terror, he replied, in answer to my
question, that we had drifted far out of our course,
and that the following day about noon we should come
near that mass of darkness, which, said he, is nothing
but the famous Black Mountain. This mountain
is composed of adamant, which attracts to itself all
the iron and nails in your ship; and as we are helplessly
drawn nearer, the force of attraction will become
so great that the iron and nails will fall out of
the ships and cling to the mountain, and the ships
will sink to the bottom with all that are in them.
This it is that causes the side of the mountain towards
the sea to appear of such a dense blackness.
As may be supposed continued
the pilot the mountain sides are very rugged,
but on the summit stands a brass dome supported on
pillars, and bearing on top the figure of a brass
horse, with a rider on his back. This rider wears
a breastplate of lead, on which strange signs and
figures are engraved, and it is said that as long as
this statue remains on the dome, vessels will never
cease to perish at the foot of the mountain.
So saying, the pilot began to weep
afresh, and the crew, fearing their last hour had
come, made their wills, each one in favour of his fellow.
At noon next day, as the pilot had
foretold, we were so near to the Black Mountain that
we saw all the nails and iron fly out of the ships
and dash themselves against the mountain with a horrible
noise. A moment after the vessels fell asunder
and sank, the crews with them. I alone managed
to grasp a floating plank, and was driven ashore by
the wind, without even a scratch. What was my
joy on finding myself at the bottom of some steps
which led straight up the mountain, for there was
not another inch to the right or the left where a man
could set his foot. And, indeed, even the steps
themselves were so narrow and so steep that, if the
lightest breeze had arisen, I should certainly have
been blown into the sea.
When I reached the top I found the
brass dome and the statue exactly as the pilot had
described, but was too wearied with all I had gone
through to do more than glance at them, and, flinging
myself under the dome, was asleep in an instant.
In my dreams an old man appeared to me and said,
“Hearken, Agib! As soon as thou art awake
dig up the ground underfoot, and thou shalt find a
bow of brass and three arrows of lead. Shoot
the arrows at the statue, and the rider shall tumble
into the sea, but the horse will fall down by thy
side, and thou shalt bury him in the place from which
thou tookest the bow and arrows. This being
done the sea will rise and cover the mountain, and
on it thou wilt perceive the figure of a metal man
seated in a boat, having an oar in each hand.
Step on board and let him conduct thee; but if thou
wouldest behold thy kingdom again, see that thou takest
not the name of Allah into thy mouth.”
Having uttered these words the vision
left me, and I woke, much comforted. I sprang
up and drew the bow and arrows out of the ground,
and with the third shot the horseman fell with a great
crash into the sea, which instantly began to rise,
so rapidly, that I had hardly time to bury the horse
before the boat approached me. I stepped silently
in and sat down, and the metal man pushed off, and
rowed without stopping for nine days, after which
land appeared on the horizon. I was so overcome
with joy at this sight that I forgot all the old man
had told me, and cried out, “Allah be praised!
Allah be praised!”
The words were scarcely out of my
mouth when the boat and man sank from beneath me,
and left me floating on the surface. All that
day and the next night I swam and floated alternately,
making as well as I could for the land which was nearest
to me. At last my strength began to fail, and
I gave myself up for lost, when the wind suddenly rose,
and a huge wave cast me on a flat shore. Then,
placing myself in safety, I hastily spread my clothes
out to dry in the sun, and flung myself on the warm
ground to rest.
Next morning I dressed myself and
began to look about me. There seemed to be no
one but myself on the island, which was covered with
fruit trees and watered with streams, but seemed a
long distance from the mainland which I hoped to reach.
Before, however, I had time to feel cast down, I
saw a ship making directly for the island, and not
knowing whether it would contain friends or foes,
I hid myself in the thick branches of a tree.
The sailors ran the ship into a creek,
where ten slaves landed, carrying spades and pickaxes.
In the middle of the island they stopped, and after
digging some time, lifted up what seemed to be a trapdoor.
They then returned to the vessel two or three times
for furniture and provisions, and finally were accompanied
by an old man, leading a handsome boy of fourteen
or fifteen years of age. They all disappeared
down the trapdoor, and after remaining below for a
few minutes came up again, but without the boy, and
let down the trapdoor, covering it with earth as before.
This done, they entered the ship and set sail.
As soon as they were out of sight,
I came down from my tree, and went to the place where
the boy had been buried. I dug up the earth till
I reached a large stone with a ring in the centre.
This, when removed, disclosed a flight of stone steps
which led to a large room richly furnished and lighted
by tapers. On a pile of cushions, covered with
tapestry, sat the boy. He looked up, startled
and frightened at the sight of a stranger in such
a place, and to soothe his fears, I at once spoke:
“Be not alarmed, sir, whoever you may be.
I am a king, and the son of a king, and will do you
no hurt. On the contrary, perhaps I have been
sent here to deliver you out of this tomb, where you
have been buried alive.”
Hearing my words, the young man recovered
himself, and when I had ended, he said, “The
reasons, Prince, that have caused me to be buried
in this place are so strange that they cannot but surprise
you. My father is a rich merchant, owning much
land and many ships, and has great dealings in precious
stones, but he never ceased mourning that he had no
child to inherit his wealth.
“At length one day he dreamed
that the following year a son would be born to him,
and when this actually happened, he consulted all the
wise men in the kingdom as to the future of the infant.
One and all they said the same thing. I was
to live happily till I was fifteen, when a terrible
danger awaited me, which I should hardly escape.
If, however, I should succeed in doing so, I should
live to a great old age. And, they added, when
the statue of the brass horse on the top of the mountain
of adamant is thrown into the sea by Agib, the son
of Cassib, then beware, for fifty days later your
son shall fall by his hand!
“This prophecy struck the heart
of my father with such woe, that he never got over
it, but that did not prevent him from attending carefully
to my education till I attained, a short time ago,
my fifteenth birthday. It was only yesterday
that the news reached him that ten days previously
the statue of brass had been thrown into the sea,
and he at once set about hiding me in this underground
chamber, which was built for the purpose, promising
to fetch me out when the forty days have passed.
For myself, I have no fears, as Prince Agib is not
likely to come here to look for me.”
I listened to his story with an inward
laugh as to the absurdity of my ever wishing to cause
the death of this harmless boy, whom I hastened to
assure of my friendship and even of my protection;
begging him, in return, to convey me in his father’s
ship to my own country. I need hardly say that
I took special care not to inform him that I was the
Agib whom he dreaded.
The day passed in conversation on
various subjects, and I found him a youth of ready
wit and of some learning. I took on myself the
duties of a servant, held the basin and water for
him when he washed, prepared the dinner and set it
on the table. He soon grew to love me, and for
thirty-nine days we spent as pleasant an existence
as could be expected underground.
The morning of the fortieth dawned,
and the young man when he woke gave thanks in an outburst
of joy that the danger was passed. “My
father may be here at any moment,” said he,
“so make me, I pray you, a bath of hot water,
that I may bathe, and change my clothes, and be ready
to receive him.”
So I fetched the water as he asked,
and washed and rubbed him, after which he lay down
again and slept a little. When he opened his
eyes for the second time, he begged me to bring him
a melon and some sugar, that he might eat and refresh
I soon chose a fine melon out of those
which remained, but could find no knife to cut it
with. “Look in the cornice over my head,”
said he, “and I think you will see one.”
It was so high above me, that I had some difficulty
in reaching it, and catching my foot in the covering
of the bed, I slipped, and fell right upon the young
man, the knife going straight into his heart.
At this awful sight I shrieked aloud
in my grief and pain. I threw myself on the
ground and rent my clothes and tore my hair with sorrow.
Then, fearing to be punished as his murderer by the
unhappy father, I raised the great stone which blocked
the staircase, and quitting the underground chamber,
made everything fast as before.
Scarcely had I finished when, looking
out to sea, I saw the vessel heading for the island,
and, feeling that it would be useless for me to protest
my innocence, I again concealed myself among the branches
of a tree that grew near by.
The old man and his slaves pushed
off in a boat directly the ship touched land, and
walked quickly towards the entrance to the underground
chamber; but when they were near enough to see that
the earth had been disturbed, they paused and changed
colour. In silence they all went down and called
to the youth by name; then for a moment I heard no
more. Suddenly a fearful scream rent the air,
and the next instant the slaves came up the steps,
carrying with them the body of the old man, who had
fainted from sorrow! Laying him down at the foot
of the tree in which I had taken shelter, they did
their best to recover him, but it took a long while.
When at last he revived, they left him to dig a grave,
and then laying the young man’s body in it,
they threw in the earth.
This ended, the slaves brought up
all the furniture that remained below, and put it
on the vessel, and breaking some boughs to weave a
litter, they laid the old man on it, and carried him
to the ship, which spread its sails and stood out
So once more I was quite alone, and
for a whole month I walked daily over the island,
seeking for some chance of escape. At length
one day it struck me that my prison had grown much
larger, and that the mainland seemed to be nearer.
My heart beat at this thought, which was almost too
good to be true. I watched a little longer:
there was no doubt about it, and soon there was only
a tiny stream for me to cross.
Even when I was safe on the other
side I had a long distance to go on the mud and sand
before I reached dry ground, and very tired I was,
when far in front of me I caught sight of a castle
of red copper, which, at first sight, I took to be
a fire. I made all the haste I could, and after
some miles of hard walking stood before it, and gazed
at it in astonishment, for it seemed to me the most
wonderful building I had ever beheld. While
I was still staring at it, there came towards me a
tall old man, accompanied by ten young men, all handsome,
and all blind of the right eye.
Now in its way, the spectacle of ten
men walking together, all blind of the right eye,
is as uncommon as that of a copper castle, and I was
turning over in my mind what could be the meaning of
this strange fact, when they greeted me warmly, and
inquired what had brought me there. I replied
that my story was somewhat long, but that if they would
take the trouble to sit down, I should be happy to
tell it them. When I had finished, the young
men begged that I would go with them to the castle,
and I joyfully accepted their offer. We passed
through what seemed to me an endless number of rooms,
and came at length into a large hall, furnished with
ten small blue sofas for the ten young men, which served
as beds as well as chairs, and with another sofa in
the middle for the old man. As none of the sofas
could hold more than one person, they bade me place
myself on the carpet, and to ask no questions about
anything I should see.
After a little while the old man rose
and brought in supper, which I ate heartily, for I
was very hungry. Then one of the young men begged
me to repeat my story, which had struck them all with
astonishment, and when I had ended, the old man was
bidden to “do his duty,” as it was late,
and they wished to go to bed. At these words
he rose, and went to a closet, from which he brought
out ten basins, all covered with blue stuff.
He set one before each of the young men, together
with a lighted taper.
When the covers were taken off the
basins, I saw they were filled with ashes, coal-dust,
and lamp-black. The young men mixed these all
together, and smeared the whole over their heads and
faces. They then wept and beat their breasts,
crying, “This is the fruit of idleness, and
of our wicked lives.”
This ceremony lasted nearly the whole
night, and when it stopped they washed themselves
carefully, and put on fresh clothes, and lay down to
All this while I had refrained from
questions, though my curiosity almost seemed to burn
a hole in me, but the following day, when we went
out to walk, I said to them, “Gentlemen, I must
disobey your wishes, for I can keep silence no more.
You do not appear to lack wit, yet you do such actions
as none but madmen could be capable of. Whatever
befalls me I cannot forbear asking, `Why you daub your
faces with black, and how it is you are all blind
of one eye?’” But they only answered that
such questions were none of my business, and that I
should do well to hold my peace.
During that day we spoke of other
things, but when night came, and the same ceremony
was repeated, I implored them most earnestly to let
me know the meaning of it all.
“It is for your own sake,”
replied one of the young men, “that we have
not granted your request, and to preserve you from
our unfortunate fate. If, however, you wish
to share our destiny we will delay no longer.”
I answered that whatever might be
the consequence I wished to have my curiosity satisfied,
and that I would take the result on my own head.
He then assured me that, even when I had lost my eye,
I should be unable to remain with them, as their number
was complete, and could not be added to. But
to this I replied that, though I should be grieved
to part company with such honest gentlemen, I would
not be turned from my resolution on that account.
On hearing my determination my ten
hosts then took a sheep and killed it, and handed
me a knife, which they said I should by-and-by find
useful. “We must sew you into this sheep-skin,”
said they, “and then leave you. A fowl
of monstrous size, called a roc, will appear in the
air, taking you to be a sheep. He will snatch
you up and carry you into the sky, but be not alarmed,
for he will bring you safely down and lay you on the
top of a mountain. When you are on the ground
cut the skin with the knife and throw it off.
As soon as the roc sees you he will fly away from
fear, but you must walk on till you come to a castle
covered with plates of gold, studded with jewels.
Enter boldly at the gate, which always stands open,
but do not ask us to tell you what we saw or what
befel us there, for that you will learn for yourself.
This only we may say, that it cost us each our right
eye, and has imposed upon us our nightly penance.”
After the young gentlemen had been
at the trouble of sewing the sheep-skin on me they
left me, and retired to the hall. In a few minutes
the roc appeared, and bore me off to the top of the
mountain in his huge claws as lightly as if I had
been a feather, for this great white bird is so strong
that he has been known to carry even an elephant to
his nest in the hills.
The moment my feet touched the ground
I took out my knife and cut the threads that bound
me, and the sight of me in my proper clothes so alarmed
the roc that he spread his wings and flew away.
Then I set out to seek the castle.
I found it after wandering about for
half a day, and never could I have imagined anything
so glorious. The gate led into a square court,
into which opened a hundred doors, ninety-nine of
them being of rare woods and one of gold. Through
each of these doors I caught glimpses of splendid
gardens or of rich storehouses.
Entering one of the doors which was
standing open I found myself in a vast hall where
forty young ladies, magnificently dressed, and of
perfect beauty, were reclining. As soon as they
saw me they rose and uttered words of welcome, and
even forced me to take possession of a seat that was
higher than their own, though my proper place was at
their feet. Not content with this, one brought
me splendid garments, while another filled a basin
with scented water and poured it over my hands, and
the rest busied themselves with preparing refreshments.
After I had eaten and drunk of the most delicate food
and rarest wines, the ladies crowded round me and
begged me to tell them all my adventures.
By the time I had finished night had
fallen, and the ladies lighted up the castle with
such a prodigious quantity of tapers that even day
could hardly have been brighter. We then sat
down to a supper of dried fruits and sweetmeats, after
which some sang and others danced. I was so
well amused that I did not notice how the time was
passing, but at length one of the ladies approached
and informed me it was midnight, and that, as I must
be tired, she would conduct me to the room that had
been prepared for me. Then, bidding me good-night,
I was left to sleep.
I spent the next thirty-nine days
in much the same way as the first, but at the close
of that time the ladies appeared (as was their custom)
in my room one morning to inquire how I had slept,
and instead of looking cheerful and smiling they were
in floods of tears. “Prince,” said
they, “we must leave you, and never was it so
hard to part from any of our friends. Most likely
we shall never see you again, but if you have sufficient
self-command perhaps we may yet look forward to a
“Ladies,” I replied, “what
is the meaning of these strange words I
pray you to tell me?”
“Know then,” answered
one of them, “that we are all princesses each
a king’s daughter. We live in this castle
together, in the way that you have seen, but at the
end of every year secret duties call us away for the
space of forty days. The time has now come; but
before we depart, we will leave you our keys, so that
you may not lack entertainment during our absence.
But one thing we would ask of you. The Golden
Door, alone, forbear to open, as you value your own
peace, and the happiness of your life. That
door once unlocked, we must bid you farewell for ever.”
Weeping, I assured them of my prudence,
and after embracing me tenderly, they went their ways.
Every day I opened two or three fresh
doors, each of which contained behind it so many curious
things that I had no chance of feeling dull, much
as I regretted the absence of the ladies. Sometimes
it was an orchard, whose fruit far exceeded in bigness
any that grew in my father’s garden. Sometimes
it was a court planted with roses, jessamine, dafeodils,
hyacinths and anémones, and a thousand other
flowers of which I did not know the names. Or
again, it would be an aviary, fitted with all kinds
of singing birds, or a treasury heaped up with precious
stones; but whatever I might see, all was perfect of
its own sort.
Thirty-nine days passed away more
rapidly than I could have conceived possible, and
the following morning the princesses were to return
to the castle. But alas! I had explored
every corner, save only the room that was shut in
by the Golden Door, and I had no longer anything to
amuse myself with. I stood before the forbidden
place for some time, gazing at its beauty; then a
happy inspiration struck me, that because I unlocked
the door it was not necessary that I should enter the
chamber. It would be enough for me to stand outside
and view whatever hidden wonders might be therein.
Thus arguing against my own conscience,
I turned the key, when a smell rushed out that, pleasant
though it was, overcame me completely, and I fell
fainting across the threshold. Instead of being
warned by this accident, directly I came to myself
I went for a few moments into the air to shake of
the effects of the perfume, and then entered boldly.
I found myself in a large, vaulted room, lighted
by tapers, scented with aloes and ambergris, standing
in golden candle-sticks, whilst gold and silver lamps
hung from the ceiling.
Though objects of rare workmanship
lay heaped around me, I paid them scant attention,
so much was I struck by a great black horse which
stood in one corner, the handsomest and best-shaped
animal I had ever seen. His saddle and bridle
were of massive gold, curiously wrought; one side
of his trough was filled with clean barley and sesame,
and the other with rose water. I led the animal
into the open air, and then jumped on his back, shaking
the reins as I did so, but as he never stirred, I
touched him lightly with a switch I had picked up in
his stable. No sooner did he feel the stroke,
than he spread his wings (which I had not perceived
before), and flew up with me straight into the sky.
When he had reached a prodigious height, he next darted
back to earth, and alighted on the terrace belonging
to a castle, shaking me violently out of the saddle
as he did so, and giving me such a blow with his tail,
that he knocked out my right eye.
Half-stunned as I was with all that
had happened to me, I rose to my feet, thinking as
I did so of what had befallen the ten young men, and
watching the horse which was soaring into the clouds.
I left the terrace and wandered on till I came to
a hall, which I knew to have been the one from which
the roc had taken me, by the ten blue sofas against
The ten young men were not present
when I first entered, but came in soon after, accompanied
by the old man. They greeted me kindly, and
bewailed my misfortune, though, indeed, they had expected
nothing less. “All that has happened to
you,” they said, “we also have undergone,
and we should be enjoying the same happiness still,
had we not opened the Golden Door while the princesses
were absent. You have been no wiser than we,
and have suffered the same punishment. We would
gladly receive you among us, to perform such penance
as we do, but we have already told you that this is
impossible. Depart, therefore, from hence and
go to the Court of Bagdad, where you shall meet with
him that can decide your destiny.” They
told me the way I was to travel, and I left them.
On the road I caused my beard and
eyebrows to be shaved, and put on a Calender’s
habit. I have had a long journey, but arrived
this evening in the city, where I met my brother Calenders
at the gate, being strangers like myself. We
wondered much at one another, to see we were all blind
of the same eye, but we had no leisure to discourse
at length of our common calamities. We had only
so much time as to come hither to implore those favours
which you have been generously pleased to grant us.
He finished, and it was Zobeida’s
turn to speak: “Go wherever you please,”
she said, addressing all three. “I pardon
you all, but you must depart immediately out of this