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Story of the Second Calender.
From Arabian Nights Entertainments by Andrew Lang.
Start of Story
Age Rating 8 Plus.
"Madam," said the young man, addressing Zobeida, "if you wish to know
how I lost my right eye, I shall have to tell you the story of my whole
I was scarcely more than a baby, when the king my father, finding me
unusually quick and clever for my age, turned his thoughts to my
education. I was taught first to read and write, and then to learn the
Koran, which is the basis of our holy religion, and the better to
understand it, I read with my tutors the ablest commentators on its
teaching, and committed to memory all the traditions respecting the
Prophet, which have been gathered from the mouth of those who were his
friends. I also learnt history, and was instructed in poetry,
versification, geography, chronology, and in all the outdoor exercises
in which every prince should excel. But what I liked best of all was
writing Arabic characters, and in this I soon surpassed my masters, and
gained a reputation in this branch of knowledge that reached as far as
Now the Sultan of the Indies, curious to see a young prince with such
strange tastes, sent an ambassador to my father, laden with rich
presents, and a warm invitation to visit his court. My father, who was
deeply anxious to secure the friendship of so powerful a monarch, and
held besides that a little travel would greatly improve my manners and
open my mind, accepted gladly, and in a short time I had set out for
India with the ambassador, attended only by a small suite on account of
the length of the journey, and the badness of the roads. However, as
was my duty, I took with me ten camels, laden with rich presents for
We had been travelling for about a month, when one day we saw a cloud
of dust moving swiftly towards us; and as soon as it came near, we
found that the dust concealed a band of fifty robbers. Our men barely
numbered half, and as we were also hampered by the camels, there was no
use in fighting, so we tried to overawe them by informing them who we
were, and whither we were going. The robbers, however, only laughed,
and declared that was none of their business, and, without more words,
attacked us brutally. I defended myself to the last, wounded though I
was, but at length, seeing that resistance was hopeless, and that the
ambassador and all our followers were made prisoners, I put spurs to my
horse and rode away as fast as I could, till the poor beast fell dead
from a wound in his side. I managed to jump off without any injury,
and looked about to see if I was pursued. But for the moment I was
safe, for, as I imagined, the robbers were all engaged in quarrelling
over their booty.
I found myself in a country that was quite new to me, and dared not
return to the main road lest I should again fall into the hands of the
robbers. Luckily my wound was only a slight one, and after binding it
up as well as I could, I walked on for the rest of the day, till I
reached a cave at the foot of a mountain, where I passed the night in
peace, making my supper off some fruits I had gathered on the way.
I wandered about for a whole month without knowing where I was going,
till at length I found myself on the outskirts of a beautiful city,
watered by winding streams, which enjoyed an eternal spring. My
delight at the prospect of mixing once more with human beings was
somewhat damped at the thought of the miserable object I must seem. My
face and hands had been burned nearly black; my clothes were all in
rags, and my shoes were in such a state that I had been forced to
abandon them altogether.
I entered the town, and stopped at a tailor's shop to inquire where I
was. The man saw I was better than my condition, and begged me to sit
down, and in return I told him my whole story. The tailor listened
with attention, but his reply, instead of giving me consolation, only
increased my trouble.
"Beware," he said, "of telling any one what you have told me, for the
prince who governs the kingdom is your father's greatest enemy, and he
will be rejoiced to find you in his power."
I thanked the tailor for his counsel, and said I would do whatever he
advised; then, being very hungry, I gladly ate of the food he put
before me, and accepted his offer of a lodging in his house.
In a few days I had quite recovered from the hardships I had undergone,
and then the tailor, knowing that it was the custom for the princes of
our religion to learn a trade or profession so as to provide for
themselves in times of ill-fortune, inquired if there was anything I
could do for my living. I replied that I had been educated as a
grammarian and a poet, but that my great gift was writing.
"All that is of no use here," said the tailor. "Take my advice, put on
a short coat, and as you seem hardy and strong, go into the woods and
cut firewood, which you will sell in the streets. By this means you
will earn your living, and be able to wait till better times come. The
hatchet and the cord shall be my present."
This counsel was very distasteful to me, but I thought I could not do
otherwise than adopt it. So the next morning I set out with a company
of poor wood-cutters, to whom the tailor had introduced me. Even on
the first day I cut enough wood to sell for a tolerable sum, and very
soon I became more expert, and had made enough money to repay the
tailor all he had lent me.
I had been a wood-cutter for more than a year, when one day I wandered
further into the forest than I had ever done before, and reached a
delicious green glade, where I began to cut wood. I was hacking at the
root of a tree, when I beheld an iron ring fastened to a trapdoor of
the same metal. I soon cleared away the earth, and pulling up the
door, found a staircase, which I hastily made up my mind to go down,
carrying my hatchet with me by way of protection. When I reached the
bottom I discovered that I was in a huge palace, as brilliantly lighted
as any palace above ground that I had ever seen, with a long gallery
supported by pillars of jasper, ornamented with capitals of gold. Down
this gallery a lady came to meet me, of such beauty that I forgot
everything else, and thought only of her.
To save her all the trouble possible, I hastened towards her, and bowed
"Who are you? Who are you?" she said. "A man or a genius?"
"A man, madam," I replied; "I have nothing to do with genii."
"By what accident do you come here?" she asked again with a sigh. "I
have been in this place now for five and twenty years, and you are the
first man who has visited me."
Emboldened by her beauty and gentleness, I ventured to reply, "Before,
madam, I answer your question, allow me to say how grateful I am for
this meeting, which is not only a consolation to me in my own heavy
sorrow, but may perhaps enable me to render your lot happier," and then
I told her who I was, and how I had come there.
"Alas, prince," she said, with a deeper sigh than before, "you have
guessed rightly in supposing me an unwilling prisoner in this gorgeous
place. I am the daughter of the king of the Ebony Isle, of whose fame
you surely must have heard. At my father's desire I was married to a
prince who was my own cousin; but on my very wedding day, I was
snatched up by a genius, and brought here in a faint. For a long while
I did nothing but weep, and would not suffer the genius to come near
me; but time teaches us submission, and I have now got accustomed to
his presence, and if clothes and jewels could content me, I have them
in plenty. Every tenth day, for five and twenty years, I have received
a visit from him, but in case I should need his help at any other time,
I have only to touch a talisman that stands at the entrance of my
chamber. It wants still five days to his next visit, and I hope that
during that time you will do me the honour to be my guest."