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from Jewish Fairy Tales And Legends - King Alexander's Adventures





One day a strange rumbling noise was heard, and toward evening the
army halted by the side of a river even more mysterious than the River
of Life. It was not a river of water, but of sand and stones. It
flowed along with a roaring sound and every few minutes great stones
were shot up into the air.

Alexander asked the Jewish soldier if he could explain.

"This," said the Jew, "is the Sambatyon, the river which ceases to
flow on the Sabbath."

"And what lies beyond?"

"The land of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel," was the answer. "None
have seen this country."

"Cannot the river then be crossed?" asked Alexander.

"Not by all who wish to cross."

The next day was Friday, and Alexander waited until the evening to see
what would happen.

An hour before sunset, at the time of the commencement of Sabbath, the
river ceased to flow. The rumbling died down and the Sambatyon
appeared like a broad expanse of shining yellow sand.

"To-morrow I shall cross with my army," said Alexander, but next
morning the Sambatyon was enveloped in dense black clouds.

Alexander could not see a yard in front of him, and when he ventured
on to the sand, the horses sank into it. Flames were also seen in the
clouds. After the sun had set and the Sabbath had ended, the clouds
cleared away, the rumbling began again and the sand flowed once more
like a river.

Alexander was disappointed for a while, but at last he consoled
himself with the thought that he had conquered the whole world.

"Now must I carry out my project of ascending above the clouds and
afterward descending into the sea," he said, and he proceeded to carry
out the instructions given to him in Jerusalem.

Four huge eagles were caught and chained to a big box. At each end of
the box was a pole, and on the end of each a brilliant jewel was
placed. When all was in readiness, Alexander entered the box and
carefully closed the doors.

"Thus did Nimrod ascend into the sky," he said, "but he was a fool. He
shot arrows into the air, and when the angels returned them stained
with blood, he thought he had killed God. I desire only to see the
heavens, not to conquer them."

He gave the signal, and the heads of the eagles chained to the poles
were uncovered. The moment they saw the dazzling jewels they tried to
snatch them, but could not. So they continued to rise higher and
higher until the box was carried above the clouds. By looking through
the windows at the top and bottom of the box, Alexander could see how
high he was. For a long time he saw nothing but clouds, which appeared
like a vast sea beneath him, but when these cleared away, he saw the
earth again.

So high was he that the world looked like a ball. Until then he had
not known the earth was round. The seas enveloping the greater part of
the globe looked like writhing serpents.

"Now I can understand," he said, "why the wise rabbis say that the
great fish, the leviathan, surrounds the world with its tail in its
mouth."

Then he looked above. The sun seemed further away than ever.

"Heaven is not so near as I thought," he said, and seeing himself but
a tiny speck miles above the earth and still further away from the
heavens, he grew afraid for the first time in his life. With a stick
he knocked the jewels from the poles outside the box, and the eagles,
seeing them no longer, began to descend. Alexander breathed more
freely when he was safe on the ground again, but he would not tell his
generals what he had seen.

"Wait until I have descended into the sea," he said.

Under his orders, a diving bell of clear thick glass, bound with iron,
had been constructed. Alexander entered the bell, all the joints were
then tightly secured with pitch, and the bell lowered from a ship into
the ocean by means of chains.

Before he entered, Alexander took the precaution to put on a magic
ring, which his wife, Roxana, had sent him. This, she said, would
protect him against the monsters of the deep.

Down, down into the watery deep sank the bell, and for some time
Alexander could see nothing. When his eyes grew accustomed to the
strange, greenish light, he noticed multitudes of queer fish darting
round about the bell. Many were of a shape never conjectured by man,
some were so tiny that he could scarcely see them, and others so large
that one of these monsters actually tried to swallow the bell. But
Alexander showed the magic ring which glowed like a blazing star and
the monster darted away.

So deep down sank the bell that no light could at last penetrate from
the sun. Most of the fish, however, were luminous, and Alexander was
almost dazzled by the changing of the brilliant lights as the denizens
of the deep swam swiftly around the bell. Shells of wondrous beauty
did he see, together with pearls of great size. The treasures of the
deep were revealed to him, and he saw that the riches on land were as
nothing compared with them. He saw the coral insects at their work of
building, and of entrancing beauty growing in the oozy bed of the
ocean.

"I wonder," said Alexander, "if I dare venture forth and take some of
these beautiful gems back with me. The ring will protect me."

Alexander was one of the bravest men that ever lived, and he
immediately set about trying to open the bell. In doing so, he rattled
the chains by which it was lowered, and Robus, the officer in charge,
took this as a signal to raise the bell.

In his excitement he dropped the chains into the sea, and they fell
with a big crash on the bell and smashed it to pieces. When Robus saw
what had happened, he cast himself into the sea in a gallant endeavor
to rescue his master.

Down below in the glittering depths of the ocean, Alexander saw the
fish hurrying away in great fear and he heard the rattling of the
chains as they dropped through the water. He looked up and saw them
crash on the bell. A terrible, buzzing sound filled his ears, a
thousand dazzling colors danced before his eyes and made him giddy.

With great presence of mind he remembered his ring, and immediately a
big fish swam underneath him, raised him from the wreckage of the bell
and rose swiftly to the surface. Alexander emerged just as Robus dived
into the sea. At once he showed the fish his ring and it dived and
brought his gallant officer safe to his side.

"I have seen enough," said Alexander, when he was safe on land, "more
than mortals should see. I have learned that the earth is for man and
that the air above and the waters beneath are for the other and more
wonderful creatures of God."

He made preparations to return to Macedon, but his army was wearied
with long marching and begged of him to let them rest. Accordingly, he
halted outside Babylon. Sickness seized him, but he remembered the
warning of the rabbis and would not enter the city. For days he
wandered around until his soldiers showed signs of mutiny. Then,
throwing caution to the winds, Alexander entered Babylon.

At once his illness took a serious turn, and in a few days he died.
When the Jews heard the news, they mourned him sincerely, for they
knew that they had lost a good friend. All that remains as a memorial
of Alexander is the city of Alexandria, which he founded in Egypt. It
stands to this day.





Next: The Stone-cutter

Previous: The Land Of Darkness And The Gate Of Paradise



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