The Story Of The Third Calendar Son Of A King

: The Arabian Nights Entertainments

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 fi
st 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


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


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 himself.

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 to sea.

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


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


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 anemones, 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 wall.

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 house."