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To Read about the Global Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly in Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundiunitednationsparliamentaryassembly.wordpress.com/
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To Read the Blog of Eva Strong from Spiritus Mundi: https://evasblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/
To Read the Blog of Andreas Sarkozy from Spiritus Mundi: http://andreasblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/
To Read the Blog of Robert Sartorius from Spiritus Mundi: http://sartoriusblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/
Note: The following novella appeared as one chapter in the new novel, Spiritus Mundi by Robert Sheppard. The novel focuses on the odyssey of Robert Sartorius, the leader of a global campaign to establish a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly during which he takes a scuba diving trip to the Maldive Islands to discover the shipwreck once captained by his ancestor, Admiral Sir George Rose Sartorius. Prior to diving on the wreck he reads the following book published by his family precursor, and doing so finds himself, midway on an odyssey around the world, in a new odyssey in time, transiting past and present. (For more background follow the above links.)
Collected Naval Diaries, Ships Logs and Correspondence of Admiral Sir George Rose Sartorius (1780-1875)
Complete in Seven Volumes
With Maps, Illustrations and Other Plates
LONGMAN, HURST, REES, ORME & BROWNE
Sartorius began to leaf through the Contents and beginning chapters. He knew that Admiral Sartorius had been decorated at the Battle of Trafalgar where he served under Lord Nelson. He glanced through the entries for those early dates: 1798-1805, beginning with the first:
“17 March 1798—Plymouth. I have shipped as Midshipman aboard the HMS Bellerophon under Captain Henry D’Esterre Darby. Though I have sailed as a child from India to England this is my first voyage in service aboard a Royal Navy vessel. Though my sailing knowledge and skill is but limited I am determined to learn under Captain Darby, who is a kind sea-father to us green Midshipmen. I am commanded to take charge of a gunnery crew on the upper gun deck. I order the men to attention and prepare awkwardly to take charge of the men of my first command, I being but 18 years if age and the first time at sea. I put on a front and assemble them for close inspection and drill….I get my first look at my men face-to-face………some wearing broad striped trousers, some plain sailcloth; some had fine red waistcoats and some ordinary blue jackets; some wore tarpaulin hats, in spite of the heat, some broad straws, and some spotted handkerchiefs tied over their heads; but they all of them had long swinging pigtails and they all had the indefinable air of man-of-war’s men. They were Bellerophons, and I looked at them hungrily as they padded by.
We are ordered to proceed to Gibraltar, then to Naples to join Admiral Nelson’s fleet, and thence to pursue Napoleon’s fleet to interdict their new campaign in Egypt, which is designed to cut our communications and join with the Mogul resistance to undermine our empire in India. Life aboard the ship-o-the-line is a new world to me, as is the command of the seamen, though most are older and more experienced than I. The men are high spirited and proud to be on the ship, which they call the “Billy Ruff’n” —short for “Billy Ruffian” for her glorious and aggressive battle history and spirit. We aim to bloody Napoleon’s nose in Egypt. Like the Bellerophon of old who rode Pegasus the winged horse to defeat the Chimera, we aim to show Napoleon’s power is but a show and chimera which the winged sails and cannon of the Royal Fleet will soon put paid.”
“August 1-2, 1798—Abu Qir Bay, Egypt-The Battle of the Nile—We are approaching the French Fleet—-chained and anchored in Abu Qir Bay, in a dangerous night attack. Captain Foley of the Goliath will try to sail through a breach in the shoals and attack the French Fleet at anchor from the rear while we follow Nelson in the the Vanguard to take the main line parallel to the French line for a frontal assault. Bellerophon will live up to her name as the chief dragon-slayer by engaging the French flagship L’Orient, though she is bigger and outguns us. We will rely on our seamanship and valor, and hope the Goliath and her squadron can surprise them from the rear as we attack head-on.
I am frightened to death but I cannot show it to others, let alone the men I command. I am in charge of a line of cannon on the upper gun deck—we must aim and time the shots and reload more quickly than the French can. We have practiced for weeks and now is the moment of truth. The noise is incredible—-I am shouting and cannot even hear myself but somehow the men know what to hear and follow—all training and conditioning. I am terrified as the French shot smashes hole after hole splintering our hull and deck, killing my first gunner. I take over his duties as I shout commands at the others. The L’Orient is on fire and taking fire from the opposite side—-Goliath has gotten through! L’Orient fires salvo after salvo nonetheless and an immense and thundering crash follows as our main mast comes smashing down and we are unable to maneuver and drift out towards the bay. I am commanding my men to put out the fires—-we have to stop them before they reach our powder magazines. We drift helplessly away from the line with our masts and rudder damaged, but we see the French Fleet under fire from both sides and ship after ship of theirs bursting into flames. Alexander and Swiftsure rush past us and fire fatal salvos and broadsides into L’Orient. I rush atop the deck with the men putting out fires. I look across the flaming waters and see on the deck of L’Orient staring back at me the face of a French boy of my own age in a midshipman’s uniform who looks so much like me that I feel I am looking into a mirror. He is trapped by the flames. He is staring back at me and there is a moment of mutual recognition. The boy stood on the burning deck…….then suddenly the whole world and the sky above it shudders at the incredible sight of L’Orient’s powder magazines exploding and the bits and pieces of mast, deck, sail and bits of human bodies flying hundreds of feet into the air and showering down upon us. We rush to put out small fires in the sails, and the French boy’s charred and severed leg falls and hits me square on the back, knocking me flat. I cannot talk of it but I have seen the horror of death for the first time, and it is a long time before I can deal with the reality of that reality. In the morning we know that we have achieved a great victory—but God what the price. Captain Darby is seriously wounded but recuperating belowdecks, and my arm is in a sling from a stray bit of shrapnel. The ship is unseaworthy and will need to be temporarily repaired, jerry-rigged and then proceed under tow to Istanbul for heavy repairs. A cutter from the Vanguard comes alongside with a letter from Admiral Nelson, which I retrieve and carry to Captain Darby, which he hands back to me after I have read it:
‘My Dear Darby,
I grieve for your heavy loss of Brave fellows, but look at our glorious Victory. We will give you every assistance as soon as you join us, till then God Bless You. Our Band of Brothers thanks you for your courage and sacrafice and for our lives.
Ever yours faithfully,
Aug 3rd 1798
We shall both I trust soon get well.’
I know that now I too have joined this “Band of Brothers” with all of its glory and misery, its honour and its shame. For better or worse I am part of it now.
October 2, 1798—Istanbul—The Sublime Porte—-Our ship HMS Bellerophon has been in drydock for two going on three months affecting repairs from the severe damage of the Battle of the Nile. The Ottoman Sultan is allied with us in his attempts to drive Napoleon and the French from Egypt and restore his soveriegnty and control over that land. Thus, we have been entertained as allies and heroes for these last two months in royal style, and the officers are smartly housed and entertained in the Embassy quarter and are taking in the considerable cultural lore of this strange but beautiful city—-Christian Constantinople for a thousand years and now Istanbul, Muslim capital of the Ottoman Empire. The officers enjoy the company of the diplomats of the several nations and occasionally organize travels to places of interest in the region. The men for the most part are confined to the seaport areas, including the “Mile of Shame,” the enormous brothel district, and are degenerating under the infuence of the Asiatic pleasures of this great metropolis, with not a few succumbing to the temptations of the innumerable hashish and opium dens of the area.
October 15, 1798—Adrianople—Ensign Montagu and I have ventured a journey to vacation on the banks of the Hebrus river. We were punting in that river when an unexpected wind and wave knocked me off balance and cast me into the waters. I thus had the romantic conclusion of swimming down the same river in which the severed musical head of Orpheus repeated verses of love and longing for Euridice even following its dismemberment while floating down the same current:
–Caput a cervice revulsum,
Gurgite cum medio portans Oeagrius Hebrus
Volveret, Euridicean vox ipsa, et frigida lingua,
Ah! Miseram Euridicen! Anima fugiente vocabat,
Euridicen toto referebant flumine ripaeae.
(Then, when his head from his shoulders torn,
Washed by the waters, was on Hebrus born,
Even then his trembling tongue, Euridice his bride invoked;
With his last voice, Euridice, he cried;
Euridice, the rocks and river-banks replied.
I am at present writing this in a house situate on the banks of the Hebrus, which runs under my chamber window. My garden is full of tall cypress trees, upon the branches of which sit and sing several couples of the true turtles—the immortal pairs of turtledoves, singing sweet nothings to one another from dawn to dusk. Who can resist the temptations of romantic pastoral in a place like this? Ensign Montagu is a fair Latin and Greek scholar from Eton school and we share our books during our happy hiatus from the war. For miles above and around Adrianople the Turks have cultivated wonderful gardens and divert themselves every evening; not with walking in the tradition of Mr. Wordsworth and our romantics, but in a set party where a congenial group of neighbors choose out a green spot where the shade is thick, and they there spread out a handsome carpet on which they sit drinking their coffee and generally attended by some slave with a fine voice or who plays a lovely instrument. Every twenty yards one comes across one of these little companies ensconced on the river bank listening to the plashing of the river, and this taste is so universal that the very gardeners are not without it. I have seen them so often sitting on the banks and playing on a rural instrument perfectly answering to the description of the ancient fistula, or ‘pan-pipe’ being comprised of unequal reeds laced together with an agreeable softness of tone. There is not one instrument depicted on the Greek or Roman paintings, statues or vases which is not in present use in these environs. The gardeners are the only happy race of country people in Turkey. They furnish all the city and capital with fruits, fresh vegetables and herbs and seem to live very easily. They are most of them Greeks who have little houses in the midst of their gardens where their wives and daughters take a liberty not permitted in the Muslim towns—going unveiled—and amoung their faces are the lovliest one can dream of. Their faces are so beautiful and their manners so natural that I no longer look at Theocritus as a romantic writer but as a realist! I read over my Homer here with infinite pleasure—the ladies here call to mind the passages in which the great women and princesses pass their time at their looms embroidering veils and robes, surrounded by their maids, which are always very numerous—exactly as Homer describes Andromache and Helen. The snowy veil that Helen throws over her face is still fashionable here, and the description of the belt Menelaus wears exactly resembles those that are now worn by the great men, fasten’d before with broad golden clasps and embroider’d round with rich filligreed work. I never see half a dozen old bashaws with their reverend beards sitting and basking in the sun, but I recollect Good King Priam and his consellors. Their manner of dancing is the same that Diana is sung to have danc’d by Eurotas. The great lady leads the dance, followed by a troop of young girls who imitate her steps, and if she sings, make up the chorus. The tunes are extremely gay and lively, yet withsomething wistful in them wonderfully soft—a feeling they call Huzun. The steps are varied according to the pleasure of her who leads the dance, but always in exact time and infinitely more agreeable than any of our common dances, at least in my personal opinion. I sometimes join a party and make one of the train on the male side, but am not skillful enough to lead. These are Greek dances, the Turkish being very different.
We officers in our idleness during the repair of our ship are often in the company of the Embassy folk, and come into commerce with the people of the Court of the Sublime Porte. The vulgar Turk of the countryside here is very different from the Turkish language spoken at the Court, or amoung the people of figure, who always mix so much of the Arabic and Persian in their discourse that it may very well be called another language altogether. The country accent would be as out of place at the Topkapi or Sublime Porte Court as would the broad Yorkshire or London Cockney accent at the Court of St. James.
October 30, 1798—Adrianople—During our layover, our ship’s physician, Dr. Beattie has made some researches into the occasion of the smallpox here. He records an interesting pratice that may be of use. In the autumn when the heat has abated people send to one another to know if any in their family is of a mind to have the smallpox. They make parties for this purpose, commonly ten or fifteen or so, and when they are met an old woman comes around with a nutshell full of the best sort of matter transmitting the smallpox in a weakend state and asks what veins you wish to have opened. Then she sticks a needle into the nutshell and sticks each person in the desired part of the body, binding up the wound. The Greeks often have themselves stuck in the pattern of the Cross, or children on the upper arm or leg. After several days a slight fever is incurred, but very slight, and after two days it abates, leaving a small mark or scar at the point of the pinprick. Thereafter it is impossible for them to contract the fatal disease and they are saved for life! Dr. Beattie call this process ‘inocuation’ and likens it to stimulating the natural defense mechanisms of the blood. He is writing a paper to propose the introduction of the practice in England. If there are no ill side effects it may be of great value he opines.
December 2, 1798—Istanbul—-Captain Darby has set a firm goal to finish the repairs, refitting and replenishing of the Bellerophon and to make port in Naples by Christmas. He has set us to work in extracting the men from their degenerating pleasures in the Lotus-land of brothels, hashish and opium dens and turning them into British sailors again. Every day is a regimen of close order drill, calesthenics, ships chores and repairs and maintainance. The men have all but forgotten their duties and each night several go missing and are only recovered from the brothels or brought out of their opium stupor by force of the Marine guard. The brig however cannot hold them all and their recuperation is but slow. Once at sea we shall get them back to form.
“13 July 1801, Plymouth.—Set sail as Ensign upon the reknown ship HMS Adventure, under the command of Captain Nicholas Furneaux. Captain Furneaux is the son of Captain Tobias Furneaux who commanded the ship on its previous voyages around the world and towards the poles accompanying HMS Endeavor under Captain James Cook. I am in trepidation as to my own competencies but I am determined to learn my craft and build my future. Captain Furneaux is an experienced commander from whom I may learn much. He appears to me kind but strict in his discipline and a bit hard to approach personally, or at least for us younger fellows. Our mission is to follow-up on Cook’s voyages and chart the islands and currents of the south seas, and Pacific Ocean towards Australia, New Zealand, and the Polynesian Islands, conducting commercial and botanical surveys as we go and establishing commercial and colonial relations with the native peoples. We are charged with concluding treaties and taking actions aimed at excluding French shipping and influence from the area.”
Sartorious continued flipping and through the pages at random, skimming the contents and reading where he found the entries of interest:
“8 February 1802—We have navigated the Eastern coast of Australia and proceeded as far South as Van Damien’s Land (modern Tasmania) and entering the Bass Strait have circumnavigated that land, confirming it to be an island separate from the larger Australian continental mass. Having lost sight of HMS Dolphin in a dense fog and storm we proceeded to the rendezvous point on Queen Charlotte’s Sound of New Zealand, but failed to find her. Following some rumors amoung the native peoples we persued her down the coast but were blown off course by a violent storm and a week of adverse winds that carried us far from the North and South Islands of New Zealand and we were only able to save ourselves by putting in to harbor in a set of islands to the southeast known as the Chatham Islands at 43°53′S 176°31′W / 43.883°S 176.517°W / -43.883; -176.517 by my calculations by the chart and sextant, first discovered and placed upon the Admiralty charts by Captain Broughton of the HMS Chatham in 1791 a decade ago. The natives were the most friendly, humane and hospitable one could imagine. I and most of the crew were ill from dysentery and scurvy and the Captain put us ashore to recuperate, though in trepidation as to our safety. Such concerns proved wholly unfounded as the natives and our own physician nursed us back to health with the aid of kiwi and other citric fruits and we rapidly redcovered. The natives refused to take payment for their services, holding hospitality and rescue to those in need to be a sacred duty for which recompense would be a sin. I am sure that but for their help I would have died an early death on my first voyage. These people called themselves the Moriori, and I was thankful to them for my life.
(Author’s Note—Added July 1842: In re-reading my entry of 1802 in London this year I enquired with Captain Henry Howser of the HMS Brighton which had just returned from those parts and visited the Chatham Islands as to the fate of my benefactors, asking if several individuals who had saved my life were still alive and well. The grim story of their Laestrygonian fate was chastening. A British ship having watered at the Chatham Isles and then returning to New Zealand, inadvertantly informed the Maori tribesmen of New Zealand of their existence, of which they were previously ignorant, and of the extremely peaceful, docile, kind and defenseless condition of the native Moriori peoples on the Chatham Isles; on November 19, 1835, following a war council a Māori flotilla of war canoes departed the North Island of New Zealand carrying 500 Māori warriors armed with guns, clubs and axes arriving in the Chatham Isles shortly thereafter, followed by another on December 5, 1835 with a further 400 Māori. They proceeded to massacre the Moriori people en mass and without cause or provocation and to enslave the survivors. A Moriori survivor recalled to Captain Howser: “[The Māori] commenced to kill us like sheep…. [We] were terrified, fled to the bush, concealed ourselves in holes underground, and in any place to escape our enemies. It was of no avail; we were discovered and killed – men, women and children indiscriminately”. The Maori genocidally butchered the peaceful peoples who had nursed me back to life, cannibalizing and eating not a few of the men who had saved me, castrating and enslaving their sons and raping and taking posession of the remaining women and girls, some of whom involuntarily repopulated the isles with mixed-blooded children engendered by conquering Maori and some of whom where carried back to New Zealand as the Maori tribesmen’s prize slaves and sexual trophies. To Captain Howser’s questioning a Māori conqueror justified their actions as follows: “We took possession… in accordance with our customs and we caught all the people. Not one escaped…..”. After the invasion, Moriori were forbidden to marry Moriori, nor to have children with each other. Only sexual intercourse with Maori conquerors was allowed. All Moriori became slaves of the Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga Maori invaders. Many died from despair or from insanity leading to suicide. Many Moriori women had mixed-blooded children to their Maori masters and had no choice but to raise and rear them in captivity. A small amount of Moriori women eventually married either Maori or European men in later decades, only slightly avoiding the total extinction and extirpation of the Moriori people. Many were taken from the Chathams and never returned. The fate of my benefactors and gentle friends was a holocaust and genocide of Biblical severity but without the benefit of any redeeming moral value or the reward of faith of a suffering Job—It was to my mind at that time the worst imaginable demonstration of man’s inhumanity to man and of the inexplicable absence of the intervening hand of any God, Christian or otherwise, or of any visible justice or moral order in the universe.”
21 October 1805—The Battle of Trafalgar—I am assigned as ship’s first officer to the HMS Polyphemus under the command of Captain Robert Redmill. Formerly under the command of Admiral Collingwood aboard the Euralyus, our fleet formed for the blockade off Cadiz, joined by the Neptune, Leviathan, Brittania, Ajax, Agamemnon, Minotaur, Mars, Achilles, Phoebe and Naiad. We then rendezvoused with the squadron under Admiral Lord Nelson, aboard the Victory, with Conqueror, and other ships of the line, who took over overall command from Collingwood. The six ships of the line dispatched to Gibralter did not return in time for the engagement.
Captain Redmill and I attend dinner with Admiral Nelson aboard the HMS Victory. Nelson reveals his overall plan and instructions for each ship. Nelson has overthrown the orthodox strategy of forming the fleet in one battle line and engaging parallel to the enemy’s single battle line. Known for his unorthodox strategies since the Battle of the Nile, he does not disappoint, though uncertainties abound. His plan is to divide the fleet into two parallel lines and attack perpendicularly to the line of the allied French and Spanish fleet. The tactic is to cut the enemy in two and overwhelm the isolated half by superior numbers, seamanship and training before the severed half of their fleet can come back to the rescue. This will involve “Crossing the T” or sailing perpendicularly across the line of advance of the enemy fleet and then enveloping and boarding them in individual ship-to-ship combat. The concept is sound in theory but dangerous in that the enemy can fire upon the front of our column before our broadside can cut across theirs. It is a big gamble. Nelson believes we must strike a decisive blow now to terminate the invasion flotilla capable of reaching England and isolating Napoleon upon the continent. Nelson is betting on the inexperience of the French and Spanish gunners and sailors leaving room for closing on the enemy before they can inflict serious harm. He gives each Captain maximum initiative and freedom of action to exploit the situation after the initial battle contact, knowing infinite permutations of chance outcomes in battle cannot be reduced to advanced planning. He trusts in his “Band of Brothers” the highly proficient and battle tested brotherhood of his sea Captains.
Nelson leads the weatherward line directly into the side of the French line, gloriously cutting the allied fleet in two, sailing behind the French flagship Beaucentaur and in front of the Redoubtable, raking the stern and bow of the two ships with a devastating broadside. Victory as the lead ship with Nelson aboard takes the brunt of the French fire and is demasted after her initial coup. Unknown to us Nelson himself is mortally wounded by sniper fire from the French masts.
Captain Redmill directs the Polyphemus to follow on the line and attack the isolated French ships—I am in charge of the boarding party bound to mount and board the disabled French ships and seize them as prizes. Following the line we approach HMS Victory and find her in peril, about to be boarded by French marines from the Redoubtable. HMS Conqueror ahead of us rakes the Redoubtable with a broadside of grapeshot and cuts down one company of French marines. Another company readies to board Victory as we come along the opposite side of Redoubtable and board her just as the French attack is about to take Victory, forcing them to retreat to defend their own ship. Caught in a crossfire the French marines are cut down and gradually decimated, with heavy losses on both sides. I rush across the deck of Redoubtable and make my way with my Marines and sailors onto the deck of HMS Victory, cutting down man after man of the French Marines with pistol shot, cutlass and grenades, attempting to rescue Admiral Nelson from the French marine onslaught. Finally, lightly wounded in three places I press forward and we secure all three ships, taking the French ship in prize and I am able to locate Admiral Nelson below decks, discovering that he has been mortally wounded from French sniper fire from the mizzen.
Finding him still alive and conscious, I announce to him that I am Lieutenant Sartorious of the Polyphemus and that we have secured the French man-o-war Redoubtable in prize and that the rescued Victory is secure, awaiting his orders. He is slow and deliberate in his speech, seeming to know that his wound is fatal.
“The Polyphemus, you say?” dragged out Nelson painfully. “Well it takes one Cyclops to save another, eh?” he says to me, pointing with his one good hand to his one good eye to make the joke. “They have killed me this time I am afraid….” he continued, “….but the great thing is that this dying Cyclops has been enough to put a stake in the eye of The Great Cyclops—Napoleon—–with his one and only Dictator’s Eye focused on the One Goal of Power and More Power over all it beholds—–I am gone, but Napoleon’s evil eye is put out as sure as Polyphemus’s eye is put out sightless, and he will be fashioning no nore lightning bolts and tridents at sea to defeat us I think——Thank God I have done my Duty.” he groaned out, as Mr. Scott his Chaplain and Doctor Beattie, his physician motioned for me to leave him rest.
22 October 1805—Admiral Nelson before he died ordered me to tell Captain Redhill to engage, sink or and capture as many French and Spanish ships as possible and then to anchor in readiness for an expected storm the next day. We continued yesterday, through the night and this morning to engage, sink, board or capture the Pluton, the Achille, the Argonauta and the Neptune. At break of day the word is passed from ship to ship: Twenty-seven British ships of the lineled by Admiral Lord Nelson aboard HMS Victory have defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships of the line capturing French Admiral Pierre Villeneuve off the south-west coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar. The Franco-Spanish fleet has lost twenty-two ships, without a single British vessel being lost. Except for the death of Admiral Nelson himself, heroic in the extreme, the victory is on the scale of Agincourt and we are inclined to bow down to God to give thanks for such a miracle. I am inclined to agree with Lord Nelson’s last words to me before he died—-“the Great Cyclops is blinded and stumbling towards his inevitable death, as I am as well. We shall all see each other in Hades soon—and know we have met both enemies and comrades worthy of ourselves.”
Sartorius flipped to a later Volume and located the entries for the sinking of The Hayston:
“July 1, 1819—–The Hayston, is a three-mast vessel given to me as my second full command. It is but a middling, slow and older ship but I cannot but relish the pride of commanding her in my own right. We set out from Isle-de-France (nowadays Mauritius) for Calcutta on July 1, 1819. For several days bad weather had prevented us from taking any observations and on July 20 at 8pm, some reefs were noticed in the gloomy night darkness. There was little time to tack and the ship struck the reef on Maamakunudhoo Atoll on the north west of the Maldives. In the enveloping darkness within a quarter of an hour, there was seven feet of water in the hold and we were at the mercy of the elements.
By he next morning’s light we discovered we had run on to an enormous reef, as far as the eye could see, which turned out to be covered with water on the high tide. A small islet was seen by telescope 25 km away which we called the “Isle of Hope”. On the 22nd, three sailors tried to reach this isle by raft but were never seen again.
On the 24th, all attempts at repair and recovery of the ship proving futile, every sailor was employed in building a raft large enough to carry us all, but when it was nearly completed the Lascar sailors cut the rope and sailed away. One man who tried to reach them, was threatened with an axe.
The long boat was taken out from the ship but was damaged on the reef and went adrift with a woman and her two daughters and three men, who were never heard of again. Then the barge was launched and it was not long before she capsized and split on the reef.
A Maldivian sailing boat was seen and appeared to be heading in our direction, so my first officer, Schultz, and some crew gave chase in a dinghy. After several hours rowing, they found they were separated from the boat by a big reef and it passed by without noticing our peril.
Two more sailors, Serang and his brother, were separated from the remaining survivors when a raft on which they were paddling between the reef and the shipwreck, was caught in the current and drifted away to the south east. In another accident, a rope was stretched between the reef and the ship and a young boy died trying to return to the ship.
Finally, on the 26th Schultz and the remaining crew embarked on three makeshift rafts for the Isle of Hope which they obtained. I and two sailors were the last on the ship and we continued constructing a final raft and loading it with necessary supplies for our survival. On the 27th we abandoned the Hayston for good and set off for the Isle of Hope. Just then a tropical squall rose up and blew us in the opposite direction. Then things worsened to a gale and our raft was blown up against the coral reefs and shattered, killing the two crewmen. I was left adrift clinging to a single wooden spar from the raft, and the coral had torn my very clothes to shreds, leaving me naked on the face of the sea, with only a goatskin of wine strapped across my back which I had managed to preserve.
For two days I drifted, lashing my body to the wooden spar with the remaining strand of rope attached to it from the raft. After that I had used up all the wine in the goatskin and began to become delirious from the sun, the sea and the lack of fresh water. Finally, after I know not how much time I drifted into sight of an island. Knowing this to be my only chance for survival I used the last desperate reserve of my remaining strength to swim towards the shore at a point I could see a small stream emptying into the ocean. Obtaining the beach I used my last remaining strength to crawl and pull myself up to the mouth of the stream and take mouthful after desperate mouthful of fresh water. I then collapsed into an unconscious sleep of an unknown seeming eternity in the underbrush grown thick by the banks of the freshwater stream.
I was awakened by the sound of voices coming from the freshwater pool at the mouth of the stream. I was still concealed in the underbrush of the neighboring thicket and heard the voices rising and falling from a distance of a hundred feet. I did not know if the natives would prove to be kind as the Moriori on the Chathams or prove to be cannibals or murderers of the like we discovered on Borneo and other islands, so I thought it best to keep myself concealed until I could spy out their natures and character.
Peering out of the underbrush I observed the male party depart down the shore and enter their canoes with their fishing tackle, leaving the female party at the freshwater pool washing their clothes. At length, the girls tired of their work and began to eat a picnic they had brought with them, then most began to engage in a game of ball tossing and kicking in the clearing next to the pool. The party comprised about twenty young women and girls, and they seemed to follow the one taller one of extraordinary beauty and long sculptured legs wearing a wreath of flowers about her kneck and chest and with another ring of flowers about her head. They would throw and kick the ball gaily, with some younger of the girls calling to the taller leader, pleading to have the ball thrown to them, calling out her name: “Nooaysua!………Nooaysua!”
I wondered how I might approach them and gain their confidence without frightening them away. This was no easy matter as I observed my total nakedness and my body covered with the slime and brine of the sea and the dirt of the streambank, my lips cracked from the sun, my hair matted and my skin reddened with sunburnt exposure and not a few cuts and bruises—a frightful if not monstrous appearance to anyone.
Then as chance might have it, one girl kicked the ball awry and it landed in the bushes not far from me, hidden in the underbrush. A cry of dismay rose up collectively from the girls’ voices and several of them went to hunt for it. Bowing to necessity and having no other choice I broke off some limbs of the surrounding bushes and held them in front of me covering my privates, seized the ball and made my way out of the thicket of bush, holding the ball out towards the girls in offering, and calling out the only word I recognized in their language, the name of the young princess: “Nooaysua……Please, Don’t be afraid…….Nooaysua!…………..”
Needless to say, there was a collective shriek of terror and a scampering and sprinting of desperate female limbs over the hillock in the opposite direction. In the clearing there remained but one form. The princess, Nooaysua, retained her position, though breathing heavily and took me in in her composure, frightened, but not giving in to fright. I smiled and bowed to her and tried to talk to her in English, not knowing but a word of her own language. I held out the ball from a distance and then tried to explain to her how I had come to that shore, knowing she could not understand my words but that she could perhaps follow my gestures and pointing. I pointed to the ball and rolled it to her feet, then bowed low to her to assure her of my peaceful intentions. I asked for help in English and tried to act out a pantomime to illustrate my predicament, then mad gestures of prayer and supplication and sat upon a large stone, covering myself with the branches of bush.
Little by little she overcame her shock and began to take me in and understand my gestures. Luckily I was able to impress her of my peaceful intentions. She picked up the ball and made a gesture of thankfulness, then turned and walked away in the direction the women had run. I peered after her and saw their huddled faces behing a row of trees at the top of the hillock. She walked to the top of the hillock and made council with them for twenty minutes. Then she returned, marching at the head of her troupe and directed some of them to fetch food and water and a set of their men’s clothes for me to put on, and some kind of soap they used for washing. I remained seated on the large stones and they placed these offerings on another stone ten feet in front of me, then backed off a hundred paces. I approached the food and began to eat. I was ravenously hungry and could hardly control myself, but I had enough self-control left that I kept myself in a minimum appearance of civility so as not to frighten them with savagery. I bowed and gestured thanks to them from a distance, then retired to the freshwater pool to wash and clean myself and put on the clothing they had given me.
Reemerging, to their gaze apparently reborn and reincarnated in human form, I again approached the troupe of women and bowed and gestured thanks to their Princess, Nooaysua, thanking her by name, smiling and speaking to them in English and in the international language of gesture and tone. After this, they gave me further food to eat and stared at me as a creature from another planet as I tried to talk to them in my language.
I fingered the only possession of my former existence which I had left, a locket around my neck composed of a single silver rose upon a small iron-cross crucifix which opened to show the engraved portrait of my fiancée, Molly. Molly had had it specially made for me, and gave it to me on the eve of my departure on this latest voyage. The Silver Rose was a token of both her Rosicrucian religious beliefs and a reference to my middle name. I looked at it as I ate, recalling to mind her beautiful eyes. I turned it over and read the inscription on the back: “’From Molly to her beloved George Rose—Amour Vincet Omnia’—Hermes Jewellers, London.”
Nooaysua then motioned me in the direction of their village and the troupe gathered all their belongings together, which they placed in baskets on their heads, and then moved off in single file after the Princess in the direction of the village. We walked about an hour over several rises and ridges until I could see the outlines of the village in the valley below. Then Nooaysua motioned me to stop and wait in the clearing at the top of the hill overlooking the village. It would be evidently embarrassing to their womanly honor to be alone in the presence of a strange man, so they resolved to return alone and then tell Nooaysua’s father, the Village Chief, and the council of elders that they had chanced to see a peaceful stranger and ask them to come out to meet me.
An hour later the Chief came out at the head of an hundred armed menfolk, dressed in his ceremonial robes and with an elaborate headdress of tropical bird feathers trailing down his back to his feet. After some gestures and pantomimed formalities we were able to communicate roughly, he recognizing a smattering of Arabic language that I had picked up in my stay in the Ottoman capital. He indicated that he would send a canoe to the chief atoll of Male a few hundred miles distant and inform the Sultan of my presence and condition and await the Sultan’s commands. In the meantime I would remain his guest. Afterwards, I was led into the village and given a hut to stay in, and a grand feast was prepared at which I ate and drank copiously of baked fish, Tuna rolls, yams and coconut wine, after which the troupe of women performed some rough singing and dancing which was nonetheless sublime to me emerging from my recent distress. Finally I slept for an entire day and was cared for by some of the girls of the troupe while I lay abed for several days recovering my strength. Over many weeks I remained the guest of Princess Nooaysua and her kind father Chief Alcinoukuykuy and mother Aretekuykuy, on this the Island of Maamakunudhooscherie, and enjoyed the simple but generous hospitality of these humane and kind fishing people, learning to appreciate their way of life and human warmth, and managing to pick up some bits of their language. I learned to appreciate their natural humanity, courage and nobility of heart which could put to shame the pretense of character of three fourths of the titled so-called ‘nobility’ I have come to know in our so-called civilized world.
August 15, 1819—–Fortunately for the possibilities of communication during my stay, two weeks after my arrival a local Arabic scholar and minor local official from a neighboring atoll arrived who had been giving intermittent Arabic lessons to Princess Nooaysua in her father’s hope that with such cultivation she would become a candidate to become one of the Sultan’s wives and thereby be elevated into the royal family of the atoll archipeligo. With the help of his Arabic books and his third-hand acquaintance with French allowing a crutch through translation, and building on my foundations from my stay in Istanbul in the Turkic, Persian and Arabic languages in use at that court, I was able to pick up a rough competency in rudimentaryArabic. The teacher’s name was Billali, and he proved to be a friendly and well-disposed septuagenarian pedagogue, though somewhat hidebound from age in body and mind. He had nonetheless traveled widely in the South Asian seas and knew quite a bit about its customs, history, peoples and lore. He himself had spent occasional sojourns at the palace of the Sultan and was a living archive of the local history. In addition he was the appointed local archivist on behalf of the Sultan in this remote corner of his realm, and kept local records of contacts with ships and important local events. He was also an official archivist of various of the shipwrecks in his local area and kept a log of the stories of the events leading to the shipwrecks, the loss of life and property and incidents and was charged with rendering a report of these matters to the Sultan. He interviewed me as to the happenings related to the loss of the Hayston and entered my replies into his official journal, and in turn I was to learn from him the fates of several of the other ships which had met a similar destiny in the domain of the Sultan. He even had in his archive copies of several ships logs and journals left behind by prior shipwreck survivors which he allowed me to read to pass away the hours. With his help I overcame my isolation and was able to learn much from him and by means of his teaching me Arabic, was able to become better friends with Princess Nooaysua, who fortunately was quick of mind as well as handsome of character and appearance, and in the simple liberty of these southern islands was not subject to the constraints of purdah otherwise common in the Muslim world, allowing us to take lessons together and and become closer friends under the generous hospitality of her father. So we whiled away several months while awaiting word of aid from the distant Sultan of Maleh.
September 10, 1819——In our long talks of island isolation Billali told me the stories of the prior shipwrecks and the fates of their crews that were recorded in his official journal passed on for several centuries, and he gave me a copy of a Journal in French by one Francois Pyrard, who had been one of the survivors of a shipwreck in these atolls in 1601 as Third Mate aboard the French ship the Corbin, and who subsequently had spent over five years in these atolls prior to being repatriated back to his home country, keeping the while a written record of his experience.
Bilalli was a friendly old man, and when he gave himself up to excesses of palm date wine he became more effusively friendly and avuncular. Handing his books to me to read he said:
“Here my son, here my Monkey—learn how greed for money has made monkeys, animals and worse than animals out of your fellows and countrymen, as they have my own.”—-he called me ‘Monkey’ when he was drunk out of fatherly affection and upon noting a facial resemblance which I, without my razor and long-bearded as well as full-haired on chest and body unlike the local natives, resembled a figure from the Ramayana of Valmiki—Hanuman, which he said the Chinese also celebrated in the figure of Sun Wu Kong—a kind of monkey-faced hero-figure of great cunning and magic powers who defeats the forces of evil. When he had passed out from excess wine I began to read of the fate of the Corbin.
The Corbin was a French ship of 400 tons, which set sail from St Malo with the Croissant on May 18, 1601, in search of trade with the east. Plagued by misfortune and ill discipline, the Corbin was destined for disaster and met its end on Goidhoo, or Horsburgh Atoll, on July 2, 1602. It was carrying a cargo of silver and attempted salvage at the time of loss was unsuccessful because of deep water.
At the start of the journey, a bad omen occurred when the mast broke and the crew threatened to jump ship. Sickness and desertions threatened the expedition before the ship had even begun to cross the Indian Ocean. The stifling heat had destroyed many provisions, the water was putrid, fish and meat had gone bad and were full of big worms, butter had turned to oil, and scurvy was rampant. A short stay of 15 days at Malailli, one of the Comoroes islands, vastly improved the health of the crew before they crossed the Indian Ocean. On July 1, some reefs and islands were sighted which were correctly recognized as the Maldives by the English pilot. The night was supposed to be spent beating about, but the Corbin was virtually left to herself. During the night the captain was ill and in his bunk, the mate and second mate were drunk and the watch was asleep. In the early hours of the morning of July 2, the ship struck the reef.
Of the 40 or so survivors, one band of 12 men stole a boat and made it to India. Only four of the remainder survived the five-year captivity. One of them was Francois Pyrard, who wrote this journal about his adventures (A copy of which I later learned he published in France on his return). It wasn’t until February 1607, when an expedition from Chittagong invaded the capital, that Pyrard and his three remaining companions were taken to India and eventually returned to France. Ironically, it was the excellent cannon on board the Corbin that the raiding party was principally after rather than the rescue of their countrymen, which eventually led to the freeing the captives. As recorded in Pyrard’s Journal, the treatment of Pyrard and his companions by the Maldivians was uncharacteristically cruel but their fate was largely determined by their conduct in the days following the wreck of the Corbin. All the silver and the most precious merchandise were stowed at the bottom of the ship which, after running onto the reef was under water and irretrievable. What remained of the silver was hidden in their waistbands.
During their first night on Fulhadhoo, they hid their waistbands for fear they should be searched by the islanders. At length, the sailors obtained little to eat and were dying of hunger, so they unearthed the coins and offered money for food, which they received. In turn, the natives would give nothing except for money and before long the coins started to run out. In some cases murder and cannibalism broke out.
Pyrard wrote: “Those who had money, and who by this means could obtain food, filled their bellies without discretion; and being in a country where the air is very unhealthy for all strangers, even for those of a similar climate, they fell ill, and died one after another, nay more, in place of receiving aid and consolation from their fellows, those who were without money and in great need came and stripped them, and took their money before they were dead, the healthy who survived fought with one another who should have it, and banded themselves two against two, and finally messmate against messmate, with so little charity, that they would see their comrades and fellow countrymen die before their eyes without giving them any assistance or succour. I have never seen a sight so pitiable and deplorable.” (My translation).
Pyrard was taken with two other crewmembers to another island, Fehendhoo. Unlike the others, they had no belts of money and although this caused some trouble at first, yet they found they were better off with nothing, as little by little, the natives gave them some food. News of the wreck and the money after long delay reached Male’ and commissioners were sent to Fulhadhoo to secure the wreck on behalf of the Sultan. All merchandise and money from shipwrecks automatically became the property of the sultan (which was the reason for Billali and his predecessors keeping such careful records of such mishaps) and Maldivians were prohibited from selling anything to the shipwreck victims for profit. When the Commissioner arrived at Fulhadhoo, he demanded to know who had the money from the vessel. To get hold of it, he arrested all the inhabitants, even the women, and had their thumbs put into cleftsticks and squeezed and bound with iron clasps, to see if they would confess. The villagers on the island of Pyrard’s captivity were in no trouble when it was proved they had taken nothing, for which they were grateful. Pyrard took great pains to learn their language and by doing so was able to largely determine his own destiny and obtain an insight into Maldivian society never before seen by a westerner, on which he wrote extensively and later published in France.
Pyrard wrote: I have remarked that nothing served me so much, or so conciliated the goodwill of the people, the lords, and even the king, as to have a knowledge of their language, and that was the reason why I was always preferred to my companions, and more esteemed than they.
His account of the wreck and ensuing captivity made compelling reading for me and his description of life in the islands and the customs of the people made his book an invaluable source for my education in Maldivian history and culture.
January 1, 1820—–Our flotilla of dhows and dhoni set off under the command of the Sultan’s Commissioner on the first day of the New Year, by our calendar, with separate boats for the Commissioner, Princess Nooaysua, and for Billali and myself who shared a dhoni, along with escorting vessels. We headed north with a prospect of fair weather hoping to make the Sultan’s Palace at Male’ in two weeks after numerous mandatory duty calls at intervening atolls occasioned by the duties of the Sultan’s Commissioner. After very pleasant sailing and sojourning at several atoll stops, after ten days we encountered an unpredictable and forceful tropical storm with intense winds and currents blowing us constantly towards the East uncontrollably, which then developed into a hurricano, or as it is termed in these parts, a ‘Typhoon,’ or ‘Tai Feng—Divine Wind’ as the Chinese put it. We fought the raging storm for the better part of two days after which a crisis arose in which the lead ships of the flotilla were separated from the rear van and lost in the raging storm and darkness. On the third day we searched for but could not find the Commissioner’s dhoni and its three accompanying vessels and our two dhoni and five accompanying boats were compelled to proceed alone in the now unfamiliar waters far to the East of our anticipated route. From the fourth day we were completely becalmed, which would have been a welcome relief had not our stores of food and water come unlashed in the storm and lost. We drifted, starving and near to death from thirst. Some of the native sailors in their extremity began to drink salt water and some succumbed to hallucinations in the hot sun. On the seventh day I was awoken by the fierce grip of three of the natives about my throat as they attempted to strangle and throw me overboard. My military training in hand-to-hand combat along with the tongue-lashing of the Princess allowed myself and Bilalli to subdue them. Though we had done nothing to provoke them the attack was not unexpected. The natives believe in their primordial way that every object of their surroundings—-sea, winds, waves, sun——has an enforcer,—-an in general a not friendly spirit—an enforcer of ancient, indeed, pre-human and savage laws, and thus a power that must be conciliated, never destroyed, in order to ensure their tribal survival. In the native view, by the very fact of our misfortune from the storms and sea and sun, some or more of us must have failed to observe the required deferences toward those jealous beings, thus inciting the Powers to unleash their necessary, condign and appropriate vengeance upon us. By the very fact of my strangeness and foreigness that someone must be me, and the only propitiation acceptable to these Dark Powers would be the sacrifice of the offending body which had so upset the accustomed equilibrium and cosmic order. Thus I, the foreign object intruding on the organic whole must needs die. I feared even their possible resort to cannibalism in the extremity. Thusly divided into hostile, unsleeping, ever watchful camps at either end of the ship, however, on the eighth day we were overtaken and captured by a large fleet of armed dhoni and war canoes which compelled us to follow them to a large archipelago of volcanic islands, which they proclaimed to be the domain of the sovereign Empress of the Cities of the Sea, this part of the world’s oceans, to whom they referred to enigmatically only as “She,” and into whose presence we were to be forcibly taken “By Her Command” by an armed guard which boarded each of our ships and commanded their sailors. After a day’s sailing an immense island appeared topped at one end with the cone of an active volcano from which rose a cloud of blackish smoke simmering forth, and the other end of which displayed atop a high rise the immense white battlement walls of an unassailable and impregnable fortress and palace built upon a shear cliff high above the sea. We anchored in a wide lagoon harbor beneath one face of the towering façade of the fortress. The lagoon harbour was surrounded on three sides by the inner circular walls of what appeared to be the core of an extinct volcano the inner part of which had been flooded by the sea through a passage to the open sea on the fourth side through a small inlet, creating a peaceful enshadowed womb-like sheltering bay protected against the ravages of the open sea beyond. Met at the landing docks by a small army of over one thousand armed warriors, Billali, Princess Noosayah and myself were forced at spear and swordpoint to mount the narrow steps up the face of the cliff, punctuated by guardhouses and outworks, which led to the immense towering palace at the summit. Our sailors and the lower ranking part of our entourage were confined in a guardhouse at the lowest gate. As our train reached each successive gateway and guard station three priests in scarlet capes and yellow headdresses of extravagant tropical feathers mounted on the battlement above the gateway entrance would blow into the upward-curved projecting tubes of immensely long horns, each perhaps twenty feet long and curved up at their mouths in the fashion of those I had seen in drawings of Tibetan lamas, and which bellowed and warbled forth incredibly deep and somber plaintive sounding tones on our approach, halting with our arrival at the gate, after which the lead priest at each gateway, looking down flanked by an escort of an hundred or so armed warriors would step forward and announce from the battlement only “She Awaits You.”
Attaining the summit and passing through the gates of the Palace in a similar manner we were finally escorted without explanations by the Major Domo of the Palace to a suite of handsome apartments, into which both we and our baggage were deposited, myself lodged in one apartment with Bilali and with a separate apartment appointed for Princess Nooaysua. Armed guards at the doorways intimated that we were as much prisoners as royal guests.
The first care of Bilalli and myself, after seeing to Princess Nooaysua’s safety and comfort, was to wash ourselves and put on clean clothing, for what we were wearing had not been changed since the boarding of the dhoni before the violent storms and our clothing was rank with the detritus and brine of the sea. Fortunately, by far the greater part of our personal baggage had been packed securely into our own dhoni in watertight chests, though Nooaysua lost a part of her bridal gifts and trusseau, and was therefore saved–and brought hither by the bearers–although all the stores laid in by us for barter and presents to the other natives of the neighboring atolls was lost. Nearly all our clothing was made of a well-shrunk and very strong grey flannel, and excellent I found it for travelling in these places, because though an Arab jacket, shirt, and pair of trousers of it only weighed about four pounds, a great consideration in a tropical country, where every extra ounce tells on the wearer, it was warm, and offered a good resistance to the rays of the sun, and best of all to chills, which are so apt to result from sudden changes of temperature.
Never shall I forget the comfort of the “wash and brush-up,” and of those clean flannels. The only thing that was wanting to complete my joy was a cake of soap, of which we had none. Afterwards I discovered that the subjects of the dominion of She do not reckon dirt among their many disagreeable qualities, and use a kind of burnt earth and pumice stone for washing purposes, which, though unpleasant to the touch till one gets accustomed to it, forms a very fair substitute for soap.
Naturally I made inquiry of our circumstances to the experience and knowledge of Bilali—-but here we were again in a realm and dimension beyond even his prior experience. Bilali had heard unconfirmed stories only—of an island realm ruled by an omnipotent supernatural woman—some said an Empress, some said a witch or sorceress, some said a naked face of the primordial inhuman force of Nature herself—-Bilali, supersititious by character, was sure she must be this primordial djinn—-a powerful super-human sorceress spirit of the realm between men and Allah—-accounts of which spirits were obliquely given in the Holy Quran—or in obliqly veiled references in the Biblical tales of the Occident—tales of a First Wife of Adam who had refused his and God’s service and lived an interstitial existence between heaven, earth and hell—sometimes referred to Biblicly as Lilith (Hebrew לילית) ——a mythological female Mesopotamian storm demon associated with wind and was thought to be a bearer of disease, illness, and death—–the figure of Lilith first appearing in a class of wind and storm demons or spirits as Lilitu, in Sumer, circa 4000 BC—–but just as it was considered sinful for men to utter aloud the name of God—-the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, so it was sinful to utter the name of the djinn mistress, and she was accordingly spoken only as “She,” until the days of the Quran, when Masters began to use the title of “Sheik” to impress their personal charismatic powers on others. From that time it is said that “She” assumed the title of the first female Sheik, and when her subject follows asked how to address her, she insisted they follow their traditions and refer to her in the customary manner of a Sheik as “Sir,” from which time legend has it that the world of men began to refer to her as “Sir She.”
Billali told of how as a young man on pilgrimage to Mecca he had made use of his idle spare time in transit by reading the Thousand Nights and A Night, The Alf Layla Wa Layla, and had become fascinated by the lore of the djinn and had made a special study of them, even contracting a scholar’s mad passion for the subject at one time. Stopping in Grand Cairo on his third Hadjj he had researched the legend of “Sir She,” and became convinced that the rumoured island goddess “Sir She” and the biblical Lilleth must be one and the same and alive in the world to date—-though after three years of such speculation in a Mosque in Grand Cairo he underwent a spiritual crisis and in a fit of repentence he made a vow to himself and Allah to put down and never resume such researches as an uncleanesss and affront to Allah. What he now recalled of his researches was that the earliest reference to a demon similar to Lilith and companion of Lillake/Lilith is on the Sumerian king list, where Gilgamesh‘s father was named as Lillu. Little was known of Lillu (“Wind[wer]man”; or Lilu, Lila) and he was said to disturb women in their sleep and had functions of an incubus, while Lilitu appeared to men in their erotic dreams. Such qualities were further suggested by the Semitic associations made with the names Lila and Lilitu, namely those of lalu, or wandering about, and lulu, meaning lasciviousness.
The Assyrian Lilitu were said to prey upon children and women, and were described as associated with lions, storms, desert, and disease. Early portrayals of such demons are known as having Zu bird talons for feet and wings. They were highly sexually predatory towards men, but were unable to copulate normally. They were thought to dwell in waste, desolate, and desert places. To ward them off, like the Sumerian Dimme, an icon of a male wind demon named Pazuzu was thought to be an effective charm against them.
Other storm and night demons from a similar class Bilali discovered around this period: Lilu, an incubus; Ardat lili (“Lilith’s handmaid”), who would come to men in their sleep and involuntarily beget children from them, born always as demons; and Irdu lili, the succcubus counterpart to Ardat lili. These demons were originally storm and wind demons; however later etymology made them into night and darkness demons. Lilith’s epithet was “the beautiful maiden,” She was described as having no milk in her breasts and was unable to bear any children, though sexually irresistable to any man but a saint or prophet. Others described her breasts as drippingly full of the mixed-venom of the cobra, the adder, the scorpion’s tail and the Black Widow spider. Babylonian texts Bilali researched depicted She–Lilith as the prostitute of the goddess Ishtar. Similarly, older Sumerian accounts asserted that Lilitu was called the handmaiden of Inanna or “hand of Inanna.” The Sumerian texts stated that “Inanna has sent the beautiful, unmarried, and seductive prostitute Lilitu out into the fields and streets in order to lead men astray.” That is why Lilitu is called the “hand of Inanna.”
According to Bilali’s researches and belief, Lilitu, the Akkadian Ardat-Lili and the Assyrian La-bar-tu like Lilith, were figures of disease and uncleanliness. Ardat is derived from “ardatu,” a title of prostitutes and young unmarried women, meaning “maiden.” One magical text tells of how Ardat Lili had come to “seize” a sick man. Other texts mention Lamashtu as the hand of Inanna/Ishtar in place of Lilitu and Ardat lili. This female djinn, “She—Lilith” was further associated with the Anzu bird, lions, owls, and serpents—were all animals associated with the Lilitu. It is from this mythology that the later Kabbalah depictions of Lilith as a serpent in the Garden of Eden and her associations with serpents were probably drawn, so Bilali opined. In his view in The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh was said to have driven Lilith, an Anzu bird, and a “snake which fears no spell” from a tree that was in a sacred grove dedicated to the Goddess Ishtar/Inanna/Asherah. Other legends he researched described the malevolent female Anzu birds as “lion-headed” and pictured them as eagle monsters.
Billali discovered numerous ancient texts describing means and methods devised through the centuries to defend against and ward off the powers of ‘She—Lilith,’ such as that of Sheik al-Gnostikarbala, which he had committed to memory:
‘And I, the Instructor, proclaim His Glorious Splendour so as to frighten and to terrify all the spirits of the destroying angels, the Seductresses of the Flesh and the Seductresses of the Spirit, malevolent spirits of the bastards, the worldly and other-worldly demons, the lepers of the spirit and the seducers of the souls, of ‘She—Lilith’ and her followers—-the Handmaidens of Evil and Pesitlence, she-howlers, and the demon desert dwellers and the demon island dwellers howling into the Winds at the End of the World—-accurst by Man, Djinn and God alike, and those which fall upon men without warning to lead them astray from a spirit of understanding and to make their heart desolate during the present dominion of wickedness and predetermined time of humiliations for the Sons of Light, by the guilt of the ages of those smitten by iniquity – not for eternal destruction, but for an era of humiliation for chastening purgative transgression to be relieved by the Tempering Ray and Cauterizing Light that will rise up towards Heaven from the outstretched welcoming limbs of Allah on the Day of Final Judgment—In the Name of Allah the Compassionate and the Merciful and His Prophet we beseech your protection until that Final Day.’
Likewise to protect against all this a figured amulet from an Arslan Tash featured a sphinx like creature with wings devouring a child that has an incantation against ‘She—Lilith’ or similar demons, incorporating Lilith’s correlating animals of lions and owls, such amulet avowing in Heiroglyphic Script printed across it’s face—- “To Be Proof against ‘She’ A Million Times Over—-Guaranteed!” Billali also told me the secret names of She—-These names are said to cause Lilith to lose her power when chanted before her: ‘Lilith, Abitu, Abizu, Hakash, Avers, Hikpodu, Ayalu, Matrota, Hecate, Lamia, Karina, Lamashtu.’
Bilalli recalled depictions of “She” that he had copied out of ancient manuscripts in the underground archives of the remains of the ancient library in Alexandria: According to them ‘She’ was considered by the ancient Egyptians a demi-goddess and daughter of Anu, the sky god. Many incantations against her mention her status as a daughter of heaven and her power of exercising her free will over infants, men and worldly creatures. This made her different from the rest of the demons in Mesopotamia. Unlike her demonic peers, ‘She’ was not instructed by the gods to do her malevolence; she did it on her own accord. She was said to seduce men, harm pregnant women, mothers, and neonates, kill foliage, drink blood, and was a cause of disease, sickness, epidemic and death for the shear instinctive joy of her lustful and twisted pleasure from it. Some incantations describe her as “The Seven Witches and The Seven Hells.” Amulets depicted the space between her legs as a scorpion, corresponding to the astrological sign of Scorpio. (Scorpio rules the genitals & sex organs.) Her head is that of a devouring lion, she has the limb-severing knifed-edge-claws of the Anzu bird; like Lilitu, her breasts are suckled by a pig and a dog, and she rides the back of a donkey. According to legend she was bound to obey and fear only Allah and his Prophets directly, not being bound by any laws of men or nature or even of the Djinn themselves.
According to Bilalli, in the Book of Isaiah, it was related that Lilith used her powers to become Queen over the Edomites, the the red-skinned and coarse-red-haired descendents of Esau, him who had shared the womb with that brother Jacob who became one of the Patriarchs of the ‘People of the Book’ and who was later robbed of his birthright by Jacob by fraud. ‘She’ then led the Edomites as their Queen to plan and contemplate a vengeant holocaust against the ‘People of the Book’ in reprisal, until Allah was forced to exterminate them to fulfill the Biblical destiny of his peoples. ‘She’ was then said to have fled, first to the desert, and then to an island kingdom beyond the remotest reaches of any civilization where she reigned as sole and unchallenged power the extreme margin and last forgotten edge of the world and of the universe.
Billali recalled passages of poetry he memorized from the Book of Proverbs and Egyptian texts lamenting of ‘She:’
Her house sinks down to death,
— Proverbs 2:18-19
Her gates are gates of death, and from the entrance of the house
— 4 Qumrum Scroll 184
Bilalli related the results of his earlier researches as to ‘She—Lilith’s’ creation, described in many alternative versions, none of which he could determine to be authoritative. One mentions her creation as being before Adam’s, on the fifth day, because the “living creatures” with whose swarms God filled the waters included none other than Lilith. A similar version, related to the earlier Talmudic passages, recounts how Lilith was fashioned with the same substance as Adam was, shortly before. A third alternative version states that God originally created Adam and Lilith in a manner that the female creature was contained in the male. Lilith’s soul was lodged in the depths of the Great Abyss. When God called her her forth, she joined Adam. After Adam’s body was created a thousand souls from the Left (evil) side attempted to attach themselves to him. However, God drove them off. Adam was left lying as a body without a soul. Then a cloud descended and God commanded the earth to produce a living soul. This God breathed into Adam, who began to spring to life and his female was attached to his side. God separated the female from Adam’s side. The female side was Lilith, whereupon she flew to the Cities of the Sea and commenced eternal attacks upon humankind. Yet another version claims that Lilith was not created by God, but emerged as a divine entity that was born spontaneously, either out of the Great Supernal Abyss or out of the power of an aspect of God (the Gevurah of Din). This aspect of God, one of his ten attributes (Sefirot), at its lowest manifestation has an affinity with the realm of evil and it is out of this that Lilith merged with Samael.
An alternative Biblical story links Lilith with the creation of luminaries. The “first light,” which is the light of Mercy (one of the Sefirot), appeared on the first day of creation when God said “Let there be light.” But this light became hidden and the Holiness became surrounded by a husk of evil. ”A husk (q’lippa) was created around the brain” and this husk spread and brought out another husk, which was ‘She—Lilith.’
Billali also spoke of how the worshippers of Lucifer also worshipped ‘She-Lilith’ as his Dark Queen and consort—Queen of the Succubi: ‘Dark is she, but brilliant! Black are her wings, black on black! Her lips are red as rose, kissing all of the Universe! She is She—She is ‘She-Lilith,’ who leadeth forth the hordes of the Abyss, who bindith the wounded liver of Prometheus, and leadeth man to liberation! She is the irresistible fulfiller of all lust, seer and freer of all desire. First of all women was she – Lilith, not Eve was the first! Her hand brings forth the revolution of the Will and true freedom of the mind! She is KI-SI-KIL-LIL-LA-KE, Queen of the Cosmic Magic! Look on her in lust and despair!” These worshippers of Lucifer or Eblus declared ‘She’ to be the “Dark Moon” or “Nemesis” the hidden dark second focus of the elliptic orbit of worldly life corresponding to the other of the twin-foci—-the luminous bright sun. She is the Yin to His Yang! The mating of She and Lucifer would give rise to the Androgynous Baphomet–Anti-Christ delivering the world from endeadening slavery to a lifeless Heaven.
Bilalli also related his related researches at Mecca, where he questioned the Kuraish and other tribes on their encounters with ‘She.’ He found that in Mecca ‘She’ was called Karina in Arabic lore. ‘She—Karina’ is mentioned as a child-stealing and child-killing witch. In this context, Karina played the role of a dark “shadow” of a woman and a corresponding male demon—Karin, that of the “dark shadow” of a man. Should a woman marry, her Karina marries the man’s Karin. When the woman becomes pregnant is when Karina will unleash her chaos.She will try to drive the woman out and take her place, cause a miscarriage by striking the woman and if the woman succeeds in having children then her Karina will have the same number of children she does. The Karina will continuously try to create discord between the woman and her husband. Here, Karina plays the role of disrupter of marital relations, akin to one of Lilith’s roles in Biblical tradition.
Bilalli related all this to me, and told that this was the first time he had told any man about his researches in over forty years, following until now his vow to lay aside such studies as unclean in the sight of Allah. Having spent five months with Bilalli and his excesses of imagination brought on by late night bouts with his weakness for palm date wine, and his superstitious and slightly senile cast of mind, I thought he might be giving in to fearful exaggeration, but the inexplicable nature of our present predicament left me open to consider any explanation in the want of a better one. As a modern man though, I was sure that just as nature abhors a vacuum, in the human mind ignorance and lack of knowledge will cause the inrushing of unfounded fears and superstition, which must be much guarded against even in the best educated. Yet there was no better alternative explanation on offer for our fearful predicament.
After a night and day of desperately needed sleep in which I did not awake until near sunset, I was informed by the Major Domo that ‘She,’ whom he referred to as ‘Sheik Sir She’ had commanded us to present ourselves before her, and after her habit and fancy, She chose to hold court during the hours of night, never venturing out into the sunlight for many years, which she held to be detrimental to her beauty. Bilalli, I and Nooaysua ate and dressed in our more presentable clothes, then followed the Major Domo leading a cohort of an hundred armed warrior before us and another hundred bringing up the rear behind us. Just as we had the day before painstakingly made our way up the flights of stone stairs to the summit of the Palace, so this night we entered an inner staircase of stone leading downward, flight after flight, corridor after corridor, like an endless mine shaft descending, descending ever deeper into the bowels of the very earth beneath the Palace. The Major Domo carried a burning torch at the front of our line and every third warrior carried also a burning torch. As at every flight of steps upward we were met and challenged by a guard at every gate, so on our downwards descent we were challenged at every level and codewords known only to the Major Domo were supplied to the satisfaction of the successive security details. As we passed through successive downward corridors we noticed the presence of warrens of Catacombs with the bodies of the dead, seemingly embalmed, on shelves stretching along miles and miles of underground walkways. So we continued for nearly an hour until we approached an immense chthonic Court guarded by one thousand warriors. Then we passed similarly through seven gateways into the Inner Sanctum of ‘She’ who’s whim and command ruled over all and of ‘She’ who must be obeyed.
As we approached the three final gateways leading to the final inner sanctum, we noticed the presence of relief sculptures depicting the rites of preparation of bodies of the dead for entrance to the next world, after the figures of the Egyptian Book of the Dead or some like rite.
The first picture represented his death of the dead person whose soul was descending into the Underworld. He was lying upon a couch which had four short curved posts at the corners coming to a knob at the end, in appearance something like written notes of music, and was evidently in the very act of expiring. Gathered round the couch were women and children weeping, the former with their hair hanging down their backs. The next scene represented the embalment of the body, which lay stark upon a table with depressions in it, similar to the one before us; probably, indeed, it was a picture of the same table. Three men were employed at the work–one superintending, one holding a funnel shaped exactly like a port wine strainer, of which the narrow end was fixed in an incision in the breast, no doubt in the great pectoral artery; while the third, who was depicted as standing straddle-legged over the corpse, held a kind of large jug high in his hand, and poured from it some steaming fluid which fell accurately into the funnel. The most curious part of this sculpture is that both the man with the funnel and the man who pours the fluid are drawn holding their noses, either I suppose because of the stench arising from the body, or more probably to keep out the aromatic fumes of the hot fluid which was being forced into the dead man’s veins. Another curious thing which I am unable to explain is that all three men were represented as having a band of linen tied round the face with holes in it for the eyes. Finally, the next series of bas-relief sculptures depicted the presence of a Thoth-like figure conducting the souls of the dead to their examination, weighing them on the scales of justice, and their consignment to a seeming Heaven or Hell as their deserts might justify.
Before the final double-door of solid gold the Major Domo halted, then turned towards me, informing me that Sheik Sir She herself had deigned to express a wish to see me–an honour, he added, accorded to but very few. I think that he was a little horrified at my cool way of taking the honour, but the fact was that I did not feel overwhelmed with gratitude at the prospect of seeing some savage, dusky queen, however absolute and mysterious she might be, more especially as my mind was full of equal concern for the fate of old Bilalli and for Princess Nooayesuaa, for whose life I began to have great fears.
We passed down the passage, crossed the great aisle-like cave, and came to the corresponding passage on the other side, at the mouth of which the guards stood like two statues on either side of the doorway, bronze helmets with feathered plumes adorning their heads and deadly halberds held in their hands, as well as swords displayed in sheaths about their hips. As we came they bowed their heads in salutation, and then lifting their long spears placed them transversely across their foreheads, as the leaders of the troop that had met us had done with their ivory wands. We stepped between them, and found ourselves in an exactly similar gallery to that which led to our own apartments, only this passage was, comparatively speaking, brilliantly lighted. A few paces down it we were met by four mutes– two men and two women–who bowed low and then arranged themselves, the women in front and the men behind of us, and in this order we continued our procession past several doorways hung with curtains resembling those leading to our own quarters, and which I afterwards found opened out into chambers occupied by the mutes who attended on She. A few paces more and we came to another doorway facing us, and not to our left like the others, which seemed to mark the termination of the passage. Here two more white-, or rather yellow-robed guards were standing, and they too bowed, saluted, and let us pass through heavy curtains into a great antechamber, quite forty feet long by as many wide, in which some eight or ten women, most of them young and handsome, with yellowish hair, sat on cushions working with ivory needles at what had the appearance of being embroidery frames. These women were also deaf and dumb. At the farther end of this great lamp-lit apartment, bronze polished lamps adorning every ten steps along the walls, was another doorway closed in with heavy Oriental- looking curtains embroidered with Mandala-like patterns, quite unlike those that hung before the doors of our own rooms, and here stood two particularly handsome girl mutes, their heads bowed upon their bosoms and their hands crossed in an attitude of humble submission. As we advanced they each stretched out an arm and drew back the curtains. Thereupon Billali did a curious thing. Down he went, that venerable-looking old gentleman–for Billali is a gentleman at the bottom–down on to his hands and knees, and in this undignified position, with his long white beard trailing on the ground, he began to creep into the apartment beyond, kow-towing every six steps. I followed him, standing on my feet in the usual fashion. Looking over his shoulder he perceived it.
“Down, my son; down, my Monkey; down on to thy hands and knees. We enter the presence of She, and, if thou art not humble, of a surety she will blast thee where thou standest and end the short life thou has until now enjoyed. And mind yourself well—for she is known to be both mad and bad—–mad in part—but mostly bad.”
I halted, and felt scared. Indeed, my knees began to give way of their own mere motion; but reflection came to my aid. I was an Englishman and a product of the Enlightenment, and why, I asked myself, should I creep into the presence of some savage woman as though I were a monkey in fact as well as in name? And I remembered many of the Sartorius clan who had been Puritans and even a few Quakers, who with George Fox refused to take off their hat and bow and scrape before the English King and nobility. I would not and could not do it, that is, unless I was absolutely sure that my life or comfort depended upon it and was by brute force or shear survival to bend my principles. If once I began to creep upon my knees I should always have to do so, and it would be a patent acknowledgment of inferiority. So, fortified by an insular prejudice against “kootooing,” which has, like most of our so-called prejudices, a good deal of common sense to recommend it, I marched in boldly after Billali.
Seeing Bilalli in his ungainly position, a voice rang out from behind the curtain: “Old man, get up off your knees. I have enough dogs on all fours—I desire to talk to men not to snakes on their bellies or dogs on their paws.” Then I perceived a pair of eyes behind a gauze curtain stretched about the bed. A mellifluous voice rang out from the presence of those eyes. My mind was too disconcerted to make out her words, which spoke to me in Arabic. Concentrating and not a little unnerved by all that had passed and was present before my eyes, I was able to hear and make out in my by now fair Arabic: “Why art thou so frightened, stranger?” asked the strong but melodius voice again–a voice which seemed to draw the heart out of me, like the strains of enchanting music.
“Is there that about me that should affright a man? Then surely are men changed from what they used to be!” And with a little coquettish movement she turned herself, and held up one arm, so as to show all her loveliness and the rich hair of raven blackness that streamed in soft ripples down her snowy robes, almost to her sandalled feet.
“It is thy beauty that makes me fear, oh Queen,” I answered humbly, scarcely knowing what to say, and devising something that might fill in as appropriate—using the formal and slightly archaic respectful form of Arabic address that I had been taught appropriate for addressing personages at Court—I thought that as I did so I heard old Billali, who was still lying prostrate on the floor, mutter, “Good, my Monkey King, good stretch of the tongue!—-Stroke her backside with it!”
“And would’st thou be so kind as to inform me your name, your country and what sort of a man I am addressing.” she spake forth commandingly, moving her lithe and beautiful body from behind the curtain, but retaining the veil across her face, leaving only the shadow of her lovely eyes discernable beneath it. I answered her to the effect that my name was Sartorius, Captain of a shipwrecked English ship, and on my way with these my friends, the Scholar Bilalli and Princess Nooaysua to the court of the Sultan of Maleh, when a gale blew us uncontrollably into the waters of her august domain.
Her eyes searched me, but not in suspicion. I could see she wasn’t troubling with the question of whether I was speaking the truth. She was sizing me up as a man. I cannot describe that calm appraising look. Seemingly there was no modesty in it, nothing even of that implicit sympathy which one human being explores the existence of another. Before her all those beneath her, even seemingly objects of her infatuation, were chattels, things infinitely removed from intimacy. “Mad and bad” Billali said of her, “but principally bad.” Viewing her before my very eyes, I did not think those were the proper terms, for they belonged to the narrow world of our common experience. This was something beyond and above it, as a cyclone or an earthquake is outside the decent routine of nature. Mad and bad she might be, but she was also great.
“Now, Sartorius,” she said, “how comest thou to speak Arabic? It is my own dear tongue, for Arabian am I by my birth, even ‘al Arab al Ariba’ (an Arab of the Arabs), and of the race of our father who created Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Esau, and of Ishmael for it is that fair and ancient land of Edom I was I born in. It is the tongue of the Prophet Mohammad, and of the great and learned from the Caliph Harun al-Rashid to Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, al-Ghazzali and of the author of the Alf Layla Wa Layla, and I have spoken it with each and every one of them since my birth in the time of Moses, though the tongue of course changes over time” she informed me. As she spoke I seemed to get a vision of a figure, like one of the old gods looking down on human nature from a great height, a figure disdainful and passionless for centuries, but with its own magnificence.
I told her of my sojourn in the court of the Divine Porte,of my service in the wars in the Royal Navy and of my further instruction in Arabic through the kindnesses of Bilalli. She then questioned why I had taken up this adventuring and seafaring life. Something in her otherworldly feminine grandness forced me to exaggerate and romanticize myself into the stature of an hero, perhaps by some inexplicable psychological necessity to inflate myself to the stature of her eyes.
“I will tell you, Madam, I am a man who has followed a science, but I have followed it in wild places, and I have gone through it and come out the other side. The world, as I see it, had become too easy and cushioned. Men had forgotten their manhood in soft and tamed speech and in even tamer and more aborted deeds, and imagined that the rules of their smug civilization were the laws of the universe. We had forgotten the greater virtues, and we were becoming emasculated humbugs whose gods were our own weaknesses. Then came the war and the sea, and the air was cleared. The Enlightenment, of which I am a native son, had the courage to cut through the bonds of humbug and to laugh at the fetishes of the common herd, and as I read history it is from the wild spaces—the deserts and the seas and wildernesses—–that purification comes. When mankind is smothered and its instinctive sources of life are snuffled out with the shams and phrases and painted idols of a decaying civilization, it is from the winds of the sea and the desert that purification and re-inspiritualization comes. The world needs space and fresh air and the sources of newer life. The civilization we have boasted of is a toy-shop and a blind alley, and I hanker for open country and the open and oceanic seas.” I dreamed out loud for her benefit.
The confounded nonsense was well received. Her dark eyes gleaned with the cold light of the fanatic. With her waving hair and the long aquiline cut of her nose and face she looked like some destroying fury of a Norse or Greek legend.
“You have the makings of a man, Sartorius,” she retorted back. “Though you have much to learn, you are of the Household of Faith and Greatness, and Faith and Greatness march hand in hand to Victory, but I cannot be sure yet that you are of its highest. You have the makings of a man—but that is nothing to me—I am in search not of a man but of a Superman.” she left me mystified.
Then I asked, incredulously, “How can it be that thou were’st were born in the time of Moses—-surely all of that time have long since met their deaths?” I queried.
“Oh man!” she said at last, speaking very slowly and deliberately, “it seems that there are still things upon the earth of which thou knowest naught. Dost thou still believe that all things die, even as those very Jews believed? I tell thee that naught dies. There is no such thing as Death, though there be a thing called Change. Change and Transformation is the only constant—–nothing can die of matter or of energy, neither of soul nor of spirit, but only changes its form and its expression. Look forth…..,” and she pointed to some sculptures on the rocky wall. “Three times two thousand years have passed since the last of the great race that hewed those pictures fell before the breath of the pestilence which destroyed them, yet are they not dead. E’en now they live; perchance their spirits are drawn towards us at this very hour,” and she glanced round. “Of a surety it sometimes seems to me that my eyes can see them, my ears can compass their voices, and my hands can reach out into the darkness and feel the contours of their very faces.”
“Are you then of the Religion of the Prophet Mohammad—-of the Dar al-Islam?” I asked of her. She replied after a slight pause “Religions?…..Religions come and religions go. I do not believe in them but it is they who believe in me. I have seen the rise and fall of the Gods as you have seen the rise and fall of the daily sun and moon——Ishtar, Innana, Isis, Osiris, Amun, Aton, Ra, Vishnu, Shiva, Mohammad, Christ, Buddha—-I have seen them all come and go. Nothing dies, man or god, but only changes form. Time is an eternal river of change, and no on can step into the same river twice, yet nothing changes, all remains the same in a different form. The religions come and the religions pass, and civilizations come and pass, and naught endures but this world and human nature.” ” she answered.
“And is this your country and these your people now?” I asked.
“My people! speak not to me of my people,” she answered hastily; “these slaves are no people of mine, they are but dogs to do my bidding till the day of my deliverance comes; and, as for their customs, naught have I to do with them. Also, call me not Empress or Queen, not Sir She or Sheik Sir She—–I am weary of flattery and of empty titles fit only for underlings——call me Lilith, the name hath a sweet sound in mine ears, it is an echo from the past. It was my mother’s name as well—I am not the Lilith created with Adam as his first wife but the lesser Lilith, born of a mother, yet I partake of the soul of my mother namesake as well. What is my country?—my bed is my country!—-My empire is of the imagination—but my bed, my lovers, my desires and their fulfillment are my country.”
As a sailor I had seen my share of shore girls, and had a sweetheart waiting at home, though to disappoint the commonplace illusion I was not deeply knowledgeable about women, even, I was forced to admit, shyish. But every man has in his bones a consciousness of sex. I was shy and perturbed but horribly fascinated. This well-bodied woman, poised exquisitely like some statue between the pillared lights, with her fair cloud of hair, her long and delicate face, and her black deep eyes, had the glamour of a wild dream. I hated her instinctively, hated her intensely, but I longed to arouse her interest. To be valued coldly by those so entrancing eyes would be an offence to my manhood, and I felt a latent antagonism rising within me, forcing me to assertiveness.
“Well then Lilith, if I may be so bold as to ask, who art thou, and why hast thou brought us to this place and what art thine intentions with regard to us?” if we migh’st know.
“Take off thine shirt, if thou would’st learn and understand” she commanded, and I complied with her request, though with some embarrassment. When I had removed this article of clothing she moved closer to me and her eyes looked out piercingly from behind her veil with a frightening frenzy of evident convulsive desire and recognition. “Yes, Yes, Yes—It is so! It is so! It was so in my dream and it is so in the world at last, at last, at last!” she wailed out in an ecstasy of joy, whirling her body covered in her soft white gown around and around in the manner of a Mevlevi Dervish. “This mark on your chest above the heart—in the shape of a scarab—-where did’st thou get it?” she raved, venturing to touch it gently, as if to prove even to herself that it was real and not a mirage.
“I was born with this mark—it is a birthmark I have always had since my birth in Benares, India—- before I returned to England for my education.
“The dream doth not lie!” she ejaculated exuberantly. “Sartorius—I will tell you of the secret transformations of the souls of men and of heaven and on earth. It is written in The Treatise on the Left Emanation that says there are two Liliths, the lesser being mated to the great Master Demon Asmodeus. In answer to your question concerning Lilith, I shall explain to you the essence of the matter. Concerning this point there is a received tradition from the ancient Sages who made use of the Secret Knowledge of the Lesser Palaces, which is the manipulation of demons and a ladder by which one ascends to the prophetic levels. In this tradition, it is made clear that Samael and Lilith were born as one, similar to the form of Adam and Eve who were also born as one, reflecting what is above. This is the account of Lilith which was received by the Sages in the Secret Knowledge of the Palaces. The Mother Lilith is the mate of Samael. Both of them were born at the same hour in the image of Adam and Eve, intertwined in each other. Asmodeus the Great Master of the demons has as a mate the Lesser (younger) Lilith, daughter of the king whose name is Qafsefoni. The name of his mate is Mehetabel daughter of Matred, and their daughter is Lilith, and I am that Lilith, the Lesser Lilith. Three milennia ago in a fit of unthinking uncontrollable rage I put to death my great lover Asmodeus, who had shown me the power of endless life and beauty conveyed to me by immersion in the Pillar of Fire enclosed in the volcano of this island. Since that time I have live on, but in empty form only, these three thousand years—-though I have had innumerable lovers and disposed of them one by one as they bored and dissatisfied me, I remained barren and childless, and my one and only thought in my great regret and sorrow was, following the teachings of the Buddha, to await the reincarnation of the one spirit to whom my soul is eternally mated and be united again together! For three thousand years this has been an empty hope disappointed a thousand times—the return of the spirit and soul of Asmodeus to my heart and bed——–until today! You Sartorius, thou art that returned soul and reincarnated spirit of Asmodeus, born from Benares, the holy city of the Buddha, in promise of a return to our eternal life and eternal love! Sartorius you are fated to share my throne and mirror my glory—the cosmic cycle has rounded full circle at last and brought you back to me, an Anti-Messiah delivering the spirit of the world and my heart—-not a man but a Superman mated by fate to the greatness of my own stature!” she inveighed towards me. She put me in a condition of blank bewilderment. I was to be tied to the chariotwheels of this fury, and started as her Superman on an enterprise of remaking and reforming the world like an Anti-Prophet. True I had been drawn to the sea in the quest of a greater spirit, a return to the primal and raw primitive sources of inner and outer life. The corrupt and corroded life of our jaded civilization was too much for me and I did seek the impulse of a return to a revitalizing simplicity that is often associated with the calling of a prophet. But Lilith’s simplicity was that of the neurotic, not the primitive. It was a simplicity of her megalomania and egotism and of a pride and hubris of Biblical proportions. The prophet wants to inspire and simplify, but she wanted to destroy and simplify. Hers was not the simplicity of the saint, which is of the spirit, but thre simplicity of the madman who grinds down all the features of civilization to a monotony of submission to his will. I had heard from Shelley of the myth of Prometheus and the birth of the creative Superman, commensurate to the stature of the gods. Yet I never believed in the reality of this supposed Superman—Genius—-Creative Demiurge. Mankind has a sense of humor and of fellowship which stops short of the absurdity of the fancy type. It would no more exist than the Economic Man of the politicians. Nor I nor any other man could be this searched for Superman—but there might be a Superwoman!—I had fears that I had laid my eyes on her in the fact. Somehow women have a perilous logic which we men never have, and some of the best of them don’t see the joke and the laugh of it like the ordinary man. Yet I sensed that this and in women of genius was a capacity to go straight to the very heart of things. There never was a man so near to the devil. They in their extreme form can be far greater than men because of their unreflecting capacity for the fanatical—fanatical in love and hate—-there never was a man so near the divine as Joan of Arc. But I think the extraordinary of them can be more entirely damnable than anything in pants, for they don’t stop now and then and laugh at themselves. Perhaps it is bred out of their capacity for fanatical love perverted into its opposite—I don’t know, I can only guess at best. The Shellys with their Promethean Supermen remain idle dreamers—those men taken with the idea are either crack-brained Professors who couldn’t rule a Sunday-school class or blockheaded soldiers with tin-pot ideas who precipitate their own downfall. Only a Superwoman could be so fanatical to her type as to actually come into existence. But such a Superwoman I believe could only give birth to aborted fetuses and not to any living thing, and her genius would die with her. All of those thoughts flashed through the back of my mind at lightning pace. But those were idle thoughts. But before me was an overwhelming presence that I had to admit brought me to fear and trembling.
“Sartorius!—Sartorius!—thy very name reveals the truth of eternal regeneration in eternal change!” she continued inveighing of me, “—-we but slough off past bodies and lives as we slough off worn-out and outgrown clothes, as the snake sloughs off old skins which restrain his further growth, —-We don ever new bodies and new spirits which we change into anew as our spirit outgrows our old clothes and our old beings—a Sartorial Truth! As the Bagavad Gita says: Worn-out garments are shed by the body; Worn-out bodies are shed by the dweller within the body. New bodies are donned by the dweller, like garments. (Verse 2:22) We shall slough off the old skins and old clothes of our past bodies, past lives and past sorrows, and tomorrow we shall clothe ourselves with new lives and newer hopes appropriate to the greater growths and depths of our ever greater love! Tomorrow I will show you the secret of the Pillar of Flame and we shall share the endless life, the endless love and the endless ecstasy of our union!—–Now that I know that this has been fulfilled I must end the life of this woman of yours Nooaysua—-Guards!—we are each other’s sole destiny and nothing must stand in the way of that destiny!
“No!—Don’t harm her—–she is not my woman—-she is promised to the Sultan of Maleh and we are but accidentally traveling together. I beg of you set her free and I will comply with your wishes.” I pleaded.
“So be it my beloved!” she responded warmly, and have you any other wish or pleasure before we seal our destiny?” she asked.
“Ay, but one thing, oh Lilith,” I said boldly; but feeling by no means as bold as I trust I looked. “I would gaze upon thy face.”
She laughed out in her silvered bell-like notes. “Bethink thee, Sartorius,” she answered; “bethink thee. It seems that thou knowest the old myths of the gods of Greece. Was there not one Actaeon who perished miserably because he looked on too much beauty? Were not sailors like you enticed to their very deaths by the fatal attractions of the Sirens? Bethink thee also of Semele. If I show thee my face, perchance thou wouldst perish miserably also; perchance thou wouldst eat out thy heart in impotent desire; for know until thou art transformed by the Pillar of Fire into the old Asmodeus–I am for no man, save one, who hath been, but is not yet.”
She lifted her white and supplely rounded arms–never had I seen such exquisite arms before–and slowly, very slowly, she mesmerized me withdrawing some golden fastening beneath her hair. Then all of a sudden the long, shroud-like wrappings about her head and the attached veil fell from her to the ground, and my eyes travelled up her form, now only robed in a semi-transparant garb of clinging white that did but rather serve to reveal than cover its perfect and imperial shape beneath, instinct with a female life that was more than life, and with a certain spectre-like grace that was more than human. On her lithe feet were sandals, fastened with studs of gold. Then came ankles more perfect than ever an artist dreamed of. About the waist her white flowing gown was fastened by a serpentine Ouroubouros of solid gold, above which her gracious form swelled up in lines as pure as they were lovely, till the gown ended in the pure whiteness of her breasts, whereon her arms were folded. I gazed above them at her face, and–I do not exaggerate—staggered back overwhelmed. For a moment I thought of killing myself as the separation from that immaculate beauty was so painful as to be unbearable. As I showed signs of frenzied desperation the Major Domo motioned to his strongest guards to seize me by the elbows and held me fast until the fit had passed. I have heard of the beauty of celestial and supernatural beings, now I saw it visible to my very eyes—–only this beauty, with all its awful loveliness and purity, was a beauty of purest evil–at least, at the time, it struck me as evil. How am I to describe it? I cannot–simply I fail of speech! The man does not live whose pen could convey any sense of a tenth of the desire and convulsive beauty of what I saw revealed. I might talk of the hypnotic eyes of the deepest, softest, most inviting black, of the radiantly warm face, of the broad and noble—unmistakably queen-like brow, on which the hair grew low, swept across in delicate, straight features. But, beautiful, exquisitely beautiful as they all were, her loveliness did not lie in them. It lay rather, if it can be said to have had any fixed abiding place, in a spirit of visible majesty, in an imperial grace, in a godesslike stamp of softened divine power, which shone upon that radiant countenance like a living astral aura. Never before had I guessed what beauty approaching the limits of the sublime could be–and yet, the sublimity was a dark one–the glory was not all of heaven–though none the less was it glorious—it was the glory of a darker, deeper creation and a more sinister beauty. Though the face before me was that of a living and vital woman of certainly not more than thirty years, in perfect health, and the first flush of deep-ripened beauty, yet it had stamped upon it a look of unutterable experience, and of deep acquaintance with grief and passion and sorrow—the bearing of the eyes of woman knowing and fathoming life at its passionate deepest for a thousand years. Not even the invitingly lovely smile that crept about her dimpled mouth could hide this shadow of sin and excess and of transgression, retribution and of sorrow. It shone even in the light of her incomparable eyes, it was present in her air of nobility, and it seemed to say: “Behold me, lovely as no woman was or is or will ever again hope to be, undying and half-divine; memory persues me from age to age, and passion leads from the explosive desires I create–evil have I done, and from age to age evil I shall do more—joyfully!—–and sorrow shall I know until the desires I unleash have burnt out this lovely world to an empty urn of ash and dust.” Taking in his shock, and the reverence for her it reveals, she herself is stricken with the depth of his passion, and she promises to make him live forever when they walk together into a pillar of flame.
I had never encountered a being so uncanny, strange, wonderful—-so absolutely beautiful if you like. But the word beauty had too kindly and human sound for such a face. As she stood with heightened colour, her eyes like celestial bodies, her poise like a wild animal’s I had to confess that she had such a terrifying loveliness such as to take my very self from myself. She might be a devil, but she also was a Queen, and such a Queen as could take possession of my very heart, despite my every resistance and mental reservation. I trembled for myself. I considered that despite my horror there might be glory in reigning at the side of such a goddess.
Returned to our own rooms the next day we slept until afternoon, dined and then set forth at sunset together with She—Lilith followed by a royal train of ten-thousand warriors and virgin maids bearing fire torches lighting the way to the rim of the large volcano at the opposite end of the island from the Palace. Bilalli was to perform the wedding vows and to serve as my best man and Princess Nooaysua as the maid of honour for Lilith—the wedding was to be consummated immediately after the rites of the Pillar of Fire were performed. She led the way with her royal train. We mounted the immense cone of the volcano, then surmounted the rim and began to work our way down the inwardly spiraling path towards its core. The smoking steam and roiling lava bed could be seen in a deep and seething pool far below. As we descended the path grew more and more rough and dangerous. At the bottom we came to a shaky stone bridge over the roiling lava bed below, which formed the only access to the lower chamber in which She indicated the Pillar of Fire was located.
“Since I was last here, my Sartorius,” she called, “the support of the moving stone hath lessened somewhat, so that I am not certain if it will bear our weight or no. Therefore will I cross the first, because no harm will come unto me,” and, without further ado, she trod lightly but firmly across the frail volcanic stone bridge, and in another second was standing safe upon the heaving stone of the other side.
“It is safe,” she called. “See, hold thou the plank! I will stand on the farther side of the stone so that it may not overbalance with your greater weights. Now, come, Oh My Beloved Sartorius, for presently the moonlight will fail us.” I passed over, followed by Bilalli and Princess Nooaysua carrying the wedding tokens.
I crossed the stone bridge, but I could not bring myself to enter the iridescent tornado of the Pillar of Fire. My soul and senses balked. I instinctively clutched at the Silver Rose Crucifix about my neck with the image of Molly engraved within.
“My beloved Sartorius! My beloved Asmodeus! It is safe,—safe! Trust in me as you trust in our eternal love! Here, I will’t show thou how to enter and consummate the rite of bathing in the Pillar of Fire and Life and share the endless life, youth, and ecstasy which we will share forever! I first, and then you follow my love!” she pleaded empassionately.
“Oh, my love, my love!” she murmured, “wilt thou ever know how I have loved thee?” and she kissed me on the forehead, and then went and stood in the pathway of the Flame of Life.
There was, I remember, to my mind something very touching about her words and that embrace upon the forehead. It was like a mother’s kiss, and seemed to convey a religious, almost sacred benediction with it.
Closer and closer came the crashing, rolling noise, and the sound of it was as the sound of a forest being swept flat by a mighty wind, and then tossed up like so much grass, and laid thundered down a mountain-side. Nearer and nearer it came; now flashes of light, forerunners of the revolving Double-helix of the pillar of flame, were passing like arrows through the rosy air; and now the edge of the pillar itself appeared. Lilith turned towards it, and stretched out her arms to greet it. On it came very slowly, and lapped her round with flame. I saw the fire run up and suffuse her form. I saw her lift it with both hands as though it were water, and pour it over her head, then flex her sensual body forwards to bathe in it. I even saw her open her mouth and draw it down into her lungs, and a dread and wonderful sight it was.
Then she paused, and stretched out her arms, and stood there quite still, with a heavenly smile upon her face, as though she herself were the very Spirit of the Flame.
The mysterious column of fire played up and down her dark and rolling locks, twining and twisting itself through and around them like threads of golden lace; it gleamed upon her ivory breast and shoulder, from which the hair had slipped aside; it slid along her pillared throat and delicate features, and seemed to find a home in the glorious eyes that shone and shone, more brightly even than the spiritual essence.
Oh, how beautiful she looked there in the flame! No angel out of heaven could have worn a greater loveliness! Even now my heart faints before the recollection of it, as she stood and smiled serene at our awed faces, and I would give half my remaining time upon this earth to see her once like that again.
But suddenly–more suddenly than I can describe–a kind of change came over her face, a change which I could not define or explain, but none the less a change that began with an inner lurch like a small seizure. The smile vanished, and in its place there came a dry, hard look; the rounded face seemed to grow pinched, as though some great anxiety were leaving its impress upon it. The glorious eyes, too, lost their light and lustre, and, as I thought, the form its perfect shape and erectness.
I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was dreaming or suffering some delusion, or that the refraction of the light from the volcanic surfaces might have produced some kind of optical illusion. As I did so the flaming pillar slowly twisted and thundered off, collapsing into the bowels of the seething lava bed below. As I gazed into her face the horror gradually congealed itself before me—–Her eyes lost their lustre and became deep and shrunken into their sockets; her skin dried and shriveled into parchment and took on the composition of a dried mummy; She was aging before my very eyes! Three Thousand Years in Three Minutes! Her back bent over and became humped, and her wonderful hair greyed, whitened and then fell to her feet as she clutched at it.
“What is it, what is it my dear Sartorius, my dearest Asmodeus? I feel so strange—What are you looking at?—-Do you see something?—–I feel unwell somehow—yet the Pillar of Life can only bring life—that cannot alter.” she spake forth, clutching at her hair as it fell away in handfuls onto the rocks below. In a handful of minutes she was aging three thousand years and her body was shriveling to the bent and monkey-like visage of a dessicated mummy.
“What is it my beloved? Tell me! Tell me!” she shrieked in increasing panic as her body deteriorated second by second. Then, finally realizing what was happening to her, she fell to the ground and began to grasp at her face with her hand, which had become nothing but a shriveled claw, and she shrieked with horror as her face and then her body crumbled into dust and ash and blew away into the winds like the volcanic ash around her. Shriveling into death her last words I hear are: “Sartorius, forget me not! Beloved Asmodeus—wait for me—I will come again! Believe in me and forget my shame! I will come again to you and be even more beautiful than before—believe in it!” And with that she ceased to exist.
At that moment an immense rumbling roar filled the core of the volcano, and the lake of lava below began to rise, with sulphurous smoke filling the now dense air around us. From below an immense earthquake shook the volcano sending immense boulders raining down, killing hundreds of the awaiting train. The earth began to swell and tremble, forboding a swelling of the lava below penting up into explosive force. Billali, Nooaysua and myself were isolated on the far side of the stone bridge, which was then crushed in a rain of immense boulders cutting off our line of retreat. We looked up the opposite face of the core and spied a ray of light several hundred yards above us and tried to mount a perilous path towards its source, hoping for an opening allowing escape. I pulled the aged Bilalli forward as his weak legs failed him and urged Nooaysua to keep going and not give up hope. Aften ten minutes we attained the opening and were able to pull ourselves through a tight tunnel and orifice to the outer slope of the now erupting vocano, bathed in the full light of the full moon. Hot flows of lava sped down the outer slopes on the side opposite to our own, engulfing the pressing throngs of She’s slaves and followers—-recoiling back in panicing horror. We made our way a quarter of the way around the cone then spied the inlet to the harbor with many boats and dhonis anchored below at the base of the shear cliff looming hundreds of feet above the water’s surface. We made our way downward as far as we could, with the earth shaking, the sulphurous fumes choking us and the streams of lava narrowly passing us by. The volcano began to tremble and explode violently above and below us. We had no choice. We jumped into the sea. Below one of the dhoni in which we came was set adrift. We dived and hoped against hope. The water was deep and we lost consciousness for minutes, then gaspingly re-attained the surface. We reached the dhoni and unfurled her sail. We paddled furiously, and a stiff breeze came up carrying us farther and farther from the island’s shore, the entire island bathed in a demonic red glowing half-light. Suddenly, we saw the vocano erupting with an immense explosion. Then the explosion deepened and widened and took on ultimate force, completely devastating and obliterating the remains of the island, and with an immense earthquake the smoking remains of the island, its palace and the shattered volcano disappeared beneath the moonlit surface of the sea. We were alone upon the night sea. At first light of dawn we searched for survivors and found some of our sailors who had escaped in a war canoe. Together we had sufficient hands to man the dhoni and a fair wind swept us into Male’ ten days later, where we were shown the generous hospitality of the Sultan, and in a weeks time had recovered our health and lifted somewhat our depressed and melancholy spirits.
(Author’s Note: After my service in the Portugese Civil War for Dom Pedro I reembarked on my Royal Navy career and rising to the rank of a Rear Admiral had some command over communications with India and Ceylon. I authorized the survey ship HMS Beagle to search for the ruins of Lilith’s Island, not knowing its precise location but using estimates based on dead reckoning. No remains or debris were ever found and She and her island City of the Sea disappeared from all traces of human memory as if it were another lost land of Atlantis, forever submerged beneath the sea, memory and time, or as if it had never been but as the dream of a madman reduced to nothingness.)
April 1, 1820—-At the time of our arrival in Male’ we were almost without food and water after ten days on the open sea. Luckily we had been able to catch some tuna and a rain squall enabled us to replenish our water supplies for the last three days. Nonetheless, when we arrived at the Sultan’s Palace we were already in a state of exposure and dehydration and it took us more than a week lying abed to recover our strength and become “Salonfahig” as the Germans put it, or “presentable,” Nonetheless we were very handsomely treated and entertained by the Sultan’s servants while recuperating in our private quarters, and for another week we were content to stroll about the gardens taking our ease.
After our arrival we learned of the fates of some of the other shipmates of the Hayston. We learned that on August 10, Serang and his brother had arrived in Male’. After drifting away on their raft, they spent three nights and four days out at sea and passed eleven islands before they landed on an uninhabited island. They were both very weak and survived on coconuts before being rescued by a passing fishing boat. They were conducted to the island where the fishermen lived and were treated with much kindness.
We also learned that the six mutinous Lascars who stole the large raft at axepoint at the time of the shipwreck, had arrived on August 14 at Male’. They resorted to lies to explain the infamy of their behaviour, claiming the raft had been broken, had gone adrift and the current had carried them away. Despite their treachery, they were treated leniently by the Sultan and not prosecuted.
During this time we were housed in the royal guest house, a small but immaculately appointed residence, which was especially reserved for the residence of the Captains or senior officers of the foreign travelers and for newly arrived future wives of the Sultan before their wedding ceremony. At the time of our arrival there was but one other resident, that of an older Chinese sea captain who had also been shipwrecked in the atolls. He spoke Arabic and introduced himself as Captain Zhou Chenggong. He proceeded to introduce us to his knowledge of the neighboring islands, which he had had time to explore as he had been stranded here for many years. According to him these islands constituted one of the wonders of the world, as they number well over one and perhaps as many as two thousand, many clustered together in rings of about one hundred. The islands are so close together that the people are visible on the next island, and it is the custom of the ships, dhoni and dhow traversing these waters that when passing through the narrow passages between two islands the ships are obliged to show the faces of all on board for inspection, otherwise they will not be allowed to pass through the channel.
According to Zhou Chenggong, the greatest trees on these islands are the coconut, whose fruit they eat with hundreds of varieties of fish, but chiefly tuna. The coconut palm will produce fruit twelve times a year he related, each month supplying a fresh crop, and he pointed out in our strolls through the garden how the fruit on some trees was large, on others small; on some dry, and on some green. And always this is the case so that there is a constantly renewed supply without regard to season. From this he explained, they make palm-wine, of which they are very famous and prodigious drinkers in spite of the discouragement of alcohol by their Islamic religion, and palm-oil, and palm-honey from which they make innumerable delicacies and sweets, which they eat with the meat of the coconuts. According to Zhou Chengong these foods greatly enhance sexual performance, for which the natives and those long resident in the islands show remarkable powers and even tend to become vain in their prowess. He explained the he himself has had several slave girls and four wives all during the time of his stay in the Sultan’s guesthouse, with whom he consorts every day together and spends the night with each wife in turn, without interruption, and was able to satisfy them all continually, including dalliances with the slave girls in the afternoons in addition to sleeping with one of his wives each night. According to Captain Zhou the people here by and large are religious, peaceable and chaste outside their homes. They eat what is lawful and their prayers are answered. Their bodies are weak and they make no war—–their weapons are their prayers.
According to Zhou, the women of the islands cover their faces, and also their bodies from the navel downwards, but are otherwise accustomed to bare their bountiful breasts in pride and sociability—-this is true even of the wives of the kings and of the Sultan. The attempts of the occasional judges and imams from more conservative parts of Islam to introduce the hijab or more modest dress have been completely unsuccessful in the face of the strong traditions of the people, which date, so they say, back to the practices of Adam and Eve in Paradise.
The cause of these islands becoming Muslim, Captain Zhou related, is contained in the story recorded in the official ‘Annals’ of the Sultan which he had been given liberty to peruse. Originally the kings and peoples of these islands were Buddhists for over one thousand years from the time of the great king Ashoka of India. The visit of the great Islamic voyager and Muslim judge Ibn Battuta changed all this however.
It seems for hundreds of years prior to the arrival of Ibn Battuta the islanders were plagued by the visitation of a fearsome genii or djinn, who inflicted diseases, pestilence and famine upon the population. After years of terror and threatened extinction and untold misery a modus vivendi was worked out in which the islanders erected an idol-temple with the image of the spectre within, concealed behind a veil behind which islanders were forbidden to view but before which they were constrained to prostrate themselves and offer daily fresh fruits and other delicacies. Once every month, the spectre would visit at night in the appearance of a great sailing ship whose masts, spars, gunnels and decks were brightly lit with thousands of candles and would sail to the dock at the temple. The islanders were constrained on each such visitation to take a young virgin, dress her up in the most beautiful bridal robes, and place her in the idol-temple which was situated next to the seashore overlooking the dock and equipped with great open bay windows overlooking the sea. Here they would leave her for the night. When they came in the morning, they would find her sexually violated and covered with blood, her throat torn open as by the razor teeth of a wild beast. Continuing like this year after year the islanders adopted the custom each month of conducting a lottery, casting lots to determine which family would be constrained to provide their daughters to satisfy the unbridled lust for blood of this inhuman monster, the family to whom the lot fell giving up his daughter and dressing her in bridal dress for the spectre.
During this time the great explorer and traveler Ibn Battuta came to stay with them. In addition to being a great voyager he was a holy man who had committed the Holy Quran to memory, and served as a judge of Shariah and Islamic law in innumerable places, just previously with the Sultan of Dehli. While dining as a guest of the King of the islands he came upon the Queen and her daughter the Princess weeping and wailing in an uncontrollable flood of tears of lamentation. Ibn Battuta asked his guide, a courtier at the King’s palace, what was the matter. The guide replied that the lots had just been drawn, and that the sacrificial lot had fallen on the Princess, whom the Queen was just dressing in the bridal dress in which she herself had been married. So both were crying uncontrollably, as the Princess was her only daughter.
Ibn Battuta, who was a man of great heart as well as great faith, approached the Queen and her daughter, who were now being comforted helplessly and hopelessly by the King himself who joined in their tears. He announced, “With your leave your Highness, I will go to the spectre tonight instead of your daughter. If he takes me, then by my life I will redeem her, but if I come off safe, then that will be to the glory of God, Allah the Compassionate and the Merciful.” The King, to whom his daughter was his love and life, tearfully agreed to try the measure. Ibn Battuta continued speaking to him “This I will do on three conditions: First, should I survive and succeed in ridding these islands of this ungodly spectre, you and your people will accept the faith of Allah, and of Mohammad as his Messenger and that in the idol-temple to this monstrous Djinn, you will rend the veil and smash his statues and images to pieces and replace them with this copy of the Holy Quran, building it into a Mosque to the glory of Allah; Second, that in the garden courtyard outside of the idol-temple you will plant this nut-seed, which I have brought with me from the tree in the garden in Medina under which Mohammad, Razul Allah, gave court and audience to the Ummah, and beneath which tree you will place a small Gazebo housing this second book, the Kitab Alf Layla, Wa Layla, the Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, containing innumerable and endless the stories and tales of voyages and voyagers like myself, endless pages of which shall endlessly grow and be renewed like the leaves that will issue forth from this nut-seed tree, being always open for any and all and all to read at any time to their instruction and to the delight of their imagination; And Third, that upon my departure from these islands you, King, will accompany me on my voyages for ten years until the tree has grown from a nut-seed to leaf, fruit and flower—-after which you shall return and enjoy the fruits of unlimited power, potency and youth so long as the stories of voyages and of voyagers are told to delight the imagination of the people of these islands and so long as gracious hospitality is afforded to any and all voyagers like myself, from any and all of the nations of the earth.” The King greatfully and tearfully accepted all of the conditions and wished him every success with tearful thanks.
With that Ibn Battuta put on the bridal dress of the Princess and veiled himself, covering his face, and that night boarded the King’s Palace Barge taking him to the idol-house in the place of the Princess. Ibn Battuta went in, and sitting down in the center of the hall upon a carpet with his back to the windows overlooking the open sea and facing the idol behind the Temple Veil. As the King and his guards and ministers left him with thanks and well-wishings, he began to read the Suras and Verses of the Holy Quran opened to the Sura in which it is related the story of how Solomon subdued the Djinn and married the Queen of Sheba, mothered by a Djinn. By and by the spectre came, with flaming eyes like black fire, and he approached the figure clad in bridal dress with her back turned towards him. The spectre swelled with fire and became drunk with passion as he viewed the back of his victim and with one violent motion of his arm and turn of his head he reached around from the rear, grasped the veil across the face of the fated sacrifice and tore it violently aside staring directly into the face below. Ibn Battuta remained unmoved and composed, his eyes fixed on the book, moving his lips in recitation of the Verses and Suras of the Holy Quran. When the Djinn recovered a second later from his shock he looked down with horror to see that the book from which Ibn Battuta read was the golden lettered Holy Quran, and the Djinn burst into a rage of red and black flames which burnt his body violently for three minutes, accompanied by horrid shrieks and curses from the dying Djinn, consumed by his own fire, until all that remained before Battuta was a pile of grey-white ash.
When the King and his guards and ministers returned in the morning in the Palace Barge and saw Battuta sitting in exactly the same position as he had left him, they were greatly astonished. Ibn Battuta, raising his arm across the face of the open Quran and pointing to the fetid pile of ash before him indicated the remains of the Djinn. The King fell to the floor embracing Battuta and in a flood of tears thanked him endlessly. The King, recovering himself then took his sword in one hand and a halberd in the other and cut down the veil intending to smash the idol-statue of the Djinn. Cutting down the Veil, however, he found behind it only another pile of fetid ash upon the alterpiece. He smashed the alter to the ground scattering the putrid ashes. Then tearfully he turned to Ibn Battuta, who remained sedately and serenely seated, his lips reciting the words of the Holy Quran before his eyes, and the King said to him: “As I have promised and covenanted, so shall it be fulfilled, Inshallah!”
The King then told Ibn Battuta “stay with us for an additional month as a royal guest. All will be prepared for the fulfillment of our covenant. On the next thirtieth day you shall spend the night again here in the idol-house. If the Djinn has not returned in blood, then on the thirty-first day we shall celebrate my daughter’s wedding, plant the nut-seed in the garden, lay the foundation-stone for the Mosque and I will call all my people to bow down and accept the faith of Allah and Mohammad his Razul. Then we shall depart together for the ends of the earth, not returning until ten years of indenture are out.” The King then paused for one more month, during which he prepared his daughter to be married to his young Vizir, prepared the plans for a stately mosque to be built on the site of the idol-house, and prepared the soil of the garden for receiving the nut-seed. He also prepared himself for his journey with Ibn Battuta, laying in stores, and fitting out ships and making plans for embarking for Quanzhou by way of Sunda.
On the thirtieth day next, they all went with Ibn Battuta to the idol-house and left him there seated on the carpet as before, reading aloud from the Holy Quran. When the royal train returned the next morning they again found Battuta as they had left him, his eyes and lips moving serenely across the lines of Verses and Suras of the holy book. With that the young Vizir motioned for his troop of soldiers to bring in the immense cornerstone of the new Mosque, and busied them with digging and setting it in place according to plan for the beginning of the construction of the new edifice. Ibn Battuta arose from the carpet and unrolled the belt fastened around his waist and hips, and from the inner folds of the belt he withdrew the nut-seed, wrapped in a golden handkerchief. Battuta picked up a workman’s spade and dug a hole of a goodly depth and let drop the nut-seed, which he then covered over with loose earth. Ibn Battuta then removed an ivory flask from his belt and uncapped it and poured water from the flask over the loose soil covering the newly-planted nut-seed. “This is Zam-Zam Water from Mecca and Medina which I have carried from my latest Hadjj.” he said, and then recited several Verses from Suras of the Holy Quran over it as it poured and was absorbed into the soil. Then miraculously, the nut-seed sapling instantaneously burst forth as an infant tree rising to the level of Battuta’s knees, the supple green branches of which had sprouted leaves of every colour of the rainbow! “This is the Tree of the Coat of Joseph, some call it the Bodhi Tree, some heathens name it Yggdrasil; It is multi-coloured like the Coat of Joseph, and its leaves are of all of the colours of the earth and of the light created in the beginning of God Allah. It’s roots are in the darkest depths beneath all knowing and its branches reach the highest rays of the sun and the unseen spectra of the stars, bridging the realm of darkness and that of light with everlasting Life. On its leaves are written the stories and dreams of all mankind, which bud, blossom and fall in their season. After ten years, when the Sultan has completed his Odyssey and has returned from the ends of the Earth to his true home, the tree will mature to bear the fruit of wisdom and of beauty. Thereafter in Autumn on each leaf will appear a poem, or the page of a book. In Autumn its leaves will turn radiant of all colours of the rainbow and fall beneath it into Significant Soil. Each year the last and largest leaf will turn crimson and will be the last to fall. On this Last Leaf will appear as if written by the hand of an Angel a Sura of the Holy Quran. If the King, who has become Sultan, attends and catches this last leaf before it hits the ground each year and recites aloud the Sura, the Sultan will not age for a year and will retain his youth, strength and sexual potency unaffected by age, so long as the tales of peoples, and of voyagers and of heroes and of the livers of intenser life are told openly in his court, and so long as his hospitality is shown to all voyagers in his land.”
Seeing the ashes of the Djinn and the miracle of the Tree of the Coat of Joseph all were struck with awe. The King called his people to be witness to the miracle and to the power of Allah and recited the prayer acknowledging Allah to be the only god and Mohammad Razul his Prophet. He called on all of his people to face Mecca and bow in prayer, following Battuta’s lead and instruction. The King declared himself thereafter Sultan, and his people as People of the Book. The King then presided over the marriage of his daughter the Princess to his Vizir, and then charged the Vizir to take the reins of government in his absence until his return in ten years time and charged his people to pledge to obey him as if he were the King, now Sultan, himself.
Thereafter a great feast was raised admidst great dancing, celebration and the reciting of poems and songs. At the end of the day sunset intervened and the King, now Sultan rose with Ibn Battuta to enter the dhoni at the dock, which would ferry them out to the large dhows that would carry them across the sea to Sunda and then to Quanzhou in Cathay. He embraced the Queen, then kissed his daughter and blessed her and the new Prince, the Vizir and called down the blessings of Allah upon them, then finally resigned he entered the dhoni and entered its cabin, drawing the curtain before him, perhaps to conceal his manly tears.
Then Ibn Battuta bade farewell to all the guests, the Queen, Princess, Vizir now Prince and those who had been his friends over the last months, invoking all to remain faithful to their hearts and faithful to Allah, which they would at length find were one and the same. Placing one foot on the gunnel of the dhoni, he turned to make a farewell address and speech to the gathered party, which speech was recorded, word-for-word in the ‘Annals’ of the Court which Captain Zhou Chenggong recalled from memory, having memorized it:
“Today we embark on a great voyage, having planted the seeds of a great faith, rooted in a primordial soil. When we return from our voyages across these nigh infinite seas we shall return with the stories of our travels and of our transformations. For only change and the stories of change are endless, and endlessly renewed. Just as we embark upon these seas of the earth stretched before your eyes to their far horizons, so shall we return upon a Sea of Stories, to which the stream of the life and consciousness and of the story of each man is an infinitesimal yet an indispensible tributary; For by the inflowing and addition of each new story the Sea of Stories is endlessly renewed and cleansed, refreshed and regenerated in its vital springs. By each addition the springs, flows and sluice-gates of the imagination are re-opened and the Sea of Stories is kept clean and alive, and without which it would foul itself, waste and die, immense as it may be. Let each man voyage forth and return with his story, and each woman also, renewing the fount and wells of the Sea in everlasting life! Each life is a story, and each story is a life! Each voyage is a story, and each story a voyage! We shall return from our Odyssey and find ourselves rooted in the soil of our beginnings—-Inshallah!—–Fare not well but fare forward, O my voyagers!—-Allah’s blessing upon you all—Inshallah!” And with that, and with the wave of a hand and the pushing off of a foot, they disappeared into the tropical night.
Two weeks after our arrival, however, it was suddenly announced that the Sultan would hold Court to receive us in state and we would be officially presented in three days time. The date for Princess Nooaysua’s wedding as the twelveth wife of the Sultan was set for the same afternoon, and a wedding feast and celebration would be the occasion of our presentation to the the Royal Court.
On the day of the Princess’ wedding she emerged immaculately appointed after two days of partying and preparations on the women’s side of the Guest House, including, so I heard from the servant girls, bellydancing, baths in sumptuous spices and oils, “Hennaing” or the painting of henna temporary tattoos upon the bride’s skin and like traditions. From there the longish wedding process began in the Islamic tradition with the reading of the Fatiha, which is the first Sura of the Holy Quran, and then the bride and groom taking Sharbat, or Sherbert, made of a mélange of syrups and fruits. After that the couple proceeded to the Nikah, or the signing of the marriage contract, and the delivery of copious gifts by the Sultan to the bride and her family. Following the Nikah, the Royal Procession proceeded from the Palace to the Mosque for the Katb Kitab, or religious ceremony presided over by the Sheik and Imam. The procession from the Palace to the Mosque was also the occasion of the joyful and boisterous Zaffa or wedding march, a grand musical procession of scores of bendir drums, bagpipes, horns, belly dancers and men carrying flaming swords. This announces jubilantly that the marriage is about to begin. Once within the Mosque the Imam then gave a small speech about how the Prophet honored his wives, and how to honor women, and how women should treat their husbands, and how to honor them, then the Imam, told the groom to follow his words, who accepted the proposal. This is more or less like the Nikah, but it is considered a more official one in front of god, Allah and then two witnesses signed their names, and they were now pronounced officially married. Through all of this Nooaysua carried herself with the confidence and bearing of a true princess, as she had told me that she must out of duty to her family and her position. She was resigned that her life was not her own and she was resolved to bear it nonetheless with a dignity and grace befitting her person. Having been together on a friendly basis a longer time we had talked of it on several occasions and though she did not know him, and certainly could not have loved the Sultan at that point, and the Sultan indeed was more than twice her age, though sexually fit, she did not think of love, though she did not necessarily exclude it, but sought to preserve her dignity, do her duty to her family and people, and hope that happiness of a sort might come with time.
In the late afternoon, following the Katb Kitab, the wedded couple emerged at the head of the Royal train, including the Sultan’s eleven other wives and children, and all the chief ministers and court officials and made their way back to the Palace to begin the Walimah, or feasting and celebration. The hundred of retainers performed the Dabke, dancing and stomping the ground in dancing lines that snaked up and down the hall, while the royal couple took their places on the Royal thrones, which served as the Kosha for the wedding party. Then Nooaysua and the Sultan joined in the dancing, celebrating their new status publicly, and an endless stream of salads, fruits, sweets, stews, meats, palm-date wine, honey, fish, fish-rolls, Fattah—or lamb embedded in rice and bread and dipped in a delicious stew, and assorted delicacies were shared by the couple and guests alike.
After the dinner and feasting the palm-date wine flowed copiously and the Sultan grew melancholy and called for his storytellers to entertain the assembled guests. The court had three official storytellers, who were known by their nicknames taken from the classical poets and storytellers, Abu Nuwas, Hafiz and Al-Jahiz. The Sultan, showing his wine and in an erotic mood called for Abu Nuwas to entertain with some novel stories of love. However, when the storyteller mounted the stage, he was struck dumb and couldn’t think of a single story. The Sultan was outraged and shouted angrily at him and demanded that he explain himself on pain of severe punishment. Abu Nawas explained “Your Excellency, for twenty years I have told stories in your court and I have wracked my brain for three days, knowing you would demand one for your wedding feast, but I must confess that after twenty years, my stock of stories is used up! I simply have no more new ones to tell!—I beg for forgiveness for my weakness, your Excellency!” The Sultan was furious and ordered his guards to take the hapless man away and place him in the Palace dungeon until he decided whether to have him executed for his nonfeasance. Then turning to Hafiz and Al-Jahiz he warned them that they had better make good the deficiency of Abu Nuwas or they would suffer a similar fate. Both tried desperately to begin a new story, but became tongue-tied when they could not think of any but the old hackneyed tales which had been told and re-told into the ground a thousand times. Finally, Al-Jahiz lifted up his hands in desperation and confessed, “Your Highness, all three of us have been sleepless for three days and nights sitting up with one another and trawling the library in search of a new tale that had not already been told, but for the life of us we are talked out! We have served for twenty and thirty years and our stock has come to an end! We throw ourselves on your mercy, O Sultan, in the name of Allah the Merciful and the Compassionate!” after which they prostrated themselves on the floor at the Sultan’s feet.
“Dogs!” shouted the Sultan, “Dogs!……how dare you disappoint me on my wedding night! Moreover the Covenant of the Mosque demands that the stories of voyagers, and of heros and of the livers of intenser life be told, lest the blessings of the Mosque cease!” and he ordered his guards to throw the other two in the dungeon along with Abu Nuwas, adding at the top of his shrill voice as they were dragged away—“If you do not bring me a novel story by sunrise you shall all lose your heads with the break of day!”
With that the Sultan began to sink into depression and anger and to drink more and more heavily, conspicuously slumping across his throne. Princess Nooaysua was visibly shaken and disturbed to have such a thing happen on her wedding night, and she became more and more worried when the hour grew late and the Sultan made no motion towards leading her to the nuptial chamber to consummate their new marriage.
The Sultan’s first wife, Melanokuikui, could see the tension in Nooaysua’s eyes and leaned over to her and whispered in her ear “Oh my poor dear! I am so sorry for all this—you see the Sultan is not so young anymore and, well, to put it delicately, he sort of needs to work himself up to make love—-he needs a good erotic love story to get his blood flowing to the right parts! Unless we find a new story I am afraid all this will end rather badly—and he has to fulfill the Covenant of the Mosque by keeping up the flow of new stories or the blessings of youth, potency and strength will leave him!”
Just then the Sultan began consulting with his Vizir on how to solve the dilemma. The Vizir then announced the command of the Sultan: “His Highness, the Sultan of Maleh decrees that his bride and foreign guests shall take the place of the imprisoned storytellers and provide a novel story on pain of death for themselves and for those already imprisoned. Henceforth, it is decreed, that should a novel story fail to be told each night to the satisfaction of His Excellency, the Sultan, those failing shall be immediately beheaded by the Royal Executioner! He commands that you three must draw lots to determine who shall tell tonight’s tale—should the drawer of the lot fail they will be immediately executed and the next called, and so forth—and if all fail to complete a tale—all shall be put to death!”
With that the Vizir prepared three straws and gave each of us, myself, Zhou Chenggong and Nooaysua chance to draw one. By chance, Nooaysua drew the short straw and the Vizir commanded her “Within one hour you must begin your tale and finish it before daybreak or you and those already failing shall be beheaded!”
“Go!—Prepare yourself! And if you fail to begin your story in one hour you wedding night will be your last night on this earth!” with which the Palace guards escorted Nooaysua into the antechamber.
After fifty minutes I and Zhou Chengong were twisting ourselves in angst, fear and trepidation as we waited for Nooaysua’s return. We knew not whether Nooaysua could create such a novel story in such a short span, and with that we did not know if we ourselves would be the next to die so cruelly. Three minutes before the hour had elapsed Nooaysua strode into the hall wrapped in her native inner dignity and gracefulness and addressed the Sultan: “Your Excellency and my good husband: The Imam has confided in the Mosque to me on my wedding today that it is fitting and meet for a wife to follow the orders and judgment of her husband though she may doubt their wisdom. Though my mind might find your command surprising and arbitrary in its whim it is my duty to obey without questioning. I beg of you to spare those who have failed to recite and our two distinguished foreign guests and I shall comply with your wishes and recite your novel tale.” A wave of the Sultan’s hand impelled the Vizir to interpret the gesture for the Princess, stating “His Excellency accepts your conditions and commands you to begin your story.”
Whereupon, Nooaysua, having had but one hour to compose her tale, drew on her most recent memories and began to recite the story of our encounter with “Sir She—Lilith” and what we saw and how we escaped, detailing Lilith’s Island and the Palace and legions of guards and warriors; the catacombs in which she lived and her three-thousand year search for the lost lover Asmodeus, whom she had killed in a fit of jealous rage and whom she hoped and believed would return to her in reincarnation; of her love for Sartorius, convinced that he was the reincarnated spirit of her beloved Amodeus; of her search for eternal love and pleasure with her lover through the agency of the Pillar of Fire, and how She—Lilith came to an horrendous end devoured unto death by time reversed by the Pillar of Fire; and of how we escaped the devastated island to reach the shores of Male’. At the end of the ‘Story of She—Lilith’ and an hour before sunrise the Sultan was delighted with the tale and with the cleverness of his youngest bride and was convinced he had made a wise choice in the woman both for her beauty and for her wit.
“Excellent! Excellent!” the Sultan bellowed, “Most Excellent—–It is therefore my continuing command that each evening in which we dine together you three, Captain Sartorius, Captain Zhou and Nooaysua will draw straws and the drawer of the lot be charged with the recitation of a story, which must be novel and delighting, on pain of death!—for you and for all who have failed to serve me!—You are so commanded to continue until such time as you have delivered a son to me or, in the case of our Captains, until a ship of your own country calls at my harbor to take you home!–It is so commanded!” called he forth with the commanding tone of state he had become accustomed to in his arbitrary and capricious rule over the lives of others.
“And now my darling, we shall retire to our nuptial bed to consecrate our wedding vows. With the end of one story we shall begin a new one, for every new life is also a new story, and every new story is also a new life!——as Hadji Battuta has declared for us.” And with that the loving couple made their way to the Royal Bedchambers, and each of us, their guests, made his way to his own chambers, each with his own thoughts.
From that day we met as dinner guests sharing the Sultan’s table every night, save on each fourth night the Sultan took a Sabbath from his passion for novel stories and rested. At the beginning of each dinner the Vizir would place a silver ball under one of three overturned silver cups and mix them on a silver tray, bidding each of us to choose one. The one who received the silver ball would bear the lot of telling the post prandial story, while the others at court sipped their palm-date wine and ate Sherberts, sweets, h’ordourves, sweetmeats, viands and other delicacies. On the first night I was given the ball I began to recall stories from a book I brought aboard the Hayston to while away the hours—Homer’s Odyssey, to which I was addicted since boyhood. I began with the tale of Telemachus in search of his lost father and his visits to Menelaus and Helen of Troy, then recounting the events of the Iliad. Then Zhou Chenggong drew the lot telling tales from the Shan Hai Jing, The Chinese Classic of the Seas and Mountains, recounting the story of NuWa and the stone left out from repairing heaven. Then Nooaysua drew the ball and recited a story from the Mahabarata of Vyasa, the Friendly Game of Dice, the temptation of the great warrior Karna, the Exile of the Pandava Brothers and their return to claim their kingdom, and then of the story of Krishna’s instruction to Arjuna on the Field of Battle in the Bhavagad Gita. Then Zhou Chenggong drew the ball and recited stories of Pan Gu, the Primal Man and how the world was created from the demise of his body. I drawing the ball again told the story of Odysseus’ defeat of the Cyclops and of St. John’s visions shipwrecked upon Patmos. Then Nooaysua drew the ball and told of the story of the Ramayana of Valmiki whereby the evil Ravanna abducts the faithful Sita and is saved by aid of Hanuman the Monkey King. Next Zhou Chenggong told the story of Sun Wu Kong from the Xi You Ji, or Journey to the West—a later incarnation of the Ramayana’s Hanuman–wherein the Tang monk Xuanzang pilgrimages to India to recover sacred Buddhist texts in the company of Sun Wu Kong—Monkey King and master of magic powers, Zhu Ba Jie the Pig-man, and Sandy the monk. On and on we went in the endless cycle, each recalling the stories of his childhood or of his school. I told of Joseph and his Brothers, then Zhou told of the Strategem of the Empty Fortress of Zhugeliang from the San Guo Yan Yi, Classic of the Three Kingdoms; Nooaysua told the tale of ‘Sympathy the Learned’ from the Kitab Alf Layla Wa Layla, or The Thousand and One Arabian Nights in which the slave girl bests the greatest scholars of the Caliph. I told of the Wife of Bath’s Tale from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and next Camoes’ tale of the Lusiads, of the voyages of the sons of Lisboa—founded by the the seafarer Ulysses, and of the brave Sons of Lusus defying Adamastor’s Curse on rounding the Cape to found, Promemethean, a great ocean empire, and of the warnings of ‘The Honourable Man of Belem,’ and Zhou Chenggong told of China’s Emperor Qin Shihuangdi Burning the Books and Burying the Confucian Scholars Alive from Si Ma Qian’s Shi Ji, or Records of the Historian. Thus we went on and on and ever on in our whirlpool of stories on our island in the southern sea, sailing ever onwards through a Sea of Stories.
In the course of our trials of narration I asked Zhou Chengong to tell the story of how he came to be stranded on the island and he told of how his Grandfather had been a captain under the great Chinese Admiral Zheng He who sailed from China to India, to Mecca and to the coast of Africa in his great Treasure Ships, and how the profession was passed down from him to his father and thence to him, when he had the bad luck to chance upon the Maldivian coral reefs in a great typhoon, sending his ship to the bottom. He then told how the Sultan had made him his royal guest since that time. I asked how long he had been on Male’ Island, and he wracked his brain to remember. He said when he first sailed the seas as a young man he heard the story of the discovery of the New World in the Americas by Columbus and that he must have been wrecked about the time of the news circulating about Cortez’s conquest of of the land of silver and of the human sacrafices on the bloody pyramids of Mexico. He then guessed he must have been here for nigh onto three hundred years. Asking how such a thing might be possible he cited the Tree of the Coat of Joseph in the garden of the Mosque—–the Sultan caught the Red Leaf of the Quran’s Sura each year and handed it to his guests. All who touched it aged not for that year so long as the stories flowed openly and endlessly in the court. This Sultan himself was one and the same as him who had sailed with Ibn Battuta, and was reckoned to be over four-hundred and fifty years old! The endless Sea of Stories and the Tree of Joseph’s Coat kept them forever young. “But had you no desire to return home?” I asked him. “Always” he replied, “But that is my fate and the fate of my China—–you see, I have shared this island with the Sultan for over three hundred years and we have seen hundreds of guests from a score of distant lands stranded for a year, two, five….ten..…but always there eventually always came another ship of their land to take them home—-save me—for my ship was the last of the Treasure Ships of Zheng He—-after that China turned its back on the world and forced its people to abandon the sea, breaking up its Treasure Ships and burying itself behind its Great Wall—-you see there never was another Chinese ship—-the Emperors have locked me out of my home and turned their back on the World and I am afraid the World will take as harsh a revenge on China as it has inflicted on me, until we learn to follow Zheng He again and live as a part of the World rather than eternally re-building the Wall to keep it out.”
So we went round, round and round in out circle of tales until the day that Princess Nooaysua gave birth to her first child, a son, and the Sultan pardoned her from the sentence of death should she fail in her stories, as had Shahrayar pardoned Shaherezade. In fact, so overjoyed was the Sultan at the birth of his son that he announced a general pardon for all, and both Zhou Chenggong and myself were released from our forced labours, and the three storytellers confined in the dungeon, Abu Nuwas, Hafiz and Al-Jahiz were taken from their chains and joined the birthday party—and, as their confinement had given them the leisure to replenish their store of stories they resumed their old duties with new relish. One year later, on the young Prince’s first birthday, the harbor of Male’ was visited by the HMS Malabar and the ships crew were immediately invited to the royal feast and celebration to their great delight. To no less delight, though accompanied by a melancholy undertone of regret, I boarded the Malabar for Calcutta two weeks later and so ended the accident of my soujourn in Male’. Before leaving I took a tearful farewell of Princess Nooaysua and her young son—just beginning to walk but not quite yet to talk, Captain Zhou Chenggong and the Sultan of Maleh. The Sultan accompanied us on his barge to the boarding of the Malabar. Before taking leave of him I posed him a question “Excellency—tell me, had I failed to tell a story would you really have had me executed?” He replied, “Of course not! Do you take me for a barbarian? I am not so far gone as Napoleon who would execute one Admiral ‘pour encourager des autres.’—–But the illusion of pending death may wonderfully focus the mind!—–and after all, if as friend Shakespeare has it all the world’s a stage, we must all be prepared to play our parts and recite the needed lines if the play is to go on!” “And since I have answered your question I will ask you a question in return,” sallied the Sultan, “………were all the stories that you told original?” “Original?” I repeated, “………why, your Excellency, you may rest assured that they were all the last word in stolentelling!” I retorted, and we both laughed our good-byes to each the other. Thus blessing one another we took our last glimpse of each other’s faces as the great sails of the Malabar dropped and the wind rose into them, billowing them and us forward and onward.
Editor’s Note: Appended below is Admiral Sartorius’letter of thanks to the Sultan dispatched when he had next made his way back to the Admiralty in London, a fair copy of which has been recovered from the AdmiraltyArchives in preparation of this book:
“To His Serene Excellency, Sultan of Maleh:
I am pleased to write to you from my home in London and inform you that your gracious hospitality and aid in the repatriation of myself and my surviving crewmembers has achieved its intended result and that we are safely landed in England. We are in your everlasting gratitude for our lives and well being, as well as for your personal friendship. The wreck of the Hayston was noted for the humanity of the Maldivians and generosity of Your Highness. I have reported to the Admiral of the Fleet that in all cases, the castaways were well provided for and that Your Highness was even so overwhelmingly gracious as to not allow us to pay for anything in your country. You may rest assured that the friendship of our two countries has been firmly bonded by your gentlemanly actions and will be reciprocated in future. Let the Christians blush thinking that, though they profess a religion that enjoin the most tender charity, you turned out, in our minds, to be, as it were, superiors to them in the practice of virtue and humanity.
With eternal Thanks and Warmest Regards,
I am and remain
Your Most Grateful & Obedient Servant
Captain George Rose Sartorius
Admiralty House, London”
Sartorius finished his reading of the relevant parts of the annals of his forebearer, Admiral George Rose Sartorius towards the break of day, and put himself to sleep with a rum-coco, drawing the shades to keep out the gathering morning light. Luckily the next day was but a day of rest and he slept until noon and then after showering partook of the hotel buffet lunch, rested on the beach and took a leisurely dip in the water. He and Teddy Zhou then picked up two pretty Philippina girls on the beach who worked as singers in the lounge bar, treated them to dinner and made general fools of themselves for the rest of the evening.
C Copyright Robert Sheppard 2011 All Rights Reserved