FOURTH VOYAGE 159
and then a stone was laid over the opening, and the melancholy company wended its way back to the city.
You may imagine that I was no unmoved spectator of these proceedings; to all the others it was a thing to which they had been accustomed from their youth up; but I was so horrified that I could not help telling the king how it struck me.
' Sire,' I said,' I am more astonished than I can express to you at the strange custom which exists in your dominions of burying the living with the dead. In all my travels I have never before met with so cruel and horrible a law.'
' What would you have, Sindbad?' he replied. ' It is the law for everybody. I myself should be buried with the Queen if she were the first to die.'
' But, your Majesty,' said I, ' dare I ask if this law applies to foreigners also ? '
' Why, yes,' replied the king smiling, in what I could but consider a very heartless manner, ' they are no exception to the rule if they have married in the country.'
When I heard this I went home much cast down, and from that time forward my mind was never easy. If only my wife's little finger ached I fancied she was going to die, and sure enough before very long she fell really ill and in a few days breathed her last. My dismay was great, for it seemed to me that to be buried alive was even a worse fate than to be devoured by cannibals, nevertheless there was no escape. The body of my wife, arrayed in her richest robes and decked with all her jewels, was laid upon the bier. I followed it, and after me came a great procession, headed by the king and all his nobles, and in this order we reached the fatal mountain, which was one of a lofty chain bordering the sea.
Here I made one more frantic effort to excite the pity of the king and those who stood by, hoping to save myself even at this last moment, but it was of no avail. No one spoke to me, they even appeared to hasten over their dreadful task, and I speedily found myself