Mahomet Achmet prostrated himself when he came into the king’s presence, as is the manner of the East; but I contented myself with bowing low as I approached the divan upon which his Majesty sat, very gorgeously dressed in red and blue silk robes embroidered with golden dragons, which I concluded he had obtained from China. Upon his head he wore a white turban with a jewelled aigrette of great value. His countenance was intellectual, and his expression shrewd.
King Trinkitat received me graciously, and ordered a stool to be placed near to the divan so that I might sit and converse with him upon the matter in hand. When I showed him some of my rubies he at once said, “These come from the South Land,” and upon my asking him how he had arrived at this conclusion, he answered that some of his people visited annually the South Land to trade with the natives, and had reported a white ruler there among a tribe of savages who had in his possession a great quantity of valuable jewels, which he would not part with for money, but only in exchange for certain commodities, by the aid of which he was making the tribe he governed the most powerful upon the Southern Continent.
“What is the name of this white chief, your Majesty?” I asked, deeply interested.
“King Luck,” answered Trinkitat; “but I thought you came from him.”
“That is not so, O king,” I replied. “These rubies are magic rubies that are found only in a valley guarded by serpents. If they are honestly acquired they bring great happiness to those who possess them, but if they are stolen, or dishonestly come by, they bring a curse upon the robbers, and upon the land in which they dwell and all the people who inhabit it.”
At this I thought the king appeared disappointed. I had reckoned on his being superstitious, and indeed it is well known that certain jewels do possess mysterious qualities that influence the lives of those who own them, although I had no authority, beyond my own perspicacity, for endowing my rubies with supernatural charm.
“How many of these jewels have you?” asked the king, holding one of the rubies up to the light.
I mentioned the number as being thirty, that being half of all I possessed.
“There is not enough money upon the island to pay a fair price for these stones,” declared Trinkitat, “and how should it benefit me if I acquire them for less than their fair value if, in that case, they are to bring upon me and my people a curse rather than a blessing?”
“Nay, O king,” I answered, “I ask no money for these gems, but rather your good offices in helping us repair our vessel, which, after much storm and stress, has found in your harbour a haven of rest.”
“That you shall have, and welcome,” replied the king, and after some further explanation as to what was required, and more bargaining, it was finally agreed that I would allow the king to retain the six rubies I had brought with me, and that the balance of the thirty, which I offered, was to be paid over when our vessel had been new masted and fresh rigged at the king’s expense. Mahomet Achmet was given directions to see that this work was promptly carried out, after which we bowed ourselves from the king’s presence, I being well satisfied with the bargain I had made.