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Burton: The Goldsmith and the Cashmere Singing-Girl

[Go back to The Wife's Device to Cheat her Husband]

There lived once, in a city of Persia a goldsmith who delighted in women and in drinking wine. One day, being in the house of one of his intimates, he saw painted on the wall the figure of a lutanist, a beautiful damsel, beholder never beheld a fairer or a more pleasant. He looked at the picture again and again, marvelling at its beauty, and fell so desperately in love with it, that he sickened for passion and came near to die. It chanced that one of his friends came to visit him and sitting down by his side, asked how he did and what ailed him, whereto the goldsmith answered, "O my brother, that which ails me is love, and it befel on this wise. I saw a figure of a woman painted on the house- wall of my brother such an one and became enamoured of it." Hereupon the other fell to blaming him and said, "This was of thy lack of wit; how couldst thou fall in love with a painted figure on a wall, that can neither harm nor profit, that seeth not neither heareth, that neither taketh nor withholdeth." Said the sick man, "He who painted yonder picture never could have limned it save after the likeness of some beautiful woman." "Haply," rejoined his friend, "he painted it from imagination." "In any case," replied the goldsmith, "here am I dying for love of the picture, and if there live the original thereof in the world, I pray Allah Most High to protect my life till I see her." When those who were present went out, they asked for the painter of the picture and, finding that he had travelled to another town, wrote him a letter, complaining of their comrade's case and enquiring whether he had drawn the figure of his own inventive talents or copied it from a living model; to which he replied, "I painted it after a certain singing-girl belonging to one of the Wazirs in the city of Cashmere in the land of Hind." When the goldsmith heard this, he left Persia for Cashmere-city, where he arrived after much travail. He tarried awhile there till one day he went and clapped up an acquaintance with a certain of the citizens who was a druggist, a fellow of a sharp wit, keen, crafty; and, being one even-tide in company with him, asked him of their King and his polity; to which the other answered, saying, "Well, our King is just and righteous in his governance, equitable to his lieges and beneficent to his commons and abhorreth nothing in the world save sorcerers; but, whenever a sorcerer or sorceress falls into his hands, he casteth them into a pit without the city and there leaveth them in hunger to die." Then he questioned him of the King's Wazirs, and the druggist told him of each Minister, his fashion and condition, till the talk came round to the singing-girl and he told him, "She belongeth to such a Wazir." The goldsmith took note of the Minister's abiding place and waited some days, till he had devised a device to his desire; and one night of rain and thunder and stormy winds, he provided himself with thieves' tackle and repaired to the house of the Wazir who owned the damsel. Here he hanged a rope-ladder with grappling-irons to the battlements and climbed up to the terrace-roof of the palace. Thence he descended to the inner court and, making his way into the Harim, found all the slave-girls lying asleep, each on her own couch; and amongst them reclining on a couch of alabaster and covered with a coverlet of cloth of gold a damsel, as she were the moon rising on a fourteenth night. At her head stood a candle of ambergris, and at her feet another, each in a candlestick of glittering gold, her brilliancy dimming them both; and under her pillow lay a casket of silver, wherein were her Jewels. He raised the coverlet and drawing near her, considered her straitly, and behold, it was the lutanist whom he desired and of whom he was come in quest. So he took out a knife and wounded her in the back parts, a palpable outer wound, whereupon she awoke in terror; but, when she saw him, she was afraid to cry out, thinking he came to steal her goods. So she said to him, "Take the box and what is therein, but slay me not, for I am in thy protection and under thy safe-guard and my death will profit thee nothing." Accordingly, he took the box and went away.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When is was the Five Hundred and Eighty-seventh Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the goldsmith had entered the Wazir's palace he wounded the damsel slightly in the back parts and, taking the box which contained her jewels, wended his way. And when morning morrowed he donned clothes after the fashion of men of learning and doctors of the law and, taking the jewel-case went in therewith to the King of the city, before whom he kissed the ground and said to him, "O King, I am a devout man; withal a loyal well-wisher to thee and come hither a pilgrim to thy court from the land of Khorasan, attracted by the report of thy just governance and righteous dealing with thy subjects and minded to be under thy standard. I reached this city at the last of the day and finding the gate locked and barred, threw me down to sleep without the walls; but, as I lay betwixt sleep and wake, behold, I saw four women come up; one riding on a broom-stick, another on a wine-jar, a third on an oven-peel and a fourth on a black bitch, and I knew that they were witches making for thy city. One of them came up to me and kicked me with her foot and beat me with a fox's tail she had in her hand, hurting me grievously, whereat I was wroth and smote her with a knife I had with me, wounding her in the back parts, as she turned to flee from me. When she felt the wound, she fled before me and in her flight let drop this casket, which I picked up and opening, found these costly jewels therein. So do thou take it, for I have no need thereof, being a wanderer in the mountains who hath rejected the world from my heart and renounced it and all that is in it, seeking only the face of Allah the Most High." Then he set the casket before the King and fared forth. The King opened the box and emptying out all the trinkets it contained, fell to turning them over with his hand, till he chanced upon a necklace whereof he had made gift to the Wazir to whom the girl belonged. Seeing this, he called the Minister in question and said to him, "This is the necklace I gave thee?" He knew it at first sight and answered, "It is; and I gave it to a singing girl of mine." Quoth the King, "Fetch that girl to me forthwith." So he fetched her to him, and he said, "Uncover her back parts and see if there be a wound therein or no." The Wazir accordingly bared her backside and finding a knife-wound there, said, "Yes, O my lord, there is a wound." Then said the King, "This is the witch of whom the devotee told me, and there can be no doubt of it," and bade cast her into the witches' well. So they carried her thither at once. As soon as it was night and the goldsmith knew that his plot had succeeded, he repaired to the pit, taking with him a purse of a thousand dinars, and, entering into converse with the warder, sat talking with him till a third part of the night was passed, when he broached the matter to him, saying, "Know, O my brother, that this girl is innocent of that they lay to her charge and that it was I brought this calamity upon her." Then he told him the whole story, first and last, adding, "Take, O my brother, this purse of a thousand dinars and give me the damsel, that I may carry her to my own land, for these gold pieces will profit thee more than keeping her in prison; moreover Allah will requite thee for us, and we too will both offer up prayers for thy prosperity and safety." When the warder heard this story, he marvelled with exceeding marvel at that device and its success; then taking the money, he delivered the girl to the goldsmith, conditioning that he should not abide one hour with her in the city. Thereupon the goldsmith took the girl and fared on with her, without ceasing, till he reached his own country and so he won his wish. "See, then, O King" (said the damsel), "the malice of men and their wiles. Now thy Wazirs hinder thee from doing me justice on thy son; but to-morrow we shall stand, both thou and I, before the Just Judge, and He shall do me justice on thee, O King." When the King heard this, he commanded to put his son to death; but the fifth Wazir came in to him and kissing the ground before him, said, "O mighty King, delay and hasten not to slay thy son: speed will oftentimes repentance breed; and I fear for thee lest thou repent, even as did the man who never laughed for the rest of his days." "And how was that, O Wazir?" asked the King. Quoth he, "I have heard tell, O King, this tale concerning...

[Go to The Man who Never Laughed During the Rest of His Days]

Burton, Richard (1821-1890). The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. London. 1885-1888. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. VII. Gutenberg Vol. VIII. Gutenberg Vol. IX. Gutenberg Vol. X. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.

1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM

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