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Payne: The Goldsmith and the Cashmere Singing-Girl

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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 friends, he saw painted on the wall the figure of a beautiful damsel, never beheld eyes 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 lie sickened for passion and came near to die. It chanced that one of his friends came to visit him and sitting down by him, enquired how he did and what ailed him. "O my brother," replied the goldsmith, "that which ails me is love, and it befell on this wise. I saw the figure of a woman painted on the wall of my brother such an one's house and became enamoured of it." Quoth the other, "This was of thy lack of wit; how couldst thou fall in love with a painted figure on a wall, a thing that can neither harm nor profit, that seeth not neither heareth, that neither taketh nor withholdeth." "Surely," said the sick man, "he who painted yonder picture must have limned it after the likeness of some beautiful woman." "Belike," rejoined his friend, "he painted it from imagination." "In any case," replied the goldsmith, "I am dying for love of the picture, and if there live the original thereof in the world, I pray God to keep me in life, till I see her."

When those who were present went out, they enquired for the painter of the picture and finding that he had departed to another town, wrote him a letter, complaining of their friend's case and asking whether he had drawn the figure of his own invention or copied it from a living model; to which he replied that he had painted it after a certain singing girl belonging to one of the viziers in the city of Cashmere in the land of Hind. When the goldsmith heard this, he set out for Cashmere, where he arrived, after much travail, and tarried awhile. There he clapped up an acquaintance with a certain druggist, a fellow of a keen and sprightly wit, and being one day in company with him, questioned him of their king and his polity; to which the other answered, saying, "Our king is just and righteous in his governance, equitable and beneficent to his subjects, and misliketh nothing in the world save sorcerers; but, whenever a sorcerer or sorceress falls into his hands, he casts them into a pit without the city and there leaves them to die of hunger." Then he questioned him of the king's viziers, and the druggist told him of each vizier, his fashion and condition, till the talk came round to the singing-girl and he told him that she belonged to such a vizier.

The goldsmith took note of the latter's abiding-place and waited some days, till he had devised a scheme to his mind; and one night of rain and thunder and stormy winds, he provided himself with thieves' tackle and repaired to the house of the vizier in question, where he grappled a rope ladder with grappling irons to the battlements and climbed up to the roof of the palace. Thence he descended to the inner court and making his way into the harem, found all the slave-girls lying asleep, each on her own couch and amongst them a damsel, as she were the moon on its fourteenth night, lying on a couch of alabaster and covered with a coverlet of cloth of gold. At her head stood a candle of ambergris, and at her feet another, each in a candlestick of glittering gold, and under her pillow lay a casket of silver, in which were her jewels. He raised the coverlet and drawing near her, considered her straitly, and behold, it was she whom he desired and of whom he was come in quest. So he took out a knife and wounded her in the hinder parts, a manifest [but superficial] wound, whereupon she awoke in terror; but, when she saw him, she was afraid to cry out, thinking he came to steal her jewels; so she said to him, "Take the box and what is therein, but slay me not, for it will profit thee nothing." So he took the box and went away.

On the morrow, he donned clothes after the fashion of men of learning and doctors of the law and taking the casket, went in therewith to the king of the city, before whom he kissed the earth and said to him, "O king, I am a loyal well-wisher to thee and come hither, a pilgrim to thy court from the land of Khorassan, 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 yestereve and finding the gate shut, lay down to sleep without: but, as I lay betwixt sleep and wake, I saw four women come up, one riding on a broom, another on a wine-jar, a third on an oven-peel and a fourth on a black bitch, and knew that they were witches making for the city. One of them came up to me and kicked me with her foot and beat me grievously with a fox's tail she had in her hand, whereat I was wroth and smote her with a knife I had with me, wounding her in the hinder 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 therein these costly jewels. Wherefore do thou take it, for I have no need of it, being a wanderer in the mountains, who have put away the world from my heart and renounced it and all that is in it, seeking [only] the favour of God the Most High." Then he set the casket before the king and went away. The king opened the box and emptying out all the trinkets it contained, fell to turning them over, till he chanced upon a necklace of which he had made gift to the vizier to whom the girl belonged. So he called the vizier in question and said to him, "This is the necklace I gave thee?" He knew it and answered, "It is; and I gave it to a singing-girl of mine." Quoth the king, "Fetch her to me forthwith." So he fetched her to him, and he said, "Uncover her hinder parts and see if there be a wound therein or no." The vizier accordingly bared her backside and finding a knife wound there, said, "Yes, O my lord, there is a wound." Then said the king, "Doubtless, this is the witch of whom the devotee told me," and bade cast her into the witches' well. So they carried her thither forthwith.

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 past, 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, adding, "Take this purse of a thousand dinars and give me the damsel, that I may carry her to my own land, for the money will profit thee more than keeping her in prison; moreover God will requite thee for us, and we will both offer up prayers for thy safety and prosperity." When the warder heard this story, he marvelled exceedingly at this device and taking the money, delivered the girl to the goldsmith, on condition that he should not abide one hour with her in the city. So the goldsmith took the girl and fared on with her, without ceasing, till he reached his own country, and so he attained his desire. See then, O King,' said the damsel, 'the malice of men and their wiles. Now thy viziers hinder thee from doing me justice [on thy son], but to-morrow both thou and I will stand 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 vizier came in to him and kissing the earth before him, said, 'O mighty King, delay and hasten not to slay thy son, for oftentimes haste engendereth repentance; and I fear for thee lest thou repent, even as did the man who never laughed again.' 'And how was that, O Vizier?' asked the King. 'I have heard tell, O King,' answered the Vizier, 'that...

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Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram 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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