Story of the Goldsmith and the Singing Girl.*

I HAVE heard that a goldsmith,* who was passionately fond of women, one day entered a friend's house, and saw upon the wall of an apartment the portrait of a beautiful girl, with which he became enraptured; and love so overcame his heart that his friends said to him: “Thou foolish man, how couldst thou think of loving a figure depicted on a wall, of the original of which thou hast never heard or seen?” He replied: “A painter could not have drawn this portrait unless he had seen the original.” One of his friends ob­served, that perhaps the painter might have formed it merely from his imagination. He answered: “I hope from heaven comfort and relief; but what you say cannot be proved except by the painter.” They then told him that he lived in a certain town; and the young man wrote to inquire whether he had seen the original of the picture he had painted, or had drawn it from fancy. The answer was that the portrait was that of a singing-girl belonging to a vazīr of Ispahān.* Encouraged by this intelligence, the young man made preparations for a journey, and having departed, travelled night and day until he reached the city, where he took up his abode.

In a few days he made acquaintance with an apothe­cary, and became intimate with him. Talking upon various subjects, at length they conversed regarding the sultan of Ispahān and his disposition; when the apothecary said: “Our sovereign bears inveterate hatred to all practitioners of magic, and if they fall into his hands, he casts them into a deep cave without the city, where they die of hunger and thirst.” Next they conversed about the famous singing-girl of the vazīr, and the young man learned that she was still with him.

The young goldsmith now began to plan his strata­gems. On the first moonlight night he disguised himself as a robber, and repairing to the palace of the vazīr, fixed a ladder of ropes, by which he gained the terrace, from whence he descended into the court; when lo! a light gleamed from one of the apartments. He entered it, and beheld a throne of ivory, inlaid with gold, on which reposed a lady bright as the sun in a serene sky. At her head and feet were placed lamps, the splendour of which her countenance outshone. He approached, and gazed upon her, and saw that she was the object of his desires. Near the pillow was a rich veil, embroidered with pearls and precious stones. He drew a knife from his girdle, and wounded her slightly on the palm of her hand. The pain awakened the lady, but she did not scream from alarm, believing him to be only a robber in search of plunder; she said: “Take this embroidered veil, but do not injure me.” He took the veil, and departed by the same way that he had entered.*

When daylight appeared, he disguised himself in white vestments, like a holy pilgrim; visited the sultan, and having saluted him, and the sultan having returned the salutation, he thus addressed him: “O sultan, I am a pilgrim devoted to religion, from the country of Khurasan, and have repaired to thy presence because of the report of thy virtues and thy justice to thy subjects, intending to remain under the shade of thy protection. I reached thy capital at the close of day, when the gates were shut. Then I lay down to repose, and was in slumber, when behold! four women issued from a grove, one mounted upon a hyæna, another upon a ram, a third upon a black she-dog, and the fourth upon a leopard. When I saw them, I knew they must be sorceresses. One of them having ap­proached me, began to kick me with her feet, and to strike me with a whip, which appeared like a flame of fire. I then repeated the names of God, and struck at her hand with my knife, which wounded her, but she escaped from me. There dropped from her this veil, which I took up, and found it embroidered with valuable jewels; but I have no occasion for them, for I have given up the world.” Having thus spoken, he laid the veil at the sultan's feet, and departed.

On examining the veil, the sultan recognised it as one which he had presented to his vazīr, of whom he demanded: “Did I not bestow upon thee this veil?” The vazīr replied: “You did, my lord; and I gave it to a favourite singing-girl of my own.”—“Let her be sent for immediately,” exclaimed the sultan; “for she is a wicked sorceress.” The vazīr went to his palace, and brought the girl before the sultan, who, on seeing the slight wound on her hand, was convinced of the pretended pilgrim's assertion, and commanded her to be cast into the cave of sorcerers.

When the goldsmith found that his stratagem had succeeded, and that the girl was thrown into the cave, he took a purse of a thousand dīnars, and went to the keeper of the cave, and said to him: “Accept this purse, and listen to my story.” After relating his adventures, the goldsmith said: “This poor girl is innocent, and I am the person who has plunged her into misfortune. If thou wilt release her, it will be a merciful action, and I will convey her privately to my own country. Should she remain here, she will soon be among the number of the dead. Pity, then, her condition and my own, and repay thy generosity with this purse.” The keeper accepted the present, and released the girl; and the goldsmith took her with him, and returned to his own city. [27]

“This, O sultan,” said the Damsel, “is but one example of the craft of men.”—The sultan then gave orders for the execution of his son.

Next day the Fifth Vazīr presented himself before the sultan, and said: “O my lord, reprieve thy son, and be not hasty in his death, lest thou repent, as the man repented, who never afterwards smiled.” The sultan inquired his history, and the vazīr proceeded: