No. XXVII—p. 166.

EASTERN fiction presents numerous instances of princes becoming enamoured of the portraits of beautiful women;—in the Kathá Sarit Ságara occur two examples: the story of the handsome King Prithvirūpa (Tawney's translation, vol. i, p. 490), and the story of Sundārasena and Mandāravatī (vol. ii, p. 370). In Gomberville's romance of Polexandre the African prince Abdu-'l-Malik falls in love with the portrait of Alcidiana, and a similar incident is found in the romance of Agesilaus of Colchos. The notion, nevertheless, is undoubtedly of Oriental origin.

Our story of the Goldsmith is an Arabian variant of a tale in the Dasa Kumara Charita, Adventures of Ten Princes, a most entertaining romance, in Sanskrit, by Dandin, of the 6th century, according to Dr. Albrecht Weber.* The following translation of this tale, by Dr. H. H. Wilson, is taken from the Oriental Quarterly Magazine, of Calcutta, 1828, where it first appeared:

Story of Nitambavati.

In Surasena is a city called Mathura, where dwelt a youth of family, who was addicted to loose pleasures and to vicious society, and, being a lad of spirit, he was so often entangled in broils that he was called Kalaha Kataka. One day he saw, in a painter's possession, the picture of a girl, with whose charms he became violently enamoured. After some solicitation, he prevailed on the painter to tell him who the original was, and having learnt that she was the wife of Anantakirtti, a merchant of Ujjayni, and her name Nitambavati, set off in the disguise of a mendicant for that city. Having got access to the house, under pretence of soliciting alms, he obtained a sight of the lady, and found her still more fascinating than her picture.

With a view to effect his projects, he solicited and obtained the care of the cemetery, and with the clothes of the dead he attached to his interests a female Sramanika, or Buddha devotee. This woman he employed to convey a message from him to Nitambavati, inviting her to come and see him, to which she sent back an angry and indignant reply. He was not discouraged, but desired his messenger to return to the merchant's wife, and say to her, as from himself: “Persons like us, who are fully acquainted with the insufficiency of life, and only desirous of final emancipa­tion, cannot be suspected of entertaining any purpose adverse to the reputation of a woman of respectability. The message I lately conveyed to you I only intended to try your merit, as I was afraid such youth and beauty could scarcely be satisfied with a man so advanced in years as your husband. I was mistaken, and the result has so much pleased me that I am anxious to confer upon you a proof of my esteem. I snould wish to see you a mother, but the planet under which your husband was born has hitherto opposed it. The evil influence, however, may be counteracted if you will be content to assist. Accompany me to a grove at night, where I will bring you a seer versed in incantations. You must put your foot in his hand whilst he conveys into it his charms; then, as if angry, kick your husband in the breast, when the evil influence will be expelled, and you will be blessed with progeny, and your husband will venerate you as a goddess: there is nothing to be afraid of.”

Nitambavati, with some little difficulty, consented, and, being apprised of her intentions, the false saint awaited her at the appointed place. She came as was directed, and put her foot into his hand; he pretended to rub it, muttering imaginary charms all the time, until he had taken off her golden anklet, when, making a sudden cut at her thigh with a knife, which he had covertly prepared, he inflicted a gash in the upper part of it, and then quickly withdrew. Nitambavati, full of pain and terror, and reviling herself for her own folly, and ready to kill the Sramanika for having exposed her to such peril, returned home, and, privately dressing her wound, kept her bed for some days.

The rogue in the meantime offered the anklet to Anantakritti for sale; he knew it to be that of his wife, and inquired how the vendor had come by it; he refused to tell, and the merchant threatened him with punishment, on which Kalaha Kataka professed himself ready to communicate the truth to the guild (or committee of merchants). He was accordingly taken before them, when he desired the merchant to send for his wife's anklets. She replied that she had lost one of them; it was large, and had slipped off, but she forwarded the other. The anklet in the possession of the supposed mendicant, being com­pared with this, was found to correspond, and there remained no doubt of their owner. The ascetic, being then questioned as to the circumstances under which he had gained possession of it, replied as follows:

“You are aware, gentlemen, that I was employed to take charge of the graves of the deceased. As some people wished to deprive me of my fees by burning the bodies by night, I kept watch at all hours. Last night, I saw a dark-complexioned woman dragging the half-burnt fragments of a dead body from the funeral-pile, when, to punish her horrible design, I made a cut at her with my knife, and wounded one of her thighs, as she turned to escape: she ran off, however, dropping one of her anklets as she fled, and I thus became possessed of it.”

The account thus given inspired all the auditors with horror. Nitambavati was unanimously pronounced a sakini, or witch. She was turned out of his house by her husband, and rejected with abhorrence by all the citizens. In this distress she repaired to the cemetery, where she was in the act of putting a period to her existence, when she was prevented by her lover. He threw himself at her feet, and told her that, unable to live without her, he had adopted this contrivance to obtain her person, and entreated her to rely upon the fervour and faithfulness of his regard. His entreaties and protestations were at last successful, combined with the consciousness of her helpless situation, and Nitambavati rewarded his ingenuity with her affection.

A considerably different form of the story is found in the Vetála Panchavinsati, Twenty-five Tales of a Demon, namely, that of

The Minister's Son,

of which the commencement has already been given in p. 249. The prince having gained entrance into the house of his beloved Padmavati, in the way she had indicated by signs to the old go-between, he marries her by the Gandharva form (in which the consent of parents is dispensed with), and, after passing some time happily in her society, visits his friend the minister's son, who is still lodging with the go-between. While the prince is there, a great outcry is heard in the streets, that the rāja's son had disappeared; upon which the minister's son details to him a cunning plan for carrying off the damsel to their own country, which he consents to adopt. Accordingly the prince returned to Padmavati, and when she was sound asleep he marked her on the hip with an iron spike which he had brought with him for the purpose, and, taking her ornaments, quitted the house and rejoined his friend. Next morning the minister's son went to the cemetery, and there disguised himself as an ascetic; and, having made the prince assume the garb of a disciple, he said to him: “Take this necklace, which is part of this set of orna­ments, and offer it for sale in the market, but ask a high price for it, so that it may attract attention; and should the police arrest you, say, ‘My spiritual preceptor gave it me to sell.’” The pretended disciple is arrested by the police (who had been informed of the lady's loss), and answering them as he had been instructed, the sham devotee is at once sent for. On being asked how the necklace came into his possession, he replied: “I am an ascetic, in the habit of constantly wandering in the forest, and as I was by chance in the cemetery at night, I saw a company of witches collected from different quarters. And one of them brought the prince, with the lotus of his heart laid bare, and offered him to [the god] Bhairava. And the witch, who possessed great powers of delusion, being drunk, tried to take away my rosary while I was reciting my prayers, making horrible contortions with her face. And, as she carried the attempt too far, I got angry, and marked her on the loins with my trident;* and then I took this necklace from her neck, which I must now sell, as it does not suit an ascetic.”—The magistrate informed the king of this extraordinary affair, and he concluded that it must be the pearl necklace which the dentist's daughter had los3t; so he sent a trusty old woman to see if she was really marked on the loins. When this was ascertained, the king consulted the pretended ascetic as to how Padmavati should be punished, and by his advice she was banished from the city. “In the evening the minister's son and the prince rode out of the city, and found Padmavati lamenting; then they mounted her upon a horse, and took her to their own country, where the prince lived happily with her.”

It seems strange that a prince should have required to employ so many artifices to obtain a dentist's daughter for his wife. The exact meaning of the Sanskrit word which Tawney has rendered “dentist,” namely, dantaghātaka, appears to be doubtful; and the name of the lady's father, Sangrāmavardhana, having, as Tawney remarks, “a warlike sound,” perhaps he may have been, as he is represented in the Hindī version (Baital Pachísí), a powerful rāja.

The original story may very possibly date centuries before our era. In all the three versions, the Goldsmith, Nitambavati, and the Minister's Son, the catastrophe is the same—the stealing of the ornaments, the wounding of the girl, and the charge of witch-craft, although differently brought about in each. The first and the third are alike in this respect: the youth gains entrance to the girl's chamber by means of a rope, and she is wounded and robbed while asleep. The incident of the portrait occurs only in the first and the second. We must therefore con­clude that the Arabian translator derived the materials of his story from a version—perhaps Persian—combining incidents of both the Hindū tales.