The Goldsmith's Fortune

: The Orange Fairy Book

Once upon a time there was a goldsmith who lived in a certain village

where the people were as bad and greedy, and covetous, as they could

possibly be; however, in spite of his surroundings, he was fat and

prosperous. He had only one friend whom he liked, and that was a

cowherd, who looked after cattle for one of the farmers in the village.

Every evening the goldsmith would walk across to the cowherd's house

say: 'Come, let's go out for a walk!'

Now the cowherd didn't like walking in the evening, because, he said,

he had been out grazing the cattle all day, and was glad to sit down

when night came; but the goldsmith always worried him so that the poor

man had to go against his will. This at last so annoyed him that he

tried to think how he could pick a quarrel with the goldsmith, so that

he should not beg him to walk with him any more. He asked another

cowherd for advice, and he said the best thing he could do was to go

across and kill the goldsmith's wife, for then the goldsmith would be

sure to regard him as an enemy; so, being a foolish person, and there

being no laws in that country by which a man would be certainly

punished for such a crime, the cowherd one evening took a big stick and

went across to the goldsmith's house when only Mrs. Goldsmith was at

home, and banged her on the head so hard that she died then and there.

When the goldsmith came back and found his wife dead he said nothing,

but just took her outside into the dark lane and propped her up against

the wall of his house, and then went into the courtyard and waited.

Presently a rich stranger came along the lane, and seeing someone

there, as he supposed, he said:

'Good-evening, friend! a fine night to- night!' But the goldsmith's

wife said nothing. The man then repeated his words louder; but still

there was no reply. A third time he shouted:

'Good-evening, friend! are you deaf?' but the figure never replied.

Then the stranger, being angry at what he thought very rude behaviour,

picked up a big stone and threw it at Mrs. Goldsmith, crying:

'Let that teach you manners!'

Instantly poor Mrs. Goldsmith tumbled over; and the stranger,

horrified at seeing what he had done, was immediately seized by the

goldsmith, who ran out screaming:

'Wretch! you have killed my wife! Oh, miserable one; we will have

justice done to thee!'

With many protestations and reproaches they wrangled together, the

stranger entreating the goldsmith to say nothing and he would pay him

handsomely to atone for the sad accident. At last the goldsmith

quieted down, and agreed to accept one thousand gold pieces from the

stranger, who immediately helped him to bury his poor wife, and then

rushed off to the guest house, packed up his things and was off by

daylight, lest the goldsmith should repent and accuse him as the

murderer of his wife. Now it very soon appeared that the goldsmith had

a lot of extra money, so that people began to ask questions, and

finally demanded of him the reason for his sudden wealth.

'Oh,' said he, 'my wife died, and I sold her.'

'You sold your dead wife?' cried the people.

'Yes,' said the goldsmith.

'For how much?'

'A thousand gold pieces,' replied the goldsmith.

Instantly the villagers went away and each caught hold of his own wife

and throttled her, and the next day they all went off to sell their

dead wives. Many a weary mile did they tramp, but got nothing but hard

words or laughter, or directions to the nearest cemetery, from people

to whom they offered dead wives for sale. At last they perceived that

they had been cheated somehow by that goldsmith. So off they rushed

home, seized the unhappy man, and, without listening to his cries and

entreaties, hurried him down to the river bank and flung

him--plop!--into the deepest, weediest, and nastiest place they could


'That will teach him to play tricks on us,' said they. 'For as he

can't swim he'll drown, and we sha'n't have any more trouble with him!'

Now the goldsmith really could not swim, and as soon as he was thrown

into the deep river he sank below the surface; so his enemies went away

believing that they had seen the last of him. But, in reality, he was

carried down, half drowned, below the next bend in the river, where he

fortunately came across a 'snag' floating in the water (a snag is, you

know, a part of a tree or bush which floats very nearly under the

surface of the water); and he held on to this snag, and by great good

luck eventually came ashore some two or three miles down the river. At

the place where he landed he came across a fine fat cow buffalo, and

immediately he jumped on her back and rode home. When the village

people saw him, they ran out in surprise, and said:

'Where on earth do you come from, and where did you get that buffalo?'

'Ah!' said the goldsmith, 'you little know what delightful adventures I

have had! Why, down in that place in the river where you threw me in I

found meadows, and trees, and fine pastures, and buffaloes, and all

kinds of cattle. In fact, I could hardly tear myself away; but I

thought that I must really let you all know about it.'

'Oh, oh!' thought the greedy village people; 'if there are buffaloes to

be had for the taking we'll go after some too.' Encouraged by the

goldsmith they nearly all ran off the very next morning to the river;

and, in order that they might get down quickly to the beautiful place

the goldsmith told them of, they tied great stones on to their feet and

their necks, and one after another they jumped into the water as fast

as the could, and were drowned. And whenever any one of them waved his

hands about and struggled the goldsmith would cry out:

'Look! he's beckoning the rest of you to come; he's got a fine

buffalo!' And others who were doubtful would jump in, until not one was

left. Then the cunning goldsmith went back and took all the village

for himself, and became very rich indeed. But do you think he was

happy? Not a bit. Lies never made a man happy yet. Truly, he got the

better of a set of wicked and greedy people, but only by being wicked

and greedy himself; and, as it turned out, when he got so rich he got

very fat; and at last was so fat that he couldn't move, and one day he

got the apoplexy and died, and no one in the world cared the least bit.

[Told by a Pathan to Major Campbell.]