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♪1øø1~Story told by the Jewish Physician♪

1001 NIGHTS

The story told by the Jewish Physician


" WHILE I was studying medicine at Damascus, and when I had even begun to practise that admirable science with considerable success, a slave one day came to inquire for me; and asked me to go to the house of the governor of the city, to visit a person who was ill. I accordingly went, and was introduced into a chamber, where I perceived a very handsome young man; but he seemed very much depressed, apparently from some pain he suffered. He returned no answer to my salutation, but showed me by a look that he understood me, and was grateful for my kindness. 'Will you do me the favour, my friend,' I said to him, 'to put out your hand that I may feel your pulse?' Hereupon, instead of giving me his right hand, as is the usual custom, he held out his left. This astonished me very much. 'Surely,' said I to myself, ‘it is a mark of great ignorance of the world not to know that it is the custom to present the right hand to a physician.' I nevertheless felt his pulse, 'wrote a prescription, and then took my leave.

"I continued to visit him regularly for nine days; and every time that I wished to feel his pulse he still held out his left hand to me. On the tenth day he appeared to be so much recovered that I told him he no longer required me, or indeed any medical help but the bath.The governor of Damascus was present; and, in order to prove how well he was satisfied with my abilities and conduct, he at once had me dressed in a very rich robe, and appointed me physician to the hospital of the city, and physician in ordinary to himself.

"The young man whom I had cured also gave me many proofs of his friendship, and requested me to accompany him to the bath. I complied; and when we had gone in and his slaves had undressed him, I perceived that he had lost hisright hand . I even remarked that it had been lately cut off. This had been the real cause of his disease, which he had concealed from me; and, while the strongest applications had been secretly used to cure his arm as quickly as possible, his friends had only called me in to prevent any bad consequences arising from a fever which had come on. Theyoung man said to me: 'Do not be surprised at seeing me without my right hand. I will one day inform you how I lost it; and you will hear a most wonderful and strange adventure.'

"On our return from the bath we set out for the garden of the governor. We seated ourselves on a carpet, which his people spread under a tree that formed a delightful shade around. Then the young man began to tell his history in these words:-

"I was born at Moussoul, and am a member of one of the chief families in that city. My father was the eldest of ten children, who were all living and all married when my grandfather died. But among this number of brothers my father was the only one who had any children, and I was his only son. He took great care of my education, and had me taught everything which a boy in my station in life ought to be acquainted with.

"I was grown up, and had begun to associate with the world, when one Friday I went to the noonday prayers in the mosque of Moussoul with my father and my uncles. After the prayers were over everyone retired, except my father and my uncles, who seated themselves on the carpet which covered the whole floor of the mosque. I sat down with them; and, as we discoursed on various topics, the conversation happened to turn on travel. The beauties and peculiarities of various kingdoms, and of their principal towns, were discussed and praised. But one of my uncles said, that if the account of a great number of travellers might be believed, there was not in the world a more beautiful country than Egypt on the banks of the Nile, which all agreed in praising. What he related of this land gave me such an opinion of its beauties that I formed the wish to travel thither. My father maintained the opinion of the brother who had spoken in favour of Egypt; and I was very glad of this. 'Let people say what they will,' cried he; 'the man who has not seen Egypt has not seen the greatest wonder in the world! The earth in that country is so fertile that it enriches the inhabitants like a golden soil. All the women enchant the beholder by their beauty or their agreeable manners. What river can be more delightful than the Nile? What stream rolls with water so pure and delicious? The residue that remains after its overflowing enriches the ground, and makes it produce without any trouble a thousand times more than countries yield with all the labour that can be bestowed on their cultivation. Is not Cairo the largest, the richest, the most populous city in the universe? How magnificent the edifices, private and public! If you go to the pyramids you are lost in astonishment! You are forced to confess that the Pharaohs, who employed so many men and such immense riches in the construction of these gigantic monuments, surpassed in magnificence and invention all the monarchs who have succeeded them, not only in Egypt, but in the whole world! I say nothing of the maritime towns of the kingdom of Egypt, such as Damietta, Rosetta, and Alexandria, where so many nations traffic for various kinds of grain and stuffs, and a thousand other things for the comfort and pleasure of mankind. I speak of the country from my own knowledge: I spent some years of my youth there, which I shall ever esteem the happiest of my life.'

"In reply to my father, my uncles could but agree to all he had said about the kingdom of Egypt. As for me, my imagination was so filled with it that I could not sleep all night. A short time afterwards my uncles also showed how much they had been struck with my father's discourse. They all proposed to him a journey into Egypt. He acceded to the plan; and, as they were rich merchants, they resolved to take with them such goods as they might dispose of with profit. I heard of their preparations for the journey: I went to my father, with tears in my eyes, and entreated his permission to accompany them, with a stock of merchandise to sell on my own account. 'You are too young,' said he, ‘to undertake such a journey.' This rebuff did not diminish my desire to travel. I persuaded my uncles to intercede for me with my father; and they at length obtained his permission that I should go as far asDamascus, where they would leave me, whilst they continued their journey into Egypt.

"I set off from Moussoul with my father and my uncles. We traversed Mesopotamia, crossed the Euphrates, and arrived at Aleppo, where we remained a few days. From thence we proceeded toDamascus , the first appearance of which agreeably surprised me. I found the city large and well fortified. We passed some days in visiting the delightful gardens which beautify the suburbs, and we agreed that the report we had heard ofDamascus was true - that it was in the midst of Paradise. After staying here some time, my uncles began to think of proceeding on their journey, having first taken care to dispose so advantageously of my merchandise that I gained a large profit.

"My father and my uncle left me at Damascus, and continued their journey. After their departure I was very careful not to spend my money in extravagance. Still, I hired a magnificent house. It was built entirely of marble, and ornamented with paintings; and there was a garden attached to it, in which were some very fine fountains. I furnished the house, not indeed so expensively as the magnificence of the place required, but at least sufficiently for ayoung man of my condition. It had formerly belonged to one of the principal grandees of the city, named Modoun Abdalraham, and it was now the property of a rich jeweller, to whom I paid only two scherifs a month for the use of it. I had a numerous retinue of servants, and lived in good style. I sometimes invited my acquaintances to dine with me, and frequented entertainments at their houses. Thus I passed my time atDamascus during the absence of my father.

" One day when I was sitting at the door of my house, a lady, handsomely dressed and of a good figure, came towards me, and asked me if I did not sell stuffs; and she immediately entered my house. Thereupon I rose and ushered her into a room, where I entreated her to be seated. 'Lady,' said I, 'I have had some stuffs which were worthy of your notice, but it grieves me to say I have not any now.' She took off the veil which concealed her face, and discovered to my eyes a countenance of remarkable beauty. 'I do not want any stuffs,' said she; 'I come to see you, and to pass the evening in your company, if you approve of me.'

"Delighted with my good fortune, I immediately gave my people orders to bring us several kinds of fruits and some bottles of wine. We sat down to table, and ate and drank and regaled ourselves till midnight; in short, I have never passed an evening so agreeably before. Before she left me the lady put ten scherifs into my hand, saying: 'I insist on your accepting this present from me; if you refuse I will never see you more.' I dared not decline a gift thus pressed upon me; and the lady continued: 'Expect me in three days, after sunset.' She then took her leave, and I felt that she carried away my heart with her.

"At the expiration of three days, she returned at the appointed hour. We passed the evening as agreeably as at our former meeting, and when she left me, again promising to return in three days, she obliged me, as before, to accept ten scherifs from her.

"On her third visit, when both of us were merry with wine, she said to me: 'My dear friend, what do you think of me? Am I not handsome and pleasing?' 'O lady,' replied I, 'these questions are very useless; all the proofs of affection I give you ought to convince you I love you. You are my queen, my sultana; you form the sole happiness of my life.' ‘Indeed,' she resumed, 'I am sure you would change your tone if you were to see a friend of mine who is younger and handsomer than I am. She has such lively spirits that she would make the most melancholy of men laugh. I must bring her to you. I have mentioned you to her, and she is dying with impatience to see you. She begged me to procure her this pleasure, but I did not dare to comply with her request till I had mentioned it to you.' 'O lady,' said I, 'you must do according to your will; but in spite of all you say about your friend, I defy all her charms to captivate my heart, which is so devotedly yours that nothing can ever alter my attachment.' 'Beware of protestations,' replied she. 'I am going to put your heart to a great trial.'

"This time the lady gave me fifteen scherifs instead of ten at her ...
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