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Burton: Tale of the Jewish Doctor

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Right marvellous was a matter which came to pass to me in my youth. I lived in Damascus of Syria studying my art and, one day, as I was sitting at home behold, there came to me a Mameluke from the household of the Sahib and said to me, "Speak with my lord!" So I followed him to the Viceroy's house and, entering the great hall, saw at its head a couch of cedar plated with gold whereon lay a sickly youth beautiful withal; fairer than he one could not see. I sat down by his head and prayed to Heaven for a cure; and he made me a sign with his eyes, so I said to him, "O my lord! favour me with thy hand, and safety be with thee!" Then he put forth his left hand and I marvelled thereat and said, "By Allah, strange that this handsome youth, the son of a great house, should so lack good manners. This can be nothing but pride and conceit!" However I felt his pulse and wrote him a prescription and continued to visit him for ten days, at the end of which time he recovered and went to the Hammam, whereupon the Viceroy gave me a handsome dress of honour and appointed me superintendent of the hospital which is in Damascus. I accompanied him to the baths, the whole of which they had kept private for his accommodation; and the servants came in with him and took off his clothes within the bath, and when he was stripped I saw that his right hand had been newly cut off, and this was the cause of his weakliness At this I was amazed and grieved for him: then, looking at his body, I saw on it the scars of scourge stripes whereto he had applied unguents. I was troubled at the sight and my concern appeared in my face. The young man looked at me and, comprehending the matter, said, "O Physician of the age, marvel not at my case; I will tell thee my story as soon as we quit the baths." Then we washed and, returning to his house, ate somewhat of food and took rest awhile; after which he asked me, "What sayest thou to solacing thee by inspecting the supper hall?"; and I answered "So let it be." Thereupon he ordered the slaves to carry out the carpets and cushions required and roast a lamb and bring us some fruit. They did his bidding and we ate together, he using the left hand for the purpose. After a while I said to him, "Now tell me thy tale." "O Physician of the age," replied he, "hear what befell me. Know that I am of the sons of Mosul, where my grandfather died leaving nine children of whom my father was the eldest. All grew up and took to them wives, but none of them was blessed with offspring except my father, to whom Providence vouchsafed me. So I grew up amongst my uncles who rejoiced in me with exceeding joy, till I came to man's estate. One day which happened to be a Friday, I went to the Cathedral mosque of Mosul with my father and my uncles, and we prayed the congregational prayers, after which the folk went forth, except my father and uncles, who sat talking of wondrous things in foreign parts and the marvellous sights of strange cities. At last they mentioned Egypt, and one of my uncles said, "Travellers tell us that there is not on earth's face aught fairer than Cairo and her Nile;" and these words made me long to see Cairo. Quoth my father, "Whoso hath not seen Cairo hath not seen the world. Her dust is golden and her Nile a miracle holden; and her women are as Houris fair; puppets, beautiful pictures; her houses are palaces rare; her water is sweet and light and her mud a commodity and a medicine beyond compare, even as said the poet in this his poetry:--

The Nile flood this day is the gain you own; * You alone in such gain and bounties wone:
The Nile is my tear flood of severance, * And here none is forlorn but I alone.

Moreover temperate is her air, and with fragrance blent, Which surpasseth aloes wood in scent; and how should it be otherwise, she being the Mother of the World? And Allah favour him who wrote these lines:--

An I quit Cairo and her pleasaunces, * Where can I wend to find so gladsome ways?
Shall I desert that site, whose grateful scents * Joy every soul and call for loudest praise?
Where every palace, as another Eden, * Carpets and cushions richly wrought displays;
A city wooing sight and sprite to glee, * Where Saint meets Sinner and each 'joys his craze;
Where friend meets friend, by Providence united * In greeny garden and in palmy maze:
People of Cairo, and by Allah's doom * I fare, with you in thoughts I wone always!
Whisper not Cairo in the ear of Zephyr, * Lest for her like of garden scents he reave her,

And if your eyes saw her earth, and the adornment thereof with bloom, and the purfling of it with all manner blossoms, and the islands of the Nile and how much is therein of wide spread and goodly prospect, and if you bent your sight upon the Abyssinian Pond, your glance would not revert from the scene quit of wonder; for nowhere would you behold the fellow of that lovely view; and, indeed, the two arms of the Nile embrace most luxuriant verdure, as the white of the eye encompasseth its black or like filigreed silver surrounding chrysolites. And divinely gifted was the poet who there anent said these couplets:--

By th' Abyssinian Pond, O day divine!* In morning twilight and in sunny shine:
The water prisoned in its verdurous walls, * Like sabre flashes before shrinking eyne:
And in The Garden sat we while it drains * Slow draught, with purfled sides dyed finest fine:
The stream is rippled by the hands of clouds; * We too, a-rippling, on our rugs recline,
Passing pure wine, and whoso leaves us there * Shall ne'er arise from fall his woes design:
Draining long draughts from large and brimming bowls, * Administ'ring thirst's only medicine--wine.

And what is there to compare with the Rasad, the Observatory, and its charms whereof every viewer as he approacheth saith, 'Verily this spot is specialised with all manner of excellence!' And if thou speak of the Night of Nile full, give the rainbow and distribute it! And if thou behold The Garden at eventide, with the cool shades sloping far and wide, a marvel thou wouldst see and wouldst incline to Egypt in ecstasy. And wert thou by Cairo's river side, when the sun is sinking and the stream dons mail coat and habergeon over its other vestments, thou wouldst be quickened to new life by its gentle zephyrs and by its all sufficient shade." So spake he and the rest fell to describing Egypt and her Nile. As I heard their accounts, my thoughts dwelt upon the subject and when, after talking their fill, all arose and went their ways, I lay down to sleep that night, but sleep came not because of my violent longing for Egypt; and neither meat pleased me nor drink. After a few days my uncles equipped themselves for a trade journey to Egypt; and I wept before my father till he made ready for me fitting merchandise, and he consented to my going with them, saying however, "Let him not enter Cairo, but leave him to sell his wares at Damascus." So I took leave of my father and we fared forth from Mosul and gave not over travelling till we reached Aleppo where we halted certain days. Then we marched onwards till we made Damascus and we found her a city as though she were a Paradise, abounding in trees and streams and birds and fruits of all kinds. We alighted at one of the Khans, where my uncles tarried awhile selling and buying; and they bought and sold also on my account, each dirham turning a profit of five on prime cost, which pleased me mightily. After this they left me alone and set their faces Egyptwards; whilst I abode at Damascus, where I had hired from a jeweller, for two dinars a month, a mansion whose beauties would beggar the tongue. Here I remained, eating and drinking and spending what monies I had in hand till, one day, as I was sitting at the door of my house be hold, there came up a young lady clad in costliest raiment never saw my eyes richer. I winked fifteen dinars and, laying them before me, said, "By Allah! unless thou take them I will never come back to thee." So I accepted them and she said to me, "O my beloved! expect me again in three days' time, when I will be with thee between sunset and supper tide; and do thou prepare for us with these dinars the same entertainment as yesternight." So saying, she took leave of me and went away and all my senses went with her. On the third day she came again, clad in stuff weft with gold wire, and wearing raiment and ornaments finer than before. I had prepared the place for her ere she arrived and the repast was ready; so we ate and drank and lay together, as we had done, till the morning, when she gave me other fifteen gold pieces and promised to come again after three days. Accordingly, I made ready for her and, at the appointed time, she presented herself more richly dressed than on the first and second occasions, and said to me, "O my lord, am I not beautiful?" "Yea, by Allah thou art!" answered I, and she went on, "Wilt thou allow me to bring with me a young lady fairer than I, and younger in years, that she may play with us and thou and she may laugh and make merry and rejoice her heart, for she hath been very sad this long time past, and hath asked me to take her out and let her spend the night abroad with me?" "Yea, by Allah!" I replied; and we drank till the wine turned our heads and slept till the morning, when she gave me other fifteen dinars, saying, "Add something to thy usual provision on account of the young lady who will come with me." Then she went away, and on the fourth day I made ready the house as usual, and soon after sunset behold, she came, accompanied by another damsel carefully wrapped in her mantilla. They entered and sat down; and when I saw them I repeated these verses:--

"How dear is our day and how lucky our lot, * When the cynic's away with his tongue malign!
When love and delight and the swimming of head * Send cleverness trotting, the best boon of wine.
When the full moon shines from the cloudy veil, * And the branchlet sways in her greens that shine:
When the red rose mantles in freshest cheek, * And Narcissus opeth his love sick eyne:
When pleasure with those I love is so sweet, * When friendship with those I love is complete!"

I rejoiced to see them, and lighted the candles after receiving them with gladness and delight. They doffed their heavy outer dresses and the new damsel uncovered her face when I saw that she was like the moon at its full never beheld I aught more beautiful. Then I rose and set meat and drink before them, and we ate and drank; and I kept giving mouthfuls to the new comer, crowning her cup and drinking with her till the first damsel, waxing inwardly jealous, asked me, "By Allah, is she not more delicious than I?"; whereto I answered, "Ay, by the Lord!" "It is my wish that thou lie with her this night; for I am thy mistress but she is our visitor. Upon my head be it, and my eyes." Then she rose and spread the carpets for our bed and I took the young lady and lay with her that night till morning, when I awoke and found myself wet, as I thought, with sweat. I sat up and tried to arouse the damsel; but when I shook her by the shoulders my hand became crimson with blood and her head rolled off the pillow. Thereupon my senses fled and I cried aloud, saying, "O All powerful Protector, grant me Thy protection!" Then finding her neck had been severed, I sprung up and the world waxed black before my eyes, and I looked for the lady, my former love, but could not find her. So I knew that it was she who had murdered the damsel in her jealousy, and said, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! What is to be done now?" I considered awhile then, doffing my clothes, dug a hole in the middle of the court yard, wherein I laid the murdered girl with her jewellery and golden ornaments; and, throwing back the earth on her, replaced the slabs of the marble pavement. After this I made the Ghusl or total ablution, and put on pure clothes; then, taking what money I had left, locked up the house and summoned courage and went to its owner to whom I paid a year's rent, saying, "I am about to join my uncles in Cairo." Presently I set out and, journeying to Egypt, foregathered with my uncles who rejoiced in me, and I found that they had made an end of selling their merchandise. They asked me, "What is the cause of thy coming?"; and I answered "I longed for a sight of you;" but did not let them know that I had any money with me. I abode with them a year, enjoying the pleasures of Cairo and her Nile, and squandering the rest of my money in feasting and carousing till the time drew near for the departure of my uncles, when I fled from them and hid myself. They made enquiries and sought for me, but hearing no tidings they said, "He will have gone back to Damascus." When they departed I came forth from my hiding place and abode in Cairo three years, until naught remained of my money. Now every year I used to send the rent of the Damascus house to its owner, until at last I had nothing left but enough to pay him for one year's rent and my breast was straitened. So I travelled to Damascus and alighted at the house whose owner, the jeweller, was glad to see me and I found everything locked up as I had left it. I opened the closets and took out my clothes and necessaries and came upon, beneath the carpet bed whereon I had lain that night with the girl who had been beheaded, a golden necklace set with ten gems of passing beauty. I took it up and, cleansing it of the blood, sat gazing upon it and wept awhile. Then I abode in the house two days and on the third I entered the Hammam and changed my clothes. I had no money by me now; so Satan whispered temptation to me that the Decree of Destiny be carried out. Next day I took the jewelled necklace to the bazaar and handed it to a broker who made me sit down in the shop of the jeweller, my landlord, and bade me have patience till the market was full, when he carried off the ornament and proclaimed it for sale, privily and without my knowledge. The necklet was priced as worth two thousand dinars, but the broker returned to me and said, "This collar is of copper, a mere counterfeit after the fashion of the Franks and a thousand dirhams have been bidden for it." "Yes," I answered, "I knew it to be copper, as we had it made for a certain person that we might mock her: now my wife hath inherited it and we wish to sell it; so go and take over the thousand dirhams."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Twenty-ninth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the beautiful youth said to the broker, "Take over the thousand dirhams;" and when the broker heard this, he knew that the case was suspicious. So he carried the collar to the Syndic of the bazaar, and the Syndic took it to the Governor who was also prefect of police, and said to him falsely enough, "This necklet was stolen from my house, and we have found the thief in traders' dress." So before I was aware of it the watch got round me and, making me their prisoner, carried me before the Governor who questioned me of the collar. I told him the tale I had told to the broker; but he laughed and said, "These words are not true." Then, before I knew what was doing, the guard stripped off my clothes and came down with palm rods upon my ribs, till for the smart of the stick I confessed, "It was I who stole it;" saying to myself, "'Tis better for thee to say, I stole it, than to let them know that its owner was murdered in thy house, for then would they slay thee to avenge her." So they wrote down that I had stolen it and they cut off my hand and scalded the stump in oil, when I swooned away for pain; but they gave me wine to drink and I recovered and, taking up my hand, was going to my fine house, when my landlord said to me, "Inasmuch, O my son, as this hath befallen thee, thou must leave my house and look out for another lodging for thee, since thou art convicted of theft. Thou art a handsome youth, but who will pity thee after this?" "O my master" said I, "bear with me but two days or three, till I find me another place." He answered, "So be it." and went away and left me. I returned to the house where I sat weeping and saying, How shall I go back to my own people with my hand lopped off and they know not that I am innocent? Perchance even after this Allah may order some matter for me." And I wept with exceeding weeping, grief beset me and I remained in sore trouble for two days; but on the third day my landlord came suddenly in to me, and with him some of the guard and the Syndic of the bazaar, who had falsely charged me with stealing the necklet. I went up to them and asked, "What is the matter?" however, they pinioned me with out further parley and threw a chain about my neck, saying, "The necklet which was with thee hath proved to be the property of the Wazir of Damascus who is also her Viceroy;" and they added, "It was missing from his house three years ago at the same time as his younger daughter." When I heard these words, my heart sank within me and I said to myself, "Thy life is gone beyond a doubt! By Allah, needs must I tell the Chief my story; and, if he will, let him kill me, and if he please, let him pardon me." So they carried me to the Wazir's house and made me stand between his hands. When he saw me, he glanced at me out of the corner of his eye and said to those present, "Why did ye lop off his hand? This man is unfortunate, and there is no fault in him; indeed ye have wronged him in cutting off his hand." When I heard this, I took heart and, my soul presaging good, I said to him, "By Allah, O my lord, I am no thief; but they calumniated me with a vile calumny, and they scourged me midmost the market, bidding me confess till, for the pain of the rods, I lied against myself and confessed the theft, albeit I am altogether innocent of it." "Fear not," quoth the Viceroy, "no harm shall come to thee." Then he ordered the Syndic of the bazaar to be imprisoned and said to him, "Give this man the blood money for his hand; and, if thou delay I will hang thee and seize all thy property." Moreover he called to his guards who took him and dragged him away, leaving me with the Chief. Then they loosed by his command the chain from my neck and unbound my arms; and he looked at me, and said, "O my son, be true with me, and tell me how this necklace came to thee." And he repeated these verses:--

"Truth best befits thee, albeit truth * Shall bring thee to burn on the threatened fire."

"By Allah, O my lord," answered I, "I will tell thee nothing but the truth." Then I related to him all that had passed between me and the first lady, and how she had brought me the second and had slain her out of jealousy, and I detailed for him the tale to its full. When he heard my story, he shook his head and struck his right hand upon the left, and putting his kerchief over his face wept awhile and then repeated:--

"I see the woes of the world abound, * And worldings sick with spleen and teen;
There's One who the meeting of two shall part, * And who part not are few and far between!"

Then he turned to me and said, "Know, O my son, that the elder damsel who first came to thee was my daughter whom I used to keep closely guarded. When she grew up, I sent her to Cairo and married her to her cousin, my brother's son. After a while he died and she came back: but she had learnt wantonness and ungraciousness from the people of Cairo; so she visited thee four times and at last brought her younger sister. Now they were sisters-german and much attached to each other; and, when that adventure happened to the elder, she disclosed her secret to her sister who desired to go out with her. So she asked thy leave and carried her to thee; after which she returned alone and, finding her weeping, I questioned her of her sister, but she said, 'I know nothing of her.' However, she presently told her mother privily of what had happened and how she had cut off her sister's head and her mother told me. Then she ceased not to weep and say, 'By Allah! I shall cry for her till I die.' Nor did she give over mourning till her heart broke and she died; and things fell out after that fashion. See then, O my son, what hath come to pass; and now I desire thee not to thwart me in what I am about to offer thee, and it is that I purpose to marry thee to my youngest daughter; for she is a virgin and born of another mother; and I will take no dower of thee but, on the contrary, will appoint thee an allowance, and thou shalt abide with me in my house in the stead of my son." "So be it," I answered, "and how could I hope for such good fortune?" Then he sent at once for the Kazi and witnesses, and let write my marriage contract with his daughter and I went in to her. Moreover, he got me from the Syndic of the bazaar a large sum of money and I became in high favour with him. During this year news came to me that my father was dead and the Wazir despatched a courier, with letters bearing the royal sign manual, to fetch me the money which my father had left behind him, and now I am living in all the solace of life. Such was the manner of the cutting off my right hand." I marvelled at his story (continued the Jew), and I abode with him three days after which he gave me much wealth, and I set out and travelled Eastward till I reached this your city and the sojourn suited me right well; so I took up my abode here and there befell me what thou knowest with the Hunchback. There upon the King of China shook his head and said, "This story of thine is not stranger and more wondrous and marvellous and delectable than the tale of the Hunchback; and so needs must I hang the whole number of you. However there yet remains the Tailor who is the head of all the offence;" and he added, "O Tailor, if thou canst tell me any thing more wonderful than the story of the Hunchback, I will pardon you all your offences." Thereupon the man came forward and began to tell the...

[Go to Tale of the Tailor]


Burton, Richard (1821-1890). The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. London. 1885-1888. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. VII. Gutenberg Vol. VIII. Gutenberg Vol. IX. Gutenberg Vol. X. Please consult the Gutenberg 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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