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Payne: Story of The Physician Douban (cont.)

[Go back to The Story of The King's Son and the Ogress]

And thou, O King" (continued the envious Vizier), "if thou put thy trust in this physician, he will kill thee in the foulest fashion. He, verily, whom thou hast favoured and admitted to thy friendship, plots thy destruction: for know that he is a spy come from a far land with intent to destroy thee. Seest thou not that he cured thee of thy distemper from without, by means of a thing held in thy hand, and how canst thou be sure that he will not kill thee by some like means?" "Thou speakest sooth, O Vizier of good counsel!" said the King. "It must indeed be as thou sayst; this physician doubtless comes as a spy, seeking to destroy me; and indeed, if he could cure me by means of a handle held in my hand, he can kill me by means of something I shall smell. But what is to be done with him?" "Send after him at once," answered the Vizier, "and when he comes, strike off his head and play him false, ere he play thee false; and so shalt thou ward off his mischief and be at peace from him." "Thou art right, O Vizier," rejoined the King and sent for the physician, who came, rejoicing, for he knew not what the Compassionate had decreed unto him. As the saying runs:

Thou that fearest ill fortune, be of good heart and hope! Trust thine affairs to Him who fashioned the earth and sea! What is decreed of God surely shall come to pass; That which is not decreed never shall trouble thee.

When Douban entered, he recited the following verses:

If all the thanks I speak come short of that which is your due, Say for whom else my verse and prose I make except for you? You have indeed prevented me with many an unasked boon, Blest me, unhindered of excuse, with favours not a few. How then should I omit to give your praise its full desert And celebrate with heart and voice your goodness ever new? I will indeed proclaim aloud the boons I owe to you, Favours, that, heavy to the hack, are light the thought unto.

And also the following:

Avert thy face from trouble and from care And trust in God to order thine affair. Rejoice in happy fortune near at hand, In which thou shalt forget the woes that were. Full many a weary and a troublous thing Is, in its issue, solaceful and fair. God orders all according to His will: Oppose Him not in what He doth prepare.

And these also:

Trust thine affairs to the Subtle, to God that knoweth all, And rest at peace from the world, for nothing shall thee appal. Know that the things of the world not, as thou wilt, befall, But as the Great God orders, to whom all kings are thrall!

And lastly these:

Take heart and rejoice and forget thine every woe, For even the wit of the wise is eaten away by care. What shall thought-taking profit a helpless, powerless slave? Leave it and be at peace in joy enduring fore'er!

When he had finished, the King said to him, "Dost thou know why I have sent for thee?" And the physician answered, "None knoweth the hidden things save God the Most High." Quoth the King, "I have sent for thee to kill thee and put an end to thy life." Douban wondered greatly at these words and said, "O King, wherefore wilt thou kill me and what offence have I committed?" "I am told," replied Younan, "that thou art a spy and comest to kill me, but I will kill thee first." Then he cried out to his swordbearer, saying, "Strike off the head of this traitor and rid us of his mischief!" "Spare me," said Douban; "so may God spare thee; and kill me not, lest God kill thee!" And he repeated these words to him, even as I did to thee, O Afrit, and thou wouldst not spare me, but persistedst in thine intent to put me to death. Then the King said to Douban, "Verily I shall not be secure except I kill thee: for thou curedst me by means of a handle I held in my hand, and I have no assurance but thou wilt kill me by means of perfumes or otherwise." "O King," said Douban, "is this my reward from thee? Thou returnest evil for good?" The King replied, "It boots not: thou must die and that without delay." When the physician saw that the King was irrevocably resolved to kill him, he wept and lamented the good he had done to the undeserving, blaming himself for having sown in an ungrateful soil and repeating the following verses:

Maimouneh has no wit to guide her by, Although her sire among the wise ranks high. The man, who has no sense to rule his steps, Slips, he the ground he treads on wet or dry.

Then the swordbearer came forward and bandaged his eyes and baring his sword, said to the King, "Have I thy leave to strike?" Whereupon the physician wept and said, "Spare me, so God may spare thee: and kill me not, lest God kill thee!" And he recited the following verses:

I acted in good faith and they betrayed: I came to nought: They prospered, whilst my loyalty brought me to evil case. If that I live, I will to none good counsel give again: And if I die, good counsellors be curst of every race!

And he said to the King, "Is this my reward from thee? Thou givest me the crocodile's recompense." Quoth the King, "What is the story of the crocodile?" "I cannot tell it," answered Douban, "and I in this case; but, God on thee, spare me, so may He spare thee!" And he wept sore. Then one of the King's chief officers rose and said, "O King, grant me this man's life, for we see not that he has committed any offence against thee nor that he has done aught but cure thee of thy disorder, which baffled the doctors and sages." "Ye know not why I put him to death," answered the King: "it is because I believe him to be a spy, who hath been suborned to kill me and came hither with that intent: and verily he who cured me by means of a handle held in my hand can easily poison me in like manner. If I spare him, he will infallibly destroy me: so needs must I kill him, and then I shall feel myself safe." When the physician was convinced that there was no hope for him, but that the King would indeed put him to death, he said to the latter, "O King, if thou must indeed kill me, grant me a respite, that I may go to my house and discharge my last duties and dispose of my medical books and give my people and friends directions for my burial. Among my books is one that is a rarity of rarities, and I will make thee a present of it, that thou mayst lay it up in thy treasury." "And what is in this book?" asked the King. Quoth Douban, "It contains things without number: the least of its secret virtues is that if, when thou hast cut off my head, thou open the book, turn over six leaves and read three lines of the left-hand page, my head will speak and answer whatever questions thou shalt ask it." At this the King marvelled greatly and shook with delight and said, "O physician, will thy head indeed speak to me, after it is cut off?" And he answered, "Yes, O King." Quoth the King, "This is indeed wonderful!" And sent him under guard to his house, where Douban spent the remainder of the day in setting his affairs in order. Next day, the amirs and viziers and chamberlains and all the great officers and notables of the kingdom came to the court, and the presence chamber was like a flower garden. Presently the physician entered, bearing an old book and a small pot full of powder; and sitting down, called for a dish. So they brought him a dish, and he poured the powder therein and levelled it. Then he said, "O King, take this book, but do not open it till my head has been cut off, placed on this dish and pressed down on the powder, when the blood will cease to flow: then open the book and do as I have enjoined thee." The King took the book and gave the signal to the headsman, who rose and struck off the physician's head and set it on the dish, pressing it down upon the powder, when the blood immediately ceased to flow, and the head unclosed its eyes and said, "Open the book, O King!" Younan opened the book and found the leaves stuck together; so he put his finger to his mouth and took of his spittle and loosened them therewith and turned over the pages in this manner, one after another, for the leaves would not come apart but with difficulty, till he came to the seventh page, but found nothing written thereon and said to the head, "O physician, there is nothing here." Quoth the head, "Open more leaves." So the King turned over more leaves in the same manner. Now the book was as poisoned, and before long the poison began to work upon the King, and he fell back in convulsions and cried out, "I am poisoned!" Whereupon the head repeated the following verses:

Lo, these once were kings who governed with a harsh and haughty sway! In a little, their dominion was as if it ne'er had been. Had they swayed the sceptre justly, they had been repaid the like, But they were unjust, and Fortune guerdoned them with dole and teen. Now they're passed away, the moral of their case bespeaks them thus, "This is what your sins have earnt you: Fate is not to blame, I ween."

No sooner had it done speaking, than the King fell down dead and the head also ceased to live.

[Resume The Fisherman and the Genie]

Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram 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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