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Scott: The Grecian King and the Physician Douban

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There was in the country of Yunaun or Greece, a king who was leprous, and his physicians had in vain endeavoured his cure; when a very able physician, named Douban, arrived at his court.

This physician had learnt the theory of his profession in Greek, Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Latin, Syriac, and Hebrew books; he was an experienced natural philosopher, and fully understood the good and bad qualities of plants and drugs. As soon as he was informed of the king's distemper, and understood that his physicians had given him over, he found means to present himself before him. "I know," said he, after the usual ceremonials, "that your majesty's physicians have not been able to heal you of the leprosy; but if you will accept my service, I will engage to cure you without potions, or external applications."

The king listened to what he said, and answered, "If you be able to perform what you promise, I will enrich you and your posterity. Do you assure me that you will cure my leprosy without potion, or applying any external medicine?" "Yes, Sire," replied the physician, "I promise myself success, through God's assistance, and to-morrow, with your majesty's permission, I will make the trial."

The physician returned to his quarters, made a hollow mace, and at the handle he put in his drugs; he made also a ball in such a manner as suited his purpose, with which next morning he presented himself before the king, and falling down at his feet, kissed the ground.

The physician Douban rose up, and after a profound reverence, said to the king, he judged it meet that his majesty should take horse, and go to the place where he used to play at mall. The king did so, and when he arrived there, the physician came to him with the mace, and said, "Exercise yourself with this mace, and strike the ball until you find your hands and body perspire. When the medicine I have put up in the handle of the mace is heated with your hand, it will penetrate your whole body; and as soon as you perspire, you may leave off the exercise, for then the medicine will have had its effect. Immediately on your return to your palace, go into the bath, and cause yourself to be well washed and rubbed; then retire to bed, and when you rise to- morrow you will find yourself cured."

The king took the mace, and struck the ball, which was returned by his officers who played with him; he played so long, that his hands and his whole body were in a sweat, and then the medicine shut up in the handle of the mace had its operation, as the physician had said. Upon this the king left off play, returned to his palace, entered the bath, and observed very exactly his physician had prescribed to him.

The next morning when he arose, he perceived with equal wonder and joy, that his leprosy was cured, and his body as clean as if it had never been affected. As soon as he was dressed, he came into the hall of audience, where he ascended his throne, and shewed himself to his courtiers: who, eager to know the success of the new medicine, came thither betimes, and when they saw the king perfectly cured, expressed great joy. The physician Douban entering the hall, bowed himself before the throne, with his face to the ground. The king perceiving him, made him sit down by his side, presented him to the assembly, and gave him all the commendation he deserved. His majesty did not stop here: but as he treated all his court that day, made him eat at his table alone with him.

The Grecian king was not satisfied with having admitted the physician Douban to his table, but caused him to be clad in a rich robe, ordered him two thousand pieces of gold, and thinking that he could never sufficiently acknowledge his obligations to him, continued every day to load him with new favours. But this king had a vizier, who was avaricious, envious, and naturally capable of every kind of mischief. He could not behold without envy the presents that were given to the physician, whose other merits had already begun to make him jealous, and he therefore resolved to lessen him in the king's esteem. To effect this, he went to the king, and told him in private, that he had some information of the greatest consequence to communicate. The king having asked what it was? "Sire," said he, "it is highly dangerous for a monarch to confide in a man whose fidelity he has never tried. Though you heap favours upon the physician Douban, your majesty does not know that he is a traitor, sent by your enemies to take away your life." "From whom," demanded the king, "have you the suggestion which you dare pronounce? Consider to whom you are speaking, and that you are advancing what I shall not easily believe." "Sire," replied the vizier, "I am well informed of what I have had the honour to reveal to your majesty; therefore do not rest in dangerous security: if your majesty be asleep, be pleased to awake; for I once more repeat, that the physician Douban left his native country, and came to settle himself at your court, for the sole purpose of executing the horrible design which I have intimated."

"No, no, vizier," interrupted the king; "I am certain, that this physician, whom you suspect to be a villain and a traitor, is one of the best and most virtuous of men. You know by what medicine, or rather by what miracle, he cured me of my leprosy: If he had had a design upon my life, why did he save me then? He needed only to have left me to my disease; I could not have escaped it, as life was fast decaying. Forbear then to fill me with unjust suspicions: instead of listening to you, I tell you, that from this day forward I will give that great man a pension of a thousand pieces of gold per month for his life; nay, though I were to share with him all my riches and dominions, I should never pay him sufficiently for what he has done. I perceive it to be his virtue that raises your envy; but do not think I will be unjustly prejudiced against him. I remember too well what a vizier said to king Sinbad, his master, to prevent his putting to death the prince his son."

What the Grecian king said about king Sinbad raised the vizier's curiosity, who said, "I pray your majesty to pardon me, if I have the boldness to ask what the vizier of king Sinbad said to his master to divert him from putting the prince his son to death." The Grecian king had the condescension to satisfy him: "That vizier," said he, "after having represented to king Sinbad, that he ought to beware, lest on the accusation of a mother-in-law he should commit an action of which he might afterwards repent, told him this story."

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Scott, Jonathan (1754-1829). The Arabian Nights Entertainments. London: Pickering and Chatto, 1890. 4 Volumes. Project Gutenberg.


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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