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Scott: The Story Told By the Jewish Physician

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When I was studying physic at Damascus, and was just beginning to practise that noble profession with some reputation, a slave called me to see a patient in the governor of the city's family. Accordingly I went, and was conducted into a room, where I found a very handsome young man, much dejected by his disorder. I saluted him, and sat down by him; but he made no return to my compliments, only a sign with his eyes that he heard me, and thanked me. "Pray, sir," said I, "give me your hand, that I may feel your pulse." But instead of stretching out his right, he gave me his left hand, at which I was extremely surprised. However, I felt his pulse, wrote him a prescription, and took leave.

I continued my visits for nine days, and every time I felt his pulse, he still gave me his left hand. On the tenth day he seemed to be so far recovered, that I only deemed it necessary to prescribe bathing to him. The governor of Damascus, who was by, in testimony of his satisfaction with my service, invested me with a very rich robe, saying, he had appointed me a physician of the city hospital, and physician in ordinary to his house, where I might eat at his table when I pleased.

The young man likewise showed me many civilities, and asked me to accompany him to the bath. Accordingly we went together, and when his attendants had undressed him, I perceived he wanted the right hand, and that it had not long been cut off, which had been the occasion of his disorder, though concealed from me; for while the people about him were applying proper remedies externally, they had called me to prevent the ill consequence of the fever which was on him. I was much surprised and concerned on seeing his misfortune; which he observed by my countenance. "Doctor," cried he, "do not be astonished that my hand is cut off; some day or other I will tell you the cause; and in that relation you will hear very surprising adventures."

After we had returned from the bath, we sat down to a collation; and he asked me if it would be any prejudice to his health if he went and took a walk out of town in the governor's garden? I made answer, that the air would be of service to him. "Then," said he, "if you will give me your company, I will recount to you my history." I replied I was at his command for all that day. Upon which he presently called his servants, and we went to the governor's garden. Having taken two or three turns there, we seated ourselves on a carpet that his servants had spread under a tree, which gave a pleasant shade. The young man then gave me his history in the following terms;

I was born at Moussol, of one of the most considerable families in the city. My father was the eldest of ten brothers, who were all alive and married when my grandfather died. All the brothers were childless, except my father; and he had no child but me. He took particular care of my education; and made me learn every thing proper for my rank.

When I was grown up, and began to enter into the world, I happened one Friday to be at noon-prayers with my father and my uncles in the great mosque of Moussol. After prayers were over, the rest of the company going away, my father and my uncles continued sitting upon the best carpet in the mosque; and I sat down by them. They discoursed of several things, but the conversation fell insensibly, I know not how, upon the subject of travelling. They extolled the beauties and peculiar rarities of some kingdoms, and of their principal cities. But one of my uncles said, that according to the uniform report of an infinite number of voyagers, there was not in the world a pleasanter country than Egypt, on account of the Nile; and the description he gave infused into me such high admiration, that from that moment I had a desire to travel thither. Whatever my other uncles said, by way of preference to Bagdad and the Tigris, in calling Bagdad the residence of the Mussulmaun religion, and the metropolis of all the cities of the earth, made no impression upon me. My father joined in opinion with those of his brothers who had spoken in favour of Egypt; which filled me with joy. "Say what you will," said he, "the man that has not seen Egypt has not seen the greatest rarity in the world. All the land there is golden; I mean, it is so fertile, that it enriches its inhabitants. All the women of that country charm you by their beauty and their agreeable carriage. If you speak of the Nile, where is there a more wonderful river? What water was ever lighter or more delicious? The very slime it carries along in its overflowing fattens the fields, which produce a thousand times more than other countries that are cultivated with the greatest labour. Observe what a poet said of the Egyptians, when he was obliged to depart from Egypt: ‘Your Nile loads you with blessings every day; it is for you only that it runs from such a distance. Alas! in removing from you, my tears will flow as abundantly as its waters; you are to continue in the enjoyment of its sweetnesses, while I am condemned to deprive myself of them against my will.'

"If you look," added my father, "towards the island that is formed by the two greatest branches of the Nile, what variety of verdure! What enamel of all sorts of flowers! What a prodigious number of cities, villages, canals, and a thousand other agreeable objects! If you turn your eyes on the other side, up towards Ethiopia, how many other subjects of admiration! I cannot compare the verdure of so many plains, watered by the different canals of the island, better than to brilliant emeralds set in silver. Is not Grand Cairo the largest, the most populous, and the richest city in the world? What a number of magnificent edifices both public and private! If you view the pyramids, you will be filled with astonishment at the sight of the masses of stone of an enormous thickness, which rear their heads to the skies! You will be obliged to confess, that the Pharaohs, who employed such riches, and so many men in building them, must have surpassed in magnificence and invention all the monarchs who have appeared since, not only in Egypt, but in all the world, for having left monuments so worthy of their memory: monuments so ancient, that the learned cannot agree upon the date of their erection; yet such as will last to the end of time. I pass over in silence the maritime cities of the kingdom of Egypt, such as Damietta, Rosetta, and Alexandria, where nations come for various sorts of grain, cloth, and an infinite number of commodities calculated for accommodation and delight. I speak of what I know; for I spent some years there in my youth, which I shall always reckon the most agreeable part of my life."

My uncles could make no reply, and assented to all my father had said of the Nile, of Cairo, and of the whole kingdom of Egypt. My imagination was so full of these subjects, I could not sleep that night. Soon after, my uncles declared how much they were struck with my father's account. They made a proposal to him, that they should travel all together into Egypt. To this he assented; and being rich merchants, they resolved to carry with them such commodities as were likely to suit the market. When I found that they were making preparations for their departure, I went to my father, and begged of him, with tears in my eyes, that he would suffer me to make one of the party, and allow me some stock of goods to trade with on my own account. "You are too young," said he, "to travel into Egypt; the fatigue is too great for you; and, besides, I am sure you will come off a loser in your traffic." These words, however, did not suppress my eager desire to travel. I made use of my uncles' interest with my father, who at last granted me permission to go as far as Damascus, where they were to leave me, till they had travelled through Egypt. "The city of Damascus," said my father, "may likewise glory in its beauties, and my son must be content with leave to go so far." Though my curiosity to see Egypt was very pressing, I considered he was my father, and submitted to his will.

I set out from Moussol in company with him and my uncles. We travelled through Mesopotamia, passed the Euphrates, and arrived at Aleppo, where we stayed some days. From thence we went to Damascus, the first sight of which struck me with agreeable surprise We lodged all together in one khan; and I had the view of a city that was large, populous, full of handsome people, and well fortified. We employed some days in walking up and down the delicious gardens that surrounded it; and we all agreed that Damascus was justly said to be seated in a paradise. At last my uncles thought of pursuing their journey; but took care, before they went, to sell my goods so advantageously for me, that I gained by them five hundred per cent. This sale brought me a sum so considerable, as to fill me with delight.

My father and my uncles left me in Damascus, and pursued their journey. After their departure, I used great caution not to lay out my money idly. But at the same time I took a stately house, built of marble, adorned with paintings of gold, silver foliage, and a garden with fine water-works. I furnished it, not so richly indeed as the magnificence of the place deserved, but at least handsomely enough for a young man of my rank. It formerly belonged to one of the principal lords of the city; but was then the property of a rich jewel-merchant, to whom I paid for it only two sherifs a month. I had a number of domestics, and lived honourably; sometimes I gave entertainments to such people as I had made an acquaintance with, and sometimes was treated by them. Thus did I spend my time at Damascus, waiting for my father's return; no passion disturbed my repose, and my only employment was conversing with people of credit.

One day, as I sat taking the cool air at my gate, a very handsome, well-dressed lady came to me, and asked if I did not sell stuffs? She had no sooner spoken the words, than she went into my house.

When I saw that the lady had entered the house, I rose, and having shut the gate, conducted into a hall, and prayed her to sit down. "Madam," said I, "I have had stuffs fit to be strewn to you, but at present, I am sorry to say, I have none." She removed the veil from her face, and discovered such beauty as affected me with emotions I had never felt before. "I have no occasion for stuffs," replied she, "I only come to see you, and, if you please, to pass the evening in your company; all I ask of you is a light collation."

Transported with joy, I ordered the servants to bring us several sorts of fruit, and some bottles of wine. These being speedily served, we ate, drank, and made merry till midnight. In short, I had not before passed a night so agreeably as this. Next morning I would have put ten sherifs into the lady's hands, but she drew back instantly. "I am not come to see you," said she, "from interested motives; you therefore do me wrong. So far from receiving money from you, I must insist on your taking some from me, or else I will see you no more." In speaking this, she put her hand into her purse, took out ten sherifs, and forced me to take them, saying, "You may expect me three days hence after sun- set. She then took leave of me, and I felt that when she went she carried my heart along with her."

She did not fail to return at the appointed hour three days after; and I received her with all the joy of a person who waited impatiently for her arrival. The evening and the night we spent as before; and next day at parting she promised to return the third day after. She did not, however, leave me without forcing me to take ten sherifs more.

She returned a third time; and at that interview, when we were both warm with wine, she spoke thus: "My dear love, what do you think of me? Am I not handsome and agreeable?" "Madam," I replied, "I think this an unnecessary question: the love which I shew you ought to persuade you that I admire you; I am charmed to see and to possess you. You are my queen, my sultaness; in you lies all the felicity of my life." "Ah!" returned she, "I am sure you would speak otherwise, if you saw a certain lady of my acquaintance, who is younger and handsomer than I am. She is of such a pleasant lively temper, that she would make the most melancholy people merry: I must bring her hither; I spoke of you to her, and from the account I have given of you she is dying with desire to see you. She intreated me to procure her that pleasure, but I did not dare to promise her without speaking to you beforehand." "Madam," said I, "do what you please; but whatever you may say of your friend, I defy all her charms to tear my heart from you, to whom it is so inviolably attached, that nothing can disengage it." "Be not too positive," returned she; "I now tell you, I am about to put your heart to a severe trial."

We continued together all night, and next morning at parting, instead of ten sherifs she gave me fifteen, which I was forced to accept. "Remember," said she, "that in two days' time you are to have a new guest; pray take care to give her a good reception: we will come at the usual hour." I had my hall put in great order, and a handsome collation prepared against they came.

I waited for the two ladies with impatience and at last they arrived at the close of the day. They both unveiled, and as I had been surprised with the beauty of the first, I had reason to be much more so when I saw her friend. She had regular features, an elegant person, and such sparkling eyes, that I could hardly bear their splendour. I thanked her for the honour she did me, and entreated her to excuse me if I did not give her the reception she deserved. "No compliments," replied she; "it should be my part to make them to you, for allowing my friend to bring me hither. But since you are pleased to suffer it, let us lay aside all ceremony, and think only of amusing ourselves."

I had given orders, as soon as the ladies arrived, to have the collation served up, and we soon sat down to our entertainment. I placed myself opposite the stranger, who never ceased looking upon me with a smiling countenance. I could not resist her conquering eyes, and she made herself mistress of my heart, without opposition. But while she inspired me with a flame, she caught it herself; and so far from appearing to be under any constraint, she conversed in very free and lively language.

The other lady, who observed us, did nothing at first but laugh. "I told you," said she, addressing herself to me, "you would find my friend full of charms; and I perceive you have already violated the oath you made of being faithful to me." "Madam," replied I, laughing as well as she, "you would have reason to complain, if I were wanting in civility to a lady whom you brought hither, and who is your intimate friend; both of you might then upbraid me for not performing duly the rites of hospitality."

We continued to drink; but as the wine warmed us, the strange lady and I ogled one another with so little reserve, that her friend grew jealous, and quickly gave us a dismal proof of the inveteracy of her feelings. She rose from the table and went out, saying, she would be with us presently again: but in a few moments after, the lady who stayed with me changed countenance, fell into violent convulsions, and expired in my arms while I was calling for assistance to relieve her. I went out immediately, and enquired for the other lady; when my people told me, she had opened the street door and was gone. I then suspected what was but too true, that she had been the cause of her friend's death. She had the dexterity, and the malice, to put some very strong poison into the last glass, which she gave her with her own hand.

I was afflicted beyond measure with the accident. "What shall I do?" I exclaimed in agony. "What will become of me?" I considered there was no time to lose, and it being then moon-light, I ordered my servants to take up one of the large pieces of marble, with which the court of my house was paved, dig a hole, and there inter the corpse of the young lady. After replacing the stone, I put on a travelling suit, took what money I had; and having locked up every thing, affixed my own seal on the door of my house. This done I went to the jewel-merchant my landlord, paid him what I owed, with a year's rent in advance and giving him the key, prayed him to keep it for me. "A very urgent affair," said I, "obliges me to be absent for some time; I am under the necessity of going to visit my uncles at Cairo." I took my leave of him, immediately mounted my horse, and departed with my attendants from Damascus.

I had a good journey, and arrived at Cairo without any accident. There I met with my uncles, who were much surprised to see me. To excuse myself, I pretended I was tired of waiting; and hearing nothing of them, was so uneasy, that I could not be satisfied without coming to Cairo. They received me kindly, and promised that my father should not be displeased with me for leaving Damascus without his permission. I lodged in the same khan with them, and saw all the curiosities of Cairo.

Having finished their traffic, they began to talk of returning to Moussol, and to make preparations for their departure; but I, having a wish to view in Egypt what I had not yet seen, left my uncles, and went to lodge in another quarter at a distance from their khan, and did not appear any more till they were gone. They sought for me all over the city; but not finding me, supposed remorse for having come to Egypt without my father's consent had occasioned me to return to Damascus, without saying any thing to them. So they began their journey, expecting to find me at Damascus, and there to take me up.

After their departure I continued at Cairo three years, more completely to indulge my curiosity in seeing all the wonders of Egypt. During that time I took care to remit money to the jewel- merchant, ordering him to keep my house for me; for I designed to return to Damascus, and reside there some years longer. I had no adventure at Cairo worth relating; but doubtless you will be much surprised at that which befell me on my return to Damascus.

Arriving at this city, I went to the jewel-merchant's, who received me joyfully, and would accompany me to my house, to shew me that no one had entered it whilst I was absent. The seal was still entire upon the lock; and when I went in, I found every thing in the order in which I had left it.

In sweeping and cleaning out the hall where I had eaten with the ladies, one of my servants found a gold chain necklace, with ten very large and perfect pearls strung upon it at certain distances. He brought it to me, when I knew it to be the same I had seen upon the lady's neck who was poisoned; and concluded it had broken off and fallen. I could not look upon it without shedding tears, when I called to mind the lovely creature I had seen die in such a shocking manner. I wrapped it up, and put it in my bosom.

I rested some days to recover from the fatigues of my journey; after which, I began to visit my former acquaintance. I abandoned myself to every species of pleasure, and gradually squandered away all my money. Being thus reduced, instead of selling my furniture, I resolved to part with the necklace; but I had so little skill in pearls, that I took my measures very ill, as you shall hear.

I went to the bazaar, where I called a crier aside, and strewing him the necklace, told him I wished to sell it, and desired him to show it to the principal jewellers. The crier was surprised to see such a valuable ornament. "How beautiful," exclaimed he, gazing upon it with admiration, "never did our merchants see any thing so rich; I am sure I shall oblige them highly in strewing it to them; and you need not doubt they will set a high price upon it, in emulation of each other." He carried me to a shop which proved to be my landlord's: "Stop here," said the crier, "I will return presently and bring you an answer."

While he was running about to shew the necklace, I sat with the jeweller, who was glad to see me, and we conversed on different subjects. The crier returned, and calling me aside, instead of telling me the necklace was valued at two thousand sherifs, assured me nobody would give me more than fifty. "The reason is," added he, "the pearls are false; consider if you will part with it at that price." I took him at his word, wanting money. "Go," said I, "I take your word, and that of those who know better than myself; deliver it to them, and bring me the money immediately."

The crier had been ordered to offer me fifty sherifs by one of the richest jewellers in town who had only made that offer to sound me, and try if I was well acquainted with the value of the pearls. He had no sooner received my answer, than he carried the crier to the judge, and shewing him the necklace; "Sir," said he, "here is a necklace which was stolen from me, and the thief, under the character of a merchant, has had the impudence to offer it to sale, and is at this minute in the bazaar. He is willing to take fifty sherifs for a necklace that is worth two thousand which is a clear proof of his having stolen it."

The Judge sent immediately to seize me, and when I came before him, he asked me if the necklace he had in his hand was not the same that I had exposed to sale in the bazaar. I told him it was. "Is it true," demanded he, "that you are willing to sell it for fifty sherifs,?" I answered I was. "Well," continued he, in a scoffing way "give him the bastinado; he will quickly confess notwithstanding his merchant's disguise, that he is only an artful thief; let him be beaten till he owns his guilt." The pain of the torture made me tell a lie; I confessed, though it was not true that I had stolen the necklace; and the judge ordered my hand to be cut off according to the sentence of our law.

This made a great noise in the bazaar, and I was scarcely returned to my house when my landlord came. "My son," said he, "you seem to be a young man well educated, and of good sense; how is it possible you could be guilty of such an unworthy action, as that I hear talked of? You gave me an account of your property yourself, and I do not doubt but the account was just. Why did not you request money of me, and I would have lent it you? However, after what has happened, I cannot allow you to remain longer in my house; you must go and seek for other lodgings." I was extremely troubled at this; and entreated the jeweller, with tears in my eyes, to let me stay three days longer; which he granted.

"Alas," thought I, "this misfortune and affront are unsufferable; how shall I dare to return to Moussol? Nothing I can say to my father will persuade him that I am innocent."

Three hours after this fatal accident my house was forcibly entered by the judge's officers, accompanied by my landlord, and the merchant who had falsely accused me of having stolen the necklace. I asked them, what brought them there? But instead of giving me any answer, they bound and gagged me, calling me a thousand abusive names, and telling me the necklace belonged to the governor of Damascus, who had lost it above three years before, and that one of his daughters had not been heard of since. Judge of my sensations when I heard this intelligence. However, I summoned all my resolution, "I will," thought I, "tell the governor the truth, and it will rest with him either to put me to death, or to protect my innocence."

When I was brought before him, I observed he looked upon me with an eye of compassion, from whence I augured well. He ordered me to be untied, and addressing himself to the jeweller who accused me, and to my landlord: "Is this the man," asked he, "that sold the pearl necklace?" They had no sooner answered yes, than he continued, "I am sure he did not steal the necklace, and I am much astonished at the injustice that has been done him." These words giving me courage: "Sir," said I, "I do assure you I am perfectly innocent. I am likewise fully persuaded the necklace never did belong to my accuser, whom I never saw, and whose horrible perfidy is the cause of my unjust treatment. It is true, I made a confession as if I had stolen it; but this I did contrary to my conscience, through the force of torture, and for another reason that I am ready to give you, if you will have the goodness to hear me." "I know enough of it already," replied the governor, "to do you one part of the justice to which you are entitled. Take from hence," continued he, "the false accuser; let him undergo the same punishment as he caused to be inflicted on this young man, whose innocence is known to myself."

The governor's orders were immediately put in execution; the jeweller was punished as he deserved. Then the governor, having ordered all present to withdraw, said to me: "My son, tell me without fear how this necklace fell into your hands, conceal nothing from me." I related plainly all that had passed, and declared I had chosen rather to pass for a thief than to reveal that tragical adventure. "Good God," exclaimed the governor, "thy judgments are incomprehensible, and we ought to submit to them without murmuring. I receive, with entire submission, the stroke thou hast been pleased to inflict upon me." Then directing his discourse to me: "My son," said he, "having now heard the cause of your disgrace, for which I am truly concerned, I will give you an account of the affliction which has befallen myself. Know then, that I am the father of both the young ladies you were speaking of. The first lady, who had the impudence to come to your house, was my eldest daughter. I had given her in marriage at Cairo to one of her cousins, my brother's son. Her husband died, and she returned home corrupted by every vice too often contracted in Egypt. Before I took her home, her younger sister, who died in that deplorable manner in your arms, was a truly virtuous girl, and had never given me any occasion to complain of her conduce. But after that, the elder sister became very intimate with her, and insensibly made her as wicked as herself. The day after the death of the younger not finding her at home, I asked her elder sister what was become of her; but she, instead of answering, affected to weep bitterly; from whence I formed a fatal presage. I pressed her to inform me of what she knew respecting her sister ‘Father,' replied she, sobbing, ‘I can tell you no more than that my sister put on yesterday her richest dress, with her valuable pearl necklace, went out, and has not been heard of since.' I searched for her all over the town, but could learn nothing of her unhappy fate. In the mean time the elder, who doubtless repented of her jealous fury, became melancholy, and incessantly bewailed the death of her sister; she denied her self all manner of food, and so put an end to her deplorable days. Such is the condition of mankind! such are the misfortunes to which we are exposed! However, my son," added he, "since we are both of us equally unfortunate, let us unite our sorrow, and not abandon one another. I will give you in marriage a third daughter I have still left, she is younger than her sisters, and in no respect imitates their conduct; besides, she is handsomer, and I assure you is of a disposition calculated to make you happy. You shall have no other house but mine, and, after my death, you and she shall be heirs to all my property." "My lord," I replied, "I am overcome by your favours, and shall never be able to make a sufficient acknowledgment." "Enough," said he, interrupting me, "let us not waste time in idle words." He then called for witnesses, ordered the contract of marriage to be drawn, and I became the husband of his third daughter. He was not satisfied with punishing the jeweller, who had falsely accused me, but confiscated for my use all his property, which was very considerable. As for the rest, since you have been called to the governor's house, you may have seen what respect they pay me there. I must tell you further, that a person despatched by my uncles to Egypt, on purpose to inquire for me there, passing through this city found me out last night, and delivered me a letter from them. They inform me of my father's death, and invite me to come and take possession of his property at Moussol. But as the alliance and friendship of the governor have fixed me here, and will not suffer me to leave him, I have sent back the express with a power, which will secure to me my inheritance. After what you have heard, I hope you will pardon my seeming incivility during the course of my illness, in giving you my left instead of my right hand.

" This," said the Jewish physician, "is the story I heard from the young man of Moussol. I continued at Damascus as long as the governor lived; after his death, being still in the vigour of my age, I had the curiosity to travel. Accordingly I went through Persia to the Indies, and came at last to settle in this your capital, where I have practised physic with reputation."

The sultan of Casgar was well pleased with this story. "I must confess," said he to the Jew, "the story you have told me is very singular; but I declare freely, that of the little hump-back is: yet more extraordinary, and much more diverting; so you are not to expect that I will give you your life, any more than the rest. I will have you all four executed." "Pray, sir, stay a minute," said the tailor, advancing, and prostrating himself at the sultan's feet. "Since your majesty loves pleasant stories, I have one to tell you that will not displease you." "Well, I will hear thee too," said the sultan; "but do not flatter thyself that I will suffer thee to live, unless thou tellest me some adventure that is yet more diverting than that of my hump-backed jester." Upon this the tailor, as if he had been sure of success, spoke boldly to the following purpose.

[Go to The Story Told By the Tailor]

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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