Old Deccan Days/Less Inequality than Men Deem
LESS INEQUALITY THAN MEN DEEM.
A YOUNG Rajah once said to his Wuzeer, 'How is it that I am so often ill? I take great care of myself; I never go out in the rain; I wear warm clothes; I eat good food. Yet I am always catching cold, or getting fever, in spite of all precautions.'
'Overmuch care is worse than none at all,' answered the Wuzeer, 'which I will soon prove to you.'
So he invited the Rajah to accompany him for a walk in the fields. Before they had gone very far they met a poor Shepherd. The Shepherd was accustomed to be out all day long tending his flock; he had only a coarse cloak on, which served but insufficiently to protect him from the rain and the cold—from the dews by night and the sun by day; his food was parched corn, his drink water; and he lived out in the fields in a small hut made of plaited palm branches. The Wuzeer said to the Rajah, 'You know perfectly well what hard lives these poor shepherds lead. Accost this one, and ask him if he often suffers from the exposure which he is obliged to undergo.'
The Rajah did as the Wuzeer told him, and asked the Shepherd whether he did not often suffer from rheumatism, cold, and fever. The Shepherd answered, 'No, Sire, I never suffer from either the one or the other. From childhood I have been accustomed to endure the extremes of heat and cold, and I suppose that is why they never affect me.'
At this the Rajah was very much astonished, and he said to the Wuzeer, 'I own I am surprised; but doubtless this Shepherd is an extraordinarily strong man, whom nothing would ever affect.' 'We shall see,' said the Wuzeer; and he invited the Shepherd to the Palace. There, for a long time, the Shepherd was taken great care of; he was never permitted to go out in the sun or rain, he had good food and good clothes, and he was not allowed to sit in a draught or get his feet wet.
At the end of some months the Wuzeer sent for him into a marble court-yard, the floor of which he caused to be sprinkled with water.
The Shepherd had been for some time so little used to exposure of any kind, that wetting his feet caused him to take cold; the place felt to him chilly and damp after the Palace; he rapidly became worse, and in a short time, in spite of all the doctor's care, he died.
'Where is our friend the Shepherd?' asked the Rajah a few days afterwards; 'he surely could not have caught cold by merely treading on the marble floor you had caused to be sprinkled with water?'
'Alas!' answered the Wuzeer, 'the result was more disastrous than I had anticipated; the poor Shepherd caught cold, and is dead. Having been lately accustomed to overmuch care, the sudden change of temperature killed him.
'You see now to what dangers we are exposed from which the poor are exempt. It is thus that Nature equalises her best gifts; wealth and opulence tend too frequently to destroy health and shorten life, though they may give much enjoyment to it whilst it lasts.'