The Doctor's Helper

Once in the olden days there was a famous doctor who did not want anyone to observe his treatments or learn his ways for fear they might become greater than he. But in his practice he needed potions. A young man who wanted to become a doctor pretended that he was deaf and dumb and applied for the job. Since he came from another part of the country, everyone accepted him as a deaf person and he spent his whole day pounding medicines. If the doctor called him he did not answer and he acted completely deaf and dumb.

One day a patient was brought who had a centipede in his brain. It had entered the man"s ear and wriggled into his brain, making him mad.

The doctor said, Well, rent the bath for private use and have it very hot. Take the patient there, and I"ll operate on him in the heated bath. The insect must be removed before it eats more of the brain.

The assistant wanted to watch the operation, but he would have to use stealth to accomplish his purpose. He had read all the doctor"s books, sitting up at night to study while the doctor slept, and now he wanted to see the operation, so he hid himself on a beam in the roof of the bath.

The doctor began the operation by opening the patient"s cranium and exposing the brain lying in its net of tissue. The centipede slithered here and there under the net. The doctor did not want to injure the net, but he had to catch the creature with his tweezers. He touched the centipede and it moved here. He touched it again and it moved there. Every time he failed to seize the centipede he merely tickled it and it darted to another part of the brain.

The assistant, who was watching from above, said, Master, 0 my Master, that isn"t the way to do it. An insect, when touched with cold tweezers will naturally move away. Heat the tweezers and point them at the insect, and the insect will hold still long enough for you to catch it.

The doctor lifted his head and .saw that his deaf assistant was lying along one of the beams. The doctor said nothing at the time, but he heated the tweezers, pointed them at the insect, from between a space in the net, seized the insect, and drew it out. He replaced the top of the cranium, applied some ointment, sewed up the wound, bandaged the head, and went out of the bath. The patient remained with the doctor for several days until the patient became fully conscious and well again.

But the point of the story is what happened next between the doctor and his assistant. The doctor called his assistant to him and said, Look here. My name is the most famous one of all the doctors in this country. I do not want anyone to outshine me. I brought you here as a deaf person to pound my medicines. How has it happened that you have read my books on medicine, and become a professor and a half? Either you will kill me, or I will kill you, for I cannot bear that anyone should surpass me in the art of medicine.

The assistant said, Yes, I studied medicine so that I could help people. Why do you feel so sad about it? You won"t live forever.

I don"t care for your ideas.

Then kill me, said the assistant.

The doctor appointed a day, and said, Come on the appointed day and I will poison you.

The assistant went and prepared every known antidote for poison¬ing. He collected them and cooked them and put them in a very large jar. He also got a very large piece of cotton and spread medicine on it. Then he called his mother and said, If I come home mad, like some¬one with a fever on the brain, immediately give me first aid by taking off my clothes, wrapping me in the medicated cotton and putting me in the jar which is full of medicine against poisoning. I must remain in the jar for three days with only my mouth appearing above the sur¬face of the liquid, and from time to time, you must give me some milk to which you must add this medicine. After three days I will come out of the jar.

The doctor collected all the strongest known poisons and put them together and gave them to his assistant to drink. He drank the poison and had hardly time to get home so that his mother could wrap him in the medicated cotton and put him into the jar. He immersed himself so that only his lips showed, and he stayed there for three days, and his mother gave him medicated milk from time to time.

After three days the liquid in the jar and the cotton were black as charcoal, but the assistant came out and there was nothing wrong with him. He went to the doctor and said, Salaam alaikum. Good
morning, Doctor.

The doctor said in amazement, Are you alive?

The assistant said, I am alive, and now it is my turn. I will give you poison.

The doctor said, That is your right.

The assistant said, I"ll poison you sometime within the next two
months. He didn"t appoint the day, but postponed setting a definite day, saying, Not now, but soon.

The doctor kept on thinking and thinking, Next week he will poi¬son me. After three days he will poison me. Tomorrow he will poison me. This affected his health, and so, little by little, the doctor got thinner and thinner until he became like a thread, and even his bones were weak. At last he said, How long are you going to keep postponing the poisoning? Why don"t you go ahead and poison me right off?

This week, said the assistant.

Again the doctor asked the assistant, When are you going to poison me?

Tomorrow, said the assistant.

The next day the doctor asked, When are you going to poison me?

Today, said the assistant. He went and bought two fils worth of turmeric, a yellow spice, from the spice merchant, boiled it in water and gave it to the doctor. It had not reached his lips before the
doctor fell down dead.

So we have a proverb in this part of the world, I"ll swear to kill you and give you a drink of turmeric.

The assistant had been promising the poison for so long that the doctor had become poisoned and worn down by the thought of it. Thoughts can kill a person. That"s what happened to the doctor, so that two fils worth of yellow spice had not reached his lips before he died.