TWO physicians once lived in a city, who were admirably skilled in medicine, insomuch that all the sick who took their prescriptions were healed; and it thence became a question with the inhabitants, which of them was the best. After a while, a dispute arose between them upon this point.
Said one, "My friend, why should discord or envy or anger separate us; let us make the trial, and whosoever is inferior in skill shall serve the other."
"But how," replied his friend, "is this to be brought about?"
The first physician answered: "Hear me. I will pluck out your eyes without doing you the smallest injury, and lay them before you on the table; and when you desire it I will replace them as perfect and serviceable as they were before. If, in like manner, you can perform this, we will then be esteemed equal, and walk as brethren through the world. But, remember, he who fails in the attempt shall become the servant of the other."
"I am well pleased," returned his fellow, "to do as you say." Whereupon he who made the proposition took out his instruments and extracted the eyes, besmearing the sockets and the outer part of the lids with a certain rich ointment.
"My dear friend," said he, "what do you perceive?"
"Of a surety," cried the other, "I see nothing. I want the use of my eyes, but I feel no pain from their loss. I pray you, however, restore them to their places as you promised."
"Willingly," said his friend. He again touched the inner and outer part of the lids with the ointment, and then, with much precision, inserted the balls into their sockets. "How do you see now?" asked he.
"Excellently," returned the other, "nor do I feel the least pain." "Well, then," continued the first, "it now remains for you to treat me in a similar manner." "I am ready," he said. And accordingly taking the instruments, as the first had done, he smeared the upper and under parts of the eye with a peculiar ointment, drew out the eyes and placed them upon the table. The patient felt no pain, but added, "I wish you would hasten to restore them." The operator cheerfully complied; but as he prepared his implements, a crow entered by an open window, and seeing the eyes upon the table, snatched one of them up, and flew away with it. The physician, vexed at what had happened, said to himself, "If I do not restore the eye to my companion, I must become his slave." At that moment a goat, browsing at no great distance, attracted his observation. Instantly he ran to it, drew out one of his eyes, and put it into the place of the lost one.
"My dear friend," exclaimed the operator, "how do things appear to you?"
"Neither in extracting nor in replacing," he answered, "did I suffer the least pain; but--bless me!--one eye looks up to the trees!"
"Ah!" replied the first, "this is the very perfection of medicine. Neither of us is superior; henceforward we will be friends, as we are equals; and banish far off that spirit of contention which has destroyed our peace." The goat-eyed man of physic acquiesced; they lived from this time in the greatest amity.