The new helper | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

The new helper

26 September, 2021

In days gone by, people frequently used waterways for transportation. This was because it was easier than transportation by land. At this time there were not many roads and hardly any vehicles. The main means of land transportation was by ox carts. Sometimes, travelling was done on horseback. This made the journeys by land tedious and long.

The transportation of goods too was much easier by water.Wood, firewood, graphite, reed ware and other products found in areas up river were transported along the many waterways criss-crossing the land down river.

In a village up river there lived a merchant. His livelihood was ferrying goods from the villages up river to cities down river and selling them. On his return trip he would bring merchandise from the cities down river and sell them to the villagers living up river. Each round journey took him about a month.

Now, this merchant was very crafty. On each journey he had to take several helpers and their wages cost the merchant a good amount of money. In addition, there was the expense of feeding all these helpers. The merchant was always seeking ways and means to swindle his helpers of their wages. He generally did so by placing bets with them and when they lost the bets by confiscating their wages or part of them as forefeits for losing the bets.

One day, a young man from another village came in search of the ferry owning merchant and asked him for a job. The young man was very strong and healthy and the merchant was happy to employ him. As he was strong and healthy and able to work hard, the new helper’s wages were very high.

The old helpers knew how the merchant cheated them through bets and they warned the new helper to be wary of their master if he wanted to save his salary.

The merchant left on a fresh journey. Several helpers including the new helper travelled with him.

The current downriver was very strong. The ferry was loaded with goods. The merchant decided that it was not safe to travel and stopped the ferry at a safe spot which had been prepared earlier. The weather was very cold and the dew and mist were very severe. Everyone rested in the safe place but the owner spent his time trying to find a way to swindle the new helper out of his salary. Finally, the crafty merchant said “Anyone who gets into the river and stays there till morning will get all my ferries. But if he fails to stay in the river till morning his month’s wages are mine.

None of the old helpers offered to take the bet. But the new helper took the bet. He got into the river. The water and the weather was very cold. In fact,the water was freezing. The new helper’s teeth were chattering and his body was numb with cold. But he stayed in the river. He kept muttering to himself that 'he who endures wins' to keep his spirits up. As dawn came it was obvious to everyone that the new helper was going to win the bet.

The crafty merchant looked for ways and means to cheat the new helper of his win.

“Do you think you can fool me" the merchant shouted at the man in the river. “You are cheating. You are warming yourself".

"How could I warm myself in that freezing water”? asked the bewildered new helper.

“Why?, you are warming yourself from the flames of the bonfire on the opposite bank of the river “ replied the merchant.

When dawn came the helper climbed onto the ferry accepting defeat at the crafty merchant’s hands. The new helper was shivering uncontrollably and he was very hungry.

He looked for something to eat and suddenly remembered the leg of pork they had bought when coming downriver. Now, the new helper was an intelligent man and he was also looking for a way to outwit the crafty merchant.

He was suddenly struck by an idea.

He told the other helpers “I can roast a leg of pork very well. I don’t think this merchant can even do that”. When he heard this the merchant got very angry.

“Of course, I can roast pork. Give me the leg of pork and I will show you how. I will take any bet on it”.

“Alright” said the new helper. “I accept the bet. If you win You can keep my month’s wages. If I win I get all your ferries plus my wages”.

He gave the legof pork to the merchant.

“Look, my man, we need a fire to roast the pork” said the merchant.

“Why do you need a fire” said the new helper. You can roast it using the flames of the bonfire on the opposite shore” replied the helper.

“ How can I do that? The heat of those flames will not reach here’? said the merchant.

‘ Why?” Can’t you remember? You accused me of warming myself with those flames “ said the new helper.

The crafty merchant knew he was beaten. The new helper got his wages and all the ferries.

“You have cheated your helpers of their wages. At least, now realise you cant cheat all the people all the time” the new helper said to the crafty merchant.