The marriage of courage and fear

Once Akbar asked Birbal to bring him the bravest person and the most cowardly person he could find. The following day the Minister brought only one person to the Emperor. The Emperor became angry. "How is it that you have brought only one person?" he shouted. "I wanted to see two different persons with two different characters."

"Please do not be angry, your Majesty," said Birbal. "You wanted to see both cowardice and bravery. If I can show you both these qualities in one person, will you not be satisfied?"

"Certainly I will," replied Akbar. "But it is impossible for someone to be at once the bravest and the most cowardly person."

"No, it is not," said the Minister, "and I will prove it to you." With that, he presented to the Emperor a young and beautiful woman.

"I will tell you in what way she is very brave, and in what way she is very timid. This girl will walk miles through the pouring rain on a deserted road at midnight in order to visit her boyfriend. At that time of night no man would dare go where she goes alone without a thought for her own safety. But when this girl is at home with her husband, if a tiny mouse makes a noise or a little cockroach crawls by, she will be frightened to death. She will stand on a chair and scream until someone chases it away. So you can see that she is at once the bravest and the most cowardly person."

Akbar was satisfied with his Minister's choice.