18. How The Farmer Learned to Cure His Wife
There once lived a farmer who understood the language of animals. He had obtained this knowledge on condition that he would never tell anyone, and if he did reveal the secret the penalty would be certain death.
One day he happened to listen to a conversation his ox and his horse were having. The ox had just come in from a weary and hard day’s work in the rain.
“Oh,” sighed the ox, looking over to the horse, “how fortunate you are to have been born a horse and not an ox. When the weather is bad you are kept in the stable, well fed, groomed every morning, and brushed every evening. Oh that I were a horse!”
“What you say is true,” replied the horse, “but you are very stupid to work so hard.”
“You do not know what it is to be beaten with a stick and yelled at, or you would not accuse me of being stupid to work so hard,” replied the ox.
“Then why don’t you feign sickness,” continued the horse.
On the following day the ox decided to try this trick, but he was filled with guilt when he saw the horse led out to take his place at the plough. In the evening, when the horse was brought to the stable very tired, the ox sympathized with him, and regretted his being the cause, but at the same time expressed astonishment at his working so hard.
“Ah, my friend, I had to work hard; I can’t bear the whip; the thought of the hideous crack! crack! makes me shiver even now,” answered the horse.
“But leaving that aside, my poor horned friend,” proceeded the horse, “I am now most anxious for you. I heard the master say tonight that if you were not well in the morning, the butcher was to come and slaughter you.”
“You need not worry about me, friend horse,” said the ox, “as I much prefer the yoke to chewing the cud of guilt.”
At this point the farmer left the animals and entered his home, smiling at his own craftiness. Meeting his wife, she at once inquired as to the cause of his happy smile. He put her off, first with one excuse then with another, but to no avail. The more he protested, the stronger her inquisitiveness grew. Her unsatisfied curiosity at length made her ill. The endeavors of the numerous doctors brought to her assistance were as useless as the spells of the wise men from far and near, and as powerless to remove the spell as were the amulets, the charms, and the abracadabras thought of and written by holy men. The evil curiosity gnawed at her, and she pined away. The poor farmer was disturbed. Rather than see her die, he at last decided to tell her, and forfeit his own life to save hers. Deeply dejected, he sat at the window gazing, as he thought, for the last time on the familiar surroundings. Of a sudden he noticed his favorite rooster, followed by his numerous hens, sadly strutting about, only allowing his favorites to eat the food he discovered, and ruthlessly driving the others away. To one he said, “I am not like our poor master, to be ruled by one or twenty of you. He, poor man, will die today for revealing his secret knowledge to save her life.”
“What is the secret knowledge?” asked one of the wives; and the rooster flew at her and thrashed her mercilessly, saying at each vigorous blow, “That is the secret, and if our master only treated the mistress as I treat you, he would not need to give up his life to-day.”
And as if maddened at the thought, he beat them all in turn. The master, seeing and appreciating the effect from the window, went to his wife and treated her in precisely the same manner. And this did what neither doctors, wise men, nor holy men could do—it cured her.