THERE was a rich count who married an extravagant wife. As he had plenty of money he let her spend whatever she liked. But he had no idea what a woman could spend, and very much surprised was he when he found that dressmakers, and milliners, and hairdressers, and shoemakers had made such a hole in his fortune that there was very little left. He saw it was high time to look after it, and he ventured to tender some words of remonstrance; but the moment he began to speak about it she went into hysterics. There was such a dreadful scene that he feared to approach the subject again, but the matter became so serious that at last he was obliged to do so. The least allusion, however, brought on another fit of hysterics.
What was he to do? To go on at this extravagant rate was impossible; equally impossible was it to endure the terrible scenes which ensued when he attempted to make her more careful.
At last he went to a doctor whom he knew, and asked him if he could give him any remedy for hysterics, telling him the whole story of what he wanted it for.
'Oh, yes!' replied the doctor; 'I have an infallible cure. It is a certain root which must be applied very sharply to the back of the neck. If it doesn't succeed with the first half-dozen applications, you must go on till it does. It never fails in the end.' So saying, he gave him a stout root, as thick as a walking stick, with a knobbed end.
Strong with the promised remedy, the husband went home, and sent word to all the dressmakers, milliners, hairdressers, and shoemakers that he would pay for nothing more except what he ordered himself. Indeed he met the shoemaker on the step of the door, who had just come to take the measure for a pair of velvet slippers.
'Don't bring them,' he said; 'she has seven or eight pairs already, and that is quite enough.'
Then he went up to his wife, and told her what he had done. Such a scene of hysterics as he had never imagined before awaited him now, but he, full of confidence in his remedy, took no notice further than to go up to her and apply the root very smartly to the back of her neck as he had been directed.
'But to me it seems that was all one with beating her with a stick,' exclaimed another old woman who was sitting in the room knitting.
'Of course! That's just the fun of it!' replied the narrator. 'And the beauty of it was that he was so simple that he thought it was some virtue in the root that was to effect the cure.'
The hysterics stopped, and he ran off to the doctor to thank him for the capital remedy. The wife ran off, too, and went to her friends crying with terrible complaints that her husband would not allow her a single thing to put on, and, moreover, had even been beating her.
When the count got back from the doctor, he found the father and half the family there ready to abuse him for making his wife go about with nothing on, and beating her into the bargain.
'It is all a mistake,' said the count. 'I will allow her everything that is right, only I will order myself what I pay for; and, as to beating her, I only applied this root which I got from the doctor to cure hysterics; nothing more.'
'Oh! it's a case of hysterics is it!' said the father; 'then it is all quite right,' and he and the rest went away; and the count and his wife got on very well after that, and he never had to make use of the doctor's root again.