The Old Woman and The Physician

A physician comes to cure blindness. On each visit an item is stolen. When he demands payment he gets nothing.

Few things are done except for profit.

An Old Woman asked a Physician to cure her eyes. The bargain reached was that she would pay when healed. The Physician came at regular intervals and applied his salve to her eyes and, while her eyes were covered he would carry off some small item from the house. The Old Woman eyes eventually healed and when she looked around her home it was empty. When she saw this she would give the Physician nothing. The Physician sued. When before the judge the Old Woman presented her case: “This man declares that I am healed, but I must still have eye problems. When I lost my sight I saw my house and everything in it; but now, even though he says I am cured, I cannot see a single thing in it.”

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

An Old Woman that had bad eyes called in a clever Doctor, who agreed for a certain sum to cure them. He was a very clever Doctor, but he was also a very great rogue; and when he called each day and bound up the Old Woman’s eyes, he took advantage of her blindness to carry away with him some article of her furniture. This went on until he pronounced the Woman cured. Her room was then nearly bare. He claimed his reward, but the Old Lady protested that, so far from being cured, her sight was worse than ever. “We will soon see about that, my good Woman,” said he; and she was shortly after summoned to appear in Court. “May it please your Honour,” said she to the Judge, “before I called in this Doctor I could see a score of things in my room that now, when he says I am cured, I cannot see at all.” This opened the eyes of the Court to the knavery of the Doctor, who was forced to give the Old Woman her property back again, and was not allowed to claim a penny of his fee.

Townsend VersionTownsend version

An Old Woman having lost the use of her eyes, called in a Physician to heal them, and made this bargain with him in the presence of witnesses: that if he should cure her blindness, he should receive from her a sum of money; but if her infirmity remained, she should give him nothing. This agreement being made, the Physician, time after time, applied his salve to her eyes, and on every visit took something away, stealing all her property little by little. And when he had got all she had, he healed her and demanded the promised payment. The Old Woman, when she recovered her sight and saw none of her goods in her house, would give him nothing. The Physician insisted on his claim, and. as she still refused, summoned her before the Judge. The Old Woman, standing up in the Court, argued: “This man here speaks the truth in what he says; for I did promise to give him a sum of money if I should recover my sight: but if I continued blind, I was to give him nothing. Now he declares that I am healed. I on the contrary affirm that I am still blind; for when I lost the use of my eyes, I saw in my house various chattels and valuable goods: but now, though he swears I am cured of my blindness, I am not able to see a single thing in it.”

L'Estrange VersionL’Estrange version

A physician undertakes a woman with sore eyes, upon the terms of no cure no mony. His way was to dawb ’em quite up with oyntments, and while she was in that pickle, to carry off a spoon or a porringer, or somewhat or other at the end of his visit. The womans eyes mended, and still as she came more and more to her self again, there was every day less and less left in the house to be seen. The doctor came to her at last, and told her; Mistress, says he, I have discharg’d my part, your eyes are perfectly well again, and pray let me be payd now according to our agreement. Alas sir, says she, I’m a great deal worse then I was the first minute you undertook me; for I could see plate, hangings, paintings, and other goods of value about my house, ’till you had the ordering of me; but I am now brought to such a pass, that I can see nothing at all.


There are few good offices done for other people, which the benefactor does not hope to be the better for himself.

1001Medicus et Vetula

Vetula mulier, oculorum morbo laborans, medicum quemdam, ut eam curaret, accersivit et ingentem mercedem se daturam promisit si oculorum vitio sanaret; contra vero, si nil efficeret, nec minimum quid praebituram. Hoc itaque pacto, quoties medicus ad eius oculos medendos veniebat, semper aliquid ei furabatur. Cum illam egregie sanasset, pactam sibi mercedem postulavit. Sed vetula continuo differt, et medicus in ius denique ante magistratus eam rapit. Quorum in conspectu stans ait, “Fateor me ei mercedem, si bene visum recuperassem, promisisse; sin minus, me nihil omnino daturam. Ac iste iactat me esse curatam; ego vero adfirmo contrarium me pati. Nam quando oculis laborabam, meas tunc opes omnemque supellectilem domi esse videbam; sed nunc, me videre ipso dicente, nil prorsus domi cernere possum.”

Perry #057