Mr. and Mrs. Vinegar lived in a vinegar bottle. Now, one day, when Mr. Vinegar was away from home, Mrs. Vinegar, who was a very good housewife, was busy sweeping her house, when an unlucky thump of the broom brought the whole house clitter-clatter, clitter-clatter, down around her. In a fit of sadness she rushed out to meet her husband.
When she saw him she exclaimed, “Oh, Mr. Vinegar, Mr. Vinegar, we are ruined, I have knocked the house down, and it is all in pieces!” Mr. Vinegar then said: “My dear, let us see what can be done. Here is the door; I will take it on my back, and we will go out to seek our fortune.”
They walked all that day, and at night entered a thick forest. They were both very, very tired, and Mr. Vinegar said: “I will climb up into this tree, drag up the door, and you can follow.” He did and they both stretched their weary limbs on the door, and fell fast asleep.
In the middle of the night Mr. Vinegar was woken up by the sound of voices underneath, and to his shock and surprise he found that it was a band of thieves meeting to divide up their money.
“Here, Jack,” said one, “here’s five pounds for you; here, Bill, here’s ten pounds for you; here, Bob, here’s three pounds for you.”
Mr. Vinegar could no longer listen; his fear was so great that he trembled and trembled, and shook so badly that the door fell down near the thieves. Away they scampered, but Mr. Vinegar didn’t dare to leave the tree until broad daylight.
He scrambled out of the tree, and went to lift up the door and what did he see but a number of golden coins. “Come down, Mrs. Vinegar,” he cried; “come down; our fortune’s made, our fortune’s made! Come down.”
Mrs. Vinegar got down as fast as she could, and when she saw the money she jumped for joy. “Now, my dear,” she said, “I’ll tell you what you should do. There is a fair at the neighbouring town; you should take these forty guineas and buy a cow. I can make butter and cheese, which you can sell at the market, and then we shall be able to live very comfortably.”
Mr. Vinegar agreed, took the money, and off he went to the fair. When he arrived, he walked up and down, and at length saw a beautiful red cow. It was an excellent milker, and perfect in every way. “Oh,” thought Mr. Vinegar, “if I had that cow, I would be the happiest man alive.”
So he offered the forty guineas for the cow, and the owner said that, as he was a friend, he’d be happy to sell the cow to him. So the bargain was made, and he got the cow and drove it backwards and forwards to show it.
By-and-by he saw a man playing the bagpipes. The children followed him around, and he seemed to be making money everywhere he went.
“Well,” thought Mr. Vinegar, “if I had that beautiful instrument I would be the happiest man alive—my fortune would be made.”
So he went up to the man. “Friend,” he said, “what a beautiful instrument that is, and what a lot of money you must make.” “Why, yes,” said the man, “I make a great deal of money, to be sure, and it is a wonderful instrument.”
“Oh!” cried Mr. Vinegar, “how I should like to have it!” “Well,” said the man, “as you are a friend, I don’t much mind parting with it; you shall have it for that red cow.” “Done!” said the delighted Mr. Vinegar. So the beautiful red cow was given for the bagpipes.
He walked up and down with his purchase; but when he tried to play a tune, instead of making money, the boys followed him hooting and laughing.
Poor Mr. Vinegar, his fingers grew very cold, and, just as he was leaving the town, he met a man with a fine thick pair of gloves. “Oh, my fingers are so very cold,” said Mr. Vinegar to himself. “Now if I had those beautiful gloves I would be the happiest man alive.” He went up to the man, and said to him, “Friend, you seem to have a wonderful pair of gloves there.” “Yes, they are,” said the man; “and my hands are as warm as possible this cold November day.”
“Well,” said Mr. Vinegar, “I should like to have them.” “What will you give me?” said the man; “as you are a friend, I don’t much mind letting you have them for those bagpipes.” “Done!” cried Mr. Vinegar. He put on the gloves, and felt perfectly happy as he trudged homewards.
At last he grew very tired, when he saw a man coming towards him with a good strong stick in his hand.
“Oh,” said Mr. Vinegar, “If I only had that stick! I would be the happiest man alive.” He said to the man: “Friend! what a rare good stick you have.” “Yes,” said the man; “I have used it for many a long mile, and a good friend it has been; but if you would like it, as you are a friend, I don’t mind giving it to you for that pair of gloves.” Mr. Vinegar’s hands were so warm, and his legs so tired, that he gladly made the trade.
As he drew near to the woods where he had left his wife, he heard a parrot on a tree calling out his name: “Mr. Vinegar, you silly man; you went to the fair, and paid all your money to buy a cow. Not happy with that, you changed it for bagpipes, that you could not play, and which were not worth one-tenth of the money.
Then no sooner had you gotten the bagpipes than you changed them for the gloves, which were not worth one-quarter of the money; and when you had the gloves, you changed them for a poor miserable stick; and now for your forty guineas, cow, bagpipes, and gloves, you have nothing to show but that poor miserable stick, which you might have cut by yourself .”
Saying this the bird laughed and laughed, and Mr. Vinegar, getting angry, threw the stick at the bird. The stick got stuck in the tree, and so Mr. Vinegar returned to his wife without money, cow, bagpipes, gloves, or stick, and she gave him such a scolding that he promised never to do it again.