O NCE there was an old woman who lived in a vinegar bottle.
One day she went to market to buy a loaf of bread, a pat of butter, and a little fish for her supper. When she was returning home she had to cross a bridge over a stream. Just before she came to the stream the little fish poked his head out of the paper and said, "Oh, please, little old woman, don't cook me for your supper. I don't want to be fried in a pan."
"But I must," said the little old woman, "I have nothing else for my supper."
"Please, please, throw me into the water," said the little fish, "and maybe some day I can do something for you." And he pleaded so hard that the old woman threw him into the water. He looked up and said, "Thank you, old woman," and then he disappeared.
So the old woman went home, and that night she had only bread and butter and tea for her supper.
The next morning when she was sweeping her house she found a bright new silver quarter. "There," said she, "the little fish has sent me this." And when she had finished her work she went again to market.
This time she bought a piece of meat for her supper. When she was coming home what should she see in the water but the little fish. So she stopped and called out, "Thank you, little fish, for the silver quarter you sent me, but oh, little fish, I wish I had a little house to live in. It is very difficult keeping house in a vinegar bottle. One has so little room."
"Go home," said the little fish, "and perhaps you will have your wish." So the old woman went home, but when she got there the vinegar bottle was gone and in its place stood a neat little house.
The old woman went in and was very happy for a few days with her housekeeping. But soon she began to wish for a larger house. This one was altogether too small.
So the old woman went down to the bridge and called, "Little fish, little fish, I've got another wish!"
"Oh, is it you, old woman?" said the little fish. "What is it you want now?"
"The little house was very nice, little fish," said the old woman, "but it is quite too small for me. I want a large house, so that I may have company, and I want a little girl to help me take care of it."
"Well, well," said the little fish, "we will see," and down he went under the water.
The old woman hurried home, but when she came in sight of the place the little house was gone and there stood a fine large one and a dear little girl was sweeping off the steps.
The old woman was greatly pleased, and she and the little girl were very happy for a time. They gave parties and they went to market and to church together.
But one day the old woman thought how very nice it would be if they had a little pony and cart so that they might drive.
She hurried down to the bridge and leaning over she called, "Little fish, little fish, I've got another wish!"
"What, another wish?" said the little fish, looking up out of the water. "What do you wish for this time?"
"I want a little pony and a cart so that my little girl and I can drive. It is very tiresome having to walk everywhere one goes," said the little old woman.
"Well," said the little fish, "go home, and maybe you will have your wish."
Away went the old woman, and when she got home what should she see but a little pony and cart tied in front of her house.
The old woman was delighted, and she and the little girl had a beautiful time driving to church and to market and to the park when their work was finished.
But one day the old woman thought how fine it would be if they had a big strong horse and a carriage with two seats so that they might take their friends driving. So she said to herself, "I'll go and tell the little fish."
Down to the bridge she ran and called, "Little fish, little fish, I've got another wish!"
"Another wish, old woman?" said the little fish from the water. "What is it you want now?"
"I want a larger horse and a carriage with two seats, so that we may take our friends with us when we go driving. That little pony can go neither very fast nor very far."
"You want too many things, old woman," said the little fish. "I can do no more for you," and he swam away under the water and the old woman never saw him again.
When she reached home the fine house, the little girl, and the pony and cart were gone, and there stood the old vinegar bottle.