Gateway to the Classics: A Child's Book of Stories by Penrhyn W. Coussens
A Child's Book of Stories by  Penrhyn W. Coussens

The Story of Mr. Vinegar

M R. and Mrs. Vinegar lived in a vinegar bottle. One day, when Mr. Vinegar was away from home, Mrs. Vinegar, who was a very good housewife, was busily sweeping her house, when an unlucky thump of the broom brought the whole house clitter-clatter, clitter-clatter about her ears. Bursting into tears she ran forth to meet her husband, and, on seeing him she exclaimed, "Oh, 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 forth and seek our fortune."

They walked all that day, and at night entered a forest. They were both very tired, and Mr. Vinegar said, "My love, I will climb up into a tree, drag the door up, and you shall follow." He did so, and they both lay down upon the door and fell asleep. In the middle of the night Mr. Vinegar was awakened by the sound of voices underneath, and to his dismay perceived that a party of thieves were dividing their booty. "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 was so frightened that his trembling shook down the door on their heads. The thieves ran away, but Mr. Vinegar did not quit his retreat until broad daylight.

He then scrambled out of the tree, and went to lift up the door. What did he see but a number of golden guineas! "Come down, Mrs. Vinegar," he cried, "come down, our fortune's made, our fortune's made!" Mrs. Vinegar got down as fast as she could, and saw the money with equal delight. "Now, my dear," said she, "I'll tell you what to do. There is a fair in the neighborhood; you take these forty guineas and buy a cow. I can make butter and cheese, which you shall sell, and we shall be able to live comfortably." Mr. Vinegar joyfully assents, takes the money and goes off 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 Mr. Vinegar thought, "Oh! if I only had that cow, I should be the happiest man alive." So he offers the forty guineas for the cow, and the owner declaring that, as he was a friend, he would oblige him, and the bargain was made. Proud of his purchase, he drove the cow backwards and forwards to show it. Presently he saw a man playing the bagpipes, tweedledum, tweedledee; the children followed him about, and he was pocketing money on all sides. "Well," thought Mr. Vinegar, "if I had but that beautiful instrument I should be the happiest man alive—my fortune would be made."

So he went up to the man, and said, "Friend, 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 possess it." "Well," said the man, "as you are a friend, you shall have it for that red cow." "Done," said the delighted Mr. Vinegar; so he exchanged the beautiful red cow for the bagpipes. He walked up and down with his purchase, but he could n't play a tune, and instead of pocketing pence, the boys followed him hooting and laughing.

His fingers grew very cold, and very much ashamed, he was leaving the town, when he met a man with a fine thick pair of gloves. "Oh, my fingers are so very cold," said Mr. Vinegar to himself; "if I only had those beautiful gloves I should be the happiest man alive." He went up to the man, and said to him, "Friend, you have a capital pair of gloves there." "Yes, truly!" cried the man, "and my hands are as warm as toast." "Well," said Mr. Vinegar, "I should like to have them." "What will you give?" said the man; "as you are a friend, you may have them for those bagpipes." "Done," cried Mr. Vinegar. He put on the gloves, and felt very happy as he walked homeward.

At last he grew very tired, when he saw a man coming toward him with a good stout stick in his hand. "Oh," said Mr. Vinegar, "if I had but that stick; I should then be the happiest man alive." He spoke to the man: "Friend, what a fine stick you have there." "Yes," said the man, "I have used it for many a long mile, and a good friend it has been; but if you have a fancy for it, I don't mind letting you have it for that pair of gloves." Mr. Vinegar's hands now being warm, and his legs tired, he gladly made the exchange.

As he drew near to the wood where he had left his wife, he heard a parrot on a tree calling out to him: "Mr. Vinegar, you foolish man, you simpleton! You laid out all your money at the fair in buying a cow; not content with that, you changed it for bagpipes, on which you could not play, and which were not worth one tenth of the money. You no sooner had 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 miserable stick, which you might have cut in any hedge." The bird burst into laughter, and Mr. Vinegar, being very angry, threw the stick at its head. The stick lodged in the tree, and he returned to his wife without money, cow, bagpipes, gloves, or stick.

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