There was once a man called Frederick: he had a wife whose namewas Catherine, and they had not long been married. One day Fredericksaid. «Kate! I am going to work in the fields; when I come back Ishall be hungry so let me have something nice cooked, and a gooddraught of ale.» «Very well,» said she, «it shall all be ready.’When dinner-time drew nigh, Catherine took a nice steak, which was allthe meat she had, and put it on the fire to fry. The steak soon began tolook brown, and to crackle in the pan; and Catherine stood by with afork and turned it: then she said to herself, «The steak is almostready, I may as well go to the cellar for the ale.» So she left thepan on the fire and took a large jug and went into the cellar andtapped the ale cask. The beer ran into the jug and Catherine stoodlooking on. At last it popped into her head, «The dog is not shutup—he may be running away with the steak; that’s well thought of.’So up she ran from the cellar; and sure enough the rascally cur hadgot the steak in his mouth, and was making off with it.
Away ran Catherine, and away ran the dog across the field: but heran faster than she, and stuck close to the steak. «It’s all gone, and“what can’t be cured must be endured”,» said Catherine. So she turnedround; and as she had run a good way and was tired, she walked homeleisurely to cool herself.
Now all this time the ale was running too, for Catherine had notturned the cock; and when the jug was full the liquor ran upon the floortill the cask was empty. When she got to the cellar stairs she sawwhat had happened. «My stars!» said she, «what shall I do to keepFrederick from seeing all this slopping about?» So she thought awhile; and at last remembered that there was a sack of fine mealbought at the last fair, and that if she sprinkled this over the floorit would suck up the ale nicely. «What a lucky thing,» said she, «thatwe kept that meal! we have now a good use for it.» So away she wentfor it: but she managed to set it down just upon the great jug full ofbeer, and upset it; and thus all the ale that had been saved was setswimming on the floor also. «Ah! well,» said she, «when one goesanother may as well follow.» Then she strewed the meal all about thecellar, and was quite pleased with her cleverness, and said, «How veryneat and clean it looks!»
At noon Frederick came home. «Now, wife,» cried he, «what have youfor dinner?» «O Frederick!» answered she, «I was cooking you asteak; but while I went down to draw the ale, the dog ran away withit; and while I ran after him, the ale ran out; and when I went to dryup the ale with the sack of meal that we got at the fair, I upset thejug: but the cellar is now quite dry, and looks so clean!» «Kate,Kate,» said he, «how could you do all this? Why did you leave the steakto fry, and the ale to run, and then spoil all the meal?» «Why,Frederick,» said she, «I did not know I was doing wrong; you shouldhave told me before.»
The husband thought to himself, «If my wife manages matters thus, Imust look sharp myself.» Now he had a good deal of gold in the house:so he said to Catherine, «What pretty yellow buttons these are! I shallput them into a box and bury them in the garden; but take care thatyou never go near or meddle with them.» «No, Frederick,» said she,«that I never will.» As soon as he was gone, there came by some pedlarswith earthenware plates and dishes, and they asked her whether shewould buy. «Oh dear me, I should like to buy very much, but I have nomoney: if you had any use for yellow buttons, I might deal with you.’«Yellow buttons!» said they: «let us have a look at them.» «Go into thegarden and dig where I tell you, and you will find the yellow buttons:I dare not go myself.» So the rogues went: and when they found whatthese yellow buttons were, they took them all away, and left her plentyof plates and dishes. Then she set them all about the house for ashow: and when Frederick came back, he cried out, «Kate, what haveyou been doing?» «See,» said she, «I have bought all these withyour yellow buttons: but I did not touch them myself; the pedlarswent themselves and dug them up.» «Wife, wife,» said Frederick, «whata pretty piece of work you have made! those yellow buttons were all mymoney: how came you to do such a thing?» «Why,» answered she, «I didnot know there was any harm in it; you should have told me.»
Catherine stood musing for a while, and at last said to her husband,«Hark ye, Frederick, we will soon get the gold back: let us runafter the thieves.» «Well, we will try,» answered he; «but takesome butter and cheese with you, that we may have something to eatby the way.» «Very well,» said she; and they set out: and as Frederickwalked the fastest, he left his wife some way behind. «It does notmatter,» thought she: «when we turn back, I shall be so much nearer homethan he.»
Presently she came to the top of a hill, down the side of which therewas a road so narrow that the cart wheels always chafed the trees oneach side as they passed. «Ah, see now,» said she, «how they havebruised and wounded those poor trees; they will never get well.» Soshe took pity on them, and made use of the butter to grease them all,so that the wheels might not hurt them so much. While she was doingthis kind office one of her cheeses fell out of the basket, androlled down the hill. Catherine looked, but could not see where it hadgone; so she said, «Well, I suppose the other will go the same way andfind you; he has younger legs than I have.» Then she rolled the othercheese after it; and away it went, nobody knows where, down the hill.But she said she supposed that they knew the road, and would followher, and she could not stay there all day waiting for them.
At last she overtook Frederick, who desired her to give him somethingto eat. Then she gave him the dry bread. «Where are the butter andcheese?» said he. «Oh!» answered she, «I used the butter to grease thosepoor trees that the wheels chafed so: and one of the cheeses ran awayso I sent the other after it to find it, and I suppose they areboth on the road together somewhere.» «What a goose you are to do suchsilly things!» said the husband. «How can you say so?» said she; «I amsure you never told me not.»
They ate the dry bread together; and Frederick said, «Kate, I hopeyou locked the door safe when you came away.» «No,» answered she, «youdid not tell me.» «Then go home, and do it now before we go anyfarther,» said Frederick, «and bring with you something to eat.»
Catherine did as he told her, and thought to herself by theway, «Frederick wants something to eat; but I don’t think he is veryfond of butter and cheese: I’ll bring him a bag of fine nuts, and thevinegar, for I have often seen him take some.»
When she reached home, she bolted the back door, but the front doorshe took off the hinges, and said, «Frederick told me to lock thedoor, but surely it can nowhere be so safe if I take it with me.» Soshe took her time by the way; and when she overtook her husband shecried out, «There, Frederick, there is the door itself, you may watchit as carefully as you please.» «Alas! alas!» said he, «what a cleverwife I have! I sent you to make the house fast, and you take the dooraway, so that everybody may go in and out as they please—however, asyou have brought the door, you shall carry it about with you for yourpains.» «Very well,» answered she, «I’ll carry the door; but I’ll notcarry the nuts and vinegar bottle also—that would be too much of aload; so if you please, I’ll fasten them to the door.»
Frederick of course made no objection to that plan, and they set offinto the wood to look for the thieves; but they could not find them:and when it grew dark, they climbed up into a tree to spend thenight there. Scarcely were they up, than who should come by but thevery rogues they were looking for. They were in truth great rascals,and belonged to that class of people who find things before they arelost; they were tired; so they sat down and made a fire under thevery tree where Frederick and Catherine were. Frederick slipped downon the other side, and picked up some stones. Then he climbed upagain, and tried to hit the thieves on the head with them: but they onlysaid, «It must be near morning, for the wind shakes the fir-applesdown.»
Catherine, who had the door on her shoulder, began to be very tired;but she thought it was the nuts upon it that were so heavy: so shesaid softly, «Frederick, I must let the nuts go.» «No,» answered he,«not now, they will discover us.» «I can’t help that: they must go.’«Well, then, make haste and throw them down, if you will.» Then awayrattled the nuts down among the boughs and one of the thievescried, «Bless me, it is hailing.»
A little while after, Catherine thought the door was still very heavy:so she whispered to Frederick, «I must throw the vinegar down.» «Praydon’t,» answered he, «it will discover us.» «I can’t help that,» saidshe, «go it must.» So she poured all the vinegar down; and the thievessaid, «What a heavy dew there is!»
At last it popped into Catherine’s head that it was the door itselfthat was so heavy all the time: so she whispered, «Frederick, I mustthrow the door down soon.» But he begged and prayed her not to doso, for he was sure it would betray them. «Here goes, however,» saidshe: and down went the door with such a clatter upon the thieves,that they cried out «Murder!» and not knowing what was coming, ranaway as fast as they could, and left all the gold. So when Frederickand Catherine came down, there they found all their money safe andsound.