: Stories To Tell Children

One lovely summer morning, just as the sun rose, two travellers started

on a journey. They were both strong young men, but one was a lazy fellow

and the other was a worker.

As the first sunbeams came over the hills, they shone on a great castle

standing on the heights, as far away as the eye could see. It was a

wonderful and beautiful castle, all glistening towers that gleamed like

marble, and glancing wi
dows that shone like crystal. The two young men

looked at it eagerly, and longed to go nearer.

Suddenly, out of the distance, something like a great butterfly, of

white and gold, swept toward them. And when it came nearer, they saw

that it was a most beautiful lady, robed in floating garments as fine as

cobwebs and wearing on her head a crown so bright that no one could tell

whether it was of diamonds or of dew. She stood, light as air, on a

great, shining, golden ball, which rolled along with her, swifter than

the wind. As she passed the travellers, she turned her face to them and


"Follow me!" she said.

The lazy man sat down in the grass with a discontented sigh. "She has

an easy time of it!" he said.

But the industrious man ran after the lovely lady and caught the hem of

her floating robe in his grasp. "Who are you, and whither are you

going?" he asked.

"I am the Fairy of Fortune," the beautiful lady said, "and that is my

castle. You may reach it to-day, if you will; there is time, if you

waste none. If you reach it before the last stroke of midnight, I will

receive you there, and will be your friend. But if you come one second

after midnight, it will be too late."

When she had said this, her robe slipped from the traveller's hand and

she was gone.

The industrious man hurried back to his friend, and told him what the

fairy had said.

"The idea!" said the lazy, man, and he laughed; "of course, if we had a

horse there would be some chance, but _walk_ all that way? No, thank


"Then good-bye," said his friend, "I am off." And he set out, down the

road toward the shining castle, with a good steady stride, his eyes

straight ahead.

The lazy man lay down in the soft grass, and looked rather wistfully at

the far-away towers. "If only I had a good horse!" he sighed.

Just at that moment he felt something warm nosing about at his shoulder,

and heard a little whinny. He turned round, and there stood a little

horse! It was a dainty creature, gentle-looking, and finely built, and

it was saddled and bridled.

"Hello!" said the lazy man. "Luck often comes when one isn't looking for

it!" And in an instant he had leaped on the horse, and headed him for

the castle of fortune. The little horse started at a fine pace, and in a

very few minutes they overtook the other traveller, plodding along on


"How do you like shank's pony?" laughed the lazy man, as he passed his


The industrious man only nodded, and kept on with his steady stride,

eyes straight ahead.

The horse kept his good pace, and by noon the towers of the castle stood

out against the sky, much nearer and more beautiful. Exactly at noon,

the horse turned aside from the road, into a shady grove on a hill, and


"Wise beast," said his rider: "'haste makes waste,' and all things are

better in moderation. I'll follow your example, and eat and rest a bit."

He dismounted and sat down in the cool moss, with his back against a

tree. He had a lunch in his traveller's pouch, and he ate it

comfortably. Then he felt drowsy from the heat and the early ride, so he

pulled his hat over his eyes, and settled himself for a nap. "It will go

all the better for a little rest," he said.

That _was_ a sleep! He slept like the seven sleepers, and he dreamed the

most beautiful things you could imagine. At last, he dreamed that he had

entered the castle of fortune and was being received with great

festivities. Everything he wanted was brought to him, and music played

while fireworks were set off in his honour. The music was so loud that

he awoke. He sat up, rubbing his eyes, and behold, the fireworks were

the very last rays of the setting sun, and the music was the voice of

the other traveller, passing the grove on foot!

"Time to be off," said the lazy man, and looked about him for the pretty

horse. No horse was to be found. The only living thing near was an old,

bony, grey donkey. The man called, and whistled, and looked, but no

little horse appeared. After a long while he gave it up, and, since

there was nothing better to do, he mounted the old grey donkey and set

out again.

The donkey was slow, and he was hard to ride, but he was better than

nothing; and gradually the lazy man saw the towers of the castle draw


Now it began to grow dark; in the castle windows the lights began to

show. Then came trouble! Slower, and slower, went the grey donkey;

slower, and slower, till, in the very middle of a pitch-black wood, he

stopped and stood still. Not a step would he budge for all the coaxing

and scolding and beating his rider could give. At last the rider kicked

him, as well as beat him, and at that the donkey felt that he had had

enough. Up went his hind heels, and down went his head, and over it went

the lazy man on to the stony ground.

There he lay groaning for many minutes, for it was not a soft place, I

can assure you. How he wished he were in a soft, warm bed, with his

aching bones comfortable in blankets! The very thought of it made him

remember the Castle of Fortune, for he knew there must be fine beds

there. To get to those beds he was even willing to bestir his poor

limbs, so he sat up and felt about him for the donkey.

No donkey was to be found.

The lazy man crept round and round the spot where he had fallen,

scratched his hands on the stumps, tore his face in the briers, and

bumped his knees on the stones. But no donkey was there. He would have

laid down to sleep again, but he could hear now the howls of hungry

wolves in the woods; that it did not sound pleasant. Finally, his hand

struck against something that felt like a saddle. He grasped it,

thankfully, and started to mount his donkey.

The beast he took hold of seemed very small, and, as he mounted, he felt

that its sides were moist and slimy. It gave him a shudder, and he

hesitated; but at that moment he heard a distant clock strike. It was

striking eleven! There was still time to reach the castle of fortune,

but no more than enough; so he mounted his new steed and rode on once

more. The animal was easier to sit on than the donkey, and the saddle

seemed remarkably high behind; it was good to lean against. But even the

donkey was not so slow as this; the new steed was slower than he. After

a while, however, he pushed his way out of the woods into the open, and

there stood the castle, only a little way ahead! All its windows were

ablaze with lights. A ray from them fell on the lazy man's beast, and he

saw what he was riding: it was a gigantic snail! a snail as large as a


A cold shudder ran over the lazy man's body, and he would have got off

his horrid animal then and there, but just then the clock struck once

more. It was the first of the long, slow strokes that mark midnight! The

man grew frantic when he heard it. He drove his heels into the snail's

sides, to make him hurry. Instantly, the snail drew in his head, curled

up in his shell, and left the lazy man sitting in a heap on the ground!

The clock struck twice. If the man had run for it, he could still have

reached the castle, but, instead, he sat still and shouted for a horse.

"A beast, a beast!" he wailed, "any kind of a beast that will take me to

the castle!"

The clock struck three times. And as it struck the third note, something

came rustling and rattling out of the darkness, something that sounded

like a horse with harness. The lazy man jumped on its back, a very

queer, low back. As he mounted, he saw the doors of the castle open, and

saw his friend standing on the threshold, waving his cap and beckoning

to him.

The clock struck four times, and the new steed began to stir; as it

struck five, he moved a pace forward; as it struck six, he stopped; as

it struck seven, he turned himself about; as it struck eight, he began

to move backward, away from the castle!

The lazy man shouted, and beat him, but the beast went slowly backward.

And the clock struck nine. The man tried to slide off, then, but from

all sides of his strange animal great arms came reaching up and held him

fast. And in the next ray of moonlight that broke the dark clouds, he

saw that he was mounted on a monster crab!

One by one, the lights went out, in the castle windows. The clock struck

ten. Backward went the crab. Eleven! Still the crab went backward. The

clock struck twelve! Then the great doors shut with a clang, and the

castle of fortune was closed for ever to the lazy man.

What became of him and his crab no one knows to this day, and no one

cares. But the industrious man was received by the Fairy of Fortune, and

made happy in the castle as long as he wanted to stay. And ever

afterward she was his friend, helping him not only to happiness for

himself, but also showing him how to help others, wherever he went.