Go back to The Castle of Fortune
Sara Cone Bryant (1873 - Unknown)
The Castle of Fortune
[Adapted from the German of Der Faule und der Fleissige
by Robert Reinick]
One lovely summer morning, just as the
sun rose, two travelers started on a journey.
They were both strong young men, but one
was a lazy fellow and the other was a
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 windows that
shone like crystal. The two young men
looked at it eagerly, and longed to go
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 travelers, she
turned her face to them and smiled.
"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 traveler's hand and she was gone.
The industrious man hurried back to his
friend, and told him what the fairy had
"The idea!" said the lazy man, and he
laughed; "of course, if a body had a horse
there would be some chance, but WALK all
that way? No, thank you!"
"Then good-by," 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 faraway
towers. "If I only had a good horse!"
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.
"Hola!" 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 traveler, plodding along
"How do you like shank's mare?"
laughed the lazy man, as he passed his
The industrious man only nodded, and
kept on with his steady stride, eyes straight
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 stopped.
"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
traveler'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
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 honor. 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 traveler, passing the grove
"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, gray 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
gray 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 nearer.
Now it began to grow dark; in the castle
windows the lights began to show. Then
came trouble! Slower, and slower, went the
gray 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 bruised 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
lain down to sleep again, but he could
hear now the howls of hungry wolves in
the woods; that did not sound pleasant.
Finally, his hand struck against
something that felt like a saddle. He grasped
it, thankfully, and started to mount his
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 calf!
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 mid-
night! 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 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
forever 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.
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