The Road to Fortune
ONE fine morning two young men were strolling together
through the fields, when they perceived, at a
great distance, a very high hill, on the top of which
stood a beautiful castle, which sparkled so brightly in the
sunshine that the youths were quite delighted, and could not
help gazing at it.
"Let us go to it," said one of the lads.
"It is easy to say, 'Let us go,' but how can we walk so
far?" retorted the other, who was a lazy fellow.
"You may do it easily," replied a clear voice behind
On looking around to see whence these words came, they
perceived a beautiful fairy standing on a large ball, which
rolled along with her upon it in the direction of the castle.
"It is no very difficult task for her, at all events. Look,
she can get forward without moving a limb," said the lazy
one, throwing himself down on the grass.
The other, however, was not so easily satisfied; for, without
stopping to reflect, he started off after the fairy as fast
as he could run, and catching hold of the skirts of her
robe cried, "Who art thou?"
"I am Fortune," answered the fairy, "and yonder is my
castle—follow me there! If thou reachest it before midnight,
I will receive thee as a friend; but remember, shouldst thou
arrive one moment later, my door will be closed against
With these words the fairy drew her robe from the hand of
the young man, and went off so quickly upon her ball that
she was soon out of sight.
The youth immediately ran back to his companion and told
him all that had happened, adding: "I intend taking the
fairy's advice. Will you accompany me?"
"Are you mad?" inquired the other; "for my part, if I had
a good horse I should not mind the journey, but as for
walking all that way, I certainly shall not attempt it."
"Farewell then," answered his comrade, who started off at
a brisk pace in the direction of the castle.
The lazy one, however, reasoned thus to himself: "Exert
yourself as much as you please, my worthy friend. Good
fortune often comes while we are dozing; perhaps it may
be my case to-day." And without more ado he stretched
himself on the grass and fell fast asleep; not, however, before
he had cast a longing glance at the beautiful castle on
the hill. After sleeping some time he felt as though there
were a warm wind blowing on his ear, and when he had
stretched his slothful limbs and rubbed his sleepy eyes, he
perceived a beautiful milk-white horse, ready saddled, standing
beside him, shaking his mane and neighing lustily in the
clear morning air.
"Ah, did I not say as much?" cried the youth. "Oh,
if people would but trust to Fate! Come here, you fine
creature! We must be good friends." So saying, he threw
himself into the saddle, and the steed galloped off with him
as swift as the wind. Thus mounted, our lazy friend very
soon overtook his industrious companion, and hailing him as
he passed cried: "Show respect to my horse's heels!" The
other, however, continued on at a steady pace, without paying
much heed to his satire.
About midday, on arriving at the summit of a beautiful
hill, the horse suddenly stopped. "Quite right," cried his
rider; "I find you are a very sagacious creature—'soft and
fairly' is a good proverb; the castle is now not very far off,
but my appetite is a great deal nearer." So dismounting, he
sought out a shady slope, and having laid down in the moss
with his feet against the stump of a tree, he began to take
some refreshment—for happily he had a good supply of bread
and sausage in his pocket, and a pleasant drink in his flask.
As soon as the youth had satisfied his appetite, he began to
feel rather drowsy, and, as is usual with indolent people, he
gave full vent to the inclination, stretched himself on the
moss, and fell into a sound sleep. Never had man a more
pleasant sleep, nor accompanied with more delightful dreams.
He imagined that he was already in the castle, reposing on
silken cushions; and that all that he desired came to him
immediately upon his beckoning with his little finger. After
thus enjoying himself for some time, it seemed as though a
firework went off with a great explosion; this was followed
by strains of soft music, which went to the tune of a song
he had often heard, every verse of which terminated with
"Healthful limbs and spirits gay,
Bear the traveler on his way."
This continued some time, when he awoke with the song
still ringing in his ears; then rubbing his eyes, he perceived
that the setting sun was fast sinking behind the castle, and
heard the voice of his companion singing from the valley
before him the very words he had heard in his dream.
"What a time I have slept!" cried the lazy fellow. "It
is high time that I was getting on my way. Come here, my
steed! where are you?" But no steed was to be found; the
only creature that he could see, after looking all around, was
an old gray donkey, grazing on the top of a hill at some
distance. He shouted and whistled with all his might, but
the horse was gone quite out of hearing, and the old donkey
did not seem to pay the least attention. So, after exerting
his lungs to no purpose, the lazy fellow was obliged to go
and try to make friends with the gray old beast, which allowed
itself to be quietly mounted, and then trudged slowly
on with him.
But our youth found this kind of traveling very different
from the previous stage, for then he not only proceeded at
a much quicker pace, but had a more comfortable seat, which
was by no means an unimportant consideration with him.
In the course of a short time it began to grow dark, and
heavy clouds overspread the sky; already he could perceive
that the castle was being lighted up, and now he began to be
very frightened and anxious to get forward. The donkey,
however, did not seem in any way to partake of his feelings,
but continued on at even a slower pace than before.
At length it became quite dark, and the donkey, after going
slower and slower, came to a dead stand in the midst of a
thick wood. All his entreaties were of no use, nor were
threats and kicks of more avail—the donkey would not move.
At last the rider became so exasperated that he struck it
with his fist; but this did not much improve our lazy friend's
condition, for the obstinate brute instantly flung up its hind
legs, and by that process released itself of its burden, which
fell heavily on the ground. It required much less violence
than our youth experienced in his fall to prove to him that
he was not lying on a satin couch, for his legs and arms
were dreadfully bruised. He remained some time in this
miserable plight, but the bright and inviting appearance of
the lights in the castle at length attracted his attention.
"Ah!" thought he, "what beautiful beds must there be in
that fine building!"
This thought alone aroused for a moment his sluggish
energies, and he managed to get on his feet. "Perhaps,"
thought he, "the gray old donkey may by this time have
got into a better temper." So he searched about for him in
every direction; but after knocking his head against the
trees here, tearing his face with the thorns there, and stumbling
over roots and stones for a full quarter of an hour
without finding it, he gave up the search as hopeless. It
was high time, however, that he made some effort to get
out of this dismal wood, which every now and then resounded
with dreary howls, sounding very much as though
they proceeded from the throats of hungry wolves. At last,
when quite bewildered with fear, he suddenly stumbled
against something soft and slimy; he knew by the touch
that it was not the donkey, but fancying it to be in the
form of a saddle, he was about to bestride it at once; yet
he found it so cold and damp to the touch that he quite
shuddered at the thought. He was still hesitating when the
castle clock struck, and he counted eleven. Recollecting that
it was drawing near to the eventful time and that he had
no other hope, he threw himself on what appeared to be the
saddle. He found his seat tolerably easy, as it was very
soft, and at his back was something to lean against; another
great advantage was that the creature on which he was
mounted seemed to be very surefooted; there was, however,
one great objection to it, and that was the creeping pace
at which it moved, for it went along much slower than even
the obstinate donkey.
Proceeding thus for some time, he got so near to the
castle that he could count the windows, and in this occupation
he was engaged when suddenly the moon shone out
from between the clouds, and, oh, horror! what did he
behold. The creature on which he sat was neither a horse
nor a donkey, but an enormous snail, quite as large as a
calf, and its house which it carried upon its back had served
him to lean against! Now he could well understand why he
had come at such a creeping pace. He turned as cold as
death, and his hair stood on end with fright! But there was
now no time for fear, for the castle clock had already made
the woods resound with the first stroke of the midnight hour,
just as his steed crawled out from the wood. Then how great
was the young man's astonishment when he beheld the castle
of Fortune in all its grandeur! Hitherto he had sat quietly
on the snail, without hastening it, or in any way interfering
with its pace; at the sight of the castle, however, he dashed
both his heels into its sides, and attempted to urge it on.
To this treatment the snail was quite unaccustomed, and instantly
it drew its head into its shell and left the youth
sprawling on the ground. The castle clock rang out the
second stroke. Had the lazy fellow but mustered up resolution
and trusted to his feet even then, he might have reached
the castle in time. But no, there he stood crying bitterly
and screaming out: "A beast! a beast! of whatever kind it
may be, to carry me to yon castle."
The inmates of the building had already begun to extinguish
the lights, and the moon being hidden by the clouds,
he was again in total darkness. As the clock struck the third
time he heard something moving near him, and, as well as
he could make out in the dark, it seemed like a saddled
horse: "Ah, that is my long-lost steed," cried he, "that
Heaven has kindly sent to me at the needful moment!"
As quickly as his lazy limbs would enable him, he leaped
on the back of the creature. There was now only a little
elevation to be surmounted, and he could easily see his companion
standing at the open door of the castle waving his
cap and beckoning him on. The clock chimed out the fourth
stroke when the creature whereon he sat began to move
slowly; then went the fifth and sixth strokes, and it began
to advance a little at a very awkward pace; at the seventh,
the creature began to move, first sideways and then went
backward! To his great horror and surprise the rider found
that he could not throw himself off, though he struggled with
all his might. By a passing ray of the moon, he discovered
that the new steed on which he was riding was a horrid
monster with ten legs, and from either side there extended
a large claw with which it held him fast by the arms. The
youth screamed loudly for help, but all to no purpose; the
animal still kept receding farther and farther from the
castle, while the eventful moment approached nearer and
nearer, until the twelfth stroke proclaimed the midnight hour.
A flitting ray of the moon displayed the castle once more
to his view in all its splendor. But in the same moment
the youth heard the door shut, and the rattling noise of
chains and bolts. The entrance to the castle of Fortune was
closed against him forever! The moon now shone again in
full luster and discovered the horrid monster, that still kept
carrying him away, to be nothing more nor less than an
enormous crab. Where he went to on this uncommon steed I
cannot tell; for the fact is, nobody ever troubled themselves
further about the lazy fellow.