ONCE upon a time there was a man who inherited much wealth from his father, but who led such an irregular and unwise life that in a short time he had spent everything, even to the last penny. Then he sat down, folded his arms upon his breast, and sighed as he thought of his unfortunate condition. His father's friends gathered about him to console him. One of them, an old and learned man, said to him:
"Son, you have offended your Luck, who has run away from you. You would better go after your Luck; perchance you can find it, and being reconciled with it become, as before, a fortunate man."
The man at once set out and traveled mountains and plains in search of his Luck. One night he saw in his dreams that his Luck was a human being like himself, who had fallen upon his face on the top of a high mountain, sighing and beating his breast all the time, just as he himself had done. On the morrow he got up and continued his journey toward that mountain. On his way he met the Fairy Lion, sitting upon a mound of earth beside the road.
"Don't be afraid, human being, proceed," said the Lion. And when the man approached, he said: "Where are you going?"
"I am going to find my Luck," said the man.
"Good!" said the Lion, "your Luck is very wise; ask him what is the remedy for my disease. I have been an invalid for seven years. If you find the right remedy I will reward you."
"Very well," said the man, and went on his way. Soon he came to a very beautiful orchard full of all kinds of fruits. He picked some of the fruits and began to eat, but lo! they were all bitter. Thereupon the gardener came and asked where he was going.
"I am going to find my Luck," said the man.
"Please ask your Luck," said the gardener, "what is the remedy for my orchard. I grafted my plants, but it was of no use. I cut down the old trees and planted new ones, but neither did this avail. If your Luck can devise some remedy, I will reward you bountifully." The man promised to ask his Luck, and again went on his way. Soon he came to a magnificent palace situated in a garden as beautiful as paradise, whose sole inhabitant was a beautiful maiden.
"What man are you?" asked the maiden, seeing the man, "and why have you come?"
The man told her his story.
"You see," said the maiden, "I have this splendid palace and measureless wealth and property; but I have a grief which grows in my heart day and night, and I spend my life sighing all the time. Please ask your Luck about me, and if you bring me a device to make me happy, I promise to reward you bountifully."
The man promised, and went on his way until he came to the mountain top where his Luck had fallen on his face. He described to him his own unfortunate condition, and poured out all his grievances. Luck listened to him attentively, and said:
"Everything may yet be well, seeing that you have come so far in search of me."
Then the man asked of Luck the things he had promised to ask, and received answers.
"Now will you not come with me?" asked the man.
"Go first," said Luck, "I will come after you."
The man returned. On his way back, he first met the maiden, and said:
"Your grief will disappear, and you shall be happy as soon as you marry a young man of your choice."
Then he met the gardener, and said:
"There is gold-ore in the spring from which flows the water with which you irrigate your orchard. The plants suck up particles of gold, which causes the fruits to be bitter. You must either irrigate your orchard by the water of some other spring, or take away the ore from the present fountain,--then your fruits will be sweet."
Then he came to the Fairy Lion and told him how he had seen his Luck, and what messages he had brought to the maiden and to the gardener.
"And what present did the maiden give you?" asked the Lion.
"She said," answered the man, "that she had fallen in love with me and proposed to marry me, but I refused."
"And what reward did the gardener give you?" asked the Lion.
"He took the gold ore out of the spring," answered the man, "and refining it, prepared a horse-load of pure gold. He gave all to me, but I refused, saying that I did not care to trouble myself and carry such a heavy thing so far."
"And what remedy did your Luck devise for my ailment?" asked the Lion.
"He said," answered the man, "the moment you devour an Idiot's head you shall be healed."
The Lion looked the man in the face, and said:
"By Heaven! I cannot find a greater idiot than you on the face of the earth." And striking at his head with his paw, he made one mouthful of it and the Idiot was dead.
Remember the moral of this tale,--Time never befriends a fool.