The Grey Fairy Book
Fortunatus and His Purse
Once upon a time there lived in the city of Famagosta, in the island of Cyprus, a rich man
called Theodorus. He ought to have been the happiest person in the whole world, as he
had all he could wish for, and a wife and little son whom he loved dearly; but unluckily,
after a short time he always grew tired of everything, and had to seek new pleasures.
When people are made like this the end is generally the same, and before Fortunatus (for
that was the boy's name) was ten years old, his father had spent all his money and had not
a farthing left.
But though Theodorus had been so foolish he was not quite without sense, and set about
getting work at once. His wife, too, instead of reproaching him sent away the servants
and sold their fine horses, and did all the work of the house herself, even washing the
clothes of her husband and child.
Thus time passed till Fortunatus was sixteen. One day when they were sitting at supper,
the boy said to Theodorus, ‘Father, why do you look so sad. Tell me what is wrong, and
perhaps I can help you.'
‘Ah, my son, I have reason enough to be sad; but for me you would now have been
enjoying every kind of pleasure, instead of being buried in this tiny house.'
‘Oh, do not let that trouble you,' replied Fortunatus, ‘it is time I made some money for
myself. To be sure I have never been taught any trade. Still there must be something I can
do. I will go and walk on the seashore and think about it.'
Very soon--sooner than he expected--a chance came, and Fortunatus, like a wise boy,
seized on it at once. The post offered him was that of page to the Earl of Flanders, and as
the Earl's daughter was just going to be married, splendid festivities were held in her
honour, and at some of the tilting matches Fortunatus was lucky enough to win the prize.
These prizes, together with presents from the lords and ladies of the court, who liked him
for his pleasant ways, made Fortunatus feel quite a rich man.
But though his head was not turned by the notice taken of him, it excited the envy of
some of the other pages about the Court, and one of them, called Robert, invented a plot
to move Fortunatus out of his way. So he told the young man that the Earl had taken a
dislike to him and meant to kill him; Fortunatus believed the story, and packing up his
fine clothes and money, slipped away before dawn.
He went to a great many big towns and lived well, and as he was generous and not wiser
than most youths of his age, he very soon found himself penniless. Like his father, he
then began to think of work, and tramped half over Brittany in search of it. Nobody
seemed to want him, and he wandered about from one place to another, till he found
himself in a dense wood, without any paths, and not much light. Here he spent two whole
days, with nothing to eat and very little water to drink, going first in one direction and