Once there was a very wise and foolish king called Peter. King Peter liked castles and had twenty-seven of them, but he was afraid of heights, so he always made his home on the ground floor and left the upstairs to the bats and tigers.
One day he thought of an idea. He ordered a castle to be built on the sandy beach. When it was finished he moved in, as usual, to the ground floor and lived very contentedly there. Some seagulls moved in upstairs but King Peter never went to visit.
Slowly the casle began to sink. King Peter's advisors talked sagely of foundations and the lack of them and shook their heads and went home to their own houses where they all lived on the top floors.
Soon the sand came in through the castle windows. King Peter left the bath taps running until his bath overflowed and made his own indoor beach. He built sandcasles and sat on a deckchair in his robes and crown. Sometimes he paddled, but he always made sure to lift up his robes to save spoiling them, just as his nanny had taught him.
Soon there was so much sand in the castle that King Peter had to crawl about to avoid hitting his head on the ceiling. He pretended he was working in a coal mine. When the sand got so deep that he could only squirm about on his belly, he played caves.
Seeing that the sand had covered all the doors and windows on the ground floor, the King's advisors shook their heads more than ever and sent for a boy with a bucket and spade to dig the King out. King Peter wasn't bothered at all, he just brushed the sand from his robes, adjusted his crown, and moved in to the first floor, which was now at ground level. He chased out all the seagulls, threw their nests after them, and ate their eggs with some bread and butter.
The castle kept sinking and not so long afterwards the King was rescued from the first floor and moved into the second floor, which was now at ground level. He discovered that the builders hadn't done much at all with the upper floors, thinking the King would never see them. The second floor didn't even have any rooms, it was just a huge open space with just a few pillars to hold up the ceiling.
King Peter wasn't bothered at all. He tried out an indoor cricket pitch, but his advisors would never bowl him out in case he was cross with them, so the games went on for days until the King was too exhausted to continue. He got thousands of runs but there was nobody to tell about them.
Next he tried an indoor archery range, but having watched the king's practice shots bounce from the pillars and the ceiling, his advisors suddenly discovered that the apple harvest had been very bad that year and they couldn't find a single one to put on their heads.
Everybody was quite relieved when the second floor sank and, because there were no more, the King had to move to the tower. Now he was in the part of the castle traditionally reserved for locking up princesses. He tried calling from the window to see what it would be like. "Oh woe, will nobody rescue me?" he cried. His advisors pulled him out of the window, laid him on the sand and gave him horrible medicines. "I didn't mean it!" he spluttered and, holding his crown on with one hand, climbed back in.
At last there was nothing left of the castle but the very top of the tower and the flagpole. The King stood next to his flag, pretending to be the captain of a sinking ship. "A King always goes down with his castle," he said solemnly. Then he hopped off onto the beach. "What next?" he asked.
"I think there should be a moral at this point," said his chief advisor. "It's traditional."
King Peter patted the pockets of his robe. "I think I left it on the ground floor," he said. "If you want it you'll have to dig for it." He looked thoughtfully out to sea. "You know, I've got a really good idea for my next castle," he said. "Does stone float?"