Beauty and the Beast
A long time ago, in a far away land, a merchant was returning home, after a trip to a city at least 300 miles away from his house. As night fell, he entered the deep forest that he had to pass through on the final leg of his journey. His head was full of thoughts of his family, and his six daughters and six sons whom he was longing to see. It had been the height of summer when he had left home. Now he was returning in the depth of winter. The most bitter sleet and snow came down, and his horse stumbled on a patch of ice. He heard wolves howling, and soon he realized that he had lost his way.
At length, he made out some sort of track, and though at the beginning it was rough and slippery, it soon led him into an avenue of trees. It seemed very strange that no snow had fallen in the avenue, which was entirely composed of orange trees, covered with flowers and fruit. He saw before him a flight of steps, and he went up them into a great castle, and passed through several splendidly furnished rooms. Deep silence reigned everywhere, and at last, tired of roaming through the empty galleries, he stopped in a room smaller than the rest, where a clear fire was burning and a couch was drawn up closely to it. He sat down, and very soon fell into a sweet sleep.
When his extreme hunger wakened him, he was still alone; but a good dinner had been laid on a little table. He began to eat, hoping that he might soon have a chance of thanking his kind host, whoever it might be. But no one appeared, and even after another long sleep, there was no sign of anybody, though fruit was prepared upon the little table at his elbow. He decided to search once more through all the rooms, and he began to amuse himself by pretending that all the treasures he saw were his own, and considering how he would divide them among his children. Then he went down into the garden, and though it was winter everywhere else, here the sun shone, and the birds sang, and the flowers bloomed, and the air was soft and sweet. The merchant, thrilled with all he saw and heard, said to himself:
“All this must be meant for me. I will go this minute and bring my children to share all these delights.”
The path had a hedge of roses on each side of it, and the merchant thought he had never seen or smelt such exquisite flowers. They reminded him of a promise he had made to his youngest daughter, who was so lovely that everyone knew her as Beauty. Before departing on his journey, he had asked his daughters what presents they would like him to bring back for them. The five eldest had wished for jewels and fine clothes, but Beauty has asked merely for a single rose. Now, as he stopped to pick a rose to take home to Beauty, he was startled by a strange noise behind him. Turning round, he saw a frightful ugly Beast, which seemed to be very angry and said, in a terrible voice:
“Who told you that you might gather my roses? Was it not enough that I allowed you to be in my palace and was kind to you? This is the way you show your gratitude, by stealing my flowers! But your insolence shall not go unpunished.” The merchant, terrified by these furious words, dropped the fatal rose, and, throwing himself on his knees, cried: “Pardon me, noble sir. I am truly grateful to you for your hospitality. I could not imagine that you would be offended by my taking such a little thing as a rose.” But the Beast’s anger was not lessened by this speech.
“You are very ready with excuses and flattery,” he cried; “but that will not save you from the death you deserve.”
“Alas!” thought the merchant, “if my daughter could only know what danger her rose has brought me into!”
And in despair he began to tell the Beast of his journey, not forgetting to mention Beauty’s request.
“A king’s ransom would hardly have bought all that my other daughter’s asked.” he said: “but I thought that I might at least take Beauty her rose. I beg you to forgive me, for you see I meant no harm.”
The Beast considered for a moment, and then he said, in a less furious tone:
“I will forgive you on one condition–that is, that you will give me one of your daughters.”
“Ah!” cried the merchant, “if I were cruel enough to buy my own life at the expense of one of my children’s, what excuse could I invent to bring her here?”
“No excuse would be necessary,” answered the Beast. “If she comes at all she must come willingly. On no other condition will I have her. See if any one of them loves you well enough to come to me in exchange for your life. Go home. I give you a month to see if any of your daughters will save you. If none of them is willing, you must come alone, after bidding them good-by forever, for then you will belong to me. And do not imagine that you can hide from me, for if you fail to keep your word I will come and fetch you!” added the Beast grimly.
The poor merchant, more dead than alive, still holding Beauty’s rose, went to the stable where his horse was already saddled and ready for his journey. His horse carried him off so swiftly that in an instant he had lost sight of the palace, and he was still wrapped in gloomy thoughts when it stopped before the door of the cottage.
His sons and daughters, who had been very uneasy at his long absence, rushed to meet him, eager to know the result of his journey, which, seeing him mounted upon a splendid horse and wrapped in a rich gown, they supposed to have gone well. He hid the truth from them at first, only saying sadly to Beauty as he gave her the rose:
“Here is what you asked me to bring you; you little know what it has cost.”
But this made them all so very curious that soon he told them his adventures from beginning to end, and then they were all very unhappy. The girls wept loudly, and the sons declared that their father should not return to this terrible castle, and began to make plans for killing the Beast if it should come to fetch him. But he reminded them that he had promised to go back. Then the girls were very angry with Beauty, and said it was all her fault, and complained bitterly that they should have to suffer for her folly.
Poor Beauty, much distressed, said to them:
“I have, indeed, caused this misfortune, but I assure you I did it innocently. Who could have guessed that to ask for a rose in the middle of summer would cause so much misery? But as I made this mistake, it is only just that I should suffer for it. I will therefore go back to the Beast with my father to keep his promise.”
Her father and brothers, who loved her dearly, declared that nothing should make them let her go; but Beauty was firm. When the fatal day came she said good-by to her brothers and sisters and everything she loved. She mounted a horse together with her father, and it seemed to fly rather than gallop. They soon reached the avenue of orange trees, where statues were holding flaming torches, and when they got nearer to the palace they saw that it was illuminated from the roof to the ground, and music sounded softly from the courtyard. “The Beast must be very hungry,” said Beauty, trying to laugh, “If he makes all this rejoicing over the arrival of his victim”.
But, in spite of her fears, she could not help admiring all the wonderful things she saw.
Her father led her to the little room he had been in before, where they found a splendid fire burning, and the table daintily spread with a delicious supper.
But they had hardly finished their meal they heard the Beast’s footsteps, approaching, and Beauty clung to her father. But when the Ugly Beast appeared, though she trembled at the sight of him, she made a great effort to hide her terror, and greeted him respectfully.
This clearly pleased the Beast. After looking at her he said, in a voice that might have struck fear into the boldest heart:
“Good-evening, old man! Good-evening, Beauty!”
The merchant was too terrified to reply, but Beauty answered sweetly: “Good-evening, Beast.”
“Have you come willingly?” asked the Beast.
Beauty answered bravely that she had come willingly to save her father, and was quite prepared to stay.
“I am pleased with you,” said the Beast. “As for you, old man,” he added, turning to the merchant, “at sunrise to- morrow you will go. When the bell rings get up quickly and eat your breakfast, and you will find the same horse waiting to take you home; but remember that you must never expect to see my palace again.”
Then turning to Beauty, he said:
“Take your father into the next room, and help him to choose everything you think your brothers and sisters would like to have.”
Then he went away, after saying, “Good-by, Beauty; good-by, old man”; and they went into the next room. They were greatly surprised at the riches it contained. There were splendid dresses fit for a queen, with all the trimmings that were to be worn with them; and when Beauty opened the cupboards she was quite dazzled by the gorgeous jewels that lay in heaps upon every shelf. After choosing a vast quantity, she opened the last chest, which was full of gold.
“I think, father,” she said, “that, as the gold will be more useful to you, we had better take out the other things again, and fill the trunks with it.” So they did this; but the more they put in the more room there seemed to be, and at last the trunks were so heavy that an elephant could not have carried them!
“The Beast was mocking us,” cried the merchant; “he must have pretended to give us all these things, knowing that I could not carry them away.”
“Let us wait and see,” answered Beauty.
At sunrise, they went down into the courtyard, where two horses were waiting, one loaded with the two trunks, the other for the merchant to ride. And as soon as climbed into the saddle, he went off at such a pace that she lost sight of her father in an instant. Then Beauty began to cry, and wandered sadly back to her own room where she fell into a deep sleep.
She dreamed that she was walking by a stream when a young prince, handsomer than anyone she had ever seen, and with a voice that went straight to her heart, came and said to her, “Ah, Beauty! You are not as unlucky as you suppose. Your every wish shall be gratified. Only try to find me, no matter how I may be disguised, as I love you dearly, and in making me happy you will find your own happiness. Be as true-hearted as you are beautiful, and we shall have nothing left to wish for.”
“What can I do, Prince, to make you happy?” said Beauty.
“Only be grateful,” he answered, “and do not trust too much to your eyes. And, above all, do not leave me until you have saved me from my cruel misery.”
Beauty found her dream so interesting that she was in no hurry to awake, but presently the clock roused her by calling her name softly twelve times, and then she got up and found her dressing-table set out with everything she could possibly want; And very soon she began to think about the charming Prince she had seen in her dream.
“He said I could make him happy,” said Beauty to herself.
“It seems, then, that this horrible Beast keeps him a prisoner. How can I set him free? I don’t understand it. But, after all, it was only a dream, so why should I trouble myself about it? I had better go and find something to do to amuse myself.”
So she got up and began to explore some of the many rooms of the palace.
Beauty found her supper served just at the time she preferred to have it, but she did not see anyone or hear a sound, and she began to find it rather dull.
But presently she heard the Beast coming, and wondered tremblingly if he meant to eat her up now.
However, as he did not seem at all fierce, and only said gruffly:”Good-evening, Beauty,”
She answered cheerfully and managed to hide her terror.
Then he asked if she thought she could be happy in his palace; and Beauty answered that everything was so beautiful that she would be very hard to please if she could not be happy. And after about an hour’s talk Beauty began to think that the Beast was not nearly so terrible as she had supposed at first. Then he got up to leave her, and said in his gruff voice:
“Do you love me, Beauty? Will you marry me?”
“Oh! What shall I say?” cried Beauty, for she was afraid to make the Beast angry by refusing.
“Say `yes’ or `no’ without fear,” he replied.
“Oh! No, Beast,” said Beauty hastily.
“Since you will not, good-night, Beauty,” he said.
And she answered, “Good-night, Beast,” very glad to find that her refusal had not made me attack her. And after he was gone she was very soon in bed and asleep, and dreaming of her unknown Prince. She thought he came and said to her:
“Ah, Beauty! Why are you so unkind to me? I fear I am fated to be unhappy for many a long day still.”
And then her dreams changed, but the charming Prince appeared in them all.
This morning she decided to amuse herself in the garden, for the sun shone, and all the fountains were playing; but she was astonished to find that every place was familiar to her, and presently she came to the stream where the myrtle trees were growing where she had first met the Prince in her dream, and that made her think more than ever that he must be kept a prisoner by the Beast. When she was tired she went back to the palace, and found a new room in which there was a huge cage full of rare birds, which were so tame that they flew to Beauty as soon as they saw her, and perched upon her shoulders and her head. Some of them were parrots and cockatoos that could talk, and they greeted Beauty by name;
“Pretty little creatures,” she said, “how I wish that your cage was nearer to my room, that I might often hear you sing!
So saying she opened a door, and found, to her delight, that it led into her own room, though she had thought it was quite the other side of the palace.
After supper, the Beast paid her his usual visit, and asked her the same questions as before, and then with a gruff “good-night” he left her, and Beauty went to bed to dream of her mysterious Prince.
The days passed swiftly in different amusements. Every evening after supper the Beast came to see her, and always before saying good-night asked her in his terrible voice:
“Beauty, will you marry me?”
And it seemed to Beauty, now she understood him better, that when she said, “No, Beast,” he went away quite sad. But her happy dreams of the handsome young Prince soon made her forget the poor Beast, and the only thing that at all disturbed her was to be constantly told by her dream-prince to distrust appearances, to let her heart guide her, and not her eyes, and many other equally baffling things, which, consider as she would, she could not understand.
So everything went on for a long time, until at last, happy as she was, Beauty began to long for the sight of her father and her brothers and sisters; and one night, seeing her look very sad, the Beast asked her what was the matter. Beauty had quite ceased to be afraid of him. Now she knew that he was really gentle in spite of his ferocious looks and his dreadful voice. So she answered that she was longing to see her home once more. Upon hearing this the Beast seemed sadly distressed, and cried miserably.
“Ah! Beauty, have you the heart to desert an unhappy Beast like this? What more do you want to make you happy? Is it because you hate me that you want to escape?”
“No, dear Beast,” answered Beauty softly, “I do not hate you, and I should be very sorry never to see you anymore, but I long to see my father again. Only let me go for two months, and I promise to come back to you and stay for the rest of my life.”
The Beast, who had been sighing dolefully while she spoke, now replied:
“I cannot refuse you anything you ask, even though it should cost me my life. You may go. But remember your promise and come back when the two months are over, or you may have cause to repent it, for if you do not come in good time you will find your faithful Beast dead.
And then she went to bed, but could hardly sleep for joy. And when at last she did begin to dream of her beloved Prince she was grieved to see him stretched upon a grassy bank, sad and weary, and hardly like himself.
“What is the matter?” she cried.
He looked at her reproachfully, and said:
“How can you ask me, cruel one? Are you not leaving me to my death perhaps?”
“Ah! Don’t be so sorrowful,” cried Beauty; “I am only going to assure my father that I am safe and happy. I have promised the Beast faithfully that I will come back, and he would die of grief if I did not keep my word!”
“What would that matter to you?” said the Prince “Surely you would not care?”
“Indeed, I should be ungrateful if I did not care for such a kind Beast,” cried Beauty indignantly. “I would die to save him from pain. I assure you it is not his fault that he is so ugly.”
Just then a strange sound woke her–someone was speaking not very far away; Where could she be? She got up and dressed hastily, and then she suddenly heard her father’s voice, and rushed out and greeted him joyfully. She was home. Her brothers and sisters were all astonished to see her, as they had never expected to see her again, and there was no end to the questions they asked her. When they heard that she had only come to be with them for a short time, and then must go back to the Beast’s palace forever, they wept loudly. Then Beauty asked her father what he thought could be the meaning of her strange dreams, and why the Prince constantly begged her not to trust to appearances. After much thought, he answered: “You tell me yourself that the Beast, frightful as he is, loves you dearly, and deserves your love and gratitude for his gentleness and kindness; I think the Prince must mean you to understand that you ought to reward him by doing as he wishes you to, in spite of his ugliness.”
Beauty could not help seeing that this seemed very probable; still, when she thought of her dear Prince who was so handsome, she did not feel at all inclined to marry the Beast. At any rate, for two months she need not decide, but could enjoy herself with her sisters. But all the while, Beauty found that she constantly thought of the palace.
When the two months were almost over, her brothers begged her to stay. She found she had not the courage to disappoint them, until at last she had a dismal dream which helped her to make up her mind. She thought she was wandering in a lonely path in the palace gardens, when she heard groans which seemed to come from some bushes hiding the entrance of a cave, and running quickly to see what could be the matter, she found the Beast stretched out upon his side, apparently dying. He reproached her faintly with being the cause of his distress, and at the same moment a stately lady appeared, and said very gravely:
“Ah! Beauty, you are only just in time to save his life. See what happens when people do not keep their promises! If you had delayed one day more, you would have found him dead.”
Beauty was so terrified by this dream that the next morning she announced her plan of going back at once, and that very night she said good-by to her father and all her brothers and sisters, and as soon as she was in bed she turned her ring round upon her finger, and said firmly, “I wish to go back to my palace and see my Beast again,” as she had been told to do.
Then she fell asleep instantly, and only woke up to hear the clock saying “Beauty, Beauty” twelve times in its musical voice, which told her at once that she was really in the palace once more. Everything was just as before, and her birds were so glad to see her! But Beauty thought she had never known such a long day, for she was so anxious to see the Beast again that she felt as if suppertime would never come.
But when it did come and no Beast appeared she was really frightened; so, after listening and waiting for a long time, she ran down into the garden to search for him. Up and down the paths and avenues ran poor Beauty, calling him in vain, for no one answered, and not a trace of him could she find; until at last, quite tired, she stopped for a minute’s rest, and saw that she was standing opposite the shady path she had seen in her dream. She rushed down it, and, sure enough, there was the cave, and in it laid the Beast–asleep, as Beauty thought. Quite glad to have found him, she ran up and stroked his head, but, to her horror, he did not move or open his eyes.
“Oh! He is dead; and it is all my fault,” said Beauty, crying bitterly.
But then, looking at him again, she fancied he still breathed, and, hastily fetching some water from the near- est. fountain, she sprinkled it over his face, and, to her great delight, he began to awake.
“Oh! Beast, how you frightened me!” she cried. “I never knew how much I loved you until just now, when I feared I was too late to save your life.”
“Can you really love such an ugly creature as I am?” said the Beast faintly. “Ah! Beauty, you only came just in time. I was dying because I thought you had forgotten your promise. But go back now and rest, I shall see you again by and by.”
Beauty, who had half expected that he would be angry with her, was reassured by his gentle voice, and went back to the palace, where supper was awaiting her; and afterward the Beast came in as usual, and talked about the time she had spent with her father, asking if she had enjoyed herself, and if they had all been very glad to see her.
Beauty answered politely, and quite enjoyed telling him all that had happened to her. And when at last the time came for him to go, and he asked, as he had so often asked before, “Beauty, will you marry me?”
She answered softly, “Yes, dear Beast.”
As she spoke a blaze of light sprang up before the windows of the palace; fireworks crackled and guns banged, and across the avenue of orange trees, in letters all made of fire-flies, was written: “Long live the Prince and his Bride.”
Turning to ask the Beast what it could all mean, Beauty found that he had disappeared, and in his place stood her long-loved Prince! At the same moment the wheels of a chariot were heard upon the terrace, and two ladies entered the room. One of them Beauty recognized as the lady she had seen in her dream; the other was also so grand and queenly that Beauty hardly knew which to greet first.
But the one she already knew said to her companion:
“Well, Queen, this is Beauty, who has had the courage to rescue your son from the terrible magic spell. They love one another, and only your consent to their marriage is wanting to make them perfectly happy.”
“I agree with all my heart,” cried the Queen. “How can I ever thank you enough, charming girl, for having restored my dear son to his natural form?”
And then she tenderly embraced Beauty and the Prince, who had meanwhile been greeting the Fairy and receiving her congratulations.
“Now,” said the Fairy to Beauty, “I suppose you would like me to send for all your brothers and sisters to dance at your wedding?”
And so she did, and the marriage was celebrated the very next day with the utmost splendor, and Beauty and the Prince lived happily ever after.