Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast
Once upon a time there was a merchant who had three daughters. They lived in a nice house and had many servants. The two eldest daughters were named Marigold and Dressalinda. They weren't particularly nice and they loved to spend money. But Beauty, the youngest, preferred to stay at home with her old father.
One day, great misfortune befell the merchant, who had made his money in shipping. He found that he was no longer the richest man in the city. Now he was a very poor man. He was left with only a little house in the country where he went to live with his three daughters.
Marigold and Dressalinda were very angry at becoming so poor, but Beauty's only thought was to cheer on and encourage her old father. The two eldest sisters did nothing but sulk and complain, while Beauty swept the floors and washed the dishes. In this way a whole year passed. Then one day a letter came for the father. He relayed the good news to them. “My dear children,” he said, “at last our luck has turned. This letter says that one of the ships supposedly lost at sea has come safely home to port. If that is so, we need no longer live in poverty. I will go claim my ship. And now tell me, girls, what shall I bring you when I come back?”
“A bag of gold and silver,” said Marigold, filled with greed.
“I want fancy new clothes,” said Dressalinda.
“And what shall I bring for you, Beauty?” asked the father.
“Oh, I don't know. I think I would like a rose,” said Beauty.
The merchant looked at his daughter. “But Beauty, you can have anything. Are you sure that's all you want?”
“Well, we don't have any roses around here, and I do miss the gardens of our old place.”
Full of hope, the merchant went to the city. But when he got there, he found that he'd been tricked. No ship of his had come into harbor. With a sad heart, he began the journey home again. He was tired and miserable. He was almost home when he saw a light in the forest. He decided to make his way toward the light. He expected to find a cottage, but as he drew near the light he saw a beautiful castle! He knocked at the gates, but no one answered. So he went in on his own.
There was a big fire in the hall, and when the merchant had warmed up, he looked to see if anyone was home. Behind the first door he opened was a snug room with supper set for one. By this time, he was so hungry that he sat and ate a giant meal.
Once again the merchant started to look for the people who lived in the castle. He opened another door, but there he saw only a bed. He was so tired that he tumbled into the bed and went right to sleep.
When he woke up in the morning, the old man had something else to be happy about. By the bed were clothes with his name stitched on the pockets. He put them on and went down to the garden. It was full of lush roses: red and white and pink and yellow. As the merchant looked at them, he remembered Beauty's wish.
So he picked the biggest, brightest red rose within his reach.
As the stalk snapped in his fingers, he started back in terror, for he had heard an angry roar. The next minute a dreadful beast sprang upon him. It was taller than any man and uglier than any animal, but, most dreadful of all, it spoke to him with a man's voice. “Ungrateful wretch!” said the beast. “Have I not fed you, lodged you, and clothed you? And you repay my hospitality by stealing the only thing I care for, my roses!”
“Please forgive me!” cried the man.
“No,” said the beast, “you must die!” The poor merchant fell upon his knees and tried to think of something to say to soften the heart of the cruel beast. At last he said, “Sir, I only took this rose because when I offered my youngest daughter anything in the world, she wished for a rose.”
“Tell me about your daughter,” said the beast.
“She is the dearest and kindest child in the world,” said the old merchant. “Oh, what will my children do without me?”
“You should have thought of that before you stole the rose,” said the beast. “However, if one of your daughters loves you well enough to suffer instead of you, she may. Go back and tell them what has happened to you. But in three months' time, either you or one of your daughters must return, or I will come for all of you.”
Believing the beast must have magical powers, the merchant agreed. He thought that this would at least allow him three more months with his daughters.
Then the beast said, “You will not go empty-handed.”
So the merchant followed him back into the palace. There, on the floor of the hall, lay a great and beautiful chest of wrought silver.
With a heavy heart, the merchant went away. But as he went through the palace gate, the beast called to him that he had forgotten Beauty's rose.
When the merchant arrived home, Beauty ran to meet him at the door of their cottage. He placed the rose in her hand.
“Take it, my child,” he said, “and cherish it, for it has cost your poor father his life.” And with that he sat down and told his daughters the whole story.
“No,” said Beauty, “it is my life that shall be sacrificed. When the three months are over, I shall go to the beast. He may kill me if he will, but he will never hurt my father.”
At the end of the three months, Beauty set out for the beast's palace. Her father went with her, to show her the way. As before, he saw the lights shining through the wood. He knocked and rang in vain at the great gate. Again the door was open, so he led Beauty in and they warmed themselves at the fire in the big hall. Once more he found the little room with the supper that made them hungry just to look at it. Only this time the table was laid for two. The next moment the beast came into the room. Beauty screamed and clung to her father.
“Don't be frightened,” said the beast gently. “Tell me, do you come here of your own free will?”
“Yes,” said Beauty, trembling.
Quivering, the merchant spoke up, “I … I can't let this happen. If anyone is to be punished, it should be me.”
The beast did not even look at the merchant. “Go now,” he said, “I will give your daughter time to change her mind. If she does so, you will be sent for.”
Left alone when her father returned home to her sisters, Beauty tried not to feel frightened. She ran here and there through the palace, and found it more beautiful than anything she had ever imagined.
The most beautiful set of rooms had the words “Beauty's Rooms” written over the doors. Inside, Beauty found books and music, canary-birds and Persian cats, and everything that could be thought of to make the time pass pleasantly.
That night, when Beauty sat down to supper, the beast came in.
“May I have supper with you?” said he.
“If you like,” said Beauty.
So the beast sat down to supper with her. When it was finished, he said: “I am very ugly, Beauty. The only name I now go by is Beast. But I love you. Will you marry me?”
“No, Beast,” said Beauty gently. Poor Beast sighed and went away. Every night the same thing happened. He ate his supper with her and then asked her if she would marry him. She always replied, “No, Beast.”
One day, she saw in a magic mirror that her father was ill. That night she said to the beast, “Dear Beast, you are so good to me. Will you let me go home to see my father? He is ill, and he thinks that I am dead. Do let me go and cheer him up, and I will return to you.”
“Very well,” said the beast kindly, “but don't stay away more than a week. If you do, I shall die of grief, because I love you so dearly. Put on this ruby ring and you will be transported to your father's house.”
So in the morning, when she awoke, Beauty found herself at her father's house. The old man was beside himself with joy to see her. But her sisters did not welcome her, and when they heard how kind the beast was to her, they envied her for living in a beautiful palace.
“I wish we had gone,” said Marigold. “Beauty always gets the best of everything.”
“Tell us all about your grand palace,” said Dressalinda.
Thinking it would amuse them to hear, Beauty told them everything, and their envy increased day by day.
At last Dressalinda said to Marigold, “She has promised to return in a week. If we could only make her forget the day, the beast might be angry and kill her. Then there would be a chance for us.”
So on the day before Beauty ought to have gone back, her sisters put some poppy juice in a cup of wine, which they gave her. This made her so sleepy that she slept for two whole days and nights. At the end of that time her sleep grew troubled. She dreamed that she saw the beast lying dead among his roses. She woke up so frightened that she immediately put on the ruby ring and found herself back at the beast's palace. She looked for the beast but could not find him.
Then she ran through the gardens, calling his name again and again. Still there was silence.
Then she remembered her dream and ran to the rose garden. There lay the poor beast without any sign of life in him.
Beauty flung herself on her knees beside him. “Oh, dear Beast,” she cried, “are you really dead? Then I, too, will die, for I cannot live without you.”
Immediately the beast opened his eyes, sighed, and said, “Beauty, will you marry me?”
And Beauty, beside herself with joy when she found that he was still alive, answered, “Yes, yes, dear Beast, for I love you dearly.”
At these words the rough fur dropped to the ground, and in place of the beast, there stood a handsome Prince, dressed as if for a wedding. He knelt at Beauty's feet and clasped her hands.
“Dear Beauty,” he said, “nothing but your love could have disenchanted me. A witch turned me into a beast and condemned me to remain one until some fair and good maiden should love me well enough to marry me, in spite of my ugliness. Now, dear one, the enchantment is broken. Let us go back to my palace.” There, the Prince whispered to one of his attendants, who went out and in a very little time came back with Beauty's father and sisters.
The sisters were cursed and changed into statues. They were set out to stand at the right and left of the palace gates until their hearts softened and they felt sorry for their unkindness to their sister. But Beauty, happily married to her Prince, went secretly to the statues every day and wept over them.
Her tears softened their stony hearts. The sisters were changed into flesh and blood again, and were good and kind for the rest of their lives.
The merchant remained ill for a long time. But the good care he received in the palace, as well as the joy of having all his daughters well and happy again, allowed him to recover and regain prosperity.
And Beauty and the Beast, who was no longer a beast but a handsome Prince, lived happily ever after in a beautiful land where dreams come true.