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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

(From the French tale by Madame Gabrielle de Villeneuve)

There was once a very rich merchant, who had six children, three boys and three girls. As he was himself a man of great sense, he spared no expense for their education, but provided them with all sorts of masters for their improvement. The three daughters were all handsome, but particularly the youngest: indeed she was so very beautiful that in her childhood every one called her the Little Beauty, and being still the same when she was grown up, nobody called her by any other name, which made her sisters very jealous of her. This youngest daughter was not only more handsome than her sisters, but was also better tempered. The two eldest were vain of being rich, and spoke with pride to those they thought below them. They gave themselves a thousand airs, and would not visit other merchants' daughters; nor would they indeed be seen with any but persons of quality. They went every day to balls, plays, and public walks, and always made game of their youngest sister for spending her time in reading, or other useful employments. As it was well known that these young ladies would have large fortunes, many great merchants wished to get them for wives; but the two eldest always answered that, for their parts, they had no thoughts of marrying any one below a duke, or an earl at least. Beauty had quite as many offers as her sisters, but she always answered with the greatest civility, that she was much obliged to her lovers, but would rather live some years longer with her father, as she thought herself too young to marry.

It happened that by some unlucky accident the merchant suddenly lost all his fortune, and had nothing left but a small cottage in the country. Upon this, he said to his daughters, while the tears ran down his cheeks all the time, "My children, we must now go and dwell in the cottage, and try to get a living by labour, for we have no other means of support." The two eldest replied that, for their parts, they did not know how to work, and would not leave town; for they had lovers enough who would be glad to marry them, though they had no longer any fortune. But in this they were mistaken; for when the lovers heard what had happened, they said, "The girls were so proud and ill-tempered, that all we wanted was their fortune; we are not sorry at all to see their pride brought down. Let them give themselves airs to their cows and sheep." But every body pitied poor Beauty, because she was so sweet-tempered and kind to all that knew her; and several gentlemen offered to marry her, though she had not a penny; but Beauty still refused, and said she could not think of leaving her poor father in this trouble and would go and help him in his labours in the country. At first Beauty could not help sometimes crying in secret for the hardships she was now obliged to suffer; but in a very short time she said to herself, "All the crying in the world will do me no good, so I will try to be happy without a fortune."

When they had removed to their cottage, the merchant and his three sons employed themselves in ploughing and sowing the fields, and working in the garden. Beauty also did her part, for she got up by four o'clock every morning, lighted the fires, cleaned the house, and got the breakfast for the whole family. At first she found all this very hard; but she soon grew quite used to it, and thought it no hardship at all; and indeed the work greatly amended her health. When she had done, she used to amuse herself with reading, playing on her music, or singing while she spun. But her two sisters were at a loss what to do to pass the time away: they had their breakfast in bed, and did not rise till ten o'clock. Then they commonly walked out; but always found themselves very soon tired; when they would often sit down under a shady tree, and grieve for the loss of their carriage and fine clothes, and say to each other, "What a mean-spirited poor stupid creature our young sister is, to be so content with our low way of life!" But their father thought in quite another way: he admired the patience of this sweet young creature; for her sisters not only left her to do the whole work of the house, but made game of her every moment.

After they had lived in this manner about a year, the merchant received a letter, which informed him that one of the richest ships, which he thought was lost, had just come into port. This news made the two eldest sisters almost mad with joy; for they thought they should now leave the cottage, and have all their finery again. When they found that their father must take a journey to the ship, the two eldest begged he would not fail to bring them back some new gowns, caps, rings, and all sorts of trinkets. But Beauty asked for nothing; for she thought in herself that all the ship was worth would hardly buy every thing her sisters wished for. "Beauty," said the merchant, "how comes it about that you ask for nothing; what can I bring you, my child?" "Since you are so kind as to think of me, dear father," she answered, "I should be glad if you would bring me a rose, for we have none in our garden." Now Beauty did not indeed wish for a rose, nor any thing else, but she only said this, that she might not affront her sisters, for else they would have said she wanted her father to praise her for not asking him for any thing. The merchant took his leave of them and set out on his journey; but when he got to the ship, some persons went to law with him about the cargo, and after a deal of trouble, he came back to his cottage as poor as he had gone away. When he was within thirty miles of his home, and thinking of the joy he should have in again meeting his children, his road lay through a thick forest, and he quite lost himself. It rained and snowed very hard, and besides, the wind was so high as to throw him twice from his horse. Night came on, and he thought to be sure he should die of cold and hunger, or be torn to pieces by the wolves that he heard howling round him. All at once, he now cast his eyes towards a long row of trees, and saw a light at the end of them, but it seemed a great way off. He made the best of his way towards it, and found that it came from a fine palace, lighted all over. He walked faster, and soon reached the gates, which he opened, and was very much surprised that he did not see a single person or creature in any of the yards. His horse had followed him, and finding a stable with the door open, went into it at once; and here the poor beast, being nearly starved, helped himself to a good meal of oats and hay. His master then tied him up, and walked towards the house, which he entered, but still without seeing a living creature. He went on to a large hall, where he found a good fire, and a table covered with some very nice dishes, and only one plate with a knife and fork. As the snow and rain had wetted him to the skin, he went up to the fire to dry himself. "I hope," said he, "the master of the house or his servants will excuse me, for to be sure it will not be long now before I see them." He waited a good time, but still nobody came: at last the clock struck eleven, and the merchant, being quite faint for the want of food, helped himself to a chicken, which he made but two mouthfuls of, and then to a few glasses of wine, yet all the time trembling with fear. He sat till the clock struck twelve, but did not see a single creature. He now took courage, and began to think of looking a little more about him; so he opened a door at the end of the hall, and went through it into a very grand room, In which there was a fine bed; and as he was quite weak and tired, he shut the door, took off his clothes, and got into it.

It was ten o'clock in the morning before he thought of getting up, when he was amazed to see a handsome new suit of clothes laid ready for him, instead of his own, which he had spoiled. "To be sure," said he to himself, "this place belongs to some good fairy, who has taken pity on my ill luck." He looked out of the window, and, instead of snow, he saw the most charming arbours covered with all kinds of flowers. He returned to the hall, where he had supped, and found a breakfast table, with some chocolate got ready for him. "Indeed, my good fairy," said the merchant aloud, "I am vastly obliged to you for your kind care of me." He then made a hearty breakfast, took his hat, and was going to the stable to pay his horse a visit; but as he passed under one of the arbours, which was loaded with roses, he thought of what Beauty had asked him to bring back to her, and so he took a bunch of roses to carry home. At the same moment he heard a most shocking noise, and saw such a frightful beast coming towards him, that he was ready to drop with fear. "Ungrateful man!" said the beast, in a terrible voice, "I have saved your life by letting you into my palace, and in return you steal my roses, which I value more than any thing else that belongs to me. But you shall make amends for your fault with your life. You shall die in a quarter of an hour." The merchant fell on his knees to the beast, and clasping his hands, said, "My lord, I humbly beg your pardon. I did not think it would offend you to gather a rose for one of my daughters, who wished to have one." "I am not a lord, but a beast," replied the monster; "I do not like false compliments, but that people should say what they think: so do not fancy that you can coax me by any such ways. You tell me that you have daughters; now I will pardon you, if one of them will agree to come and die instead of you. Go; and if your daughters should refuse, promise me that you yourself will return in three months."

The tender-hearted merchant had no thought of letting any one of his daughters die instead of him; but he knew that if he seemed to accept the beast's terms, he should at least have the pleasure of seeing them once again. So he gave the beast his promise; and the beast told him he might then set off as soon as he liked. "But," said the beast, "I do not wish you to go back empty-handed. Go to the room you slept in, and you will find a chest there; fill it with just what you like best, and I will get it taken to your own house for you," When the beast had said this, he went away; and the good merchant said to himself, "If I must die, yet I shall now have the comfort of leaving my children some riches," He returned to the room he had slept in, and found a great many pieces of gold. He filled the chest with them to the very brim, locked it, and mounting his horse, left the palace as sorry as he had been glad when he first found it. The horse took a path across the forest of his own accord, and in a few hours they reached the merchant's house. His children came running round him as he got off his horse; but the merchant, instead of kissing them with joy, could not help crying as he looked at them. He held in his hand the bunch of roses, which he gave to Beauty, saying: "Take these roses, Beauty; but little do you think how dear they have cost your poor father;" and then he gave them an account of all that he had seen or heard in the palace of the beast. The two eldest sisters now began to shed tears, and to lay the blame upon Beauty, who they said would be the cause of her father's death "See," said they, "what happens from the pride of the little wretch. Why did not she ask for fine things as we did? But, to be sure, miss must not be like other people; and though she will be the cause of her father's death, yet she does not shed a tear." "It would be of no use," replied Beauty, "to weep for the death of my father, for he shall not die now. As the beast will accept of one of his daughters, I will give myself up to him; and think myself happy in being able at once to save his life, and prove my love for the best of fathers." "No, sister," said the three brothers, "you shall not die; we will go in search for this monster, and either he or we will perish." "Do not hope to kill him," said the merchant, "for his power is far too great for you to be able to do any such thing. I am charmed with the kindness of Beauty, but I will not suffer her life to be lost. I myself am old, and cannot expect to live much longer; so I shall but give up a few years of my life, and shall only grieve for the sake of my children." "Never, father," cried Beauty, "shall you go to the palace without me; for you cannot hinder my going after you. Though young, I am not over fond of life; and I would much rather be eaten up by the monster, than die of the grief your loss would give me." The merchant tried in vain to reason with Beauty, for she would go; which, in truth, made her two sisters glad, for they were jealous of her, because everybody loved her.

The merchant was so grieved at the thoughts of losing his child, that he never once thought of the chest filled with gold; but at night, to his great surprise, he found it standing by his bedside. He said nothing about his riches to his eldest daughters, for he knew very well it would at once make them want to return to town; but he told Beauty his secret, and she then said, that while he was away, two gentlemen had been on a visit to their cottage, who had fallen in love with her two sisters. She then begged her father to marry them without delay; for she was so sweet-tempered, that she loved them for all they had used her so ill, and forgave them with all her heart. When the three months were past, the merchant and Beauty got ready to set out for the palace of the beast. Upon this, the two sisters rubbed their eyes with an onion, to make believe they shed a great many tears; but both the merchant and his sons cried in earnest. There was only Beauty who did not, for she thought that this would only make the matter worse. They reached the palace in a very few hours, and the horse, without bidding, went into the same stable as before. The merchant and Beauty walked towards the large hall, where they found a table covered with every dainty, and two plates laid ready. The merchant had very little appetite; but Beauty, that she might the better hide her grief, placed herself at the table, and helped her father; she then began herself to eat, and thought all the time that to be sure the beast had a mind to fatten her before he eat her up, as he had got such good cheer for her. When they had done their supper, they heard a great noise, and the good old man began to bid his poor child farewell, for he knew it was the beast coming to them. When Beauty first saw his frightful form, she could not help being afraid; but she tried to hide her fear as much as she could. The beast asked her if she had come quite of her own accord, and though she was now still more afraid than before, she made shift to say, "Y-e-s." "You are a good girl, and I think myself very much obliged to you." He then turned towards her father, and said to him, "Good man, you may leave the palace to-morrow morning, and take care never to come back to it again. Good night, Beauty." "Good night, beast," said she; and then the monster went out of the room.

"Ah! my dear child," said the merchant, kissing his daughter, "I am half dead already, at the thoughts of leaving you with this dreadful beast; you had better go back, and let me stay in your place." "No," said Beauty boldly, "I will never agree to that; you must go home to-morrow morning." They then wished each other good night, and went to bed, both of them thinking they should not be able to close their eyes; but as soon as ever they had laid down, they fell into a deep sleep, and did not wake till morning. Beauty dreamed that a lady came up to her, who said, "I am very much pleased, Beauty, with the goodness you have shown, in being willing to give your life to save that of your father; and it shall not go without a reward." As soon as Beauty awoke, she told her father this dream; but though it gave him some comfort, he could not take leave of his darling child without shedding many tears. When the merchant got out of sight, Beauty sat down in the large hall, and began to cry also; yet she had a great deal of courage, and so she soon resolved not to make her sad case still worse by sorrow, which she knew could not be of any use to her, but to wait as well as she could till night, when she thought the beast would not fail to come and eat her up. She walked about to take a view of all the palace, and the beauty of every part of it much charmed her.

But what was her surprise, when she came to a door on which was written, Beauty's room! She opened it in haste, and her eyes were all at once dazzled at the grandeur of the inside of the room. What made her wonder more than all the rest was a large library filled with books, a harpsichord, and many other pieces of music. "The beast takes care I shall not be at a loss how to amuse myself," said she. She then thought that it was not likely such things would have been got ready for her, if she had but one day to live; and began to hope all would not turn out so bad as she and her father had feared. She opened the library, and saw these verses written in letters of gold on the back of one of the books:

"Beauteous lady, dry your tears,
Here's no cause for sighs or fears;
Command as freely as you may,
Enjoyment still shall mark your sway."

"Alas!" said she, sighing, "there is nothing I so much desire as to see my poor father and to know what he is doing at this moment," She said this to herself; but just then by chance, she cast her eyes on a looking-glass that stood near her, and in the glass she saw her home, and her father riding up to the cottage in the deepest sorrow. Her sisters came out to meet him, but for all they tried to look sorry, it was easy to see that in their hearts they were very glad. In a short time all this picture went away out of the glass: but Beauty began to think that the beast was very kind to her, and that she had no need to be afraid of him. About the middle of the day, she found a table laid ready for her; and a sweet concert of music played all the time she was eating her dinner without her seeing a single creature. But at supper, when she was going to seat herself at table, she heard the noise of the beast, and could not help trembling with fear. "Beauty," said he, "will you give me leave to see you sup?" "That is as you please," answered she, very much afraid. "Not in the least," said the beast; "you alone command in this place. If you should not like my company, you need only to say so, and I will leave you that moment. But tell me, Beauty, do you not think me very ugly?" "Why, yes," said she, "for I cannot tell a story; but then I think you are very good." "You are right," replied the beast; "and, besides being ugly, I am also very stupid: I know very well enough that I am but a beast."

"I should think you cannot be very stupid," said Beauty, "if you yourself know this." "Pray do not let me hinder you from eating," said he; "and be sure you do not want for any thing; for all you see is yours, and I shall be vastly grieved if you are not happy." "You are very kind," said Beauty: "I must needs own that I think very well of your good nature, and then I almost forget how ugly you are." "Yes, yes, I hope I am good-tempered," said he, "but still I am a monster." "There are many men who are worse monsters than you are," replied Beauty; "and I am better pleased with you in that form, though it is so ugly, than with those who carry wicked hearts under the form of a man." "If I had any sense," said the beast, "I would thank you for what you have said; but I am too stupid to say any thing that would give you pleasure." Beauty ate her supper with a very good appetite, and almost lost all her dread of the monster; but she was ready to sink with fright, when he said to her, "Beauty, will you be my wife?" For a few minutes she was not able to speak a word, for she was afraid of putting him in a passion, by refusing. At length she said, "No, beast." The beast made no reply, but sighed deeply, and went away. When Beauty found herself alone, she began to feel pity for the poor beast. "Dear!" said she, "what a sad thing it is that he should be so very frightful, since he is so good-tempered!"

Beauty lived three months in this palace, very well pleased. The beast came to see her every night, and talked with her while she supped; and though what he said was not very clever, yet as she saw in him every day some new mark of his goodness, so instead of dreading the time of his coming, she was always looking at her watch, to see if it was almost nine o'clock; for that was the time when he never failed to visit her. There was but one thing that vexed her; which was that every night, before the beast went away from her, he always made it a rule to ask her if she would be his wife, and seemed very much grieved at her saying no. At last, one night, she said to him, "You vex me greatly, beast, by forcing me to refuse you so often; I wish I could take such a liking to you as to agree to marry you, but I must tell you plainly, that I do not think it will ever happen. I shall always be your friend; so try to let that make you easy." "I must needs do so then," said the beast, "for I know well enough how frightful I am; but I love you better than myself. Yet I think I am very lucky in your being pleased to stay with me; now promise me, Beauty, that you will never leave me." Beauty was quite struck when he said this, for that very day she had seen in her glass that her father had fallen sick of grief for her sake, and was very ill for the want of seeing her again. "I would promise you, with all my heart," said she, "never to leave you quite; but I long so much to see my father, that if you do not give me leave to visit him I shall die with grief." "I would rather die myself, Beauty," answered the beast, "than make you fret; I will send you to your father's cottage, you shall stay there, and your poor beast shall die of sorrow." "No," said Beauty, crying, "I love you too well to be the cause of your death; I promise to return in a week. You have shown me that my sisters are married, and my brothers are gone for soldiers, so that my father is left all alone. Let me stay a week with him." "You shall find yourself with him to-morrow morning," replied the beast; "but mind, do not forget your promise. When you wish to return you have nothing to do but to put your ring on a table when you go to bed. Good-bye, Beauty!" The beast then sighed as he said these words, and Beauty went to bed very sorry to see him so much grieved. When she awoke in the morning, she found herself in her father's cottage. She rung a bell that was at her bedside, and a servant entered; but as soon as she saw Beauty, the woman gave a loud shriek; upon which the merchant ran up stairs, and when he beheld his daughter he was ready to die of joy. He ran to the bedside, and kissed her a hundred times. At last Beauty began to remember that she had brought no clothes with her to put on; but the servant told her she had just found in the next room a large chest full of dresses, trimmed all over with gold, and adorned with pearls and diamonds.

Beauty in her own mind thanked the beast for his kindness, and put on the plainest gown she could find among them all. She then told the servant to put the rest away with a great deal of care, for she intended to give them to her sisters; but as soon as she had spoken these words the chest was gone out of sight in a moment. Her father then said, perhaps the beast chose for her to keep them all for herself; and as soon as he had said this, they saw the chest standing again in the same place. While Beauty was dressing herself, a servant brought word to her that her sisters were come with their husbands to pay her a visit. They both lived unhappily with the gentlemen they had married. The husband of the eldest was very handsome; but was so very proud of this, that he thought of nothing else from morning till night, and did not attend to the beauty of his wife. The second had married a man of great learning; but he made no use of it, only to torment and affront all his friends, and his wife more than any of them. The two sisters were ready to burst with spite when they saw Beauty dressed like a princess, and look so very charming. All the kindness that she showed them was of no use; for they were vexed more than ever, when she told them how happy she lived at the palace of the beast. The spiteful creatures went by themselves into the garden, where they cried to think of her good fortune. "Why should the little wretch be better off than we?" said they. "We are much handsomer than she is." "Sister," said the eldest, "a thought has just come into my head: let us try to keep her here longer than the week that the beast gave her leave for: and then he will be so angry, that perhaps he will eat her up in a moment." "That is well thought of," answered the other, "but to do this we must seem very kind to her." They then made up their minds to be so, and went to join her in the cottage where they showed her so much false love, that Beauty could not help crying for joy.

When the week was ended, the two sisters began to pretend so much grief at the thoughts of her leaving them, that she agreed to stay a week more; but all that time Beauty could not help fretting for the sorrow that she knew her staying would give her poor beast; for she tenderly loved him, and much wished for his company again. The tenth night of her being at the cottage she dreamed she was in the garden of the palace, and that the beast lay dying on a grass plot, and, with his last breath, put her in mind of her promise, and laid his death to her keeping away from him; Beauty awoke in a great fright, and burst into tears. "Am not I wicked," said she, "to behave so ill to a beast who has shown me so much kindness; why will I not marry him? I am sure I should be more happy with him than my sisters are with their husbands. He shall not be wretched any longer on my account; for I should do nothing but blame myself all the rest of my life,"

She then rose, put her ring on the table, got into bed again, and soon fell asleep. In the morning she with joy found herself in the palace of the beast. She dressed herself very finely, that she might please him the better, and thought she had never known a day pass away so slow. At last the clock struck nine, but the beast did not come. Beauty then thought to be sure she had been the cause of his death in earnest. She ran from room to room all over the palace, calling out his name, but still she saw nothing of him. After looking for him a long time, she thought of her dream, and ran directly towards the grass plot; and there she found the poor beast lying senseless and seeming dead. She threw herself upon his body, thinking nothing at all of his ugliness; and finding his heart still beat, she ran and fetched some water from a pond in the garden, and threw it on his face. The beast then opened his eyes, and said: "You have forgot your promise, Beauty. My grief for the loss of you has made me resolve to starve myself to death; but I shall die content, since I have had the pleasure of seeing you once more." "No, dear beast," replied Beauty, "you shall not die; you shall live to be my husband: from this moment I offer to marry you, and will be only yours. Oh! I thought I felt only friendship for you; but the pain I now feel, shows me that I could not live without seeing you."

The moment Beauty had spoken these words, the palace was suddenly lighted up, and music, fireworks, and all kinds of rejoicings, appeared round about them. Yet Beauty took no notice of all this, but watched over her dear beast with the greatest tenderness. But now she was all at once amazed to see at her feet, instead of her poor beast, the handsomest prince that ever was seen, who thanked her most warmly for having broken his enchantment. Though this young prince deserved all her notice, she could not help asking him what was become of the beast. "You see him at your feet, Beauty," answered the prince, "for I am he. A wicked fairy had condemned me to keep the form of a beast till a beautiful young lady should agree to marry me, and ordered me, on pain of death, not to show that I had any sense. You, alone, dearest Beauty, have kindly judged of me by the goodness of my heart; and in return I offer you my hand and my crown, though I know the reward is much less than what I owe you." Beauty, in the most pleasing surprise, helped the prince to rise, and they walked along to the palace, when her wonder was very great to find her father and sisters there, who had been brought by the lady Beauty had seen in her dream. "Beauty," said the lady (for she was a fairy), "receive the reward of the choice you have made. You have chosen goodness of heart rather than sense and beauty; therefore you deserve to find them all three joined in the same person. You are going to be a great Queen: I hope a crown will not destroy your virtue."

"As for you, ladies," said the fairy to the other two sisters, "I have long known the malice of your hearts, and the wrongs you have done. You shall become two statues; but under that form you shall still keep your reason, and shall be fixed at the gates of your sister's palace; and I will not pass any worse sentence on you than to see her happy. You will never appear in your own persons again till you are fully cured of your faults; and to tell the truth, I am very much afraid you will remain statues for ever."

At the same moment, the fairy, with a stroke of her wand, removed all who were present to the young prince's country, where he was received with the greatest joy by his subjects. He married Beauty, and passed a long and happy life with her, because they still kept in the same course of goodness from which they had never departed.

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A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley

Classic Fairy Tales 
by Scott Gustafson (Illustrator)