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 There was once a merchant, who was very, very rich. He had six children, three boys and three girls, and as he was a man of good sense, he spared no expense in order that they might be well educated, and gave them masters of every kind. His daughters were all beautiful, but his youngest one was especially admired, and from the time she was a small child, had been only known and spoken of as "Beauty." The name remained with her as she grew older, which gave rise to a great deal of on the part of her sisters. The young girl was not only more beautiful than they were, but also kinder and more . The elder daughters gave themselves great airs, for they were overweeningly proud of being so rich, and would not to receive visits from the daughters of other merchants, as they only cared for the society of people in high position. Not a day passed that they did not go to a ball, or a theatre, or for a drive or walk in a fashionable part of the town, and they made fun of their sister, who spent a great part of her time in study. The girls received many offers of marriage from well-to-do merchants, as they were known to be rich, but the two elder ones replied, that they did not intend to marry anyone, unless a duke or an earl could be found for a husband.  
Beauty, the youngest, was more polite, and thanked those who asked for her hand, but she was, as she told them, too young as yet, and wished to remain for a few more years as a companion to her father.
Then, all at once, the merchant lost the whole of his fortune; nothing was left to him but a little house, far away in the country. He told his children, weeping, that they would be obliged to go and live there, and that, even then, they would have to support themselves by the work of their own hands. His two elder daughters refused to leave the town; they had many admirers, they said, who would be only too glad to marry them, although they were now without fortune. But these young ladies found themselves greatly mistaken, for their admirers did not even care to look at them, now that they were poor. They had made themselves generally disliked, on account of their behaviour. "They do not deserve to be pitied," said everyone; "we are very glad that their pride is ; let them go and play the fine lady, keeping sheep." But people differently of Beauty. "We are very sorry," they said, "that she is in trouble; she is such a good girl! she always spoke so to the poor! she was so gentle and !" Several of her suitors, also, still wished to marry her, although she had not a penny, but she told them that she could not think of leaving her father in his , and that she intended going with him into the country, to comfort him, and help with the work. Beauty was very unhappy at losing her fortune, but she said to herself, "It is no use crying, tears will not give me back my riches; I must try and be happy without them."
As soon as they were settled in their country house, the merchant and his sons began to till the ground. Beauty rose every morning at four o'clock, and made haste to clean the house and prepare the dinner. She found her duties very painful and at first, for she had not been accustomed to do the work of a servant; but in two months' time she had grown stronger, and the activity of her life gave her fresh health and colour. When her day's work was over, she amused herself with reading, or music; sometimes she sat down to her wheel, and sang to her spinning. Meanwhile her two sisters were wearied to death with the dulness of their life; they stayed in bed till ten o'clock, did nothing all day but saunter about, and for their only diversion talked with regret of their former fine clothes and friends. "Look at our young sister," they said to one another; "she is so low-minded and stupid, that she is quite content with her condition."
The good merchant thought differently: he knew that Beauty was better fitted to shine in society than they were; he admired the good qualities of his youngest child, especially her patience, for her sisters, not content with allowing her to do all the work of the house, took every opportunity of insulting her.
The family had lived in this for a year, when a letter arrived for the merchant, telling him that a , on which there was merchandise belonging to him, had arrived safely in port. The two elder girls were nearly out of their minds with joy when they heard this good news, for now they hoped that they should be able to leave the country. They begged their father, ere he departed, to bring them back dresses and , head-dresses, and all sorts of and ends of fancy . Beauty asked for nothing; for, as she thought to herself, all the money that the merchandise would bring in, would not be sufficient to pay for everything that her sisters wished for. "Is there nothing you wish me to buy for you?" her father said to her. "As you are so kind as to think of me," she replied, "I pray you to bring me a rose, for we have not one here." Now Beauty did not really care about the rose, but she had no wish to seem, by her example, to reprove her sisters, who would have said that she did not ask for anything, in order to make herself appear more considerate than they were.
The father left them, but on arriving at his destination, he had to go to law about his merchandise, and after a great deal of trouble, he turned back home as poor as he came. He had not many more miles to go, and was already enjoying, in , the pleasure of seeing his children again, when, passing on his journey through a large wood, he lost his way. It was snowing hard; the wind was so violent that he was twice blown off his horse, and, as the night was closing in, he was afraid that he would die of cold and hunger, or that he would be eaten by the wolves, that he could hear howling around him. All at once, however, he caught sight of a bright light, which appeared to be some way off, at the further end of a long avenue of trees. He walked towards it, and soon saw that it came from a splendid castle, which was brilliantly . The merchant thanked God for the help that had been sent him, and hastened towards the castle, but was greatly surprised, on reaching it, to find no one in the courtyard, or about the entrances. His horse, which was following him, seeing the door of a large stable open, went in, and finding there some hay and oats, the poor animal, half dead for want of food, began eating with avidity.
The merchant fastened him up in the stable, and went towards the house, but still no one was to be seen; he walked into a large dining-hall, and there he found a good fire, and a table laid for one person, covered with provisions. Being wet to the skin with the rain and snow, he drew near the fire to dry himself, saying, as he did so, "The master of this house, or his servants, will pardon me the liberty I am taking; no doubt they will soon appear." He waited for a considerable time; but when eleven o'clock had struck, and still he had seen no one, he could no longer resist the feeling of hunger, and seizing a chicken, he ate it up in two mouthfuls, trembling the while. Then he took a or two of wine, and, his courage returning, he left the dining-hall and made his way through several large rooms magnificently furnished. Finally he came to a room where there was a comfortable bed, and as it was now past midnight, and he was very tired, he made up his mind to shut the door and lie down.
It was ten o'clock next morning before he awoke, when, to his great surprise, he found new clothes put in place of his own, which had been completely spoiled. "This palace must certainly belong to some good fairy," he said to himself, "who, seeing my condition, has taken pity upon me." He looked out of the window; the snow was gone, and he saw instead, of delicious flowers which were a delight to the eye.
He went again into the dining-hall where he had supped the night before, and saw a little table with chocolate upon it. "I thank you, good madam fairy," he said aloud, "for your kindness in thinking of my breakfast."
The merchant, having drunk his chocolate, went out to find his horse; as he passed under a of roses, he remembered that Beauty had asked him to bring her one, and he plucked a branch on which several were growing. He had scarcely done so, when he heard a loud roar, and saw coming towards him a Beast, of such a horrible aspect, that he nearly fainted. "You are very ungrateful," said the Beast in a terrible voice; "I received you into my castle, and saved your life, and now you steal my roses, which I care for more than anything else in the world. Death alone can make for what you have done; I give you a quarter of an hour, no more, in which to ask forgiveness of God."
The merchant threw himself on his knees, and with clasped hands, said to the Beast, "I pray you, my lord, to forgive me. I did not think to offend you by picking a rose for one of my daughters, who asked me to take it her." "I am not called my lord," responded the monster, "but simply the Beast, I do not care for compliments; I like people to say what they think; so do not think to mollify me with your flattery. But you tell me you have some daughters; I will pardon you on condition that one of your daughters will come of her own free will to die in your place. Do not stop to argue with me; go! and if your daughter refuses to die for you, swear that you will return yourself in three months' time."
The merchant had no intention of sacrificing one of his daughters to this monster, but he thought, "At least I shall have the pleasure of embracing them once more." He swore therefore to return, and the Beast told him that he might go when he liked; "but," added he, "I do not wish you to go from me with empty hands. Go back to the room in which you slept, there you will find a large empty trunk; you may fill it with whatever you please, and I will have it conveyed to your house." With these words the Beast withdrew, and the merchant said to himself, "If I must die, I shall at least have the of leaving my children enough for their daily bread."
He returned to the room where he had passed the night, and finding there a great quantity of gold pieces, he filled the trunk, of which the Beast had spoken, with these, closed it, and remounting his horse, which he found still in the stable, he rode out from the castle, his sadness now as great as had been his joy on entering it. His horse carried him of its own accord along one of the roads through the forest, and in a few hours the merchant was again in his own little house.
His children gathered round him; but instead of finding pleasure in their , he began to weep as he looked upon them. He held in his hand the branch of roses which he had brought for Beauty. "Take them," he said, as he gave them to her, "your unhappy father has paid dearly for them." And then he told his family of the adventure that had befallen him.
The two elder girls, when they had heard his tale, cried and screamed, and began saying all sorts of cruel things to Beauty, who did not shed a tear. "See what the pride of this wretched little creature has brought us to!" said they. "Why couldn't she ask for wearing apparel as we did? but no, she must needs show herself off as a superior person. It is she who will be the cause of our father's death, and she does not even cry!"
"That would be of little use," replied Beauty. "Why should I cry about my father's death? He is not going to die. Since the monster is willing to accept one of his daughters, I will give myself up to him, that he may his full anger upon me; and I am happy in so doing, for by my death I shall have the joy of saving my father, and of proving my love for him."
"No, my sister," said the three brothers, "you shall not die; we will go and find out this monster, and we will either kill him or die beneath his blows." "Do not hope to kill him," said their father to them; "for the Beast is so powerful, that I fear there are no means by which he could be destroyed. My Beauty's loving[117] heart fills mine with gladness, but she shall not be exposed to such a terrible death. I am old, I have but a little while to live; I shall but lose a few years of life, which I regret on your account, and on yours alone, my children."
"I am , my father," said Beauty, "that you shall not return to that castle without me; you cannot prevent me following you. Although I am young, life has no great attraction for me, and I would far rather be by the monster than die of the grief which your death would cause me."
In vain the others tried to her, Beauty persisted in her determination to go to the castle; and her sisters were not sorry about it, for the of their young sister had aroused in them a strong feeling of jealousy.
The merchant was so taken up with grief at losing his daughter, that he quite forgot about the trunk which he had filled with gold pieces, but, to his , he had no sooner shut himself into his room for the night, than he found it beside his bed. He resolved not to tell his children of his newly-obtained riches, for he knew that his daughters would then wish to return to the town, and he had made up his mind to die where he was in the country. He his secret, however, to Beauty, who told him that there had been visitors at the house during his absence, among them two who were in love with her sisters. She begged her father to marry them; for she was so good of heart, that she loved them and freely forgave them all the unkindness they had shown her.
The two hard-hearted girls rubbed their eyes with an onion that they might shed tears on the departure of their father and Beauty; but the brothers wept sincerely, as did also the merchant; Beauty alone would not cry, fearing that it might increase their sorrow. The horse took the road that led to the castle, and as evening fell, it came in view, illuminated as before. Again the horse was the only one in the stable, and once more the merchant entered the large dining-hall, this time with his daughter, and there they found the table magnificently laid for two.
The merchant had not the heart to eat; but Beauty, doing her utmost to appear cheerful, sat down to the table and served him to something. Then she said to herself, "The Beast wants to me before he eats me, since he provides such good cheer."
They had finished their supper, when they heard a great noise, and the merchant, weeping, said farewell to his poor daughter, for he knew it was the Beast. Beauty could not help when she saw the dreadful shape approaching; but she did her best not to give way to her fear, and when the Beast asked her if it was of her own free will that she had come, she told him, trembling, that it was so. "You are very good, and I am much obliged to you," said the Beast. "Good man, to-morrow morning you will leave, and do not venture ever to come here again." "Good-bye, Beast," replied Beauty, and the Beast immediately . "! my daughter," said the merchan............
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