HE 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!"