EAUTY 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.