Beauty and the Beast
retold by Robert Hoffman
In a time that is now nearly forgotten, there lived a wealthy merchant. Every business he was associated with was a success. In time, all of the possessions that he and his family felt they so richly deserved had been accomplished. Though happiness was a large part of their lives, tragedy was never far behind. The merchant, Jean-Pierre, lost his wife to consumption and he was left with a dozen children -- six boys and six girls. And thinking that money could be substituted for a mother's love, he tried to please his children by the giving of gifts and the granting of each of their desires - no matter how fanciful.
Their friends and acquaintances would readily display their jealousy by taking every opportunity to take advantage of them. But even with that, there was so much money that it mattered little. Then in the fall of the year when the bounty should have been greatest, tragedy began to overtake the merchant and his family.
As most successful businessmen of the kingdom, his business interests spread over the country and across the sea. The great unraveling began when his ships at sea were attacked by pirates with great loss of life. Those ships that were not attacked foundered on foreign shoals.
Even this tremendous loss was not enough to seriously damage his wealth, but some of his employees proved to be thieves and dealt him a great blow by stealing money with abandon.
When his crops were destroyed by wind, hail and rain, there was nothing left of the vast empire he had once controlled. Creditors soon found their way to his door and the house in the city with the carriage and horses soon went the way of the wayward clerks, destroyed ships, and damaged crops.
When Jean-Pierre took an accounting he found the only property he had left was an obscure farm he had taken in a court action against a competitor. The only reason this remained was that the ownership was hidden deep within the legal papers and in desperation he moved his family to the country.
His children were disappointed that their lives in the city were ended but consoled themselves with the belief that they would live as wealthy landowners. When they arrived at the farm, this belief vanished - for the farm was not a country estate as they mistakenly believed but a dilapidated house on a patch of mean earth that never had grown crops of sufficient bounty to warrant even calling it a farm.
Without any available options, Jean-Pierre moved his family to the farm and they began to try to earn a living where so many had failed before. It was a mean existence with the farm providing just enough to keep them fed - and little more. The children lamented endlessly their fall in stature and took to criticizing their father and each other. All except the youngest daughter, Marie.
Marie, whose beauty and temperament were a mirror of her mother's, was endlessly cheery and tried to console her brothers and sisters with a smile and a happy thought. Though they resented her optimism, each of them knew how wonderful it was to have her around and envied her appearance to the extent that no one even called her Marie but simply called her Beauty. Though it had started as a jest, in time they realized that she deserved the name.
Word came from Paris that one of the ships her father had assumed was lost, had arrived back in town with a cargo of riches from the East still intact. The children, thinking that their times of trouble were over, implored their father to bring them something from the city that might serve to brighten the darkness and remind them that they were of the city and lived in this desolation only out of a sense of duty to their father. Jean-Pierre thinking this might be a good idea, asked each of them to tell him the one thing that they had missed most about their former lives. Henri and James spoke for their brothers and asked for fine clothes that they might catch the ladies' fancy at the annual ball held in the nearby town. Antoinette, being the eldest, asked her sisters what they desired most of their former lives. Some of the girls longed for jewels, some for fragrance, and some for dainty food they had missed so sorely. When ``he asked Marie, she responded, "I want nothing. I have a good roof over my head and food on the table. Spend the money on the others."
Their father overhearing the conversation interjected, "What? There is nothing you want? Please, Beauty, tell me what you desire. After all we may never have another chance like this."
"Father, I want nothing. Still, being that it is the middle of summer and the flowers should be in bloom, will you bring me a rose? I have always loved them so and there simply are not many around here."
Jean-Pierre thought to himself that he was proud of his youngest child and holding her close he whispered in her ear, "Of course. I will grant your request."
With a feeling that all would be right when he reached town, he mounted his horse and headed toward the city. The road loomed before him and all that day he traveled as quickly as he could with the feeling of increasing optimism overwhelming him.
His mind, always active, was set loose by the prospect of the riches the ship represented. If he could get sufficient capital, he might start to reclaim some of what had been lost. Plans and schemes dominated his vision on his way to the city and when he saw the large buildings looming in the evening sun, he was surprised at how quickly his journey had gone.
But, as things had been going badly for him in the city, they continued to do so. When he arrived, he discovered that his former partners had claimed the ship's cargo as their own and had soon dispersed whatever wealth there was.
Seeking justice, Jean-Pierre contacted his lawyer and brought the men who had stolen his property to court. But, as sometimes happens, justice was not served. The partners argued successfully that his abandonment of the city meant that whatever he left behind was to be divided between the partners and creditors. Incensed at the injustice, Jean-Pierre argued tearfully for the restoring of his wealth, but to no avail. All was lost and there was nothing that he could do.
Paying the landlord for the three months he had stayed at his boarding house with the last of his money, he turned his horse toward home. The weather, so pleasant when he had left home, was beginning its turn toward winter. As he rode the horse, he could see the great horse's breath condense in the air and form clouds around the animal's head. Pulling his cloak more closely, he continued his journey for home.
Reaching disconsolately into his pocket, he felt the accumulation of dust, and nothing more. Every coin he had brought with him was gone. Having no money to pay for an inn, he traveled into the darkness of the night.
Crossing the last of the bridges that led to the city, he felt the country encompass him once again. The air, which had been turning colder, suddenly was filled with snow. The white flakes blew so fiercely that he lost sight of the road. But, what choice had he? He continued his journey.
When the snow diminished enough for him to see the road, he discovered that he had wandered off the path and was now hopelessly lost in the darkest wood he could imagine. Turning his head this way and that he searched for a light or some sign of human habitation: there were none. With little choice in the matter, he continued his journey.
Suddenly a light seemed to sparkle in the distance. He stood upright in the saddle and strained his eyes to see. Yes, it was a light. A clear light. Spurring his horse to a faster pace, his heart lightened a little. Though he no longer had the prospect of wealth to goad him on, he did realize that if he could find some shelter from this treacherous night, he might survive.
The sparkling light drew him on. As his horse continued the journey, the light grew ever greater. Finally, he saw the lantern responsible for his optimism. It seemed the light was on a lamppost and he looked at the remarkable fixture with studied eyes. His cloak, which he had buttoned as securely as possible, now seemed to be too tight and he loosed it from around his neck. The great billows of frost-induced breath from his horse have gone and now he felt warm.
Stepping from the horse he sought an answer in the green grass surrounding the light. His horse, famished from having been ridden so far without food, eagerly attacked the tussock and the man rested on the soft green grass for a long time.
Lying back in the soft grass, he stared at the stars above and quietly questioned his maker about why he was treating him so disrespectfully. Finding no answers, he closed his eyes and would have spent the night caressed by the soft winds and lying on a blanket of soft grass. But, out of the corner of his eye he saw another light wink on in the night. As his attention was drawn to that light, another was lit. It was as if there were a lamplighter performing his service before his eyes. As the man watched, the lights lit a boulevard into the distance.
He walked to his horse, which now seemed to be refreshed for having eaten the green grass and quenched its thirst from the clear stream nearby, and mounted. He had decided to follow the lights to see where they might lead him.
In the still of that evening his horse's footfalls made a steady beat that was not echoed by the trees. Instead it simply died without resonating. Soon even the horse seemed to walk more quietly to keep from disturbing the overwhelming silence of the strange lighted boulevard in the darkness of the deep woods.
As Jean-Pierre traveled along, his eyes darted from inlaid flagstones forming the boulevard to the surrounding ornamental trees. Each of the trees seemed to be a miniature specie of some fruit-bearing tree. Pears, apples, and even oranges from the tropics were present. Those trees that were not bearing fruit were in the midst of their blossoms giving the air a fragrance that Jean-Pierre inhaled deeply.
Ahead he could see the boulevard turn and when he rounded the corner his eyes were filled with the sight of a tremendous castle surrounded by well-kept gardens and parkways filled with fountains and statuary.
With a lighter heart, but still full of questions, he continued his journey toward the strange castle. Seeing the paddocks that surrounded one of the buildings he headed his horse in that direction thinking that if he could get the animal bedded down for the night, he might also sleep in the hay that was sure to be present in such a rich and prosperous courtyard.
Finding the door open, he led his horse in and removed the saddle and bridle. The animal shook mightily to remove the feel of them from his body. The man found a store of both hay and oats and scooping a small amount of oats, he placed it in the feeding trough for the animal. Finding a cistern outside the door he took the ladle that was attached by a small silver chain and filled the horse's water trough to the brim.
With the animal taken care of, he removed his cloak and tried to settle himself for the night. It was in his mind to offer thanks for the gifts to the lord of the manor in the morning. His horse soon ate and drank his fill and lay down for the night on the clean straw. Occasionally the man could hear the animal move and take a mouthful of the clean hay he had placed near him and munch it happily.
Just as the man was about to sleep, a small light appeared outside of the stable. Rising quickly he donned his cloak and thought to make an apology at his intrusion. As he neared the door to the stable, it opened mysteriously. Walking through he saw that the light he had believed was hung outside of the stable was in fact a lantern and appeared to be moving toward the castle. He followed.
As he walked in the darkness of the moonless night, his mind sought answers to the questions that seemed to be so important to him. What was this mysterious place? Who is the master of this splendid domain? He simply had no answer and so continued following the light until it reached the entrance to the castle.
When he arrived, the door opened for him and in the same fashion that the lights were lit on the boulevard, candles sprung to life before his eyes and he followed them. Though he sought the darkness for the person responsible, he never was rewarded for his effort: the lights seemed to simply be lit.
Up the staircase he could see them move and he followed as quickly as he could. Thinking that if he ran a little faster, he might catch up with the mysterious lamplighter, he began to run. To no avail; for the faster he ran, the more quickly the candles were lit.
Finally after wandering several passageways he was led into a corridor where the light seemed to vanish. Slowing his pace, he approached the last of the lit candles. Looking behind he could see little in the darkness for apparently the candles were extinguished as soon as Jean-Pierre passed. Looking to the right he saw that a candle had been lit in a sconce near the open doorway of a room. Walking into the room he saw that it was a bedroom.
A large canopy bed such as the most important lord in the country would sleep in greeted him. To the left, in a marble fireplace, someone had lit a clear fire and it burned and snapped merrily. Near the fire a table was prepared with dainty food served elegantly. Not knowing what to think he sat on the bed and looked at the fire, the candle, and the food. The food smelled marvelous and though he had taken care to feed his horse, he himself had not eaten since morning. His stomach growled and with little choice in the matter, he sat and ate a splendid supper.
The soup was warm and filling. The rolls were light and tender. The entree served notice that the chef was one worthy of the splendid surroundings. Finishing his dinner with a marvelous fruit tart with sumptuous amounts of whipped cream, he sat back and drank the best tea he had ever had.
Satisfied and content, the man turned the covers down on the bed and crawled in and slept a dreamless sleep surrounded by elegance that he had never experience before. Though up until recently he had been considered a rich man: his wealth was a pittance compared to the grandiose surroundings he found himself in.
Slippers had been provided for him and he placed them on his feet as he got out of bed. Reaching for his clothes, he found that they had been removed and replaced with a robe of the softest linen. He snugged it tightly around his waist and looked over the rest of the room. The fire had been replenished and greeted him with a merry cheer. A breakfast of the most elegant cakes and sweet rolls he had seen since his life in the city was abruptly ended was laid on the table and he sat in the comfortable chair and drank warm tea and ate the provided sweets.
He could not understand why he was being treated with such hospitality. But, as much as he wondered about it; he also was enjoying the experience. Taking the china cup containing the tea in hand, he went to the window to see what wonders the lands surrounding would provide.
Everywhere he looked, he saw well-tilled fields, orchards, and a splendid vineyard. Looking to the stable he saw his horse playfully running in the paddock. Placing his cup back on the table, he searched the room for his clothes. In a closet covered with a heavy velvet curtain of the richest purple he found his clothes - completely cleaned and with the stains of the road removed. On closer inspection he noticed that the little tears brambles and briars had inflicted during travel had been mended so expertly that he could not longer find evidence of their ever having been there.
Dressing quickly he left the room and wandered the halls until he found the staircase and went down the stairs. Every few steps he called out, "Is there anyone here? Hello, can I have a word with you?" But his cries were ignored. When he had completed walking down the staircase, he noticed that the front door swinging open.
He left the house and moved toward the paddock. When he reached the gate, the horse ran to him. Jean-Pierre stroked the animal's muzzle and whispered soft words. Taking the bridle in hand he led the horse into the stable. Retrieving the blanket and saddle, he quickly placed these on the animal. The horse was so contented that it allowed him to cinch the saddle to him without protest.
Raising himself into the saddle he directed the horse out of the stable and decided to head for home. While his stay in the castle had been pleasant, there was a feeling that he was an intruder on some play in which he had no part.
The pathway lay before him and he spurred the horse to action. After a few minutes he noticed the most beautiful roses he had ever seen growing. Thinking that, at the least, he could fulfill Beauty's wish, he stopped the horse and dismounted.
Choosing the most perfect of the flowers he broke the stem gently in his fingers being careful to avoid the thorns. As the rose was broken, the sky darkened and he felt a presence behind him. Turning quickly he saw the most hideous beast he had ever seen standing directly behind.
It was not an animal in the sense that he understood animals. Clearly it was or had been a man at one time. But, for reasons unknown to him something had changed the man until he was more animal than human. Still, he retained the aspect of a human with the appearance of an animal. Large canine teeth extended through his lips and dripped viscous fluid onto what would have been its chest. Instead of hands it featured the most hideous claws. Instead of clothing it wore only the tattered remains of what must have been fine clothes at one time.
On the whole its face had the aspect of a boar. Its pig snout was turned up and its eyes stared disconsolately at the man. Its voice was as rough as the edge of the North Wind as it said, "Why? After all that you have been given, why do you choose to take that which does not belong to you?"
"Yes, the rose. Look at it well and admire it for it is likely the last thing you see before you die."
Jean-Pierre fell to his knees and began to plead for forgiveness. "What? You would kill me over a simple flower. I meant no harm."
"If you meant no harm, why did you rip its stem from the plant?"
"It was to be a gift."
Jean-Pierre began telling his tale of woe to the beast. His words rushed out of his mouth as if a torrent of spring rain rushing down the valleys of the castle. All the while he was talking the beast moved closer. Jean-Pierre assumed it was to move into position for the kill. Still, he continued his story. When he reached the part where the only thing that Marie wanted was a summer rose, the beast backed up a little.
"This is no lie you are telling me?"
"I swear. All of my other children wanted to reclaim their lost glory. Beauty, I mean Marie, only wanted something beautiful to share for a few moments."
"Yes, we call her Beauty because she is the most beautiful and kind of my children. It started as a joke but if any living person every deserved the appellation, Marie does."
"Listen man. I am lonely here in this house and I have a bargain for you. If you will ask your girls if one of them is willing to come here in your place, I will not kill you."
"Never. Take me now! What kind of man do you think I am that would sacrifice one of his children so that I might live."
"Relax there is time. In the morning, take the horse and return home. If, after thirty days, one of them is not willing, you must return and I will take my vengeance then. And don't think that you can ignore my summons. If you do I will come and seek my vengeance not only on your worthless soul, but on all who dwell in your house." Saying this the beast let out a mighty roar which caused Jean-Pierre to cover his ears in fear. Gathering what little courage he had left he asked, "Why bother? Kill me now and be done with it."
"No, you are to return home and tell your tale."
Saying this the beast retreated. Jean-Pierre looked at the back of the beast as it walked toward the castle. The idea of hopping on the horse and making a run for it was in his mind. Stepping into the stirrup he heaved himself onto the back of the horse. Taking the reins in hand, he whistled. The horse simply stood still.
Taking the excess of reins in hand he swatted the animal on its rear quarter. Still, the horse remained stationary. The beast turned and motioned with his hand and the horse moved to the paddock without further direction.
"You may rest easy for the evening. In the morning, your horse will return you to your home. But I must caution you not to leave your room until you hear the sound of the golden bell greeting the day."
Jean-Pierre sighed. Although the surroundings were certainly most gracious, the idea that he was a prisoner in this finest of prisons was never far from his thoughts. Returning to his room, he found a splendid supper arrayed on the table by the fireplace. Tears welled in his eyes as he sat on the bed and thought about what he had seen and heard. It was obvious that the castle was under some powerful enchantment. And this beast, who was he? With no answers available, Jean-Pierre ate a little of the supper, removed his clothes, and went to sleep.
It would be easy to say that he slept poorly but that would not be accurate. The truth is that his sleep was undisturbed and most pleasant. When the golden bell signaled the beginning of the new day he stretched lazily in the bed until he remembered the events of yesterday. Fear came over him and he began to shake uncontrollably. When the door opened and the beast appeared, Jean-Pierre was beside himself.
The beast looked at the man with something akin to pity. But, mastering his emotions he said, "It is time. Your horse is ready. Remember what I said yesterday. If, at the end of thirty days, you are not present: I will come and seek you. By the way, here is a rose I have selected for Beauty. It is the best of all I own. Give it to her with love."
Jean-Pierre mounted his good horse and taking the reins in hand, he shook them a little. His horse, now completely refreshed, bolted down the boulevard at a heady pace. As the trees and fountains flew by, Jean-Pierre knew that he would be home before the sun had risen to the midpoint of the ever circling arc of blue.
Two - Being the second part of Beauty and the Beast
In the time that their father had been gone, life on the farm had settled into a daily ritual of living. Farming the hardscrabble land simply left little time for idleness. It seemed that something always needed attention. If it wasn't the animals, it was the crops: if these failed to call for enough attention, it seemed the ramshackle house always needed some repair.
The children tried to not let their minds wander too much into what their father would find in the city. Though the prospect of returning to a life of plenty was most attractive, reality had served to be a cruel teacher and they had almost learned their lesson. Still, their fantasies would simply not be that easily quelled.
The boys longed for the excitement of dating and sporting events. The girls for the touch of elegance they had learned to expect. As they performed their duties these thoughts crept in and served to keep them on edge. Though they tried, they simply could not totally ignore them.
As the time began to linger, they began to become more concerned. When weeks turned to months, they began to fear that something dreadful had happened. Perhaps their father had fallen prey to thieves on the highway. Maybe some dire illness had beset him and he was bravely trying to recover without anyone to care for him.
When their father's horse was heard on the road leading to the farm their hearts rejoiced for at last salvation from this mean existence was at hand. As he pulled the horse close to the barn, the children could tell by his demeanor that his journey had been unsuccessful. His eyes refused to meet theirs and his expression was one of great sadness.
After explaining the events that had transpired in the city, he took the rose he had plucked from the Beast's garden from the inside of his jacket pocket and gave it to Beauty. "If you only knew what this rose cost . . ." He said as he handed it to her.
"What do you mean, Father?"
Refusing at first to answer their questions, he finally told them the story of the fearful monster he had encountered. Beauty's brothers and sisters admonished her for her selfishness and the tears welled in her eyes. "I will go. Even though I thought that asking for a blooming rose in the middle of summer was the easiest request of all. Still, since I seem to be the cause of my father's misfortune, it seems to be my duty to give myself to this beast."
The family would hear nothing of it but as the days progressed until their father would have to return, the thought became less terrible. Finally after Beauty had steadfastly insisted that she would accompany her father anyway, the family relented. After dividing her few possessions among them, she returned to her room to prepare herself for the journey in the morning.
With great sadness and many tears Beauty bid farewell to her sisters and brothers. Mounting the horse behind her father, she closed her eyes as the miles began to separate them from the farm and her home.
The horse, though the man did not know the way, seemed to be able to find its way to the castle unerringly. For the entire day they had followed the highway without incident. As the shadows deepened, the horse began to slow its pace and search the dark forest for some sign. Finding what it was looking for the horse turned off the road into the deep wood, the man questioned this and tried to pull on the reins to direct him back to the road. Instead the horse continued moving into the darkness of the forest.
The deeper they moved into the darkness the wider the path became. The shadows continued to grow until the world was nearly encased in darkness. Soon Jean-Pierre saw a flickering light in the distance. It appeared to be the same light he had seen that fateful night. The horse quickened its pace and eventually the simple forest path had become a magnificent boulevard that was broad and lighted by magnificent lamps on either side.
At the end of the boulevard the castle glowed with a mysterious light. It was as if the stones of the castle were themselves lighted from within. "That is the castle, Beauty."
"Yes, it is. But the outside of the castle cannot compare to the wonders it holds inside."
Beauty heard these words and thought about them. She felt that her doom was certain and though the beautiful boulevard and fantastic castle served to increase her wonder, she still believed that she would be killed on the morrow and a tear formed in the corner of her eye.
Suddenly the air was filled with music and the night sky with tremendous fireworks. One after another the fireworks shot into the air and ringed the castle mysteriously. "The beast must be hungry to greet his victim so elegantly."
Her father said nothing but simply held onto the reins and watched as the horse turned toward the stable. When it was outside of the door, Beauty and her father dismounted.
The beast walked through the door and greeted them, "Welcome. You must be Beauty. Did you come of your own free will?"
"Yes, I did, Beast." She said her voice cracking nervously.
"Will you stay?"
"Yes, I will stay in my father's place."
"Good, that is what I had hoped for. Let me show you to your rooms as you must be tired. We will talk in the morning."
Following behind the beast they moved into the castle. Taking the stairway they walked through many elegant passageways until they reached an open door.
Showing them inside the beast pointed to the table near the blazing fire and said, "I have had a meal prepared for you. Beauty, your room is through this door. Now I take my leave of you but I will return in the morning."
With the dawn came the call of a crystal bell in the stillness of the castle. Beauty and her father had slept dreamlessly as they were very tired from their journey. Jean-Pierre was feeling very sad about sacrificing his daughter to the dreadful beast. Even the call of the crystal and brightness of the morning sun failed to make these feelings any less overpowering.
Beauty stretched lazily on the feather bed and felt its warm softness envelope her once more. The chiming of the bell announcing the day brought that same optimism and happiness with which she always greeted the morning. Smiling she stepped from the bed into elegant slippers that had been placed at the side of the bed for her convenience lest her tender feet should meet the cold floor of the bed chamber. The slippers fit perfectly and the lining of softest mink caressed her feet gently.
Moving through the passage between rooms, she greeted her father, "Good morning, Father."
"Morning, Beauty." He did not ask how she slept for he was certain she had fallen into the strange dreamless sleep he had experienced. Moving across the room, he held out his arms. She moved closer and hugged him gently. "It will be all right, Daddy. I believe that if the Beast meant me great harm, he would have done so already."
"Perhaps you are correct. Still, who is to say?"
Beauty listened to his words and tried to wring some optimism from them. But, though she was trying to comfort him, she had fear welling up inside.
The table had been set again for them with the most wonderful cakes and pastries placed on golden platters. There was fresh-squeezed juice from the orange trees they had seen lining the boulevard to the castle. Though neither of them would claim hunger, each sat and ate to their heart's content.
Looking up from their breakfast they saw the beast enter into the room. "Good morning old man, Beauty. I trust you slept all right?'
"Fine. The beds were most adequate. I suppose I will have to leave my daughter here for you now, is that correct?"
"Yes, yes it is. But not without a parting present. Come with me."
They followed him down the hall to the right. When they neared a door that seemed to be made of stronger material, the beast reached into the pocket of his tattered waistcoat and withdrew a key. Turning it in the lock, he opened the door with a flourish.
Candles suddenly were lit and reflected off the most fantastic collection of gold and all manner of precious objects. In the middle of the floor were two traveling trunks. "Old man, you may fill these with as much as they will hold. This should be enough wealth to reclaim your former life. Please accept it as small payment for your daughter."
"That is most gracious, Beast. But I am still concerned about her future."
"Her future is in my hands to do with as I will."
Looking deeply into the eyes of the Beast showed Jean-Pierre that further resistance was pointless so he began to survey the room. Soon they were stuffing a variety of valuable objects in the trunks. Finally they were filled to the top. Jean-Pierre took a handle in each hand and tried to lift the trunks. He could not. Thinking the beast was just teasing them he asked, "How are we to move these?"
"That should be of no concern to you. I will have them placed on my horse which will accompany you to your home. At that point you may remove them and the horse will return here. Say your last good-byes for I do not believe you will ever come here again."
With great sadness Jean-Pierre turned to his daughter and held her close. " I am sorry, Marie. I wish there were some other way."
"I know, father. But, even if my life ends here, I can take comfort in the fact that my family's wealth has been restored and my sisters and brothers will be taken care of."
The beast led the man through the hallways and to the front door. Beauty went to follow but the beast stopped her with a gesture. "No, it is time for your life to begin anew. Stay here while your father takes his leave. You will not see me until evening. Please make yourself at home and feel free to examine all that you see."
Beauty returned to her room and found that the bed had been made and the dishes cleared. She took a chair and sat near the window and looked out at the well-tended grounds of the castle.
In time she tired of this activity and began to wander the hallways of the great castle. Her first discovery was a library. She examined the room carefully. Every book she had ever read or wanted to read was contained within the stacks. Though there were a great deal more books than these, she was delighted by the presence of her books.
Choosing a book carefully, she returned to her room. While she had been in the library someone had come and brought her lunch. Eating greedily she felt a little less fearful about the future. 'Maybe she had been right after all. If the beast intended to do her harm, wouldn't he have done so by now?'
Finishing her lunch she spent the day reading the book she had borrowed from the library. When the evening shadows began to deepen, she was surprised by how much time had passed. Looking out of the crystal clear glass she saw the sun was nearly gone.
Hearing a bell in the distance she left her seat by the window and after carefully marking her place in her book, she walked down the hallway to the stairway. The bell continued chiming and she followed as quickly as she could.
Turning from the main entrance she followed the bell until she entered a magnificent dining room. Seated at one end of the large table was the beast. The miniature bell looked ridiculous in his giant paw. When he saw her, he replaced the bell on the table and rose from his chair.
He motioned her toward the other end of the table where a place had been prepared. Many elegant dishes had been prepared and all were within easy reach of Beauty.
"Please, help yourself. If there is some food that you prefer - let me know and I will have it prepared for you."
"Thank you so much. But, aren't you going to eat?"
"No, I cannot eat prepared food. . . ."
Beauty let the thought drop and she helped herself to the dishes. The soup was wonderfully flavorful and individual portions of chicken and beef were served on an elegant platter. Soon, she nearly forgot about the beast sitting at the end of the table.
"So, how did you spend your first day in my home?"
"I found the library. I hope you don't mind but I borrowed a book."
"No, I don't mind. In fact, you may take whatever you wish from the castle."
"Thank you so much."
The evening passed quickly. After supper the beast led her to a sitting room and they each took a chair in front of a blazing fire. Beauty found the beast's presence interesting. If she could somehow not look at him and change his voice: he was not that bad a companion.
When the fire had died to embers, the beast looked at her closely. "I have to go now. Beauty, will you marry me?"
"Oh beast, I have enjoyed your hospitality but after all, you are a beast."
The beast backed out of the room and Beauty returned to her room and went to bed.
Instead of the dreamless sleep of the night before, Beauty had hardly closed her eyes when she began dreaming. In her dream she was walking along a brook and watching the swans swimming in a pond up ahead. The pleasant babbling of the water set her mind to ease and she took a seat between the brook and the pond. The sun was warm and she lay back and felt the gentle winds caress her face.
Hearing a sound, she rose to see a young man - about her age - walking along the brook. He was as handsome as the beast was ugly. With a gentle smile he came and sat next to her. "You must not abandon me until you free me from this cruel misery."
Beauty turned to look at him and said, "What do you mean?" But the well-dressed young man had disappeared. Beauty felt such a deep disappointment at his departure that she woke and sat in the soft bed. As she stared into the darkness, a candle was lit on the far wall giving a soft light flickering over the splendid furnishings.
Thinking no more of it Beauty returned to bed and was immediately asleep. This time her rest was complete and no troubling dreams came to haunt her sleep.
By the time that streaks of dawn had crossed her pillow she knew it was time to rise. Stretching lazily she saw that an elegant breakfast had been prepared for her and left on the table. She ate hungrily then dressed - she was anxious to see what other secrets this magnificent house held.
Moving into a room a little further down from the library she saw it was a music room. A large piano dominated the room but was certainly not the only instrument available. A harp stood against the wall in a corner of the room. Stringed instruments of every type were hung carefully on the walls. Brass instruments decorated another wall. In the stillness of the room Beauty imagined she could hear each instrument play a little when she looked at it.
A crystal chandelier caught her attention and she stood on her toes to see it better. On the lowest arm of the chandelier was hung a gold chain containing a locket. Beauty reached for it and took it in her hands. Sitting down at the piano she undid the clasp and the locket opened to display a picture of her dream prince. As handsome as ever, his smile set her mind at ease and without a thought she took the chain and placed it around her neck.
Turning to try the piano she lightly touched the keys. Though she was not an accomplished player, she had taken lessons when they still lived in the city. As the keys were pressed down, she felt a compulsion to play she had never felt before. It was as if the piano were enchanted and all she needed to do was play. The beautiful strains filled the room and she smiled.
Tiring of the piano she repeated the same activity with the harp. Though she had never played the instrument before, she knew where to place her hands and which strings to pluck. On and on she experimented with each instrument and was delighted with the results.
When the crystal bell chimed, she could hardly believe it was time for supper. The lengthening shadows of the sun were replaced by candles lighting her way to the dining room. In her haste to find her way yesterday she had not noticed that the candles were in elegant sconces decorated with diamonds and rubies. Diamonds to reflect the light and rubies to inflame the passions.
The beast sat at his end of the table and Beauty took her seat. So deeply had she been engrossed in the music room that she had neglected to eat her lunch. With a ravenous appetite she devoured the food that was in front of her. At the end of the table she could hear the beast almost chuckle as she continued.
Again they sat in front of the fire and Beauty answered many questions that the beast asked. She listened to him tell stories of the origin of the castle. So delightful was their conversation that she failed to notice the passage of time and when the beast rose to bid her good night she was amazed that it was time for bed already.
"Beauty, will you marry me?"
"Oh, you know the answer to that, don't you? While you are a delightful beast, you are still a beast. No, I will save myself for the man of my dreams." She said as she fingered the locket strung around her slender neck.
Nearly as soon as her golden tresses touched the eiderdown pillow she was off in her dreamland. The prince was waiting for her by where she had met him yesterday. In her dream they were walking hand in hand and touring the gardens and walking along the brook. As they walked, they neared a pavilion erected in the garden. Inside the prince introduced a tall stately lady dressed in emerald green velvet. "Mother, this is Beauty."
"Pleased to meet you, young lady. I have seen where you still miss some things from your former life."
"Yes, I guess that is true. Though, to tell you the truth the castle and its grounds are so magnificent that I have hardly had time to consider them. But, I still miss my father and family."
"You must not look back too much. Here is where you belong and here is where we hope you will stay."
Three - Being the Third Part of Beauty and the Beast
It seemed that Beauty had just gone to sleep when the sunlight filtered through the crystal glass and danced on her pillow. She spent another day of discovery. This day she discovered the writing room and spent her day composing letters to her friends and family.
The next day it was a room where wonderful puppet shows were enacted for her benefit. Another day it was a splendid aviary with birds of every description available for her to look at and listen to. Another day it was a room composed of nothing but clear mirrors Beauty spent the day examining them and was well-pleased with what she saw. Still, another day she found a room with many many portraits. She was particularly happy with the portrait of the prince that matched the one she work around her neck. In short everything she desired for her own amusement was available for her to use.
Each night she met the beast for supper at the sound of the crystal bell. When she had eaten all that she cared to, they returned to the sitting room and spent the evening hours in delightful conversations. The ending of each evening was when the beast asked if she would marry him. Each time she had answered no. But as the time passed, her answers were not so certain.
Then she returned to her room and went to sleep to continue her dream-world love affair with the handsome prince. Sometimes he seemed so real that she wanted to sleep forever. But, day always dawned and she woke up to the reality of the beast and the castle.
As delightful as her life appeared to be, she still missed her family. One day she asked the beast if it would be possible to see how they were doing.
"Of course, that is easily done. Moving from the chair to the mantle he picked up a large crystal ball. Sitting beside her, he showed her how to look deeply into the glass. Taking the object in her hands she cradled it on her lap stared at the crystal..
The first image she saw was her father in bed. He looked dreadful and she exclaimed loudly. "My father, is he sick?"
"I cannot tell. The glass only shows us images. Perhaps he is only feeling a little poorly."
But with the knowledge that her father was sick playing in her mind, the days began to move more and more slowly. One evening when nothing seemed to please her, she asked the beast, "May I go and visit my father. I am afraid that he is ill and needs me."
"I suppose." The beast said with hesitation in his voice. "You may go but you must promise to return. Do you do so?"
"Yes, I promise I will come back and never leave your side again."
Taking a ring from his giant gnarled finger he gave it to her. "This evening before you retire, turn the ring so that it faces the other direction. When you wake you will be in your own bed at home. You may stay for a week but then return. When the week is up you, must turn the ring around once more. If you stay longer than seven days I am afraid that the castle and all that you see may be gone."
That evening Beauty turned the ring and went to sleep. She doubted that the trick would work, but she still did not want to offend the beast.
The scratchiness of the sheets was the first thing she noticed upon waking.
Instead of the fine silk she was used to, her bare legs rubbed on rough fabric. From the depths of her sleep she knew where she was. Rising with a smile she left her bedroom at home and went to greet her family.
Her father was sitting at the table examining his books. While the treasure he brought back with him from the Beast's Castle was significant, he wanted to be certain that their prosperity would not be taken from them again.
Beauty looked around and could hardly believe the difference in the ramshackle house. Now it appeared to be as fine as their town house. Elegant draperies and tapestries were hung tastefully around the room. The rooms were either freshly painted or papered and rich carpeting from Persia caressed her feet.
"Father, I am home."
"Beauty, you are here! I have missed you so much. Are you okay?"
"Are you? In the beast's glass I saw you were in bed. Is anything wrong?"
"No, I am quite recovered. It might have been a bad bit of beef or something but I was in bed for three days. I thought I might pass through this world to the next but I began to get better. Again, are you all right, Beauty?"
"Couldn't be better. Where are my brothers and sisters?"
"It is a little early for them to rise. Come and sit with me while I make some tea."
Beauty crossed the room and sat in a chair opposite him. Her father gathered the papers he bee n examining into a small pile and secured them in a small packet tied with a red ribbon
"How did you get here?"
"Magic. I have seen so much magic that I can hardly tell the difference between magic and what is real. The beast gave me a ring that must have transported me here and I have to return within the week. But, for now I am here."
The week was spent in renewing her friendship with her brothers and sisters. For three days they traveled to their former city and stayed in the most wonderful apartments. But, as the week wore on Beauty found herself thinking more and more of her beast. She compared all that she saw to what the beast offered her and it was found lacking. She compared all of the men that she met to the gentlemanly behavior of her beast and they were found lacking.
In time she found herself even longing to return to her new home. The prospect of living with her family and seeing them enjoy the wealth she had brought them gave her little pleasure. Besides, she often opened the locket and stared at the picture of her dream prince. Since she had been at her father's house, she had not dreamed of him and she missed that as well.
The night before her week was up as she lay in bed thinking of all that had occurred, a vision entered her mind. Her beast was sitting at the long table but he looked unhealthy. His eyes were darkened with sadness and he slumped in his chair rather than sitting upright. The stately lady that Beauty had seen before entered the room and said, "Beauty, I am afraid that if you delay past tomorrow night, all will be lost. You must be certain to come home tomorrow. Is that clear?"
Beauty thought about the lady's words all the next day and when evening came she kissed her brothers and sisters goodbye and retired for the evening.
Her father followed her into the room and sat beside her bed. "Are you sure the beast is treating you well?"
"Of course. He could not be more of a gentleman that if he were the prince in my dream."
"I have been having dreams every night about this handsome prince. He and I were walking together in the soft grass and all is at is it should be - then I wake up."
Her father thought about her words. "Beauty, why don't you just stay with us?"
"I gave the beast my word that I would return."
"But, what can he do?"
"Perhaps nothing, perhaps something; at any rate I will not even consider breaking my word."
Turning the ring on her finger she turned away from her father and went to sleep.
With the smoothness of the sheets and the softness of the bed Beauty realized she was home. She bounded out of bed and dressed as quickly as she could. In her sleep that night she had made a decision. Since she enjoyed the beast so much, she would grant his request and marry him.
Running through the castle, she shouted, "Beast, oh beast, where are you?"
She searched in every room and could not find him. Finally in desperation she moved to the lower level, the servant's level, and sought for him there. Each room was empty here as well. Just as she was about to give up her search she heard a moan.
Peering into the darkness she saw the beast laying on a pallet. She rushed to him and took his cruel claw in her hand. "What is the matter, beast?"
"Beauty, you have returned. It might be too late but because you have returned - it might not."
"Why? What is wrong with you?"
"I cannot say. If I do, I will die instantly. It is only part of the . . ."
"Part of the . . . what?"
"Again, I cannot say. Come closer and let me look at you."
Beauty stooped over the bed and looked into his eyes. The beast seemed to recover a little and he whispered in her ear, "Will you marry me?"
Many things had happened in the last few months that had caused Beauty to marvel and wonder, but when the beast changed into her handsome prince before eyes, she could hardly believe it. His paw smoothed and she touched the prince's warm flesh with her own. She bent down and kissed him gently on the lips.
Light streamed in through the windows and bells started ringing in every portion of the castle. The prince rose from his bed and taking Beauty's hand, led her upstairs into the main hall. The tall lady in the flowing gown was just coming down the staircase and she smiled at Beauty. "Do you see? All is as it should be. Thank you for joining our family."
Almost as suddenly as the prince changed, the castle was filled with servants. A feast was being prepared and in the great hall and orchestra was beginning to play. The prince took Beauty by the elbow and led her into the hall. There, at the front of the hall, an altar had been erected and a priest stood behind it with a smile on his face.
The enchantment was ended and the prince and Beauty lived happily ever after.