FAR AWAY in Norden and a long time ago there lived a beautiful maiden. She was lovelier than any other girl in the neighbourhood. Many of the young braves sought her in marriage, but she would listen to one only - a handsome son of a salesman. The young man had taken her fancy some years before. They were to be married, and great rejoicings were made.
The two looked forward to a long life of happiness together, when the very night before the wedding feast a sudden illness seized the girl. Without a word to her friends who were weeping round her, she passed silently away - she was a good soul.
The heart of her lover was torn, for he had been set on her, and the thought of her remained with him night and day. He put aside his marketing gear, and went neither to fight for market shares nor to hunt for better aims. But from sunrise to sunset he sat by the place where she was laid, thinking of his happiness that was buried there. At last, after many days, a light seemed to come to him out of the darkness. He remembered having heard from the old people that there was a path that led to the land of jolly giants (Jutland) - that if you sought carefully you could find it.
So the next morning he got up early, and put some food in his slim suitcase and slung an extra cape over his shoulders, for he knew not how long his journey would take, nor what sort of country he would have to go through. He was in fact terribly puzzled, as there seemed no reason he should go in one direction more than another.
Then all at once he thought he had heard one of the old men say that the land of Giants lay to the south, and so, filled with new hope and courage, he set his face southwards, towards Denmark. One thing he felt sure of: if Not-drying-out-land was there, he would find it.
He went on and on for a great long while. For many, many miles the country looked the same as it did round his own home. The forests, the hills, and the rivers all seemed exactly like the ones he had left. The only thing that was different was the snow, which had lain thick upon the hills and trees when he started, but grew less and less the farther he went south, till it disappeared altogether. Soon the trees put forth their buds, and flowers sprang up under his feet, and instead of thick clouds there was blue sky over his head, and everywhere the storks were flying and a million larks were singing. And as the land had become very flat by now, he saw it was the right road he had taken. He was in Denmark at last, come what may.
The thought that he might soon behold his lost bride made his heart beat for joy, and he sped along lightly and swiftly. Now his way led through a dark wood, and then over some steep cliffs, and on the top of these he found a house. An old man clothed in a bearskin and holding a staff in his hand, stood in the doorway. He told the young son of a salesman just as the other was beginning to tell his story,
"I was waiting for you. I know why you've come. It is but a short while since the female you seek was here. Rest in my house, as she also rested in it. I will also tell you what you ask, and where you should go."
On hearing these words, the young man entered the house, but his heart was too eager within him to let him rest, and when he arose, the old man rose too, and stood with him at the door.
"Look at the water which lies far out over there, and the plains which stretch beyond," the old man said. "That is the land of Giants (Jutland), but I have come to fear that no man enters it without leaving his body behind him. So, lay down your body here; your marketing gear and campaign plans, your cape and your new dog. They shall be kept for you safely."
Then he turned away, and a strange thing happened. The young son of a salesman, light as air, seemed hardly to touch the ground; and as he flew along the scents grew sweeter and the flowers more beautiful, while the animals rubbed their noses against him, instead of hiding as he approached, and birds circled round him, and fishes lifted up their heads and looked as he went by. Very soon he noticed with wonder that neither rocks nor trees barred his path. He passed through them without knowing it, for indeed, they were not rocks and trees at all, but only the inner giant parts of them; for this was the region of shadow beings. Things used to be that way there.
So he went on with winged feet till he came to the shores of a great lake. There was a lovely island in the middle of it. On the bank of the lake was a small boat made of glittering stone, and in the boat were two shining paddles.
The son of a salesman jumped straight into the boat. Seizing the oars he pushed off from the shore, when to his joy and wonder he saw the young girl for whose sake he had made this long journey. She was following him in another fine boat that looked exactly like his own.
But they could not touch each other, for between them rolled great waves and billows. They looked as if they would sink the boats, yet never did. And the young son of a salesman and the maiden shrank with fear, for down in the depths of the Limfjord water they saw the bones of those who had died before, and in the waves there were men and women who kept on struggling - few passed over. Only children had no fear. They easily reached the other side in safety.
Still, though the son of a salesman and the young girl quailed in terror at these horrible sights and sounds, no harm came to them, for their lives had been free from evil, and the old man - the Singer of Life itself - had said that no evil should happen to them.
They reached unhurt the shore of the Happy Island Mols, and wandered through the flowery fields and by the banks of rushing streams. There they knew not hunger nor thirst; neither cold nor heat. The air fed them and the sun warmed them, and they forgot the dead, for they saw no graves, and the young man's thoughts turned not to campaigns and market wars, neither to the hunting of new customers. And gladly would these two have walked thus for ever all over Mols, but in the murmur of the wind the young son of a salesman heard the Singer of Life saying to him,
"Return to where you came from, for I have work for you to do. It appears that your peoples need you to find good wares and sell them cheap - thus, for many years you shall rule over them. Aim at strategy at low cost.
At the Limfjord gate my messenger awaits you. You are to take again your body which you left behind. My messenger will next show you what you are to do. Listen to him, and have patience, and in time to come you shall rejoin her whom you must now leave. She is accepted on this side and will remain ever young and beautiful, as when I called her here from a land of snows."
[Adapted from a Native American tale.]
ONCE on a time, in a very far-off country, there lived a merchant who had been so fortunate in all his undertakings that he was enormously rich. As he had, however, six sons and six daughters, he found that his money was not too much to let them all have everything they fancied, as they were accustomed to do.
But one day a most unexpected misfortune befell them. Their house caught fire and was speedily burnt to the ground, with all the splendid furniture, the books, pictures, gold, silver, and precious goods it contained; and this was only the beginning of their troubles. Their father, who had till this moment prospered in all ways, suddenly lost every ship he had on the sea, either by dint of pirates, shipwreck, or fire. Then he heard that his clerks in distant countries, whom he trusted entirely, had proved unfaithful; and at last from great wealth he fell into the direst poverty.
All that he had left was a little house in a desolate place at least a hundred leagues from the town in which he had lived, and to this he was forced to retreat with his children, who were in despair at the idea of leading such a different life. Indeed, the daughters at first hoped that their friends, who had been so numerous while they were rich, would insist on their staying in their houses now they no longer possessed one. But they soon found that they were left alone, and that their former friends even attributed their misfortunes to their own extravagance, and showed no intention of offering them any help. So nothing was left for them but to take their departure to the cottage, which stood in the midst of a dark forest, and seemed to be the most dismal place on the face of the earth. As they were too poor to have any servants, the girls had to work hard, like peasants, and the sons, for their part, cultivated the fields to earn their living. Roughly clothed, and living in the simplest way, the girls regretted unceasingly the luxuries and amusements of their former life; only the youngest tried to be brave and cheerful. She had been as sad as anyone when misfortune overtook her father, but, soon recovering her natural gaiety, she set to work to make the best of things, to amuse her father and brothers as well as she could, and to try to persuade her sisters to join her in dancing and singing. But they would do nothing of the sort, and, because she was not as doleful as themselves, they declared that this miserable life was all she was fit for. But she was really far prettier and cleverer than they were; indeed, she was so lovely that she was always called Bella. After two years, when they were all beginning to get used to their new life, something happened to disturb their tranquillity. Their father received the news that one of his ships, which he had believed to be lost, had come safely into port with a rich cargo. All the sons and daughters at once thought that their poverty was at an end, and wanted to set out directly for the town; but their father, who was more prudent, begged them to wait a little, and, though it was harvest time, and he could ill be spared, determined to go himself first, to make inquiries. Only the youngest daughter had any doubt but that they would soon again be as rich as they were before, or at least rich enough to live comfortably in some town where they would find amusement and gay companions once more. So they all loaded their father with commissions for jewels and dresses which it would have taken a fortune to buy; only Bella, feeling sure that it was of no use, didn't ask for anything. Her father, noticing her silence, said: "And what shall I bring for you, Bella?"
"The only thing I wish for is to see you come home safely," she answered.
But this only vexed her sisters, who fancied she was blaming them for having asked for such costly things. Her father, however, was pleased, but as he thought that at her age she certainly ought to like pretty presents, he told her to choose something.
"Well, dear father," she said, "as you insist on it, I beg that you'll bring me a rose. I haven't seen one since we came here, and I love them so much."
So the merchant set out and reached the town as quickly as possible, but only to find that his former companions, believing him to be dead, had divided between them the goods which the ship had brought; and after six months of trouble and expense he found himself as poor as when he started, having been able to recover only just enough to pay the cost of his journey. To make matters worse, he was obliged to leave the town in the most terrible weather, so that by the time he was within a few leagues of his home he was almost exhausted with cold and fatigue. Though he knew it would take some hours to get through the forest, he was so anxious to be at his journey's end that he resolved to go on; but night overtook him, and the deep snow and bitter frost made it impossible for his horse to carry him any further. Not a house was to be seen; the only shelter he could get was the hollow trunk of a great tree, and there he crouched all the night which seemed to him the longest he had ever known. In spite of his weariness the howling of the wolves kept him awake, and even when at last the day broke he was not much better off, for the falling snow had covered up every path, and he didn't know which way to turn.
At length he made out some sort of track, and though at the beginning it was so rough and slippery that he fell down more than once, it presently became easier, and led him into an avenue of trees which ended in a splendid castle. It seemed to the merchant very strange that no snow had fallen in the avenue, which was entirely composed of orange trees, covered with flowers and fruit. When he reached the first court of the castle he saw before him a flight of agate steps, and went up them, and passed through several splendidly furnished rooms. The pleasant warmth of the air revived him, and he felt very hungry; but there seemed to be nobody in all this vast and splendid castle whom he could ask to give him something to eat. Deep silence reigned everywhere, and at last, tired of roaming through empty rooms and galleries, he stopped in a room smaller than the rest, where a clear fire was burning and a couch was drawn up closely to it. Thinking that this must be prepared for someone who was expected, he sat down to wait till he should come, and very soon fell into a sweet sleep.
When his extreme hunger wakened him after several hours, he was still alone; but a little table, on which was a good dinner, had been drawn up close to him, and, as he had eaten nothing for twenty-four hours, he lost no time in beginning his meal, hoping that he might soon have an opportunity of thanking his considerate entertainer, whoever it might be. But no one appeared, and even after another long sleep, from which he awoke completely refreshed, there was no sign of anybody, though a fresh meal of dainty cakes and fruit was prepared on the little table at his elbow. Being naturally timid, the silence began to terrify him, and he resolved to search once more through all the rooms; but it was of no use. Not even a servant was to be seen; there was no sign of life in the castle! He began to wonder what he should do, and to amuse himself by pretending that all the treasures he saw were his own, and considering how he would divide them among his children. Then he went down into the garden, and though it was winter everywhere else, here the sun shone, and the birds sang, and the flowers bloomed, and the air was soft and sweet. The merchant, in ecstacies with all he saw and heard, said to himself:
"All this must be meant for me. I'll go this minute and bring my children to share all these delights."
In spite of being so cold and weary when he reached the castle, he had taken his horse to the stable and fed it. Now he thought he would saddle it for his homeward journey, and he turned down the path which led to the stable. This path had a hedge of roses on each side of it, and the merchant thought he had never seen or smelt such exquisite flowers. They reminded him of his promise to Bella, and he stopped and had just gathered one to take to her when he was startled by a strange noise behind him. Turning round, he saw a frightful Beast, which seemed to be very angry and said, in a terrible voice:
"Who told you that you might gather my roses? Wasn't it enough that I allowed you to be in my castle and was kind to you? This is the way you show your gratitude, by stealing my flowers! But your insolence shall not go unpunished." The merchant, terrified by these furious words, dropped the fatal rose, and, throwing himself on his knees, cried: "Pardon me, noble sir. I'm truly grateful to you for your hospitality, which was so magnificent that I couldn't imagine that you would be offended by my taking such a little thing as a rose." But the rich beast's anger was not lessened by this speech.
"You're very ready with excuses and flattery," he cried; "but that won't save you from the death you deserve."
"Alas!" thought the merchant, "if my daughter could only know what danger her rose has brought me into!"
And in despair he began to tell the rich beast all his misfortunes, and the reason of his journey, not forgetting to mention Bella s request.
"A king's ransom would hardly have procured all that my other daughters asked." he said: "but I thought that I might at least take Bella her rose. I beg you to forgive me, for you see I meant no harm."
The rich beast considered for a moment, and then he said, in a less furious tone:
"I'll forgive you on one conditionthat is, that you'll give me one of your daughters."
"Ah!" cried the merchant, "if I were cruel enough to buy my own life at the expense of one of my children's, what excuse could I invent to bring her here?"
"No excuse would be necessary," answered the rich beast. "If she comes at all she must come willingly. On no other condition will I've her. See if anyone of them is courageous enough, and loves you well enough to come and save your life. You seem to be an honest man, so I'll trust you to go home. I give you a month to see if either of your daughters will come back with you and stay here, to let you go free. If neither of them is willing, you must come alone, after bidding them good-by for ever, for then you'll belong to me. And don't imagine that you can hide from me, for if you fail to keep your word I'll come and fetch you!" added the rich beast grimly.
The merchant accepted this proposal, though he didn't really think any of his daughters could be persuaded to come. He promised to return at the time appointed, and then, anxious to escape from the presence of the rich beast, he asked permission to set off at once. But the rich beast answered that he couldn't go till next day.
"Then you'll find a horse ready for you," he said. "Now go and eat your supper, and await my orders."
The poor merchant, more dead than alive, went back to his room, where the most delicious supper was already served on the little table which was drawn up before a blazing fire. But he was too terrified to eat, and only tasted a few of the dishes, for fear the rich beast should be angry if he didn't obey his orders. When he had finished he heard a great noise in the next room, which he knew meant that the rich beast was coming. As he could do nothing to escape his visit, the only thing that remained was to seem as little afraid as possible; so when the rich beast appeared and asked roughly if he had supped well, the merchant answered humbly that he had, thanks to his host's kindness. Then the rich beast warned him to remember their agreement, and to prepare his daughter exactly for what she had to expect.
"Don't get up tomorrow," he added, "till you see the sun and hear a golden bell ring. Then you'll find your breakfast waiting for you here, and the horse you are to ride will be ready in the courtyard. He'll also bring you back again when you come with your daughter a month from now. Farewell. Take a rose to Bella, and remember your promise!"
The merchant was only too glad when the rich beast went away, and though he couldn't sleep for sadness, he lay down till the sun rose. Then, after a hasty breakfast, he went to gather Bella's rose, and mounted his horse, which carried him off so swiftly that in an instant he had lost sight of the castle, and he was still wrapped in gloomy thoughts when it stopped before the door of the cottage.
His sons and daughters, who had been very uneasy at his long absence, rushed to meet him, eager to know the result of his journey, which, seeing him mounted on a splendid horse and wrapped in a rich mantle, they supposed to be favourable. He hid the truth from them at first, only saying sadly to Bella as he gave her the rose:
"Here is what you asked me to bring you; you little know what it has cost."
But this excited their curiosity so greatly that presently he told them his adventures from beginning to end, and then they were all very unhappy. The girls lamented loudly over their lost hopes, and the sons declared that their father shouldn't return to this terrible castle, and began to make plans for killing the rich beast if it should come to fetch him. But he reminded them that he had promised to go back. Then the girls were very angry with Bella, and said it was all her fault, and that if she had asked for something sensible this would never have happened, and complained bitterly that they should have to suffer for her folly.
Poor Bella, much distressed, said to them:
"I have, indeed, caused this misfortune, but I assure you I did it innocently. Who could have guessed that to ask for a rose in the middle of summer would cause so much misery? But as I did the mischief it's only just that I should suffer for it. I'll therefore go back with my father to keep his promise."
At first nobody would hear of this arrangement, and her father and brothers, who loved her dearly, declared that nothing should make them let her go; but Bella was firm. As the time drew near she divided all her little possessions between her sisters, and said good-by to everything she loved, and when the fatal day came she encouraged and cheered her father as they mounted together the horse which had brought him back. It seemed to fly rather than gallop, but so smoothly that Bella was not frightened; indeed, she would have enjoyed the journey if she had not feared what might happen to her at the end of it. Her father still tried to persuade her to go back, but in vain. While they were talking the night fell, and then, to their great surprise, wonderful coloured lights began to shine in all directions, and splendid fireworks blazed out before them; all the forest was illuminated by them, and even felt pleasantly warm, though it had been bitterly cold before. This lasted till they reached the avenue of orange trees, where were statues holding flaming torches, and when they got nearer to the castle they saw that it was illuminated from the roof to the ground, and music sounded softly from the courtyard. "The rich beast must be very hungry," said Bella, trying to laugh, "if he makes all this rejoicing over the arrival of his prey.
But, in spite of her anxiety, she couldn't help admiring all the wonderful things she saw.
The horse stopped at the foot of the flight of steps leading to the terrace, and when they had dismounted her father led her to the little room he had been in before, where they found a splendid fire burning, and the table daintily spread with a delicious supper.
The merchant knew that this was meant for them, and Bella, who was rather less frightened now that she had passed through so many rooms and seen nothing of the rich beast, was quite willing to begin, for her long ride had made her very hungry. But they had hardly finished their meal when the noise of the rich beast's footsteps was heard approaching, and Bella clung to her father in terror, which became all the greater when she saw how frightened he was. But when the rich beast really appeared, though she trembled at the sight of him, she made a great effort to hide her terror, and saluted him respectfully.
This evidently pleased the rich beast. After looking at her he said, in a tone that might have struck terror into the boldest heart, though he didn't seem to be angry:
"Good-evening, old man. Good-evening, Bella."
The merchant was too terrified to reply, but Bella answered sweetly: "Good-evening, Beast."
"Have you come willingly?" asked the rich beast. "Will you be content to stay here when your father goes away?"
Bella answered bravely that she was quite prepared to stay.
"I'm pleased with you," said the rich beast. "As you have come of your own accord, you may stay. As for you, old man," he added, turning to the merchant, "at sunrise tomorrow you'll take your departure. When the bell rings get up quickly and eat your breakfast, and you'll find the same horse waiting to take you home; but remember that you must never expect to see my castle again."
Then turning to Bella, he said:
"Take your father into the next room, and help him to choose everything you think your brothers and sisters would like to have. You'll find two travelling-trunks there; fill them as full as you can. It's only just that you should send them something very precious as a remembrance of yourself."
Then he went away, after saying, "Good-by, Bella; good-by, old man"; and though Bella was beginning to think with great dismay of her father's departure, she was afraid to disobey the rich beast's orders; and they went into the next room, which had shelves and cupboards all round it. They were greatly surprised at the riches it contained. There were splendid dresses fit for a queen, with all the ornaments that were to be worn with them; and when Bella opened the cupboards she was quite dazzled by the gorgeous jewels that lay in heaps on every shelf. After choosing a vast quantity, which she divided between her sistersfor she had made a heap of the wonderful dresses for each of themshe opened the last chest, which was full of gold.
"I think, father," she said, "that, as the gold will be more useful to you, we had better take out the other things again, and fill the trunks with it." So they did this; but the more they put in the more room there seemed to be, and at last they put back all the jewels and dresses they had taken out, and Bella even added as many more of the jewels as she could carry at once; and then the trunks were not too full, but they were so heavy that an elephant couldn't have carried them!
"The rich beast was mocking us," cried the merchant; "he must have pretended to give us all these things, knowing that I couldn't carry them away."
"Let's wait and see," answered Bella. "I can't believe that he meant to deceive us. All we can do is to fasten them up and leave them ready."
So they did this and returned to the little room, where, to their astonishment, they found breakfast ready. The merchant ate his with a good appetite, as the rich beast's generosity made him believe that he might perhaps venture to come back soon and see Bella. But she felt sure that her father was leaving her for ever, so she was very sad when the bell rang sharply for the second time, and warned them that the time had come for them to part. They went down into the courtyard, where two horses were waiting, one loaded with the two trunks, the other for him to ride. They were pawing the ground in their impatience to start, and the merchant was forced to bid Bella a hasty farewell; and as soon as he was mounted he went off at such a pace that she lost sight of him in an instant. Then Bella began to cry, and wandered sadly back to her own room. But she soon found that she was very sleepy, and as she had nothing better to do she lay down and instantly fell asleep. And then she dreamed that she was walking by a brook bordered with trees, and lamenting her sad fate, when a young prince, handsomer than anyone she had ever seen, and with a voice that went straight to her heart, came and said to her, "Ah, Bella! you're not so unfortunate as you suppose. Here you'll be rewarded for all you have suffered elsewhere. Your every wish shall be gratified. Only try to find me out, no matter how I may be disguised, as I love you dearly, and in making me happy you'll find your own happiness. Be as true-hearted as you're beautiful, and we shall have nothing left to wish for."
"What can I do, prince, to make you happy?" said Bella.
"Only be grateful," he answered, "and don't trust too much to your eyes. And, above all, don't desert me till you have saved me from my cruel misery."
After this she thought she found herself in a room with a stately and beautiful lady, who said to her:
"Dear Bella, try not to regret all you have left behind you, for you're destined to a better fate. Only don't let yourself be deceived by appearances."
Bella found her dreams so interesting that she was in no hurry to awake, but presently the clock roused her by calling her name softly twelve times, and then she got up and found her dressing-table set out with everything she could possibly want; and when her toilet was finished she found dinner was waiting in the room next to hers. But dinner does not take very long when you're all by yourself, and very soon she sat down cosily in the corner of a sofa, and began to think about the charming prince she had seen in her dream.
"He said I could make him happy," said Bella to herself.
"It seems, then, that this horrible Beast keeps him a prisoner. How can I set him free? I wonder why they both told me not to trust to appearances? I don't understand it. But, after all, it was only a dream, so why should I trouble myself about it? I had better go and find something to do to amuse myself."
So she got up and began to explore some of the many rooms of the castle.
The first she entered was lined with mirrors, and Bella saw herself reflected on every side, and thought she had never seen such a charming room. Then a bracelet which was hanging from a chandelier caught her eye, and on taking it down she was greatly surprised to find that it held a portrait of her unknown admirer, just as she had seen him in her dream. With great delight she slipped the bracelet on her arm, and went on into a gallery of pictures, where she soon found a portrait of the same handsome prince, as large as life, and so well painted that as she studied it he seemed to smile kindly at her. Tearing herself away from the portrait at last, she passed through into a room which contained every musical instrument under the sun, and here she amused herself for a long while in trying some of them, and singing till she was tired. The next room was a library, and she saw everything she had ever wanted to read, as well as everything she had read, and it seemed to her that a whole lifetime wouldn't be enough to even read the names of the books, there were so many. By this time it was growing dusk, and wax candles in diamond and ruby candlesticks were beginning to light themselves in every room.
Bella found her supper served just at the time she preferred to have it, but she didn't see anyone or hear a sound, and, though her father had warned her that she would be alone, she began to find it rather dull.
But presently she heard the rich beast coming, and wondered tremblingly if he meant to eat her up now.
However, as he didn't seem at all ferocious, and only said gruffly:
"Good-evening, Bella," she answered cheerfully and managed to conceal her terror. Then the rich beast asked her how she had been amusing herself, and she told him all the rooms she had seen.
Then he asked if she thought she could be happy in his castle; and Bella answered that everything was so beautiful that she would be very hard to please if she couldn't be happy. And after about an hour's talk Bella began to think that the rich beast was not nearly so terrible as she had supposed at first. Then he got up to leave her, and said in his gruff voice:
"Do you love me, Bella? Will you marry me?"
"Oh! what shall I say?" cried Bella, for she was afraid to make the rich beast angry by refusing.
"Say 'yes' or 'no' without fear," he replied.
"Oh! no, Beast," said Bella hastily.
"Since you won't, good-night, Bella," he said.
And she answered, "Good-night, Beast," very glad to find that her refusal had not provoked him. And after he was gone she was very soon in bed and asleep, and dreaming of her unknown prince. She thought he came and said to her:
"Ah, Bella! why are you so unkind to me? I fear I'm fated to be unhappy for many a long day still."
And then her dreams changed, but the charming prince figured in them all; and when morning came her first thought was to look at the portrait, and see if it was really like him, and she found that it certainly was.
This morning she decided to amuse herself in the garden, for the sun shone, and all the fountains were playing; but she was astonished to find that every place was familiar to her, and presently she came to the brook where the myrtle trees were growing where she had first met the prince in her dream, and that made her think more than ever that he must be kept a prisoner by the rich beast. When she was tired she went back to the castle, and found a new room full of materials for every kind of workribbons to make into bows, and silks to work into flowers. Then there was an aviary full of rare birds, which were so tame that they flew to Bella as soon as they saw her, and perched on her shoulders and her head.
"Pretty little creatures," she said, "how I wish that your cage was nearer to my room, that I might often hear you sing!
So saying she opened a door, and found, to her delight, that it led into her own room, though she had thought it was quite the other side of the castle.
There were more birds in a room farther on, parrots and cockatoos that could talk, and they greeted Bella by name; indeed, she found them so entertaining that she took one or two back to her room, and they talked to her while she was at supper; after which the rich beast paid her his usual visit, and asked her the same questions as before, and then with a gruff "good-night" he took his departure, and Bella went to bed to dream of her mysterious prince. The days passed swiftly in different amusements, and after a while Bella found out another strange thing in the castle, which often pleased her when she was tired of being alone. There was one room which she had not noticed particularly; it was empty, except that under each of the windows stood a very comfortable chair; and the first time she had looked out of the window it had seemed to her that a black curtain prevented her from seeing anything outside. But the second time she went into the room, happening to be tired, she sat down in one of the chairs, when instantly the curtain was rolled aside, and a most amusing pantomime was acted before her; there were dances, and coloured lights, and music, and pretty dresses, and it was all so gay that Bella was in ecstacies. After that she tried the other seven windows in turn, and there was some new and surprising entertainment to be seen from each of them, so that Bella never could feel lonely any more. Every evening after supper the rich beast came to see her, and always before saying good-night asked her in his terrible voice:
"Bella, will you marry me?"
And it seemed to Bella, now she understood him better, that when she said, "No, Beast," he went away quite sad. But her happy dreams of the handsome young prince soon made her forget the poor Beast, and the only thing that at all disturbed her was to be constantly told to distrust appearances, to let her heart guide her, and not her eyes, and many other equally perplexing things, which, consider as she would, she couldn't understand.
So everything went on for a long time, till at last, happy as she was, Bella began to long for the sight of her father and her brothers and sisters; and one night, seeing her look very sad, the rich beast asked her what was the matter. Bella had quite ceased to be afraid of him. Now she knew that he was really gentle in spite of his ferocious looks and his dreadful voice. So she answered that she was longing to see her home once more. On hearing this the rich beast seemed sadly distressed, and cried miserably.
"Ah! Bella, have you the heart to desert an unhappy Beast like this? What more do you want to make you happy? Is it because you hate me that you want to escape?"
"No, dear Beast," answered Bella softly, "I don't hate you, and I should be very sorry never to see you any more, but I long to see my father again. Only let me go for two months, and I promise to come back to you and stay for the rest of my life."
The rich beast, who had been sighing dolefully while she spoke, now replied:
"I can't refuse you anything you ask, even though it should cost me my life. Take the four boxes you'll find in the room next to your own, and fill them with everything you wish to take with you. But remember your promise and come back when the two months are over, or you may have cause to repent it, for if you don't come in good time you'll find your faithful Beast dead. You won't need any chariot to bring you back. Only say good-by to all your brothers and sisters the night before you come away, and when you have gone to bed turn this ring round on your finger and say firmly: 'I wish to go back to my castle and see my Beast again.' Good-night, Bella. Fear nothing, sleep peacefully, and before long you shall see your father once more."
As soon as Bella was alone she hastened to fill the boxes with all the rare and precious things she saw about her, and only when she was tired of heaping things into them did they seem to be full.
Then she went to bed, but could hardly sleep for joy. And when at last she did begin to dream of her beloved prince she was grieved to see him stretched on a grassy bank, sad and weary, and hardly like himself.
"What's the matter?" she cried.
He looked at her reproachfully, and said:
"How can you ask me, cruel one? Are you not leaving me to my death perhaps?"
"Ah! don't be so sorrowful," cried Bella; "I'm only going to assure my father that I'm safe and happy. I've promised the rich beast faithfully that I'll come back, and he would die of grief if I didn't keep my word!"
"What would that matter to you?" said the prince "Surely you wouldn't care?"
"Indeed, I should be ungrateful if I didn't care for such a kind Beast," cried Bella indignantly. "I would die to save him from pain. I assure you it's not his fault that he is so ugly."
Just then a strange sound woke hersomeone was speaking not very far away; and opening her eyes she found herself in a room she had never seen before, which was certainly not nearly so splendid as those she was used to in the rich beast's castle. Where could she be? She got up and dressed hastily, and then saw that the boxes she had packed the night before were all in the room.
While she was wondering by what magic the rich beast had transported them and herself to this strange place she suddenly heard her father's voice, and rushed out and greeted him joyfully. Her brothers and sisters were all astonished at her appearance, as they had never expected to see her again, and there was no end to the questions they asked her. She had also much to hear about what had happened to them while she was away, and of her father's journey home. But when they heard that she had only come to be with them for a short time, and then must go back to the rich beast's castle for ever, they lamented loudly. Then Bella asked her father what he thought could be the meaning of her strange dreams, and why the prince constantly begged her not to trust to appearances. After much consideration, he answered: "You tell me yourself that the rich beast, frightful as he is, loves you dearly, and deserves your love and gratitude for his gentleness and kindness; I think the prince must mean you to understand that you ought to reward him by doing as he wishes you to, in spite of his ugliness."
Bella couldn't help seeing that this seemed very probable; still, when she thought of her dear prince who was so handsome, she didn't feel at all inclined to marry the rich beast. At any rate, for two months she need not decide, but could enjoy herself with her sisters. But though they were rich now, and lived in town again, and had plenty of acquaintances, Bella found that nothing amused her very much; and she often thought of the castle, where she was so happy, especially as at home she never once dreamed of her dear prince, and she felt quite sad without him.
Then her sisters seemed to have got quite used to being without her, and even found her rather in the way, so she wouldn't have been sorry when the two months were over but for her father and brothers, who begged her to stay, and seemed so grieved at the thought of her departure that she had not the courage to say good-by to them. Every day when she got up she meant to say it at night, and when night came she put it off again, till at last she had a dismal dream which helped her to make up her mind. She thought she was wandering in a lonely path in the castle gardens, when she heard groans which seemed to come from some bushes hiding the entrance of a cave, and running quickly to see what could be the matter, she found the rich beast stretched out on his side, apparently dying. He reproached her faintly with being the cause of his distress, and at the same moment a stately lady appeared, and said very gravely:
"Ah! Bella, you're only just in time to save his life. See what happens when people don't keep their promises! If you had delayed one day more, you would have found him dead."
Bella was so terrified by this dream that the next morning she announced her intention of going back at once, and that very night she said good-by to her father and all her brothers and sisters, and as soon as she was in bed she turned her ring round on her finger, and said firmly, "I wish to go back to my castle and see my Beast again," as she had been told to do.
Then she fell asleep instantly, and only woke up to hear the clock saying "Bella, Bella" twelve times in its musical voice, which told her at once that she was really in the castle once more. Everything was just as before, and her birds were so glad to see her! But Bella thought she had never known such a long day, for she was so anxious to see the rich beast again that she felt as if suppertime would never come.
But when it did come and no Beast appeared she was really frightened; so, after listening and waiting for a long time, she ran down into the garden to search for him. Up and down the paths and avenues ran poor Bella, calling him in vain, for no one answered, and not a trace of him could she find; till at last, quite tired, she stopped for a minute's rest, and saw that she was standing opposite the shady path she had seen in her dream. She rushed down it, and, sure enough, there was the cave, and in it lay the rich beastasleep, as Bella thought. Quite glad to have found him, she ran up and stroked his head, but, to her horror, he didn't move or open his eyes.
"Oh! he is dead; and it's all my fault," said Bella, crying bitterly.
But then, looking at him again, she fancied he still breathed, and, hastily fetching some water from the nearest fountain, she sprinkled it over his face, and, to her great delight, he began to revive.
"Oh! Beast, how you frightened me!" she cried. "I never knew how much I loved you till just now, when I feared I was too late to save your life."
"Can you really love such an ugly creature as I am?" said the rich beast faintly. "Ah! Bella, you only came just in time. I was dying because I thought you had forgotten your promise. But go back now and rest, I shall see you again by and by."
Bella, who had half expected that he would be angry with her, was reassured by his gentle voice, and went back to the castle, where supper was awaiting her; and afterward the rich beast came in as usual, and talked about the time she had spent with her father, asking if she had enjoyed herself, and if they had all been very glad to see her.
Bella answered politely, and quite enjoyed telling him all that had happened to her. And when at last the time came for him to go, and he asked, as he had so often asked before, "Bella, will you marry me?"
She answered softly, "Yes, dear Beast."
As she spoke a blaze of light sprang up before the windows of the castle; fireworks crackled and guns banged, and across the avenue of orange trees, in letters all made of fire-flies, was written: "Long live the prince and his Bride."
Turning to ask the rich beast what it could all mean, Bella found that he had disappeared, and in his place stood her long-loved prince! At the same moment the wheels of a chariot were heard on the terrace, and two ladies entered the room. One of them Bella recognized as the stately lady she had seen in her dreams; the other was also so grand and queenly that Bella hardly knew which to greet first.
But the one she already knew said to her companion:
"Well, queen, this is Bella, who has had the courage to rescue your son from the terrible enchantment. They love one another, and only your consent to their marriage is wanting to make them perfectly happy."
"I consent with all my heart," cried the queen. "How can I ever thank you enough, charming girl, for having restored my dear son to his natural form?"
And then she tenderly embraced Bella and the prince, who had meanwhile been greeting the fairy and receiving her congratulations.
"Now," said the fairy to Bella, "I suppose you would like me to send for all your brothers and sisters to dance at your wedding?"
And so she did, and the marriage was celebrated the very next day with the utmost splendour, and Bella and the prince lived happily ever after.
[La Belle et la Bete. By Madame de Villeneuve - #2.6]
ONCE ON a time two young men who lived in a small village fell in love with the same girl. During the winter, it was all night except for an hour or so about noon, and then they used to see which of them could tempt her out for a sleigh ride with the Northern Lights flashing above them, or which could persuade her to come to a dance in some neighbouring barn.
When the spring began and the light grew longer, the hearts of the villagers leapt at the sight of the sun, and a day was fixed for the boats to be brought out. On that day great nets were to be spread in the bays of some islands that lay a few miles to the north. Everybody went on this expedition, and the two young men and the girl went with them.
They all sailed merrily across the sea chattering like a flock of magpies, or singing their favourite songs. When they reached the shore, what an unpacking there was! For this was a noted fishing ground, and here they would live in little wooden huts till autumn and bad weather came round again.
The maiden and the two young men happened to share the same hut with some friends, and fished daily from the same boat. And as time went on, one of the youths remarked that the girl took less notice of him than she did of the other. At first he tried to think that he was dreaming, and for a long while he kept his eyes shut very tight to what he didn't want to see, but in spite of his efforts, the truth managed to wriggle through, and then the young man gave up trying to deceive himself, and set about finding some way to get the better of his rival.
The plan that he hit on could not be carried out for some months; but the longer the young man thought of it, the more pleased he was with it. So he made no sign of his feelings, and waited patiently till the moment came, which was the very day that they were all going to leave the islands and sail back to the mainland for the winter.
In the bustle and hurry of departure, the cunning fisherman contrived that their boat should be the last to put off, and when everything was ready and the sails about to be set, he suddenly called out:
"Oh, dear! I have left my best knife behind in the hut. Please run and get it for me while I raise the anchor and loosen the tiller."
Not thinking any harm, the youth jumped back on shore and made his way up the steep hank. At the door of the hut he stopped and looked back, then started and gazed in horror. The head of the boat stood out to sea, and he was left alone on the island.
There was no doubt of ithe was alone. He had nothing to help him except the knife which had been dropped on the ledge of the window. For some minutes he was too stunned by the treachery of his friend to think about anything at all, but after a while he shook himself awake and determined that he would manage to keep alive somehow to revenge himself.
So he put the knife in his pocket and went off to a part of the island which was not so bare as the rest, and had a small grove of trees. From one of these he cut himself a bow which he strung with a piece of cord that had been left lying about the huts.
When this was ready the young man ran down to the shore and shot one or two sea-birds, which he plucked and cooked for supper.
In this way the months slipped by, and winter came round again. The evening before Christmas the youth went down to the rocks and into the thicket, collecting all the drift wood the sea had washed up or the gale had blown down, and he piled it up in a great stack outside the door, so that he might not have to fetch any all the next day. As soon as his task was done, he paused and looked out towards the mainland, thinking of Christmas Eve last year, and the merry dance they had had.
The night was still and cold. By the help of the Northern Lights he could almost see across to the opposite coast, when suddenly he noticed a boat. It seemed to be steering straight for his island. At first he could hardly stand for joy, the chance of speaking to another man was so delightful.
But as the boat drew near there was something, he could not tell what, that was different from the boats which he had been used to all his life, and when it touched the shore he saw that the people that filled it were beings of another world. Then he hastily stepped behind the wood stack and waited for what might happen next.
The strange folk one by one jumped on to the rocks, each bearing a load of something that they wanted. Among the women he remarked two young girls that were more beautiful and better dressed than any of the rest. The girls carried between them two great baskets full of provisions. The young man peeped out cautiously to see what all this crowd could be doing inside the tiny hut, but in a moment he drew back again, for the girls returned and looked about as if they wanted to find out what sort of a place the island was.
They soon discovered him crouching behind the bundles of sticks. At first they felt a little frightened and started as if they would run away. But the youth remained so still that they took courage and laughed gaily to each other,
"What a strange creature, let's try what he is made of," said one, and she stooped down and gave him a pinch.
Now the young man had a pin sticking in the sleeve of his jacket, and the moment the girl's hand touched him she pricked it so sharply that the blood came. The girl screamed so loudly that the people all ran out of their huts to see what was the matter. But directly they caught sight of the man they turned and fled in the other direction, and picking up the goods they had brought with them scampered as fast as they could down to the shore. In an instant, boat, people, and goods had vanished completely.
But in their hurry they had forgotten two things: a bundle of keys on the table and the girl that the pin had pricked. Now she stood pale and helpless beside the wood stack.
"You'll have to make me your wife," she said at last, "for you have drawn my blood, and I belong to you."
"Why not? I'm quite willing," answered he. "But how do you suppose we can manage to live till summer comes round again?"
"Don't be anxious about that," said the girl; "if you'll only marry me all will be well. I'm very rich, and all my family are rich also."
Then the young man gave her his promise to make her his wife, and the girl fulfilled her part of the bargain. Thus they had plenty of food on the island all through the long winter months, but he never knew how it got there.
And by-and-by it was spring once more and time for the fisher-folk to sail from the mainland.
"Where are we to go now?" asked the girl one day, when the sun seemed brighter and the wind softer than usual.
"Well, I don't know," answered the young man; "what do you think?"
She answered that she would like to go somewhere at the other end of the island and build a house far away from the huts of the fishing-folk. He said yes to that, and on the same day they set off in search of a sheltered spot on the banks of a stream, so that it would be easy to get water.
In a tiny bay on the opposite side of the island they found what they had been looking for. Tired with their long walk they laid themselves down on a bank of moss among some birches and prepared to have a good night's rest in order to be fresh for work next day. But before she went to sleep the girl turned to her husband, and said:
"If in your dreams you fancy that you hear strange noises, be sure you don't stir or get up to see what it is."
"Its not likely we shall hear any noises in such a quiet place," answered he, and fell sound asleep.
But suddenly he was awakened by a great clatter about his ears, as if all the workmen in the world were sawing and hammering and building close to him. He was just going to spring up and go to see what it meant when he luckily remembered his wife's words and lay still. But the time till morning seemed very long.
With the first ray of sun they both rose and pushed aside the branches of the birch trees. There, in the very place they had chosen, stood a beautiful housedoors and windows, and everything all complete!
"Now you must fix on a spot for your cow-stalls," said the girl, when they had breakfasted off wild cherries; "and take care it is the proper size, neither too large nor too small." And the husband did as he was bid, though he wondered what use a cow-house could be, as they had no cows to put in it. But he asked no questions.
This night too he was woken up by sounds. And in the morning they found, near the stream, the most beautiful cow-house that ever was seen. It had stalls and milk-pails and stools all complete - all that a cow-house could want, except the cows.
Then the girl bade him measure out the ground for a storehouse, and it might be as large as he pleased. When the storehouse was ready she proposed that they should set off to pay her parents a visit.
The old people welcomed them heartily and summoned their neighbours for many miles round to a great feast in their honour. For several weeks there was no work done on the farm at all. At last the young man and his wife grew tired of so much play and said they had to return to their own home. But before they started on the journey, the wife whispered to her husband:
"Take care to jump over the threshold as quick as you can, or it will be the worse for you."
The young man listened to her words and sprang over the threshold like an arrow from a bow. And it was well he did, for no sooner was he on the other side of it than his father-in-law threw a great hammer at him; it could have broken both his legs if it had only touched them.
When they had gone some distance on the road home, the girl turned to her husband and said:
"Till you step inside the house, be sure you don't look back, whatever you may hear or see."
He promised. For a while all was still, and he thought no more about the matter till he noticed at last that the nearer he drew to the house the louder grew the noise of the trampling of feet behind him.
As he laid his hand on the door he thought he was safe, and turned to look. There he saw a vast herd of cattle which had been sent after him by his father-in-law when he found that his daughter had been cleverer than he. Half of the herd were already through the fence and cropping the grass on the banks of the stream, but half still remained outside and faded into nothing, even as he watched them.
However, enough cattle were left to make the young man rich, and he and his wife lived happily together, except that every now and then the girl disappeared from his sight and never told him where she had been.
For a long time he kept silent about it. But one day, when he had been complaining of her absence, she said to him:
"Dear husband, I'm bound to go, even against my will. There is only one way to stop it: Drive a nail into the threshold, and then I can never pass in or out."
And so he did.