But this reply vexed her sisters, who fancied she was blamingthem for having asked for such costly things. Her father, how-ever, was pleased, but as he thought that at her age she certainlyought to like pretty presents, he told her to choose something.
"Well, dear father," she said, "as you insist upon it, I beg thatyou will bring me a rose. I have not seen one since we camehere, and I love them so much."
So the merchant set out and reached the town as quickly aspossible, but only to find that his former companions, believinghim to be dead, had divided between them the goods which theship had brought; and after six months of trouble and expensehe found himself as poor as when he started, having been ableto recover only just enough to pay the cost of his journey. Tomake matters worse, he was obliged to leave the town in themost terrible weather, so that by the time he was within a fewleagues of his home he was almost exhausted with cold andfatigue. Though he knew it would take some hours to get throughthe forest, he was so anxious to be at his journey's end that heresolved to go on; but night overtook him, and the deep snowand bitter frost made it impossible for his horse to carry him anyfurther. Not a house was to be seen; the only shelter he could getwas the hollow trunk of a great tree, and there he crouched all thenight, which seemed to him the longest he had ever known. Inspite 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 did notknow which way to turn.
At length he made out some sort of track, and though at thebeginning it was so rough and slippery that he fell down morethan once, it presently became easier, and led him into an avenueof trees which ended in a splendid castle. It seemed to the mer-chant very strange that no snow had fallen in the avenue, whichwas entirely composed of orange trees, covered with flowers andfruit. When he reached the first court of the castle he saw before purple dildo
him a flight of agate steps, and went up them, and passed throughseveral splendidly furnished rooms. The pleasant warmth of theair revived him, and he felt very hungry; but there seemed to benobody in all this vast and splendid palace whom he could askto 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 wasburning and a couch was drawn up cosily close to it. Thinkingthat this must be prepared for someone who was expected, he satdown to wait till he should come, and very soon fell into a sweetsleep.
When his extreme hunger wakened him after several hours, hewas still alone; but a little table, upon which was a good dinner,had been drawn up close to him, and, as he had eaten nothingfor twenty-four hours, he lost no time in beginning his meal,hoping that he might soon have an opportunity of thanking hisconsiderate entertainer, whoever it might be. anal training
But no one appeared, and even after another long sleep, fromwhich he awoke completely refreshed, there was no sign of any-body, though a fresh meal of dainty cakes and fruit was preparedupon the little table at his elbow. Being naturally timid, thesilence began to terrify him, and he resolved to search once morethrough all the rooms; but it was of no use. Not even a servantwas to be seen; there was no sign of life in the palace! He beganto wonder what he should do, and to amuse himself by pretendingthat all the treasures he saw were his own, and considering howhe would divide them among his children. Then he went downinto the garden, and though it was winter everywhere else, herethe sun shone, and the birds sang, and the flowers bloomed, andthe air was soft and sweet. The merchant, in ecstacies with all hesaw and heard, said to himself:
"All this must be meant for me. I will go this minute and bringmy 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 hewould saddle it for his homeward journey, and he turned downthe path which led to the stable. This path had a hedge of roseson each side of it, and the merchant thought he had never seen orsmelt such exquisite flowers. They reminded him of his promiseto Beauty, and he stopped and had just gathered one to take toher when he was startled by a strange noise behind him. Turninground, he saw a frightful Beast, which seemed to be very angryand said, in a terrible voice: