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Mother's Nursery Tales
These are not new fairy-tales, the ones in this book that has been newly made for you and placed in your hands. They are old fairy-tales gathered together, some from one country, and some from another. They are old, old, old. As old as the hills or the human race,—as old as truth itself. Long ago, even so long ago as when your grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother was a little rosy-cheeked girl, and your grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather was a noisy shouting little boy, these stories were old.
No one knows who first told them, nor where nor when. Perhaps none of them was told by any one particular person. Perhaps they just grew upon the Tree of Wisdom when the world was young, like shining fruit, and our wise and simple first parents plucked them, and gave them to their children to play with, and to taste. They could not harm the children, these fruits from the tree of wisdom, for each one was a lovely globe of truth, rich and wholesome to the taste. Magic fruit, for one could eat and eat, and still the fruit was there as perfect as ever to be handed down through generations, until at last it comes to you, as beautiful as in those days of long ago.
Perhaps you did not know that fairy tales were ever truths, but they are—the best and oldest of them. That does not mean they are facts like the things you see around you or learn from history books. Facts and truths are as different as the body and the spirit. Facts are like the body that we can see and touch and measure; we cannot see or measure the Spirit, but it is there.
We can think of these truths as of different shapes and colors, like pears and apples, and plums and other fruits, each with a different taste and color. But there is one great truth that flows through them all, and you know very well what it is:—evil in the end must always defeat itself, and in the end good always triumphs. The bad magician is tripped up by his own tricks, and the true prince marries the princess and inherits the kingdom. If any one of these stories had told it otherwise, that story would have died and withered away.
So take this book and read, being very sure that only good will come to you however often you read them over and over and over again.
There were once a King and Queen who had no children, though they had been married for many years. At last, however, a little daughter was born to them, and this was a matter of great rejoicing through all the kingdom.
When the time came for the little Princess to be christened, a grand feast was prepared, and six powerful fairies were asked to stand as her godmothers. Unfortunately the Queen forgot to invite the seventh fairy, who was the most powerful of them all, and was also very wicked and malicious.
On the day of the christening the six good fairies came early, in chariots drawn by butterflies, or by doves or wrens or other birds. They were made welcome by the King and Queen, and after some talk they were led to the hall where the feast had been set out. Everything there was very magnificent. There were delicious fruits and meats and pastries and game and everything that could be thought of. The dishes were all of gold, and for each fairy there was a goblet cut from a single precious stone. One was a diamond, one a sapphire, one a ruby, one an emerald, one an amethyst, and one a topaz. The fairies were delighted with the beauty of everything. Even in their own fairy palaces they had no such goblets as those the King had had made for them.
They were just about to take their places at the table when a great noise was heard outside on the terrace. The Queen looked from the window and almost fainted at the sight she saw. The bad fairy had arrived. She had come uninvited, and the Queen guessed that it was for no good that she came. Her chariot was of black iron, and was drawn by four dragons with flaming eyes and brass scales. The fairy sprang from her chariot in haste, and came tapping into the hall with her staff in her hand.
“How is this? How is this?” she cried to the Queen. “Here all my sisters have been invited to come and bring their gifts to the Princess, and I alone have been forgotten.”
The Queen did not know what to answer. She was frightened. However, she tried to hide her fear, and made the seventh fairy as welcome as the others. A place was set for her at the King’s right hand, and he and the Queen tried to pretend they had expected her to come. But for her there was no precious goblet, and when she saw the ones that had been given to the six other fairies her face grew green with envy, and her eyes flashed fire. She ate and drank, but she said never a word.
After the feast the little Princess was brought into the room, and she smiled so sweetly and looked so innocent that only a wicked heart could have planned evil against her.
The first fairy took the child in her arms and said, “My gift to the Princess shall be that of contentment, for contentment is better than gold.”
“Yet gold is good,” said the second fairy, “and I will give her the gift of wealth.”
“Health shall be hers,” said the third, “for wealth is of little use without it.”
“And I,” said the fourth, “will gift her with beauty to win all hearts.”
“And wit to charm all ears,” said the fifth. “That is my gift to her.”
The sixth fairy hesitated, and in that moment the wicked one stepped forward. While the others had spoken she had been swelling with spite like a toad. “And I say,” cried she, “that in her seventeenth year she shall prick her finger with a spindle and fall dead.”
When the Queen heard this she shrieked aloud, and the King grew as pale as death. But the sixth fairy stepped forward.
“Wait a bit,” said she. “I have not spoken yet. I cannot undo what our sister has done, but I say that the Princess shall not really die. She shall fall into a deep sleep that shall last a hundred years, and all in the castle shall sleep with her. At the end of that time she shall be awakened by a kiss.”
When the wicked fairy heard this she was filled with rage, but she had already spoken; she could do no more. She rushed out of the castle and jumped into her chariot, and the dragons carried her away, and where she went no one either knew nor cared.
The other fairies also went away, and they were sad because of what was to happen to the Princess.
But at once the King gave orders that every spinning-wheel and spindle in the land should be destroyed, and when this was done he felt quite happy again. For if all the spindles were gone the Princess could not prick her finger with one; and if she did not prick her finger she would not fall into the enchanted sleep.
So the King and Queen were at peace, and all went well in the castle for seventeen years. All that the fairies had promised to the Princess came true. She was so beautiful that she was the wonder of all who saw her, and so witty and gentle-hearted that everyone loved her. Beside this she had health, wealth, and contentment, and was smiling and joyous from morn till night.
One day the King and Queen went away on a journey, and the Princess took it into her head to mount to a high tower where she had never been before, and to watch for their return from there.
She found the stairs that led to the tower, and then she mounted them, up and up and up, until she was high above the roofs of the castle. At last she reached the very top of the tower, and there was an iron door with a rusty key in it.
The Princess turned the key and the door swung open. Beyond she saw a room, and an old, old, wrinkled woman sat there at a wheel spinning.
The Princess had never seen a spinning-wheel before. It seemed a curious thing to her. She went in and stood close to the old woman so as to see it better.
“What is that you are doing?” she asked.
“I am spinning,” answered the old woman.
“And what is that little thing that flies around so fast?”
“That is a spindle.”
“It is a curious little thing,” said the Princess, and she reached out her hand to touch it. Then the point of the spindle pricked her finger, and at once the Princess sighed, and her eyes closed, and she sank back on a couch in a deep sleep.
Immediately a silence fell also upon all in the castle. The King and Queen had just returned from their journey; they had alighted from their horses and had entered the castle, and just then sleep fell upon them. The courtiers who followed them also fell asleep. The dogs and horses in the courtyard slept, and the pigeons on the eaves. The boy who turned the spit in the kitchen slept and the cook did not scold him, for she too was asleep. The meat did not burn, for the fire was sleeping. Even the flies in the castle and the bees among the flowers hung motionless. All slept.
Then all about the castle sprang up an enchanted forest that shut it in like a wall. The forest grew so dark and high that at last not even the top-most tower of the castle could be seen.
But though the Princess slept she was not forgotten. Many brave princes and heroes came and tried to cut their way through the forest to rescue her, but the boughs and branches were as hard as iron, and moreover as fast as they were cut away they grew again; also they were twisted so closely together that no one could creep between them. Then as years passed by, the brave heroes who had sought the Princess grew old and had children of their own. These, too, grew to be men and married,and at last the Princess was forgotten by all, or was remembered only as an old tale.
At last a hundred years had slipped away, and then a young and handsome Prince came by that way. He had been hunting, and he had ridden so fast and eagerly that he had left his huntsmen far behind. Now he was hot and weary, and seeing a hut he stopped and asked for a drink of water.
The man who lived in the hut was very old. He brought the water the Prince asked for, and after the Prince had drank, he sat awhile and looked about him. “What is that darkness, like a cloud, that I see over yonder?” he asked.
“I cannot tell you for sure,” said the old man, “for it is a long distance away and I have never gone to see. But my grandfather told me once that it was an enchanted forest. He said there was a castle hidden deep in the midst of it, and that in that castle lay a Princess asleep. That Princess, so he said, was the most beautiful Princess in all the world, but a spell had been laid on her, and she was to sleep a hundred years. At the end of that time a Prince was to come and waken her with a kiss.”
“And how long has she slept now?” asked the Prince, and his heart beat in his breast like a bird.
“That I cannot say,” answered the old man, “but a long, long time. My grandfather was an old man when he told me, and he could not remember her.”
The Prince thanked the old man for what he had told him, and then he rode away toward the enchanted forest, and he could not go fast enough, he was in such haste.
When he was at a distance from the forest, it looked like a dark cloud, but as he came nearer it began to grow rosy. All the boughs and briers had begun to bud. By the time he was close to them they were in full flower, and when he reached the edge of the forest the branches divided, leaving an open path before him. Along this path the Prince rode and before long he came to the palace. He entered the courtyard and looked about him wondering. The dogs lay sleeping in the sunshine and never wakened at his coming. The horses stood like statues. The guards slept leaning on their arms.
The Prince dismounted and went on into the palace; on he went through one room after another, and no one woke to stop nor stay him. At last he came to the stairway that led to the tower and he went on up it,—up and up, as the Princess had done before him. He reached the tower-room, and then he stopped, and stood amazed. There on the couch lay a maiden more beautiful than he had ever dreamed of. He could scarcely believe there was such beauty in the world. He looked and looked and then he stooped and kissed her.
THE SLEEPING BEAUTY
At once—on the moment—all through the castle sounded the hum of waking life. The King and Queen, down in the throne-room stirred and rubbed their eyes. The guards started from sleep. The horses stamped, the dogs sprang up barking. The meat in the kitchen began to burn, and the cook boxed the boy’s ears. The courtiers smiled and bowed and simpered.
Up in the tower the Princess opened her eyes, and as soon as she saw the Prince she loved him. He took her hand and raised her from the couch. “Will you be my own dear bride?” said he. And the Princess answered yes.
And so they were married with great rejoicings, and the six fairies came to the wedding and brought with them gifts more beautiful than ever were seen before. As for the seventh fairy, if she did not burst with spite she may be living still. But the Prince and Princess lived happily forever after.
Jack and his mother lived all alone in a little hut with a garden in front of it, and they had nothing else in the world but a cow named Blackey.
One time Blackey went dry; not a drop of milk would she give. “See there now!” said the mother. “If Blackey doesn’t give us milk we can’t afford to keep her. You’ll have to take her off to market, Jack, and sell her for what you can get.”
Jack was sorry that the little cow had to be sold, but he put a halter around her neck and started off with her.
He had not gone far, when he met a little old man with a long gray beard.
“Well, Jack,” said the little old man, “where are you taking Blackey this fine morning?”
Jack was surprised that the stranger should know his name, and that of the cow, too, but he answered politely, “Oh, I am taking her to market to sell her.”
“There is no need for you to go as far as that,” said the little old man, “for I will buy her from you for a price.”
“What price would you give me?” asked Jack, for he was a sharp lad.
“Oh, I will give you a handful of beans for her,” said the old man.
“No, no,” Jack shook his head. “That would be a fine bargain for you; but it is not beans but good silver money that I want for my cow.”
“But wait till you see the beans,” said the old man; and he drew out a handful of them from his pocket. When Jack saw them his eyes sparkled, for they were such beans as he had never seen before. They were of all colors, red and green and blue and purple and yellow, and they shone as though they had been polished. But still Jack shook his head. It was silver pieces his mother wanted, not beans.
“Then I will tell you something further about these beans,” said the man. “This is such a bargain as you will never strike again; for these are magic beans. If you plant them they will grow right up to the sky in a single night, and you can climb up there and look about you if you like.”
When Jack heard that he changed his mind, for he thought such beans as that were worth more than a cow. He put Blackey’s halter in the old man’s hand, and took the beans and tied them up in his handkerchief and ran home with them.
His mother was surprised to see him back from market so soon.
“Well, and have you sold Blackey?” she asked.
Yes, Jack had sold her.
“And what price did you get for her?”
Oh, he got a good price.
“But how much? How much? Twenty-five dollars? Or twenty? Or even ten?”
Oh, Jack had done better than that. He had sold her to an old man down there at the turn of the road for a whole handful of magic beans; and then Jack hastened to untie his handkerchief and show the beans to his mother.
But when the widow heard he had sold the cow for beans she was ready to cry for anger. She did not care how pretty they were, and as to their being magic beans she knew better than to believe that. She gave Jack such a box on the ears that his head rang with it, and sent him up to bed without his supper, and the beans she threw out of the window.
The next morning when Jack awoke he did not know what had happened. All of the room was dim and shady and green, and there was no sky to be seen from the window,—only greenness.
He slipped from bed and looked out, and then he saw that one of the magic beans had taken root in the night and grown and grown until it had grown right up to the sky. Jack leaned out of the window and looked up and he could not see the top of the vine, but the bean-stalk was stout enough to bear him, so he stepped out onto it and began to climb.
He climbed and he climbed until he was high above the roof-top and high above the trees. He climbed till he could hardly see the garden down below, and the birds wheeled about him and the wind swayed the bean-stalk. He climbed so high that after awhile he came to the sky country, and it was not blue and hollow as it looks to us down here below. It was a land of flat green meadows and trees and streams, and Jack saw a road before him that led straight across the meadows to a great tall gray castle.
Jack set his feet in the road and began to walk toward the castle.
He had not gone far when he met a lovely lady, and she was a fairy, though Jack did not know it.
“Where are you going, Jack?” she asked.
“I’m going to yonder castle to have a look at it,” said Jack.
“That is well,” said the lady, “only you must be careful how you poke about there, for that castle belongs to a very fierce and rich and terrible giant: and now I will tell you something: all the riches he has used to belong to your father; the giant stole them from him, so if you can fetch anything away with you it will be a right and fair thing.”
Jack thanked her for what she told him, and then he went on, setting one foot before the other.
After awhile he came to the castle, and there was a woman sweeping the steps, and she was the giant’s wife.
When she saw Jack she looked frightened. “What do you want here?” she cried. “Be off with you before my husband comes home, for if he finds you here it will be the worse for you I can tell you.”
“Yes, yes, I know”; said Jack, “but I’ve had no breakfast, and I’m like to drop I’m so hungry. Just give me a bite to stay my stomach and I’ll be off.” The giant’s wife did not want to do that at all, but Jack begged and coaxed until at last she let him come into the house and got out a bit of bread and cheese for him.
Jack had hardly set down to it when there was a great noise and stamping outside.
“Oh, mercy!” cried the giant’s wife, and she turned quite pale. “There’s my husband coming in, and if he sees you here he’ll swallow you down in a trice, and give me a beating into the bargain.”
When Jack heard that he did not like it at all. “Can you not hide me some place?” he asked.
“Here, creep into this copper pot,” cried the woman, taking off the lid. She helped Jack into the pot and put the lid over him, and she had no more than done it before the giant came stumping into the room.
“Fee, fi, fo, fum!
I smell the blood of an Englishman!”
“Be he alive or be he dead
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.”
“What nonsense!” said his wife. “If anyone had come here don’t you suppose I would have seen him? A crow flew over the roof and dropped a bone down the chimney, and that is what you smell.”
When she said that the giant believed her. He sat down at the table and called for breakfast. The woman set before him three whole roasted oxen and two loaves of bread each as big as a hogshead, and the giant ate them up in a twinkling.
“Now, wife, bring me my moneybags from the treasure-room,” he said.
His wife went out through a great door studded with nails, and when she came back she brought two bags with her and set them on the table in front of the giant. The giant untied the strings and opened them, and they were full of clinking golden money. The giant sat there and counted and counted the money. After it was all counted he put it back in the bags again, and then he stretched his legs out in front of him and went to sleep and snored until the rafters shook.
The giant’s wife worked around for awhile and then she went into another room. Jack waited until he was sure she had gone, and then he pushed the lid of the pot aside and crept out. He crept over to the table and seized hold of the moneybags and made off with them, and neither the giant nor his wife knew anything about it until Jack was safe down the bean-stalk and home again.
When Jack’s mother saw the moneybags she was filled with wonder and joy. “Those were once your father’s,” said she, “but they were stolen from him, and never did I think to see them again.”
After that Jack and his mother lived well, they had plenty to eat and drink, and good clothes to wear, and everything they wanted. And they were not stingy; they shared their good luck with their neighbors as well.
After awhile the money was almost gone. “I’ll just climb up the bean-stalk again,” said Jack to himself, “and see what else the giant has in his castle.”
He climbed and he climbed and he climbed, and after awhile he came to the giant’s country, and there in front of him lay the road to the castle. Jack walked along briskly, setting one foot in front of the other till he came to the castle door, and as he saw no one he opened the door and stepped inside.
There was the giant’s wife scouring the pots and pans, and when she saw Jack she almost dropped the skillet she was holding.
“You here again?”
“Yes, here I am again,” said Jack.
“Then I wish you were some place else,” said the giant’s wife; “when you were here before our moneybags were stolen, and I can’t help thinking you had something to do with it.”
“Oh, oh! How can you think that?” cried Jack.
“Well, be off with you, anyway”; and the giant’s wife spoke quite glumly. “I want no more strange lads around here.”
Yes, Jack would be off in a moment, but wouldn’t she give him a bite of breakfast first?
No, the giant’s wife wouldn’t, and that was flat.
But Jack was not to be turned off so easily; he talked and begged and argued, and while he was still talking they heard the giant at the door.
The giant’s wife was terribly scared, “Oh, if he finds you here won’t I get a beating!” she cried.
“Quick; into the pot again!”
Jack crawled into the copper pot and the giant’s wife put the lid over him.
The next moment the giant stamped into the room.
“Fee, fi, fo, fum,”
“I smell the blood of an Englishman;
Be he alive or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread!”
“Nonsense,” said his wife, “you’re always fancying things. Here, sit down at the table and eat your breakfast. A crow flew over the roof and dropped a bone in the fire, and that is what you smell.”
The giant sniffed about a bit, and then, still muttering to himself, he sat down at the table and began to eat. After he had finished he cried, “Now wife, bring me my little red hen from the treasure-room.”
His wife went into the treasure-room, and presently she came back with a little red hen in her apron. She set it on the table before the giant. The giant grinned till he showed all his teeth.
“My little red hen, my pretty red hen, lay,” said the giant.
As soon as he said that the hen laid an egg all of pure gold.
“My little red hen, my pretty red hen, lay!” said the giant. Then the little red hen laid another egg.
“My little red hen, my pretty red hen, lay,” said the giant. Then the hen laid a third egg.
“There!” said the giant, “that is enough for to-day. Now, wife, you can take her back to the treasure-room again.”
His wife took up the hen and carried her off to the treasure-room, but when she came back into the kitchen she forgot to shut the treasure-room door behind her.
Then the giant stretched his legs out in front of him and went to sleep and snored till the rafters shook.
His wife worked around in the kitchen, and after awhile, when she wasn’t looking, Jack crept out of the pot. He crept over to the door of the treasure-room and slipped through, and there was the little red hen sitting comfortably on a golden nest.
Jack caught her up under his arm and she never made a sound. Then he crept back through the kitchen and out through the door, and made off down the road, and the giant’s wife never saw him at all.
But just as Jack reached the bean-stalk the hen began to cackle. This woke the giant. “Wife, wife,” he roared, “someone is stealing my little red hen,” and he ran out of the castle and looked all about him; but he could see no one, for Jack was already half-way down the bean-stalk.
After that Jack and his mother never had any lack of anything, for whenever he wanted money he had only to say, “My little red hen, my pretty red hen, lay,” and the hen would lay a gold egg.
Still Jack was not satisfied. He wanted to see what else was in the giant’s castle. So one day, without saying a word to his mother, he climbed the bean-stalk and hurried along the road to the giant’s castle. He did not want to meet the giant’s wife, for he thought maybe she had guessed that it was he who had taken the giant’s hen, and the moneybags, and so indeed she had, and what was more she had told the giant all about it, too.
Jack crept up to the castle very carefully, and he saw no one. He opened the castle door a crack and peeped in, and still he saw no one. He pushed it open a little wider and then he ran in and across the kitchen and hid himself in the great oven.
He had no more than done this before the giant’s wife came in. “Pfu!” said she. “What a draft!” and she closed the outside door. Then she set the giant’s breakfast on the table, still talking to herself. “The door must have blown open,” said she. “I’m sure I closed it when I went out.”
Presently the giant came thumping and stumping into the house. The moment he entered the room he began to bawl—
“Fee, fi, fo, fum!
I smell the blood of an Englishman;
Be he alive or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.”
“What? What?” cried his wife, “I found the door open just now. Do you suppose that dratted boy is in the house again?”
“If he is, I’ll soon put an end to him,” said the giant.
The giant’s wife ran to the copper pot and lifted the lid, and looked inside it, but no one was there. Then she and the giant began to hunt about. They looked in the cupboards and behind the doors, and every place, but they never thought of looking in the oven.
“He can’t be here after all,” said the wife, “or we would have found him. It must be something else you smell.”
So the giant sat down and began to eat his breakfast, but as he ate he mumbled and grumbled to himself.
After he had finished he said, “Wife, bring out my golden harp to sing for me.”
His wife went into the treasure-room and came back carrying a golden harp. She set it on the table before the giant and at once it began to make music, and the music was so beautiful that it melted the heart to hear it. The giant’s wife sat down to listen, too, and presently the music put them both to sleep. Then Jack crept out of the oven and seized the harp and made off with it.
At once the harp began to call, “Master! Master! Help! Someone is running off with me!”
The giant started out of sleep and looked about him. When he found the harp gone he gave a roar like an angry bull. He ran to the door and there was Jack already more than half-way down the road. “Stop! Stop!” cried the giant, but Jack had no idea of stopping. He ran until he reached the bean-stalk, and then he began climbing down it as fast as he could, still carrying the harp.
The giant followed and when he came to the bean-stalk he looked down, and there was Jack far, far below him. The giant was not used to climbing. He did not know whether to follow or not. Then the harp cried again, “Help, master, help!” The giant hesitated no longer. He caught hold of the bean-stalk and began to climb down.
By this time Jack had reached the ground. “Quick! Quick, mother!” he cried. “Bring me an ax.”
His mother came running with an ax. She did not know what he wanted it for, but she knew he was in a hurry.
Jack seized the ax and began to chop the bean-stalk. The giant above felt the stalk tremble. “Wait! Wait a bit!” he cried, “I want to talk to you!”
But before he could say anything more the bean-stalk was chopped through and fell with a mighty crash, and as the giant fell with it that was the end of him.
But Jack and his mother lived in peace and plenty forever after.
There was once a merchant who had three daughters. The two older ones were handsome enough, but the third was a beauty, and no mistake; her eyes were as blue as the sky, her hair was as black as ebony, and her cheeks were like roses. The merchant loved his two older daughters dearly, but this Beauty was the darling of his heart.
Things went along pleasantly for a long time, and the merchant was rich and prosperous, but then things began to go wrong with him. One after another of his ships was lost at sea, and a great part of his fortune with them.
One day the merchant called his daughters to him and said, “My children, I find it will be necessary for me to go on a long journey. I am no longer a rich man, but I wish to bring home a gift to each one of you, so tell me what you would like to have.”
Then the two older daughters began to think of all the things they wanted, and each was afraid the other would get something finer than she did.
At last the eldest spoke, “Dear father,” said she, “I wish you would bring me a velvet robe embroidered with gold, and shoes to match, and a fan to wave in my hand.”
“And I,” said the second, “would like a necklace of pearls, and pearls for my hair, and a fine bracelet.”
The merchant was troubled that his daughters should ask for such costly things, but he did not like to refuse them. “And you, Beauty,” said he, turning to his youngest daughter, “what will you have?”
“Dear father,” said she, “you have given me so much that I have nothing left to wish for; but if you bring me anything at all let it be a rose.”
When her older sisters heard this they were very angry. They thought that Beauty had asked only for a rose so that she might shame them before their father, and make him think she was more unselfish than they were. But Beauty had had no such thought as that.
The merchant smiled at his youngest daughter and kissed her thrice, but his older daughters he kissed only once. Then he mounted his horse and rode away.
He journeyed on for several days, and at last he reached the city he was bound for. Here he found he had lost even more of his fortune than he had thought. He was now a poor man. Still he managed to buy the gifts his two older daughters had asked for, and then with a sad heart he set out for home.
He had not journeyed far, however, when he was overtaken by a storm and lost himself in a deep forest. He rode this way and that, trying to find the way out, and then suddenly he came to an open place, and there he saw before him a magnificent castle.
The merchant was amazed. He had never heard of such a castle in that forest. He rode up to the door and knocked, hoping to find shelter for the night.
Scarcely had he knocked when the great door swung open before him. He entered and looked about, no one was there; everything was silent. Wondering he went on into one room after another. Everything was very magnificent and well arranged, but nowhere was a soul to be seen. At last he came to a room where a supper was set out. The plates were all of gold, and the fruits and meats were of the rarest and most delicious kinds.
The merchant was so hungry that he sat down at the table, and at once the food was served to him by invisible hands, while soft music sounded from a hidden room beyond.
He ate heartily and then arose and went in search of a place to sleep. This he soon found. A bed had been made ready in a large chamber, and here he undressed and lying down he slept until morning without being disturbed.
When he awoke he found his own travel-stained clothes had been taken away. In their place a handsome suit had been laid out, and other necessary things, all of the richest kind. There was also a bag filled with gold pieces. Wondering still more, the merchant arose and dressed and went out into the gardens to look about him. Here everything was more beautiful than any garden he had ever seen before. There were winding paths and fountains, and fruit-trees and flowering plants.
Beside one of the fountains was a rose-bush covered with the roses. The sight of these roses reminded the merchant of Beauty’s wish, and he thought it would be no harm to break off one to carry to her. He chose the largest and finest rose. Scarcely had he plucked it, however, when the air was filled with a sound of thunder, the ground rocked under his feet, and a terrible looking beast appeared before him.
“Miserable man!” cried the Beast, “what have you done? All the best in the castle was offered to you. Why have you broken my rose-bush that is dearer to me than anything in the world? Now for this you must surely die.”
The merchant was terrified. “Oh, dear, good Beast do not kill me!” he cried. “I meant no harm. Only let me go, and I will never trouble you again.”
“No, no,” answered the Beast. “You shall not escape so easily. You have broken my rose-bush and you must suffer for it.”
Still the merchant begged and entreated to be spared and at last the Beast had pity on him. “If I spare your life,” said he, “what will you give me in return for it?”
“Alas,” said the merchant, “what can I give you? I have lost all my fortune and I am now a poor man. I have nothing left in the world but my three daughters.”
“Give me one of your daughters for a wife and I will be satisfied,” said the Beast.
The merchant was horrified at the thought of such a thing. He would have refused, but he feared that if he did so the Beast would tear him to pieces at once.
“You may have three months in which to think it over,” said the Beast. “But you must promise me that at the end of that time you will return here and either bring me one of your daughters or come prepared to die.”