The Blue Fairy Book
Beauty and the Beast
ONCE upon 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,
pic- tures, gold, silver, and precious goods it contained; and this was only the
beginning of their troubles. Their father, who had until this moment prospered in
all ways, suddenly lost every ship he had upon 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 upon 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