BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
ficent that I could not imagine that you would be offended by my taking such a little thing as a rose.' But the Beast's anger was not lessened by this speech.
' You are very ready with excuses and flattery,' he cried ; ' but that will not save you from the death you deserve.'
' Alas ! ' thought the merchant, ' if my daughter Beauty could only know what danger her rose has brought me into!'
And in despair he began to tell the Beast all his misfortunes, and the reason of his journey, not forgetting to mention Beauty's request.
' A king's ransom would hardly have procured all that niy other daughters asked,' he said; ' but I thought that I might at least take Beauty her rose. I beg you to forgive me, for you see I meant no harm.'
The Beast considered for a moment, and then he said, in a less furious tone :
'I will forgive you en one condition—that is, that you will 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 Beast. ' If she comes at all she must come willingly. On no other condition will I have her. See if any one 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 will 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 thenars willing, you must come alone, after bidding them good-bye for ever, for then you will belong to me. And do not imagine that you can hide from me, for if you fail to keep your word I will come and fetch you !' added the Beast grimly.
The merchant accepted this proposal, though he did not really think any of his daughters would be persuaded to come. He promised to return at the time appointed, and then, anxious to escape from the presence of the Beast, he asked permission to set off at once. But the Beast answered that he could not go until the next day.
' Then you will find a horse ready for you,' he said. ' Now go and eat your supper, and aAvait my orders.'
The poor merchant, more dead than alive, went back to his room,