a dark forest, and seemed to be the most dismal place upon theface of the earth. As they were too poor to have any servants,the girls had to work hard, like peasants, and the sons, for theirpart, cultivated the fields to earn their living. Roughly clothed,and living in the simplest way, the girls regretted unceasingly theluxuries and amusements of their former life; only the youngesttried to be brave and cheerful. She had been as sad as anyonewhen misfortune first overtook her father, but, soon recoveringher natural gaiety, she set to work to make the best of things, toamuse her father and brothers as well as she could, and to tryto persuade her sisters to join her in dancing and singing. Butthey would do nothing of the sort, and, because she was not asdoleful as themselves, they declared that this miserable life wasall she was fit for. But she was really far prettier and clevererthan they were; indeed, she was so lovely that she was alwayscalled Beauty. After two years, when they were all beginning toget used to their new life, something happened to disturb theirtranquillity. Their father received the news that one of his ships,which he had believed to be lost, had come safely into port witha rich cargo. All the sons and daughters at once thought thattheir poverty was at an end, and wanted to set out directly for thetown; but their father, who was more prudent, begged them towait a little, and, though it was harvest-time, and he could ill bespared, determined to go himself first, to make inquiries. Onlythe youngest daughter had any doubt but that they would soonagain be as rich as they were before, or at least rich enough to livecomfortably in some town where they would find amusementand gay companions once more. So they all loaded their fatherwith commissions for jewels and dresses which it would havetaken a fortune to buy; only Beauty, feeling sure that it was ofno use, did not ask for anything. Her father, noticing her silence,said: "And what shall I bring for you, Beauty?"
"The only thing I wish for is to see you come home safely,"she answered. strap on prices
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. strapon sale
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
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.
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: