Once upon a time, there was a young lord, who was an absolute raging little tit. His parents, truth be told, had been little better than their vile offspring, and had most considerately died early. The young lord, however, stubbornly survived his progenitor, and took control of his family estates at the tender age of nineteen. One stormy night, not long after he had come into his inheritance, there came a knock at the mansion door. An old woman had stumbled into the grounds seeking shelter from the storm, but the young lordship, being an absolute raging little tit, refused to allow her into the house. The old woman was understandably annoyed by this, and warned the little tit that his actions would have consequences. As none of his actions had thus far produced the slightest negative consequence to him personally, the lord laughed in her face and slammed the door.
Unlike their master, the servants of the house weren’t absolutely abhorrent, and allowed the old woman to come around and warm herself by the kitchen fire. This small kindness was undoubtedly all that saved their master’s life (much to the disappointment of the servants themselves), for she was in fact a powerful witch. When she was warm and dry, and nursing a generous cup of mead, she relented a little in her original intention to kill the young prat, and instead cursed him thusly:
From this day forth, young lord, thou shalt take the form of a loathsome beast, and the servants thy treateth as furniture shall likewise be transformed. Thou and they shall be released only by the unselfish relenting of thy heart toward another, or by thy death. But should that death come at thine own hands or theirs, they shall die also.
Don’t ask me why she turned the servants into furniture, she was clearly drunk.
When the horrid young skidmark awoke the next morning, he found his once-handsome visage transformed into the hideous and hairy image of a Beast, and his serving staff struggling to adjust to life as wardrobes, crockery, and candlesticks. After several weeks of throwing trantrums and breaking things, of shouting at the servants to take off their damn costumes, of trying to convince the local horsemen to track down the witch and bring her back, and of destroying several small buildings when they refused, the Beast (as we shall now call him) retreated to his mansion and shut the door on the world.
Several long years passed, and the Beast remained in his mansion, shut off from the world. The nearby villages were so grateful for his disappearance that they celebrated by promptly forgetting all about him, and pretending he didn’t exist. Eventually, they assumed he had died, and got on with their lives. The Beast, however, was alive and well – or, if not well, at least making sure he shared is not-wellness with his poor, suffering serving staff. He never went beyond the gardens closest to the house, and allowed the hedges to grow until they screened the house and its inhabitants completely from view. The Beast treasured no hope of ever regaining his youthful good looks, for he had never yet seen a person whom he could respect as highly as he did himself, and assumed such a person to be an impossibility. He retreated into his library, and spent the next ten years reading as much self-important, pretentious twaddle as he could lay his hands on.
Nearly ten years to the day since the Beast had been cursed, a travelling salesman found himself caught in a storm outside the mansion, just as the witch had been. As the witch had done before him, this salesman sought shelter in the great house. Unlike the witch, he knew to go to the kitchen door and beg a morsel from the serving staff. When he reached the kitchen, however, he found it strangely deserted, although there was food enough on the table, and a kettle singing merrily over the fire. He called out, not wishing to be thought a thief or an intruder, but there was no answer. After waiting some time, and with the storm growing in ferocity outside, the salesman’s hunger and fatigue got the best of him. He ate his fill from the table, poured himself some tea, and settled down to sleep by the fire.
Unfortunately for the salesman, he slept long and deep. When the morning sun broke through the last of the storm clouds, he found himself woken by a terrible roar, and opened his eyes to find a hideous, hairy Beast standing over him. The Beast raised its great, clawed paw as if to swipe the very life from the salesman, but the salesman begged the Beast to spare him. Quite inexplicably, the Beast paused, and asked the salesman why he should not be killed. The salesman cast around for a reason, and, by pure luck (and perhaps some sixth sense known only to tawdry salesmen), he suggested that the Beast might be lonely in this mansion, and that he might enjoy the company of the salesman’s beautiful daughter. If the Beast would only let him go, the salesman, said, he could be back within seven days with his daughter, who would make a fine companion for any man.
The Beast lowered his paw and considered for a long moment. He was, indeed, lonely. His servants were hardly good company for a lord, no matter what he looked like, and no other humans would come near him in this hideous form. He thus decided to accept the salesman’s offer, reasoning that if his daughter were ugly or tiresome, he could always retain the privilege of killing the father as punishment.
To ensure the salesman held up his end of the bargain, the Beast sent two of his guards – now transformed quite conveniently into empty suits of armour – to accompany him to his home and bring back the daughter. The salesman was not best pleased at this addition to his party, but as the alternative was remaining and being killed, he accepted it with as good a grace as he could manage. He was not at all worried about what his daughter would suffer by the exchange he had made, for he was as large a prat as the Beast himself, and cared for nothing and nobody beyond himself. His daughter was a troublesome, ungrateful wretch, who insisted upon educating herself, being useful, and refusing all offers of marriage that might take her off her father’s hands. In fact, the more the salesman thought on it, the more he realised that he might have got the best of the bargain, for he would be getting his daughter of his hands forever.
Belle, for that was the daughter’s name, was not best pleased at being traded away like a prize mare. Pleased or not, however, she had no choice in the matter, and was dragged kicking and screaming to the Beast’s mansion by the implacable guards, cursing her father all the way. The Beast met her at the door, and was surprised to find that, not only had the salesman not been lying about having a daughter, she was even more beautiful than he had hoped. The Beast, having been raised to be a gentleman, even as he had been raised to be an absolute numpty, bowed politely as she was escorted into the hall. Belle, however, was unimpressed by his polite greeting and immediately told him in great detail why she thought his deal with her father was despicable, and why he in particular was an abhorrent humanoid who didn’t deserve companionship of any kind, least of all hers. While this response might have been deemed natural by any rational person, the Beast took it rather personally, and ordered the guards to seal Belle into one of the upper bedrooms until she could be more reasonable.
I think, dear reader, we must forgive poor Belle for what she did next, for her situation would have tested the most resilient spirit. Upon entering her new room, she threw herself onto the bed and cried for half an hour. When she was calmer, she sat up and was rather alarmed to find a candlestick, a small clock, and a large wardrobe all regarding her curiously. She still had fortitude enough to prevent a swoon, however, and she greeted them as politely as she could, having never addressed furniture before in her life. The candlestick bowed most properly and apologised for his master’s behaviour, for master the Beast was, and these were the servants. The clock inquired most generously as to Belle’s health, and the wardrobe offered her a drawer full of handkerchiefs, and in a very short time Belle was feeling more comfortable than she would have thought possible, given the circumstances.
“What am I to do?” was her first question. The furniture exchanged glances (which is rather a sight to see, if you should ever happen to have the chance) and appeared to come to some agreement.
“Well, Mistress,” began the candlestick, “we may be able to assist you. Do you know how our master became a Beast?” When Belle replied in the negative, the candlestick related the story of the witch, and lingered heavily on the last half of the curse.
“As the master is such an excremental smear, it is next to impossible that he should find his way to breaking the curse himself,” said the candlestick. “And the terms are such that we are unable to do anything but remain as we are, and hope for someone to set us free.”
“So you see, my dear,” said the wardrobe, “you may have a way out soon enough – and a chance to do us a kindness as well, if it pleases you.” Belle considered her position for all of half a second, before agreeing to the furniture’s proposal.
“But how is it to be done?” she asked. “He is such a great brute, surely I should have no hope against him?”
The clock assured her that there were more than one ways to skin a cat, and that they should assist her in any way possible, that would not break the terms of the curse.
“Well then,” she said. “I shall begin immediately.” And she knocked on her own door and begged to be taken down to the Beast, in such gentle tones that her guards were quite overcome, and immediately complied.
“What are you doing out of your room?” was the first thing out of the Beast’s mouth when she appeared in the doorway of the library.
“I wished to apologise to your lordship for my dreadful behaviour this morning,” said Belle meekly. “I fear my distress at my sudden removal from my family and home left me quite hysterical, and I am most ashamed of the unladylike language I used. I pray, my lord, that you will forgive me.”
The Beast looked at her in surprise. This blushing, quiet creature was quite different from the harridan of the morning, although just as beautiful. He regarded her thoughtfully for a few minutes, and relented.
“I am not an ungenerous man,” he said, ignoring the fact that he was not a man at all. “If you are truly sorry, and can promise to control yourself from now on, pray let us say no more about it.”
Belle dropped a graceful curtsy and thanked him for his kindness. From that moment on, she was the Beast’s most faithful companion. She read to him; she sat and sewed while he told her about how terribly unfair his life was, or explained the wonderful philosophical revelations he had found in the books around him; she served him his meals with her own hands, and always remembered to thank him for his kindness in bearing with such a silly, empty-headed noodle as herself. She also became quite skilled at maintaining control over her facial expressions.
In her spare hours, the Beast permitted her to wander the gardens, gathering flowers and tending the herb beds. The Beast found himself growing almost fond of his guest. She would be rather unbearable for long periods, he thought, if she were plain, but beautiful as she was, he could happily tolerate her adoration of him. He never questioned her change of heart, for it seemed to him only natural that a woman such as herself, who could not have known many luxuries, would venerate such a generous patron – and such a worldly, educated man – as himself.
As the weeks passed, however, the Beast found himself growing ill. It came on gradually, and at first he thought it nothing but a winter chill. But as the days passed, and his head weakened, and his limbs trembled, and his hairy brow beaded with sweat, he began to fear that it might be something worse. He attempted to call a physician, but none were willing to work with such a patient – and it must be observed, that they would not have been much use if they had, for they worked on humans. The Beast soon took to his bed, wracked with pain and fever, and certain he was dying. He would allow nobody near him but Belle, who still brought him his meals, and could coax him to eat and drink when nobody else could.
At last it seemed the Beast was nearing his end, for he could take nothing but water, and spent most of his days in a fevered delirium. Late one night, as Belle sat by his side, the Beast found himself unexpectedly conscious for the first time in some days, although unable to move his limbs. He spoke her name, and she came to his side, gently lifting his head so he could drink a glass of water.
“I think you are feeling a little better, my lord,” she said.
“Perhaps a little,” the Beast replied, hoping that his return to consciousness might be a sign of recovery.
“Well, that won’t last for long,” Belle observed placidly. It took the Beast a moment to determine her meaning.
“Am I dying?” he asked fearfully.
“Oh yes, my lord,” the girl replied. “You could hardly be otherwise, for I have been poisoning you almost since the first day I came.”
The Beast stared at her, his mind already growing foggy once more.
“No,” he said.
“Oh yes,” Belle replied, seeing his vision fading. “And you have just received your final dose. Now go to sleep, like a good Beast, and stop making everyone’s lives a misery.”
The Beast wished to make some reply, but the poison had already done its work, and he was dead before he could open his mouth. Belle watched him for a minute with a satisfied little smile, before descending to the main hall, where the servants had been awaiting the news that their master was gone. It was with great delight that Belle found herself greeted by a series of unfamiliar, but decidedly human faces. There was a great deal of awkwardness for a while, as furniture rarely goes in for clothing, and the servants could not rightly remember where they had stored such things. But everything was soon sorted out and they celebrated their freedom and Belle’s successful murder with a great feast in the kitchens.
After some time to become reacquainted with their limbs, most of the servants left the house in search of new employment. A few remained, however, and once the Beast had been burnt in the furthest corner of the grounds, they settled into the mansion quite happily. Belle chose to remain also, for her old home had not been a happy one, and she and the servants had grown rather fond of one another. They spent the remainder of their days quite happily together, left completely in peace by the villagers who still feared to approach the mansion. The Beast was never mentioned by any of them again.
And it remains to you, dear reader, to decide if the moral of this story is that a woman’s wit will always triumph over a man’s ego, or that one should never be a dick to one’s talking furniture.
This adaptation is the property of Cambrey Payne 2017. Please acknowledge sources when sharing and do not repost without original source.
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