Beauty had gone home and the Beast had fallen gravely ill. Beauty’s sisters could care less that she had come home, but her father and brothers begged her to stay. She felt that she must go but she didn’t have the courage to say goodbye to them. Every morning when she rose she meant to say goodnight for the last time, but then she would put it off. Time was running out. Did she not feel the time? Had she grown so dependent on clocks that she had lost her sense of urgency? Time took the shape of her dream at night. She found herself walking down a lonely path in the palace gardens. She heard someone groaning in the bushes in front of a cave. She ran to see who it was, and found the Beast stretched out on his side. He seemed to be dying.
Then a stately lady appeared and said, “Ah! Beauty, you are only just in time to save his life! If you had delayed one day more, you would have found him dead.”
Beauty woke up terrified. That night she said her final goodbye to her father and her family. Then she went to her room, turned her magic ring around her finger, and stated her wish to go back to the palace and see the Beast.
She fell asleep, and when she woke, we were loudly and musically striking twelve in the palace of the Beast.
Suppertime was a long way away, though. Time crawled. Beauty had never known such a long day, and when suppertime came at last, the Beast did not appear.
She ran into the gardens frantically. Had time run out?
The Clock in Beauty and the Beast, Blue Fairy Book. Vintage photograph, artist unknown.