- Feb 3, 2011
Beauty and the Beast: Part X
Belle twirled her new gown around, admiring herself in the mirror that Lumière had carted up to the room. It was the most extraordinary garment she had ever seen, let alone worn. Made from the finest yellow silk and inlaid with gold, the gown was probably worth more than what her father made in a year. There were so many layers that she feared she would step on some of the fabric and trip herself. Mme Potts had informed her it was customary for ladies to hold up part of their dress to keep it from impairing their walking as she had laced up the back of her bodice. She had tied it quite tight, and Belle found that it constricted her gut, yet she did not mind for the gown was shoulder-less and the thin layer of fabric wrapped around her arms felt like barely enough to keep her dress up. The last thing she wanted was for her dress to slip down. To go with the gown was a matching pair of gloves, earrings, and shoes. The gloves made her feel incredibly elegant, while the weight of the pure gold earrings was an unusual burden for her. As for the shoes, she wondered how noblewomen walked in these things. She was used to comfortable leather boots, but these shoes pinched her toes and had a heel that made her feel unbalanced. It had taken her an hour of practice to get used to walking in them. After one last twirl, Belle let out a girlish squeal. She felt like a princess.
The offer of a dance had been unexpected by both Belle and the Beast. It was during one of their usual evening meals that he brought up the topic of dancing, mentioning that he had enjoyed it as a teenager. Belle mentioned that her father had taught her to dance, but she feared that she was not as talented as a noble. When he had casually offered to teach her to dance, she accepted without hesitation. It seemed like a fun diversion. The Beast had seemed shocked, as though he had not expected her to accept. Once he realized she truly meant it, excitement had taken over and he had ordered a gown found for her. Belle was thus given the gown she now wore, apparently previously owned by the Beast’s late mother. She knew how much his mother meant to him, and she cherished the gift with all her heart.
A polite knock on the door drew Belle’s attention. She opened it to find Lumière waiting for her just outside, a smile upon his face. He held out his arm, and Belle knew that it was time. There were butterflies in her stomach, and she felt like taking flight due to her giddiness. Taking in a deep breath to regain her composure, she stepped over to the manservant and took his arm. Holding her gown away from her feet, she let Lumière guide her down the stairs towards the entrance hall.
When they reach the stairs down to the entrance hall, Lumière stopped and let go of Belle’s arm. The young woman looked past him and saw the Beast waiting for her at the entrance to the West Wing. She just barely suppressed a gasp. Ever since she had met him, he had always seemed disheveled, his hair a mess and his clothes stained or uncared for. Now he wore the finest suit, one that appeared freshly washed. An azure overcoat with coattails down to the back of his knees covered a tasteful tan vest, accompanied by a lace cravat and elegant white shirt. Knee-length black breeches with white stockings and buckled shoes completed the assemble. The Beast’s hair was pulled back into a ponytail with a little blue bow holding it in place. Despite the sudden care taken for his appearance, the beard still remained. While it remained large and bushy, it was a bit more groomed than usual. Regardless, the Beast had clearly dressed to impress her. A blush crept to her cheeks as she took a few steps to towards him and he did likewise.
“You look beautiful,” the Beast said, not once looking away from her face.
Belle shyly smiled and batted her eyes. She couldn’t supress a tiny smirk as she said, “And you certainly clean up well.”
The Beast gave a toothy grin and gently took her hand. “I suppose I do.”
The two walked step by step down the stairs, Belle holding the folds of her dress out of her way so she wouldn’t trip while the Beast guided her. When they reached the foot of the stairs, Lumière appeared beside them and motioned for them to follow him. Belle nearly tripped at the manservant’s appearance, for she had not seen him pass her on the stairs. She must have been too enraptured by the Beast.
After a short walk, they reached the back of the castle and Lumière pushed open two massive oak doors, revealing an extravagant ballroom. Belle swore she had explored every part of the castle, yet she did not immediately recall this part. It took a moment for her to reconcile it with her memory, for she had glanced in here before, but at the time the massive chandelier above had not been lit and everything had been covered in dust. The servants must have worked tirelessly to clean everything and prepare it for them. She gave a nod of thanks to them as she noticed them standing to the side, Mme Potts holding her son Chip close as he twirled a flute in his hands, Lumière picking up a violin, and Cogsworth sitting at a piano.
They stood in the doorway for the several seconds before Belle took the initiative and guided the Beast to the centre of the ballroom. It was then that she noticed the faint trickles of sweat dripping down his face, the occasional twitch of his lip, and increasing redness spreading across his face. He was just as nervous as she was. Belle found some form of comfort in this. He had always seemed so sure of himself around her and at time she found herself wondering if she truly understood him at all. At least this she could comprehend. Perhaps he was dealing with the same mix of confusing emotions and feelings that she was, wondering the same things she wondered about her host. That brought a coy smile to her face as she took the Beast’s hand and placed it on her waist. He noticeably gulped, and she knew she had read him right. She placed her hand on his shoulder and grasped his free hand. Their eyes met and shared a spark that had been missing up until now. There was something there that wasn’t there before.
Cogsworth played a few notes on the piano, Chip blew an experimental note on his flute, and Lumière raised the end of his violin up to his chin. They slowly started to play, trying to find the right melody and get in sync. It took a few seconds for them to get the knack of it, but eventually they had a soft tune going. Belle did not recognize the song, but it sounded pleasant enough. The Beast tugged on her ever so slightly, guiding her into the first dance manoeuvre. Despite not having danced much in her life, she found herself following with ease and matching her partner’s graceful movement.
Skip to 1:00.
Once the dance had started and the song began to play, Mme Potts cleared her throat and began to sing. Belle couldn’t recognize a word she was saying, for she seemed to be singing in English. The Beast, however, seemed to recognize the words, for he gave his servant a cheeky look. Mme Potts chuckled between verses.
As the dance went on, Belle found herself becoming more and more oblivious to the music. She was drawn into the dance and her entire focus was directed to the Beast. He guided her effortlessly across the ballroom floor, and she found herself growing accustomed to keeping up with his every movements. All the lessons her father had given to her returned at once. Once it was clear she was comfortable with dancing, the Beast held up his arm up and let her twirl underneath, and then extended it to let her lean outwards. When she spun back, he held her close for a second, long enough for her to take in his scent. It was warm and earthy, and she found it comforting.
As the music picked up, the Beast tightened his grip on Belle’s waist and use the momentum as they spun around to lift her from her feet. She couldn’t help but let out a playful squeal as she twirled through the air. He gently let her back down, pulling her back in towards him. Just as she thought he was going to clasp her tight, he swung her around and dipped her towards the floor. She went with it, feeling like an acrobat as her partner kept her in constant motion. It was a thrilling exchange, an experience like no other.
The song was winding down to its end, and as the music slowed the Beast pulled Belle close. She pressed her head against his chest, hearing his heart beat against her cheek, as his arms wrapped around her. Their momentum slowed, and she didn’t even notice that they had stopped dancing. She just looked up at him, only to notice that he had eyes only for her. He smiled down at her with full sincerity, taking in the moment. His eyes were gleaming, and for once in Belle’s life she felt like she was truly wanted by somebody. Belle didn’t want the moment to end.
The music had long since ended and the servants had shuffled out of the ballroom to leave the young couple alone. Neither noticed their absence. They just stood there, rocking slowly on their feet in each other’s embrace as though that was all they needed in the world. The Beast eventually drew Belle towards the outside door, leading her out onto the balcony and into the refreshing night air. The stars were out without a cloud in the sky. They watched the stars twinkle in the distance, a fine ending to their evening.
It seemed like hours before either of them spoke. They seemed comfortable enough holding each other close and admiring the night sky. It was the Beast who first decided to break the silence. “Are you happy here?”
Belle pondered the question for a moment. The castle had been a prison for her at first, but with time she had found joy within its walls. She considered the staff her friends, and she had found herself inexplicably drawn towards the Beast. He showed her affection without lust, respect without judgment, and kindness without expecting anything in return. Here she felt welcome, and more importantly, she felt loved. That sent a tinge of guilt through her. She had not seen or heard from her father in ages, and at times she wondered if she was a terrible daughter for not trying to go back home. He must be worried tremendously about her. Yet part of her wondered why he never returned, even with the threat against her life, or even replied to her letter. Despite the joyous mood of the evening, Belle found her expression growing downcast.
“Yes,” Belle said, “but I miss my father dearly. I fear I have lost him forever.”
The Beast nodded with understanding, placing a hand on her back. “I thought you would say something like that.” He snapped his fingers and Lumière scurried out onto the balcony. He brandished an envelope, handing it over to the Master. The Beast held it in his hand for a moment before offering it to Belle. “This arrived for you this morning.”
Belle gingerly took the letter, her hands shaking. She had not heard from her father in so long. She had sent him a letter a few months ago, but it was not until now that she finally received a reply. The sight of her name written on the envelope in her father’s elegant handwriting brought a tear to her eye. It took a few tries before she successfully opened the letter. She then slowly read the contents, a mixture of terror and sorrow building up inside her the more she read.
My dear Belle,
I cannot begin to express my joy at hearing that you are well. I have spent many a night fearing for your well-being, but knowing now that you have been provided for these many years relieves me of the burden I’ve held for so long. I forgive your host for his transgressions against us, for he has provided you with a life I could never give. That is more than a father could ask for.
I know you too well, and know that you feel guilt at not being with me all these years. I want you to know that I do not blame you for all that has happened. Regardless of what has kept you away, all I have ever wanted for you was to forge a life of your own. Morlaix was never your home and you have never been happy here. Out there in the world is where you belong. If where you find yourself now is the place you feel you belong surrounded by those who care for you, then I am glad that you have at last found happiness. Your happiness is all that I have ever cared about.
I am afraid that I cannot bless you with happy news in return. During your time away, I have found myself beset with problems with my health. In these past few months, I have longed to go find you, but find myself barely able to leave my own bed. I have been living on what funds I had stored away and the kindness of others, but that can only last for so long. As my health declines, I think more of you daily. I would choose to visit you in a second if I could, but I am in no condition to do so. I fear that my time runs short.
I must make a request of you, my beloved daughter. More than anything I wish to see you. I miss your kind face and joyous laughter. It would mean more than anything in the world to see you one last time.
Belle nearly dropped the letter as she was wracked by a series of short sobs, tears streaming from her eyes. The Beast pulled her close, caressing her comfortingly. When her sobbing had calmed down, he looked her in the eye and asked, “What is wrong?”
“It’s my father,” Belle said, her voice cracking from distress. “He’s sick.”
The Beast watched her for a moment, sharing in her grief with his downcast expression. After a short sigh, he gently grabbed her hand and said, “Then you must go to him.”
Before Belle could respond, the Beast turned to Lumière, who was standing near the balcony door. “Fetch Belle a horse immediately.”
Lumière clacked his heels together as though he was in the military. He practically flew down the stairs to the castle grounds as he rushed off to the stables. As they waited, the Beast held Belle close, rubbing her back and offering words of comfort.
It did not take long for Lumière to return with a horse, fitted with a saddle and ready to ride. The Beast guided Belle down the stairs and helped her up into the saddle. She had to adjust the flowing gown just so she could sit properly. As she tested the reins in her hands, she looked over at the Beast. They shared a forlorn look, one filled with great sadness, for they both knew there was the chance she would never return. Belle was uncertain, after all, if she could ever be around him again and not feel the overwhelming guilt that came with knowing how poorly her father had fared without her. Knowing how much letting her go meant, Belle gave a sad smile to the Beast and said, “Thank you.”
The Beast nodded his head and Belle hesitated only a moment before snapping the reins. The horse neighed loudly and galloped off towards the castle gates, beginning the long journey to Morlaix. Belle’s attention was fully riveted on the road. If she had dared to look back and listen to her host’s farewell, she might have been surprised by what she heard. Instead the Beast was forced to stand there alone, watching Belle ride off into the distance as he opened his heart to no one in particular.
“I love you.”