Disney's Beauty and the Beast
Disclaimer: the majority of this story (characters, plot, etc...) is the property of Disney, who, frankly, deserves all the credit for making a wonderful story even better. I just ran with the idea of perspective... Please R&R! Enjoy!
The Beast's Story
The pain ripped through me as though Gaston had stabbed me with thousands of knives instead of one. It was almost as great as the pain I felt when Belle left the castle to find her father, and almost as terrible as the pain of that first hour, day, week, month, and year as a hideous creature. The fight for Belle's hand was over, and it looked as though neither combatant would live to win the prize. Gaston had tumbled from the roof, but not before he had plunged a sharp hunting knife into my side. I knew that I was going to die, and my only regret was that now Belle would be left alone. As Belle helped me over the railing and onto the balcony outside my room, I felt no sadness that I was going to leave this world as a Beast. My former self, the self I was before I fell in love with Belle, would have had only that thought on his mind. But now my love for her had changed everything.
"Belle, you came back," I whispered; even though it hurt even to breathe. I had to find a way to tell her how much she meant to me before I died, even if it would bring my end faster.
"Of course I came back. I couldn't let them…" she paused, and I knew what she had been about to say"Oh, this is all my fault. If only I'd gotten here sooner," she sobbed. I wished with all my heart that I could return the quick hug she gave me at that point, but lethargy seemed to be radiating from the knife wound, and even talking was becoming difficult.
"Maybe it's… better… this way," my whisper was interrupted by a weak cough that racked my whole body.
She looked horrified at the thought of anything being better if I died.
"Don't talk like that. You'll be alright," she said, although I knew she didn't believe her own words. She tried to cover up for this by playing with my cloak fastener as I coughed again, the pain cutting to my bones. "We're together now, and everything will be fine. You'll see." I wanted to tell her everything would be fine, just to make her happy, but neither of us would have been fooled. The pain was so overwhelming, I just wanted to sleep, but something inside told me I must fight to remain even a few moments longer in the land of the living.
"At least I got to see you…" pause for a painful breath, "one…last…time." I reached up with enormous effort to stroke her brown hair, to try and reassure her as tears began to drip down her beautiful face. Then it all just became too much. I felt my heavy paw drop to the ground and my eyes roll back at the same time as my head touched the stone of the balcony floor. As the life fled my body, I heard her gasp
"No! No! Please…please don't leave me!" With her head resting on my chest, she quietly whispered between sobs, "I love you."
It began when I was a young child. I was spoiled in every way possible. Servants, a palace, rich food, and thousands of toys can combine to make a little boy a tyrannical monster, and so it did to me-literally. By age seven both of my parents had died, leaving me in charge of a palace household of hundreds of people. I had my way in everything, because by right I ruled those who should have governed me. At my eleventh Christmas party, my first words after days of waiting were "Bring me my presents!"
Lumiere, the maitre d'hotel approached with a small wrapped package, which I barely noticed the contents of in my fury. Lumiere and Mrs. Potts had made me wait months just for this?
"A book? You call this a present!" I screamed. My selfishness was to such an extent that I refused to admit an old beggar woman who dared to knock while I was enjoying (well….) my Christmas concert. All she wanted was shelter from the cold in exchange for the lovely, booming rose that she held. I never took the time to consider that roses don't bloom in the winter. A fatal mistake on my part.
The door, which I had just slammed shut, burst open in a blast of sparkling light. The hag was nowhere to be seen, but a beautiful woman held the rose the hag had offered to me. This woman's eyes burned with fierce white light as she said angrily,
"You have been deceived by your own cold heart." I attempted to make a protest but she went on, "A curse is upon your house, your lands, and all within them, a curse that can only be broken if you learn to love a human woman, and earn her love in return. You have until this rose loses its last petal, in your twenty-first year, to find such a one. If not, you shall remain forever…a Beast." At these words, I felt a terrible ripple run through my whole body; just slow enough to feel, but fast enough that I could not run. The sensation was not unlike time I put on my favorite shirt and britches that were far too small. My whole body swelled and strained at my skin and clothes. My skin grew to accommodate, but my clothes could not as muscles bulged, legs and feet changed, a tail sprouted, and hair grew. My scream of terror and agony became an animal's roar. I felt two sharp teeth extend past my lips and horns grow from my head. Then the pain was over as my clothes tore, but the changes remained.
"I leave you the rose of your fate, Beast." The name scalded my ears as the enchantress vanished from my doorstep. The world was not long in following as I fell to the floor in a dead faint.
How long the time was after that, I don't know. When I woke up, I was in my room, on my bed. My first thought was that it had all been a dream. Yes, my mind said, a horrible dream. When you open your eyes, Mrs. Potts will be bringing in your breakfast, and you will be human all over. Hopefully, I opened my eyes. The first thing I saw was not Mrs. Potts, but the rose, glowing pink under a glass bell jar. It had not been a dream! I looked down at my hands, but they were clawed paws, covered with course brown fur. The sleeves of the once-fine shirt I wore were in tatters from my massive wrists and arms. In fury, I ripped the shirt off and stumbled to the mirror. It was true! The face that looked back at me did not remotely resemble a human. It was covered in the same rough brown fur as my paws and arms. Sharp teeth rose from a massive under bite, small horns reared from my forehead, my nose arched hideously, and my body was curled over my head, like a hunchback. The piercing blue eyes, human in shape, were all that remained of my former self.
I smashed the mirror in a panic. Opposite the mirror was a portrait of my mother, looking at me with inscrutable blue eyes, a match for my own. I ripped at the painting in a frantic effort to hide what I had become. When the painting hung in tatters, I turned toward the table where the rose glowed. I raised my paw to destroy that, too, but then I stopped. If the rose were destroyed, I would be trapped like this forever. I had a tiny ray of hope if I waited until it wilted. As the days and weeks passed, however, I began to believe rescue impossible. My servants cringed from me when they first saw me, as I did when I saw them. Every one of them had become nothing but household objects. The whole castle was transformed from stained glass windows and carved cherubs into dark stone and brooding gargoyles, enough to scare anyone away. Even my once-beautiful lands had been transformed into a dark, misty forest full of wolves.
The first few months blurred together in a solid lump of such emotional pain that many days I wanted to die. I pleaded with the enchantress in prayer to release me, but she did not answer. I refused to leave my room in the west wing of the castle. It was no longer elegant, but full of tattered hangings and smashed furniture from my helpless rages against the living nightmare I floated in. My new body was extremely powerful and muscular, but often I was clumsy from attempting to walk on my hind legs again. Mostly I just walked on all fours like an animal.
At last the enchantress contacted me. Her voice issued from the rose glowing inside the bell jar.
"I have decided to give you a small gift. You still have to break the curse, but I will give you this mirror. It shows anything that you might wish to see, if only you ask."
"Wait, please!" I begged, "Lift the curse. Be merciful!" But she was already gone.
The mirror was not much of a comfort. I had no desire to see the world of humans that I was missing in this monstrous form. It gave me the courage to leave my room and walk around the castle and grounds, but little else. Years passed, and my nightmare went on. The curse did not lift. I grew into an even larger and more powerful creature when the years of adolescence were upon me, but nothing about my appearance changed. I fell into despair and lost all hope at ever being rescued from this misery. For who could ever learn to love such a Beast as me?
The rose began to wilt and drop its petals, and I knew that my twenty-first year had almost arrived, the last I had to escape being a Beast forever. By this time I had stopped growing larger, but no less depressed. Ten years had passed since the onset of the curse, and no human visitors had ever strayed onto my lands, let alone come inside the castle. The wolves that the enchantress had created to ensure my doom and keep anyone who could help me away had done their job, as the mirror told me. Then, late one evening, I heard voices in downstairs in the parlor. My sensitive ears told me that two of them were Cogsworth and Lumiere, my servants, but the third was different. The voice of a man! No one must see me like this! I would lock him in my dungeon for intruding into my private, enchanted world.
I burst into the parlor with a blast of wind that put the fire out. The man was sitting in my chair. I stalked toward it. Silencing Cogsworth and Lumiere's protests with a loud roar, I growled at the terrified old man who faced me:
"Who are you? What are you doing here?"
"I…I…was lost in the woods and, and…" he stammered.
"You're not welcome here!"
"I…I'm sorry…" he stammered. You have to admit, I thought, he's brave not to have fainted dead away at the sight of me. But I was in no mood to be impressed. Years of loneliness had stripped away any mercy I might have had. He looked in horror upon me, and I felt ashamed that he had seen me as a Beast. The shame turned into rage as I snarled in the deep Beast voice that I now accepted as my own:
"What are you staring at?"
"So. You've come to stare at the Beast, have you?" The last few words were almost a roar, and the old man lost his nerve and tried to run. I caught up with him in one bound and grabbed his arm in my paw. He would not get away so easily.
"Please! I meant no harm. I only needed a place to stay!" This was just the excuse I needed.
"I'll give you a place to stay!" I shouted, grabbing him by the arms and carrying him away.
"No, please!" he pleaded the whole way to the top of the tower dungeon, where I threw him in a dark cell.
"You're safe from the rain in there!" I shouted as I stalked down the stairs and into my room to think. A human in my castle. The last thing I needed to remind me of the fast-approaching day when the rose would wilt completely and I would never be human again.
The next afternoon, Belle arrived to look for her father. Their horse, Philippe, had carried her here, the last place he'd seen the man. The wolves were getting lax. Or perhaps the enchantress had let her get in to lift the curse. She wandered the castle like a ghost, calling for her father. I had thought many times through the years that I heard a woman's voice floating in the dark corridors, but it was always my mother's voice, calling for me. This voice was different. It sounded more real. I decided, after hearing it off and on for about ten minutes, to investigate. I followed the voice to the dungeon where I'd imprisoned the old man the day before, or had it been a month ago? I had lost track of time years before, and the days flowed together.
I padded silently up the stairs to the dungeon, hearing the voice echoing closer and closer. Now a new voice joined in as I reached the stairs to the tower. The old man's.
"Belle, I want you to leave this place!" he demanded, talking to his daughter.
"Who's done this to you?" she asked, equally demanding.
"There's no time to explain!" he gasped, no doubt glancing around in case I was coming, "You must go, now!"
I reached the top of the stairs, rage coursing through me at another human in my domain, just in time to hear her say boldly "I won't leave you!" Her back was to me as she knelt on the floor before the dungeon door, speaking to her father through the grate set into the door's base. She could not see me as I hurried towards her, so she had no time to run. Besides, where could she have run to?
"What are you doing here?" I roared, seizing her roughly and tossing the torch she held into a damp puddle. As her terrified face turned up toward mine, I saw in the remaining light from a window overhead that she was very pretty, beautiful, even. My breath caught in my throat at her loveliness. Maybe, just maybe…. Dimly I heard the old man shouting for her to run and my rage returned.
"Who's there? Who are you?" she gasped.
"The master of this castle," I replied with a growl meant to terrify her into fleeing, but she did not move from her position on the floor. If anything, she grew bolder.
"I've come for my father," she said, the only indication of fear she gave being the small tremor in her voice, "Please, let him out. Can't you see he's sick?"
"Then he shouldn't have trespassed here!" I was not going to concede to her just because she was the first human woman I'd seen in ten years.
"But he could die! Please, I…I'll do anything!" Anything? My mind wondered. How about surviving a task that no one can conquer, such as jumping off a cliff, slitting your own throat, or falling in love with a Beast? It was too much to ask for that she would realize how lonely I was behind my mask of animal rage. The hope of being rescued that I thought I'd overcome was rising, making me even angrier at my own foolishness.
"There's nothing you can do." I stated flatly. "He's my prisoner." And I turned to go. She'd leave now. She'd have to.
"Oh, there must be some way I can…wait!" she called after my retreating back. I glanced behind me to see that she had thrown back the hood of her cloak and brought her face into the light, revealing brown hair tied back from her face and sparkling hazel eyes that at any other time, I was to learn, would be filled with cheerful kindness. "Take me instead," she offered boldly, the very offer the tiny flame of hope inside me that refused to die had been longing for.
"You?" I asked, half a growl in surprise that my hope had been fulfilled. Maybe hoping wasn't in vain after all. ""You would…take his place?" I considered the possibilities that this would offer.
"Belle, no! You don't know what you're doing!" the old man cried, putting his own life on the line for his daughter. She acknowledged his words with a glance, but when she next spoke, it was as if he hadn't said anything.
"If I did, would you let him go?" These words were directed at me.
"Yes. But…" she can still run away, I thought to myself, so just to make sure, "You must promise to stay her forever." Belle considered.
"Come into the light," was her request, one eyebrow raised delicately in indecision. This was the very thing that might scare her off, but she had asked, so I stepped into the full light of the window, towering over her as she crouched on the ground. She gasped, her eyes going wide with horror, and I didn't blame her. The image I saw in mirrors frightened me. I felt almost sorry to scare her, one emotion I thought I'd lost. Belle squeezed her father's hand as he cried,
"No, Belle! I won't let you do this!" But she pulled away and stepped into the light in front of me where I could see her as plainly as she saw me. She was tall and thin and simply dressed, with the air of a bold young woman, but I guessed she couldn't be more than twenty. She did not look at my face as she answered.
"You have my word."
"Done!" I shouted, to cover my surprise that she had agreed after seeing me, and opened the old man's prison. He pleaded with her to change her mind, but I seized him by his shirt collar and dragged him down the stairs to a palanquin in the yard.
"Please spare my daughter!" he begged as I pulled him across the courtyard.
"She's no longer your concern!" I roared as I threw him inside and ordered the palanquin, "Take him to the village." I stalked back inside to find Lumiere waiting in a niche along the stairwell to the dungeon.
"Since the girl is going to be with us for quite some time, I…ah…was thinking that you might want to offer her a more comfortable room," Lumiere said with a nervous grin. I growled at him and stalked around the corner of the staircase. Lumiere's idea wasn't a bad one, I thought, especially since I found her sobbing at the window, watching the palanquin carrying her father away into the night.
"You didn't even let me say goodbye," she cried, tears streaming down her face, "I'll never see him again. And I didn't get to say goodbye." My heart softened at her tears. What kind of monster was I, to not even allow them a few parting words?
"I'll show you to your room," I announced, by way of making it up to her.
"My room?" she asked in surprise, "But I thought…" No doubt she'd thought that I would lock her in the cell that had held her father. After all, if I had no pity for lost old men, I would certainly not have pity for crying girls. Temper and self-loathing made me sarcastic.
"Do you want to stay in the tower?"
"Then follow me," I growled, seizing Lumiere to light the way, as he was a candelabrum. We walked slowly through the dark halls to let her get acquainted to her new home. Once, as I looked back, I saw tears leaking out of her eyes. I felt horrible for taking her away from her only family, but she had offered. If you hadn't imprisoned her father in the first place, she wouldn't have had to, a small voice in my head said, but I quickly stifled that thought.
"Say something to her," Lumiere whispered in my ear. I quickly scrounged around for something conversational to say.
"I…hope you like it here." No answer. I looked helplessly at Lumiere, but he gestured for me to continue. "The castle is your home now, so you can go anywhere you like, except the west wing." That was where my room was, and I didn't want her to go there and find the rose. It was delicate, and I was afraid she might accidentally destroy it. Then my hope would be gone forever.
"What's in the west…" she started to ask.
"It's forbidden!" I roared. She jumped back in terror, and I snarled at her to make the lesson stick. We reached the door to one of the rooms, and I pulled it open to admit her. "If you need anything, my servants will attend you," I told her as she stepped inside.
"Dinner. Invite her to dinner," Lumiere whispered to me. To humor him I growled at Belle,
"You will join me for dinner. That's not a request!" And I slammed the door in her face. Dropping Lumiere, I fled to my room to ponder the events of the last twenty-four hours. A man had come to the castle. His daughter had come to look for him and was now living here, the first human resident in almost a decade. She was beautiful, and she was going to dine at my table tonight. I felt a wave of excitement, but quickly suppressed it. No need to get my hopes up. It never entered my mind that she might have the audacity to refuse.
I went down to the dinner table in high spirits to find Mrs. Potts (a teapot), Cogsworth (a clock), and Lumiere waiting on the mantel of the vast fireplace. No one spoke for several minutes, as the anticipation in the room had risen to a fever pitch. Finally Cogswoth went upstairs to announce dinner, but did not return. I began to pace.
"What's taking so long? I told her to come down. Why isn't she here yet?" I roared impatiently. Lumiere and Mrs. Potts assured me that Belle had had a stressful day, and that the best way to win her over would be to act the perfect gentleman. I discovered that even though I had long since given up hope, my servants hadn't. Lumiere was sure that Belle and I would fall in love that very night and the spell would be broken by the midnight, but Mrs. Potts reminded him that love takes time to grow, time that we might not have due to the wilting rose. They began to give me advice on how best to impress Belle at dinner. I was about to yell at them to be quiet when the door handle rattled. We all looked up hopefully.
It was Cogsworth, alone, who entered the room, and he looked nervous. He stammered that Belle refused to come to dinner.
"What!" I screamed. My temper at being disobeyed exploded in my chest. I raced up the stairs with Cogsworth, Lumiere, and Mrs. Potts all chasing me, begging me to slow down and think. I reached Belle's closed door with the rage pounding in my ears. I banged on the door and roared,
"I thought I told you to come down to dinner!"
The brave girl came back with just as angry a reply, "I'm not hungry!" This only added more fuel to my temper. I felt the fur rise on my neck.
"You come out or I'll…I'll break down the door!"
"Master," Lumiere interjected quietly, "I could be wrong, but that may not be the best way to win the girl's affections."
Cogsworth added, "Please, attemptto be a gentleman."
I was in no mood to be reasoned with. "But she's being so difficult!"
"Gently, gently," Mrs. Potts advised. I decided to try in a last attempt, but I hated being forced to concede to anyone. Sulkily, I asked,
"Will you come down to dinner?"
"No!" came the firm reply. I struggled not to lose my temper again, and looked to my three servants for advice.
"Suave, genteel," Cogsworth, once my deportment adviser, suggested. I tried to remember how to phrase the polite response.
"It would give me great pleasure if you would join me for dinner," I hissed, every syllable trembling with suppressed rage. I half-hoped she wouldn't come out just so she wouldn't have to see me so angry. I got my wish.
"No thank you!" she cried, as if my last sentence had been yelled at her. Obviously, she had heard the fury in my voice and decided it was in her own best interest to stay in the room. The anger rose once more.
"You can't stay in there forever!" I shouted.
"Yes I can!" she shouted right back.
"Fine!" I whipped my cape around me, having abandoned shirts long ago because they were quite uncomfortable to my Beast form. "Go ahead and starve!" This last word was a roar. To my servants, who had covered their ears if they could, I snapped, "If she doesn't eat with me, then she doesn't eat at all!" Then, with a growl of rage at being bested by anyone, I fled to my room. Once inside I threw a chair against the wall in fury. "I ask nicely, but she refuses!" My feelings were hurt by her rejection. Was I so ugly she didn't want to eat with me? As I flung myself at the table where both the mirror and rose stood, I hissed, "What does she want me to do, beg?" The rose was dying swiftly, with a group of dead petals beneath it. For once I ignored it, and seized the mirror.
"Show me the girl!" I commanded. The mirror fogged over, and when it cleared I saw Belle sitting on her bed, talking to the wardrobe mistress, who was a wardrobe.
"The Master's really not so bad once you get to know him," she was saying. She made a face, as though she really didn't believe it. "Why don't you give him a chance?"
"I don't want to get to know him!" Belle said angrily, and any hope I'd had of being rescued from my torment evaporated as she declared, "I don't want to have anything to do with him!" The mirror quickly faded to show my own hideous face again. I sighed with the hopelessness of the whole thing. There is a girl in my castle who can save me, and she wants nothing to do with me!
"I'm just fooling myself," I said out loud to the air, watching another petal fall from the rose, "She'll never see me as anything…but a monster. It's hopeless." I went out onto the balcony and tried not to cry. How long I was out there, I don't know. I'm fairly sure that it was several hours, but it could have been days for all I cared. I know it snowed almost constantly, with freezing gusts of wind, but I barely noticed. My fur kept me from freezing, but that didn't help stave off the icy dullness creeping over me that had nothing to do with the cold. At last, almost numb with despair, I went in. As I approached the door, I heard a noise. There, about to touch the wilting rose, was Belle!
I sprang at her as she backed away. Seizing the bell jar, I jammed it back over the rose and growled, "Why did you come here?"
"I…I'm sorry!" she gasped, unable to say more in her terror.
"I warned you never to come here!" I was getting over my surprise at her being there, and my temper was rising. Each word was closer and closer to a roar.
"I didn't mean any harm!" Belle cried in defense of her actions.
"Do you realize what you could have done?" This last word was almost a roar. "Get out!" I began to swing at her in my uncontrolled rage, with no thought for what might result. She fled, and as I calmed down after a few seconds, I realized what I had done. She would run away from the castle for certain, and I would be trapped forever. She might even run into the wolves on her way out, and get hurt, or even killed. Some of my humanity must have been returning, for I realized that I would feel terrible if she were to die running away from me. I had to find her, to rescue her. By the time I reached the stable where Philippe had been staying, both of them were gone. A trail of fresh hoof prints in the snow led away into the forest.
I dashed after them, following the trail. Soon it was joined by the paw prints of wolves. One wolf lay dead by a tree, apparently run into it by the horse. Belle had decided to fight back. The rest of the prints led to a small pond that had iced over. Horse and rider had plunged into the bone-chilling water with some of the wolves. I hoped that the two I was looking for had managed to get out quickly, because it would be difficult to search for them underwater. On the far side of the pond I found more hoof and paw prints, and began to hear faint snarls mixed with the terrified cries of a horse. Dashing toward them, I saw a crowd of at least fifteen wolves closing in on Belle and Philippe. One already had Belle's cloak in its mouth, preventing her from fleeing as the rest of the pack hurried in. She was pulling to get free, but the wolf was stronger than she.
I hurried forward and seized the wolf that held Belle prisoner and roared a challenge in its face. Then I tossed it away and crouched, ready for the next attack. Fur flew as I defended myself against all of the wolves jumping me at once. They attacked mercilessly. The battle lasted for some time with wolves jumping on me and flying off again. Just as I was thinking there were advantages to being a powerful Beast, I felt fiery pain on one arm as sharp teeth sank in deep and pulled. I roared and threw the wolf that was biting me headlong into a tree, where he lay still. He must have been the leader, for at his death, the remainder of the pack fled into the mists. In the lull, the pain of the bite throbbed and spread up my arm into my whole body. I felt numb all over, and sank suddenly into icy whiteness. I knew no more for some time.
When I awoke, I was propped up in my own chair by a warm fire in the castle parlor, the same chair the old man had been sitting in when I'd burst in on him just last night. Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and her son Chip the teacup were gathered in front of the hearth. I didn't see Belle anywhere. Memory came rushing back. Had Belle fled and left me in the snow for my servants to find? Then I saw her move into the firelight from the door. She hadn't fled! My eyes widened at the sight of her, catching her attention. Seeing that I was awake, she called for a basin of hot water with healing herbs steeped in. Mrs. Potts left for the kitchen to fetch it, and while she was gone, I attempted to lick the wound clean as I had when I'd cut myself breaking the mirror in the west wing hallway the year before. Belle, busy stoking up the fire, did not notice until the water arrived; but when she had wet a towel she saw what I was doing.
"Here, now. Don't do that," she said gently as she approached with the towel to clean the bite. She reached for my arm, but I growled at her and moved the wounded area away. My servants backed up, waiting for the storm to break, but Belle did not seem cowed in the least by my resistance. "Just hold still," she said, and attempted to put the hot cloth on the wound. I dodged her several times before she caught me. The searing pain made me roar.
"That hurts!" I screamed at her. Belle's hair flew back in the wind, but her face set in determination.
"If you'd hold still," she commented icily, "it wouldn't hurt as much!"
I had to find some excuse, so I growled, "If you hadn't run away, this wouldn't have happened!"
Belle looked only mildly annoyed. "Well, if you hadn't frightened me, I wouldn't have run away!"
I started to argue, but thought of a better statement. "Well, you shouldn't have been in the west wing!" I thought that would shut her up, since that had been her fault. No such luck.
"Well, you should learn to control your temper!" she snapped, hazel eyes flashing dangerously. What could I say to that? She had won, again. I leaned back sulkily, and she seized my arm. It was the first time she had touched me intentionally, and it sent a strange tingle down my spine. How could she bear to touch me when I looked so ugly?
"Now hold still. This might sting a little." She broke into my thoughts. At the pain, I grimaced, but she had been right. It hurt a lot less if you held still. Wound cleanings in my childhood had been painful experiences because Mrs. Potts would have to catch me first and get several servants to hold me down while I struggled madly.
As she swabbed at the bite, Belle said softly, "By the way, thank you. For saving my life." I stared at her in surprise and saw that she did not hold any grudges, and that she was willing to give me a second chance. A wave of tenderness swept over me, and my lonely heart melted.
"You're welcome." I was surprised at how good the words felt to say.
A few days later I watched from my balcony with Cogsworth and Lumiere as Belle walked Philippe around the palace, followed by the dog, Sultan, who had been transformed into a footrest by the spell. I pondered the new feelings swelling in my heart as I watched her hug Philippe's nose. Why did every move she made make me feel light and cheerful? Before the night with the wolves I'd almost hated her for intruding into my private world. Now I wanted to do something to please her, to make her smile.
"I've never felt this way about anyone," I confessed to Cogsworth and Lumiere. I placed my paw on the bandage Belle had wrapped around my wounded arm. She had promised to take it off today. I was actually looking forward to it, because Belle's touch was so gentle. I hardly felt as though she touched me at all, even when she prodded a tender area. And yet, every time her hand brushed my paw, I felt warm tingles down my spine. What was so special about her touch? I wanted to show her how special she was to me, but what can a Beast do to impress a human girl?
"I want to do something for her, but what?' I asked Cogsworth and Lumiere.
"Well, there's the usual things," Cogsworth, the traditional expert, suggested, "flowers, chocolates, promises you don't intend to keep." I felt that none of those ideas suited lovely, kind, intelligent Belle at all. Luckily, Lumiere agreed with me.
"Ah, no, no," he said, giving Cogsworth a gentle shove, "it has to be something very special, something that sparks her interest. Wait a minute. I have it! Here's what we'll do…" He laid the perfect plan. Both Cogsworth and I agreed that it was just the right thing for Belle. I could show her the library. Lumiere remembered how interested Belle had been in the knowledge that the castle had a library, but they had not had time to show it to her in their tour of the castle. Cogsworth had let the location of the west wing slip, and Belle was curious, so that's how she had ended up in the west wing in the first place.
Belle loved the library. The look on her face when I opened the curtains on the huge windows was enough to make my heart glow. She was so enchanted that I gave her the entire room as a present.
"Thank you so much," she exclaimed, still dazzled by the thousands of fat volumes full of stories and knowledge. She took my paws in her hands and promised to read me her favorite book the next day, if she could find it among the millions of books she saw before her. We both laughed at this. It felt good to laugh, I thought. Even before the spell I'd rarely laughed or smiled. Belle just seemed to bring out the best in me.
As the weeks went by, we grew closer and closer to each other. Belle read me all of her favorite books, and we found new favorites among the vast selection. She helped me feed the winter birds that flew around the castle, and we even had a friendly snowball fight once. I felt that a part of me that had died had been resurrected, and she seemed to care equally for me. It did not matter to her what I looked like, or if it did she never let it show. It still mattered to me, however, that she was human and I was not.. I could not show her fully how much I cared about her in my Beast form. Finally, I confessed my worry to Lumiere, who suggested that we have a formal evening of dinner and dancing, just Belle and I. This would give me the chance I needed to tell her I cared for her, if I didn't lose my nerve. Unfortunately, I found that my new self was a bit shy, and that my temper was a way to cover up for my shyness. The dinner/ball idea would give me a chance to relax before questioning Belle about her caring for me. I jumped at it in enthusiasm, and ordered the preparations to begin in earnest.
Belle also seemed enchanted by the idea of having a formal night with just the two of us. She made her own preparations secretly, and would not allow me to view the gown the wardrobe mistress was creating. The only hint she gave was that it was out of yellow silk.
Finally the big night arrived. I bathed in my rooms while Lumiere, who was supervising my preparations, tried to give me the courage I needed.
"Tonight is the night!" he proclaimed. I felt butterflies fluttering in my stomach at his words. All this depended upon me.
"I'm not sure I can do this," I confessed, looking at Lumiere through my wet mane to see if this would take the wind out of his sails. Not a bit of it.
"You don't have time to be timid," he informed me briskly, "You must be bold, daring!" He indicated the rose on its table, which was just days away from losing its last petal.
"Bold, daring," I repeated, shaking water all over the room and walking over to the one mirror that had not been damaged beyond repair. The castle hairdresser attempted to create the latest style, a mass of curls. It ended up looking foolish, so he settled for a small horsetail at the back of my neck. While he worked, Lumiere continued to talk.
"There will be music, and romantic candlelight, provided by myself, of course." He jumped up onto a table beside me and said with a flourish, "Then, when the moment is right, you confess your love!"
His words made me feel better. "Yes, I can…" Then, as the hairdresser yanked my hair back I caught sight of my reflection. Seeing my own ugliness deflated my courage again. "I…I…no, I can't."
"You care for the girl, don't you?" inquired Lumiere.
"More than anything," It was true, too, I realized.
"Well, then," he exclaimed, as if this settled everything, "You must tell her!"
I had no chance to respond, as I was running out of time. I dressed in my finest suit of blue and gold, with black knickers. I had discovered that wearing shirts was much easier than it had previously had been, and I had done so ever since the night with the wolves. I felt they made me look more human. I had also carefully practiced walking on two legs again as much as possible, which I hoped had the same effect.
Cogsworth arrived at last to announce that Belle was ready. None of the servants could suppress their delight at how things were going between Belle and me, and the normally stuffy Cogsworth was no exception. He made an effort to hold back a little giggle as he bowed me from my room in the west wing. Since Belle and I were coming from opposite ends of the castle, it made sense to meet in the main staircase leading into the front hall, and proceed from there to the dining room. Belle was descending the stairs when I realized that I was supposed to meet her at the landing halfway. With a last look of encouragement, Lumiere backed away.
At first I drew a blank as I tried to remember my lessons on gentlemanly behavior, but memory quickly returned. By the time I reached the landing, Belle was waiting. My dazzled brain tried to remind me that this was Belle, my friend, and I was an ugly Beast, but I was too lovesick to notice. She was radiant in the low-cut yellow silk gown, with creamy pearls woven into her shining brown hair. We looked at each other in approval of the other's costume before bowing and curtsying, as gentlefolk must before doing anything of the formal sort. Then she took the arm I offered and we descended the stairs and into the dining room.
The stove-cook had outdone himself, and we applauded him before we ate each course. The meal was delicious, and most of the selections had been made in regard to the fact that I could not chew as easily as Belle could. I tried to use the utensils throughout dinner. This attempt was a success, and Belle complimented me on my adept use of the spoon, which had been a difficulty in past meals together. Then the coat rack tuned his violin, and I knew it was time to dance in the glowing main ballroom. I was nervous, as I had not danced for more than ten years. Belle led me into the ballroom, where she placed my paws in the correct positions and began to spin slowly to allow me to get used to it. My confidence grew, and I took over the lead step from Belle.
I felt as though I were in heaven. We whirled around and around, and it was hard to tell whether my lightheadedness was from the spinning or being so close to Belle. We looked at each other tenderly a few times, and once she even put her head on my chest. Lumiere and Cogsworth made encouraging gestures whenever I looked over at them, and my confidence grew again. Perhaps I really could tell Belle how I felt about her and not feel like a scrubby pauper in love with a beautiful princess.
Lumiere dimmed the candles and I knew the last dance was closing. I gave Belle one final twirl as the doors onto the terrace outside opened to give us some privacy. I led her outside and we sat down on one of the stone benches. It was a chilly, early-spring evening, but I felt warm. I knew then that it was time. But how to begin?
"Belle," I started carefully, "are you…happy here with me?"
She thought my question over. "Well, yes." I heard hesitation in her voice and knew that she was thinking of something else.
"What is it?" I asked
"If only I could see my father again, just for a moment," she replied longingly, "I miss him so much." I only wanted to make her happy, even if it meant doom for me. I thought of the mirror upstairs in my room.
"There is a way for you to see him," I said, and led her up the staircase.
In my rooms, I picked up the mirror and handed it to her.
"This mirror will show you anything you might wish to see," I said, by way of explanation. Belle took it in both hands with a doubtful look, but she followed my instructions.
"I'd like to see my father," she said and as an afterthought added, "Please." The mirror shone green with its magic, and when Belle looked into it her eyes widened. "Papa!" she gasped, "Oh no!" I tried to look into the glass, but Belle was too distressed to realize this. Then she looked up and saw my concerned expression, so she told me in a frightened way, "He's sick! He may be dying, and he's all alone!" I saw the pain in her eyes and knew that I could not refuse to let her leave to care for her father. I turned and examined the rose, now nearly dead. If I let her go now, I would be a Beast forever, even if she promised to return. There was no time. In less than two days the last petal would fall. But if I kept her here, she would be so unhappy that I could not bear the thought of caging her. A sudden realization hit me straight to the heart like lightning, and I made my decision.
"Then, you must go to him," I told her in a low voice. It was surprising how hard the words were to say, but the new realization that had just come to me prevented me from taking them back.
"What did you say?" Belle asked in surprise, no doubt remembering her bargain to stay in the castle forever.
"I release you. You are no longer my prisoner," I said in the same low voice. I glanced at the dying rose again, but the sight of it did not force me to change my mind. "You haven't been for some time."
"You mean…I'm free?" she did not appear to believe that I, the cruel Beast, was allowing her to go and nurse her father.
"Yes," I whispered miserably.
"Thank you." She tried to hand me the mirror, but on a sudden inspiration I said,
"Take it with you, so you'll always have a way to look back…and remember me." She smiled her radiant smile and tried to console me by putting her hand on my cheek and saying,
"Thank you for understanding how much he needs me." Those words should have made me happier, but they only made me unhappier still. I was still second in her heart to her father, and she cared more for him than for me. My love for her would never be returned, and any happiness left over from the dance melted away as she quickly left the room. Cogsworth entered as she hurried away.
"Well, your Highness, I must say that everything is going just swimmingly. I knew you had it in you, ha, ha," he said in the singsong voice he used when he was trying to hide his pleasure at something. He was too cheerful for my mood, so I crushed his happiness by saying matter-of-factly,
"I let her go." Cogsworth, clearly not listening babbled on.
"Yes, yes. Splen…" then my words penetrated his bubble of good cheer, and he gasped in a shocked voice, "You…what? How could you do that?"
"I had to."
"Yes, but…but…but, why?"
"Because…I love her."
I watched from the balcony to as Belle galloped away on Philippe. I had half hoped that she would change her mind and come back upstairs to tell me that I meant more to her than her father, that she would stay, but the part of me that wanted that was very small. Her father needed her more than I did. His life was at stake, and here I was complaining that I needed her to break the spell to save my life. That thought seemed selfish and petty, but it was true in a way. My life would just return to its blurry state, but with one big difference. There would be no hope of rescue at all. And if that was all there was, what was the point of living at all? Belle had become my life, and now she was going. I let out a roar of pain and loneliness as the big horse and its slender rider galloped out of the rusty gate for the last time.
The night seemed endless. I sat in a chair by the rose, after changing out of my finery and putting on a gray linen shirt, dark blue britches and a red cloak. The hours ticked by, but I was too swamped with the emotional pain of Belle leaving to think of anything. At about ten it began to rain and then to pour. A long time later, closer to dawn, I thought I heard voices shouting, but through the thunder it was impossible to tell what was real and what was only the storm. Then Mrs. Potts appeared in the doorway, panic on her china face.
"Pardon me, Master." She had come to check on me a few times during the night, so I only answered her with a gruff,
"Leave me in peace."
"But sir, the castle is under attack! There is a group of men breaking down the door. They want to kill you!" So the shouts I had heard were the real shouts of men. But what did I care if they wanted me dead? My life was worthless anyway, with Belle gone for good.
"What should we do, Master?" Mrs. Potts asked.
"It doesn't matter now," I answered dejectedly with a look at the dying rose. It had two petals left, and as I watched, one fell away. It was my twenty-first birthday, and my time for breaking the spell would be up at dawn. Belle, the only one who could have broken the spell, would not come back again. I decided that the best way to end my suffering would be to let the men kill me. "Just let them come," I told Mrs. Potts. She looked disappointed, but tapped away down the hall.
About ten minutes later Gaston found me hunched over the rose, waiting for the last petal to fall and trap me forever as a Beast. I heard the door creak open and turned miserable eyes to it to see a man with black hair, wearing red hunter's clothes, pointing a bow and arrow at me. I turned away from him, hoping my end would be quick. He let go of the arrow, and something seemed to explode behind my eyes. I leapt to my feel with a roar of pain as a throb flew away from the arrow to cover my whole back. Gaston kicked me through the glass door onto the balcony, slashing my shirt from wrist to elbow and causing more painful cuts. I tumbled out and hit the low balcony wall. Gaston kicked me over the edge as I tried to stand, and I landed this time on a precipice overlooking the front entrance. The arrow fell out as I tumbled, relieving some of the pain. I heard Gaston break something behind me, and a look told me that he had snapped off part of the precipice's decoration and was advancing toward me with the piece raised like a club. He was going to beat me to death.
I felt no desire to cheat him out of a kill. He taunted me as he stood with the stone club in his hand.
"Get up and fight!" he sneered. I moaned with the pain of Belle's leaving. "What's the matter, Beast?" He snickered evilly. "Are you too kind and gentle to fight back?" He seemed to be mimicking someone, but I didn't think it was me. I later found out that that was the way Belle had described me, back at her village. And then I heard a different voice, as Gaston raised his club.
"No!" I looked down to see Belle and her father on Philippe. Belle was back! She cared about me after all! "No, Gaston, don't!" she screamed, and I remembered the club. I grabbed it just as it was about to descend on my head. Gaston looked frightened to see me fighting him. We climbed all over the roof in vain efforts to get at each other as lightning flashed and struck on the towers of the castle. Finally Gaston cornered me at the end of a row of gargoyles.
"It's over, Beast!" he gloated, "Belle is mine!" Those words filled me with a kind of fury I had never known. I had had temper tantrums before, but this kind of anger was a searing hot rage that seemed to boil in my blood itself and put the world into crystal-clear focus. I knocked him against the wall, grabbed him by the throat and held him over the edge of the castle, ready to drop him.
"Let me go," he begged in panic, "Please, don't hurt me! I'll do anything! Anything!" The anger was fading, and I found that I really didn't want to kill him, even if he deserved it. I let him carefully back onto safe ground.
"Get out," I hissed before throwing him to the ground in disgust.
"Beast!" Belle was standing on my balcony. She held out her hand to me. I climbed up the roof and took it in my huge paw.
"Belle, you came back," I whispered, stroking her hair. She smiled and placed her hand on my paw in pleasure. And then the world exploded in pain. I roared with the shock of it and let go of the balcony. Belle just managed to catch me by my shirtfront as my pain-wracked brain tried to sort out what had happened. Gaston had come up behind me and stabbed me in the back with his hunting knife! As my huge body started to fall backward, he lost his grip trying to get out of the way. With a scream of terror he tumbled from the roof and into oblivion.
Belle helped me onto the balcony and I struggled to stay alive, but I knew I was going to lose. This wound was too deep to heal, even though the wound to my heart that had been made when Belle left was gone. As the last breath left my body I heard her say the one phrase I had been waiting my whole life to hear, and now a minute too late.
"I love you."
And then the world went black for the last time.
I woke up for a brief moment. The oddest sensation was rippling over my whole body. It was like the tingles you feel when your foot falls asleep, except that these raced all around my body, then flew down my arms and legs and up my neck. When they reached the furthest extremity, they vanished. If this is dying, I thought fuzzily, it's not so bad. I wish I could have told Belle I loved her before I…
Suddenly I was waking up again. I took a deep breath and felt no answering stab of pain. All of my wounds, including that terrible stab to my back, no longer hurt at all. I could feel the cold stone of the balcony under me, and a few final drops of rain from the sky on one side of my face. The first thing I thought was: That's funny. I don't remember going to sleep on the balcony. Then memory came rushing back. The fight. Belle returned. Gaston stabbed me. I was dying. Belle said, "I love you." And then…
I tried to stand, but despite the fact that I could no longer feel the wounds and cuts from the fight; my legs at first did not support me. Even more oddly, I felt much lighter than I could remember feeling for a long time. I pushed myself to my feet and opened my eyes. The first things I saw were my paws as I held them out in front of me to steady myself. No, not paws, they were hands. Human hands! Could it be? I looked down, and did not see the huge, hairy animal body that I had been accustomed to seeing for the last ten years. I saw pale skin, not brown fur. I was human again! I was still dressed in the grey linen shirt and dark blue breeches, but they were now far too large, built for the massive creature that I had once been. It was then that I realized that not only was I a grown man on his twenty-first birthday, but all of my wounds had been healed. The rips and cuts were still in my shirt, testimony to the arrow wound, the glass slashes, and the knife's deep bite, but underneath my skin and body were whole.
Still amazed, I heard someone approaching from behind. I turned around to find Belle, hands over her mouth, staring with huge eyes. I took a step towards her and she backed away involuntarily. The expression on her face was not unlike the one she'd worn at our first meeting all those months ago, but this time there was wonder mixed in with the shock, instead of horror.
"Belle, it's me!" I exclaimed. I was a little startled to hear my human voice, not the deep growling Beast voice that I had accepted as mine. Belle took her hands away from her mouth, but stepped back another pace, her eyes still mistrustful. She did not look straight into my eyes, but instead reached out hesitantly to stroke my hair, now a very light brown and reaching to my shoulders. Then, after a long moment, she raised her beautiful hazel eyes to meet my blue ones. She must have seen in them a trace of the Beast she had fallen in love with, for she smiled delightedly, saying with wonder, "It is you!"
I reached out to touch her shining, bedraggled brown hair and she let me do it, closing her eyes and putting her hand on mine. Then, impulsively, I leaned down and kissed her gently. She did not pull back, or even seem surprised. Instead, she returned the kiss. Her hands tangled in my hair, and I pulled her close as wind swirled around us like a tornado. Magical fireworks exploded overhead and the rest of the spells broke. The entire castle returned to exactly the way it had been before the spell. Carved angels and cherubs smiled from the towers, and stained glass windows sparkled in the rising sun. Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts came hurrying to join us as we broke our kiss, all human again. I hugged them all, I was so happy to see them. Chip and Sultan, now a boy and dog, joined us a few seconds later, to more hugs.
"It's a miracle!" Lumiere cried, and everyone laughed. I picked Belle up and spun her around, and as I did I glanced back into my rooms. There, on the small table, was the rose. It was now in full bloom, but for the last petal, which lay beneath it. It had turned into solid gold. My eyes moved past the table, and there stood the enchantress, looking just as I remembered her, but I swear her face bore the slightest trace of a smile. She made a motion with one hand, and we found ourselves in the ballroom in our best clothes, with all of the newly restored servants standing happily around the dance floor. I took Belle's hand and we began to dance, just as we had the night before when she was a prisoner and I a Beast. At that moment, the sun sparkled through a stained glass window and caught my eye. As a child, one of my only happy memories had been wandering down the long galleries of stained glass windows, reading the history of my family as told in the pictures. I thought I knew every one of them by memory, but I couldn't recall seeing that window before. I looked closer, and laughed in surprise. The image of a blooming rose glowed over two figures, one in a yellow gown and the other in a blue and gold waistcoat. The briefest glimpse was enough to show that they were both human and both smiling. Behind them was a sunrise, golden and chasing away a few remaining clouds. I leaned down and kissed Belle, my sunrise, and at that moment I knew the meaning of the ending to the fairy tales we'd so often read together. Happily ever after. The perfect way to start a new life.