A Change In Me

Chapter 4

"Master! Master we have returned!" Lumiere's voice awakened the Beast as he sat in the chair by Belle's bedside. He wasn't aware he had fallen asleep and was angry that he had done such a poor job taking care of Belle. But if Lumiere had come back, that could only mean that they had the medicine with them.

"Do you have it?" he grumbled, keeping his eyes closed, afraid to see that Lumiere and Cogsworth did not have the medicine after all.

"But of course!" Lumiere exclaimed and the Beast dared to open his eyes to see if Lumiere was telling the truth.

"Well, where is it?" he growled when he saw no sign of the medicine. The candelabra trembled, but explained himself.

"Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts are preparing it for Belle now, master. They should be done at any moment!"

"Good," he grunted and turned back to see that Belle was no better than she was that morning. But that would change in mere moments when he could give Belle the medicine she needed, he assured himself. It took longer than he anticipated for Mrs. Potts to arrive with the medicine, but he tried to keep his temper. When they did finally arrive, bouncing along on Mrs. Potts' wheeled tea tray, it took all his strength not to bellow at them for taking so long.

"Here, master give this to her," Mrs. Potts requested, motioning to a simple earthenware cup filled with a foul smelling liquid.

"This will cure her?" he asked, sniffing at it and scowling. It smelt awful and he did not envy Belle for having to drink it.

"Yes," Mrs. Potts confirmed. "It will take time to work, though."

"Why is it in this cup?" he asked, motioning to the less than elegant vessel.

"It would stain the proper cups, master," Mrs. Potts explained and he nodded, knowing the pride Mrs. Potts took in keeping her kitchen tidy. The Beast took the cup from the tray and bent over Belle to help her drink once more. Belle still did not wake, but she flinched away from the cup. The Beast couldn't blame her; the medicine certainly smelt awful.

"This will cure you, Belle," he assured her, remembering what Mrs. Potts said about talking gently to her. "You must drink it to get better." Belle did as she was bid though she coughed as she swallowed the medicine.

"That's enough for now," Mrs. Potts suggested when the cup was half empty. "Let her rest and she can finish that portion in an hour or so." The Beast nodded silently and set the cup aside, again picking up the cloth to gently dab at Belle's still feverish forehead. He knew this was the kind of thing a nursemaid should do, not someone as high born as himself, but even if his servants were human and capable of taking care of Belle he would not let anyone touch her now. He was too involved in her recovery, too anxious to see her wake. So when Mrs. Potts suggested he get some rest, he only shook his head and continued his work.

One by one the servants left and, with Madame Armoire still hiding in the washroom, the Beast was alone with Belle. When he moved to dip the cloth into the bowl of water yet again, something caught his eye on the table behind the bowl. A brown, leather bound book lay on the table, a piece of ribbon stuck between the pages to mark the place where Belle had left off.

The servants had mentioned to him once that Belle enjoyed reading, and he quickly agreed for them to pick out a few books from the library for her, but he had not paid much attention at the time. He picked up the book and struggled to read the title: Le Morte d'Arthur. The Beast sighed, supposing Belle would like it if he read to her while she slept, but his last reading lesson was what seemed an eternity ago, making it impossible for him to read for Belle now. Even before the curse, he had scorned his lessons and when he was turned into a Beast he saw no need to even suggest continuing his education.

He put the book down sadly and leaned back in his chair, wondering perhaps if he could tell her a story from his memory. But that was no good, either. Mrs. Potts often told him stories as a boy until he grew too selfish and haughty to listen or care to remember them, but he surprised himself now at the sorrow he felt at their loss.

Silent minutes passed by Belle's side with the Beast hoping the medicine would start working. Mrs. Potts returned to instruct him to give Belle the other half of the dose of medicine and quickly left again. He wondered why the servants were leaving them alone as much as they were; surely Belle's health was more important than the curse just now. The Beast inwardly gasped as he realized what he just thought. Belle's safety was more important than the curse. Perhaps there was some hope for him after all, if only Belle would wake.

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