The Beast was not summoned to help Belle again, which he took as a sign that she was growing stronger. It did, however, limit his excuses to go and see Belle. During the next three days, the Beast found himself pacing the halls, hands behind his back and brooding to himself. On several occasions, he looked up to see that he had somehow wound his way to the hall that contained Belle's room. Only twice did he find the courage to knock on her door, however. Both times he was greeted by the uplifting site of Belle sitting up in her bed, dressing gown around her shoulders and an open book in her lap. The delicate flush had returned to her cheeks and she no longer looked helplessly tired.
He stayed only a few moments each time, but it was enough to reassure him that Belle would make a full recovery. Both times he had visited, Belle had also thought to make sure his own wound was healing well. He had completely forgotten about the slices on his arm in light of Belle's illness, but he assured her that they gave him no trouble.
He was still overwhelmed by the change in her attitude towards him. Only a few days ago she had hated the sight of him, even refusing to eat with him. He blanched at the memory of him bellowing at her to starve if she would not have dinner with him. He was determined never to act like that again, a decision that was reaffirmed every time Belle smiled at him. Perhaps Belle wasn't the only one to change. He dared to hope it was possible.
Belle was surprised to find that she missed the Beast while she was recovering. Though she had not intended to have the intimidating creature tend to her, she was flattered and oddly pleased that he had done it just the same. It was true she had slept through much of his stay by her side, but when she woke to see him beside her she felt safe and comfortable. These feelings startled her, especially when she recalled that this was the same creature who had locked her father up to die and chased her out of the West Wing. But when she remembered the kindness and warmth in his eyes the night he had rescued her, it was easy to believe that it was not in fact the same beast. When he wasn't yelling and losing his temper, she could actually see a soul behind his eyes. And when Mrs. Potts had told her what he had done for her while she was so ill, she was convinced that the Beast had shown his true and gentle heart.
Two days later, with the help of the medicine Lumiere and Cogsworth had produced for her, she was able to safely walk around her room. The wound on her leg still pained her, but it was no longer threatening her life. She remembered how the angry, hot pain had woke her in the middle of the night that first day, searing down her leg like poison. She shuddered as she remembered how terrified she was that it might consume her with no one to help her. But they had all come, in the end, even the Beast.
The Beast had only visited her twice after the medicine began to take effect, but she was glad of the chance to see him. She wondered if he was a little embarrassed about what he had done for her and she welcomed the chance to tell him he needn't be, but he did not stay long enough for her to convince him. Instead she spent a large majority of those two days consoling Madame Armoire who wailed every time Belle stumbled or touched her leg.
On the third day, itching to leave the room, she gained permission from Mrs. Potts to walk around the grounds. Cheerfully she donned a new outfit Madame Armoire provided for her, being sure to give plenty of praise for the beautiful green dress to help improve the wardrobe's mood.
Once she was dressed and her hair was pulled back as usual she felt quite like herself again. So it was in good spirits that she left her room and found her way to the door, careful to keep hold of the rail as she descended the steps. Just as she turned the last corner before the door that led to the snowy gardens, she bumped into something large and white which emitted a grunt of surprise. She caught herself from falling over and looked up to see the Beast.
"Oh, Beast," she said, relieved to finally see him. She was surprised to see that he had changed his clothes. Instead of the ragged trousers and torn purple cape, he now wore tidy black trousers, a new deep blue cape, and a beautiful white linen shirt of all things. "You look—well—nice," she said honestly, noticing that he had even combed his fur.
"Um, thank you," he said uncertainly, reaching back to scratch his neck. "So do you. It's good to see you up again." Belle tried not to blush, though there was logically nothing she should be blushing at.
"Thank you. It feels good to be out of my room," she admitted with a happy sigh. "I was going for a walk on the grounds. Would you like to join me?"
"A walk? Do you think that's a good idea with your wound?" His large eyebrows knit together with concern and Belle smiled.
"I feel fine. Mrs. Potts said I would be all right as long as I didn't exert myself. Are you coming?"
"Oh, I—uh, no not right now," he stammered. If she didn't know any better, she would have thought the Beast was a bit nervous.
"All right. Will I see you later?" she asked, reaching to take hold of his paw in hopes he would agree to her new request. The Beast glanced down at their joined hands and looked back at her to nod. "Good," she said happily and waved as she continued towards the door, doing her best not to limp more than she could help.
Belle made her way to the stables, thinking that Philippe might welcome a walk around the grounds as well. As she buckled the bridle around her dear horse's head and began their walk, she wondered about her new desire to be with the Beast. Part of her felt as though she was betraying her father; the Beast had, after all, locked him in the dungeons before ripping she and her father apart. It still provoked a deep sadness in her heart to see the Beast drag her father away without allowing so much as a goodbye.
And another part of her worried if she wasn't suffering some side effect of being rescued the way she was. Plenty of silly girls in fairy tales fawned over the men who saved them and it made Belle angry that she might be one of them. But the Beast truly had become so different in just a few short days. Barely a shadow of that animal remained in this Beast's gentle eyes; surely some sort of tentative friendship with him would be justifiable.
She led Philippe across the grounds, still lost in thought about the Beast. As if Philippe could sense her confusion, he nudged her gently, making her smile and pet his nose lovingly. Just then Sultan, the footstool that acted like a puppy, scampered by her and dove into a snow bank. Laughing at his antics, she carefully knelt and scooped him into her arms, scratching the side of his head and making his back leg wiggle.
Out of the corner of her eye, Belle thought she saw a large shadow moving. When she turned to look however, she saw only Lumiere and Cogsworth standing on the ledge of a balcony above her head. She waved cheerfully at them and grinned as they waved in return, Lumiere practically jumping in his enthusiasm. She giggled and continued her walk, glad the servants had grown to like her so much. They had been so kind to her since the moment she arrived and she was grateful for their companionship. If only she could get the Beast to talk to her, her stay here would be much more agreeable.
A little while later, Belle's stomach began to growl. So she put Philippe back in his stall and followed Sultan back inside the castle to see if she could find lunch and perhaps seek out the Beast. Maybe she could read Le Morte d'Arthur to him; it was one of her favorites and she was overjoyed when Mrs. Potts confirmed that they had a copy within the castle. She was already nearly halfway though she only began reading it only a few days ago, but she would be willing to start over if the Beast agreed to let her read it to him. She smiled at the idea and hoped that the Beast didn't mind that she liked to read. . .