She took lunch in her room, more exhausted than she was willing to admit. As she sat in her chair by the small table at the window, her leg took advantage of the opportunity to twinge with pain. Confident she was alone with Madame Armoire, she lifted her dress past her knee to examine the wound. Beneath its bandages, the stitches were clean and the wound was nearly closed. Soon she would be able to remove the stitches she had tied so carefully.
It occurred to her that it was the stitches themselves that caused the infection in the first place; the material must not have been adequately sanitary and she was glad she had not needed to use them on the Beast. Doubtless he would have become as ill as she had. Though her stomach gave a comfortable twinge at the idea of sitting by his bedside as the Beast had for her.
"Did you enjoy your walk, dearie?" Madame Armoire asked as Belle ate her warm lunch.
"Yes, I did. It's so beautiful out there with the snow nearly untouched. It was good to get some fresh air after all that time being cooped up in here." At her words, Madame Armoire's odd wooden face screwed up as she threatened to cry again. Oh dear, Belle sighed to herself.
"Madame," she started as she walked over to the emotional servant. "I know you feel badly about what happened that night. But it is not your fault. There wasn't much you could have done if you had woken. I was too ill and scared to have done anything else anyway. Please don't feel so guilty about it. Please." If Belle thought her arms would have reached, she would have tried to hug the wardrobe, but she had to settle with a gentle pat on the servant's shoulder.
"My dear you are so sweet!" Madame Armoire exclaimed miserably. "I don't deserve to be forgiven, but I am so grateful you're not mad!"
"Of course not," Belle assured her, smiling at the wardrobe's self-imposed drama. She knew little about this creature, but Belle couldn't help but think that Madame Armoire could have been some sort actress. If she was human, that is. And Belle got the distinct impression that she had been. . .
A soft knock on the door interrupted their conversation and Belle's thoughts. Belle opened the door to find Mrs. Potts and Lumiere on the other side.
"Bonjour, ma cherie!" Lumiere exclaimed as he and Mrs. Potts hopped inside. "It is good to see you looking so well!"
"Thank you, Lumiere. It's all because of you two and Cogsworth," Belle said with a smile, always amused by Lumiere's persistent cheerfulness.
"And the Master," Mrs. Potts put in.
"And the Master," Belle agreed easily. "Where is he, by the way?"
"Oh, that is why we have come! He has asked us to come to see if you would join him in the south passage," Lumiere said.
"Why didn't he just come ask me?" Belle asked, slightly upset that he might send his servants in his place. Was he so opposed to spending time with her?
"He and Cogsworth are seeing to some details," Mrs. Potts replied elusively.
"Details?" Belle asked and received only nods in return. "I suppose it's no good asking for what."
"You will find out soon enough, ma cherie," Lumiere chuckled. "If you are feeling well enough, we shall leave now."
"Very well, lead the way," Belle said and closed her bedroom door as they went into the hallway. She followed Mrs. Potts and Lumiere through the castle to a part she had never been in before and was surprised to see a mop and bucket scurry past them back down the way Belle had just come. Lumiere chuckled nervously when Belle glanced at the retreating object curiously.
"Almost there, dear," Mrs. Potts brought Belle's attention back to the mystery at hand.
"What's going on?" Belle couldn't help but ask. She had seen many objects move throughout the castle during her stay here, but never such serious cleaning supplies. What had they been cleaning that required a mop? Instead of answering her question directly, they motioned just down the hall where the Beast stood before a pair of large doors, Cogsworth grinning as he stood nearby.
"You came," the Beast said, clearly surprised to see Belle.
"Well Mrs. Potts and Lumiere were being so cryptic, I couldn't help but want to see what was going on," she replied with a smile. "Will you tell me what's happening?"
"Thank you for bringing her," the Beast said to his servants, clearly dismissing them. Belle couldn't help feeling a bit nervous as the three kind servants made their way back down the hall, leaving her alone with the Beast. She looked back at his hulking form, reminding herself that she had been alone with him before, albeit she was unconscious most of the time.
"What's going on?" she repeated, trying to be more curious than nervous.
"Belle, there's something that I want to show you," he said, his deep voice rumbling gently. And, unless Belle was very much mistaken, he seemed rather excited about this 'something.' The Beast turned to the doors behind him, but paused and turned back to her. "But first, you have to close your eyes." Belle raised a skeptical eyebrow, wondering why on earth he would want her to do that. As if to answer her unasked question, he added, "It's a surprise."
Finding that her curiosity about what lay behind those doors overwhelmed any fear she felt, she did as the Beast asked. When her eyes were closed, she heard the squeak of the doors opening and felt the Beast's massive hands gently take hold of her own. She was startled by his touch, but did not flinch away. As her hands lay in his, she realized how very small she was compared to him; her entire hand filled only the tips of his fingers. The Beast could hurt her so easily with his massive bulk and strength, but she felt more comfort than fear beside his warmth. She reflected that a few short days ago she would not have even allowed the Beast to come near her, now here she was allowing him to lead her blindly into an unknown room. Her feet hesitated as she felt the floor change from the carpet of the hall to some sort of hard tile in the unknown room, but the Beast's guidance never faltered.
"May I open them?" she asked, hearing her voice echo around what seemed to be a rather large room.
"No, no not yet," the Beast answered excitedly. "Wait here," he directed a moment later and Belle felt his hulking, warm presence leave her. She heard the sound of rustling fabric and a light glowed through her closed eyelids. It was a bit unnerving standing blindly in empty space, but if her other senses held true, she could smell the unmistakable scent of parchment. The familiar smell sent her heart beating excitedly and she felt as though she would burst with her curiosity.
"Now can I open them?" she asked again.
"All right, now."