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THE MERCHANT'S DAUGHTER -Chapter Fourteen

CHAPTER FOURTEEN:


It had been exactly two months and a fortnight since Beauty had arrived at Beast’s castle. She awoke in her bed that morning and for the first time since her arrival she did not have her father and her family on her mind. Instead, Beauty’s thoughts were turned towards her current situation –and her current companion and friend.

She got ready that morning feeling quite light hearted. She chose for herself a frock of a deep royal blue and took a little extra time to arrange her hair that morning. She plaited her hair in several sections then pulled it back and arranged it into a hairstyle that had a small knot bringing all of the hair together but also allowed some of it to cascade down her neck and back a little.

Satisfied with her appearance in the looking glass, Beauty set out to seek Beast downstairs in the kitchen. She did not find him there, however. Going upon intuition, she headed for the main drawing room whereupon she found him sitting and absorbed in a volume with a jacket of a deep forest green. She wondered what it was he read. She could not read the silver font from where she stood to figure out a title.

His golden eyes looked up as she entered and a small smile tugged at his lips. “Good morning dear Beauty,” he greeted.

“Good morning Beast,” she returned with a small smile as she took her place in her regular armchair across from him.

“And how was your sleep milady?”

“Quite pleasant. And yourself?” she inquired.

He nodded his head humbly. “Much the same thank you.”

“What is it you read?”

His eyes flickered to his book then back at her. “Ah,” he murmured, “I began it last night after you retired to sleep,” he admitted, “I was interested to read about its contents for awhile. I have just never picked it up until now. It regards a court within a castle. I do not know whether it is fictional or not however there are a few illustrations,” he declared. His paws picked up the volume in his lap and carefully he flipped through to a previous page then held it up to show her the portrait which depicted a great hall of courtiers. All of them were dressed in styles that Beauty knew to be from at least two hundred years before their time now.

She smiled. “The illustrations are quite wonderful,” she commented, “Is the narrative as interesting and catching?”

He nodded at her. “Their speech is quite different in some places to the way that you or I speak to one another,” he told Beauty, “It is in this way that I can tell that it does not take place here whether that means not in this land or not in this time I cannot quite discern. However judging by the portraits alone I have determined it is likely they are...” Here he frowned having not been able to finish his sentence. He went on though after a moment, “Well the frocks and garments are quite different to any I have ever seen. So I am not sure that these courtiers are supposed to exist in this particular region in which we reside. And yet as I have not much knowledge about whether time changes styles of clothing to any extent I cannot determine with certainty whether they exist in a time period of days gone by.”

Beauty nodded her head at his explanation of his thoughts. “I can tell you with certainty that the styles of dress you see in the portraits —at least in the one you showed to me— used to exist some time ago. Actually, quite some time ago,” she confirmed, “They resemble to my knowledge garments of two centuries ago,” she explained.

“That is... yes quite a number of years,” he agreed.

“Does it give the name of the castle and its court?” Beauty asked –wondering whether she might recognize the name and therefore confirm or deny his thoughts about whether the volume was a fictitious story or not.

“It does,” he affirmed. He gave her the name, Aginale, and Beauty sat back in her chair in thought.

“The name does not sound familiar,” she confessed, “I think it may be a fictitious account,” she went on.

“Well either way I am enjoying it,” he confirmed.

“Would you mind if we read it together later on today?” she asked.

“Of course not. We can start from the beginning.”

“Oh no that’s quite alright Beast,” Beauty reassured, “If you could simply provide a quick explanation of the events thus far I do believe that should suffice!”

He nodded in acknowledgement. “Then that shall be our plan,” he agreed easily. “Come now let us partake in our breakfast.”

“I’d be delighted to.”

~

With breakfast through, the two tidied as was their custom and then took a short walk out of doors before returning inside for their promised reading time together.

Beauty found herself soon quite fond of the narrative, and she and Beast lost themselves in reading the story until well after their accustomed lunch time. Finding themselves eager to read on, they made a picnic of sorts in the drawing room with fruit and dried meat and small slices of bread so they would be able to read and eat at the same time.

They came to the realization that they were quite fond of the characters who were funny, kind, at some points ridiculous in their mannerisms and behaviour and yet quite interesting to learn about all the same.

Deciding to stop for the time being shortly after reading about the scene with the grand ball, the two stood to stretch their legs.

“I have always imagined what it must be like to dance,” Beast murmured somewhat absently as he set aside the volume –marking their place.

“You’ve not danced before?” she inquired gently as she did not want to give off her surprise and offend him with it.

“I have tried,” he admitted, “However, with no partner with which to do so with I could not quite tell whether I was doing the steps correctly in time with them or whether... Well I suppose dancing takes a great deal of feeling as well. I do not know what that feels like as naturally having lived alone until now I do not know the satisfied feeling of participating in a dance for two or more individuals. Dance is a social occupation is it not? I have no knowledge of it being a solitary activity and thus I soon gave up mere minutes after attempting to teach myself the steps I read about in another volume. However I read about them all –curiosity overtaking me at the time.”

“I see,” Beauty responded softly with a kind smile. “Well as you now do not live in a solitary situation would you care to partake in a dance?”

“Dance? Together?” Beast repeated.

“Indeed.”

He considered it for a short moment. “Have you danced before?”

“Yes. A number of times actually... We were brought up to learn them so that when we attended a party we could join in! It’s quite fun and as you said a partner is important. Furthermore the right partner can make the difference as well however seeing as we do not have anyone else but each other I am humbled to offer my services as good or as poor as you may find them to be in order that together we may dance and you may find that...feeling you spoke of. Or, so is my hope,” Beauty bowed her head humbly and a bit shyly at her own words. “I understand if you—”

“Yes,” he agreed as she went to speak; cutting her off from her next sentence. “If you would be so kind as to partner me I would much enjoy dancing I think.”

This made Beauty smile. She bowed her head again in acquiescence and looked up at him with eyes shining with mirth. “I would be happy to be your partner milord,” she responded.

“Might we...might we try a waltz?” he inquired slowly.

“Yes indeed,” his partner agreed easily. “We shall need more space at any rate for any dance we are to undertake. Shall we move to your ballroom?”

“I do believe that appropriate,” he conceded softly.

As they walked through the corridors to their destination, Beast spoke on, “In reading through the information regarding all dances that I have knowledge of, the waltz has always most appealed to me.”

“Ah. Any reason specifically?”

“It seemed... It is hard to describe into words. But I imagined the feeling of that dance to be most pleasurable to my nature.”

“I believe that is a good a reason as any,” Beauty murmured softly –moved a little by his answer.

They arrived into the ballroom and both decided to take the middle of the floor.

Beauty got the two of them arranged into their positions. “There is no need to be nervous,” she assured him as she looked back at him.

“I am not nervous,” he defended –although his voice shook a little with uncertainty.

With a small smile she then proceeded to talk him through it all. “Since we are doing a waltz, the steps are counted in threes. It makes it rather easy and... it, to me at least, feels as though the steps can be quite light at times and easy to do.”

Beast nodded. “I have tried practicing.”

“Right,” she affirmed. “Well then let us go through the steps together. I will hum an easy waltz tune I know,” she told him, “It will help us a bit I hope. But shall I count first?”

“Please,” he requested gently.

“Very well.” She demonstrated the steps they would do as she stood stationary and counted out the beats. Then, she began their practice together standing stationary. “Make each of the steps as I count,” she indicated. Beast nodded. “One, two three. One, two, three...” she counted out. He followed easily and did each step relatively in time in addition to being a bit exaggerated and stiff as one would be at trying hard to stay on beat and perform the correct action at the correct time.

“Let us go again,” she encouraged gently with a smile. “One, two three. One, two, three...”

He counted along with her as he performed his steps standing in place, “One, two three. One, two, three.”

She was pleased to see his rhythm had improved.

“Very good. Shall we add the music now?” she inquired with an amused smile.

“Yes,” he agreed with a smile in return.

“We’ll have to partner now.” Beast offered no reluctance or resistance to getting into their positions properly to dance together. Beauty felt a bit of excitement go through her at the same time that she realized she was also a bit shy to dance with her friend. It had been a long while since she herself had attended any balls or dances and worried that she might also make a mistake.

Thoughts that he had never once danced with anyone else to his memory made her relax considerably and she gave his paw a gentle squeeze before they began.

Beauty quickly explained the direction of movement. Beast nodded his understanding. “Alright then here we go.” Beauty began to hum softly and slowly the tune so that it would keep time to Beast’s counts aloud: “La-dada-dada. La-dada-dada.” The two moved leisurely to the tune.

On the second count of three, he stepped a bit too close to her and almost trod on her toes. “I— I am so sorry Beauty!”

“It is no matter!” she assured, “Let us go again!”

They resumed; Beast softly counting and Beauty softly humming. They went around three times flawlessly before stopping.

“That was wonderful!” she praised. “Are you certain you have never danced before?” she teased him.

“Quite certain,” he answered a bit shyly as he stepped back away from her and looked to his paws.

“You were perfect! Well done!”

“Was I? You needn’t be terribly kind Beauty. I can take your honesty.”

“No truly! If you have never danced before well then you are a natural.”

“I was...that good?”

“Truly,” she assured. “May I ask you something?”

“You may,” he nodded curtly –feeling a bit of nerves flowing over him in anticipation.

“How did it make you feel?”

“Oh!” He paused in consideration. “It was...nice. Yes. I would much like to do it again sometime.”

“Why not now?”

“If you are willing?”

In response she stepped back up to him and held her arms up so he could partner her. This brought a small smile to her friend’s face and he got back into position himself.

“I think I can do it without counting.”

“Shall I hum again?”

“As we have no formal music; no orchestra or vocalist of any kind I would appreciate having the tune if you would be so kind.”

Off they went again.

After several spins around the floor, Beauty taught Beast another step within the framework of the existing dance. “Whenever I get to the end of the three counts; the section, could you twirl me once `round? Like so,” she demonstrated as she let go of one hand and spun gently as she held the other still in his paw. “So I will go la-dada-dada and then you spin me. Then again I will go la-dada-dada,” she hummed again, “and another spin.”

The side of his mouth moved up into a smile. “I believe we can manage such a thing together yes. Let us try.” He was eager.

Soon they were moving around the ballroom freely as they danced to the tune Beauty hummed for them. And soon, the two were grinning widely and laughing as they enjoyed their dance. After awhile, they grew tired and breathless from the exertion and their laughter and had to stop.

“Well?” Beauty began as they made their way from the room to go to the kitchen and prepare their dinner.

He seemed to understand the unspoken part of the question, “Dancing is wonderful –or at least the waltz is quite fun,” he replied, “Thank you Beauty. I should much like to try another dance another day if you would be willing.”

“I would be delighted.”