"I want to do something for her" said Beast on the first day, watching as Belle fed the birds in the walled courtyard.
"Well," said Cogsworth, who knew a thing or two about rules, "there's always the usual: flowers, chocolates, promises you don't intend to keep"
That afternoon, the Beast led Belle to the hot house on the castle grounds. "Open your eyes!" he said, excited. Belle opened her eyes. Around her were dazzling flowers, orchids from every corner of the globe, tall luscious ferns, flowers whose names she did not know. (But no roses. The Beast had been very clear to his watering can gardener on this. No roses).
Belle looked at the flowers, trapped in their pots, trained and tied to their trellises, bound within the glass walls.
"Do you like it?" asked the Beast.
"They are very pretty" said Belle.
"Then they're yours, all of them!"
"Thank you" said Belle, but she did not smile. And the Beast was angry in his heart, though he had learnt to control his temper and did not show it.
"I want to DO something for her" said Beast on the second day, watching Belle as she untied the orchids from the stems to which they were tied.
"Well", said Lumiere, who knew a thing or two about pleasing, "There is something special you could do".
That afternoon, the Beast led Belle to the library. "Open your eyes!" he said, nervous. Belle opened her eyes. Before rose books, thousands of books, tier upon tier of books in a room flooded with light. Overjoyed, she smiled with delight. How many stories to read! How many places to run to!
"Do you like it?" asked the Beast.
"It's wonderful!" said Belle.
"Then it's yours, all of it!"
"Thank you" she said, and though she smiled, it did not reached her eyes. And the Beast was sad, and he showed it, but this sadness Belle did not notice.
"I want to do something for HER" said Beast on the third day, watching Belle as she sat by the window, turning page after page of her book.
"Well", said the feather duster, who knew a thing or two about being a woman, "perhaps you should give her back what you took from her"
"And what's that?" asked the Beast, rounding on the feather duster.
"Her freedom" said the feather duster.
The other servants froze at those words, or hid. But the feather duster, who knew a thing or two about men, kept dusting.
That afternoon, the Beast went to find Belle. "If you would walk with me, I would like to show you something" he said. "Must I wear a blindfold?" she asked. "No longer" he said.
He walked with her to the courtyard. Philippe, her horse, stood there saddled and bridled. The gates of the castle were open. She looked at the Beast, and waited.
"Some months ago, I imprisoned your father for doing nothing more than asking for shelter. I was wrong to do that. You came to rescue him, and offered yourself in exchange for his captivity. I was ashamed at your bravery, but rather than release you both and beg forgiveness, I imprisoned you. In my shame, I wished to humiliate you."
She turned her head away, and bit her lip.
"Later, I threatened you and you fled the castle. I went after you, and finding you beset with wolves, I defeated them and fell in the snow. You carried me back to the castle, and tended to me until I was healed. I was ashamed at your compassion, but rather than release you, I bound you with guilt. In my shame, I hoped to keep you by my side."
Belle lifted her head, and looked at the Beast. Her face was set. Her eyes unreadable.
"I had no right to imprison you, or your father. And once you had reclaimed your freedom, I had no right to keep you by my side. I have done you wrong, and taken from you what was yours by force and by coercion." The Beast took a breath, and hand Belle the reins of her horse.
"I return to you what I stole, and I tell you to leave this place. I give you no magic mirror to watch me, no token of this place, only food and water to get you home. The gate are open, and will never close until you leave here".
Lumiere and Cogsworth leapt up.
"But master, what of us? Shall we remain forever trapped in this form? Keep her here for our sakes at least!"
Beast turned to his servants.
"I am sorry, my friends, but I do not think that true love can bloom from imprisonment."
He turned to Belle, and was silent. And she bowed to him, and bad him farewell, but did not thank him. And she rode through the castle gates, and the wood, and over the river. She rode and rode and never looked back. She reached the door of her father's house, and found him by his maps planning to rescue her, and she held him in her arms while he wept and wept for relief and joy.
Every so often, years later, sat in her own library (modest, perhaps, but hers) on cold, dark nights, she would find herself thinking of the magnificent library so full of light, and the huge fireplaces so full of warmth, and the great halls so full of splendor. And she would gaze out of the window to the distant mountains.
And then she would remember her father's ice cold hands, and the heavy door with iron bars, and the beautiful room that was her prison.
And she never went back.