And so we have to cut those programs. The 45th MayDay celebration also presents a financial challenge. Heart of the Beast will present limited programming in coming months at the Avalon Theater. It is also hoping to rent out the Avalon for events and performances. He said it's been very influential. And no more so than at the MayDay celebration. Shutters had fallen away from a series of large win- dows that showed countless gaps where the panes had cracked and shattered. Part of the roof had collapsed and, beneath the rubble that had descended from the breach, the floor was sag- ging dangerously.
It was not until I saw the splintered frames, torn canvases and warped boards still adorning the decrepit walls that I recognized this was the gallery in which had hung portraits of my family, dating back many generations. I was exhausted and in pain and entirely focussed on tracking the tiny point of heat I had detected. The scent of it was not wood smoke, but something else that spoke of warmth and light and comfort; something I had known in another life. Memory tugged at my brain like a snarl in my fur, but I could not place it. I picked my way along the gallery beneath my obliterated ancestry, following the enig- matic trace.
At last I saw a tiny winking light. Of course.
Candle wax. Visions of tall tapers burning in silvered candelabra washed through my brain; of people and dinners and dancing and church, and all the things candles meant to me once upon a time. Instinctively I looked all around for the person who must have placed the single, jewel-like light, twinkling in a glass upon a shelf. There was no one about.
Then I saw it. Amid all the destruction wrought by time and neglect, one portrait remained untouched. It hung above the candle, the rich gilt of its frame intact and reflecting ruddy glints. It was a por- trait of a woman of middle years in a russet brocade gown with a starched ruff, smiling gently, if a little sadly, down upon me. One hand rested upon a ruby droplet depending from a strand of pearls about her neck, the other clasped a posy of wild flowers in her lap; white daisies, red carnations, forget-me-nots, celan- dine and purple fritillaries.
The strength left my legs and I sank to the floor, staring up her. Every line of her kind face was inti- mately familiar. My heart broke open and memories spilled through me, sweet and piercing. A miserable whine rose in my throat. Why must I see her now? She had doted upon me, perhaps hoping I might choose a better path.
But look at me now, I thought, bitterness stopping my breath as though I had swal- lowed thorns.
In the Heart of the Beast MayDay Parade
I dragged myself up, too ashamed to remain here under the benediction of her painted gaze. But as I took a faltering step I heard the ghost of her voice again. I stumbled. She had said this to me so often in the last years of her life, always with a gentle touch and a smile, trusting me to choose the right path and not lose myself to the course of corruption chosen by my father.
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I hung my head, staring at my bandaged, bleeding paws. I am not a man. Yet someone had cared for me. Had left me food.
The Beast's Heart: A Novel of Beauty and the Beast
And how- ever pitiful that meal had been, it had been a human meal. I twisted to stare back at the candle. Someone else was here in this ruined chateau and whoever it was knew me for being more than just a beast. Perhaps they could help me. I limped off in search of my mysterious benefactor. I found no one. It would not have been a difficult task to avoid me. Even so, if there had been someone to find, eventually I must have discovered some sign of them. But there was no one. I searched for days. Weeks, even. Every night I returned to my dreary room and every morning a meal was waiting for me beside the bed.
Some- times there was even a meager fire burning in the hearth, or in the hearth of the entrance hall. There was no one to help me. If there was to be any change in my pitiable condition, I would need to work it myself. The morning after this epiphany, as I was finishing my pal- try meal, a basin of steaming water appeared on a table nearby.
I cannot describe how wholly disconcerting this was. It simply materialized out of nothing. I flung myself away from it, snarl- ing. When it did nothing more remarkable than send up gentle curls of scented steam, I gathered my courage to investigate it. Circling the table upon which it stood, I recalled the way my fireside chair had picked itself up after I knocked it over the night I arrived. Indeed, the water smelled of chamomile and pine and the faintest whiff of magic. I knew what it was for. I remembered it from my previous life.
It was as though, now I had accepted any change in my situation was mine to make, the magic inhabiting this place was offering me a challenge. I could only reach it by standing on my hind legs and my only means of cleaning my face was to submerge it in the water and shake it about. Still, most beasts will wash themselves with their own tongue, and I had done it with a bowl of hot water. An unfamiliar feeling of warmth gathered in my chest. It caught me by surprise when at last I recognized the foreign sensation for what it was.
Pride , I realized wonderingly. I honestly could not have said when I last did something I felt proud of.
Heart of the Beast
This was such a simple thing, it seemed ridiculous. Thus began the process by which I learned anew how to be a man. Many, many times I tore outside and threw my body at the iron gates, trying to force them open so I could run back into the forest and be a beast once more. The house was not the crumbling ruin I had first encoun- tered on my return, but it was little better.
It was rank with ne- glect and inhabited by every pestilential creature imaginable. The strange forces that had cared for me and brought me food on my return were erratic.
May Day Celebration with Heart of the Beast - Minneapolis, MN | ACTIVE
One day I might find a feast awaiting me in the entrance hall, another I would be served nothing but rancid cheese and spoiled meat. There were occasions when I did not eat for several days together. Even so, with the relics of my old life constantly before me, I began to try to reclaim what dregs of it I could. And it seemed to me the magic now pervading my house rewarded my efforts toward this impossible goal. Over time, the rooms I used most improved and became comfortable.
The invisible servants inhabiting my house became more reliable. I found it easier to pretend I was a man. I would shake off the drowsiness that dogged me and walk around on two legs. I would dress in a fine linen shirt and velvet doublet and dine at the table. It was not easy. Eating with any appearance of civility was ever difficult; that never changed. Always I had to allow the magic to help me dress, or the velvet doublets I wore became torn and the fine linen ruffles at my wrists frayed and unraveled. I found it almost impossible to draw on my own boots, even after my hind feet grew more human in shape.
Yet it was of im- mediate concern to me that, in every possible respect, I appear as noble as I had been born. I had practiced them in empty pride, a mere exercise of righteousness. But now, in absolute solitude, I made them the mark of my humanity. Progress was achingly slow and each milestone I achieved was a thing to be treasured. It took years before I could walk unaided down the grand staircase on my hind legs, and many more hours of effort before I could do it easily.