"Cirque de Sarousch..."
The next day, as Belle made her way to the bookshop, with Angelique at her side, she was surprised to see a number of colourful caravans trundling through the streets. Quite a few people had already gathered to see what all the fuss was about; and Mr Bookkeeper was amongst them.
“What’s going on, Mama?” whispered Angelique, clinging to Belle’s hand just in case it was something to be worried about.
Belle smiled down at her. “Probably nothing to be worried about, Angie. Let’s ask someone.”
They made their way up to Mr Bookkeeper. “What’s going on?” Belle asked, politely.
“I think it’s a travelling circus,” he replied. “Mind you, I haven’t seen one here in Paris since I was a child.”
Making her way to the front of the crowd, with Angelique still clinging to her, Belle read the name on the caravan. “Cirque de Sarousch,” she read aloud, and suddenly the door fell open revealing a tall, thin man in a striped costume wearing a white mask and juggling numerous coloured balls.
“Welcome!” he announced in a voice that sent a shiver down Belle’s spine. “Come one and all to Cirque de Sarousch, part of Le Jour d’Amour celebrations! See juggling clowns, fire-breathers, magic and other feats of daring do you will never believe; all right here in the heart of town! The first performance is tonight, ladies and gentlemen, and no charge! We live to entertain!”
Belle couldn’t help smiling. His style reminded her of Clopin when she had first met him, although there was something about his voice that reminded her a little too much of Frollo for her liking. Pushing that thought away, she turned to her daughter. “Come on, Angie, let’s open up shop.”
“Can we come see the circus?” Angelique asked, brightly.
“I don’t see why not,” Belle replied, truthfully, following Mr Bookkeeper to the shop door. Business was unusually quiet for the rest of the day, and she put that down to the excitement of the circus, as well as the preparations for Le Jour d’Amour. Everyone would be selling everything to the best of their abilities up until that day, just like during the holiday season. Belle smiled to herself as she busied herself with helping to repair an old volume that was losing its spine. Before she had met Clopin, she had had no one to share that holiday with – and Frollo, being the man he was, had dismissed such a frivolous holiday as “an excuse to make merry and idle away time that would be better spent in confession and prayer,” so she had never really been involved much in the festival in her youth. But after she had married Clopin she had finally experienced it for the first time, in all its romantic beauty and splendour. People had read out love poems and there had been performances of sections from romantic plays or books as well as music and dancing. And with all the flowers and confetti being tossed around and the Notre Dame bells ringing in all their glory it had felt like a magical day for everyone.
But the best part had been when Clopin had swept her, quite literally, off her feet and declared his love for her in front of the whole of Paris, it had seemed, and she had then done the same for him, to rapturous applause.
Eventually the time came to close up shop but just as she was hurrying to change the sign from “Open” to “Closed,” Belle spotted her husband a little way off over by the circus caravans, having what could only be described as an altercation with the man in the striped suit, who had since removed his mask. His features were smooth and almost godlike, but something about his eyes sent a chill through her. At any rate, she quickly opened the shop door and hurried up to them, in time to catch Clopin’s words.
“I don’t know what you’re up to, but if you go making trouble here-!”
The man laughed. “My dear friend, whatever makes you think that I would go around “making trouble,” as you so eloquently put it?”
Clopin was about to respond when he felt Belle’s hand on his sleeve. “Clopin?” He turned to her and she saw a slight twinge of fear amid the anger in his eyes. It worried her. “What’s going on?”
The man turned to her with a slick smile. “Just old friends catching up, chere.” He gave her a swift bow. “Allow me to introduce myself; I am Sarousch, the owner of Cirque de Sarousch.”
Belle managed a small smile. “Pleased to meet you, sir. My name’s Belle.”
“Come on,” Clopin said to her, quickly slipping an arm about her waist. “It’s getting a little too crowded around here,” he said, in a tight tone as he gave Sarousch a curt nod and then guided her away from him.
“What was all that about?” Belle asked, quietly.
Clopin was about to reply when the shop bell tinkled and Angelique came hurrying out, holding the book she’d started reading towards the end of the day, with Mr Bookkeeper right behind her. “Papa!” she smiled, hurrying up to him.
Clopin softened at once, bending to pick her up. “I hope you haven’t been giving Mr Bookkeeper trouble, Angie.”
“No trouble at all,” Mr Bookkeeper smiled, locking the door. “I do wish that more people her age were into books; gets it from her mother, obviously,” he added with a smile at Belle before taking his leave of them.
Belle decided against bringing up the subject of Sarousch there and then because something told her that it wasn’t something to discuss in front of their daughter. “Now what has he let you take home this time?” she asked, taking the book from Angelique and smiling as she read the title. “Moondust; the Adventures of the Drake Siblings” by E.J Swann.
“It’s really good,” Angelique grinned as Clopin set her back on her own feet.
“I know,” Belle grinned back, handing the book back to her, “I read it when I was your age.”
“Come on,” Clopin said, taking both their hands. “Let’s go home.”
His moods was considerably brighter now, Belle noted, but she resolved to ask him later that night why Sarousch’s presence had had him so agitated.
Sarousch watched them leave, thoughtfully. So, Clopin was now not only freed from prison, but he now had a family, did he? Perhaps that could work to his advantage, he smiled to himself, wickedly.
Belle didn’t mention her husband’s meeting with Sarousch to anyone else either, although Angelique gleefully told her friends about the circus coming to Paris.
“We saw the caravans,” Lilo piped up, turning to Dr Facilier. “We can go, right, Papa? See all the magic tricks?”
Dr Facilier laughed. “Of course, darlin’! Though they’re probably not a patch on your skills!”
Clopin took a deep breath. “If anyone wants to go to the circus, I will say be careful. Circuses are like night-time fairs; you never know what might happen.”
“Hang on to your hat and all that,” Clayton agreed. “We should all keep our guard up in crowds like that.”
“Oh, I think you two are worrying far too much,” Tiana said, serving them up their food. “What’s the worst that can happen?”
“Awk! I’m with them!” Iago replied, crunching his way through an apple. “We might get mugged or something!”
“Well, then, we’ll all have to make sure we stick together in groups,” Sarah replied, level-headed as ever as she finally slid into a seat beside her husband. “And keep our guards up.”
Belle smiled. She couldn’t honestly imagine anyone daring to mess with a family like hers, although she resolved to keep a close eye on Angelique and the other children just in case.
“No wandering off,” she told her daughter as they got ready that evening. “You stick close to me and your father; or else someone else in the family.”
Angelique nodded, obediently. “I will, Mama.”
Then, as she scampered off to join her friends, Belle took the moment to approach her husband. “Clopin, about earlier-”
He looked up at her, halfway through changing his boots. “Earlier?”
“With that man, Sarousch?”
Clopin got to his feet and walked up to her, placing his hands on her arms. “Belle, I want you to be careful while he’s in town. He’s not to be trusted.”
“You’ve met him before?” Belle guessed.
He sighed. “We’ve something of a history.” Belle pretended to look alarmed, which, to her relief, provoked a small laugh from him. “Not that kind of history, Belle.”
Belle looked up at him. “You know that whatever it is, I won’t think badly of you for it, right?”
“I know.” Clopin pulled her into a close hug. Belle closed her eyes and returned it, knowing that he would tell her, in time. Clopin sighed and then kissed her hair. “I mean it, though, Belle. Be careful. I’d die if anything happened to you or Angie.”
Belle smiled. “I promise I’ll be careful.”
“That’s my girl,” Clopin smiled, kissing her.
The atmosphere as they stepped from the Court of Miracles into the streets of Paris, as the sun began to set, was as warm as the air. Lively music reached their ears as they stepped into the square, where several juggling clowns wheeled about on unicycles, and a short man entertained several children with a card trick.
“Why’d we bring these two along?” Tiana teased to Jasmine, indicating their respective men. “This place seems to have enough clowns as it is!”
“I heard that!” Aladdin said, pretending to be indignant.
“Ah, but can those clowns do this?” Naveen teased back, sweeping Tiana into a lingering, passionate kiss that left her giggling in delight.
Belle smiled, and then her attention was caught by the action on stage as Sarousch and another man appeared in a puff of smoke. Once again, she was reminded of Clopin’s tricks of the trade, and found herself wondering for a second whether they had learned from the same person.
“Welcome, everyone!” Saroush declared, bowing to the crowd as they began to applaud. “And now, for your delight and amusement, I give you La Petite!”
The crowds all turned their heads at the sound of a trumpeting elephant being led onto the stage. Automatically, Belle placed a hand on her daughter’s shoulder, hoping that the beast wouldn’t get it into its head to charge at them. But thankfully it seemed content enough to walk onto the stage and clamber onto a small platform placed there for it as Sarousch removed his mask.
“Isn’t she beautiful, ladies and gentlemen? And now, a trick like no other-!”
He waved his hands and a small tent fell from the rafters, covering the elephant from sight. Sarousch snapped his fingers and the tent collapsed to the floor. His man removed the tent with a great whipping gesture to reveal that the elephant had disappeared. Everyone clapped and Sarousch held up a hand to silence them.
“But La Petite is just fine, ladies and gentlemen, as you can see for yourselves!” He waved a hand and everyone turned in awe to see the elephant now standing behind them, being fed peanuts by one of the clowns. The applause broke out again, although Belle noted that neither Clopin nor Facilier looked overly amused.
“I take it you can tell us how he did that?” she murmured to Facilier.
He smirked. “Two elephants and a trapdoor; not exactly the most complex trick in the history of magic. Still, it gets the crowds in.”
Even so, Belle enjoyed the mediocre magic show, as did everyone else, and once it was over, Sarousch sent out two men with their hats upturned for coins, which the crowds gladly gave. The circus went on; acrobats walked on tightropes, tumblers performed dizzying acrobatic feats, clowns performed comedy routines, animals did tricks, one man did a clever plate spinning trick and finally there was an act that involved balancing chairs, followed up by a round of fireworks. All in all, Belle reflected, it would be a successful night’s work for the circus folk.
“That was great!” Shanti gushed.
“I liked the magic!” Lilo chattered. “And the tigers were great too!”
“I liked the firework display,” Jack said. He was carrying Boo, who had fallen asleep with her head on his shoulder.
Angelique rubbed her eyes with one hand and tried to stifle a yawn. “It was brilliant!”
Belle smiled down at her and then glanced at Clopin. In spite of his reservations about the night, he now seemed in a merry mood as he offered her his arm and she took it, pressing close to him and forgetting, for a second, that he had had any worries about the night at all.
It was almost midnight when they passed by Notre Dame, and the doors suddenly swung open wide as the Archdeacon came hurrying out, looking greatly alarmed and distressed all at once.
“What’s wrong?” Belle asked.
He looked at her and shook his head, his eyes wide with panic. “La Fidel! Someone’s stolen La Fidel!”
"That was great!"