du Tertre, the River, chapter
steady, old oak tree stood in the middle of the serene,
brilliant green, flat field covered with grass of different
varieties. Its strong
trunk was partly covered with moss as a result of years of weather
influences. The roots, which dug deep under the ancient ground, were
not only fed periodically by fresh rainwater, but also by the cold
ground water, bubbling to the surface in a small spring. As it was
very quiet and peaceful, with the only sound to be heard a wind
whistling through the oak leaves, a young deer dared to approach the
well to drink the pure, unspoiled water. He was of a delicate brown
color with golden spots, to suggest he always stood beneath the tree
where the warm sunbeams that played on his coat were partly blocked
by the oak leaves. Carefully, step by step, the fragile legs carried
the young animal away from his mother towards the place where he
could get the thirst-quenching drink. The surface rippled
immediately by the touch of the soft deer lips. It reflected the
oak, the blue sky and the warm yellow sun. The mother’s ears
twitched as she sensed something. She and the oak knew the event
coming and were prepared, the pure water and the young deer were
slowly turned from white, light purple and green into a dark shade
of grey when clouds covered the sky. Above it, positive and negative
ions fought to be released. Tension built an enormous electric power
and the drops of heavy rain waited for the right time to fall.
deer hadn’t expected it, and when the first lightning touched
earth, he did not know what to do. Gripped with fear, he jumped,
scratching the sand and mingling it with the clear water, racing
over the well to his mother. Where moments ago only a small breath
of air was heard tickling the leaves, a big bang followed the
bright, white light. Immediately the clouds opened and heavy rain
battered the green field, the strong tree and the frightened deer.
The wind gained power and threw the water upon the tree. Its
branches fought their ancient battle. Some leaves could not hold and
fell to the ground or into the well. Small branches cracked and were
broken by the powerful rain. The wind blew the grass in several
directions. All colors had lost power. The grass looked dark green,
like ancient, half-rotted moss, the deer became wet; a deep dark
brown with not a golden spot to be seen, and the water had lost
every blue color and reflected a dark purple and grey-green light.
Everything seemed dark and somber.
thunderstorm stopped as suddenly as it had started. The young animal
left his mother again to look at his surroundings. He had survived
but would never forget his first storm. The oak regained its
position. The trunk stood steady, some of the branches bent back
into their original positions, some large and some small ones were
broken, changed or even damaged for good.
was as it always is when a sudden event enters a life, no matter
what kind of life. Part of it will remain steady, part of it will
bend only temporarily, and part of it will be changed forever.
rainwater mingled with the pure well water. There was not enough
room for both in such a small place and the little creek which had
before danced away from the spring, changed into a river. Water from
deep down and water from high above joined and left the field
~ * ~ * ~
living in north-west Europe and in search of a conversation, no
matter with whom, the weather will always be a safe topic. Blessed
with a sea climate, the area welcomes temperatures between -10 and
degrees Celsius, and since the ground is very flat and a bicycle
a cheap and easy means of transportation, every inhabitant learns
from childhood how to cope with the circumstances. One day,
cold rain batters the face, on another the hair might be covered
with pristine, white snow. Warm beams of sun tan the skin and wind
blowing from each possible direction dry it. So the circumstances
outside are different every day and very hard to predict. It isn’t
only a safe topic to talk about; it’s also, to many people, one of
the contributors to mood for the rest of the day. Of course, rain
will always be an excuse for a very low mood. So Elizabeth Bennet
was asking herself if the Teutonic weather gods were teasing her.
They seemed to be allowing the water to pour on the earth just to
emphasize the way she was feeling now for weeks in a row.
day was just like the others. She rose from the bed in which she had
slept since her childhood but for a five year interval. She drank
coffee with her father, smoked the first few of many cigarettes and
took her bike to travel the five mile distance to work. A rain suit
protected her from the wet tears heaven was drowning on her, but it
couldn’t protect her from the damp and cloudy feeling she had
within. She had felt it since that particular Sunday two months ago,
when she’d made a big step and said goodbye to her life; her easy,
material goods-filled, and yet so damaging, life. She left her
husband, her house, her safe surroundings and now it appeared many
of her so-called friends. It hadn’t been an easy step and it was
supposed to be a step forward. But for now it only looked like a big
step backwards at least she didn’t feel she was progressing. Right
at this moment, she felt more damaged than she had the last five
years. This thought wasn’t far from the truth. A habit of smoking
thirty-five cigarettes a day and getting only a few hours sleep
every night can easily ruin a body and a mind in a short time.
she coughed. I
will quit smoking. I will, thought Elizabeth, when she
pushed the pedals, fighting against the wind, which always came from
the direction she needed to go, or so it seemed.
She breathed in the damp air. When I’m
placed her bike against the wall, locked it, and entered the office.
“Hi,” she yelled to the back where a man was sitting in front of
a huge desk, filled with papers, photos, magazines, empty coffee
cups, filled ash trays, a nice Mackintosh and a lot of computer
equipment. It was Jack, owner of the advertisement studio and not
only her boss but a very good friend as well.
you drowned cat,” was the reply she got.
thank you. It’s exactly how I feel.” She hung the rain suit in
front of the heater and dried her hair with a towel. “I wish I was
still in Paris. Those were the only nice days I've had since I
chose to return to my parents.”
it that bad? I mean they have a huge house, nice garden, situated so
well next to a wood. You must get some
inspiration there,” the man answered while filling another cup of
coffee out of the machine and handing it to her.
Of course, the house and its surroundings are still wonderful and I
think I appreciate it more, now that I have lived somewhere else.
But, you know, the inhabitants are still the same.”
took a seat at the huge table which stood in the middle of the
office. She shoved a pile of magazines to the side, bent forward to
retrieve the sugar, and sweetened her coffee.
“Where’s the cream?” she asked absent-mindedly, while
lifting more papers and magazines in search of the bowl full of
creamers. “I guess my father and mother are pretty much the same
as the ones I left five years ago. I’m the one who’s changed.”
She found the cream beneath the latest issue of The Liquor
Store, opened one, and poured it in her coffee.
said nothing because he knew she would say more. She needn’t him
to pull the words out. He just left his desk and joined her at the
table. They had a kind of morning ritual before starting work:
skimming the morning paper, drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette
together, and discussing the world, the universe and the office. He
had to lift another pile of papers from the chair before he was able
to take a seat and turned to give it another place. Right in the
middle of Elizabeth’s desk would be nice.
people were always wondering how those two could actually work in
such a mess. Papers, opened and closed packages, magazines, samples,
paint, ink, computer supplies, brushes, boxes and lots of other
stuff seemed to lie everywhere. But somehow Jack and Elizabeth
always managed to find everything they needed. They called it their organized mess. “I know I ought to be thankful
my parents took me back home immediately … and believe me I am,
really. I don’t know where else I could have gone. Going back home
is one thing, but hiding under my mother’s wing is not exactly the
part I prefer,” Elizabeth said. “She wants to steer my life
again. She asks me where I am going in the evening. She wants to
know whom I am seeing, etc. Now I remember why I was so happy to
leave them in the first place.”
hmm,” was the only reply she got. It was enough to continue.
know I shouldn’t complain. But believe me, I’ll be really happy
next week when our new apartment is ready.”
Jane as eager as you to leave the house for the second time?” Jack
asked referring to Elizabeth’s sister, who had also come back to
her parents after a failed relationship.
yes. But she is way too sweet to admit it. I can hardly believe she
lived there for almost a year without complaining. But then again,
Jane never complains. Isn’t it weird? Mother was so angry when we
came back. Well not angry, but ashamed that two of her daughters
failed to maintain a relationship. I am the worst, of course. Mine
was a marriage, Jane’s only a relationship,”
Elizabeth rambled on.
what’s up boss?” She regained her own positive attitude very
quickly. “What’s on the role for today?”
think you should continue with your season paintings. But if you
feel you have some time and creativity left, I could use some help
with the brochure,” Jack answered and turned to pick up a draft
version from the beer brochure on which he was working. He showed it
to Elizabeth and they talked about the text. It was for their main
client, Merytayns, the huge beer factory settled
in Meryton where they both lived. The ancient way of saying
something came from Meryton was Merytayns and it
also was the name of the factory which had produced beer for almost
four centuries. The factory was, for the greater part, still owned
by one family, which happened to be Elizabeth’s. She owned a few
stocks herself. Her uncle, Mr. Phillips, married to her father’s
sister, and believed to be one of the reasons her father withdrew
himself from the daily care, took care of the business. Every single
person living in Meryton had something to do with the factory. If
they didn’t work there, like Jane did in financial administration,
they worked for them, like Elizabeth did with her advertisements. Merytayns was the first alcoholic drink to be
drunk by every citizen of the little town and when teenagers went
away on their first holiday without the parents, they always proudly
wore a Merytayns t-shirt to show everybody where
they came from.
the way,” Jack casually asked, “have you heard something about
an interim director in Merytayns?”
Elizabeth answered, “but Jane said something about a certain
investigation. I think Mr. Phillips hired someone to do a survey. I
am not sure, but I’ve heard he is going to check the whole
factory, to see if there are things that can be done more
for? Are there problems?”
that I know. But you know the head of financial administration left
a few months ago? Jane said everything has been a bit hectic. Well,
we will find out this evening at my aunt and uncle’s 25th
wedding anniversary party. I expect every important employee to show
this remark, Elizabeth took a piece of cloth and bound her long,
brown, slightly curling hair in a loose tail. Drinking the last drop
of coffee from the cup, she stood up and walked to the back of the
office, where a door led to a small corridor, hiding other doors to
several rooms including the one where Elizabeth’s half-finished
paintings stood. She
was working on four paintings, which would become the main theme of
the advertising campaign for four new Merytayns
flavors. It was a huge project and very secret. Next year at the
beginning of every season, a new Merytayns flavor
would be launched on the market; strong and dark ones for the winter
and autumn and light, bright ones for the spring and summer.
stood in front of her creations. The ‘autumn’ was the one she
worked on most. Was it because it reflected her mood?
She neither knew nor cared. She continued working on that
one, because it felt best to do so. Preparing her palette with dark
purple-colored paint, she closed her eyes slightly and tried to
think where she could place the color best in the thunderclouds
above the green land, where she had already painted a huge tree and
something which might become a creek, a stream, a brook or even a
small river. But that part would be painted later. She concentrated
on the storm and clouds right now.
~ * ~ * ~
I’d like you to meet Mr. Bingley,” Mr. Phillips said. Jane
quietly laid down an invoice, and calmly faced her uncle and
employer. He had introduced her to several people the last few
months. She didn’t know what was going on, but it looked like he
was asking for information and help from more than one agency. This
Mr. Bingley would just be another consultant for whatever advice her
uncle thought he needed, and she would be asked again to prepare a
room and a desk and provide the newcomer space to work.
pleased to meet you sir,” she said looking at a very handsome man.
Very handsome indeed. He was tall, blond and had amazingly beautiful
were not blue, nor they were green, neither they were both.
Jane decided they were a dark shade of turquoise. She felt she could
drown in them and deep down she felt they were familiar. Somehow she
knew she had seen those eyes before but she couldn’t remember
where, and it truly bothered her. How could she ever forget such
beautiful eyes? She was so busy thinking about this dilemma, she
completely forgot to introduce herself properly. Only after a warm
voice vocalized: “The pleasure is mine. Bingley is the name,
Charles Bingley,” was she capable of accepting the offered hand
and saying, “Jane Bennet.”
Mr. Phillips interspersed, “Mr. Bingley is going to give us advice
about some issues. I expect he will be here for several weeks and
maybe longer. Could you arrange everything? Office, desk, computer,
network access, e-mail etc? We will be in my office.” Before Jane
was able to answer, the two men turned their backs to her and walked
away to the huge hall and Mr. Phillips’s office.
me? He has a secretary, for god’s sake, she sighed,
turned back to her own desk and picked up pen and notepad.
Therefore, she neither saw the admiring looks her colleagues gave
the gentleman, nor the look said person gave her when he turned his
head back before leaving the room.
checked her desk to see if there was any confidential information
which she should be hiding before leaving and stood up. Her blond
hair flung back by the movement and she straightened her skirt. She
was considered pretty tall for a woman, had a figure most of her
female colleagues would give everything to own, and her whole being
radiated nothing but kindness. Not one single person had ever had a
real fight with her. She had a very pretty face with bright blue
eyes. People who were introduced to the Bennet girls could hardly
believe the blond Jane and the brown Elizabeth were sisters. Not
that Elizabeth was not pretty, oh no. But the sisters were very
different… beautiful, but both of a different kind.
crossed the hall, making clicking noises as her high heels touched
the marble floor. She knocked on her uncle’s door and opened it
after she heard his dark voice give her permission to enter.
to interrupt you,” she said friendly. “May I please have some
information? I need some things before I can make arrangements.”
Phillips, sitting behind his heavy, mahogany desk, nodded at Mr.
Bingley. He had more than one reason to ask Jane for help. He knew
her to be very capable of organizing, but he also knew that while
she looked very open, she was not, and that she was very good at
starting friendly conversations.
It was not the first time he used her to entertain important
business clients between meetings. She wouldn’t need to make
reservations for a hotel room this time, because Mr. Bingley had his
own place to stay and it was coincidentally not very far away.
Bingley has rented Netherfield, Jane,” he said.
Jane asked surprised. “Is the house ready to move in then? It was
empty for years.”
rented it a few weeks ago and part of the rooms are ready.” The
warm voice sent sparks along Jane’s spine. Of course, she knew
someone rented Netherfield. Meryton was too small not to know. The
10,000 inhabitants found out everything from each other. The parts
they didn’t know were filled in easily. Her own mother was one of
the people who knew best; it was as if she invented the word
‘gossip’ herself. Netherfield
was a huge house with very nice stables. A few weeks ago the first rumors could be heard in Meryton
that someone rented the property again to use it as a horse breeding
stable. And shortly after the rumors came certainty, when local
painters and carpenters were hired to fix the stables. Yes, first
the horses, then the people. Not that the house needed much work, a
thorough cleanup session would do. It was fully furnished after the
last owner died in his twocenturyold family home. The heirs had no
intention of moving in themselves and were apparently wealthy enough
not to need to sell it.
woman hired it. Is he married? Jane thought.
sister is going to bring her horses by the end of the week.”
he is not married. Oh my god, what am I thinking?
friend and I decided to come a few days earlier.”
goodness, he is gay! Not that I have anything against him being gay,
moving myself next week,” she said. Why on earth am I
telling him this? Mr. Phillips frowned at his niece,
causing her to blush.
I think the office where Paul used to sit will be suitable for Mr.
course,” was Jane’s answer and she started to note the
information she needed. The way his name was written for the right
e-mail address, how much space he would need, the number of chairs,
like to interview all the employees in the office. A table and four
chairs next to the desk would be nice, if possible, “ Bingley
make sure he gets his own pass for the parking lot. By the way, you
and Elizabeth are both coming tonight, right?” Mr. Phillips asked.
at why he was asking something he already knew, she looked up from
her notebook, blushed again, this time caused only by the look of
the turquoise eyes, and answered, “Yes, of course. We are coming
together with our parents and sisters.” Then she closed the
notebook, nodded her goodbye and after an answering nod from her
uncle, quietly left the room.
Bingley, I would be honored if you would come to my 25th
anniversary this evening. My wife and I are giving a party and the
hall is very close to Netherfield. I could arrange a taxi to come
and get you, if necessary. All the staff members are coming; it
would be a nice way to meet them.” Mr. Phillips said.
would be delighted, sir,” was the quick answer from Bingley, who
could hardly believe his luck to be able to see the woman again; a
woman who seemed so familiar and so beautiful. “Is it okay if I
bring my friend? He is coming this evening and I ….”
course,” interrupted Phillips, “Bring him with you. It
wouldn’t be nice to leave him alone in such a huge house, would
sir, it would not.” It would not indeed, but I really
don’t know if Darcy would consider it nice that I’m dragging him
to the first local party immediately after his first
sure my friend would also be delighted,” and the two men went back
to their business conversation.