Place du Tertre, the River


   
 

Table 
of contents:

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7.1

Chapter 7.2

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 11b

Chapter 11c

 

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Place du Tertre, the River

 

A modern Pride and Prejudice version, set in the Netherlands. 

 

The story is NC-17, R rated.

 

Marjolein © 2003-2004 All rights reserved M.Houwer


Place du Tertre, the River,       chapter three  

Coming from the meadow at the top of the mountain, the sweet water droplets fought their way down to start their long journey, mile after mile towards the dark depths of a salty sea. The narrow groove, hiding between the bright green blades of grass, wasn’t capable of holding all of them. They bubbled and jumped and pushed each other constantly out of the path they all needed to take, only to fall back in small streams towards the channel, enlarging the hollow with their combined power. One by one they were weak, but together they were strong enough to make their mark in the solid rocks that formed the mountain, pushed together by ancient powers, millennia before these moist globules started their expedition.

William had taken vacations to the mountains numerous times. He had seen them as a child and as an adult, in Europe as well as in America and Asia. In winter and summer, he had skied on them and climbed them. He had often stuck his hand into a mountain stream. Why he was thinking about such a flow of pure, clear water, why he almost felt the temperature fall after placing a warm, exhausted foot into the ice cold substance, he couldn’t tell, not even when he tried to find an explanation.

He was sitting on an old stone bench in the garden of Netherfield, inside a walled section where roses or perhaps delicate herbs might have been grown years ago. It had clearly seen better days; the upkeep was lacking. However, William didn’t notice, constantly seeing pictures of older memories mixed with recent ones from the evening before. After a good night’s sleep, his headache had disappeared, but he still had trouble thinking clearly. He really needed to focus on recalling everything that had happened.

He had been sitting at one of the long tables. At least he knew that was correct, because he had spent the whole evening sitting on the same chair, looking and wondering about the way people partied in this region. Waiters came time after time with huge trays to replace every empty glass for a full one, most of the time filled with beer. The employees had done a kind of act, with silly songs and banal jokes. It was definitely not an act he wanted to have his employees perform if he were to give a party, which, in his imagination, was not very likely.

Most of the guests, who had been sitting at a distance in which he overhear them, spoke in the dialect of the region. Half the time he hadn’t understood what they were saying. A while after the act, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips had been called to come to the dance floor again. They had danced a sort of wedding waltz and while they were turning and turning, as many people as the floor could hold had wrapped them in long, thin, strips of colored paper. A few guests had thought it funny to use toilet paper instead. After a while the music had stopped and someone had fetched two chairs with armrests. The chairs must have been collected from another room because no others had armrests and William remembered he had been wondering why on earth they were necessary. Then he had seen how Mr. and Mrs. Phillips had taken their seats and how a few men had lifted the chairs, with the couple sitting on them, into the air. All the people had been singing and clapping and they had carried the couple through the room. He still wasn’t sure, but he had thought they were singing, “The groom dare not kiss his bride, kiss his bride, kiss his bride.” He must have been correct, because after a short while the men carried the chairs towards each other and the Phillipses kissed on the mouth while everybody was cheering. After they were put down on the floor again, William had looked in amazement how they went ahead in a polonaise, a dance consisting of a long line of people, walking behind each other to the rhythm of the music.

Had William thought at that moment he had seen enough to wonder about, he couldn’t have been more wrong. After another couple of “normal” ballroom dances and when the musicians had taken another short break, something new had been announced. Suddenly all the guests had hooked their arms into each other’s and they had, almost all of them, started to sing songs together and move their upper bodies from left to right and back to left. A woman sitting next to William had tried to catch his hand, but he had politely, or so he thought, rejected the gesture. He had kept his seat, whereas many others had stood up, all singing, moving to the music and turning towards the dance floor again. With huge steps, imitating skating moves, they went into the centre again to join in a polonaise and other wild, loose dances. He could be wrong, of course, but William was almost certain everybody was more intoxicated than he had ever been in his whole life.

With a sudden jolt of his head, he ceased his contemplation. No, this was not the part of the evening he had in mind. He had to stop avoiding and try to remember another part. Damn, it happened too often lately, he tended to forget things, while that specific part of his life he so desperately wanted to forget kept haunting him. William stood up and stretched his legs. The stone bench had made him cold, or was it the memory of the ice-cold, mountain stream water? It must have been the rain, which had started to drizzle a short while ago. At first he hadn’t noticed it at all, thinking about the previous evening, but it couldn’t be ignored anymore. Luckily, he had been clever enough to bring his outdoor coat when leaving the house for an early, brisk morning walk. Pulling the hood over his already wet hair he started to walk slowly towards the other side of the wall. Carefully, so as not to step on the delicate plants that still might be alive, he watched the ground and tried to stay on the pathway, holding his hands on his back.

It had happened before the whole event with the chairs, right after the first act. He had made one of his clever remarks about the brown-haired woman, the smoking one. He hated cigarettes and frankly, he couldn’t explain why. Anyway, they were disgusting and therefore people who smoked where also disgusting. But this didn’t mean, of course, it had been his intention for her to hear it. She had picked up her handbag and wanted to leave, that had been obvious. But her mother had prevented it and pulled her back. William had seen nosy people all his life. Everywhere he went, he had to deal with people who tried to find out all they could about him. However, this woman had beaten every single forerunner with her straight-forward questions and already made-up conclusions. Within a few minutes she had snatched information from Charles about their trip to Paris.

Paris … now he knew why she had looked so familiar. She had been the one who had painted him on the Place du Tertre. Could it be that she also remembered … ? Nah, it was impossible. It had to be impossible. He had been sitting on the terrace taking a little nap. His eyes had been closed and Charles had been talking to a waitress. He now realized the waitress had been Jane Bennet. Jane and Charles had been talking and he had enjoyed the sun, sitting on the cane chair. Then he must have fallen asleep, because the only thing he could remember next was the moment he woke up out of a very strange dream.

Well, William thought, Dreaming is okay. As long as I’m capable of dreaming, it’s okay.

There had been a time that he had lived by more than dreams alone and he was certain that, one day, his fantasies would become reality again. What was it, what one of the guests had said yesterday? ’Get back on track.’ Yeah, he definitely had to get back on track. If he could just once, once would be enough, get it over with, he could go on with his life. Elizabeth might have been a good start. The past few weeks, she had already caused him to dream a lot more -- more than he had done during the ten months prior – and he hadn’t even known who she actually was for the past few weeks. She had only been the woman who had created the painting that he kept in the closet in his private bedroom at Pemberley; almost every time after he had looked at it, he had this dream about him and a woman in the wheat field. Sometimes the woman had been Elizabeth, sometimes another and every once in a while she hadn’t had a face at all. However, it was a vivid dream and it seemed so damn real. A dream was only dreamt by one person, right? Elizabeth couldn’t possibly …?

Yeah, he really needed to get back on track again and Elizabeth could have been the one pulling him in. Then again, she smoked, she belonged to the family his company was working for and most important, she had very likely no intention left at all to help get him back on track, especially after his 'compliment'. She might have been a nice opportunity and all he had done was push her away as if the groove that formed his path of life already had been too crowded for her to join. Real smart, Will, real smart. Get back on track … again, what was the reason he got off track anyway?

“Damn you, Victoria,” he said aloud, shook his head to clear it and, after closing the little wooden fence to the walled garden, walked with steps, as huge as his long legs were able to make, towards the main house. There was work to be done, books to be read and figures to be examined. Enough things to keep him busy during the time he spent in this part of the world.

 ~ * ~ * ~

 

Also in the habit of rising early, Jane watched the drizzling rain from the kitchen window. Warming her hands on a warm mug of coffee, she kept asking herself the famous ancient question, “Does fate exist?” How huge was the chance of meeting the same person she had spoken to on Place du Tertre? Not very likely … actually, it was extremely minute.

She recalled the short time she had spoken with Charles Bingley on Place du Tertre. How long had it been? Probably no more than ten minutes and as far as she could remember it had been nothing more than a common, friendly conversation with one of the customers on the terrace. But she realized her memory must have been playing tricks on her. How else could she explain her strange reaction when she saw the man standing at her desk yesterday?

His eyes. Turning from the window towards the kitchen table, Jane’s eyes fell on the cupboard where Kitty’s purse lay and she found her answer. As always, Kitty wasn’t the neatest person. When they had gotten home yesterday evening she had thrown her purse carelessly on the cupboard. Its contents had partly fallen out and Jane spotted her sister’s sunglasses. The sun, of course! I couldn’t see his eyes, because he wore sunglasses. She decided it was perhaps for the best that she hadn’t seen his eyes before. Imagine what would have happened if he had taken off his sunglasses. Would I have stopped him? Jane thought about the moment she had waited on another customer. When she had turned towards Charles again he had asked her for the tab pretty hastily. It had appeared as if his friend had wanted to leave as soon as possible. After they had gone she had asked Elizabeth if she knew what had happened. Her sister hadn’t been able to give her any answer. To Jane, it didn’t matter now anyway. She had met Charles again and it was both a good as well as a bad thing. Good that she had made his acquaintance again and bad because he was working for Merytayns. Depending on what Mr. Phillips had in mind, he could become her superior as well. That did not bode well for the start of a relationship.

Whoa, what am I doing? Thinking about a relationship? Jane gulped her coffee and coughed simultaneously,  almost causing her to spit it out. Quickly, she put the mug on the dresser and leaning on both her hands, she shook her head as if to shake loose the very word relationship. The man was nice, he was handsome, he was extremely friendly, he was a good dancer and she had had a very nice conversation with him once they had found out they had met before. They had talked about Paris, about Place du Tertre and some other places they both had seen, about the beer factory, about her family, about Meryton, about which music they liked and she could continue to name the subjects they had discussed. But they had definitely not mentioned any relationships. Of course not, who would chat away about relationships during the first, or perhaps second, conversation anyway?

Oh my, I’m rambling again. Jane thought to herself. He is friendly, he is polite and he is a business associate. That’s it. Period. Pouring another mug of coffee, her mind couldn’t resist adding: And he’s damn cute, of course. If the way a man is moving while dancing says something about the movements during other activities… hmm hmm hmm ...

Mentally cursing herself for such naughty thoughts, she was already wondering how she should react when she saw him again on Monday. She decided it was best to be careful and wait to see what would happen. Perhaps she was nothing more to him than the niece of his client; only an assistant, like the many others he must have had before on his former assignments. Yeah, she would also be polite and friendly and the business associate, period.

“You are not spitting out the coffee, are you?” A voice, sounding both husky and squeaky, followed by a number of coughs caused Jane to jump out of her reverie.

“Hey, Lizzy, no, I didn’t spit it. It would be a waste. You look like you definitely need some.” Jane reacted when she saw Elizabeth entering the cozy Bennet kitchen. She was still wearing the T-shirt she had slept in and judging by the shape her face was in, wrinkled and all, it didn’t look like she had had much rest.

“Oh, yes, please,” Elizabeth answered, stroking a hand through the disordered mess that was her hair and then sighing when she drew a kitchen chair back to take a seat at the huge, light oak table. Her feet grew cold on the floor, which was made of very old, small bricks. They had been used as auxiliary material for the production process of “cologne pots” and were very rare. The bricks were two and a half by ten centimeters and wearing the complete variety of pale blue and brown colors for which the pots were famous. They had held the pots in position as they hardened in the heating oven and the stones had been used to harden floors in farmhouses and the lower levels of stately homes for centuries. The original ones, there were many fakes to be found on the market, of course, could still be found in ancient buildings and Mr. Bennet had been very pleased when he had secured a large number of them to use in in his house.

Jane gave her sister a mug of coffee and placed the milk pitcher on the table. “I didn’t expect you to wake up early.”

“Nor did I,” Elizabeth answered, preparing her coffee. “I woke up and couldn’t sleep anymore, so I figured I could get up anyway. No need to lie in bed and do nothing else but think.”

“Thinking about yesterday?“ Jane asked, stirring her own coffee while sitting opposite her sister at the table.

“Yeah. That, too. And Paris.”

“I’ve also been thinking about Paris. Coincidence, huh?” Jane glanced at her sister.

“I don’t know. Funny we met them before. Yes, you could say a coincidence. I don’t know what else to call it. But, frankly … I don’t care.”

“Why not?” Jane asked surprised.

“You know I painted William Darcy? Well I didn’t know it was Darcy back then, of course. The second I finished it, and I did it pretty fast, he jumped out of his chair and bought the painting.”

“I remember, yes…we’ve talked about it. There’s a reason we keep asking why they left so quickly.”

“Yesterday, I didn’t recognize him at first. I had only looked at him while he was sitting on the chair with his eyes closed. And when he came towards me and bought the painting, I hardly faced him, but only looked at my piece to be sure he was careful with it. Yesterday, when Mom mentioned Paris, I knew he was the same man.” Elizabeth explained, without realizing she had painted his eyes brown although she could only remember him sitting with closed ones.

“Yes, yes, same for me. Mom mentioned Paris and then I knew exactly where I had seen Charles before,” Jane interrupted her sister and rambled. “Before, I knew I had seen him, but I couldn’t find the link. He wore sunglasses at Place du Tertre. After we both realized we had met before, we had such a nice conversation.”

“I saw you did.” Elizabeth replied softly.

“You did not, huh?” Jane recognized her sister’s woebegone expression and added in a friendly voice, “Why not?”

“Oh, Jane, I tried to talk to him. I tried to be polite, really. But he’s no different from the others. I don’t know what I did wrong, but it’s clear his opinion of me is set. It’s obvious he felt way too important to talk to me. Haven’t you noticed the way he looked at us the whole evening? It was obvious that nothing could match his level of sophistication. Everything seemed only worthy of his scorn.”

“Elizabeth, c’mon.” Jane tried to stop the tirade. “He isn’t that bad. I heard him speaking with Uncle Phillips. He was very polite and friendly. He’s Charles’s business associate, did you know? They are co-owners of a huge investment company.”

“I don’t care what he does for a living. He didn’t want to talk to me and he called me a chimney.”

Jane, not a smoker herself, couldn’t help laughing. “Well, he is right about that, isn’t he?”

“Yeah sure,” Elizabeth sighed. “I guess he’s right. I guess everything is right, what they are saying about me, anyway.”

“Oh no, Elizabeth. Don’t end up with a cynical view of everything people say to you.” Jane faced her sister and stated firmly, “You know not everybody is right. People only know half, or less about what happened and gossip filled in the rest. Only you know what really happened and why you did the things you did. I’m not happy about everything, but you’re my sister and you’ll stay my sister, always. I’m glad I have my sister back and not the one you were the past couple of years.”

“Thanks, I needed that. What do you mean by the past couple of years?” Elizabeth asked, genuinely surprised. Why would she have been different the past year?

“And since I have my own sister back, I don’t want her to change into a sarcastic pile of misery. About the smoking … what if we agree you’re not to smoke in our apartment? I know a few people who managed to quit by gradually decreasing the number of places they allowed themselves to smoke. You do want to quit, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do and okay, I won’t smoke in the apartment, but you haven’t answered my question. What did you mean by me being different the past year?” Elizabeth tried to get the explanation from Jane. But then her father entered the kitchen and the intimate conversation between the two sisters stopped.

They talked about their plans to go shopping for curtains and cheap furniture for their new home. Elizabeth had only taken her personal possessions when she left her former home and since her soon-to-be-official ex-husband had the locks changed the week right after she had left, she didn’t have access to her other belongings. Her lawyer had advised her to arrange an appointment very soon to make a list of things she wanted to take with her. She still had to make that appointment and she expected that it would take at least some weeks before she would actually receive the items. Not that she wanted much. She was only interested in the things she had brought with her when she moved from her student-room to Jonathan’s house a few years earlier, as well as a couple of personal gifts. She wanted a new, fresh start and desired as little as possible to remind her of her former marriage.

Jane also owned little furniture and therefore it felt like leaving home for the first time to a student-room for both the women, with nothing but the childhood bed, a desk, chair and small closet. Although their parents hadn’t wanted them to pay for rent or share in the household expenses when they had come back, they hadn’t been able to save much money, so they would have to start simply and cheaply in the apartment they would share together beginning the next week.

Soon afterwards, their mother entered the kitchen and Mary followed. Elizabeth went to dress and she, Jane and Mary left the house shortly afterwards using their mother’s Peugeot. The middle sister had, very surprisingly, asked if she could come along and Jane, unable to refuse anyone, had agreed. The three talked about many subjects, but with their younger sister along, Elizabeth didn’t get her answer that Saturday.

~ * ~ * ~

 

At the same moment the girls left one kitchen, Charles entered another. It was one of the few rooms of Netherfield cleaned up and ready to use. Situated in the basement, the kitchen windows were on the same level with the outside ground and a few stone steps gave entrance to the adjacent scullery, where a food elevator was still installed to transport steamy dishes to the upper levels. The paneled closet doors, with high windows, were painted in a soft, creamy yellow, matching the exposed wooden beams in the ceiling. Also matching were the creamy, yellow-painted, long, wooden shelves, fixed to all the walls, at a twenty-five centimeters distance from the ceiling. They displayed ancient copper, brass and tin pots and pitchers, next to original clay pots and ‘Delfts Blue’ plates. The two-century-old mantle was still unaffected and beneath it stood a more than 100-year-old iron stove. Originally for wood, it had been rebuilt for gas after the Second World War. Although the kitchen appeared unchanged over the past few decades, it had undergone considerable renovation a few years before. Modern equipment was installed and because original materials were used for the closets, walls, floor and dresser, the room looked like the original, which had been used for many years. The microwave was cleverly hidden behind a paneled door and so were other appliances. The granite dresser was original, as was the marble plate where meat was prepared. William was sitting at the kitchen table reading a newspaper when Charles entered.

“Morning,” Charles cheerfully said. “A newspaper? Where did you get that?”

“The delivery boy gave it to me,” William answered. “It seemed you had already arranged to have it delivered to this address and apparently it’s common in this area to deliver papers on the kitchen table.”

“Huh?” his friend reacted surprised. “Was the door unlocked? He just walked in?”

“Yeah, I walked a bit in the garden this morning and after I came back to the kitchen, I didn’t consider it necessary to lock the back door. He apologized for being late, but hadn’t thought it would be a problem because, can you believe this, he knew we had been at the party yesterday.”

Charles looked surprised.

“The delivery boy wasn’t the only visitor though!” William continued.

“Really?” Charles noticed William had made some coffee and in search of a cup or mug, he opened the closet doors. “Mrs. White will love this,” he said, referring to the widow who was his housekeeper for some years now.

“Is she coming?” William asked.

“Yeah, next Saturday Caroline will bring her horses and move in herself. There is no job for Mrs. White left at our former house, unless the new tenants want to hire her. So she said she preferred to stay with us, as long as we could offer her a live-in position. There’s plenty of room upstairs. Caroline asked her to take a look during one of her visits here and Mrs. White agreed. So, enjoy one of your last lonely times in this kitchen. From next week on this will be the ‘White Domain’. We’re lucky to have her. There aren’t many live-in staff nowadays.”

“I will.”

“Now, who else came?”

“A carrier from the local bakery. He said he was on his delivery round and since he heard Netherfield was rented again, he came down to ask if he would have to come here every Saturday. He also came through the back door, with only a slight knock. So much for privacy.”

“Hmm,”Charles replied. “It looks like it’s common over here to simply walk in, using backdoors. I think I’ve heard something like it before. I’ll ask Jane Monday.”

“I told the boy he had to come back next week. I expected you would have some staff here by then. Coffee mugs are behind the third door from the left.”

“Amazing you found them and were able to make coffee on your own,” Charles teased.

“You won’t believe what I’m capable of. It may look like I’ve never had to make coffee, because I have live-in staff at Pemberley, but as you can see, I’ve been taught to brew it myself. Turns out to be handy, sometimes.”

After Charles joined him at the table, Darcy asked, “Jane works at Merytayns right?”

“Yup, She’s so sweet. We had so much fun yesterday evening. We talked almost the whole evening, once we realized we had already met in Paris.”

“Be careful.”

“Will, you always tell me to be careful. No need, believe me.”

“She works for Merytayns and she’s the boss’s niece. I don’t want you to ruin your first assignment as a consultant over a crush for an employee.”

“You don’t want?” Charles initial reaction was one of anger, but, as a result of a very long friendship, he knew William’s words were sometimes bossier than he really intended and he also understood that his friend only meant well for him … and the company for that matter.

After a few moments of silence, while William read the paper and Charles emptied his first mug of coffee, he realized he ought to be careful with his new job. Will was right, he shouldn’t let his personal needs interfere with his professional ones. He was annoyed William had noticed his attraction to the woman so soon. “Am I that transparent?”

“Yes.”

With a big sigh Charles admitted, “Okay, she’s a very pretty woman, but I’ll keep my distance, at least as much as I can. She had already made arrangements for me yesterday morning and perhaps Mr. Phillips will assign her as my P.A.”

“Hmmm.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll take care.” Charles ended the conversation about Jane and picked a section of the morning paper. The two men spent some time together in silence with only the rustle of paper audible. But as often happens, logical reasoning cannot always dictate sentiment and Charles found himself not completely focusing on the news. A movie of a certain pretty, blonde woman kept playing in front of his eyes.

 
   

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    Marjolein © 2003-2004 All rights reserved M.Houwer