du Tertre, the River, chapter
Het huis van Frederik Hendrik; Dutch for: The house of Frederik
De markt; Dutch for: The Marketplace
arriving home Elizabeth learned that her presence had been requested
elsewhere for dinner. Slighty tense as a result of the choice of
formal words her mother preferred to use, she composed instantly
after hearing who had issued the invitation.
Mother, why didn’t you say right away it was Charlotte? I thought
Jack had asked me for one of his business dinners. When did she
half an hour ago. She could have asked you sooner though. How am I
supposed to manage this household if all of you come and go from the
dinner table, whenever it suits you,” her mother replied, wailing
every single syllable.
dear, I think you are absolutely right,” Mr. Bennet said, deciding
to take his share in the conversation, “It does right to your
clear judgment to apportion Charlotte with the largest part of the
blame,“ and with a voice suddenly warming up, “Lizzy, Jane, how
was your shopping expedition? Did you find something you like?”
Jane informed her parents about the secondhand sofa they had
purchased, and, not being in the luxurious position to even think
only a few other necessary items, Elizabeth called her friend to
arrange the dinner meeting.
fancy,” Charlotte said, when Elizabeth asked which restaurant her
friend would prefer “Just to have a nice chat.”
Huis Van Frederik Hendrik opened a few weeks ago. You know
the former post office on the market -- Shall we eat there?”
I’ll pick you up at 6.30.”
see you then, bye!” And so Elizabeth found herself, barely one and
a half hours later, walking with Charlotte towards the Meryton center from their parking spot near the medieval church. The Town
Square, called ‘De Markt’, was situated very close to the church
and three ancient roads converged there. The arteries could be
estimated at least as old as the church, because from whatever
direction, the roads aimed straight towards the ancient building. Several restaurants were adjacent to the building and when
the weather was cooperative, tables and terrace chairs were put out
on the square to create a place to see and be seen. Due to the
temperature, eating outside wasn’t an option. Charlotte and
Elizabeth went inside the latest hot spot of Meryton, the ancient
post office that recently had received a new purpose as a restaurant
where simple, but tasty dishes were served.
leaving their coats in the corridor, where some plain,
ancient-looking hooks were installed for just that use, they chose a
table in front of one of the tall windows, of which the upper part
was leaded, facing the town-square. The building was 105 years old
and part of it had always served as a post office while the other
half was a residence. The restaurant was situated in the former
office and the interior decorator had built around the original
black-and-white tiled floor, using small, square, black-painted
tables and long, straight curtains which were white from the ceiling
down to where the windows ended where the walls began.
At that point, the curtains became black. Simultaneously the
decorator had tried do to something with a royal battle theme and
huge portraits of ancient war heroes were painted on the walls
between the windows.
do you think?” Elizabeth asked.
don’t know.” Charlotte didn’t like it, but as she wasn’t
knowledgeable enough to analyze why she did or didn’t like it she
simply shrugged. “And you?”
the same painter who did half of the restaurants here. I don’t
like his work. The portraits are badly done. The faces do nothing
for me. And they’re giant, they dominate the room.” Still facing
the walls, Elizabeth absentmindedly took the menu from the table and
continued, “Honestly, they almost spoil the whole room. But I like
what he has done with the black and white.”
agree, you hit the nail on the head.”
small party of four entered and was about to take the table next to
Elizabeth and Charlotte, when one of the women turned and noticed
them. With a small shake of her head and a hardly audible cough the
four put the chairs back in place and removed themselves to a table
at the other end of the room. Lowering her lashes, Elizabeth tried
to focus on the menu, fruitlessly ignoring the blush that burned a
slow path from her neck towards her cheeks. Embarrassment mingled
with disappointment formed the knot in her stomach, irrigated with
the juicy sauce of fear, her newfound trepidation that moments like
this would occur. Thus was created a maze of emotions melted
together in plain hurt—hurt and a tiny piece of indignation. How
could they? They weren’t entitled to hurt her like this, to shun,
quash and reject her publicly. Noticing the discomfort, reading the
internal struggle on her friend’s face, Charlotte raised a
questioning eye to her friend.
wasn’t the first time something like this happened, right?”
Charlotte asked slowly.
let them make you feel disconsolate. You don’t deserve it.” She
placed her hand on top of Elizabeth’s menu, pushing it flat on the
table and forcing her friend to look up.
know,” Elizabeth said softly and after a few moments in painful
silence continued “But it hurts, you know. noaber
help, my ass. Pastoral, pleasing, picturesque, peace. Yeah right, as
long as you follow the right paths. Don’t you dare step aside.”
Deliberately using the word for a neighbor from the ancient,
dialect of the east to emphasize the irony, she fiercely, though in
a low voice, spat out every element of her alliteration.
I smell some repressed anger here?” Charlotte asked and after an
interruption to order their meal and drinks, “Why don’t you
leave town? Start somewhere new.”
Never! Would make them feel vindicated. After
all, I did nothing wrong … well that is to say … I didn’t
commit any serious crime. But that doesn’t matter, does it?
Judgment is so easy. Here we have it. A break up, a divorce, I’m
the bad girl and he is the poor guy. See? Easy as that.”
was about time for you to spit it all out, right?” Charlotte
asked. ”Do you have any regrets?” Elizabeth chose to look out of
the window, without seeing anything that was happening outside.
and no.” The answer came out in divided pieces between loaded
periods of silence, as if it was the first time Elizabeth had come
to really think about it. Charlotte patiently listened, not
interrupting her friend except to give the waiter the opportunity to
serve the dishes.
don’t regret that I ended the marriage.” That’s for
know the way I did it wasn’t right. Not really very proper.” Now, that’s an understatement.
hey, is there a proper way to end a relationship?” Of
course there is. At least if it’s true when people say they ended
it with mutual agreement.
don’t hate Jonathan.” That’s not true. Yes it’s
true. It isn’t hate.
feel nothing.” Meaning, I don’t care about his
think, I ought to feel pity for him, but I don’t.” That’s true, I don’t care a bit he’s hurt and that
I’m the reason for it.
feel nothing. I don’t know what he is saying about me.” Not that I can’t imagine it.
won’t hear anything from me about him, that’s for sure. He’s a
good man, he really is Charlotte.” He always meant the
best for me, that’s true. He did what he thought was
not for me.”
the hush following this remark lasted longer than the silences after
the other utterances, Charlotte decided to react, “Well, it says
something about who you really are.”
Too bad there’re so few people who see it. It is such a damn cliché.
Hard times reveal who your true friends are. Believe me, I’ve few
quality first, right? Believe me Lizzy, you might be topic
of the month right now. But in a few weeks time you’ll
see, something else will happen and you’ll be out of the
spotlight. I think you’re wonderful for not pouring scorn on
Jonathan. It would have been the easiest thing to do and you chose
you,” Elizabeth responded genuinely pleased. “But why does it
you feel everybody is condemning you?”
guess you’re right. I mean, who are they to form an opinion while
knowing so little about us?”
said it yourself. ‘As long as you follow the right trail.’ They
pretend they always follow the right path and nothing proves that
they really do as detesting someone who dared leave it.”
when I go to the supermarket or when I’m on my bike and see an
acquaintance approaching, I brace myself for what is to come. It
doesn’t happen often, really. Only a few times, when a person
chooses to look the other way or quickly steers the cart into
another row, but it hurts.”
I imagine. Or at least I try to.” After finishing the remnants of
her beef, Charlotte said carefully, ”But it isn’t easy to
approach a person the first time after something significant has
happened. What words to choose? Which questions to ask and which
not? How to phrase the first line? You aren’t making it easier
when you are showing a ‘hey don’t come any nearer’
attitude,” and after some time to give Elizabeth the opportunity
to ponder her words, she continued cheerfully: “But, I’m sure
you can’t maintain this attitude very long. You’re way too
inviting, friendly and open for that.”
the trout with her fork, playing with her food instead of eating it
and looking at the crayfish adorning the dish, she sensed a sudden
temperature drop. “Speaking of attitude.” Elizabeth nodded
towards the entrance where she saw Charles Bingley and William Darcy
entering the restaurant, “Please tell me mine isn’t as repulsive
facing the opposite of the entrance, had to turn around to see whom
her friend was referring to. Immediately she spotted Charles Bingley,
whose friendly eyes rounded the room, clearly approving of what he
saw before he approached the two women and expressed his wish that
they were enjoying their meal. Charlotte answered affirmatively and
faced the other man briefly. Elizabeth was right. He was tall and it
seemed indeed as if he used his height to look down on everything.
His blank expression showed nothing but a slight condescension.
Looking down meant automatically he was up. Up on his own level where he certainly
wasn’t inviting anyone to join. With a small nod she turned back
to Elizabeth. “Don’t be afraid, even if you were to spend the
night in a freezer and decided to come out only to sprinkle liquid
nitrogen around, you’d spread more warmth.”
chuckled but couldn’t resist searching William’s eyes when the
men took their seats at the table behind Charlotte: the same one the
other party abandoned a short while ago. Charles’s back almost
touched Charlotte’s and William sat opposite his friend, which
allowed Elizabeth to watch his face undetected. Noticing his look at
the huge portraits, she was certain she spotted disapproval and had
to admit smilingly to herself she had found something to agree with
him on, even if it was minor. More feeling than seeing his eyes
turning towards hers, instantly and, so she liked to believe
inexplicably, she turned her own towards her friend.
I guess you’re right. I’ll try not to see demons in the
supermarket. However, intentions and actually acting upon them are
two different things,” she leisurely continued their initial
tell me,” Charlotte said, also back on the same topic again,
”We’ve only been talking about hurt. It’s time for the
positive part. Find anything for your new home today?”
yes,” Elizabeth replied, immediately brightening up. “We found a
secondhand sofa. Nothing special and really cheap, but I love it. It
has a zillion different shades of green. Char, it was fun to shop
with Jane. It was fun to choose something I really like. And it was my decision to buy it. Mine alone. Jane even let
me negotiate a bit about the price.”
surprised by the sudden flood of words, sensed an improvement of her
friend’s mood. “Ah, I wish I could help you move next week.”
Char, egocentric me. We’ve been talking about me and me alone the
whole evening. I’m sorry.”
Charlotte turned and answered the waiter who approached the table,
“Ah, yes please we would like to see the dessert card.” They
perused the menu for the desserts and made their choices.
me. How is your work Char,” Elizabeth said trying to avoid the
profound glance she felt William Darcy cast at her every now and
then, a glance that caused her to shiver and feel uncomfortable.
what shall I say,” Charlotte chuckled. “It’s one big role-play
and I don’t have a textbook. It’s all about improvising.”
I feel I have to perform my play every day.” Charlotte had
accepted a job as a professional companion, in the original meaning
of the word. An old and very wealthy lady paid her to provide
friendship and keep her company. When Charlotte was on duty she
lived in the servant apartment, adjacent to the main house. She had
to serve the old lady breakfast, spend some time chatting with her
about the morning paper, take her to the hairdresser, read through
the television guide to plan which programs to watch together in the
evening, avoid letting her drink too much booze, prepare dainty
dishes and fake, that word hadn’t been used in
the original job description of course, friendship.
old money, you know.”
nodded, not knowing old money herself, but familiar with the
pretty small, but she sits in her room straight like a statue,
dominating her whole surroundings. She acts as if she never gets no
for an answer, which perhaps she actually really never does,” and
showing her mirth between bites of her excellent chocolate mousse
Charlotte chuckled, “Except from me, when I refuse to give her
another glass of Port.”
a few moments of silence where the women enjoyed their dessert
Charlotte continued “Do you know the Van den Bild De
answered affirmatively telling Charlotte briefly about the times she
had visited the famous Rotterdam art-museum with the huge Potter collection.
De Bourgh family founded the museum in cooperation with the rich Van
den Bilds. I don’t know if they own part of it, but Lady Catherine
likes to believe it’s hers and hers alone.”
you allowed to call her Lady Catherine?”
mostly call her ma’am. She likes it. I think she had been called
‘my lady’ or ‘madam’ her entire life. Nobody dared call her
anything else. Nobody dared contradict her either.”
has made her believe she is always right?”
yes. She is always right. She always has to say something about
everything and everybody and her opinion is always correct.”
never disagree with her?”
That’s when the role-playing starts. I pretend I always agree. She
has been treated thusly her entire life. Who am I to change that?”
be difficult.” Elizabeth tried to imagine how it would be not to
be able to defend one’s opinion.
This fantasy wasn’t very difficult to achieve, having adapted her
own opinion to that of another too often these past few years. Did I?
why it’s so difficult to find and keep good personnel. That, and
because she always makes you feel you are beneath her.”
Elizabeth was surprised to hear the casual tone Charlotte used.
yes. I can’t tell you precisely how she does it. But she uses
those small words and looks and moves her hand in a certain way to
dismiss you.” Enjoying their coffee Charlotte remained talking
about the grand old lady. About the huge house, the gardens, the
employees who had to take care of all the property, the daughter who
called on her mother twice or perhaps three times a year. No,
calling on wasn’t the right term. No one just called on the lady.
Those who were allowed could pay her a carefully organized and
planned visitation. Not that there were many people dying to chat in
the unduly decorated room. Elizabeth heard about the illness the
lady was suffering from and the decision Charlotte had to make.
Staying with Lady De Bourgh till her death meant increasingly acting
as a nurse. Leaving her would mean she had to search for another old
lady in want of a companion.
really talk about this as a business decision, don’t you?”
of course. It’s my job and if I want to stay in this field I’ve
to look into the future. I expect the lady will live another year,
perhaps two. Staying till the end will mean I’ve to wash her, to
nurse her, to feed her, to comfort her, etcetera. I’m not really
accustomed to doing that but I might learn. She’s cancer and
doesn’t want to use any medication, perhaps some painkillers in
the future, no more. But, on the other hand, if I stay with her it
will show my faithfulness. It will look good on my résumé.”
Char you make it sound like an investment, like a business
I said, it’s my job. It’s not like I care for her, or so. I do
my job, she pays me.”
very practical. I should almost say pragmatic,” Elizabeth
was warm inside the restaurant. They had finished their dinner and
were not inclined to go home yet. Elizabeth proposed that they walk
a little. It wasn’t raining and, though too cold for eating
outside, the temperature was nice enough for a enjoyable stroll. The
minute they‘d paid the tab and rose to collect their coats both of
the gentlemen at the table behind Charlotte did the same. Together
they crowded the small corridor.
noted the chocolate brown pants hugged her bottom perfectly. His
gaze traveled from her casual ankle high boots with low heels up to
her brown hair, which hung loosely on her shoulders, lingering extra
long on her nicely shaped derrière.
thought he was overdressed. The restaurant wasn’t very chic and
most of the guests were casually dressed. William Darcy was the only
one attired in an expensive suit. It certainly didn’t cause him to
remain inconspicuous between other visitors, rather serving to make
him look like the only ‘Hugo Boss’ advertisement in a Jeans
I help you?” Charles offered and took Charlotte’s coat to help
her in, leaving William, gentleman that he was, no option but to
help Elizabeth into hers. She thanked him politely and heard Charles
asking where they could find the famous area of Meryton where the
canal, the rampart and the ancient cannon could be seen. Charlotte
glanced at Elizabeth and replied they had just agreed to take a
stroll and that it would be their pleasure if the gentlemen
course, we’re happy to show you around. It’s a lovely sight and
very nicely lit.” Charlotte said, stepping outside with Charles at
her side and claiming his attention with engrossing tales about the
city and its history.
other couple remained silent. She, not willing to start, waited for
him to phrase an opening line. He, not willing to start either,
remained silent. She, not used to saying nothing at all, started to
feel uncomfortable. He, enjoying the silence he rarely received in
company, kept his mouth locked. She, uncomfortable enough not to
endure this silence any longer, decided to abandon her initial
intention and said: “I hope you enjoyed your meal.”
what?” he asked surprised.
‘I did’, is way too short an answer. You didn’t like it very
much, did you?”
makes you think so?” After adjusting his long steps to
Elizabeth’s shorter ones he turned his head slightly, so he could
see her. The day before, at the party, he had already noticed that
she possessed a pleasingly light figure and that she danced with
grace and elegance. While helping her to don her trench coat, he had
smelled her sweet hair and admired silently the short curly locks
and the long tresses she held aside at the back of her neck. And now
he witnessed how her face could change from emotionless to
seriousness to a frolicsome question mark. Unbeknownst to him, she
had decided to act a little boldly in order to have a conversation
with this man at all and he automatically answered her emotion when
a smile adorned his face, emphasizing its natural beauty.
the way you say it. The intonation you used when you said ‘it
was’,” Elizabeth answered. “Words may form the phrase, but the
tone provides the meaning.”
le ton qui fait la musique,” William replied.
what a long answer that was.”
that imply that a short answer cannot receive your approval?”
makes you think so?” she bounced back.
was the tone in which you said it,” he playfully answered, giving
her her own answer back.
it is a French saying. I guess, I don’t have to expect other long
answers from you…unless you are repeating mine.”
disagree with you on disapproving of a short answer.”
never said I disapproved of short answers!” Elizabeth objected.
“I was surprised to hear such a long answer from you, that’s
should you be surprised?”
do you think? Why should I be surprised?”
you always answer a question with another question?”
only give me short answers. I’ve never heard you uttering a long
one, except the French translation of my own answer.”
what I mean?” Thinking to herself that this was absolutely the
most unusual conversation she had ever had with a relative stranger
about strange questions and answers, she pained herself to find a
way to end it. “Well, did you?”
I did. It wasn’t top-notch of course.”
it was not. I agree. It’s a new restaurant, opened a few weeks
ago. You didn’t like the paintings did you?”
made you think so?”
felt the urge to stamp her feet, annoyed by his short answers, which
constantly forced her to draw longer ones out of him. On the one
hand they discouraged her from asking other things, on the other
hand she sensed a challenge. She felt he did it on purpose, he was
deliberately fencing himself off. How was it again, the way to have
a decent conversation? Right… You ask open questions and you look
at each other while answering them. You use a friendly tone in your
questions and answers and you show your interest in the other. Why
on earth should this man act the way he did? She had tried to start
a polite conversation, how many times now? Then her mind wandered
back to the sunny afternoon on Place du Tertre, looking at his face,
his blank non-emotional face. She had found him a puzzle and she
liked puzzles. He had had a beautiful face of course and it still
was a beautiful face. The man was an enigma. But why did she dislike
him so much? Of course, she had almost forgotten -- she wasn’t
good enough. Meryton wasn’t good enough. Nothing was good enough.
you were right. I don’t consider those paintings to be extremely
beautiful.” His warm voice woke her out of her reverie. Again he
had managed to confuse her, this time by actually saying something
without her asking a question. But his warm voice couldn’t change
her opinion. Of course he didn’t consider them to be beautiful.
She started to wonder if there was anything at all which he might
consider beauteous. Following Charlotte and Charles at an easy pace,
not trying to follow their conversation, Elizabeth looked at the
ground where he and she placed both their feet and noticed his very
fine leather shoes.
the others were a little ahead and had chosen the lower path along
the canal side when Elizabeth called. “I think we might better
take the upper path.” Her friend nodded and turned to follow the
other two. “There’s mud down there, this path has
cobblestones,” she said pointing at his footwear.
very kind of you.” Walking next to each other again, after having
climbed a few stone steps during which, she noticed, he had stayed
behind her, his right hand slightly raised with care, ready to catch
her should she stumble, he expressed a desire to learn how she made
her discovery about his preferences. “How did you know I didn’t
like the portraits?”
saw you looking at them on entering the room.”
answer only raised another question, expressed by a slight raise of
le ton qui fait la musique. Did
you know words aren’t as important as many people like to
believe?” Elizabeth didn’t answer, having discovered that it was
probably the best option for getting him in a talkative mood.
“Sixty to eighty percent of the impression we have of someone else
is based on non-verbal communication and their signals have five
times the strength of verbal ones.” Although she hadn’t been
aware of the exact numbers before, she knew the importance and 'volume' of silence. Wondering where his declaration was
leading, she raised her head slowly towards his and faced him with
another questioning movement of her brow.
He answered her unspoken question “We show our feelings
seven percent in words, thirty-eight percent in the tone and
fifty-five percent in the expression of our face.”
they had walked towards the old cannon, proudly standing on a stone
platform, still defending the beleaguered city from its attackers
and had listened to Charlotte’s explanation about its age and
history, Elizabeth and William followed their way to the other side
of the wall. “I still don’t have an answer as to why you are
surprised I knew you didn’t like the paintings in the
restaurant,” Elizabeth asked.
is part of my job when making business deals. Showing too much
emotion can be dangerous. I was surprised you saw it, that’s
She was utterly surprised.
an open book, like you, might be inviting at first, but in business
… it won’t take you very far.”
descended the stairs on the other side of the wall and, on nearing
the place where Charles had parked his car, goodbyes were said. His
“thank you, it was a pleasure,” was only answered by a slight
nod from her and when the men drove away, the women walked together,
arms hooked, towards the church.
could he criticize her demeanor? She had always been an open and
inviting person. Hadn’t Charlotte said so only an hour ago?
Normally, people liked her, liked to talk with her. She always had a
topic to talk about, was always ready for a nice chat. She could
smile, she could laugh, she could flirt, she could wink, and she
could send Jane complete messages across the loud Bennet dinner
table without uttering one word. It was one of her better traits and
he had managed to turn it around into a drawback, a disadvantage.
What did he mean, he was surprised? Surprised she had sensed his
disapproval? An open book? Look in the mirror, man and
you’ll see an open book. The book called, ‘How to scare the
world of in 7 days’, no make that ‘7 hours’.