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 five  

 

“In 1615, a certain William bought a house in the center of Meryton, where he started to brew beer. They brewed the beer in the same house for more than two centuries till a new factory, just outside the canals encircling Meryton, was opened in 1876. William’s daughter, Janechen, married Peter Kuipson, a descendant from a family of keg makers … as you can see by his name, as ‘Kuip’ is the ancient name for keg. It appeared he was more interested in the content than making the container. In 1676, Peter was appointed Guild Master of all the brewers in Meryton. We still have this original document and are very proud we’ve been able to save it all those centuries.” Jane and Charles stood in the middle of the huge vault, looking at a document, carefully sealed in a plastic cover, signed by the Guild Master himself.

Mr. Phillips had appointed Jane as Charles’s assistant and one of her tasks was to show him around and tell him as much as she could about the history of the brewery. On Charles’s first day, she had handed him some nicely illustrated books about Merytayns, but he stated he preferred to see everything instead reading about it. “How much time do you have?” she’d asked, her eyes twinkling with joy, eager to tell the story, showing the pride she felt for the company that had belonged to her family for centuries. “As much as you think we need,” Charles answered, and Jane, who already had access to his digital agenda, reserved some time on subsequent afternoons.

On Tuesday, she showed him the vault – not that the room itself was very special, but the contents were certainly worth a close examination. Carefully, Jane opened drawer after drawer showing Charles documents and original cashbooks. At the back of the vault, a folding table with a chair was attached to the wall. With great attention, Jane gently laid down a thick register. Charles politely drew back the chair, allowing Jane to sit while she browsed the stiff pages. He leaned over her, his hand resting on the back of the chair, unconsciously inhaling, next to the stale air of the rarely opened vault, the delicate scent of both her hair and perfume. A simple bulb emphasized the impersonal, almost clinical atmosphere, producing a profuse amount of white light. It seemed his thumb wanted to fight the cold ambiance on its own, abandoning the other fingers, slipping slowly over the edge to touch Jane’s back.

Jane, ignoring the sudden, temperature rise caused by his unexpected touch, found the page she wanted. “Here it is. Peter Kuipson died in 1684 and his son Herman succeeded him. In 1734, his son Gerard inherited the brewery. Gerard was the leading party in an agreement about the wage brewing. Look, here is the original contract,” she said, pointing to the top where Charles saw some figures. “Wage brewing was merely done at the expense of farmers, who ordered the factory to brew beer out of their own cultivated barley. Competition was fierce and the brewers considered it necessary to fix a price of 0,75 Dutch Florins for approximately 500 liters,” Jane added. She turned another page and told Charles about the capital expenditures in wortboilers (note:1), which increased the brewing capacity.

“There’s something else….” Suddenly, Jane, intending to get another book, pushed the chair back. Her abrupt movement caused her to bump against Charles, lifting the chair a little, its leg coming down on his foot. “Oh, sorry.” Quickly she removed the chair, almost dropping the heavy book. Simultaneously trying to catch it, their arms shot out touching each other again. “Got it,” Jane said, hoping her voice sounded as light and casual as she wanted it to be. Inhaling deeply, she carefully turned and put the book back in the iron closet. She opened another drawer and chose a huge leather-bounded specimen.

Clasping his hands behind his back to avoid touching any other off-limits territory, Charles watched as Jane searched for something she clearly wanted him to see.

“Look. In 1812, a certain Peter Harpers owned the factory. The change of name was due to a Kuipson who only had daughters somewhere in the century before. Peter was in the same position, having two daughters and no sons at all. His eldest daughter, Marianne married Gerard Bennet who inherited Merytayns. It was the first time the name Bennet was connected with the brewery.” Jane showed Charles the document proving the transfer of ownership to Mr. G.P.B. Bennet.

“Are you a lineal descendant of Gerard Bennet?” Charles asked. Jane nodded and Charles’s gaze shifted from her face to the closet with the well-kept ledgers and books. “Then, this is not only the brewery’s history but your personal background as well,” he softly added. “Almost two centuries the name Bennet linked to one factory. It’s amazing.”

“You can say that again.” Jane fingered the paper softly. “However, nowadays only the name is attached.”

“Your father used to manage as well?”

“Yes he did, but not anymore. He still owns quite a bit of stock, though.” Jane closed the book, and while Charles held the closet door, she put it away, debating what she could tell him and what should remain private. Although Jane had a strong feeling Charles was trustworthy, she realized she could not enlighten him on everything, partly because she didn’t know all the details behind why her father and his brother-in-law, Mr. Phillips, had a huge disagreement. It had been a large enough argument for her father to step back and part with daily management. She assumed it to be – as she believed it is often the case with disagreements – one big misunderstanding. The other reason she was reticent to tell this part of Merytayns’s history was the way her mother had raised her: never wash one's dirty linen in public. Apparently, her father had signed an agreement with his brother-in-law. He retained his stock, but could sell them only to a member of the family. They didn’t bring in much annual income and since Mr. Bennet, by stepping back, also lost his wages as general manager, the family had little money to spend. Every Euro Mr. Bennet earned from teaching business economics at a trade school was needed to maintain the family property and the family pride. The property consisted of a few hectares of land complete with a very nice house. The pride mostly residing in Mrs. Bennet, who refused to believe she had lost the position of the wife of an important businessman, a woman who needed to see and be seen everywhere.

“Mr. Phillips is also a relative, right? What about his brother?” Charles remembered he was introduced to two Phillipses the Friday before and, having seen the other name on some documents as well, he was curious to know more about the family.

“Ah, yes. Well that’s another part of  Merytayns’s history,” Jane answered. “I assume you know by now we also have another factory in Breevoort. We produce the export beer over there.”

“Yes, I’ve seen something about it in your annual report.” Charles rested comfortably against the wall, blocking the exit and showing every intention of taking his time. For a reason Jane pretended not to acknowledge; she didn’t want to look in his bright, turquoise eyes and looked for something with which to occupy herself. She remembered a box of original photographs and turned to open another closet to fetch it.

“At the end of the 19th century, some gentlemen came to Merytayns with a business proposition,” she said, opening the box and picking a brown-colored photo that showed a number of people in front of a factory. “They asked if the Bennet family wanted to invest money in their brewery called Klock. Those gentlemen where Theo and Marcus Phillips. They were in huge financial trouble and in search of an investor. After long negotiations Merytayns spent money, but not as a loan. The Bennets bought the entire factory offering the Phillips brothers jobs as managers. The two families remained close.” Jane took another picture and pointed at two heavy gentleman wearing expensive suits, smoking fat cigars, standing a little in front of the other employees. Charles came close to take a good look, taking advantage of the opportunity to inhale her scent again.

“The closeness of the two families reached its peak about 25 years ago, when my mother’s sister married Mr. George Phillips, who manages the Breevoort part of Merytayns and my father’s sister married Mr. Mark Phillips, who is my boss, as you know.” Jane stored the photograph and while her face showed no change of emotion, her voice revealed more by dropping down in volume and clarity when she said, “Perhaps it was the closeness of all the in-laws that made my father decide to leave the factory.”

She spoke so softly that Charles almost couldn’t hear her. Automatically, he bent forward, causing him to touch her. “Sorry,” he said, leaving to Jane to decide whether he was sorry for her father, or for his touch. Feeling he had spent enough time with a beautiful woman in a small space, he cheerfully added, “I think I’ve had enough history for now. Let’s return to today. Would you please show me where the famous beer is made?”

“Of course,” Jane said and after making sure everything she had touched was returned to the right place, she closed the vault carefully and asked Charles to follow her to the malt house.

~ * ~ * ~

The next day Jane showed Charles the other Merytayns factory in Breevoort where the export beer was brewed. During the 45-minute drive she told him about the color of the bottles. Merytayns destined for the European market was bottled in brown bottles, because dark glass best protects beer’s taste from the damaging effects of light. However, for some reason, when Merytayns started exporting, beer in brown bottles sold poorly overseas and therefore export-beer was bottled in green glass. There were both brown and green flip-top and crown cap bottles and both factories produced those two bottle lines.

During the ride, Jane pointed at a huge lake. “Look. They’re already working on the obstacles for the Military next week.”

“Ah, yes I know. Caroline will be going,” Charles answered. They were referring to the ‘Boekelo Military’, a famous horse event, scheduled for the next week. An international three-day event competition, the Military comprised three phases: dressage, speed and endurance, and show jumping on three consecutive days. It was a three-star event; only advanced horses and riders of international level would compete.

“Do you mean Caroline will ride?” Jane asked surprised.

“Oh, no,” Charles said smiling. “She goes to many of those events to meet other horse breeders. I’m not sure which day she’ll go, probably Sunday for the show jumping. That’s the best day to meet acquaintances.”

“We always go on Saturday,” Jane said.

“We?” Charles asked, trying to find out whether the other half of we was male or not.

“Yes, Elizabeth and I,” Jane answered. “Merytayns is one of the main sponsors, so we have plenty of tickets. Our Event Team will be there, of course, and as we’re not only selling beer and supplying the bars, but sponsoring as well. Our Promotion Team will be present.” She explained to Charles that the Event Team consisted of employees whose full-time job was to build temporary bars and cafés at events such as huge sports championships, outdoor gatherings and parties held in places where no built-in bars were available. They had to take care of the equipment, quality and quantity of the beer and other beer-related necessities like carbon cylinders, towels, beer mats, skimmers, etc. Normally the organizer of the event took care of the staff and the rest of the catering. Merytayns sponsored events like this one in Boekelo, with money and by placing beer stalls for free, as well as tables, chairs, stools, ashtrays, and Merytayns logo-embroidered clothes and aprons, everywhere on the grounds. This worked both ways, of course, because the more stalls, the more beer sold. Merytayns was also clearly visible, increasing its product recognition.

“Mr. Phillips gave me tickets for the VIP lounge on both Saturday and Sunday. You know, in order to meet business relations, make new acquaintances and so on. I’ve been told the view from the show jump track is marvelous. Would you care to join me?” Charles tried to phrase the question as casually as he could. Although their acquaintance had been of short duration, he was convinced that his first appearance in public as representative of Merytayns would pass much more agreeably if Jane was around. He was not so certain of her answer and to his own surprise he dreaded it, feared hearing her say “No, thank you.” Not immediately receiving the relief he wanted, reading the struggle of doubt on her face, he tried to focus on the road.

Jane looked outside. They had already passed the surroundings where the event would take place, but her mind was still situated between the huge wooden obstacles where horse power would dominate next week. He wanted her to join him in the VIP lounge. Why? His sister was going, why wouldn’t she join him? They lived the same house so Jane assumed that they were very close, otherwise why share a house at their age. It wasn’t as if they had to double up their first independent living arrangements in order to save money. On the other hand, perhaps they did -- what did she know about his sister or about him, for that matter? She was going to share her next apartment with her sister, but only because they loved each other dearly. Jane felt that not only were they sisters but very close friends as well, and she assumed Elizabeth felt the same. Actually, she not only assumed but was also very certain about it. Smilingly, she had to think about her sisters. Okay, I imagine I could manage Mary or Kitty sharing my house, and perhaps even with Lydia -- not all of them together, of course. How did father and mother endure all five of us? I could, but Lizzy would certainly go mad every single day under the same roof as Lydia without a calming father near. She couldn’t imagine how it would be for a sister and a brother, not having those male relations herself.

A soft cough coming from the direction of her companion as he tried to pay attention to the road brought her back to the question at hand. Apparently, his sister wouldn’t be joining him and he asked her instead. She reasoned it was best to politely decline the offer. He was her colleague and she should maintain some distance. Even if she was to treat him indifferently, others might assume there was more than ... well, than there was. Instinctively, she knew accompanying him was actually what she most wanted. Not a person to pander to all of her own whims, not sure that she could compare this feeling to a passing fancy, she tried finding clear motives to justify an affirmative answer. The view was indeed superb from his suggested vantage point – she would certainly be able to closely follow the complete show jumping competition on Sunday.  The VIP lounge was warm, comfortable, dry and the seats were cushy, food and drinks were free and she loved hot chocolate, especially after a long walk across the endurance track. At least that was what she remembered, not having been inside the VIP lounge herself other than as a bartender when she was younger, making some money for the holidays. She recalled several businessmen hanging out at her bar the whole afternoon, while the women tried to follow the competition. Again she found herself wondering why Charles Bingley wanted to have her along.

“Well?” She heard him saying. A tiny word, containing as many questioning feelings as four characters could possibly hold and Jane recognized it.

“Oh, sorry … that I didn’t answer immediately,” she quickly said. “It’s just … you surprised me. Why would someone like you ask me to accompany you? I assume it’s your job to attend those gatherings and that you’re used to it.”

Reacting spontaneously and impulsively, as was typical for him, Charles answered, “Yes, I go often to those assemblies and I’ve discovered I’m much more at ease with a beautiful and very nice lady next to me.” 

A more cynical mind than Jane’s could ever become, would interpret this remark to mean that he was accustomed to always taking beautiful women wherever he was going and that Jane would merely be the next number in a very long line. However, the object of his current desire could only hear the huge compliment formulated in his clarification; he found her beautiful and needed her in order to be at ease in company. Repeating his words inaudibly, her cheeks slowly colored a nice shade of red. “Well …. err …. you’re flattering me.” She heard herself stammering.

“I mean it. I would like it very much if you could come. To be honest, I don’t go to this kind of horse event very often and I’m sure you can tell me a lot about this one, since Merytayns has sponsored it for many years,” Charles explained.

Believing he meant every word he said Jane truly wanted to say yes --but she couldn’t. “I’d love to, but I have to ask my sister first. We always go together on Saturday and I won’t pass over her.”

Admiring her loyalty, but not able to hide his disappointment completely, Charles’s hastily said “I understand” was quickly followed by, “Sunday is a deal then?”

Jane could not help but laugh softly at his persistence. “Deal,” she smilingly said as they reached the part of Breevoort where Merytayns second factory was situated.

Charles took his time and visited the Breevoort factory thoroughly. They examined all the production departments as well as every office. Since Jane had no other business, she followed him wherever he went. After a lively conversation with Mr. Phillips about, among other things, the way the Breevoort factory was managed, they returned to Meryton. Jane saw she was too late to make it home for her family’s dinner and Charles was happy to have an excuse to ask her to dine with him. They had a pleasant time discussing every subject that could possibly come up during a last-minute dinner date with two easy-going people.

~ * ~ * ~

 

On Thursday afternoon, Jane showed Charles around the PR Department. She told him about Merytayns’s advertisement strategies, including the advertising campaign called “Craftsmanship is Mastership” which had run 30 years in a row, making  Merytayns’s famous nationally and internationally.

Friday afternoon Jane confided in Charles the huge secret: Merytayns would be launching a new strategy in the coming year. Four new flavors of beer where being developed – one for each season. The first one would be on the market not this winter, but the one after.  It would be a very strong and dark beer for the cold winter days and nights. Many people were working on this project to ensure it was a perfect operation in which every piece would fall in its place. Not only was the taste of the new brew still under construction, so was the promotion concept. Elizabeth was an important link in the secret, being that she was the designer of the four main themes for the respective beers. Her paintings would form the foundation for every single promotional article representing each beer. Jane decided it would be okay to show Charles the paintings; and she had another reason to visit her sister. She knew Elizabeth had been informed about the concept’s delay today. Originally the seasonal beers were to have been launched in the coming year. A few weeks ago it became apparent that the deadline was unreachable and management was advised to wait at least half a year. This Friday after a long meeting the final decision fell: an entire year’s delay.

Elizabeth was working in the back room when Jane and Charles entered the studio. Jack, having no doubt Jane would only show the paintings to trustworthy people, nodded his head in the direction where they could find his employee. Charles, never having been introduced properly to Jack before, shook hands and immediately engaged him in a lively conversation. Despite having joined Charles in several meetings over the preceding week, and witnessing him in action, Jane found herself again pleasantly surprised by his frankness and admired his ease.

Her sister’s attention was caught by an unknown male voice as she entered the front office. Her eyes instantly conveyed that  she did not share Jack’s confidence in her sister’s judgment. Jane understood Elizabeth and felt compelled to explain “Hey Lizzy, Charles would like to see your paintings and since he signed the pledge of company confidentiality, I figured it would be okay.”

Elizabeth answered with a shrug. She didn’t like to show unfinished works but wouldn’t admit it, seeing both Jane’s and Charles’s expectant faces. “I was just working on one. Come,” she said and turned to go ahead.

“I guess you had a phone call today?” Jane asked cautiously.

“Yup, PR called me. An entire year delay,” Elizabeth said as she held the door giving Jane and Charles the opportunity to enter.

“The roll-out you mean?” Charles asked. “I heard about the postponement this morning. Do you know what the reason for it is?” He directed the last question to Jane.

“Hasn’t Jane told you about Merytayns’s most important ingredient?” Elizabeth answered in her sister’s stead,  and seeing Charles questioning expression she added, “Merytayns, which is actually lager, is brewed according to the 'Reinheitsgebot', the German Purity Law, using no other ingredients than malted barley, hops and water. Here in Meryton we add another vital ingredient – time.”

Elizabeth knew the facts by heart, not only because she had often joined the conducted tours Merytayns organized several times a year for tourists, but also because she had, just like her sister, the same pride in her family’s heritage as brewers. Merytayns was not only beer, it was the effort generation after generation of Bennet descendants had put in their factory.

“She’s right,” Jane added. “Merytayns needs time to develop. Quality has been top priority for ages and is still a crucial part of every important business decision.”

“Do you think quality is the reason for the postponement?” Elizabeth asked her sister.

“I guess Uncle Mark needs to be sure everything is perfect before he dares to try something new,” Jane said.

“I’m not sure if I like this,” Elizabeth replied. “I prefer to work towards a close deadline; I need the pressure. Now, I have more time but I’m not sure that’s best for my paintings. At some point I simply must stop altering and adding.”

“A year is quite a long time.” Charles went towards the four easels. “Darcy would love these.” Slowly he walked from one easel to another taking a good look at every season Elizabeth had started to paint. “You work on all four of them simultaneously?”

“Yes and no. It depends on my mood. Sometimes I work days in a row on one painting and sometimes when I’ve prepared a nice color I use it on two, three or all four. I think it’s better to work simultaneously because they belong together. Since they are  a set they mustn’t vary too much,” Elizabeth explained.

“They’re similar to the painting William bought in Paris,” Charles said. “The style that is.”

Elizabeth asked, “Does he still have the painting? It was wet when he bought it. I hope he managed to get it home intact.”

She didn’t get an answer immediately as Charles felt his cell phone vibrating in his pants. “Well, that’s timing. You can ask William himself,” he said, looking at the little screen. “Hi, William. Yes. Where are you? In Meryton? Oh, right, I forgot -- you had that meeting up north today. Of course you’re gonna stay. No, Caroline hasn’t arrived yet. By the way, I have something you must see. I’m sure you’ll like this….” Ignoring, or perhaps not at all noticing the alarm in both Jane’s and Elizabeth’s eyes, he explained to his friend how to drive to the studio. After he hung up, Jane expressed their worries.  However, he convinced them that they needn’t be concerned about William Darcy. He understood the paintings, the whole project in fact, were strictly confidential. He resolutely defended his friend’s honor: “If anyone is able to keep a secret, it’s William. Besides, he’s working closely with me on this assignment, so he knows this is not something to be made public.” 

They were interrupted when Jack entered the room. “Elizabeth, there’s someone here to see you,” he said. Although he was surprised, when he learned that Mr. Darcy had come to see the paintings, he steered said gentleman directly to the backroom. Jack’s demeanor carefully hid the surprise and any concern he might have in the sudden interest in an order Merytayns placed months ago, especially today, after the announced postponement.

Elizabeth didn’t say much and tried to stay in the background after William entered the room. She was surprised to realize that she was curious to know what he might say about them. For some inexplicable reason his opinion mattered to her. Trying to read his face she didn’t pay attention to Charles, who was explaining the purpose of the paintings and therefore she missed the information shared between the two men. Upon hearing of the postponement, William shot his friend a meaningful look, signaling wordlessly that he considered money to be the real reason – a lack of money.

Having missed the silent interchange between William and Charles, it was with relief that Elizabeth observed his expression when he examined her work on the easels. It developed from aloof indifference to a subtle joy. His mouth turned into a smile, very small, but a smile all the same, and his eyes shone with a certain glow as his glance shifted from one season to another, ending his perusal on Elizabeth’s face. As she finally put the brushes she had been holding since Jane and Charles came in down on a nearby work bench, she saw him move his hand to his neck, where he apparently had to scratch an itchy spot. No words were exchanged but they weren’t necessary; he liked them and she knew it.

Being an open book can be dangerous. The same words he used almost a week ago crept into her consciousness all at once as she read the emotions beaming off his countenance right into hers. Dangerous… After examining her creations herself, she turned back to him. I didn’t know I had this kind of power.

The moment appeared to be as short as it was intense. William suddenly turned and his face became indifferent again when Charles declared, “Hey, it’s almost dinner time. What shall we do? Would you ladies care to join us? It would be our pleasure to dine with the two of you.” Jane declined, explaining that this was to be their last evening at home; they would be moving out the next morning. They knew their mother would like them to eat at home. Disappointed, but ever cheerful, Charles suggested that he and Jane return to the factory where she had left her bike and agreed with William to meet him in half an hour at the restaurant on the marketplace. After this plan was accepted by all, Elizabeth said her good-byes and fixed her attention on the paintings again, not thinking it necessary to escort them to the front door. Much to her surprise she saw William didn’t leave immediately. He kept looking at Spring.

“What is that?” he asked in a polite tone, pointing to some green spots.

“As you can see, it’s a clear mountain stream, the purity of the water emphasizing the natural ingredients used to brew Merytayns,” Elizabeth calmly explained. “What you’re pointing at are two leaves. They happened to have fallen into the water.”

“I see.” William looked at Elizabeth briefly, said goodbye and left the studio. The scent of paint, thinner, ink and other painter’s equipment lingered in his nostrils, the image of Spring 'burned' on his eyeballs and he wondered if she, while working, saw the same thing that he did when he gazed at the painting. Did she also see two green leaves, originating from different trees but falling into the same stream? Powerless … unable to do anything but follow the strong flow of the water, turning around each other in irregular circles, pushed and pulled toward and from each other by romping water droplets, barely touching and quickly parting afterwards… Unable to return to the branch they left, but only able to follow the path the water would allow. Traveling together, not because they chose to do so, but because they were placed there by ... by what? What caused two such different leaves to flow simultaneously on the water -- wind, storm, rain, drought? Just circumstances? Or could it be called fate?

~ * ~ * ~

 

(1) Wort Boiler Wort is clear liquid. It’s heated and filtered Malt. Wort goes into a huge boiler (the Wort Boiler) and hops are added. These hops work as a natural preservative. The liquid is boiled intensively and then quickly cooled to a temperature of 6 degrees C. after which the excess proteins are removed naturally. The filtered brew is now ready for the next phase, the fermentation. (I’ll tell another time, or chapter, about fermentation) (click here to go back to text)

 
   

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    Marjolein © 2003-2004 All rights reserved M.Houwer