du Tertre, the River, chapter
was the second Saturday morning in a row that William found himself
sitting on the ancient stone bench in the walled section of
Netherfield’s garden. Like last week, one woman dominated his
mind. Well, it was not only on Saturday mornings; her image, her
voice, even her scent had been shutting out every other subject
daring to invade his consciousness the whole week. Only when
focusing firmly on his work, had he managed to ignore her.
was wondering if others had noticed his distraction. Did Charles
know? He had never told Charles what he felt when they had been at Place
du Tertre and Elizabeth had portrayed him. Charles had only
looked very questioningly at him when he had wanted to buy the
portrait immediately, but had never raised any questions or made any
remarks afterwards. Friday, William had been surprised when his
friend had urged him to come and see the paintings Elizabeth was
working on. Could Charles see what Elizabeth and her art did to him?
Perhaps he was presuming too much right now and Charles had only
figured he would like the season paintings because of the portrait
he had bought in Paris, and was not giving it any further thoughts.
second he decided Charles couldn’t possibly know what he felt, he
realized he shouldn’t automatically project the same conclusion on
Elizabeth. As he himself could not fathom what was happening when he
was close to Elizabeth and watching one of her works, he
couldn’t conceivably conjecture what she experienced, or whether
she was conscious of what she was doing to him. Even so, he
couldn’t help feeling that she also sensed something. When he had
seen her standing, searching his eyes, holding some brushes, still
wet from paint, he had felt a familiar touch to his neck. Had it
felt like a stroke, a tickle, wind softly blowing? He couldn’t
tell. Although his first impulse had been to scratch the itch, he
only now knew it had been pleasant, instead of irksome.
some reason, Elizabeth’s opinion of him was important to William.
He never showed his true feelings. His face showed the appropriate
emotion when circumstances, common behavior or propriety demanded
it. On sealing a business deal with a handshake, only after the
necessary penstroke was made of course did his face show happiness.
At a funeral, during the condolence formalities, he demonstrated the
suitable, sad sentiments. Not only on those occasions, but at all
the negotiations, business meetings and even informal gatherings,
where in his opinion the best accords were made, or convictions
about other relations firmly formed, had he made it a custom never
to show any emotion. He had also discovered this attitude helped him
to keep most women, and sometimes men, at a safe distance … when
he wanted to prevent them from coming too close. Wherever he was, he
felt he was the honey attracting the flies: male ones because of his
money, excellent reputation, and his bright, analytical and logical
intellect and female ones for the same reasons as well as the fact
that he was a handsome, attractive personality.
Elizabeth could see through him. She had known his opinion about the
wall paintings in the restaurant the week before, right from the
moment he saw them the first time. This had astonished him. He was
sure he hadn’t shown any disfavor. Not that these paintings really
mattered, but still, she had recognized his impressions about them
and this surprised him greatly. What she had seen exploring his
face, in the studio yesterday, he didn’t know. He had also looked
in her eyes, but wasn’t sure if he knew the language of the
message inside. He had never bothered to look into women’s eyes
before, to scrutinize whatever message he should have found there,
but he sensed these eyes were certainly worth taking a close look
at. This was something he needed to take care of later. First, he
wanted to have his ability of remaining indifferent back. He needed
it to function professionally. He had already lost an ability last
year, one he dearly wanted to get back and he couldn’t cope with
losing another one. Since, for some odd, inexplicable reason, he
attached importance to Elizabeth’s opinion, he had considered it
necessary to explain to her why he showed little emotion. She was a
clever girl and he was sure she’d understood him last week, during
the walk at the rampart.
chains in a horse trailer startled him out of his reverie. Looking
up he saw what he would describe as, ‘the invasion of Caroline’.
He’d almost forgotten she would move in today; bringing horses,
dogs, staff and most of all noise along with her. He could be sure
she would give him enough practice in maintaining a fourth ability:
keeping his patience. With a sigh, William stood up and started to
walk towards the main house. The sooner he had welcomed Caroline,
the faster he could go back to his work and have an excuse to avoid
her. Besides, he was genuinely interested in Merytayns and
the information Charles had gathered during the past week, gave him
another reason to enter the study Charles had fit up. Inhaling an
extra breath of clear, fresh, morning air, he felt ready to start
this day and dive into the books representing the beer factory that
had managed to stir his curiosity.
* ~ * ~
Saturday, according to the plan, not only Caroline Bingley was
moving; the eldest two Bennet sisters also changed their home. Where
the single sister hired staff to carry her belongings, light as well
as heavy, the duo transported personal property on their own power,
assisted by their sisters, who were happy to help. The huge hall of
Netherfield was filled with one wailing voice, complaining about
everything the owner could find reason to heap criticism on. In the
little space, which would soon be Jane’s and Elizabeth’s new
residence, five happy female voices echoed off the unpainted and un-papered
walls. In the large house, the glass seemed half empty; in the
little flat, it looked half full.
Bingley ordered staff around to clean rooms, that weren’t really
very dirty at all. The antique, heavy curtains had been cleaned the
week before and she gave detailed instructions when the personnel
from her favorite interior decorator came to drape them cautiously.
Although there were many people to help the lady move in, they
didn’t make much noise, trying not to annoy their client and
hoping to receive a nice tip.
walls and floors from the two bedrooms were new and fresh enough and
didn’t need a makeover other than a good cleaning. Mary took care
of that, while the others piled Jane’s and Elizabeth’s
belongings on a trailer. John Lucas, Charlotte’s brother, had
promised to help and using his father’s van, they managed to do
the moving in two trips. All together they cleaned and fit up the
kitchen, color-washed the stucco in the living room in a delicate
yellow-white shade, mopped the linoleum floors, shook out and re-hung
the curtains they had taken over from the previous occupants, and
sang along, pretty loudly, with the radio.
different the two moves were, the persons changing their homes all
ended the day in the same restaurant … Het
huis van Frederik Hendrik. John
and the five Bennet sisters, because Jane and Elizabeth proposed to
treat everybody, settled on it at the insistence of Lydia and Kitty
for a real restaurant instead of a snack bar whereas Caroline
simply stated she wanted to dine out and William suggested going to
the same place to eat where Charles and he had gone the week before.
The menu was simple, so it wouldn’t take hours.
the party from Netherfield entered, the others were already seated.
The room was U-shaped and as Jane, Elizabeth and their guests chose
the backside and the others a table in front, they couldn’t see
each other. This didn’t prevent Charles, William and Caroline from
hearing them. It wasn’t crowded, but Kitty and Lydia, assisted by
John and some glasses of beer on an nearly empty stomach, managed to
make as much noise as would have been common for a filled
both Jane and Elizabeth from time to time tried to silence their
guests a little, they couldn’t themselves refrain from laughing
along with them when John told a pretty good joke or when the others
made a funny remark. After one and a half hours, they ended their
meal and paid the tab. While they walked to the corridor to collect
their coats, Elizabeth folded her arm around Kitty’s neck, and
laughingly tried to steady her sister, who obviously had drunk a
little too much. She exaggerated her sister’s state, which
wasn’t really very bad, by joining her in an unstable step. John
teased Lydia and tried to find out if she also needed someone to
help her walk by tickling her neck. The youngest Bennet daughter
couldn’t take this lying down and chased John, in order to get
even with him.
Lydia, calm down,” Elizabeth said. People who have drunk a little
bit too much are often very honest, but not always tactful and Lydia
made a great example when she replied: “Huh, who are you to
criticize me Lizzy? You had you hands in another man’s
pants when you were still married.” She said it with a smile and
truly thought she had made a joke, but Elizabeth couldn’t laugh.
noticed her sister’s sudden distress and hissed. “Lydia, you
don’t need to say that aloud in the middle of a restaurant.”
that moment they all spotted the other guests as they rounded the
corner. William and Caroline sat with their backs to them, but
Charles, seated opposite them, saw them immediately and rose.
“Jane, what a coincidence,” he said smiling.
Jane replied. “We were treating our helpers to a dinner after we
kept their noses to the grindstone the whole day.”
I trust you managed to move today?”
held up the others by blocking the path and noticing his sister’s
questioning face, Charles quickly continued with, “Jane, may I
introduce you to my sister Caroline?”
very politely introduced herself, her sisters and John to Caroline.
She asked how her move went and whether she liked Netherfield. While
the others went outside, almost with as much noise as they had made
the hour before, Jane and Charles stood together entangled in small
talk. This didn’t last very long because Lydia kept calling her
sister, who happened to be the only one sober enough to drive, to
come outside now. Caroline asked where the restroom was, Jane
showed it to her and left.
walking only a few meters Elizabeth suddenly stopped short. “Drats.”
what’s up?” Jane asked.
I forgot my purse. Why don’t you take the girls and John back
home? I’m sure Mrs. Lucas will bring you back and I walk to the
apartment myself. There isn’t enough space in the car for all of
us, anyway.” No sooner said than done, Elizabeth turned on her
heels and walked back inside, leaving the others no option but to
follow her advice.
looked surprised when he saw Elizabeth again. She looked him
straight in the eye, and only when Charles reacted on his friend’s
wonder, turned and showed as much surprise as William on her return,
did she break her gaze and explain: “Forgot my purse.”
she walked to the backside, her mind worked at super speed. At first
when she had looked in his eyes, the evening of the Phillips’s
wedding anniversary, she had compared them to filthy mud. Last week
in this same restaurant, they had been nothing more but aloof and
cold. She had recognized some disapproval in them, and this had
apparently bothered William, according to the conversation they had
when he had been viewing her paintings, she had discovered another
shade of brown, appearing in his gaze. Warm brown, with golden
flecks in it. The color brown, when early in autumn, leaves from a
sallow fall on the lazily flowing water beneath it. When sunbeams
manage to break through the remnants of the roof of foliage, and
speckle tiny sparks of gold on the small ripples, carrying the
temporary blanket. She had seen the sparks appear when he had
shifted his gaze from painting to painting and they had still been
there when he had locked his eyes with hers.
waters run deep. Elizabeth
suggested William didn’t want, for some odd reason, to bring his
emotions to the surface, but keep them buried, deep down, at the
bottom. God only knows exactly, how deep his water would be. William
had said it was dangerous to show feelings, but this didn’t
prevent Elizabeth from seeing them. She recalled the talk they had
the week before. He had said she had been right in her assumption of
his opinion of the paintings in this restaurant, but instead of
praising her for her skill, he ran her down for showing emotions
Paris she had thought his face looked like a puzzle, and she liked
puzzles. At this moment she didn’t know what to think anymore. Not
that she doubted her opinion, formed on Place Du Tertre, but
she wasn’t sure if she had time, energy and desire enough to solve
it. Next to that, although she had met him just a few times and only
briefly, she’d already discovered the pieces of the puzzle she’d
found immediately affected her own mood.
the party she had been ill-tempered after his remark. In the studio
she had become lively when she had seen how much he enjoyed her
paintings. At this moment his eyes caused her mood to drop. When she
passed him, in search for her purse, she noticed his eyes were
missing the glow of yesterday’s gaze. They were aloof again.
he heard Lydia, of course, Elizabeth thought, promptly
determining the reason for him to look at her the way he did.
Although annoyed by this man … no, by his ability to affect her
mood, she decided to ignore him. Who cares what his opinion about
her might or might not be? She already had enough to work on. She
needed to get back to herself, first. To recognize again what her
own feelings were, and what she exactly needed or wanted, instead of
worrying again about a man. Today she had moved to a new apartment
… the start of her new life, a life in which she did what she
wanted and where she could decide for herself what was best for her.
Perhaps William had heard what Lydia had said ... maybe not. Who
knows if this had caused him to reject her again, or if he had found
another reason ... she didn’t care.
moment she bent, to grab her purse from beneath the table, it
occurred to her she shared this life, too. But this time she
shared it with a sister … her most beloved one. And if sharing a
life, well at least a house, was easy, it was with Jane, especially
if she was in such a good mood as she had been the past week. After
Jane broke off her relationship and came home again, she had been
silent and withdrawn. She was always polite and kind to everybody,
but no more than that. The past few weeks, from the moment they had
been sure the apartment was theirs to rent, her mood improved. The
advance was accelerated the past few days. Could this Bingley guy be
the reason for it? From what Jane had told her, they had spent quite
some time together this past week. Recalling her sister’s joy when
she saw Charles a few minutes ago, Elizabeth began to suspect this
man might mean more to Jane, than she had thought before. Good
for you, Jane. If someone deserves to be happy, it’s you,
Elizabeth said silently to herself.
walked back and noticed Caroline had returned to her seat. As
Charles’s sister was sitting with her back to Elizabeth, she
wasn’t aware of her audience when she spoke: “My, o my, Charles.
I see, you’ve found yourself a puppy again, and so soon this time.
How long have you been here … one week? Very handsome puppy, if I
may say so, but I couldn’t have expected anything less of course,
knowing your former choices. You’ve definitely chosen the best one
out of that litter. Let’s hope she’s not secretly sharing the
same, fine qualities with her sisters. I’ve only seen differences
so far and let me tell you, that’s definitely to her advantage.”
it,” Elizabeth said, intentionally casual, when she passed the
table, not seeing if Caroline was surprised by her presence or not.
Contrary to her resolution not to take the slightest notice of
William Darcy, she couldn’t resist giving him a last look when she
left. This time she saw doubt and a little bit of anxiety. It seemed
she was no longer the only one questioning what was overheard and
what was not. Not that it mattered, of course.
* ~ * ~
an hour later, Jane and Elizabeth sat in their new living room, on
their new couch, enjoying a bottle of wine and a quiet evening.
“We shouldn’t be doing this,” Jane said as she poured her
sister another glass. “We should be putting away everything
that’s still in those boxes.”
right, but I prefer to sit. We’ve been busy enough today,”
Elizabeth said and thanked her sister when she accepted the glass.
“I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to straighten things out.
Let’s just sit and relax.”
After some moments, in which the girls said nothing and took
pleasure in the silence, she added: “You won’t believe how happy
I am to have a home for myself again.”
do I ..” Jane replied. “… and I’m glad you’re happy
reminds me…” Elizabeth turned and eyed her sister. “You said
last week you’re glad you have your sister back. I forgot to ask
again, after we went to buy this couch. What did you mean by it?”
had to think about it for some moments before she gave her answer.
“Before you met Jonathan you did everything in a burst of
liveliness, sometimes even impulsiveness. You always took the
initiative when things had to be implemented. Not that you only did
what you wanted yourself. You always informed others if there were
people you had to show consideration for, and then you organized
I did organize the wedding.” Elizabeth went on the
I’m not explaining well enough.” Jane replied. “Before, you
did what you liked and what you wanted and since you met Jonathan it
looked as if you only did what he liked and what he
wanted. And, correct me if I’m wrong, at one point you hardly did
statement gave Elizabeth something to think about. She tried to
remember examples to confirm what her sister said. She had to admit,
there were plenty. All the vacations … Jonathan had always decided
where they should go. He had arranged the ski-lessons for her, he
had booked the hotels, arranged for the house they had bought.
Actually he had bought it because she was still studying then and
had no money to bring in. Of course, she’d agreed when they had
searched for a house and decided to buy one. But he had made the
appointments with the real estate agent, he had selected the
insurance agent. He had negotiated with the former inhabitants on
the price for the wall-to-wall carpet. “I’m sure he didn’t do
it on purpose.” Elizabeth finally said.
didn’t say that,” Jane replied.
that was true, Jane didn’t say Jonathan made her follow his
decisions. He had always asked for her opinion. He had always
listened to what she had to say. However, the more Elizabeth thought
about it, the more she had to agree with Jane. “Perhaps, you’re
right. I really hadn’t looked at it that way. But the fact is, I
never disagreed with him.”
you right about that?” Jane gave her sister a questioning look.
“C’mon, you didn’t leave him for nothing, did you?”
you going to believe me if I say I really don’t know why I wanted
to quit that marriage?”
was you who wanted to quit right?”
yes, it was me, definitely. Jonathan didn’t have a clue, or so he
said. But I’m still asking myself why I wanted to quit. I
was aware of the feeling which urged me to stop, I just cannot give
it a name right now. Am I making sense?”
do you want to know?” Jane grabbed the bottle and filled the
I still don’t know if what I did was right. Okay, the way how
I did it, was not very nice, that’s for sure.”
chuckled, “No, you’re right about that, but let’s save that
question for later. Now you want to know if you were right when you
Jane, you act like a psychiatrist.”
had left her spot, sat on the ground with her back against the couch
and stretched her legs while she leaned her head on her sister’s
knee. Jane gently stroked her hair,
“Talk about it dear, talking is good.” On Elizabeth’s
“Hmm … hmm,” she added: “So, do you need to know why
you wanted to leave him?”
I think I do. First, I want to be sure this was the only solution.
Wasn’t there another way to work things out? Couldn’t I have
done something to prevent this from happening? Second, this marriage
was clearly not working for me. I will never, ever want to let
something like it happen again. Not that I’m going to be married
again, believe me, but if I ever decide to step into a long-term
relationship again, I want to be sure the guy is the right one.”
stroking her sister’s hair, Jane couldn’t help but laugh a
little. “You know you don’t decide to step into a
long-term relationship. Such things just happen. You fall in love
with someone and from there the relationship grows and grows….
It’s not a calculated decision.”
you perhaps. I refuse to fall in love.”
if you say so. How calculated was your decision to leave
don’t know. At one point I simply had to. But I cannot remember
the exact moment I told myself to quit. I guess it gradually
that was what I meant when I told you how you changed during your
marriage. That was also a gradual change. It happened very slowly.
Perhaps you even never noticed.” Jane concluded from her
After they talked a little
longer about it, they went to bed. Although it was the same bed
Elizabeth had slept in many nights before, she couldn’t fall
asleep immediately. As was common the past few weeks, she was
fretting about herself and about her life. Jane’s statements had
given her new insights to ponder. Her sister knew her very well and
if Jane said she had slowly transformed into a ‘rattlebrained
Jonathan follower’ without an opinion of her own, Elizabeth could
be sure she was right. Perhaps not a hundred percent, but still,
part of it must be true. Indeed she had never really thought about
it because her almost ex-husband and she never quarreled. She had
always had the chance to express her own opinion, but for some
reason she had done it less and less. Well, that was part of giving
and taking, right? Sometimes you stand your ground and sometimes you
shift. Okay, so far so good, but wasn’t it the idea of an equal
marriage to have as many ‘stands’ as ‘shifts’? While
pondering it, suggesting new ideas, reducing the number of answers
and deducing facts from what was left, she slowly came to a
conclusion. In her marriage the amounts of giving and taking had
definitely been out of balance. How it came that far and who was to
blame for it, she wasn’t sure … not yet anyway. She was certain
though that she had found something to make her understand her past.
Realizing she needed to cope with everything that had happened in
her life before she could continue. She was happy enough with her
discovery to be able to drop off into an easy sleep.