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

 

mail author

 

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 six  

 

It 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.

He 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.

The 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.

For 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.

Somehow 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.

Clattering 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.

~ * ~ * ~

 

This 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.

Caroline 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.

The 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.

However 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.

When 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 restaurant.

Although 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.

“Hey, 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.

Mary noticed her sister’s sudden distress and hissed. “Lydia, you don’t need to say that aloud in the middle of a restaurant.”

At 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.

“Indeed,” Jane replied. “We were treating our helpers to a dinner after we kept their noses to the grindstone the whole day.”

“Ah, I trust you managed to move today?”

Jane 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?”

Jane 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.

After walking only a few meters Elizabeth suddenly stopped short. “Drats.” She murmured.

“Lizzy, what’s up?” Jane asked.

“Damn, 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.

William 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.”

When 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 had afterwards.

Yesterday, 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.

Still 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 herself.

In 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.

At 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.

Hmm, 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.

The 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.

She 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.”

“Got 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.

~ * ~ * ~

 

Half 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.”

“You’re 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.”

“So do I ..” Jane replied. “… and I’m glad you’re happy again.”

“Which 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?”

“Well.”Jane 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 everything.”

“Hey, I did organize the wedding.” Elizabeth went on the defensive.

“Perhaps, 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 anything.”

Jane’s 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.

“I didn’t say that,” Jane replied.

No, 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.”

“Are you right about that?” Jane gave her sister a questioning look. “C’mon, you didn’t leave him for nothing, did you?”

“Are you going to believe me if I say I really don’t know why I wanted to quit that marriage?”

“It was you who wanted to quit right?”

“Oh, 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?”

“Why do you want to know?” Jane grabbed the bottle and filled the glasses again.

“First, 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.”

Jane 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 left him.”

“Jeez, Jane, you act like a psychiatrist.”

Elizabeth 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?”

“Yes, 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.”

Constantly 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.”

“For you perhaps. I refuse to fall in love.”

“Okay, if you say so. How calculated was your decision to leave Jonathan?”

“I 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 grew.”

“See, 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 sister’s remark.

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.

 
   

Back to Table of contents -  Previous chapterNext chapter 

    Marjolein © 2003-2004 All rights reserved M.Houwer