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 seven part one  

 

The next Saturday, Elizabeth and Jane went to the Boekelo Military. As neither were in the possession of a car, they had to take the bus from Meryton towards Breevoort. They were dropped off at a stop close to the huge, temporary parking lots from where a shuttle service would bring the visitors to the military site. It was quite early since they both preferred to arrive and start walking the course before most visitors did, and the sun hadn’t had the opportunity to spread her warmth. Elizabeth wrapped herself in her comfortably warm scarf and this move caused her not to pay attention to the road when they crossed over it. She followed Jane, expecting her sister to pay attention, therefore she didn’t see the huge car approaching, and was surprised when a Mercedes stopped right in front of her the moment she had reached the roadside. Looking up amazed, she concluded Jane must have seen the car coming as she noticed the signs of recognition on her sister’s face. Elizabeth followed Jane’s gaze and saw the occupant and the explanation for her sister’s look.

Charles Bingley opened the front door and invited the two women in. “I bet you are going to the military? Get in … it will save you from waiting for the shuttle service.” He spoke fast and opened the back door quickly because, regardless of the early hour, cars were coming from behind and he didn’t want to block the road too long. Jane and Elizabeth had no time to consider and stepped in the car, accepting the lift Charles obvious wanted to give them.

It happened rapidly, but Elizabeth had the opportunity to scrutinize the car. She could see from the symbol on the front that it was a Mercedes. At first glance it looked black, but when she walked to the back door, she noticed the color changed from deep green to warm purple. It must have that new multicolor metallic paint, she thought, showing different colors depending on the light and angle of view. Elizabeth didn’t know all the types, numbers and varieties of Mercedes’, but from its appearance she could see it was one of the top models. It was the kind of car in which it would be suitable to have a driver in uniform in the front. She saw the seats were leather and expected them to be cold, assuming they would adapt to her temperature. To her surprise, the seats were comfortably warm and amazingly soft. Buckling herself in, she caressed the dark reclining seat and took a thorough look, taking in all the luxury. Jane’s voice startled her.

“William, thank you for the lift.”

Only then did Elizabeth notice there wasn’t a professional chauffeur. William Darcy drove the car and he certainly wasn’t wearing a uniform covered with shiny, golden braiding, but casual clothing. At least Elizabeth assumed he was, noticing his green moleskin coat. He looked at them through the rear-view mirror. “You’re welcome.”

“Mr. Phillips gave us some three-day passes and assured us we would get access to the parking lots close to the entrance. Do you know where exactly we must turn off?” Charles turned in his front seat and looked at Jane, who sat right behind the driver’s seat.

“Do you mean the lot for competitors, sponsors and exhibitors or the V.I.P. lot?“ Jane asked.

“Oh, actually, I don’t know.” Charles answered.

“It doesn’t matter,” Elizabeth said. “In both cases you need to turn off there, close to that white house yonder.” William slowed down. The minor road was blocked and he had to show their pass before they could go through.

“Now you have to drive carefully. We will cross both 'Roads and Tracks' several times, that’s why they block this road for visitors without a pass,” Elizabeth explained. It was the second competition day of the three-day event and the speed and endurance phase was held today. This consisted of four phases: 'Roads and Tracks', 'Steeplechase', another 'Roads and Tracks' and the 'Cross-country'. The first 'Roads and Tracks' was a road-racing circuit with a distance of 3,740 meters, which should be covered at a speed of 220 meters a minute. The speed was attainable in a trot or a slow canter. The second part was a 'Steeplechase' with a length of 2,415 meters. The competitors had to jump four hedges, two twice and one trice for a total of eight obstacles, and ride it within four minutes. Converted this meant a speed of 690 meters per minute, so it should be done in a gallop. The third phase was another 'Roads and Tracks', this time 6,080 meters, with an obligatory stop of ten minutes between 1,000 and 3,000 meters. This 'Roads and Tracks' ended at the main grounds, where there was another 10-minute stop and a veterinary inspection for the horses. If the horses passed this test, they could start the fourth and most spectacular phase, the 'Cross-country', made up of a 5,800-meter track with 24 difficult, massive, immovable obstacles.

By showing his pass, William was led to the parking lot for sponsors and special guests. “Thanks for the ride, but I’m afraid we have to split up here,” Elizabeth said after they stepped out of the car. On Charles’s questioning face, in which she thought she noticed a slight sign of disappointment, she added, “Jane and I don’t have passes, so we won’t get access by this entrance. We need to walk around and show our tickets at the main entrance.”

“Ah, come on, we’ll see what we can do. Perhaps we can get you passes, too.” Charles said and started walking towards the entrance.

“No, please that’s not necessary. We didn’t come here to beg for free tickets,” Elizabeth said facing her sister with an alarmed look, not wanting the men to think they couldn’t or wouldn’t buy tickets themselves.

“Indeed Charles, don’t worry.” Jane said. “We’ll walk around and perhaps we can meet somewhere in the Straw-village?” She referred to the main grounds, where the campsite was located with the V.I.P. tents, next to the show jumping field and the autumn fair with all the stands. The third phase of the endurance would end on the Show-jumping field where the 'Cross-country' would start.

“No, wait. I see Mr. and Mrs. Phillips there. We agreed to meet here at this time.” Charles said and before the girls could say something, he walked towards their uncle, told him he and William had given the sisters a lift, and asked if there was a possibility for them to get in without having to walk around.

“Of course,” Mr. Phillips said. “I didn’t know you had plans to join the men today. If you had asked me, I would have arranged passes for you.”

“Yeah, right. Only because we join the men,” Elizabeth whispered offended. “Didn’t know … hah.”

Their uncle had their names registered. “Yes, please note ….Bennet, Miss J. and Miss E.. With double ‘n’ … yes indeed, same as the Bennets from Merytayns.”

The attendant, who took care of the V.I.P. entrance, gave them their passes. “Welcome to the Boekelo Military, Miss Bennet. I hope you have a pleasant stay,” he said politely as he handed Elizabeth her pass.

“What?” Jane asked when Elizabeth suddenly chuckled.

“Mom would love this,” Elizabeth said. “If she had the chance, she would have arranged this herself, don’t you think?”

Jane had to agree. Elizabeth referred to their mother’s disappointment the past week when she had heard Jane had declined Charles’s invitation to join him both days at the Military.

“Jane, how could you?” Mrs. Bennet had said, thoroughly vexed. “Don’t you know how important it is for us? It’s about time people know that the name Bennet should be connected with Merytayns instead of only Phillips. At least make sure you stay close to Charles when you meet people on Sunday. Stay close and see to it that you shake hands with everybody he shakes hands with. Say your name clearly so everyone can hear it’s a Bennet who is standing next to this new consultant. Be polite and for heaven’s sake, don’t flirt with other men. I have a feeling this Bingley guy might be important for Merytayns.”

Jane had said nothing but Elizabeth had reacted to her mother’s words. Jane wasn’t the type of person to flirt with other men. Mother should have known that. Jane agreed to join Charles on Sunday because he simply had invited her, perhaps for no other reason than he didn’t like to go to these events on his own. Mother shouldn’t have  jumped to conclusions. Elizabeth was sure Jane had accepted it because she liked the man himself, not because he might be important for the beer factory, and for the same reason Jane had decided to join her sister on Saturday -- because she liked her.

Their mother would be delighted if she heard the girls were announced as the Bennets from Merytayns. When she thought about it, Elizabeth concluded it was indeed a huge coincidence they had crossed the main road the same moment Charles Bingley and William Darcy drove by. Now they would join the man after all. Although Saturday was not as important a day as Sunday with its Head Gear competition, they would be spotted by other business acquaintances in the company of Merytayns management.

It didn’t make a difference to Elizabeth. She loved to watch the horses and competitors turn in their fantastic performances. She looked forward to watching the tournament and it didn’t matter if it was only in the company of Jane or with several other people as well. Her eyes sparkled when she breathed the smell of leather, horses and hay, and read the cross-country description with drawings of each obstacle attentively. She nodded her agreement absent-mindedly when her aunt suggested drinking a cup of coffee before walking the course.

They went to the main tent next to the V.I.P room where many stalls were located, where books, outdoor clothing, horse necessities, home and garden decorations, gifts and other merchandise were being sold. Elizabeth was looking at some very nice illustrated books when William brought her a paper cup with coffee.

“Here you are,” he said. “If I remember correctly from the party, you use both milk and sugar. If I’m mistaken, you can have mine, it’s black.”

“Thank you. You’re right, milk and sugar, as expensive as possible,” she joked, surprised he remembered.

“I don’t smell any whiskey or other pricey ingredients … so I guess it isn’t so expensive after all.”

“You’re right. It was only a manner of speaking. Besides, I don’t think drinking whiskey at this hour of the day would do me any good.”

“No indeed, certainly not with the distance we have to walk. How long is it, anyway?” William gestured at the description. They walked towards a high table and Elizabeth spread out the paper, so they could both examine it.

“Have you been here before?” she asked, and when William shook his head and explained he had visited other Militaries but never here in Boekelo, she pointed at the map. “See, here’s the start. The first obstacle is sponsored by Merytayns. The course is a little less as six kilometers but I think we have to walk some more. The footpath is crossing the track several times.” William listened silently to her cheerful chatter and sipped his coffee, surprised to find himself relieved to see her so lighthearted. She hadn’t been this way on the earlier occasions they had met, and it pleased him to discover this trait. They continued in a pleasant chat until the others approached them and suggested they start walking.

The company of six leisurely walked through the Straw-village on the grass paths that were still fresh and green, but would be muddy by the end of the day due to many pedestrians following their route. Elizabeth sometimes glanced at the merchandise displayed in the temporary booths and pointed nice items out to Jane that would suit their apartment perfectly. Unfortunately, the prices didn’t suit their wallets, so this morning it would be browsing only.

At the end of the Straw-village Mr. and Mrs. Phillips and Jane sped up but Elizabeth saw a woman looking around, her face a huge question mark. “Are you looking for something, Ma’am?” she helpfully asked. On the question of where she could find rest rooms Elizabeth explained that she had to walk back to the other side of the Straw-village to find them or she had to walk quite a ways on the other side, following the footpath where half-way the track mobile toilets were installed.

The fact the woman hadn’t asked anything, did not go unnoticed by William. A questioning look was enough for Elizabeth to offer her help. He liked it, as he did her next suggestion when he said, “I’m afraid I also have to use them.” Both he and Charles had stopped when Elizabeth talked to the woman and they now saw that Mr. and Mrs. Phillips and Jane were quite a piece ahead of them. Elizabeth saw how Charles looked at the three then back at William with something that could be described as annoyance on his face, then back to Jane. “I’ll walk back with William. You go ahead Charles, we’ll catch up with you in no time, don’t worry,” Elizabeth said and immediately turned, leaving the men no other option than to follow her proposition.

After William had returned from the rest rooms, they walked past the booths again. “I shouldn’t forget to visit that one, when we return this way,” William said pointing at a booth were riding outfits were sold. “I need some new riding gloves.”

“Oh, but then you had better buy them now, instead of when we’re back,” Elizabeth said. “You might never know if they’ll still be available this afternoon. It’s early now. At this time they will have their complete stock, it’s a question what will be left of it this afternoon.” She walked towards the booth. William followed her, admitting to himself she might be right.

After meandering through the tent to where the booth was and picking up some gloves from a rack, Elizabeth examined William’s hands. “I particularly like these ones,” she said, pointing at some gloves hanging behind the counter. “They have those strengthened parts between the ring finger and the little finger. Besides they have a variety of lengths in fingers. You have long hands and long fingers. Don’t you hate it when the fingers of your gloves stop a centimeter before you finger does?”

William lifted his hand and turned the palm up. He looked at his own hand as if it was the first time he actually noticed he had long fingers. “Indeed, you’re right,” he said, he voice colored with surprise. “Would you believe the thought of searching for gloves with extra long fingers has never crossed my mind?” He shifted his look from his hand towards her face and from there to her hands. Her fingers were also long … long and graceful.

Without thinking why she did it, or if it might be impolite, Elizabeth took William’s right hand. She gently took it and put it against her hand. “See, how huge it is compared to mine,” she smiled.

Wondering if she also felt the little shock when their hands touched from the top of their fingers to the base of the palm, he broke the full contact and took her hand instead. “You also have long fingers and your hands are also slender. They might be much smaller than mine but I definitely see some similarities.”

“Really?” Elizabeth laughed and quickly caught his right hand with her left, turning his palm up. “Let’s see if we have resemblances.”

“Oh, no, don’t tell me you really believe you can read my palm.” William laughed and tried to pull his hand out of her grasp.

“Sure, why not?” Elizabeth said, quickly noticing in particular one extremely long line. Wow, he must be very clever.

“Yeah right ... well, palmist, what do you see? Any prosperity for me?” William joked, rolling his eyes, showing Elizabeth he didn’t take palm reading seriously.

Elizabeth realized she couldn’t convince him right this minute about the things she truly believed in, and didn’t want to put too much energy in it. Deciding to joke along with him, she answered: “I see, I see, I see … wait a minute ... yes, I see it clearly now … Today you are ... going to … buy gloves!” She looked at him with a bright smile and William had to laugh heartily. The warm sound surprised her, sending pleasant shivers along her spine. Was she fooling herself or was this man quite different from the William Darcy she had met several times the weeks before? It must be the healthy fresh air, she decided to herself.

“May I please try on some of those?” William asked to the attendant, pointing at the gloves on the rack behind the counter. Indeed, they suited him perfectly, matching his long fingers.

“Thanks for your advice,” he said when they walked along.

Of course, due to the gloves, they had used more time than they had planned, and when they came back to the starting point, they couldn’t see the others anymore. They must have gone on ahead. To her own surprise, Elizabeth didn’t mind at all. If someone would have asked her a few days ago if she would like to walk with no one else but William Darcy, she would have answered in the negative. But for some odd reason, this half hour in his company changed her opinion a bit. He was able to share an easy conversation with her, he could laugh and apparently she was able to show him something new. And on top of that, this hadn’t annoyed him at all. On the contrary, he had looked at her with some warmth in his eyes. She had felt a strange sensation when his palm covered hers. It had been like an electric shock, but simultaneously a feeling of rightness. She decided he must have changed his attitude. The fact that her bright mood that day could be the main reason she saw the man, who was not much different from the weeks before, from a new perspective, hadn’t crossed her mind … not one single moment.

A few meters from the first obstacle, which was a huge wall made out of Merytayns kegs, they waited, and both held their breath a little when the first horse approached and took the heap of casks. After waiting to see a few competitors, they walked along.

“So, the Mercedes is yours?” Elizabeth asked.

“Yes.”

“A driver in livery would do nicely in that kind of car.”

“I sometimes have one.” William said it matter of factly. At first, Elizabeth wanted to laugh, as she had said it as a joke. It didn’t occur to her that William actually had a chauffeur. Driving in such a car, let alone with a paid driver in front, was beyond her comprehension. His tone, making it sound as though it were no big deal at all, stopped her laughter.

“I didn’t know. I’m not used to being driven,” she said honestly.

“Most of the times I drive myself,” William answered. “I only ask Gerard when I have several difficult conferences and meetings in one day, so I can prepare for the next one in the car.”

“Ah, you also see it as a luxury?”

“No, I see it as a necessity.” William leisurely tucked his hands in the pockets of his pants and despite the huge steps he took, he adjusted his speed to Elizabeth’s. “I only ask him when I think it’s necessary. If I would use a driver in livery for every little, insignificant ride then, yes, I would consider it a luxury.”

“I’ve never been in such a position. I see every trip with a chauffeur as a luxury. Heck, I don’t even have a car at my disposal.” Elizabeth said it cheerfully, not making a big deal of it. “The bright side is … the past few months I’ve used my bike more often than in previous years.”

“I’d be happy to lend you my car with Gerard, when you have a special occasion.”

Elizabeth looked at Williams face to see if he was joking or not, but it only showed sincerity. She quickly declined the offer. “Don’t be ridiculous. I wasn’t hinting at a free chauffeur-driven ride,” she laughed.

“I know you didn’t ask … I offer it to you anyway.” William glanced at Elizabeth, wondering if she could see that he would not be averse to sharing that ride with her.

“Well, thanks, but I don’t think I’ll need a chauffeur very soon.”

William shrugged his shoulders. They walked along briskly, engaged in an easy conversation, only stopping at the obstacles to see how they were taken by the horses.

“O, my!” Elizabeth suddenly said.

William, alarmed by the sound of her voice, hearing a certain amount of shock, looked in the direction Elizabeth was staring. “What?” he asked in a low voice.

“That’s my ex-husband,” she hissed. Unconsciously, Elizabeth stood closer to William, as if she wanted to hide behind his broad back. “Well, almost ex, that is. We are in the middle of divorce proceedings.” She stood stock-still, said nothing, but waited for her ex-husband to approach her. Where they were standing, the footpath was rather narrow and people who wanted to walk in one direction had to wait for people coming from the opposite direction. It wasn’t very busy, but they couldn’t proceed, and Elizabeth didn’t want to turn and walk away. So there was no escape, she had to face Jonathan, and since she wanted to show she was perfectly capable of handling the situation, she plastered a beaming smile on her face, tilted her chin a fraction into the air and looked her ex-husband straight in the eye. “Well, good morning Jonathan, what a surprise to see you here,” she said cheerfully.

“Hi….Corinne wanted to see the military and I decided to join her,” Jonathan said. Only then did Elizabeth notice the woman Jonathan had his arm wrapped around. She was a little bit taller than her, and saw that her hair was platinum blonde, except for the first few centimeters that Elizabeth concluded might need a new dye job. Surprised that such an insignificant detail could vex her, she shifted her look to her ex-husband again. Her smile faded a bit. “How are your parents?” she asked. “Fine, and yours?” Jonathan replied. After Elizabeth’s nod there was silence but for the giggling coming from Corinne. Jonathan glanced quickly at her, tightened his embrace a little and faced Elizabeth again.

Then William did something that surprised them all. He wrapped his arm around Elizabeth and drew her a little towards him. “We’re blocking the footpath,” he said very politely, and with amazing calm. He pulled Elizabeth backwards and made the same movement himself, nodded at the other two and by voicing a “Good morning”, he made it clear it was his intention for Jonathan and Corinne to continue on their way.

Releasing Elizabeth from his unexpected touch, William started walking again. As easy as their conversation had been before the sudden meeting, it was notably absent now. Then William experienced something completely new for him. He could feel Elizabeth’s mood dropping below the freezing point. She said nothing and even when he glanced at her face, didn’t show much. She could as well have been thinking deeply about a math problem or another brainteaser. Her facial expression showed surprise and concentration on whatever question she tried to answer. It didn’t show vexation or depression, but somehow William sensed its presence. This must be what his little sister Georgiana was referring to, when they drove home from gatherings or family meetings and she asked him if he could also see that Mr. so-and-so and his wife had been quarrelling. He never had a clue as to what she was talking about. “Ah, come on William, you could clearly see they must have had a huge fight right before we came. If eyes could shoot, he surely would be suffering some bullet holes right now.” Georgiana used to say. But he never had seen or heard a fight and was always amazed how women gathered their knowledge about such domestic situations.

A few weeks ago, he had said Elizabeth was an open book, showing her emotion. He thought she wasn’t doing that right now, and still he knew she was ill at ease. Since this experience was so new for William, he didn’t know how to react. Should he ask what was the matter? Perhaps she wasn’t depressed but only mad. He might be wrong, and there might be nothing at all. But when Elizabeth only glanced briefly at the next obstacle, not taking time to wait for a horse to approach and admire the jump, but walking away to the next with huge steps, William knew he was right. Something was bothering her.

As far as he knew, he had never been in this position before, sensing what someone else must be feeling. William automatically followed his routine way of solving new problems and challenges; he approached it analytically. She had been in a very bright mood this morning. Although she hadn’t said much when she entered his car, they chatted easily in the tent, enjoying a cup of coffee and looking at the map together. She had been cheerful when they selected the gloves for him. Walking along the first few obstacles she had shared her excitement with him, pointing out to him the difficult parts and the easy route the competitors could take. She got depressed when she spotted her ex-husband. It must have had to do with his unexpected presence.

Quite sure his analysis was adequate, but due to inexperience unable to react properly, he said nothing and walked next to her. He was as silent as she was and they both looked mostly at the ground. Suddenly, the noise of horse's hoofs startled William. Of course, they were at a military … they were supposed to hear horses. However, in a split second, he realized a squeal whistle was only blown by the attendants when there was danger close to the obstacles or crossroads of the course and the walking path. He looked up and saw a horse approaching … fast and very close!

Quickly, he wrapped both his arms around Elizabeth, pulled her close to him and took a few steps backwards. He literally dragged her along. The horse whizzed past at a short distance. Relieved they had escaped a painful collision, William stood still and panted, his shock decreasing. He didn’t get much of a chance to catch his breath though, because Elizabeth struggled to free herself from his grasp. She turned around and eyed him furiously. Her hand shot out, smacking him in the eye.

“Take your hands off of me!”

 
   

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    Marjolein © 2003-2004 All rights reserved M.Houwer