du Tertre, the River, chapter
seven part two
sped up his pace, catching up to Jane and the others easily.
Although he initially had agreed to keep Mr. and Mrs. Phillips
company, they were soon replaced when he adjusted his steps to
Jane’s. After Charles explained why Elizabeth and William hadn’t
joined him, but would come later, Jane asked, “I expected Caroline
would be here. Will she come later on?”
don’t know. When we left she was still in her rooms. I wouldn’t
be surprised if she was sleeping in.” Charles answered.
in? But the horses … who takes care of them?” Jane reacted,
surprised. She knew it wasn’t absolutely necessary to get up as
early in the morning to take care of horses as it would be to milk
cows, but she didn’t expect the owner of so many horses, and the
responsibilities that came with them, to sleep in as easily as
Charles made it sound.
worry.” Charles sounded relaxed, but, like Jane did in the vault
the week before, he quickly decided what he could reveal about his
sister and what he should keep private. Although he felt at ease
with Jane and trusted her, he knew it wasn’t fair to expose
Caroline’s faux pas, so he decided not to tell about how Caroline
had lost her inheritance. Charles owned the horses and let his
sister stay in his house because she had no other place to go.
“There’s well-trained staff to take care of the horses. They
live at the apartments upstairs in the stables. Caroline can safely
Caroline your only sister?” Jane wasn’t the type to ask personal
questions before she knew someone very well, but talking with
Charles felt so comfortable; she didn’t have the slightest problem
telling him about her family and inquiring about his relatives.
Questions which Jane would normally consider nosy seemed natural in
conversations with her temporary colleague. Well, not only a
colleague, but a boss as well. When they were at work, she had to do
what he ordered her to do. She didn’t have the slightest problem
with it because Charles was able to phrase every request in such a
sweet way; Jane was more than happy to help him.
have another sister. She’s married … no kids … I don’t see
her very often —only when Caroline invites her,” Charles
The shortness of the answer caused Jane to look up, his sad look
causing her to cover her mouth with her hand. Charles saw her
movement. “Oh, well, it’s quite some years ago. I think I’m
over it, but it was indeed a rough year. My parents died in a car
crash, only a few months after Darcy lost his father, due to
Charles, I’m sorry.” Jane genuinely said. “I cannot imagine
how it would be to lose both my parents all at once. It must have
been horrible.” Automatically, her hand moved from her mouth to
was a great help.” Close to an obstacle, they stopped walking and
watched a horse approach. Charles covered Jane’s hand with his. It
… but he had just lost his own father. How could he manage to help
you? I mean, wasn’t he still mourning his own loss?”
Jane asked surprised.
threw himself upon what he knows best. He helped us organize things,
he took care of the funeral and the will. He gave my sisters and me
several options we could do with the family belongings and let us
decide which to choose, although I still suspect him of talking us
into the one he thought was best. Not that I mind, when it comes to
financial stuff, he really knows his stuff. It gave the three of us
the opportunity to mourn our parents.” Charles remembered how
William had suggested to divide the inheritance. Originally, each
sibling would have received a third of the entire fortune, which
existed mainly out of a family house, horses and working capital,
that Mr. Bingley had invested in several projects. The working
capital needed to be split up in parts and divided between the three
heirs. William had explained the working capital would be the most
profitable if Charles could use it in one piece. They agreed that
next to a little sum of money, the eldest sister, Louise, would take
the family house; Caroline, the horses their mother was so fond of,
and Charles, the working capital, which was more valuable than a
third of the complete inheritance. This meant at the start, Charles
would have a debt. Every year, the sisters would receive, from their
brother, an amount of money, with a nice interest on top off it, so
that in ten year’s time Charles would have paid his siblings off
Unfortunately, Caroline appeared not to be capable of handling her
portion. She got involved in some nasty, illegal business, lost a
considerable amount of money, had to sell the horses her mother had
bred for years, and asked her brother for the rest of her
inheritance immediately. Charles managed to buy the horses before
someone else did. Together with William, he arranged a settlement,
so Caroline could pay the rest of her debt back in yearly portions.
Every Euro she received from Charles, immediately had to be diverted
to the persons, she once thought reliable.
William even have time to deal with his own loss?” Jane lightly
brushed Charles arm beneath her hand.
don’t know. William Darcy is normally not one to display his
feelings. He was very good in alleviating mine though, especially
the evening I came home after identifying my parents.” A shiver
showed how Charles relived that evening again. Jane immediately
squeezed his arm, which he answered by brushing her fingers. “It
showed me how important friends are. Sometimes I think they are the
most important creatures in the world. Real friends, that is.” On
saying that, he eyed her intensely.
sorry you’ve been through that. It must have been a nightmare.”
Turquoise burned all over her body, muffling her in a pleasant
blanket of heat.
Mr. Phillips rudely interrupted the special moment. “I see the
chairman of the catering association of Breevoort at the other side
of this obstacle. You really must meet him.” The company of four
walked to the other side, where a bleacher stood. Jane took a seat
next to Mrs. Phillips, while Charles and her uncle talked with the
and William walked on the other side, but they didn’t see Jane
waving. “It’s okay,” Jane said to her aunt. “We’ll catch
up later. It looked as though they were entangled in a nice
conversation, they won’t mind.”
Phillips nodded, “Sure hon, you’re right,” while waving at
* ~ * ~
stepped back and saw Elizabeth was as surprised as he was at her
sudden reaction. She slapped both her hands on her mouth, and made
some irregular steps back and forth.
With her eyes, she followed his hand and cringed when he
cautiously touched his cheek close to his eye.
my, I can’t believe I did that. I didn’t mean it. I … I…
I’m so sorry,” Elizabeth stammered, shocked at her own behavior.
“I’m so sorry. Does it hurt?” Her fingers closed into a
clenched fist, and again she made some irregular movements, swinging
her arms up and down in frustration. “I didn’t see the horse
approaching. I hadn’t heard him at all. I was thinking … I
didn’t sleep very well last night. Oh my, I hurt you.” The words
left her mouth falteringly. She wasn’t only surprised, but quite
upset by now, and searched for excuses. She was suffering PMS, the
hormones could be a valid reason, but she was not going to tell him that.
“It was a shock for me. I didn’t expect the horse. Of course we
didn’t … otherwise we wouldn’t be walking on the track. But I
didn’t want to slap you, believe me, please. I’m just tired and
I was …. and ….. and ….”
Jonathan?” William quietly said.
and him too.” Elizabeth wrapped her arms around herself. Although
she tried to hide the tears that were stinging behind her eyes by
looking at the ground, William saw she was really upset. She blinked
several times, and prevented a sob from leaving her mouth, by
we’re almost at the point where we can get something to drink.
What do you say, let’s go and sit down for a while. We both got a
scare… I think I could use some coffee, too.” William pointed at
a Merytayns tent and the long wooden tables and benches that
stood in front of it.
thanks … good plan.” Elizabeth quietly followed him.
few minutes later, William came outside, two paper cups with hot
coffee in his hands. Elizabeth was sitting on a bench, her back to
the table, elbows on her knees, watching the incredibly interesting
blades of grass between her feet. With slightly shaking hands, she
lit a cigarette.
you are.” William handed Elizabeth her coffee, and seated himself
next to her. “You shouldn’t do that.”
Then she saw William nodding at her cigarette. “Ah, yes …
you’re sitting next to a walking chimney, well a sitting one,
right at this moment.”
immediately knew she was referring to the remark he had made at the
anniversary party. “You heard me saying that, at the party,
Elizabeth thought back on how offended she had been. She wasn’t
mad at him now. “You know what? You’re right, and actually I
want to quit, but I truly don’t think I can handle doing it all at
once.” She had a puff from her cigarette and looked into the
distance. She meant what she had just said, she really wanted to
quit. Her emotions, which seemed to be in constant turmoil lately
—changing her from a happy, beaming ray of sunshine into a dark,
roaring thundercloud within mere seconds —caused her to think she
wasn’t strong enough to cope with that battle right now. First
things first, she thought. “That horse scared me to death. I
didn’t even hear the whistle until you grabbed me,” she said
after another puff.
suspected as much.” It remained silent a few moments, but for the
hardly audible sounds of sipping coffee and puffing smoke.
did you wrap your arm around me when we talked to Jonathan?”
shouldn’t have been surprised by the question because his action
had astonished him as well, but somehow he didn’t expect Elizabeth
to ask it so directly. Why had he done it? “I…” Now it was
<I>his</I> turn to stutter. Had it been the giggle of
the other woman? Had it been the look in Jonathan’s eyes, when he
hugged the woman a little more? “I saw he….” Had it been
Elizabeth who stood stock still? “I noticed you ... Actually, I
don’t know. I just did. It was an impulsive reaction.” He never
acted impulsively! “I went too far didn’t I? I’m sorry, I
shouldn’t have done it.”
no, it was all right. Perhaps you did exactly what I wanted most at
that moment.” Elizabeth turned her coffee cup around in her hands.
“I didn’t expect to see Jonathan with another woman ... so
were extremely quiet afterwards.”
didn’t understand it. I saw him with that Corinne and I felt
jealous. I mean isn’t it ridiculous? I left him, I
shouldn’t be jealous.” Elizabeth sipped her coffee while William
softly hummed, encouraging her to continue. “My head is saying I
should be happy for him. Happy he found someone else and went on
after me. My feelings are telling me something completely different.
I begrudge him her. I don’t want him to be happy. It would have
been perfectly all right if he had been without any woman for at
least five years. Isn’t that silly of me?” She almost spat out
the last few sentences.
sounds as if you hate him.” William’s serene, quiet voice calmed
don’t know. Yes, I hate him….. No, I don’t. He isn’t a bad
man or anything. I just don’t understand why I feel this way. Love
and hate are flip sides of each other. I guess something happened
and my love turned into hate. I saw him with his arm wrapped around
Corinne and suddenly, I hated him. I don’t want him to be happy
with another woman. Hell, I don’t want him to be happy at
all or at least, I’d rather never know if he’s happy, but I
can’t explain why. I just don’t want it, that’s all.”
Elizabeth took another nip of her coffee. Then she suddenly looked
up. “Why am I telling you this?”
answered her look. “Because you need to talk about it, and I
happen to be present right here and now. Besides, I’m willing to
few weeks ago, Elizabeth would have considered William Darcy among
the last persons she would take into her confidence, and tell about
her most private feelings. Perhaps he was right, and him being here
at the right moment in the right spot, nothing special, it could
have been almost anybody. Besides, she thought she owed him an
explanation as to why her reaction was way out of proportion. Out of
proportion …. Even that was an understatement. She slapped him in
the face for Christ’s sake. She smacked him, while he practically
saved her life. “You must think I’m a silly creature.”
thought back to the times Georgiana had begged him to open himself
up. At that time, he hadn’t believed his emotions important enough
to talk about, but that didn’t mean he trivialized his sister’s
request. Initially, he didn’t think it was necessary to unveil his
feelings, and later on he convinced himself there wasn’t anyone
trustworthy enough to rely on. It could well be that William Darcy
didn’t dare show he wasn’t the perfect, strong, steady
man that many people regarded him as, but that possibility never
crossed his mind. Thinking back to his sister, he remembered her
words clearly. “No, I do not. My sister Georgiana always tells me
how important it is to talk about what you feel. She says analyzing
your thoughts can help.”
have a clever sister.”
I have. By the way, I don’t think you’re alone in begrudging
your ex-husband. Look around, how many ex-lovers act childishly?
Read the magazines about glamour couples who split up. They don’t
even want the other to have simple, material things like cars. They
love to throw mud at each other in the media. Imagine what a scene they
would have made if the one spotted the other with a new flame.”
guess you’re right. I just didn’t expect it. Do you think….
Could it be…?”
think what … ?” William could almost feel her mind working at
top speed to find an answer to some question she asked herself.
“We’re out of coffee. Let me get new ones and you can reflect on
also took the opportunity to light another cigarette. Upon his
return, she smiled a silent ‘thanks’ as she accepted the drink.
immediately got back to the point, “So, you asked ‘Could it be
…?’ Now you fill in the blanks.”
left Jonathan. Perhaps …. no not perhaps, leave that word out….
I felt guilty. I know I hurt him and I felt guilty I put him through
that. Could it be I expected my guilt would lessen if I saw that he
had moved on?” Elizabeth, again looking at the grass between her
feet, spoke softly.
had to do his best to hear what she said. He thought a little about
her question before he said, “Perhaps you wanted your guilt
Elizabeth looked up and faced William in surprise. “I wanted to
feel happy if he moved on.” She slowly repeated William’s words,
connected them with some of her own, and took a little time to let
them sink in. “I wanted this divorce to become a perfect one. That
is, as perfect as a divorce can be.” She chuckled about her own
contradictory words. “What I mean is, I wanted that we would leave
each other in relative harmony. No fights about financial matters or
personal belongings, no throwing ‘mud’, as you said before. I
wanted a ‘we both agreed it was best to split up’, divorce. In
that case, I wouldn’t have felt guilty at all, wouldn’t I?”
almost sounds as if you regret it.”
no, no regrets. The bird’s nest had fallen out of the tree and I
couldn’t collect the courage to climb up again and refasten it.
But I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t have noticed that things
were going wrong. What if I had tried harder to save my marriage
earlier on? In the end, it wasn’t worth it.” (note
he hit you?”
do ask that?”
I guess you were thinking of Jonathan when the almost accident with
the horse happened, and when … well…. you slapped me.” Again,
William softly touched his cheek.
tried not to look at the red spot she noticed was appearing on his
face. “No, he didn’t hit me. It would have made things much
easier for me though.”
if he had hit you?” William asked surprised.
at least I think so. If he had hit me, abused me, or cheated on me,
it would have been easy to say, ‘okay this is it, I’m gone’.
Instead I felt I was slowly drowning in the marriage. I wasn’t
happy, but I still do not know precisely why I wasn’t
happy, although I have an idea.”
it be that this is also a reason you feel guilty?” William asked
the question automatically, he didn’t even have to think about it.
“As long as you don’t know why you were so unhappy, you’re not
finished with it?” He really started to sound like a professional
now. Could it be all the training he received in communication
lessons were starting to bear fruit? As far as he knew, those
lessons had never included relational therapy; it must be a natural
gift. Elizabeth sure knew how to bring out skills he never knew he
a nice thought, and other people are not making it easier for me.”
A soft sigh escaped her mouth.
do you mean?”
wouldn’t know how many people have asked me if Jonathan hit me.
‘Did he hit you? Was
he a bad man? Were you cheated on?’ For all these questions, I
have to answer ‘No,’ and if I do, I can see them think, ‘Ah,
it wasn’t fun anymore so she quit the marriage, easy as that. She
treated him like garbage.’ If he would have hit me, it would have
been perfectly all right if I had left him. People want to
choose a good side and a bad side and since I left him without a
valid reason I’m the bad girl.”
Elizabeth really started to sound as if she was angry.
now, surely not all the people have condemned you! Where there’s a
marriage there are two people, and where there’s a divorce there
are also at least two people. Two people means there are mistakes
from both sides.” William spat it out, as if people who said such
things could make him angry as well. Elizabeth looked up in surprise
at the fierceness with which he had said it. “You also say
‘no’, if they ask you if he was a bad man.” William continued.
of course. He isn’t a bad man. He is good, and I truly think he
wanted the best for me. He is a good man, but not for me, that’s
think that’s beautiful of you to say so. Not many ex-wives say
that about their ex-husbands. It says something about who you
are.” William looked at the ground when he said it, so he didn’t
notice the warm look Elizabeth gave him.
well, perhaps I’m overanalyzing myself. Sometimes I wish I was a
man, why?” William smiled.
can fight, they smack each other in the face, turn around, say
sorry, drink a beer and it’s all over and finished. Women have to
analyze why they argue, they discuss it with several friends before
they talk to the person they are dealing with, they make up
elaborately especially if they were fighting with another woman, but
they will never forget, and with every tiny friction in the future,
they will touch upon the subject again.” Elizabeth used her hands
to underline her words, with swinging movements.
had to laugh out loud now. He pointed to his cheek again. “Well,
at least you started to act like a man on one point this morning.”
cringed again. “Yeah, yeah, rub it in nicely. Do I have to
apologize again? You must know by know how sorry I am.” For the
first time since the slap, she touched his cheek again, tentatively
and tenderly this time. “It’s turning light red.” Her cheeks
also turned red, when she thought back to her own behavior.
carefully took her hand and removed it from his face. “It’s
okay, really, you don’t have to say it again. It’s written all
over your face,” he said it softly and with a warm voice that
seemed to warm up even more by the tender stroke he made with his
thumb on Elizabeth’s wrist.
yes, me the open book. I wonder how open I am, if I don’t
understand myself.” Elizabeth removed her hand from William’s, a
bit unnerved by her body’s reaction to his gentle touch, turned
around and took the almost empty cup from the table and smothered
her cigarette in the last remnants of coffee.
you want to, you can always look for professional help; visit a
psychiatrist or a relational therapist.” William suggested.
don’t want professional help. As long as I can talk about it, I
want to find out on my own.” Elizabeth said. “Besides, I have
you as my shrink, right?” She looked at him, winked, and nudged
made William laugh. Him the shrink? He remembered Georgiana
screaming at him that he was the one who needed to look for a
psychiatrist. “You’re the first one who has ever called me
a shrink. If my sister heard this, she would absolutely not believe
shrink or not, you helped me enormously by listening today.” Then
Elizabeth grew silent and serious again. “That is …”she
stumbled. “Would you please… I’ve told you all this in
confidence. It’s remarkable, I’ve met you only a few times, and
I’ve told you something about myself today that’s quite
personal. I would appreciate it if you keep it private.”
course. It’s safe with me.” William said very earnestly.
hoped so. Last week in the studio, Charles said if anyone was able
to keep a secret it was you.” Elizabeth slowly turned her head and
looked William in his eyes. She hesitated, but felt enough need to
tell, “Euhm, it may sound exaggerated, but I feel I’ve found a
new friend today.”
didn’t break the intense look. “I feel the same.” Suspense,
not unpleasant but a comfortable form of tension, slowly grew, until
William broke it by saying, “Speaking of Charles,” he took his
mobile from his pocket, “let’s call him and figure out where
they are. They must be wondering what we’re doing by now.”
appeared the others were close, and they agreed to meet each other
at the tent. Elizabeth insisted she buy the next coffee after she
had been treated twice. In the tent, they waited and chatted
cheerfully about the horses they had seen so far, till the others
appeared and the company came together again.
* ~ * ~
mountain stream came to the end of the first meadow, where the steep
slope flattened out, causing the water droplets to fall into a small
pool which formed a short, natural eddy before finding their course
again. Dancing their mutual Waltz in the whirlpool, the rain drops
and the liquid from the spring, turned around each other. After
having survived their first confrontation in the stream on the
meadow, fighting for a tiny place to pass through, they watched each
other’s spinning movement. The thunderstorm, which caused them to
mingle, was nowhere to be seen, having done his deed and left. The
steady tree, at the other end of the meadow, waved them off with the
branches that had survived the natural disaster. Short twigs and
leaves were their farewell gift having fallen off the tree and into
the water, drifting with the stream. The fawn, which had been so
frightened by the thunderclap, and had kicked mud and other plants
into the stream, was long gone —away with his mother, into the
safety of the woods. The first phase of the long journey had ended.
Sunbeams touched the surface, tentatively warming the liquid with
golden sparks of heat. Gliding into the second stage, the stream
left the pool and descended on a new path. Pebbles weren’t as
sharp as before, polished by quintillions of drops that had led the
way before them. There was no need to fight for a place anymore …
broad, flat stones invited all to come and follow the course. The
drops went on … stopped pushing, fighting, and turning, and
decided to travel together. Not against, but next to each other.
* ~ * ~
The bird’s nest has fallen out of the tree. As far as I
know this is a saying in the region where I live. It means that a
marriage is split up. Perhaps the saying is known in more places in
the Netherlands, and who knows, even more people all over the world
are familiar with it. I don’t know. If others have heard of it,
I’d love to know. (click
and go back to text)