du Tertre, the River, chapter
the next Saturday morning, Elizabeth and Jane headed for Lucas’s
Farm. As promised at the party, they went to ride Charlotte’s
horses Ilioan and Lady Brown. Both the sisters had done it several
times the week before in the evenings. As it was dark pretty early
in the evening, they used the ring behind the stables that Mr. Lucas
had installed together with the stalls. The ground was scalped,
without stones and other irregularities and filled with soft sand.
The fence was made of huge timber poles, and impregnated with
creosote to keep it in a good state of preservation. Four huge
lampposts provided enough light to make riding in the dark possible.
It was all properly trimmed, as were the rest of the farm and its
Lucas didn’t need the farm to provide an income anymore. After his
son and daughters declared they didn’t fancy the idea of taking
over the farm, he sold most of his pastures, his cattle and the
milking rights (note 1)
a few years ago. He kept some sheep and fattened up newborn calves
until they were a few months old, to keep him occupied. It was his
favorite pastime, next to tidying the gardens and buildings. His
four children still lived at home, even though they were all in
their twenties. They didn’t need to pay rent or pay for part of
the housekeeping, but Mr. Lucas insisted they all lend their hands
in keeping the property and animals in good repair. It was very
likely one of the children and his or her partner would settle for
good in part of the building once married, as was often done in the
region. But neither daughters nor son had found a soul mate for life
yet, and so the happy Lucas family still consisted of six people.
The house was huge and the family friendly and inviting. Almost
every day, the huge kitchen would offer a place for a guest for the
ten o’clock coffee break, lunch, dinner or one of the many parties
for which the family was famous. Neighbors, friends of the family,
participants in one of the many projects where Mrs. Lucas
volunteered, people who rented a stall for their horse … everybody
felt at ease at the Lucas Farm.
wasn’t the case for Elizabeth, who wasn’t relaxed when she
parked her bike in the open barn next to a 50-year-old ‘Lanz
Bulldog’ tractor. She and Jane wouldn’t use the ring this
morning, but would be going on a ride outside. This shouldn’t have
caused her to feel ill at ease if it weren’t for the company they
would have. To train Charlotte’s horses wasn’t the only
commitment the girls had made at the party; Jane had also promised
Charles to take him on a ride in the beautiful countryside, where
she knew all the paths. This week, Charles reminded her of it, and
they arranged to go riding on Saturday morning. William Darcy would
also join them, and he was the reason Elizabeth felt a little
she entered the stall where Iliohan stood and took a brush to clean
the brown coat, her mind drifted back to the previous weekend. She
had told William much about her private feelings. At the moment
after the near accident when she opened up, it felt right, but now,
seven days later, she was doubtful. She hardly knew him, what must
he think of her? He might have laughed about her silly secrets. He
had suggested she should see a psychiatrist. He must think she was
nuts. Realizing she would meet William again in a short time and not
knowing how he would react to their previous meeting—he might well
make jokes about her— made her feel vulnerable.
seeming to sense her uneasiness, stretched her neck and nuzzled
between the long brown curls. Elizabeth smiled and caressed the
horse behind the ears. Meticulously brushing her, Lizzy relaxed, and
hardly noticed when Jane brought saddle and bridle from the room
where the saddlers were kept, and put it on the hatch.
you are,” Jane cheerfully said. Unlike Elizabeth, she was in a
very good mood. For the first time in many months she felt
completely at ease in the company of a man. She had spent several
hours with Charles the past few weeks and every time she was
surprised at how comfortable she was. They talked about everything
and it appeared they shared quite a few interests. Jane had to
execute several orders for Charles, which made her look at the
bookkeeping with fresh eyes, analyzing figures she had never
bothered to look at before. When she didn’t know where to start
searching, he was very patient and explained where to look, and when
she presented the wanted results, and very often more, he was
profuse in his compliments. He also came by her desk frequently to
ask her advice or to use her knowledge, and thanked her elaborately
afterwards. During lunch breaks, or on other occasions when they
could talk about things besides work, he appeared genuinely
interested in her and in what she wanted and liked. Sometimes, when
Jane allowed her thoughts to wander, she wished he wasn’t her
colleague and temporary boss. If that had been the case, she might
have allowed herself to dream about something more with Charles than
just being a friend. Since she had resigned herself to never having
a relationship, a love relationship that is, on the job, and
certainly not with her boss, she convinced herself that she liked
him as an acquaintance. Her confidence and happiness grew under his
attention; she beamed her true beauty again. It had vanished after
her first disastrous relationship, and she made herself believe it
was just returning because Charles was such a good friend to her.
so far away, two other horses were being prepared for a ride
outside. A stableman brushed the mares, picked out the hoofs, saddled
and bridled them, and called the main house to say they were ready.
After Mrs. White took the call in the kitchen, she went in search of
the riders. Charles was, as she expected, still in his room, hastily
searching for his favorite sweater. She found William standing in
the front living room, looking outside through one of the tall
windows. When she passed the opened door, Mrs. White quickly knocked
and informed him the horses where ready.
you,” William politely answered. “Where’s Charles?” After
Mrs. White answered that Charles was still dressing, William smiled.
“Of course.” It wasn’t uncommon for Charles to be late. It
seemed he always needed to have something special at the last
White went back to the kitchen and William turned to look outside
again. He made a nice silhouette in front of the window, in his crème-colored
riding breeches and tight, black turtleneck pullover. In his hands
he held the riding gloves Elizabeth and he had chosen the week
before. Gently stroking the soft material, he recalled the electric
shock he had felt when she had touched his hand. With his index
finger, he followed the lines on his right palm imagining it was
Elizabeth’s finger touching them. It had been a week since he
spoke with her. How would she be? Would she regret that she had told
him about herself? William had been so proud someone trusted him
enough to share her feelings with him. It was completely new for
him. No one had ever told him about her feelings the way Elizabeth
had done. Not that he had ever been interested in private emotions
before, except for his sister Georgiana’s. When Elizabeth had sat
there on the bench and spoke to him, he immediately had known how to
react. He thought he had asked the right questions and had managed
to calm her. It had felt so good. But what if she regretted it? What
if she wished she had never told him all this? She would perhaps
avoid him. William had wanted many women to leave him alone often
enough, but they always seemed to stick to him like bees to honey.
This was the first time he wanted a woman not to walk away
from him, and he was truly racking his brain in order to find some
easy topics beforehand to keep the conversation flowing. While doing
so, he saw Jane and Elizabeth approaching the house, entering the
driveway and heading for the stables. With a huge sigh to calm
himself, he turned, took his moleskin coat, and walked to the back
door, which was closest to the stables.
and the girls reached the stables at the same time. “Good
morning,” he said good-humoredly, nodding to Jane and Elizabeth.
He followed that with a polite, “thank you,” as he took the
reins from the stableman. He was quite certain the servant did his
job well, yet he checked the tack precisely. After quickly examining
the buckles of the bridle he softly tapped the long neck, and his
fingers slide beneath the girth to make sure it was tight, but not
too tight. He measured the stirrup leather, seeing that it didn’t
have the same length as his arm and loosened it a hole. Then he
walked back to the left side, donned his new gloves, and in one
swift move he mounted the mare. At that moment, Charles ran towards
the square where the others waited for him. He closed his green
jacket while walking, and simultaneously greeted the girls. Without
doubting that his servant executed the preparations correctly, he
accepted the reins and took his place in the saddle.
go ladies. Show us the way; we are at your mercy,” Charles
cheerfully said and headed in the direction of the front entrance.
used to be an exit at the backside of the garden. It leads directly
to a sandy path. Do you know if it’s still there?” Jane asked
and turned her horse the other way. To her surprise it was William
you mean behind that walled section? I’ve seen a gate there.” He
stretched his arm and pointed at the backside of the huge field of
did you discover that?” Charles asked surprised.
have beautiful grounds here, especially early in the morning.”
William answered and followed Jane.
narrow pathway led to the gate where Jane dismounted to open it.
Behind the conifer hedge, which served as borderline for this side
of the Netherfield property, a beautiful path was situated. Seeing
the tall, ancient trees, William concluded that it must be an old
road. It was broad enough for two horses to walk next to each other,
and as expected by all four of them, Charles immediately took his
position beside Jane, which automatically put William and Elizabeth
in the second row. Iliohan was a bit taller than the mare William
rode. If they had turned their faces towards each other, they would
have noticed their eyes were on the same level. It was too soon for
both of them, and William, as well as Elizabeth looked at
everything—from the reins in their hands, the pricked up ears of
the horses to the top of the trees above them—everything but each
other. Elizabeth noticed William wore real leather boots, whereas
she wore cheap, imitation rubber ones. Her gaze wandered from his
boot up his leg,
which was covered in fine breeches. The cloth couldn't
veil how well shaped his thigh was. Then
she looked at his hands and recognized the gloves.
do you like them?” She pointed at the purchase they had made
together the week before.
looked at his hands and lifted one up. “It’s a bit early to
tell,” he said while spreading his fingers and turning his hand
back and forth. “It’s the first time I’ve used them. I don’t
have a clue how they will do in heat or rain with slippery reins.
They fit perfectly though and are very supple. I think you made an
excellent choice last week.” Upon saying that, he looked at
Elizabeth who quickly turned her head.
knew she shouldn’t, but she felt shy. “Well, it was your own
remained silent for a few minutes before William continued, “This
is a beautiful path. Do you often go outside riding?”
explained to him they didn’t own horses themselves. She sometimes
borrowed Charlotte’s or rented a horse at the local riding school.
If possible, she took them outside where she could enjoy the
surroundings, which she preferred above training in a ring. An easy
conversation started and they discovered they both liked to walk,
ride and cycle through the countryside.
love to sit on a bench and watch the sun rise. It’s amazing how
fast the colors change the hour before the sun is really, completely
visible,” Elizabeth said. “I always try to count the various
shades of the color green, but I never manage to capture all of
the uncomfortable feelings between them faded. “I’m very fond of
the smell early in the morning,” William said. “It’s
completely different once the sun has risen.”
afraid I’m not very good when it comes to smelling things,”
Elizabeth said. Her smoking habit almost completely deprived her of
that particular sense, but she barely noticed the importance of it,
after so many years of smoking, not knowing what she missed.
left the sandy path and rode between two trees towards a brook. In
the area there were many ditches and brooks, to allow rainwater to
flow off from pastures and fields. Where ditches were small and
situated directly next to the land, the brooks very often had an
extra horizontal strip of grass called the ‘mow path’, because
little tractors could ride there and mow the sides of the brook, to
avoid stoppage. Those paths were often used as rider trails and made
it possible to avoid traffic. The path was small and they stayed
behind each other, until Jane left the brook and crossed a
cornfield. The corn was already cut, but the field wasn’t yet
plowed so they could freely cross it, carefully stepping between the
do you ride when you’re home?” Elizabeth asked William.
told her there were many official paths and riding tracks in the
neighborhood of his home Pemberley. He wasn’t used to crossing
tillage or following brooks.
is the only time of the year we can ride on this land, of course,”
Elizabeth explained. “Once this ground is cultivated, you’d
better not tread on it otherwise you’ll find a very angry farmer.
I like to ride here. It makes me feel as though I’m in the middle
of nature instead of those man-made tracks.”
afraid our country is too full and organized. If there is some
nature left, it’s forbidden to ride with horses on it,” William
the end of the field, there was a forest trail with a steady base
instead of the loose sand of the land. After checking the girths
again, they continued in an easy trot. Both Charles and William were
excellent horseman. Elizabeth noticed William’s lower legs barely
moved, his back was straight and his hands stayed steady. They
jumped a brook to the field on the other side and back, for fun.
After crossing another field, they quickened to a gallop. The four
horses behaved well together without chasing each other too much.
do you say, a full gallop now? This is a nice long road,” Jane
proposed. The others agreed and Elizabeth spurred Iliohan first.
William very quickly followed her, Jane and Charles closed in on
them. Elizabeth stood in her stirrups, released the saddle, bent
forwards and loosened the reins a little, unknowingly allowing
William to see her derriere, which he quickly assessed as very
and Charles rode side by side as the horses seemed to adjust their
speed to one another The two mares were developing any kind of
friendship, because Lady Brown suddenly turned her head and snapped
at Charles’s mare. This started a quick succession of happenings.
The horses jumped aside, causing both riders to loose their seat for
a moment. Jane tightened the reins, but not quickly enough for her
mare to make another leap. A third animal involved herself in the
scene; a rabbit crossed the road suddenly. Lady Brown couldn’t
avoid it. She tried to stop as soon as she could, almost stumbling
over her own legs, causing Jane to lose her seat completely and with
a loud scream, she fell off the horse onto her back with a heavy
thud. She could feel her head touch the ground painfully before
everything turned black.
Charles screamed, frightened. He jumped off his mare and his feet
touched the ground before his mare even made a complete stop.
Without worrying if the horse would wait or bolt away, he released
it and ran to Jane. Feeling his heart racing with shock, he kneeled
down. “Jane?” he asked softly, brushing the hair out of her
face. The chin strap of her cap was cracked and the head covering
which should have protected her lay on the ground next to her, still
rocking from the sudden impact. Relief washed over Charles when Jane
immediately opened her blue eyes. Blinking a few times before sight
became keen again, she tried to sit up, but a sharp pain in her back
made her think better of it.
you okay?” It was a rhetorical question, as Charles could easily
see she wasn’t okay at all, and it frightened him more than he had
back,” Jane softly groaned.
knelt behind Jane and carefully touched her. “Can you try to
sit?” He moved to sit behind her and gently helped her sit up.
This went well, however a shooting sting in her head caused Jane to
grab it with both hands. Charles forgot to breathe.
okay, really. My back is okay, but my head. I don’t want to move
it,” Jane said in short pieces, inhaling sharply between each
stretched his legs, carefully pulled Jane’s backward to his chest
and whispered in her hair, “Shh, say nothing. Close your eyes if
you can and try to relax.”
slowly bent back, put her hands down in her lap and laid her head
just beneath Charles’s collarbone. Closing her eyes, she felt his
arms encircle her and his hands caressing her upper arms ever so
and William did not to hear the scream due to the wind produced by
the speed they were traveling. They proceeded on their private race
until, after a bend in the way, Elizabeth restrained Iliohan because
she knew there was another path a few hundred meters away. There may
have been other road users and she didn’t want to cause a
collision. From a full gallop they slowed down to a trot and finally
to a step. Panting, Elizabeth looked back and, to her surprise, she
saw only William. “Where are the others?” she asked.
also looked back. “Perhaps they stopped earlier,” he said while
rearranging the reins in his hands.
don’t think so. It was Jane who proposed a full gallop; I don’t
expect her to stop early.” She sensed something was wrong. They
turned and trotted back.
wasn’t long before they saw the two sitting in the middle of the
road. “Jane, Charles what happened?” Elizabeth cried scared. She
dismounted quickly, having enough presence of mind to hand the reins
to William, and ran to her sister. Charles explained what had
William pointed at something on the ground. The rabbit lay dead at
the side of the road. Lady Brown must have kicked it.
a horse would never do that on purpose. It must have been very bad
timing for all of them.” Elizabeth briefly looked at the animal
but shifted her attention back to her sister quickly. “Can you
stand up?” With the help of both Elizabeth and Charles, Jane
managed to rise. Her back felt sore but she could bend it. Her head
was aching but she wasn’t nauseated or dizzy.
fell on my back—only after that, my head touched the sand. I
didn’t bang my head on the ground directly,” Jane said.
you think you can ride?” When Jane answered negatively, and it
appeared no one carried a cell phone, Elizabeth had to think of some
other way to bring Jane home safely. Very calmly she proposed
Charles could stay with Jane while she and William could take the
shortest road to Netherfield on Charles’s horses and return by
car. Charles could take Jane to the doctor and William and Elizabeth
would ride Charlotte’s horses back home.
Elizabeth got Lady Brown and tied her to a tree together with
Iliohan, William remarked that Jane should not sit on the ground. He
took off his moleskin jacket and gently spread it out on the side of
your coat is way too expensive to sit on. You shouldn’t do
that,” Jane objected.
her protest, he kindly said: “Sit down and try to relax. We will
be back as soon as we can.”
helped Elizabeth adjust the stirrup leathers to her length. “I’m
so sorry. It happened too quickly.
wasn’t your fault, Charles. Now, make sure she stays still until
we’re back.” Elizabeth mounted the mare and, together with
William, headed in the direction of Netherfield.
can’t believe it. Four people and no one had a cell phone.”
I always forget to take mine when I need it,” Elizabeth answered.
“But let’s not worry over things we can’t change.” She
spurred the mare to a trot. “Let me get used to this horse first.
I know a short way, but we have to clear some ditches.”
Soon she felt comfortable enough with the horse to make some
jumps, and they crossed some corn and grass fields, taking a short
the mares, and the riders for that matter, were quite exhausted when
they reached Netherfield stables. Without batting an eyelid, or
asking one question about where the others were or why William was
dressed in his pullover only, the stableman approached them and took
me pick up my cell phone, first. I’ll be back quickly. We will
take that car.” William pointed at a four-wheel drive car that was
parked next to the stable, and quickly walked towards the house.
you know where Charles has left his mobile phone?” Elizabeth
asked. “If we bring him his, we can stay in contact.”
raised his finger to acknowledge he heard her suggestion and
approved it. “I’ll check his room quickly.”
used to having other people taking care of the horses she rode,
Elizabeth followed the stableman and took one horse. “Which
box?” After a nod from the servant, she entered a box and quickly
removed the bridle and saddle from the horse. She didn’t have time
to put a blanket on because William came back ready to depart. He
wore another jacket; not a moleskin this time, but it was also
water-repellent and looked expensive. They drove away as Elizabeth
pointed the way.
was surprised at Elizabeth’s calm demeanor. He was sure she must
be frightened that Jane had been seriously hurt by the fall, but she
didn’t show it.
you mind if I use your cell phone?” she politely asked. “It’s
Saturday which means Jane must visit the weekend medical practice
instead of our family doctor. You need to make an appointment for
it. If I call now, perhaps I can arrange something by the time
Charles and Jane reach the practice.”
William reached the pocket of his jacket and handed it to Elizabeth.
after, they reached Jane and Charles, who sat together on the same
spot where they had left them. Charles and William both helped Jane
stand up and they supported her while she walked with little steps
to the car. Charles buckled her in carefully, ensuring she was
comfortable. William took his moleskin coat from the ground and
threw it on the back seat of the car, not even bothering to check if
it had stains on it. He handed Charles his phone and Elizabeth told
Jane she had made an appointment. Charles listened carefully as
Elizabeth explained how to ride towards the medical practice.
and Charles,” she added, pleadingly, “please make sure Jane
doesn’t trivialize her injuries when she’s at the doctor? I know
my sister, she’s afraid she will burden others and -” She
stopped mid-sentence. It was the first time she showed her anxiety.
can count on it,” Charles said earnestly and forced a smile on his
face when he looked Elizabeth in the eye. He walked round the car
and Elizabeth quickly hugged Jane.
you later, sweetie.” Elizabeth stepped back and waved as the car
left, a huge sigh escaping. William noticed it, and felt the urge to
wrap his arm around her, to comfort her as much as he could.
Instead, he put his hand tentatively on her shoulder, but said
nothing, considering every word would sound awkward. Elizabeth
didn’t need words; the little gesture was enough to show her he
cared. She turned her head upwards and faced him, and like Charles,
forced a little smile. It was the first time William noticed how
beautiful her eyes were. They were brown, but not like his. They
were highlighted with green flecks, which made them mysterious even
when they weren’t shining with joy.
then walked towards the rabbit. She picked it up from the ground by
his hind leg and examined it. “It must have died immediately.”
She turned it around and, with a slight shrug, said: “Well, it’s
a nice, fat rabbit. I might as well take it.”
you allowed to take wild game with you?” William asked.
be honest, I really don’t know. The shooting season for rabbits
has opened, but I don’t have a hunting license myself. My father
has one though, and he even hunts on these grounds. Anyway, we
weren’t hunting now were we? It was an accident, it’s fresh meat
and it would be a shame to leave it behind.” She explained
practically as she walked towards Iliohan and laid the rabbit across
the saddle. They untied the horses, mounted them and slowly headed
towards the Lucas Farm. Not in the mood for talking, they said
unfazed as the staff were at Netherfield, such was not the case at
the Lucas Farm. They were bombarded with questions so Elizabeth
explained to Mr. Lucas what had happened, while noticing the
admiring look Charlotte’s younger sister Maria gave William. She
couldn’t blame her, he was definitely worth admiring; the tall,
well-built man he was.
Lucas insisted Lucy and her sister Sylvia take care of the horses.
“Off you go to find out how Jane is,” he ordered. “I’ll
drive you and have John deliver the bikes later on.”
no, Mr. Lucas, that is absolutely not necessary,” Elizabeth
objected. “Don’t bother, we will bike ourselves. That is…”
She cast an inquiring look at William.
William said convincingly. Later, he admitted he hadn’t ridden a
bike in years. “But, I have been told that’s one of the skills
you never forget,” he smiled.
had left the Lucas property before asking themselves where they
should go ... the apartment or Netherfield? Using his mobile phone,
William called Charles and learned he had taken Jane to Netherfield.
Lucas Farm was next to Netherfield, Elizabeth and William quickly
made their way to Netherfield and entered via the back door in
search of Jane. Charles greeted them letting them know the doctor
had examined Jane. He didn’t think she had any serious injuries.
“No serious head injury, nothing wrong with her back. She broke
her fall perfectly. But she has some bruises and perhaps a light
concussion. The doctor advised her to rest and lay down to relieve
is she here and not at home?” Elizabeth asked. She was visibly
relaxed upon hearing the relatively good news.
uh…” Charles stuttered a little. “I figured she would be
better off here, because there’s always someone in the house to
take care of her.” He blushed as he added, “That is, I
completely forgot Mrs. White has the weekend off and Theo, one of
the stablemen, is taking her to her sister right now.”
Elizabeth asked when Charles didn’t continue.
we’re alone in the house, and I’m not so sure my idea is as good
as it sounded before.” On Elizabeth’s questioning look he
quickly added, “I don’t mean she isn’t welcome, she absolutely
is. But perhaps she won’t feel completely at ease, when she’s
alone here with only Caroline, William and me. Perhaps, you can …
there’s an empty room next Jane’s right now, with a connecting
door. Would you also be my guest, please?”
sounded so pleading, Elizabeth could do nothing else but accept the
offer. Besides, she thought Charles was right and Jane would like
her to stay. “Okay,” she said. “Let me put this rabbit
somewhere in the stables, and then I’ll get some clothes from
home. I guess I need to get some things for Jane?
Charles nodded affirmatively, William quickly added, “Come on,
I’ll take you in the car.”
shrugged her shoulders, allowing the two men to take the lead, and
considered this would become a different weekend from what she had
expected it to be.
1: Milkingrights: In the Netherlands farmers are allowed to sell or
buy milking rights. Those rights represent the quota of milk a
farmer is allowed to produce. As far as I know in many European
countries it’s forbidden to trade milking rights.(click
and go back to text)