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 eight  

 

Early 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 surroundings.

Mr. 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.

This 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 uncomfortable.

When 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.

Iliohan, 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.

“Here 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.

* ~* ~*

 

Not 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.

“Thank 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 minute.

Mrs. 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.

William 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.

“Let’s go ladies. Show us the way; we are at your mercy,” Charles cheerfully said and headed in the direction of the front entrance.

“There 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 who answered.

“Do 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 grass.

“When did you discover that?” Charles asked surprised.

“You have beautiful grounds here, especially early in the morning.” William answered and followed Jane.

A 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.

“How do you like them?” She pointed at the purchase they had made together the week before.

William 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.

She knew she shouldn’t, but she felt shy. “Well, it was your own choice.”

They remained silent for a few minutes before William continued, “This is a beautiful path. Do you often go outside riding?”

Elizabeth 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.

“I 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 them.”

Slowly, 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.”

“I’m 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.

Jane 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 stubbles.

“Where do you ride when you’re home?” Elizabeth asked William.

He 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.

“This 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.”

“I’m afraid our country is too full and organized. If there is some nature left, it’s forbidden to ride with horses on it,” William agreed.

At 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.

“What 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 nicely shaped.

Jane 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.

“Jane!” 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.

“Are 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 expected.

“My back,” Jane softly groaned.

Charles 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.

“It’s 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 word.

Charles 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.”

Jane 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 gentle. 

Elizabeth 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.

William also looked back. “Perhaps they stopped earlier,” he said while rearranging the reins in his hands.

“I 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.

It 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 occurred.

“Look.” William pointed at something on the ground. The rabbit lay dead at the side of the road. Lady Brown must have kicked it.

“Amazing, 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.

“I fell on my back—only after that, my head touched the sand. I didn’t bang my head on the ground directly,” Jane said.

“Do 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.

While 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 the road.

“William, your coat is way too expensive to sit on. You shouldn’t do that,” Jane objected.

Ignoring her protest, he kindly said: “Sit down and try to relax. We will be back as soon as we can.”

Charles helped Elizabeth adjust the stirrup leathers to her length. “I’m so sorry. It happened too quickly.

“It 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.

“I can’t believe it. Four people and no one had a cell phone.” William muttered.

“Somehow 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 cut.

Both 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 the horses.

“Let 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.

“Do you know where Charles has left his mobile phone?” Elizabeth asked. “If we bring him his, we can stay in contact.”

William raised his finger to acknowledge he heard her suggestion and approved it. “I’ll check his room quickly.”

Not 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.

William 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.

“Do 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.”

“Naturally.” William reached the pocket of his jacket and handed it to Elizabeth.  

Shortly 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.

“Oh, 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.

“You 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.

“See 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.

Elizabeth 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.”

“Are you allowed to take wild game with you?” William asked.

“To 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 little.

As 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. 

Mr. 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.”

“Oh, 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.

“Sure,” 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.

They 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.

As 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 her back.”

“Why is she here and not at home?” Elizabeth asked. She was visibly relaxed upon hearing the relatively good news.

“Well, 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.”

“So..?” Elizabeth asked when Charles didn’t continue.

“So, 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?”

It 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?

When Charles nodded affirmatively, William quickly added, “Come on, I’ll take you in the car.”

Elizabeth 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.

* ~* ~*

 

note: 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)

 
   

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    Marjolein © 2003-2004 All rights reserved M.Houwer