Into the Wilderness by Belén Paccagnella

It’s time for our third summer holiday vignette. Here’s Belén Paccagnella to tell you a little bit about her story.

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This piece is an adaptation of a series of vignettes I wrote for my second story, Paper Jam, which was posted in 2003. The idea for this story came during a fishing trip to the Paraná River, in Entre Ríos, with my now ex-husband and my three-year-old daughter. We camped on the bank of the river and had a wonderful time fishing, grilling, and just enjoying the beauty of this generous land. The scenery, the untamed wilderness of Argentina’s Mesopotamia, inspired me to write this story of a “savage” Elizabeth Bennet and the excessively British William Darcy. Enjoy!

Glossary

Mate: infusion made from Yerba Mate, usually served in a rigid gourd also known as ‘mate’.

Bombilla: metal straw for the mate.

Asado: barbecue

Parrillero: griller

Dorado: native fish from South America

(All temperatures are centigrade.)

 

Into the Wilderness

 

“I don’t know why you insisted on buying a new truck.” Elizabeth leaned back against the comfortable seat of the Jeep Renegade they had picked up from the dealer just that morning.

“Because we need a more comfortable vehicle while we’re here,” William said calmly. He knew how much Elizabeth loved her old Ford F100, but the 1992 vehicle was too outdated for his taste.

“My old pick-up works pretty well, you know.” She sulked. “I drove that truck for years, and it never broke down on me. My dad gave it to me when I turned eighteen.”

“I know, babe,” he said with a sigh, knowing she was not going to drop the subject until he enunciated all his reasons. “And it’s a great vehicle. I just don’t want to get a tetanus shot before getting in a car.”

Elizabeth shot him a dark look then smirked at his teasing. “You already took all the vaccinations that exist before travelling here. You’re such a hypochondriac.”

William smiled. Indeed, he did: tetanus, yellow fever, dengue, diphtheria, and another for an unknown disease. Elizabeth’s immune system may be accustomed to South America’s microbiological fauna, but he wasn’t going to risk a stomach flu on their first summer vacation together in her hometown of Pueblo Brugo.

“I wouldn’t mind driving it if the air conditioner worked. It’s like thirty degrees out there.”

Elizabeth laughed. “You’re right. It can get really hot here in the summer. Jane said they had temperatures over thirty-three last week, so I guess I can do with a little air conditioning.”

“Why, Mrs. Darcy!” William smirked. “Already losing some of your former savagery?”

“I guess your ‘Britishness’ is already rubbing off on me, Mr. Darcy.”

His eyes met hers in a diverted smile. “I doubt it. You’ll always be a savage to me.”


After two hours of driving through the deteriorated roads in the province of Entre Ríos, they finally arrived at Arroyo Largo, the Bennet farm, located on the outskirts of the town of Pueblo Brugo. There, they were greeted by the Bingleys, who usually lived at the farm during the weekends, and Attila, Elizabeth’s dog, who had to stay home because of his advanced age and England’s strict quarantine laws. Elizabeth was sad to leave him behind, but she didn’t want to confine him to a flat in London either. Attila grew up in the wilderness of Entre Ríos without fences or limits, and that was how he was going to end his days.

The two couples met with the affection that usually follows a long separation. Elizabeth and Jane talked often on the phone; so did William and Charles, but there was nothing like catching up with a cold beer and enjoying the best asado the province had to offer. His time in Argentina had made Charles an excellent griller, and he welcomed the other couple with a feast of meat and innards that was the envy of any parrillero in the region.

“Oh, I missed you!” Elizabeth hugged her dog and allowed him to lick her face. “Did you miss me? Of course you did!”

William chuckled. Standing on his hind legs, Attila was as tall as Elizabeth. He eased the dog from Elizabeth’s shoulders and lowered him to the ground. Attila’s tail wagged enthusiastically as William patted him on the ribcage. “How are you, old hound? Still the terror of the females?”

Jane rolled her eyes. “You don’t know the half of it. Two weeks ago, we heard the neighbor firing his gun. First we thought there were cattle rustlers, but then we saw Attila running towards the house and realized he’d been ‘courting’ his collie.”

Elizabeth gasped and scolded the dog. “You didn’t! Didn’t mom teach you anything?” The dog sat and curled his ears, looking at her with guilty eyes. She grabbed the dog’s snout and squeezed him. “You stud, you can’t help it, can you?”

“Apparently, he can’t!” Jane laughed. “Half of the puppies born in the neighborhood have a strong resemblance to Attila. We’ll soon be invaded by oversized dogs.”


“So, how’s married life?” Charles asked as they sat on the porch, drinking mate.

William smiled dreamily. “Perfect, wonderful. I’ve never been so happy in my life.”

“Yeah, yeah, you look fine. And Liz, is she already adapted to London life?”

“It was hard for her at the beginning. She was missing the farm and Jane and even her work. But then she attended a few seminars, and we began looking for a new house, so she is a bit busier now. She’s also going for an interview at Kew Gardens when we return home so, hopefully, she’ll start working soon.”

“Any plans for these weeks?” Charles poured some hot water into the mate and passed it to William.

He grabbed the mate and sucked from the bombilla. “Liz wants to go fishing, and perhaps we’ll go to the Iguazú Falls for a couple of days…we just long for some rest.”

“You came to the right place.” Charles smirked. “This is the quietest place in the world.”

“I’m not sure it’s the quietest,” William spoke over the loud buzzing of the cicadas, “but it’s certainly the hottest.”


Two days later, before sunrise, William and Elizabeth loaded the Jeep for a three-day fishing trip. Their plan was to drive a hundred kilometers north, up the Paraná River, to a virgin forest where they could camp and fish some dorados. Elizabeth, an expert in camping and outdoor activities, was in charge of the preparations and loaded dozens of items they would need for these days in the wilderness, which included, William noticed with certain apprehension, an enormous amount of bug repellent. William wasn’t sure they might need so much stuff, and Elizabeth’s nonchalant “just in case” didn’t put his mind at ease. Once everything was ready, she called Attila, and made him jump into the back seat.

“Is he coming with us?” William was puzzled. Not that he minded the dog going, but he thought they would be on their own.

“Who knows what we’ll find out there.” Elizabeth walked around the jeep to the driver’s door. She sat behind the wheel and talked to the dog over her shoulder. “You’re mommy’s bodyguard, aren’t you? Yes, you are! Don’t drool over the new car, okay?”

Attila’s wagging tail tapped the seat, ears curled as Elizabeth rubbed his massive head. William, on the other hand, was more and more concerned about what this trip might bring.

Elizabeth drove the Jeep up the freeway for about sixty kilometers. They reached a roundabout, and she took a left turn onto an unpaved back road that cut through the forest. They drove for about an hour on the narrow dirt road, the Jeep jolting and shaking on the uneven terrain.

“Are you sure this is the right way, love?” William observed his surroundings.

“Yep.” Elizabeth was concentrating on the road. “Just a couple of kilometers and we’ll be there.”

Those must have been the longest “couple of kilometers” in William’s life. The road was slippery, and the Jeep skidded out of the track a couple of times. Elizabeth, however, didn’t even flinch and expertly drove the four-wheeled vehicle through the mud. Grasping the seat firmly, William inwardly prayed that they wouldn’t get stuck. He really admired Elizabeth’s driving skills, but he knew no one would come to their rescue if they fell into a pit.

The forest cleared out, and suddenly, they were at their destination in front of the Paraná River. The river was quite wide there, densely forested on both shores with a great variety of native fauna that didn’t seem bothered by their arrival. A family of capivaras were nibbling the grass some twenty meters upstream, and several herons and coots grazed the waters, searching for insects in between the aquatic plants and the roots of the partially submerged trees.

“This place is incredible.” William got out of the truck and opened the door for Attila.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Where’s the camping area?” He looked around.

Elizabeth sent him an odd glance. “Here.”

“Here?” There were no traces of civilization around. Not even a wooden hut. Nothing, nada. “Without a restaurant, electricity, or a bathroom?”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth’s eyes had that mischievous glint they always had when she teased him about something. “I told you we were going camping.”

“Yes, but you didn’t say we’d be in the middle of nowhere.”

“Come on!” She gestured around her. “This place is perfect! We have the river over there, and we’re on a hill, so there is no risk of flooding.”

“Flooding?”

“Yes, but not this time of the year.” She began unloading all the stuff.

Without saying a word—and still trying to figure out how it was that he managed to get himself into this situation—William helped his wife set up the tent. Once everything was ready, and the heat of the midday became unbearable, they sat in the shade to eat the cold lunch that Elizabeth had prepared for them. William thought it wasn’t that bad after all. A little wilderness wouldn’t kill anyone, and if he ignored the massive insects and the scorching temperature, the place was quite pleasing.

William rose and stretched his body. “How ’bout a short nap, hon?”

“Excellent. It’s too hot to do anything else.”

“You said that the nearest house was half an hour away?”

“A little less if you go through the forest.”

“Do you think they will allow me to use the bathroom?” he tentatively asked with an urge that had become impossible to ignore.

Elizabeth snorted. “I don’t think they have one.”

This was something he had been dreading since they left the house. He didn’t mind peeing behind a tree or washing his hands in the brownish waters of the river, but baring his white English bottom in a jungle full of snakes, bugs, and who knows what other hazardous creatures was something he didn’t feel comfortable with.

“Where’s the closest gas station?”

“About thirty kilometers away.” She cocked an eyebrow, then huffed and turned to get something from the bag. “Here.” She gave him a roll of toilet paper. “You have two hundred square kilometers of bathroom around you.”

William had no other choice but to comply. “You’re such a savage!”

“And you are so…English!” Elizabeth snapped back. An instant later, she was laughing at him. After all these months of happy marriage, the insult he threw at her the day they’d met had become a term of endearment and she was perfectly fine with him calling her that.

“Attila, come boy!” William patted his leg. If he was going to do this, he’d better take a bodyguard with him. Who knows what he would find out there.

The dog just sat next to Elizabeth and wagged his tail, letting him know where his loyalties lay.

“Traitor,” he muttered.

“Good luck, sweetie!” she chanted as he walked away.


William returned from his inevitable “expedition” a little more in sync with nature. The experience was somewhat traumatic, but once he became used to the idea, he began to relax and enjoy the wilderness around him. He napped inside the tent and reveled in his laziness until it was time to drink mate.

The rest of the afternoon was spent fishing. Dorados were plentiful in that particular spot, and Elizabeth was lucky enough to catch one so large it almost dragged her into the water. Dorados often put up a good fight, and this one was the dream catch of any angler. They reeled it in together, and Elizabeth gutted it for dinner.

The sun set on the horizon. Elizabeth lit the kerosene lantern she brought from home and lit the fire to grill the fish.

“You know there are things that were invented so you don’t have to start a fire in a hole on the ground or risk burning your fingers—and probably the entire forest—with an ancient kerosene lamp,” William observed as she piled up the wood and used the lighter to set it aflame. When she ignored his comment, he pressed on. “Are we even allowed to camp here?”

“A friend from school is a local park ranger here. He told me we could stay for as long as we want to as long as we follow the rules.” She fanned the little bonfire until the flames were strong enough to burn on their own.

“Which are?” William was certain they had already broken a few. His earlier expedition was surely one of them.

“One dorado per person, no hunting capivaras, and no disturbing the turtles. It’s mating season.”

William’s eyebrows arched up. “Right.”

They ate the fish under the moonlit sky. Bathed in bug repellent, they shared stories about camping, and Elizabeth relayed her adventures in the wilderness of Entre Ríos. William’s anecdotes weren’t nearly as interesting, and Elizabeth teased him about his lack of expertise in outdoor activities.

“What kind of child were you?”

“A very boring, civilized one.” He chuckled.

Elizabeth laughed. They continued to eat and chat until the conversation was interrupted by a strange sound.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh.

“What’s that?” William asked, intrigued and slightly alarmed.

“Turtles.”

“I didn’t know turtles could produce sound.”

“Not usually. But they make this noise when they are mating.”

The Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh continued.

He stared at her, eyes wide. “They are…?”

“Shagging. I told you: it’s mating season.” She ate the last bite of fish and licked her fingers one by one.

He was amazed. It had never crossed his mind that turtles were so loud when mating. William silently listened to the turtle’s love song while his mind conjured up some pretty wild fantasies about the turtle’s sexual behavior. He checked the time. Five minutes. No wonder they were so slow when walking.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh

“This guy is taking his time, isn’t he?” William smirked, his dimples appearing.

“They are turtles after all.” Elizabeth smiled.

The sound soon became louder, now mingled with another one. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh tk eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh tk eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh tk. Clearly, the shells were knocking against each other.

“Someone hit the jackpot!” William snorted, and Elizabeth choked on her juice.

He checked the time again. Twelve minutes. What was even funnier was that the sound turned louder and high pitched but it didn’t increase in frequency. Then, it suddenly stopped.

“Are they…”

“Wait.” Elizabeth raised her hand. “Sometimes they stop to rest.”

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh

“Bloody hell, I have to see that.” William rose and grabbed the flashlight.

Elizabeth ran after him. Giggling, they followed the sound and tried to find the horny couple but it was fruitless—the shrubbery was too dense—and they returned to the site laughing hysterically. William put his arm around Elizabeth’s waist and gave her a long, sensuous kiss.

“Tell me more about turtles’ reproductive habits,” he murmured.

“Let’s go inside, and I’ll show you.” She glanced at him from under her lashes.

They stumbled into the tent while discarding their clothes. But their activities were cut short when they heard noises outside the tent. This time the sound had nothing to do with mating turtles.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

William froze when he heard Attila’s menacing growl. “What was that?”

“Nothing.” She grabbed his face and kissed him. William didn’t oblige, too distracted by whatever was lurking around the camp.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr The sound could’ve frozen hell.

“There is someone out there.” William said, truly concerned.

“I don’t think so, Attila would have…”

It was then that they heard Attila’s furious bark. The dog ran away, chasing after something, and his growls mingled with the shrieks of a boar in what seemed to be a fiery battle. Only a few seconds later, the sounds of the retreating pig faded into the night, and Attila returned to his post next to the tent.

William was in shock. “What the hell was that?”

“A wild boar, probably.” Elizabeth didn’t seem worried. “You’re not afraid of pigs, are you?”

“You just said a wild boar.”

“Pig, wild boar, it’s the same,” she teased him. “Can we carry on, please?”

William sat and ran a hand through his hair, still trying to process what to him was a near-death experience. “I’m sorry, love, but I don’t think I can do this right now.”

“Oh, come on.” Elizabeth knelt in front of him and ran her finger down his chest. “I’ll make you forget everything about that pig.”

“I doubt it. I’m seriously traumatized.” He played hard to get.

“Really?” She nuzzled his neck.

William felt goose bumps stirring all over his skin. He didn’t think he would be able to hold his indifferent façade for too long.

“Not even if I do this?” She leaned closer and said, “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhh eeeeeeeeeeeeehhhh,” mimicking right in his ear the sound of the horny turtles.

William exploded with laughter.

“Why, don’t you find it sexy?”

He grabbed her, and they fell together over the inflatable mattress. “Sexiest thing I ever heard.”

Embraced and in love, they fell asleep, lulled by the noises of the forest, their rest only disturbed by the love song of the turtles in heat.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh.

 

The End.

 

 What do you think of this contemporary summer holiday? Do you like that the idea for it came during the author’s fishing trip to this location? Darcy was in for some surprises, but it seems he adapted to the rugged life. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Remember that you can still comment on the previous two vignettes if you have not already done so. All comments are open until one week after the posting of the last vignette.

 

Belén Paccagnella’s First Release

25 Responses

  1. Glynis
    | Reply

    Fabulous! I love stories with Darcy and Elizabeth married.
    What a trip though, I’m afraid I’m more a Darcy than an Elizabeth as far as camping goes – I love my home comforts (and plumbing) too much, plus I’m allergic to insects 🤣.
    Now when I was a child I wasn’t quite as squeamish (although I still didn’t like insects) but we regularly went walking in the Peak District of Derbyshire and there weren’t always any bathrooms handy 😏. I must say, we never came across any mating turtles either!
    Thank you for this lovely story 😀

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Those mating turtles sounds might be rather unforgettable! Thanks for telling us about your walking in the Peak District. Sounds lovely!

    • Belén
      | Reply

      Thank you Glynis! I had a couple of horny turtles in my backyard that also served as inspiration for this story. I’m so happy you enjoyed this little vignette! It means a lot to me.

  2. Kelly Miller
    | Reply

    As someone who has not traveled much, I love how this lovely vignette brought me into the wilderness of Argentina, complete with audible turtles! Thank you, Belen!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      It did make you feel like you were right there with them, didn’t it! Audible turtles and wild boars make for quite an adventure! 🙂 Thanks, Kelly.

  3. Belen
    | Reply

    Thank you Kelly! I’m glad I was able to transmit some of the beauties of my country!

  4. Suzan Lauder
    | Reply

    Belén, I loved “Paper Jam,” and this vignette reminded me of it. It would be nice if Meryton Press published it in the future because it sure gives a taste of Argentina and the culture compared to England.

    My husband is a bit of a nervous camper. Once I recall he kept the little axe we used for splitting firewood under his pillow in our little tent because he’d heard there were black bears in the area. I thought that little axe was nothing compared to a bear. In any case, the bear wanted our food, not us. It would be better to throw snacks at it and run away. Thanks for a cute story!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      What a fun visual your comment conjured up! lol I’m glad you told us about one of your camping experiences.

    • Belen
      | Reply

      Hi Suzan! I’m so happy you remember that story. It’s very dear to me and was written in a special moment in my life. I guess it’s time to undust it and publish it. Good old times!
      My husband was a little more drastic than yours. He always took the shot gun when we went camping. And there are no bears in South America! LOL!

  5. Ginna
    | Reply

    Very cute! Love the different backgrounds between these two, and how they combined them. “baring his white English bottom” – heh heh!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Lizzy is ever her impertinent and clever self, isn’t she!

    • Belén
      | Reply

      Hi Ginna! That’s truly a match made ‘to de advantange of both’, isn’t it? Elizabeth is just what this very formal William needs to decontract.

  6. Jan Hahn
    | Reply

    Loved your vignette, Belen! However, I’m with Glynis. My idea of camping is a 5-star hotel. You made me laugh at Darcy roughing it in the woods, and I will never look at another turtle without thinking of your story. 😄

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Thanks, Jan, for stopping by. Darcy was struggling a bit, wasn’t he! Those turtles! Who knew!

    • Belén
      | Reply

      Hi Jan!! thanks for stopping by! I agree with you and Glynis in this one. While I do enjoy camping and the outdoors, at my age, I prefer to sleep in the comfort of a hotel or at least a well-equipped motor home.

  7. Anji
    | Reply

    I’m loving these weekly vignettes from you all at Meryton Press. It’s lovely when writers can put something of their own experience into a story, as Belén has done here. Darcy and ‘his white British bottom’ certainly had a steep learning curve! It was good to see how he rose to the challenge. I’d love to read the story of how this particular Elizabeth and Darcy and Jane and Charles met sometime.

    I’ve no experience with camping under canvas and to be honest, I’m with Darcy on this, definitely! I’ve spent many a family holiday in a caravan (my parents had a touring ‘van which we took all around the UK over ther years when I was growing up) and though it had a chemical toilet, we often didn’t have easy access to more elaborate facilities. Later, not long after I got married, hubby and I spent two years working in West Africa. If we went out for a trip in ‘the bush’ as it was know locally, then it was very much like Elizabeth and Darcy experienced. And don’t get me started on the bugs – a room full of people and one mosquito – guess who it bit? Strangely enough, some of the best doughnuts I’ve ever tasted came from some local people who had a fire and a pot of oil set up by a river over there.

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      It’s great hearing you are loving these weekly vignettes, Anji! We appreciate you letting us know.

      Your comments about the touring van with family, and then about your time in Africa were interesting and entertaining. The bit about the room full of people and one mosquito made me laugh! Sorry for you though! 🙂

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your experiences with us.

    • Belén
      | Reply

      Thank you Anji! I’m happy this little vignette brought back those happy memories of camping with your family and your husband. Like you, I’m the ‘bitten one’ whenever a mosquito enters the room. Those donuts must have been delicious! for some reason, food cooked in the wild is usually the tastiest. Loved your anecdote about Africa.

  8. Patty Edmisson
    | Reply

    Loved it. Too funny.

    Thanks for the story.

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Thanks for reading it and commenting. We’re glad you enjoyed it!

    • Belen
      | Reply

      Thank you Patty, I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  9. Daniela Quadros
    | Reply

    That was a great vignette! I love this south American Elizabeth. I remember reading Paper Jam a long time ago and enjoying it very much. You see, I am Brazilian and many of those words you wrote there (assado, mate, etc) make sense to me. They’re very common in the south of the country. My dad used to fish Dorados in Pantanal when I was a young girl and the hot temperatures are unfortunate, especially where I live at the moment. I wouldn’t survive without an AC, hehe. Hope you write more soon!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Thanks, Daniela, for sharing your comments with us. It was interesting to read about your dad and fishing. Thank you for commenting and good luck in the giveaway.

    • Belen
      | Reply

      Muito obrigado, Daniela! I lived in Curitiba for several years and visited the beautiful Rio grande do Sul several times. I have very nice memories of my time there. There are Jane Austen’s fans all around the world! That’s nice.

      • Daniela Quadros
        | Reply

        That is great to know! I am from Belo Horizonte, in the southeast of Brazil but I am currently living in the northeast. And yes, it is wonderful to know how loved JA is around the world! 🙂

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