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Hunsford Tales. I shot an arrow in the air..

March 16, 2015 12:26AM
Hunsford Tales. I shot an arrow in the air!.

"I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight."

Chapter One.

“Charlotte, Charlotte, where are you my dear? Great news, great news!”..
Charlotte Collins let out a quiet sigh and marked her book page. It was a beautiful day and, with husband, William, gone off on one of his several-times-a-week visits to Rosings Park, she had been expecting a couple of hours of undisturbed relaxation and quiet reading in the shade of her rear garden at Hunsford Parsonage. He had, it appeared encountered something to bring him hurrying back prematurely. Knowing that his ideas of “great news” didn’t always fill her with delight, sometimes even trepidation – such as the time he announced he was toying with the idea of taking up the gentleman’s pastime of fencing - she gave a wry smile and rose unhurriedly to her feet. Would the great news wait until she had made tea? Apparently not, for she had no sooner stepped into the kitchen than her husband launched into his discovery.
“My dear, what do you think? Mr Collins beamed excitedly at her as he removed his coat. “We are about to hold an archery competition at Rosings to commemorate Miss de Bourgh’s birthday. Originally, it was to have been an outdoor display of acrobatics, fire-eating and dancing, but apparently several of the acrobats’ companions have been arrested as pick-pockets at a village fair down near Maidstone and one of the fire-eaters set the thatched roof of the inn ablaze. The archery competition was a suggestion of Mr Darcy’s in a letter, when his aunt informed him of the situation. Unfortunately, he himself cannot be there, as he has much to attend to at home. What an event it will be. Lady Catherine has allowed staff and villagers to enter and the prize will be a donkey and five shillings”.
Mr Collins blew out his breath and spread his hands, smiling widely. Charlotte, experiencing her first slight stab of concern at the thought of just how much the “we” involved her husband, smiled, nodded and reached for her tea pot.
“That sounds very exciting dear. Will you be involved in the, er, arrangements, in some way?” She turned towards her stove to avoid displaying any emotion at his reply, and closed her eyes in supplication that his answer would be in the negative.
“I shan’t be involved in the actual arranging of the event, Lady Catherine’s steward will see to that and display notices etc, but she has asked me to announce it at Church come Sunday and I will of course be on hand in my capacity of spiritual adviser and to open it with a prayer”.
Charlotte nodded in relief as she poured boiling water into her teapot. His next words however, caused a silent “oh, no” to escape her lips and she suppressed a groan as he announced. “ I am actually considering entering the contest. I did have a bow and arrow when younger. Archery is a fine old English tradition you know, and who has not heard of Robin Hood!”
Charlotte’s smile was a little forced but she managed to inject a little neutrality into her tone. “That will have been quite some years ago though, won’t it dear?
“Ah, but one does not tend to forget such skills my love. I do believe I may still have bow and arrows stored away somewhere from my days at University. I think I shall dig them out and practise a little. Yes indeed, I do believe I shall!” Mr Collins grinned widely and made a gesture that loosely resembled firing an arrow. Charlotte sighed in resignation and made a gesture that loosely resembled a pained smile, and poured the tea.

The target erected for Mr Collins to display his archery skills was the family mantua mannequin that he had once used as a practise dance partner, with rings painted on a large piece of card hung around the neck. Any fears that Charlotte had about the mannequin suffering damage very soon disappeared after half-a-dozen shots made it quite obvious that her husband would have to be pointing at right angles to have any chance of hitting the target. Her first task was persuading him that he would have more privacy to practise if he re-located the target in the very same copse he where practised playing his clarinet. Her main concern was her chickens safety and she secretly entertained a hope that her husband might eventually lose all his arrows amongst the trees. She heaved a silent sigh of relief when he agreed. The bow, the bowstrings and the arrows all came under suspicion as candidates for Mr Collin’s lack of archery skills and there was a strong desire that such lack of success would eventually cause him to see sense and withdraw. It was not, however to be, for as the time of the event drew nearer, his excitement and enthusiasm knew no bounds .

Despite the lack, at least on Charlotte’s part of any real romantic passion in the marriage, her husband was not in any way a bad individual. Foolish he undoubtedly was; an odd mixture of a man self-serving and servile both at the same time, he rarely showed any sign of real aggression at anyone or anything, and was far more likely to be seen exhibiting a smile rather then a scowl. Charlotte had developed a fondness for his naivety and at times, she admitted, she patronised her husband for peace sake, more motherly than wifely. What he had never developed was an ability to laugh at himself, thus, what she did not wish to see was him make himself a figure of fun at the archery tournament. It would hurt him, and in turn, herself. Presently she had no real idea how to achieve a satisfactory answer. Inspiration, she hoped, would come. Hide his bow? He would buy another. Pray for rain, he would suggest simply postponing the event. Set fire to the house..? “Oh, I must stop this. It’s only an event for fun” Unfortunately, Mr Collins thought entirely the opposite. In his imagination he saw himself being applauded and awarded the prize as the village marksman. Robin Hood, pah!

“I’m improving daily dear. Today, I swear I shaved the edge of the target more than once. By the day of the competition I’ll be really on form!”
Mr Collins struck a pose as he entered the house. With a quiver of arrows at his belt and carrying the bow, he had the normal appearance of someone at archery, but then, Charlotte thought, a little unkindly, the pot ornament on her mantelpiece had the appearance of a horse galloping. Neither were quite as they appeared. She forced a smile and nodded encouragingly. A thought occurred, and with it, a small ray of hope:
“Does her Ladyship approve of her minister actually taking part in this competition dear? I mean, you can’t afford to have her forming wrong opinions of her spititual advisor, can you?”
“ Don’t make yourself uneasy my love, I already discussed that with Lady Catherine. She assures me that archery is a fine sport. Remember, it was her nephew Mr Darcy who suggested it, and he would not advise her wrongly. No, she is an admirer of the art and says that if she had ever learned she would have been a ….”
“Oh, excuse me dear, the soup is about to boil up!? Charlotte interrupted his praise of his patron, and sighed in frustration as her idea crumbled to nothingness.

Chapter Two.

“There are far more entries than I ever imagined for this competition, Mr Collins. We can’t have one event lasting all day. I think we’ll just have each competitor fire three arrows and the one who gets nearest the centre will win. Make sure you announce that from the pulpit on Sunday because the event is next Tuesday”.
Thus Lady Catherine laid down the rules, Mr Collins made the necessary announcements and the day of Anne de Bourgh’s birthday, and thus the competition, dawned bright and clear. Mr Collins rose early, bright and optimistic, Charlotte a short time later, nervous and more than a little worried. The event was not scheduled to start till noon , but Mr Collins, as a ploy to assess the opposition had marked himself as last competitor. Since she knew he would be hovering around Lady Catherine’s party, Charlotte had elected to watch from behind the mark, so as she claimed, not to distract his attention from his shots. Mr Collin’s attention was too fixed on his role to do more than smile and agree.
She had earlier admired the donkey that was the main prize and Mr Collins boldly declared he would win it for her. Of that she had no expectation whatsoever.

The great event began promptly at noon and it soon became apparent that a local solicitor named Edward Clyde was the probable winner. Former member of his Oxford University team, both his shots were on the edge of the centre ring. Mr Collins, possibly by divine inspiration had managed to land one arrow in the unpainted outer surround of the target. The other one caused some spectators standing a little too close to the target to scatter in alarm as it sailed wildly past them. The final round began and Edward Clyde maintained his skill level by firing his last arrow again on the edge of the centre ring. Several other got close, but none were inside his marks. Mr Collins, resplendent in his best trousers, white shirt and black waistcoat, approached the mark and solemly removed his straw hat before bowing in the direction of the watching Lady Catherine and her daughter. Charlotte wondered where his arrow would eventually land. He drew his last arrow and at last showing nervousness, coughed and almost dropped the arrow as he fumbled it onto his bowstring. He raised the bow, pulled back the string, took quavering aim and …..

Quite suddenly there was a loud braying heard and all eyes swung round to see the main prize jump forward past Mr Collins and gallop forward, pulling the young lad who was handling it along behind. At the same time a loud roar of acclaim erupted from the watchers as before the amazed eyes of all, Mr Collin’s arrow was seen embedded dead centre in the target. Against all the odds he had won. The crowd cheered and he looked around almost as if he found it miraculous. Charlotte cheered loudly with the rest and rushed forward to congratulate her husband. Edward Clyde shook his head disbelievingly and walked away towards the refreshment marquee to take solace in root beer.
“ I knew I could do it, I just knew my old skills were still there somewhere!” Mr Collins stood with Charlotte watching their newly acquired donkey tethered at the rear of the house grazing contentedly. He had been the centre of attention and lauded with praise from everyone including a satisfied Lady Catherine who handed him the five shillings like it was the Crown Jewels. Wined and dined he had at last escaped with Charlotte and their new acquisition. The end of a totally perfect day.

“ Dear Elizabeth.

I write to betray something into your confidence. I know Mr Collins wrote to Darcy and yourself about how he won the archery competition, but now I must make a confession. It is actually one that gives me pleasure (and I confess, more than a little amusement) rather than guilt. William is no archer, quite hopeless in fact, but I couldn’t see him made to look foolish before all the village. Dawkins, his man and a trusted servant, knew of my dilemma and made a suggestion. He was one time Kent archery champion and on the day of the competition he positioned himself by me and behind a tree. I had smuggled one of William’s arrows out under my cloak and the lad holding the donkey was Dawkin’s son. It needed clever timing but it worked perfectly. Quite where William’s own arrow finished is a thing of mystery and, if ever found will just be passed off as one from the day. I cannot tell William, he would never forgive me, but I did it with a fond heart and feel no guilt in owning the donkey and the five shillings. Is that very wicked of me?

I remain your ever affectionate friend, Charlotte……”

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend…………….. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/19/2015 08:25PM by Amy I..

Hunsford Tales. I shot an arrow in the air..

Jim G.MMarch 16, 2015 12:26AM

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Lucy J.March 23, 2015 02:41AM

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Elizabeth A.March 17, 2015 12:44AM

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LucieMarch 17, 2015 03:40AM

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Maria VMarch 16, 2015 10:37AM

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