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Hunsford Tales. The Glorious Twelfth.

March 18, 2015 02:24PM
Chapter One.

“There. What a splendid piece of engineering, indeed it is!”
Mr Collins laid down the cloth he had been using to polish the walnut stock of the fearsome looking weapon on the table before him, a flintlock blunderbuss with a now shining brass barrel some fourteen inches long, mounted on a walnut stock with a brass trigger guard . The stock gleamed with a light coating of oil and it did look a very impressive and somewhat fearsome weapon. To Charlotte, who had just entered the room after visiting a friend nearby it was not something she was delighted to see. If an inanimate object could be said to have a look of impending trouble, the blunderbuss had such a look . She stared at it then at her husband who was beaming expectantly and gave a somewhat strained smile.
“Where on earth did you get that dear? I didn’t know you had an interest in weapons. Did you buy it?
“No dear, not at all. It belonged to an employee of my fathers who used to work as a guard on a mail coach. He left it behind when he went to sea and never returned. When my father passed on I acquired it and it has been in my locker ever since. I found it again when I went to look for a pruning knife I had in there, and I cleaned it up. It came up very well”
“Ah!” Charlotte nodded non-commitedly. “Were you thinking to sell it or mount it over the fireplace dear?”
Mr Collins picked up the weapon and tucked it into his shoulder. Charlotte stepped nervously away from the barrel’s direction causing her husband to smile.
“Do not be uneasy dearest, it isn’t loaded yet. Sell it? No, I’ll probably take it into the copse and try a few practise shots with it later. I have powder and shot to go with it!”

It was the word “yet” that caused Charlotte’s heart to sink a little. Somehow the thought of her husband and such a weapon gave her a stirring of real unease. She had seen his attempts at archery and sincerely hoped that the idea of competitions associated with it would not feature in the immediate present for some considerable time. Maybe he would forget the whole thing. He was sometime prone to doing that, with ideas of the moment that passed from his memory when something else occurred. She decided premature worrying was unproductive and went off to disrobe and prepare their meal. A thought on another topic occurred to her as she was leaving the room.
“By the way dear, you haven’t seen my coloured chiffon scarf have you. I hung it out to dry but now I can’t find it. I hope the wind hasn’t blown it away.”
Mr Collins replied that he had not, and went outside to swing the blunderbuss around as he planned what fowl he would hunt down with it. Maybe he should by a gun dog? He had not, as yet, mentioned to Charlotte his real motivation for his sudden interest in the blunderbuss. No, he decided, he would postpone that discussion for a short while.
The following morning his thoughts of gun practise were shelved as he had to plan his Sunday sermon. Lady Catherine was always very complimentary about his views on topics moral in his orations from the pulpit and it was important to be heard to fight the good fight with all his might, as he often told himself. This particular Sunday he had a very topical subject in mind. He would base his sermon around hunting and shooting, for the Bible promoted such did it not? Did not Issac say unto his son Esau: “Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison;”, in Genesis twenty seven-three? There. That was clear enough, and Acts told Peter to “kill and eat!”. and therefore hunting was a suitable subject. “Splendid”. He would use that example. His reasoning was simple: Had not Lady Catherine made reference only yesterday to the fact that Tuesday of next week was the “Glorious” Twelfth”; the twelfth day of August and the first day of the official shooting calendar for all who loved game birds on their table? His patroness of course, owning an estate of considerable size, would invite all the local gentry to partake in the events of opening day in the flintlock and powder festivities of the start of the autumn and winter hunting season. Mr Collins rubbed his hands briskly together in anticipation and smiled widely. “Tally Ho”

Later in the day, the sermon duly written and, as usual, making gratuitous reference to his bountiful patroness and her kindness and benevolence towards all the parishioners - for he delighted in those little elegant compliments with which he sometimes amused himself in compiling and declaring in the right places with of course an unstudied air as possible – He experienced a small moment of deja-vu, where had he said that before?. Ah well, no matter, for it was naught but the truth

Mr Collins collected the blunderbuss and filled a bag with its ammunition. With a determined stride and humming an air he strode off in the direction of the copse. Charlotte was around the house doing something somewhere and he decided not to mention his mission. She would know soon enough of course, indeed with his very first shot she would be left in no doubt as to what he was at. She would smile fondly and wonder what delicacies he would bag for the table.
Charlotte, in direct opposition to his thinking, almost leapt out of her skin as the first thunderous crash of the blunderbuss exploded into the peaceful tranquility of the afternoon. She closed her eyes in supplication and uttered a quiet prayer that her husband would be put off by the noise and his own inability. It was a wish, not to be granted totally, at least for a time.

Mr Collins, his ears ringing and his shoulder aching from his fourth shot, shook his head to clear it and surveyed the old muslin sack he had brought along as a target and propped on a tree branch. The bag remained pristine, although the surrounding foliage seemed a little less dense. Maybe he had aimed a little high? Maybe it was the breeze that meandered playfully through the tree tops? Resolutely he reloaded the weapon, planted his feet firmly on the turf and raised the blunderbuss again. Three things occurred simultaneously: A rustle of breeze, a flash of something bright and Mr Collins pulling the trigger unconsciously. The bright object of which but a flash of green and red trespassed on the edges of memory, exploded to nothingness as the packed shot from the muzzle blew it to pieces. Mr Collins, ears ringing again, decided he would take a rest and maybe return later. He must remember to pad the area of his shoulder with something as the gun’s recoil was quite strong. He gathered up his bag and set off back for the cottage.

Chapter Two.

“ What is happening in the fields dear? What are the servants looking for?
Charlotte looked up from her sewing as Mr Collins entered the sitting room. She frowned at her husband’s question having no knowledge of what he asked. Her husband pointed through the cottage window and she looked out to see a dozen or so of Lady Catherine’s servants walking in the grounds, obviously searching for something. She rose to her feet and together they went outside. One of the servants was just on the other side of the path pushing at the hedge with a stick and Charlotte walked across to him. She came back a couple of minutes later and informed Mr Collins of the reason for the activity.
“It seems that Lady Catherine’s African parrot has escaped from the house conservatory! It hasn’t been seen since this morning and her Ladyship fears hawks, crows or even magpies may attack it because of its bright plumage. The colours are quite vivid and easily seen! The servants are searching everywhere but there are fears it may be long gone. William, what is the matter dear? You’ve gone quite pale!”

A sudden mental picture, green and red in hue, and too very awful to contemplate, appeared in Mr Collin’s mind as he staggered to a garden bench and sank heavily onto it. Charlotte dashed off and came back with a glass of water, her expression concerned and fearful. Mr Collins gulped the water down and clasped a hand over his mouth, his eyes almost saucer-like. He let out a loud groan. Charlotte hovered worriedly before him as he caught his breath. His heart was racing madly and a feeling of panic washed over him. Visions of her Ladyship standing before him with accusing eyes as he sat in the village stocks flashed madly through his mind. He must compose himself. Charlotte was waiting expectantly before him.

“Oh, er, I think it may be the blunderbuss dear. The recoil is very strong indeed. Yes, I think I may have overdone things a little and hurt my shoulder. My ears are ringing quite badly too. I think I may put the gun away for a while” He took a deep breath.

Charlotte actually beamed, completely unaware of his thoughts and delighted that her wishes had come true. Maybe he would actually sell the gun? Should she mention that right now? No, she decided, it would wait. She smiled and helped her husband rise. That evening a servant from Rosings knocked at their door. Mr Collins cowered in his chair as Charlotte answered the door. He had been seen with the gun and they had come for him. His hear hammered frantically against his ribs.

“Good news dear! Charlotte smiled brightly as she came back into the room. “The parrot has been found. It had flown up into the rafters and was safe after all. ”.William, are you quite sure you have recovered from this afternoon? You still look quite pale!”
“I’m absolutely fine dear. As a matter of fact I feel much better already and in the mood for some of the fine broth you made today, oh, and a hunk of your home-made bread. Yes, indeed, I feel absolutely fine now!”

The sermon on hunting was still carried out to good effect at Sunday sevice, and a notice appeared on the church notice board advertising a blunderbuss for sale. Mr Collins, on reflection, decided fishing was a pastime much more in keeping with his role as a fisher of men. Yes, indeed it was.

Charlotte’s brightly multi-coloured chiffon scarf was never seen again.


Hunsford Tales. The Glorious Twelfth.

Jim G.MMarch 18, 2015 02:24PM

Re: Hunsford Tales. The Glorious Twelfth.

Lucy J.March 23, 2015 02:49AM

Re: Hunsford Tales. The Glorious Twelfth.

terrycgMarch 18, 2015 07:28PM

Re: Hunsford Tales. The Glorious Twelfth.

Patricia NMarch 18, 2015 06:13PM

Re: Hunsford Tales. The Glorious Twelfth.

KarenteaMarch 18, 2015 05:44PM



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