March 19, 2015 02:57PM
Chapter One.

Mrs Dawkins had become a valuable friend to Charlotte Lucas. A mother of two young boys, who attended the village school during the daytime, she took in washing from several people in the village and helped out with cleaning around the church and rectory house, whilst her husband acted as driver and part gardener to Mr Collins. It was a useful arrangement for all and also provided the ladies with an excuse to chat and discuss life in Hunsford Parish. Charlotte particularly welcomed her company when her husband made his daily inspections of the climate, the condition of the road, the progress of nature, investigation of visitors and of course, his several times a week visits to Rosings Park to pay his respects to Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her daughter. It was during such a visit that Mrs Dawkins informed Charlotte of an incident in the almost palatial grounds of the manor house. Her husband was friends with one of Lady Catherine’s gamekeepers and her Ladyship had had to be informed that a rogue pike was diminishing the numbers of trout in one of the lakes in the grounds. Despite many attempts to catch it, the large predatorial fish evaded capture and continued to wreak havoc amongst the trout community. Charlotte listened to the news and gave a sudden smile. Mrs Dawkins looked enquiringly at her.
“ Perhaps, if her Ladyship went out on the lake in a boat and ordered it to, the pike may just be intimidated into obeying orders and jump into a net. Either that or leave the poor trout alone under pain of banishment from the area!”
“Oh, Mrs Collins, you mustn’t let anyone hear you say things like that!
Despite her alarmed tone, Mrs Dawkins raised a hand to cover her smile. Charlotte let out a peal of laughter as her imagination pictured such a scene. In seconds they were both laughing heartily.

Mr Collins arrived home in somewhat of a hurry. He bustled into the kitchen and called through to his wife, who was reading in her parlor.
“Charlotte, my dear, I must take to rod and line. There is an alarming situation taking place in Lady Catherine’s trout lake! Her Ladyship has issued a statement that until a pike that has been savaging her stocks is caught, anyone from the village may fish the lake and attempt to catch it. Anyone who does will also be allowed to keep it. She has actually declared a school holiday tomorrow to enable people to attend. One of the groundsmen claims to have seen the pike and says it is as almost as big as Anne’s pony. Imagine that dear! Everyone is all agog and tomorrow they’ll all be up there at the lake. I think we must take sandwiches for it may be a long and exhausting day!”
Charlotte sighed at the statement, dismissing the blatant exaggeration with a head shake. She did not mention the fact that she was already aware of the news. Information gathering was, after all, a serious occupation. Ah well, it was summer and there were trees a-plenty around the lake for shade, but on the morrow she had hoped to persuade her husband to drive her in the gig to nearby Westerham to visit the shops. She sighed resignedly and went to boil the kettle. Fishing would be the order of the day.

Dawkins was a very useful and accomplished man. He knew all about most things related to country life, fishing not being the least of them. The following day he installed himself on the bank of the lake near a shady spot for the ladies and helped Mr Collins to untangle his lines and set up his rod after he had made an over-zealous cast and almost uprooted a rose bush. Both the Dawkins boys fished and it was obvious to Charlotte that they knew exactly what they were at. Her husband, ever enthusiastic and game to involve himself, had so far managed to catch two rather small trout which she put down to good fortune and help from Thomas, the twelve year old Dawkins boy, rather than her husband’s angling skills. He had also caused some minor excitement claiming he had caught the “pike” before it turned out to be a small boat anchor that from its very rusty state, must, have lain in the lake for a very long time. Around about then Charlotte decided that sandwiches and lemonade for their little party would be a good idea. Peace restored, the day passed pleasantly with several catches by his nearby neighbours which, of course the lucky anglers were allowed to keep. One day’s fishing would hardly diminish the large lake, after all. In the afternoon Mr Collins mood took a turn to total sunshine when he managed to land a very impressive and sizeable trout. It was approximately the size of the one young Thomas had landed some time earlier and caused Charlotte to smile delightedly. Mr Dawkins had baited the rod, but the catch was undoubtedly her husband’s The day was already declared highly satisfactory and they would dine on trout.

Mr Collins was almost beside himself with pride. He puffed out his chest, decided he really was capable of landing the rogue pike, flicked his rod backwards then hurled his baited line forth with gusto. Unfortunately, the somewhat mis-directed hook snagged in Charlotte’s picnic basket and only some quick, evasive action from Dawkins saved the basket, and possibly Mr Collins from landing in the lake. “Steady Mr Collins, Sir. Don’t overdo it!” Mr Collins, never one to under estimate his own accomplishments declared the breeze must have affected the cast. Unabashed, he cast again and settled down to await the aquatic enemy.

Chapter Two.

No event at Rosings Park could ever be complete without some involvement from Lady Catherine. In her own way, it must be said, she had some good and charitable views towards the poor, though they did not always extend to those she considered had been created and put on the earth for the sole purpose of serving her wants and desires. Whilst the purpose of allowing people to fish in her lake and keep their catches was seen as a break in routine and work by almost everyone, they were not there for pleasure alone. It was thus that she ordered her barouche made ready and she, her daughter Anne and Mrs Jenkinson - Anne’s general factotum- appeared in parasol-shaded splendour to make sure that no one was taking a summer afternoon nap instead of pike-hunting. Whilst there was rarely any animosity in her direction the rear of her carriage disappearing from view was generally preferable to that of her horses appearing on the scene. One person, ever ready to delight in the radiance of her beady gaze however, was Mr Collins. Seeing her driving by on the nearby path brought him hurriedly propping his rod and rushing forward to greet he, and inquire after the health of herself, her daughter, her horses, her aspidistra, her parrot and the tomatoes in her greenhouse. Today she was in serious mode as she lectured him on the correct use of bait and rod application. The news of the pike intruding in her lake had not been received gracefully. She had never learned of fish catching, of course, she informed him, for she had always been too busy being a lady, but her father had been a prolific disciple of the art and had once caught a fish so big…..If she herself had ever learned, she would have been, etc etc.….. Mr Collins heard her out smilingly with many nods of agreement and assured her the monster would be caught and brought to task. Charlotte made a decided point of avoiding Mrs Dawkins eye as she heard this. The thought of a huge pike standing in the dock of a magistrate’s court was just too outrageous to contemplate…..
“Drive on!” The imperious command signalled the end of the conversation and the regal barouche rolled on its stately way, Mr Collins avidly waving its passage.

“I have it, I have it!” It was almost four o’ clock as the almost scream of triumph issued from the throat of young Thomas Dawkins and everyone within earshot stopped in their activity and hurried over. His rod was arched in a most alarming loop, almost doubled as he leaned backwards, an expression of total determination on his young face. His father hurried to his side and reached out to aid him but the youngster shook his head. “No father, let me land him, let me do it!” Mr Dawkins grinned and nodded at his son’s excitement before stepping back. Mr Collins watched wide-eyed as the water a few yards out from the bank thrashed wildly and flung spray high above the surface of the lake. Suddenly the pike appeared as it leapt high in the air, clearing the water in a flash of almost metallic green and gold. It was a huge fish and brought a chorus of shocked sounds from the onlookers. It dived back into the depths and the young lad’s rod was almost pulled from his grasp. Dawkins, determined his son should land the fish and, at the same time worrying the line would break was watching the water. Quite suddenly his son slipped and before he could move to aid him, was dragged down the bank and into the water as the enraged fish felt some slack in the line and charged away.

Young Dawkins disappeared beneath the lake’s surface then his red curls appeared back in sight. Quite what happened next amazed everyone as they would later declare. Mr Collins reacted almost instantly and, fully clothed and still wearing his straw hat leapt out into the water and in a couple of strokes had grabbed the lad by the collar and turned back to the waiting hands of the watchers on the bank. Tall and gangly though he was, the reverend was also quite a strong man and Thomas, wet through though he was, was but a boy. He was actually still hanging determinedly onto his rod and, as he was set down, it jerked wildly and was almost torn back out of his grasp. “I have it father, I still have it” he gasped, spitting out a mouthful of lake water. To the amazement of all the pike was still on his line. This time Dawkins grasped his son firmly around his waist as the boy reeled furiously on his rod. It took a few more minutes to land the pike, but land him they did. Charlotte turned away as Dawkins clubbed the villain into submission then everyone clapped and charred as young Thomas, helped by his proud father, held up a hefty fish the length of his father’s arm and one that, because of its girth, he couldn’t have lifted alone .

“You should have it, Mr Collins Sir. But for you, who knows what might have happened. Take the pike and welcome. Thomas landed the fish, but if you hadn’t landed the lad, Lord know...?”
Dawkins held out the monster fish towards Mr Collins, his voice serious as he uttered the words. Mr Collins looked at the villainous pike, now nothing more than a fishmonger’s item, then shook his head and smiled.
“No, Thomas caught it and landed it fair and square. I was just, er, instrumental in helping landing it, shall we say?. The rebel is caught and Charlotte and I have our trout supper and that is enough a plenty”
Mr Collins experienced a warm glow, secure in the knowledge that his role in the drama would be fully related to Lady Catherine. Now, it was home and remove his wet clothing and enjoy his trout. Tomorrow was a pleasure yet to come.

William Collins, a fisher of men? Assuredly.


Hunsford Tales. A Veritable Fisher of Men

Jim G.MMarch 19, 2015 02:57PM

Re: Hunsford Tales. A Veritable Fisher of Men

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