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Hunsford Tales. Parlez Vous Francais?

March 20, 2015 11:15PM
Hunsford Tales. Parlez Vous Francais?

A shiny golden guinea is a desirable thing, but sometimes, strangely, reality is by far preferable to the stuff of dreams.

Chapter One.

Sitting outside the parsonage cottage in the shade was pleasant indeed. William Collins stretched out his long legs and put his arms behind his head. It was very warm, and nothing but the sounds of nature disturbed his peace. His head had just begun to nod when Charlotte’s voice disturbed his reverie.
“Oh, William, dear. Miss de Bourgh left a message from her mother whilst you were out. Lady Catherine wished you to call at Rosings about the Achbishop’s forthcoming visit. She wishes to discuss it at your convenience”!
Charlotte had hardly finished saying the words before her husband jumped up and was re-donning the coat he had shortly before removed.
“Bettter to go and get it attended to. Won’t be too long Dear!” He placed his hat on his head before the hall mirror and, with a smile and a wave was gone. Her Ladyship appreciated prompt attention.

To Charlotte, “ at your convenience” meant just that, ie, at a time convenient to oneself. To Mr Collins it meant hasten to her Ladyship’s presence with all speed. She shook her head in mild annoyance but knew argument was useless. When her Ladyship called…….

The day was warm and sunny and Mr Collins forced himself to slow to a walking pace as he approached the house. To arrive perspiring in Lady Catherine’s presence would be less than desirable. A Hackney carriage, a rare sight at Rosings, was just driving away from the entrance as he approached. He mounted the steps and rang the bell on the imposing arched entrance to the manor house. A liveried servant appeared and allowed him entry. He gave a small bow and said:
“Her Ladyship has another visitor, Sir. She asks that if you arrived you wait in the conservatory. I shall convey the news that you are here!” Mr Collins nodded, smilingly and went to take a seat in the glass enclosure that housed her Ladyship’s numerous exotic flora and fauna. It was very warm indeed and he hoped he would not be there too long. Through the doorway to the hall he could see a leather portmanteau with a heavy cloak on top of it. He leaned forward for a closer look and observed a military sword propped against the trunk. He frowned, then shrugged his shoulders; all would no doubt be soon revealed. He fanned himself with his hat and sat down. It was very warm and he felt drowsy. The buzz of a solitary bee was the only sound to be heard in the silence. He felt his head dropping and sat up straight. His head lowered again and….

A small sound disturbed him and he jerked awake suddenly and struggled to his feet. A bead of sweat ran down his face and he stepped to the conservatory door to escape the blanketing heat. As he did so, he almost ran into a figure just passing behind a screen outside the door. Lady Catherine stood at the entrance and jerked around in surprise. Mr Collins looked at the small figure now cloaked, who was just about to leave. His eyes opened wide and a gasp escaped his lips. Lady Catherine sighed resignedly and beckoned him forward into a side room. The visitor followed and closed the door behind him. Her Ladyship clasped her hands and studied Mr Collins thoughtfully.

“Mr Collins. I really do wish you had not seen my visitor, but now I have no choice but to take you into my confidence on a matter of the utmost importance. There is no point in subterfuge, I must introduce you to the French Emperor…Napoleon Bonaparte”.
The small man, short, dark hair combed flat to his head nodded abruptly then said something sharply in French to Lady Catherine. She turned back to Mr Collins.
“Do you speak any French at all Mr Collins?” Mr Collins felt his face redden:
“Sadly, your Ladyship, I have to confess no” he almost stuttered. He was still shocked to the core to find the man England and most of Europe had been at war with for so many years standing before him at Rosings. How could this be? Was the story not that he had been captured? The Frenchman reeled off some angry words to Lady Catherine and, to Mr Collin’s great surprise she answered him back in the same tongue. Lady Catherine sat down and motioned the others to do like wise. She took a deep breath and turned to Mr Collins. He tried hard not to stare at the visitor as she started to speak.
“You must be aware that the de Bourghs are of French origin Mr Collins. My dear departed Lewis was once a great friend of Napoleon’s father. I am now trying to help an old family friend in his time of need until he can return to his army and re-group”
Mr Collins stared at her aghast, not truly believing what he was hearing. Bonaparte rose and came to stand over him, his expression grim. He stared fixedly at the bewildered parson then swiveled sharply back to regard Lady Catherine.
“Can this man be trusted? Can I trust him not to betray me to the British army? Is the secret of my planned re-conquest safe with him? I need to know these things. If not, I may have to kill him!
Lady Catherine raised a hand. “ I am quite sure Mr Collins will betray no one. I trust him implicitly. Your secret is safe. When you return to power I hope you will remember that! Mr Collins and his wife will not go against the wishes of someone to whom they who their very living.
Napoleon nodded. He walked over to Mr Collins again and, reaching in his trouser pocket produced a golden guinea . He reached forward and placed it into Mr Collin’s waistcoat pocket. Mr Collins looked at him in amazement. Bonaparte smiled and said, “It is good to know I have friends amongst the English who will support my return to power. I offer you my hand my friend. Merci Beaucoup!”
Mr Collins hauled his lanky frame from the settee and looked at Lady Catherine. A look of outrage appeared on his normally amiable countenance. He reached into his pocket and drew out the golden guinea, looked at it then reached out and grabbed the front of Bonapart’s coat. He thrust the coin, not gently, under the Frenchman’s nose.
“A guinea. You think I will sell my loyalty to my country for a golden guinea? Egad, Sir, what sort of an Englishman do you think I am?” He thrust the Frenchman away from him. Napoleon drew his cloak around himself and spat some words in French then turned abruptly and left the room.

Chapter Two.

Mr Collins had never before dared to stare directly at he Lady ship. He was so very upset that he amazed himself by doing so now. She returned his stare angrily.
“Do you know what you have done Mr Collins? Are you really aware of whom you have just laid hands on? You have just instigated a death-wish upon yourself and your wife. Can you live with that Sir? For the short time you have left, that is!” Verily, once Napoleon returns to power he will personally remove your heads on the guillotine!”
Mr Collins, his sudden bravado waning at her words, shook his head perplexedly. What would he do now, for indeed Lady Catherine would surely dispense with his services. He and Charlotte would be cast upon the street with nothing. No matter; the alternative was too great to consider. Commit treason against his king and country? Forsake all the things that made England great, roast beef, jugged hare, buttermilk, Sunday service, reading his Bible, daffodils and cuckoos, Charlotte’s chickens..? No, he would declare Lady Catherine’s treachery to the nearest army commander, magistrate, Mr Darcy…anyone. But wait, Mr Darcy was Lady Catherine’s nephew. Was he too in the plot. Could anyone be trusted?
“ Madam, I shall not fall in with your plans. No, no, noooooo..I am English..”

“Mr Collins, what on earth is the matter. Why are you shouting so. Are you ill?”
Lady Catherine stood before him as Mr Collins shook his head and gazed around, a puzzled frown on his face. A uniformed soldier stood behind her, not a small Frenchman but a tall heavily built man he suddenly recognized as some on he had met before. He stared owlishly in surprise at Lady Catherine’s nephew, Colonel Fitzwilliam.
“Oh, your Ladyship, I do beg your pardon. I fear the heat caused me to drop off. Please forgive my rudeness….I….”
Lady Cathereine looked closely at him and shook her head. She coughed and indicated her nephew.
“Yes, yes, very well. It is very warm in here. I’m afraid I’ll have to postpone our meeting about the Archbishop’s visit. It isn’t for two weeks anyway. Fitzwilliam decided to surprise me by not telling me he was coming to visit. I shall be tied up for a few days now but we’ll see you at church on Sunday and you may bring Mrs Collins round in the evening for supper. I shall send the carriage for you. Excuse us now if you will. We have much to discuss. I’ll send a man out with some water for you”.
Colonel Fitzwilliam nodded pleasantly and followed her out as her Ladyship swept imperiously from the room. Mr Collins, feeling somewhat dizzy, walked to the coolness of the entrance hall and a servant soon appeared with a glass of cold water. Mr Collins drank it gratefully then walked out into the fresh air. He felt a trifle foolish for falling asleep but the feeling passed as he walked down the path towards his home. A perfectly natural thing to do, surely. Memory of his dream was fast fading, all except the figure of Napoleon Bonapart, who he had only ever seen in a newspaper cartoon by Thomas Rowlandson. A golden guinea for his loyaty indeed.! A sudden thought made his fingers reach into his waistcoat pocket. He stopped in alarm as they encountered a large coin. He grabbed it out and saw, not a golden guinea but a good solid English George the Third copper penny. Looking up he saw young Thomas Dawkins about to pass him on the path.
“Afternoon Mr Collins Sir” the boy greeted him.
“Good afternoon Thomas” replied Mr Collins with a smile, flipping the penny in the air in the boy’s direction. He watched the lad catch it and then suddenly gave a hearty chuckle as he strode off down the lane.
“Merci Beaucoup indeed”…


Hunsford Tales. Parlez Vous Francais?

Jim G.MMarch 20, 2015 11:15PM

Re: Hunsford Tales. Parlez Vous Francais?

Amy A-NWMarch 24, 2015 06:44PM

Re: Hunsford Tales. Parlez Vous Francais?

Lucy J.March 23, 2015 03:15AM

Re: Hunsford Tales. Parlez Vous Francais?

terrycgMarch 21, 2015 09:13PM



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