March 25, 2015 07:44PM
To fight the good fight is an on-going battle for Reverend Collins. Sometimes, however, turning the other cheek can take dubious turns to achieve its purpose.

Chapter One.

A new Parson had arrived in Oxted, a village and parish just a few miles from that of Hunsford by Westerham. The newcomer, an imposing and sturdy man in his late thirties, had moved from the region of Portsmouth where he had been raised and ordained. He settled into the area and, in due course soon visited Rosings Park to pay his respects. Rosings was the chief estate of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the patroness of Hunsford parish, which lay but a half mile from the Palatial Rosings Park mansion from where her Ladyship resided and kept court over her sizeable estates and multiple charges. Hunsford church, bordered only by a lane from her Ladyships grounds, was also where Lady Catherine paid homage to the Lord. On arrival, the visitor was introduced as the reverend Zachary Wallope, a family name he hinted vaguely that had some connections with an earldom in his native area. He quickly brushed aside such lofty matters and family roots as unimportant in his mission for God’s word. Lady Catherine, ever aware of her own superiority over the rest of humanity, on mention of such was most gracious in her welcome and invited her guest to take tea with herself and daughter Anne. The conversation inevitably turned to events in the home parish and its local parson whom Lady Catherine named as the Reverend William Collins. As the said Mr Collins had recently been involved in a somewhat “heroic” role in the capture of two local highwaymen, Lady Catherine was very generous in her praise of her parson and his achievements. He was declared a veritable man among men.

Within a few minutes Zachary Wallope, a man of no small belief in his own importance and a dedicated singer of self praise songs, became rather tired of such honours being bestowed on someone else and, despite never having met him, decided he didn’t particularly like the Reverend William Collins. He had heard several stories from his own parishioners so had decided to call on this heroic gentleman and see for himself what such a man looked like. Was he a giant, a new Richard the Lionheart, a Duke of Wellington, a man of much respect? He needed to know and Hunsford Parsonage was but a short distance away from Rosings. Hardly worth his man driving there. He would walk and let himself be picked up in a half hour or so. He dispensed his instruction and set off down the lane.

“William dear, you have a vistor!”
Mr Collins looked up from his rhubarb bed and wiped a bead of perspiration from his brow. Despite his sun hat, the day was hot and he squinted up at the figure standing in his garden beside Charlotte. He saw a stocky, neatly-dressed man of the cloth regarding him quizzically. The man smiled, removed his hat and bowed minutely..
“Zachary Wallope, new parson of St Mary’s Oxted at your service Mr Collins. I’m pleased to make your acquaintance. I just visited Lady Catherine and took the opportunity to meet you before I return home!”

The Reverend Wallope saw a tall, gangly figure in shirt-sleeves, waistcoat, breeches and a large-brimmed straw hat before him. He noted the slim arms and legs and a smiling open-faced but plain man younger than himself by several years. “No Duke of Wellington here then” he thought, indeed a somewhat puny individual when compared to his own muscularity. Most likely all the tall tales were exaggerations by easily influenced folk. Mr Wallope smiled and nodded his acceptance as Charlotte brought out cold lemonade. Mr Collins was pleasant enough, and his wife gracious as she offered him lunch, but never a man to compare with the legends he had heard. Never. He extolled a few of his own achievements, almost all concerning the amount of cups and trophies he had won for boxing, until his curricle appeared in the lane and he took his leave, raising his hat and smiling benevolently as he left. Mr Collins declared him pleasant enough, Charlotte thought him pompous and rather full of himself. She went off to prepare lunch and he returned to his rhubarb.

That same afternoon Lady Catheine received another visitor, Lady Fenchurch who quite by chance had an estate in Oxted. When Lady Catherine mentioned her clerical visitor of the morning, Lady Fenchurch threw up her hands in delight.
“What a charming man Mr Wallope is. He was a very well known athlete in his youth apparently,and quite a boxing champion. He has displayed all his trophies in the vestry and lots of people call in to see them. It has quite swelled our numbers at Sunday service as the men regard him as someone of achievement. We quite expect the Archbishop to visit as he is a boxing supporter himself!”
Lady Catherine frowned sharply, then gave a tight smile that was rather more a grimace at the words. The Archbishop visiting Oxted and no mention of a visit to Rosings? This would not do; indeed it would not. Something must be done!.

Chapter Two.

“And so, Mr Collins, you must challenge this man to a boxing match and give him a good thrashing. The honour of our parish is at stake!”
Having just related the details of her conversation with Lady Fenchurch to Mr Collins, her Ladyship smiled triumphantly at her “solution” to the Archbishop’s visit which she had omitted to mention so far. If Mr Collins defeated a man with all those cups, then his Grace will be sure to want to meet the man who had beaten him.
Mr Collins felt himself pale and feel slightly faint at her Ladyship’s words. He, issue a challenge to a man with a room full of trophies for boxing? He, who had never boxed as much as a kipper in his life, fight a boxing champion? Was her Ladyship mad? Had the sun affected her in some way? Was she ill? He gulped and coughed to cover his confusion and….fright?
“Respectfully, your Ladyship, is it quite the done thing for men of the cloth to engage in fisticuffs? Should we not reserve fighting the good fight for evil-doing rather than sport? What might his Grace the Archbishop think?”
“You may get the opportunity to ask him, Mr Collins. Apparently his Grace is somewhat an admirers of the art of boxing.” Lady Catherine smiled broadly and Mr Collins knew he would awake shortly to find it had all been a bad dream. Of course he would.

“I’m at my wits end Dawkins. I’d fight him this minute, but boxing is an art I never learned. If I had I should have been a..!” He stopped himself just in time from repeating her Ladyship’s own words..” I know absolutely nothing of the art and I shall be knocked out and her Ladyship disgraced. What on earth can I do?”
“Seem to me you have a bit of a predicament, Mr Collins, Sir. I’m not quite sure what to say. I’d volunteer to fight him myself, but Lady Catherine sounds like she wants ecclesiastical blood to flow….oh, sorry Sir, I didn’t mean!...”
Mr Collins had gone pale again and was feeling thoroughly miserable. Dawkins had no solution to offer right then. Later, he came back to see the parson and was looking thoughtful.

“I think you ought to let me issue the challenge Mr Collins. I may just be able to influence things a little to your advantage!” Mr Collins, unable to see anything but a death wish in any of it, nodded unhappily and considered brandy. There was nothing, not one single thing, that could be done. Reverend Wallope would rejoice in the very idea of using Mr Collins as a human punch bag and, since the challenge, although not yet made, would come from Hunsford, it couldn’t be rescinded without losing face. “Hopeless” was a word very much in the mind of Mr Collins. Dawkins meanwhile, had managed to meet Reverend Wallope’s driver in Westerham as they both went there for supplies. Without mentioning any challenge he declared:
“ A mighty rare man is Mr Collins. Fast? I’ve actually seen him myself catch a fly between two willow twigs, and as for strong, well I saw him break a lump of concrete with one blow!” Dawkins told no lies, he just omitted to mention that the fly had been dead and Mr Collins had broken the concrete with a hammer. He just hoped the story would get back to Reverend Wallope and unsettle him a little. What more could he do? Indeed, what more could anyone do? Twas left to fate.

The Twelfth century Persian philosopher, Omar Khayyam, once said of fate and fortune:
"Tis all a chequer board of nights and days, where destiny with men for pieces plays
Hither and thither moves and mates and slays, And one by one back in the closet lays.
"

Effectively, we have little control or say of the grand scheme of things in our lives.The same fate and fortune was alive and well almost seven hundred years later in Hunsford Parish. The following day, his Grace the Archbishop paid a totally unexpected but highly welcome visit to Lady Catherine at Rosings. During dinner she said she had heard of his interest in boxing. Was it true? In reply the puzzled Archbishop claimed the opposite. He stated his aversion to all forms of brutality and thought pugilism barbaric and wondered where she had heard that? . Lady Catherine’s mind raced: Was a spiteful trick being played on her by Lady Fenchurch? Was she in turn being duped by Zachary Wallope and, more to the point, had she put Mr Collins in dire straits? The following day she paid an almost unheard of early morning visit to the parsonage. Mrs Collins offered her tea, during which she repeated the Archbishop’s words and thus forbade her parson from taking part in any such activity. The Archbishop’s word was law. Had he issues the challenge yet? Mr Collins almost euphoric in his delight at her words, claimed he had been about to do it that day. Both were highly relieved if for rather different reasons. Dawkins, on hearing the match was off, laughed and decided no harm had been done. Reverend Wallope’s ego perhaps needed a gentle stab of reality, or unreality as the case may be.

Charlotte was aghast as news of it all had been kept from her but had to listen to her husband claim he had had no fear of the outcome and that it was a pity he had been prevented from upholding the parish honour and putting Reverend Wallope firmly in his place.Wisely, she refrained from comment, just shook her head and decided the best thing to do was to make a large beef ragout and invite the Dawkins family to dinner.

End.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Hunsford Tales. Seconds Out.

Jim G.MMarch 25, 2015 07:44PM

Re: Hunsford Tales. Seconds Out.

terrycgMarch 26, 2015 02:31AM

Re: Hunsford Tales. Seconds Out.

Lucy J.April 06, 2015 02:45AM



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