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Hunsford Tales. Reminiscing

April 28, 2015 07:47PM
Sometimes a question arises and what should be a reply in a sentence becomes a life story...


One evening, having consumed an enjoyable Sunday evening supper of cold, roast lamb with home-grown mint and his wife’s newly baked bread, Mr Collins took the weekly single glass of port he allowed himself to his seat by the fireside. Charlotte had suggested that they dine in the rear parlour to avoid needing two fires and, since dusk had fallen and there was no possible reason to believe any of the Rosings residents or visitors would pass by his observatory headquarters in the front sitting,dining room window at that time, Mr Collins agreed happily. He was about to read a short chapter from his Bible, before retiring, when Charlotte suddenly said:

“William. I hope you will pardon my asking and not think this unseemly, but you never mention your time at university. It is an achievement to have gone there, and I appreciate your modesty, I’m sure, but which University did you attend?”

Mr Collins coughed and spluttered a little as he was just in the process of taking a sip of his port. The question took him completely by surprise as indeed he had never discussed the topic in depth with anyone, his dear wife included. His patron, Lady Catherine de Bourgh had seemed quite happy that he had been a student at Cambridge, but more concerned that he agreed with absolutely everything she said - when first offering him the Hunsford parsonage position- than in hearing of his achievements. Indeed, he was so grateful to be considered that he would happily have thrown himself over a puddle for her ladyship to walk over in his gratitude. He did not, of course, mention such a thing to Charlotte, no indeed. He felt a small apprehension at his wife’s question, but, well, since she wasn’t going to exactly check University records, perhaps a slight harmless exaggeration was permissible? Nothing that was blatantly untrue, of course….he put down his glass and smiled fondly. He was, after all, truthfully a graduate was he not?

“My father insisted that I attend Cambridge University dear. Oxford was duly considered, but he chose the former. He himself was not totally a scholarly type, but I think he sensed a greatness and a will to learn in me!”

Mr Collins offered a silent prayer for the understatement, for his father had hardly been able write his own name and had made little or no effort to learn anything. His only concession to decency had actually been to inform his son that he would inherit an estate in Hertfordshire when the present owner, a distant cousin, passed away, and to provide him with an education of sorts. In truth, Mr Collins had hardly been classed as “alumni of the century”, just about managing to complete the basic requirements of attendance and skill levels to graduate from Cambridge. He hadn’t, like some, wasted his time on drink or merry-making, primarily because he didn’t have the money for such idle luxuries, and his slight competences in reading and writing had mainly been acquired because any form of sporting recognition was totally beyond him and any studying was preferable to abject boredom and his only real companion had been, a bespectacled and somewhat boring bookworm named Daniel D Lion..
He had been removed sine-die from the rowing team after the careless swinging of an oar on the bank had hit a cox on the head and deposited him in the River Thames during practice. In running and field sports he had no skills, interest or stamina, indeed, during a cross-country run he was so far behind the rest that the games teacher had sent a search-party out to look for him, and after his first erratic javelin throw had almost skewered a passing porter he had also been excused rather rapidly from that. It was to the great surprise of almost everyone, not the least himself, that he actually did quite well at swimming. He even managed to earn a small bronze medal for a third place in the two-hundred metre River Thames race for novices, although, in his mind, the event had acquired the status of a cross-channel swim to France.

“My learnings at university eventually supplied the living that…. I flatter myself” he coughed..”keeps us in relative comfort here at Hunsford. Lady Catherine immediately saw in me a saviour of souls and a leader of men and promoted me ahead of the other possible candidates”.- There had actually been only one other candidate whose awe and nervousness of her Ladyship had caused him to foolishly take a couple of brandies before his interview, and fall headlong down the pulpit steps during his discourse on the evils of drink. Charlotte nodded, smiled and managed to look suitably impressed. She had asked the question initially just making conversation, but her husband was now well into his stride.

“Even studying theology in the early stages, it was obvious where my future lay. I had a natural tendency for applying the Bible’s teachings right from the start, and. when I first mounted those pulpit steps….I knew my vocation.”
In this, Mr Collins was being absolutely truthful because it was at that time he realized fully the meaning of a “captive audience”. Once in his elevated environ of the pulpit he could discourse and preach without fear of interruption and, with his audience unable to escape, something he duly did with gusto at every opportunity.
“I practiced social skills, conversation, dancing etc, rather than frittering away my time on sport, for I saw a requirement to fulfil the neglected areas of public need rather than just concentrate on my own desires. Lady Catherine obviously had great wisdom in seeing I needed a good wife, and in that there was only ever one real candidate. I refer, my dear, to your good self. We were just made for each other!”

“And if Lizzie had said yes, dearest, where would I have been then, I wonder?”
Charlotte asked the question of herself and not her husband, knowing she had actually been third choice in his search for a wife. Fortunately, she had been less swayed by ideals of romance than her fiends and her needs and wants had been of a lower order. Mr Collins could and would provide the security she may never have found in chasing dreams. Right then she preferred to not think too far ahead as to inheriting Longbourne estate as she cared sincerely for he friends who were its present inhabitants. The future would, no doubt, take care of itself. She was wondering how to end their current discourse and go off to bed. Her husband, hands clasped together was gazing skywards, wrapped in a rosy glow of his very immortality and ready to blow his own angelic trumpet a little more.

“ Ah yes, I remember my time at University with pride and pleasure and a real sense of ….”
Quite suddenly a couple of logs in the fireplace collapsed with a bang scattering sparks over the hearthstone. Mr Collins jumped to his feet and reached for the fire tongs hopping around like a frog, and Charlotte, seeing her opportunity, stood up quickly.
“Amen” she intoned softly and went across to pinch out the candles with a quiet smile.

Hunsford Tales. Reminiscing

Jim G.MApril 28, 2015 07:47PM

Re: Hunsford Tales. Reminiscing

terrycgApril 30, 2015 05:33PM

Re: Hunsford Tales. Reminiscing

Lucy J.April 30, 2015 04:51AM

Re: Hunsford Tales. Reminiscing

ShannaGApril 29, 2015 05:29PM

Re: Hunsford Tales. Reminiscing

Amy A-NWApril 29, 2015 02:18AM

Re: Hunsford Tales. Reminiscing

Jim G.MApril 29, 2015 10:56AM


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