Posted on 2015-03-12
Mr Collins, tired of his role being downplayed in the events of the Darcy/Bennet affair, decides to reveal the truth of it all:
Dear readers; let me relate to you a story. Its purpose is to corrects, "ahem" a few blatant misconceptions in other versions of events that may not quite give me the credit, I flatter myself , I fully deserve, in certain matters in which I was a major player. You will of course have heard conflicting stories, but now I lay bare the truth before you:
I am known universally, well, at least in Hunsford and district, as William Collins. Only my dear wife, and now your good selves, know that on my birth certificate it states, "William, Rupert Collins, son of Edgar and Lettuce Collins". Let this be our little secret because Rupert sounds a little high-toned and I prefer to maintain a slightly less salubrious profile amongst my parishioners. I was also somewhat surprised to find that my father once had a goat called Rupert. This I must attribute to his fondness for us both. To give me my full parish title, I am "The Very Reverend William Collins, Rector of the parish of Hunsford by Westerham. Most of the time, people of my acquaintance just refer to me as Reverend, or Mister Collins; all except my dear Charlotte who, out of company calls me William- and, well, I blush to admit it, occasionally, in those intimate little secret moments, when she cries out to me in the throes of some exotic little haven of unbridled passion ....well,...then, she calls me "Willee"
There is one other who calls me simply "Mister Collins" but when spoken it is uttered with such a superior tone of elegance that it almost sounds angelic. I refer of course to my patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings, who has shown me such indescribable condescension, such attention and such encouragement to throw myself forth into the river of humanity and ...what Charlotte dear?..Oh, you were just coughing, I see,.....and spread the good word to all within reach of my ecclesiastical instrument....
But I get ahead of myself, for I need to relate my full story and it begins before I met the woman who was to make me the happiest of men. It is a tale of great relevance in the happy event that is to take place very soon in Hertfordshire; the wedding of Mr Fitzwillam Darcy of Pemberley, Derbyshire, and Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourne. My part in the prior events is one of extreme importance, for I have been involved in them even before those two dear people had any intercourse with each other. Oh! Charlotte suggests that should read "communication" instead. I don't know why, it sounds fine to me and I consider my self quite authoritative on matters of learning, but anyway, I digress in the order of events. I move on...
It all began one evening when Lady Catherine was winning five shillings from me at Whist, in the opulent splendour of her games room at Rosings Park. . She had hardly swept her winnings from the surface of the delicate Louis the Sixteenth ormolu table and into her hand-netted purse, when her daughter Lady Anne sneezed. She actually sneezed so hard she blew a candle out! Well, you can imagine the panic; Mrs Jenkinson went quite pale and flung a gold-embroidered cloak around Anne's shoulders and I leapt to my feet crying out "make haste" and preparing to summon a servant to ride for the physician. Of course, it was Lady Catherine who calmed it all down and pointed out that a stray feather from a down cushion had floated up and tickled her daughter's nose. As you can well imagine the utter relief was palpable. When I had mopped my brow and taken a gulp of her Ladyship's fine French cognac, after arranging Lady Anne's footstool, she turned to me and said, "Mister Collins, there is a matter we should discuss". Of course I was all ears and delighted she was seeking my advice, until she said: "I think you need something to occupy your mind beyond bee-keeping and growing rhubarb and tomatoes. Those things can be done in a few hours each week. I think you should consider marriage. No, make that I 'insist" you should consider marriage. In short, you need a woman to organise your life and be a constant companion for you"
Well, you cannot even imagine my surprise. How very kind of the dear lady to consider my happiness and fortitude, spent between my bees, my garden, my perusal of moral writings and my Bible. Her ladyship even advised me as to what type of lady I should find, and suggested me visiting my distant relations in Hertfordshire where she knew I would one day inherit an estate from a cousin. This same cousin apparently had five comely daughters, some who are likely out in society. How fortunate, her ladyship pointed out, for I had informed her of this situation one evening over cheese and pickle sandwiches and elderberry wine. What an ideal opportunity. I hesitated, but only for a second, before informing her I would write and arrange a visit, post haste. I was conveyed home in one of her several carriages and wrote to my cousin, a Mister Bennet, that very evening before I had even removed my coat and hat. I can only assume the post chaise was delayed and my letter mislaid for some time, because it took two weeks to get a reply. When it arrived it was most courteous and my invitation was confirmed and a warm welcome extended. I suggested a time and date in reply, and made my personal arrangements for my absence. My man Dawkins would convey me on the first part of my trip in my own curricle and collect me on the final leg of my return. To Longbourne then, I would go.
My trip was carried out with little inconvenience or time loss, although we had to stop on the final stretch when the wind blew my hat off and the driver refused to chase it. Not his job, he declared, and me, a man of the cloth, having to climb down and recover the hat from a blackthorn hedge with my cane was a trifle undignified. I didn't give him a tip for his insolence. I arrived at the given time and was met with warmth and obvious delight by Mr and Mrs Bennet and all five of my fair cousins. Oh, what a welcome I got, and such a whirl of social events, they had arranged for me: supper parties, musical evenings and even a quite grand ball at Netherfield Park, the home of a very delightful gentleman named Bingley, who Mrs Bennet informed me, whilst I was still in the act of removing my portmanteau from the carriage, was to marry her eldest daughter Jane, and his two lovely sisters. Whilst I was covertly observing the individual charms of my charming cousins - for I did not wish to excite their expectations too soon, I beheld a certain loveliness of form and character in them. I must point out that I contain that to the two eldest because, of the others, one is constantly lost in study, and two are very silly and immature flirts of embarrassing proportion . After a healthy and hearty first meal and an admiration of Mrs Bennet's boiled potatoes, for they are indeed excellent, I retired, well content that my visit would be a happy one.
At the ball at Netherfield, to which I got a personal invitation, my cousin Elizabeth danced with me and was obviously delighted with my command of the delicate footwork and moves of the dances. I was not surprised at her delight, because a man in my position can commit no harm dancing in the home of a gentleman, so I have practised intensely in anticipation of just such an occasion. Lacking a partner I used my mothers old mantua manikin to polish my skills, for I have somewhat the elegant grace of a natural dancer and it was soon obvious that Elizabeth was impressed. That same evening I met again a most delightful lady named Charlotte Lucas. My heart lurched and I was immediately attracted to her and knew she would be the companion of my future life. One just knows these things, does one not? I was enchanted Ah, but wait, for an event of much greater significance was about to occur between the end of a cotillon and the serving of white soup. I heard it mentioned that a Mr Darcy, a friend of Bingley, was no less a personage than the nephew of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. What a fortuitous coincidence! Of course I hastened over to him and introduced myself - the conventions governing normal introductions are hardly applicable to a man in my position - and he was quite delighted that I could give him news of his aunt's well being, and received me very warmly. My dear cousin, who warned me against such an introduction, is hardly on my level at knowing the rules of acquaintance with a man of the church. I'm quite convinced that Mr Darcy immediately realised Elizabeth's connection to me was of consequence and that is what prompted him to honour her with a dance invitation. Unknowingly, I may have brought them together, as at that particular time there was no relationship between them. But for me they may have gone in total ignorance of each other's presence. I flatter myself that my intervention was actually heaven sent.
And so then, on to the joy of my heart, my darling Charlotte. Of course, back at Longbourne I had to disguise my real affections and go through the pretence of proposing to one of my cousins, Elizabeth, but my heart wasn't in it and she must have known, for she let me off with a pretended refusal. Her mother, of course, a somewhat frantic lady who complained constantly of her nerves, was less than amused at Elizabeth's refusal, for who could be unaware of the advantages of myself as a marriage prize? But it gave me the opportunity I needed to excuse myself, pretending offence, and make haste to pursue the real object of my heart, my darling Charlotte. I knew from the longing look in her eyes that I was her heart's desire as I rushed forth and encountered her by the ornamental fish pond at Lucas Lodge. Such was the strength of my ardour and the focus of my desire that I was quite unaware I had walked right through the pond. Fortunately, no fishes were injured and we met beneath the shade of a weeping willow tree. It took but a moment for my burning passion for her to become apparent as she made me the happiest of men with a blushing acceptance of my hand. Oh, such joy on both our parts as we hurried off to give her parents the joyful news, she clutching a bunch of late blooming flowers I had hurriedly plucked form the Bennet's garden, and I with sodden shoes and stockings. Sir William was most kind about the wet footmarks all over his parquet floor, much to my relief. I had also confessed my little charade to Charlotte so that she would be prepared for the jealousy by the Bennets of such a lost opportunity. She was well aware that I was the heir apparent of Longbourne on the demise of Mr Bennet. Who, in truth could offer such benefits as an association with myself? She knew Elizabeth would be furious at the lost opportunity, for she had surely tried playing games with me in the usual manner of elegant females. Unfortunately, her ploy hadn't worked. Elizabeth tried to disguise her disappointment by becoming friendly with an officer in the Militia, a certain George Wickham, but I could have told her he was but a fortune hunter, for I am very observant of human nature from my duties as a pastor. He soon turned his attentions to someone rumoured to soon receive a tidy sum as a dowry. Exit Mr Wickham.
Oh, the wild joy of the Lucas family at our declaration of early marriage and Charlotte moving to Hunsford. Sir William almost poured a glass of port over himself in his haste to toast our happiness and was tying flowers on the back of his carriage as I left. We were duly joined soon after in married bliss, to the exuberant congratulations of all but Mrs Bennet who was incapacitated by her fragile nerves and locked herself away in her bedroom. The cheering as we set off was extremely flattering...
At this stage, I shall now include you in a little secret that only my dear Charlotte shares with me; I have a small hobby that none of the people I met know of. Although I would not air my miniscule musical talents in public, and least of all at Rosings - where if Lady Catherine had ever learned to play a musical instrument,she would have been a great proficient. She informed me of this herself- I secretly practise playing the chalumeau, a form of clarinet, an old family heirloom inherited from my father . I confess my playing isn't quite fine-tuned yet, but with constant practise I may some day entertain the personnel at Rosings with an aire or two. Charlotte was a little surprised to learn of my little hobby and has urged me not to hurry with this, and also to practise out of hearing and in the open air for the benefit of my lungs. There must be some pitch in the instrument too high for human hearing because we are no longer plagued by starlings or crows. My soulful rendition of "Nymphs and Shepherds Come Away" seems so fine and clear in the depths of the copse of trees where I practise, although I was almost shot at one day when one of Rosing's gamekeepers came over the path to see where such beautiful music issued from. Only my leaping into view before him prevented him from firing at what he foolishly said he thought was an animal in distress. Imagine! A man of vulgar taste, no doubt. On my dear Charlotte's advice I kept my secret from even my cousin when she arrived to visit us at Hunsford, the subject of the next part of my story. I hid my chalumeau on the top shelf of the closet. Yes, you may well be surprised, my closet has shelves, a wonderful suggestion by Lady Catherine herself.
Came the day my dear cousin Elizabeth arrived at our humble abode together with Sir William and my new sister, Maria. It was soon obvious they were very impressed with our desirable situation, and their sheer amazement at receiving an invitation to dine at Rosings Park had to be seen to be believed. Their realisation of my own importance was heartening, but I behaved very modestly about it, for indeed I am a modest man by nature. Lady Catherine was her most charming self and the invitations to dine flowed. I of course had my rightful place at table, but my darling wife displayed a confidence befitting someone to the manor born. In the very midst of all the sheer happiness, who should arrive at Rosings but the very person I had encountered at Netherfield, yes, Mr Darcy himself! He was accompanied by a fine gentleman in full regimentals, introduced as Colonel Fitzwilliam, a relation of our hosts and both were on an annual visit to their aunt. Cousin Elizabeth, quite strangely, behaved admirably towards the Colonel, but seemed a little...facetious, even bordering on rudeness towards Mr Darcy. He, of course, the very epitome of nobility and good taste, had little to say to her. My darling wife claimed he was love-struck, in her direction, but I pride myself in thinking he did not seem at all enamoured by her. What foolishness. Men are much more observant in the truth of these things. I will however, offer another observation here, I actually believe Elizabeth's manner was the reason Darcy and Fitzwilliam left sooner than Lady Catherine expected them to.
I am not of course privy to all that happened and have my doubts as to rumours I have heard that the Colonel divulged some information to Elizabeth regarding the reason Darcy's friend Bingley departed to London without formalising his intentions in the direction of her sister, Jane. It is absolutely scandalous to imagine that Mr Darcy would involve himself in anyone's affairs of the heart. No, that could not be, and Elizabeth would hardly be looking in his direction romantically when she so obviously was very
distressed that she had missed the chance to capture, well, and here I flatter myself.me! Oh yes, I several times felt here eyes turned enviously in my direction as I exchanged good mornings with Lady Anne as she passed my abode in her little phaeton and ponies. One senses these things, but it was too late and Charlotte and I are almost like Eloise and Habelard in our mutual passion. Well, I'm not quite like Abelard, a little more, er, wholesome if you will forgive my small witticism. Ha, ha. Anyway, by the bye, it transpired that Mr Darcy and the Colonel were to go their ways and Elizabeth suffered some headaches...or maybe heartaches...hmm ,and confined herself to her room. Well, all good things must end for the less fortunate in life, and the time came when Elizabeth and Maria had to return to their mundane existences in Hertfordshire. Sir William had stayed but a few days before returning home. I know only what I have heard of their lives for some months, but it seems that Jane Bennet visited London and then Mr and Mrs Gardiner, an uncle and aunt with whom she stayed, decided to take a late summer trip to the Derbyshire Peak district, partly to re-visit some of Mr's Gardiners old acquaintances and the rest of the time to be spent in sight seeing. They invited Elizabeth along, possibly to ease her heartache and give her a reason to go on living, and she accepted.
Again, I have but rumour and gossip to go on, but it seems Elizabeth and the Gardiners decided to visit Pemberley, the grand estate home of Mr Darcy. Surprise, surprise, what?
On the pretence of seeking somewhere to fish for eels (Londoners are partial to such delicacies) Mr Gardiner wheedled an invitation to visit the estate and fish, from none other than the Lord and Master of Pemberley himself, who had conveniently been taking a stroll around his lake after a brisk ride on good roads, when he encountered the surprised visitors. Being ever a gentleman, Darcy must have been a little annoyed, but good manners prevailed and he invited Elizabeth to come up for dinner with her aunt and uncle and meet his young sister, Georgiana and....surprise again, the Bingleys who had just arrived at Pemberley.. Ha! All went well apparently and they visited next day prior to the dinner. Darcy then apparently called at the Inn at Lambton where they were staying on a surprise visit, to Elizabeth who had dodged a church visit to read a letter from Jane. What the letter it turned out to be. I can only imagine, but a short time afterwards, the Gardiners and Elizabeth paid their bill and left in the Inn in great haste. These events were related in a letter to my man Dawkins by his brother who happened to be a senior groundsman at Pemberley estate. What a small world!
It seems that Lydia, that adolescent flirt, the temptress of Meryton, a Jezebel incarnate, had persuaded the aforementioned George Wickham to elope to Scotland with her from a camp in Brighton where she stayed with the wife of a respected Colonel in the militia.. At but having just turned sixteen years, such behaviour defies description. I must confess myself not fully surprised, because Mr Bennet's two youngest daughters were totally blinded by scarlet uniforms and paraded up and down Meryton's main street from dawn till dusk in their wicked desires to incite military interest. Alas, one was now paying the price of such behaviour. I should not have been surprised if fire and brimstone had rained down upon Longbourne, although I must confess I'm glad it didn't. I did however, write to Mr Bennet later, expressing my feelings on the matter in no uncertain terms. I have my position as a Christian to consider after all. It would seem that Elizabeth and he uncle and aunt returned home post-haste to find Mr Bennet had raced off to London in pursuit of the hapless pair. Yes, Scotland was but a ruse and the fleeing twosome were lost in the depths of who knew where? Again, I but refer to a scandalous rumour that Mr Darcy was somehow involved in Lydia's recovery and in her marrying Wickham. Such balderdash is disgusting and, if the topic ever surfaces at Rosings I shall declare such to her ladyship, indeed I shall. That gentleman would never involve himself in anything so detrimental to the shades of Pemberley. What pollution, what disgrace to his dear aunt. Exactly what transpired between times, I know not. What I do know is that suddenly, the Bingleys had returned to Netherfield and then Bingley and Jane are announcing their engagement. That in itself, is fine, but the scenes that followed were not. Word reached Lady Catherine, oh, very well then, I conveyed to her, the dreadful news that cousin Elizabeth had somehow snared Mr Darcy, drawn him in, into proposing marriage to her and that they were now engaged! Her Ladyship's explosion of outrage and temper quite terrified me. She ranted and raged and stormed outside, before whacking the heads off a whole line of innocent geraniums that bordered her drive with her cane, before calling for her carriage, dressing hurriedly and taking off down the drive in a cloud of dust. Charlotte and I decided a quiet withdrawal seemed a somewhat jolly good idea.
And so, to the present time. Apparently Lady Catherine visited Longbourne to confront Elizabeth about the scandalous rumour concerning her and Mr Darcy. What exactly transpired I know not, but Lady Catherine's mood on return was black indeed. I wrote a letter to Mr Bennet and the truth was revealed. Elizabeth had indeed drawn Darcy in and he was so besotted with her that, in a moment of madness he did propose and then there was no turning back. Lady Catherine promptly banned the topic from discussion. I had tried to warn the Bennets of the folly of upsetting her ladyship, but to no avail. Charlotte and I decided our best course of action was to avoid mentioning the wedding, although I did pen a small letter of congratulation to Mr Darcy which he received with pleasure. All that remains now is for me to end my narrative and hope all resumes its previous tranquillity in time. I had to write this short explanation of the truth of matters. I know I should feel guilt of abandoning Elizabeth so easily, and also that she must still have moments of deep regret that she is not the mistress of Hunsford, but my beloved Charlotte more than compensates for any regrets. I am sure the excellent Mr Darcy will work hard at being a good husband, but I know there will be moments when Elizabeth stares at a dish of boiled potatoes and wonders just what might have been. I shall now wander off to the copse for a while and practise on my chalumeau, feeling better for setting right the true score of events and not being satisfied with less than the truth.The End