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Hunsford Tales. Patch.

May 10, 2015 03:26PM
Two people, thinking and working in parallel, a home and a comfortable living. What else is needed for wedded bliss? Nothing at all, claims Mr Collins…but other forces may be at work to contradict him…

Chapter One.

Charlotte Collins heard the scratching first. She frowned and raised her eyes from her needlework; mending one of her husband’s stocks. Mrs Dawkins had come to to help hang out washing and stayed to take a welcome cup of tea. She looked enquiringly as Charlotte stood up and listened for what had caught her attention. Charlotte walked and opened the door of her rear-facing parlour and looked out. She shook her head, thinking she must have imagined it and was just about to close the door again when a small yelp made her look down. She was amazed to see a tiny black and white pup sitting on her doorstep and looking up at her, head to one side. He had a mainly white face with a large black patch over one eye. He also had two button brown eyes. Charlotte was totally taken aback at the unexpected visitor but, being used to dogs from her pre-marital life, was also pleasantly surprised and smiled down at the pup. It was quite, to her, recognizable as from a collie litter, a breed she was familiar with and she soon identified it as a male animal.
“And who may you be good sir? “,she enquired, bending down to scratch the dog’s head. The dog’s tail wagged as it stood up and she saw it had no collar. She bent down and gathered the animal in her arms and went back inside. When she saw the pup, Mrs Dawkins let out a surprised cry.
“Oh, ma’am, I am sorry. He’s from our litter and must have followed me out of the house. Our Border Collie, Meg, has had four pups but we are only keeping two of them. Mrs King, although she’s sometimes sharp with children in her class, is a real animal lover and is having one pup. This fellow, we have to try and find a home for. He is eight weeks old now and is a really lively animal, too inquisitive for his own good. He jumped up and almost caught a bumble-bee yesterday, but luckily it flew off just in time or he could have been badly stung. I am sorry he followed me but I’ll take him back right away!”
Charlotte smiled and waved a dismissive hand.“Oh, worry not I am quite used to animals and we always had dogs at home. Here, I shall give him some milk. Does he have a name?” Charlotte asked as she put down an old saucer and poured milk into it. The pup immediately lapped up all the milk and stood looking up for more. He had a most appealing face, she thought, as she stroked his head. There was a small piece of cheese left on a plate on the table and, knowing how much her own dogs had loved it, she broke it and gave it to the pup.
“No, no name yet Ma’am, we just call him Patch for obvious reasons. Come on, you mischievous imp, let’s have you back home” She gathered up the pup and Charlotte smiled and gave its head a rub.
“Goodbye Patch. I hope you find a good home”.

Mr Collins duly arrived back from his intelligence-gathering visit to Rosings Park House. He informed Charlotte of the dearth of items of interest happening in the parish and deposited himself by the fireside in the parlour. No need to take up station in the front room window just then and, after his lunch he would be at work in the garden and thus well-placed to observe any comings and goings between the church and Rosings. Charlotte, already seated in her armchair, then told him of the unexpected visit from Mrs Dawkins puppy dog, earlier. Mr Collins gave a condescending smile but refrained from comment. Such items of mundane normality were of no real interest compared to the possibility of visitors coming to see Lady Catherine that he could greet on arrival in the lane. There was also the possibility that lunch would soon be on the table. Suddenly, he frowned and gazed towards the door.
“Was that something scratching, Charlotte dear, or am I hearing things? What, …what are you smiling at?”
Charlotte didn’t answer but walked over and opened the door. A small bundle of back and white fur erupted across the floor and stood gazing up at Mr Collins. Charlotte raised a hand to cover her mouth and tried to keep a straight face as she looked at her husband’s amazed expression.
“This is Patch, the Dawkins pup I was telling you of dear. It looks like he has come to visit again!”
“Oh, well I think we should put him back out dear” said Mr Collins hastily,” I mean, we don’t know where he’s been, do we? He might be trailing germs in!”
Charlotte didn’t often speak sharply to her husband. Her own placid temperament, her general manners and a basic good-naturedness often kept her silent. On this occasion, the absurdity of her husband’s words got the better of her and she shook her head reprovingly.
“Oh, William, do not be ridiculous please. He is an eight-week old house pup not a rabid wolf from the deepest Chiltern Hills. The poor little thing probably just wants a drink!”
Mr Collins was quite taken aback at Charlotte’s tone and was immediately apologetic. He coughed and raised a placatory hand and a weak smile.
“Of course, you are right my dear. For in my position it is within the reach of my instrument to be charitable to all living creatures. Indeed it is. I shall put some water down for him!”
Charlotte took a deep breath and allowed a smile to reach her lips. Patch looked hopefully up at her. She watched Mr Collins put water in a saucer and, whilst his back was turned, surreptitiously got a small piece of cheese. She broke it up and dropped it on the floor. It hardly had time to land before the pup jumped forward eagerly and devoured it. Mr Collins put the saucer of water down, pointed at it and commanded “Drink”. When the pup didn’t move he repeated the command. Charlotte experienced a mental vision of Moses commanding the Red Sea to part and quickly bent down to the dog to avoid smiling “Come, Patch, good boy. Come have a drink”. She dipped a finger in the water and held it out. The dog moved forward, licked her finger then lapped the water in the saucer. Mr Collins smiled benevolently and reached a hand forward gingerly to touch the dog’s head with, thought Charlotte, shaking her head, all the enthusiasm of putting his hand in the fire. She picked up the pup and set off to take him the short distance home.

Twice more on the following day, the pup appeared at the Parsonage house. Charlotte was amused by it, Mr Collins not quite so. It was after the second visit that she tentatively asked if he thought they should look after the pup for a day or two until the Dawkins could find a new home for it. Mr Collins, rarely having had contact with domestic animals, was less than enthusiastic at the idea. He did not refuse to consider having the pup temporarily, but he certainly was not going out of his way to make friends with it. His main objection was the fact that Patch, being but a pup, was exceedingly playful and followed Charlotte around like a shadow. The alternative, however, was not appealing to his Christian side as it meant the animal being tied up to stop it visiting its newly found friend who gave it milk and cheese and made a fuss of it. In truth, Charlotte was more than happy with the idea of keeping him permanently because she had become very fond of him. Not wishing the matter to cause any strife, however, she reluctantly let the matter drop.

Chapter Two.

The following morning Mr Collins made the short walk up to Rosings house on one of his regular courtesy calls, and needed no great persuasion to take morning teas with Lady Catherine. Her daughter was just setting out on one of her daily drives around the estate with Mrs Jenkinson, so Mr Collins’s company came as serendipitous in her eyes, if somewhat less so and somewhat contrived in his . Once seated in her regal presence, and during a break in her lecture on the benefits of correct positioning of rhubarb plants, Mr Collins mentioned the Dawkins pup that had been visiting them. He was, of course, quite prepared to hear her lady ship decry all forms of animals inside domestic residences as a deathly plague on society, and more than inclined to agree with her. To his great surprise, Lady Catherine actually smiled and leaned forward.

“A Collie pup, you say, Mr Collins. Ah, my father was a great dog-lover and was particularly fond of his Collies. My, deceased husband, Sir Lewis, also had several dogs, but his were the hunting kind, Retrievers, Setters and Spaniels etc. Of course, since he died we haven’t kept them. I don’t shoot, Mr Collins, although several ladies of my acquaintance have done so, but if I did, I should have been a very proficient shot, I assure you, for I have a fine eye and a natural sense of reaction. Yes indeed, I think a man with dogs has a certain air of maturity and outdoor charm. There is a portrait somewhere around of Sir Lewis with his setters and he looks the epitome of male pride and poise. A man of the country and his dogs go well together, You cannot start training pups too soon. They must understand who their master is very quickly if they are to learn obedience!”
The subject was terminated by tea arriving, and Lady Catherine asked Mr Collins what his plans were for organising the forthcoming harvest festival celebration…..

……Mr Collins gave a contented sigh as he laid down his knife and fork. His lunch of potatoes and cabbage together with the butcher’s freshly delivered sausages was still a pleasant living memory as he took a sip of root beer. He coughed and steepled his fingers.
“Charlotte, my dear. I have been thinking of what you suggested about keeping the Dawkins Collie pup. It would be such a shame for it to possibly find a home where it may not be well treated. I cannot, in my position as a man of God, bear to think such a thing may occur. The souls of every living thing are my concern and that poor creature to fall into wrong hands is too pitiful to consider. I firmly believe that a man living in the country should follow the ways of nature and having a dog is surely one of them. For a man needs a certain status and can probably be judged by his behaviour towards animals. I have given it some serious thought and I think we should keep the animal. I think I should acquire a collar and leash and take his training in hand myself, for a man and his dog have long been part of rural life and I firmly believe one cannot begin training dogs too soon. What did you say it was called? “
“He, is called Patch!” replied Charlotte with a delighted smile. From beneath the table a small head peaked forth and a yelp of agreement sealed the matter. As her husband bent down to peer at the dog, Charlotte, her gaze distant, frowned slightly then nodded knowingly as realisation dawned.

“Thank you Lady Catherine” she chuckled silently…

End. .
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Hunsford Tales. Patch.

Jim G.MMay 10, 2015 03:26PM

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Lucy J.May 17, 2015 06:22AM

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Jim G.MMay 17, 2015 01:26PM

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terrycgMay 12, 2015 05:06PM

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ShannaGMay 11, 2015 06:26PM

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Kathy BerlinMay 10, 2015 10:30PM

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Jim G.MMay 10, 2015 11:16PM

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