Mr. William Collins, rector of Rosings Park and all the estate of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, smiled with satisfaction at the face in the mirror as he adjusted his collar and patted the hair across his brow firmly into place.
The baldness which was creeping up on his pate was, he thought, from his mother's side of the family. He recalled his grandfather Wilcox being a man with no hair whatsoever.
"Fortunately, I still have enough on the sides and back that I can comb it over to successfully hide that part that is such a source of consternation," he thought. He was sure that no one, not even his dear Charlotte was aware that he was loosing his hair. He never let anyone see him with out it being carefully combed into place.
When he went into his wife's room, that she might fulfill her wifely duties, he made sure that the room was dark and he climbed into the bed on the side opposite the fireplace so that there would be no chance of her seeing the smallest sign of baldness. He always left by the same route making sure no light would fall upon him.
Lady Catherine had welcomed them with open arms on their return from Hertfordshire. He had feared she might still be angry that her nephew Mr. Darcy had married Miss Elizabeth instead of her own daughter, dear Miss Anne. He was especially fearful since Charlotte had insisted that they attend the nuptials.
Lady Catherine was instead most happy to see them return.
Six weeks of the reverend Martin Maxwell paying no attention to her advice and indeed admonishing her for her treatment of her tenants and the people of the village was quite enough for her ladyship. He had, it seemed accused her of unchristian- like actions.
This was too much. He, Mr. Collins, would never dream of such a thing. Indeed, he found her ladyship to be a most generous -- even beneficent patroness.
He was certain that his Charlotte thought that it was her idea to ask Mr. Maxwell to take the post at Rosings for these past six weeks. She had mentioned it to him, but he had if he remembered correctly, already decided to ask the man.
He would be generous, though and let her continue to think that she was the one who was responsible for Mr. Maxwell's being there whilst they were gone.
Women were weak vessels, to be sure, but it was wise to let them think that sometimes they could come up with a thought worth acting upon. It helped to keep them pliant and in good humor.
Lady Catherine had been there to greet them, letting them know that they were welcome back into the fold. She was so generous and giving. How fortunate he was that he had crossed her path that day at Oxford.
Such magnaminity she showed both of them upon their return.
She had, had she not, given him a raise in salary and promised to be there for his own dear Charlotte when their son was born.
He was certain it was a boy, it had to be. Lady de Bourgh insisted upon it. Especially since the great betrayal of his cousin Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
He must have a son, she said, to insure that Longbourn would never fall back into the hands of a Bennet.
She readily forgave them for attending the wedding. Especially when she learned that he had refused to conduct the ceremony.
He must remember to tell Charlotte never to let Lady Catherine know that he had not been asked to preside over the nuptials.
It was only a small fib, but it made her ladyship so happy and pleased with him. He must make sure that his wife never let anything slip about Mr. Bennet telling him that they would not ask him to perform the ceremony lest Lady de Bourgh hear of it and dismiss him.
At first he had been pleased at his cousin's thoughtfulness. Later he began to think that they had never intended for him to take any part in the wedding. He always had the feeling that Mr. Bennet was laughing up his sleeve at him.
He fully understood his fathers dislike for the family. He himself did not like any of them. They thought themselves too high for his taste. So he must produce a son to keep them in their place.
He was glad that the Bennets had the sense not to invite Lydia and her scoundrel of a husband to the ceremony. He was certain that they would be there but Mr. Bennet had put his foot down and said indeed not. No matter how much Mrs. Bennet wailed, he stood firm. This was a surprise. Mrs. Bennet, he was sure, always knew how to get what she wanted.
Of one thing he was certain, his wife would never be master of his house.
As a matter of fact he would have to have a talk with Mrs. Collins. Since their return she had displayed some of the independence of his cousin, Elizabeth.
Before they left she had been quite content to follow Lady Catherine's advice in every way. Since their return, however, she seemed to take what she wanted from her patroness and leave what she did not agree with.
This must stop. Lady Catherine did not like to be opposed in any matter. Charlotte must become her usual pliant obedient self.
She had been with cousin Elizabeth all to much when they were at Lucas Lodge. She had learned some disturbing habits. He would not have his wife thinking that she could do whatever she wished without Lady de Bourgh's permission.
He hoped that he never had to beat her into submission. He had a feeling that would prove unwise for him, even disastrous.
He moved into his office to watch to see if there was any sign that her ladyship was in need of him. He sat there for a few minutes before thinking that perhaps it would be better if he went out into the yard. If her ladyship were to send for him or come down the path it would be better if he were working in the garden or tending his bees or pigs.
Lady Catherine did so despise sloth.
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