Mr. Collins looked adoringly at his wife who was busy making some minor repairs to a tablecloth. Had not Lady Catherine commented on his wife’s many fine qualities, not the least of which was her frugality and ability to make the most of her income by mending and gardening?
From the corner of her eye, Charlotte could see that her husband, as he did every evening after supper, was admiring her handiwork, and she knew exactly what he was thinking: Lady Catherine would approve. Lady Catherine’s opinion was the gold standard in their home and foremost in Mr. Collins’s mind. That was perfectly fine with Charlotte. In exchange for keeping accurate books, an eye on expenses, and coming when summoned to Rosings’s parlor, their patroness had provided them with a handsome house and a decent living. With a year’s experience as the wife of Mr. Collins behind her, Charlotte considered herself to be—if not happy—then at least content with her current situation. After all, she was the mistress of her own home, had a decent monthly allowance, and servants to help her with the more mundane tasks. All things considered, life was good.
“Dearest, you do know what tomorrow is, do you not?” Mr. Collins asked with a smile in his voice.
“A full moon?” Charlotte said, her eyes glued to her needlework.
Mr. Collins tittered. “I see you are in a frivolous mood. As you well know, the moon is waning, not waxing.”
“Perhaps, it is Miss de Bourgh’s birthday?”
“Charlotte, I do believe you are teasing me. As you well know, Miss de Bourgh’s birthday is in June.”
“I am well aware what tomorrow is, my love,” she said, returning his smile. “I can hardly believe that you and I have been together for a full year.” It seems as if I have been a wife for a very long time. Years in fact.
“You remembered, dearest,” a pleased Mr. Collins answered.
Charlotte reminded her husband that he had mentioned their anniversary at breakfast. After putting down her needlework, she said, “My dear, if you are thinking of a gift, please allow me to remind you that cotton is the traditional gift for first anniversaries.”
“Bed linen is made of cotton,” he said, arching his eyebrows.
Oh dear! That is a hint if ever there was one, and it is not even Saturday.
“Many things are made of cotton. Your hose, for example.”
“My hose!” Mr. Collins said, winking at his wife. “Are we speaking of a garden hose or do you have something else in mind?”
“What an unfortunate choice of words! Obviously, Mr. Collins has plans for the eve of our first anniversary. He must be diverted. And she had the perfect diversion in mind.
Because Mr. Collins could, at times, be ridiculous, Charlotte had not planned to tell her husband quite so soon. In was only in the last few days that the signs were such that the result was no longer in doubt. She wanted to hold off telling him for as long as possible because he had a tendency to blurt out the most intimate details of their marriage to his patroness, but Lady Catherine would know soon enough.
“I was thinking more along the line of bunting?”
“No, Mr. Collins. A baby’s bunting.”
“For what purpose?” he asked confused.
“To put a baby in.”
“Is someone in the parish increasing?”
“Yes, Mr. Collins. Someone you know very well is to have a child.”
“I hope it is not that Mallow girl. I have already spoken to her parents and have warned them that if Alice continues…”
“Mr. Collins!” Charlotte said, rising. “It is I who is in need of bunting for a baby?”
Finally, a light went on in Mr. Collins’s eyes. “But how…?”
“The usual way.”
“I mean when?”
“Do you mean the particular day?”
“No. No. When is the happy event to take place?”
“Ah, yes! Harvest time.”
“That is one way of looking at it.”
The parson was soon by his wife’s side. Taking her in his arms, he exclaimed, “Everything has changed!”
“Yes, everything has changed. Because of the baby, we must be careful.”
“Of course, my dear,” he said, placing his hand on his wife’s belly. “I would not wish to chase our little bunny around the rabbit hole, now would I?”
Goodness! The things he says! I wish he would think before he speaks. “No, dear, you most definitely would not,” she said, pleased at the way things had turned out. “Happy Anniversary!” she said and rewarded him a peck on the cheek.
Your comments are always appreciated.
P. S. Although I found references to garden hoses being used in Holland at this time, I could not find a particular reference to English gardens. Liberties were taken. 🙂