Bonus Vignette: A Trifle Disguised, He Said

This bit of fun was written as part of a promotion for A Very Austen Valentine.  Enjoy!

A bonus scene from Sir Walter Takes a Wife by Laura Hile

In which Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Collins are delighted to participate,
as they are not point-of-view characters in the novella and would like to have their say

Elizabeth Bennet set her teacup aside. “A trifle what?” she said, smiling.

Charlotte Collins gave her a look. “Disguised. That is how Mr. Collins phrased it, when I asked about last night. He said he was a trifle disguised.”

“Meaning that he was drunk.”

There was a small silence.

“My husband is many things, Eliza,” said Charlotte tartly. “But a drunkard he is not! I blame that Sir Walter Elliot. Did you notice? All through dinner he scarcely touched his wine. I think he saved it and, once we ladies went out, he forced Mr. Collins to drink it.”

“If so, it was deftly done,” observed Elizabeth. What else could she say?

“Oh, he is a sly one! I saw at once what Sir Walter was after; who could miss it? He wanted information about the estate.”

“I wonder why,” said Elizabeth.

“For nefarious reasons of his own, no doubt. If he is a baronet, which I daresay is a lie.”

Elizabeth had never known Charlotte to be so crabby. She decided to change the subject. “I did not realize that my cousin was so observant. Mr. Collins described each of the rooms in great detail. It was impressive.”

Charlotte sighed again. “Many of those descriptions,” she said, “are cribbed from her ladyship.”

“Cribbed,” repeated Elizabeth.

Charlotte smiled slightly. “It’s a schoolboy’s term; my brother John uses it. I fancy it means copied. Our, er, benefactress is quite particular about the beauties of the mansion. She likes them to be described just so. In fact—”

The dining room door banged open, and Mr. Collins stumbled in. “Oh!” he cried, bringing a hand to cover his eyes. “The light! Draw the draperies! At once, I beg you.”

Elizabeth hurried to comply, while her friend helped Mr. Collins take his seat at the table. “You will be better directly,” said Charlotte kindly.

“You needn’t shout! My head! Oh, there is nothing like it! The room is spinning round and round!”

“A nice breakfast will soon set you to rights. We have both bacon and sausage this morning, with some lovely fried bread and kidneys.”

Mr. Collins gave a perfectly genuine shudder. “Do not speak to me of food, Mrs. Collins,” he said loathingly.

Charlotte resumed her seat and poured out a cup of tea for her husband. “If you are ill, perhaps I ought to send for the apothecary.”

“That will not be necessary,” he snapped. “It was the wine; that is all. A little too much wine.”

Elizabeth spoke up. “But if you are ill, Mr. Collins…”

He opened a baleful eye. “And set my parishioners to talking? A fine thing!”

“You should have thought about that last night,” said his dutiful wife. “As it is, you had better chew on willow bark, or swallow raw eggs, or whatever it is gentlemen do when they ingest ‘a little too much wine.’ Because—”

Mr. Collins interrupted. “Have you no pity?” he wailed. “And how do you know about raw eggs? You have never been to university.”

Charlotte shared a look with Elizabeth. Then she glanced at the clock. “You have three hours to pull yourself together, Mr. Collins. At one o’clock, Sir Walter Elliot expects you to conduct a tour of the ornamental gardens.”

“A tour? Me?”

“Yes, a walking tour of the estate. By your express invitation.”

“But—there is nothing to see in the gardens now!” he protested. “The roses are barely in leaf.”

“And it is raining,” supplied Elizabeth.

Mr. Collins could only wail.

“Rain,” said Charlotte, “is what umbrellas are for. You and Sir Walter shall have a lovely walk together in the fresh air—so healthful! And I shall take a nap. I scarcely slept a wink all night.”

“You and me both,” grumbled Mr. Collins.

Charlotte pushed back her chair. “Nonsense. You were snoring loud enough to wake the dead. I’ll just see about your breakfast.”

She went out. “And I thought a wife would be a blessing,” muttered Mr. Collins.

“Oh, but she is,” said Elizabeth cheerfully. “And very much so. As long as one does not become—a trifle disguised.”