Song of Songs

By Laura Schiller

Based on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

It began with the Bible. The Song of Solomon, to be exact.

Charlotte was used to hearing Mr. Collins' low voice from his study in the evenings, as he practiced his sermons or his gospel reading of the week, and she usually ignored it as she sat in her own parlor, sewing, knitting or writing letters to her family and Lizzie. One evening, however, she had cracked a few windows open due to the heat of the day, and the summer breeze wafting through thr house carried certain phrases to her ear which piqued her curiosity.

A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night between my breasts … "

Charlotte 's knitting needles shook as she giggled silently, almost dropping a stitch. Surely he wasn't going to read that to the congregation! Was it even from the Bible?

"Behold, thou art fair, my love, behold, thou art fair. Thou hast dove's eyes … "

She had often privately thought that reading aloud was one of Mr. Collins' greatest gifts; it was unfortunate that he chose to waste it on such works as Fordyce's Sermons. He had a way of reading one word at a time, slowly and deliberately, as if tasting them for their particular flavor; a love of the written word was something they had in common. She had never heard him reading anything like this before.

Carefully, Charlotte set aside her knitting and approached the door to the study, which was slightly ajar. She peeked through it and yes, there was her husband, small and plain as ever, pacing around the room with his battered old Bible in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. Hardly a romantic picture in contrast with the words, and yet …

"I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house and his banner over me was love."

That called up images of a delighted Mr. Collins showing her his apple trees, bringing armfuls of pink blossoms into the house for her to put in vases, and the promises of fresh apple pie and cider to come in the autumn. 'His banner over me' – she had heard that before in a religious context, but at the moment it reminded her of nothing so much as entering Lady Catherine's drawing room arm-in-arm, all but announcing to the world: behold, we are husband and wife! We have achieved marriage in spite of unfavorable odds, and we are determined to be happy.

Mr. Collins smiled over that last phrase, his eyes half-closed, then turned to admire the pink-and-golden light of the sunset streaming through the window.

"How does it continue, Mr. Collins?" asked Charlotte, putting her head around the door.

He jumped and whirled around, shutting the book with one finger inside as a bookmark.

"Good heavens, Charlotte! Er – have you been listening to that – all this time?"

She could see the his ears turning pink with embarrassment. It was rather endearing, truth be told.

"Yes, I have," she admitted. "I rather like it. Is it the Song of Solomon?"

"Yes, indeed. An allegorical portrayal of the – er – spiritual union between Christ and His church."

"And what a loving union it is," said Charlotte, just to make her husband blush some more. "May I?"

She took the book out of his hand and began to read aloud herself.

"Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love … His left hand is under my head … and his right hand … doth embrace me." She looked up, finding it was her turn to blush, and that Mr. Collins had recovered enough from his embarrassment to be looking at her with a definite spark in his blue eyes.

"The voice of my beloved! Behold, he cometh - " But that was as far as Charlotte got, as Mr. Collins interrupted her with an enthusiastic kiss.

Author's Note: This oneshot was inspired by a scene from the film Keeping Mum, in which reading the Song of Solomon makes Rowan Atkinson (!) sound incredibly hot.

See the clip on YouTube: .com/watch?v=8jwBrDkV5XU