"God an' Bennett," said Elizabeth to her father in his study. "It says 'ere, in the Daily Express, father, that the Church of England believes that Jesus could have been utterly super bonkers and a complete heading case. The very Second Person of the Holy Trinity, no less."
"Ask your husband, Mr Darcy, for who can refuse the word of a man like him, if you can go and see Mr Collins for an explanation," said her father.
At the rectory in Kent Elizabeth found the reverend gentleman in much distress, and she barely had asked the question of the truth of the matter, when he said, "My dear cousin, the Rt. Hon. Lady Catherine de Bourgh is most upset at the finding of the Church, that Our Lord and several Apostles could have indeed been somewhat at nineteen shillings and sixpence to the pound."
"But," said his other visitor, the scholarly Rev. Edward Casaubon, down for the day from Middlemarch, "let's look at the evidence. And this is something that I have discovered across the religion, indeed across the religions in my and Dorothea's actions of classifying and cataloguing. Even Camden Farebrother is forced to agree with my findings."
"Do go on,"said Elizabeth, who was texting her elder sister to let her know that she had arrived safely.
"Indeed doooo," said Mr Collins, "for a number of parishioners might actually read the Daily Express or Daily Telegraph or indeed any daily newspaper and think the Church of England has gone completely off its rocker. I am most distressed still according to the Daily Express that we do not know who killed the late Princess of Wales in her desire to travel around with that Mohammaden. I do wish they'd get on with building the Channel Tunnel so that we can visit and help sort that one out."
"Oh dear," said Elizabeth, "Lydia is going to 'ave a Mac in Tyre while on her trivels. I don't know how we can ever get over the disgrace. I shall write to her and put mee letter into an e'lope."
"Are you most distressed my dear for how you can possibly wear the embarrassment?" asked Mr Collins.
"No, more I wish to hear oh Israel what Mr Causabon has to say. And stop being such a fecking tasser."
"Well," said Causabon, "his mother thought he was a bit of a loner and she kept her eye on him for a long while. Imagine he becomes a builder in the nearby Roman city of Syphillis and then gets religion, taking his placard saying the world as we know it is about to come to an end. He goes to a wedding and starts adding to the wine to get everyone drunk, and as far as we know he never did the decent thing with Mary Magdalene."
"My wedding might with Fitzwilliam was something I'll never forget. Talk about giving me one. I was walking one leg at a time the next morning," said Elizabeth.
"That so could have been me,"said Mr Collins.
"I feel sickly," said Elizabeth.
Mr Causabon went on, "It was a close run thing as to who was barmier than the other - John the Dipper or Jesus the Nazarene. I mean, Jesus thought that by acting out the suffering servant God would actually move heaven down to earth. Mother no doubt wanted to take Jesus home: 'Yeshua,' she said, 'return to the family, put the family first.' The Jews have been wary of Messiahs ever since the Romans crushed Jerusalem. But when we get to Paul of Tarsus, no one was more off his trolley than him. Even if there was an earthquake, he got a few flashes and voices in his head on that Damascus Road and he had highly switchable tendencies. And his first letter was to Greeks in Europe, and not only that but people thought Christians were so bonkers that they wrote letters in his name after he was dead."
"I feel this is too much for my congregation," said Mr Collins, "who are likely to become mentally ill at the very thought of it. After all, the Alpha Course looking at German biblical criticism left many wanting to get drunk in the local ale house afterwards."
"I am bound to be an atheist," said Elizabeth, "after this."
"Do not distress yourself so," said Mr Collins, "and let me arrange for you to receive a bicycle so that you can return to Pemberley this very evening."
"From here in Kent, you Kent?"
"It is a very fast mode of transport," said Mr Collins. "Imagine the Channel Tunnel full of cyclists. Gosh, the Tour of France might even come into England."
"Now you are being ridiculous," said Mr Causabon. "The number of false beliefs, belief in demons, absence of reality that we modernisers are achieving, suggests a first century of psychosis, neurosis, schizophrenia, memory loss and general all-round religion. And then Mohammad in the cave: what was that all about?" wondered Mr Causabon as an after-thought.
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