For the past ten years I have been writing a Brontë
novel from the view point of Charlotte's husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls. Well, I thought I was writing a novel. What I now find is I have been writing many, many Brontë short stories that run from 1798 to 1906. The collection is called," My Heart is in Haworth. "
I have always meant to weave these stories into one narrative and have tried to do so for years. But so far they stubbornly refuse. So I'm now publishing them as they were written, and posting them periodically on this blog.
I have decided to do it this way because I'm tired waiting for this book too! The time is now on the platform I have.
The stories are offered to the public for free,but they are copyrighted of course. ©
Below is my first installment. "Miss Emily's stone" set in 1854.
The book hasn't been written in chronological order by any means. In one writing session I could zip to two or three different decades of the story and often did. So it is in keeping with the endeavor that my writing doesn't appear in an orderly timeline either.
There are far more romantic and dramatic scenes than this one to be sure. But this one elbowed itself to the front of the line!
The scene is the fall of 1854, the Nicholls have returned to Haworth from their honeymoon in Ireland.
At this point it is important to say something about Arthur Bell Nicholl's appreciation for poetry so that part of my story doesn't seem fantastic. Arthur did not write poetry. But he was sensitive to it and utilized his fine voice to recited it for friends and family most of his life.
We know this because Rev. George Sowden , the younger brother of Arthur's great friend, Sutcliffe Sowden, recalled Arthur did so a great deal and that....
" On one occasion, he repeated by heart, from the beginning to end , and without a single mistake or a moment's hesitation, Tennyson's long and exquisite poem "The May Queen" With the charming Irish pathos which he threw into it, it was delightful to hear."
And we know George wrote this because the dedicated research of Ian and Catherine Emerson and their discovery of his 1890s article published in a church magazine,which they republished.
George's memoirs affirms my own view of Arthur; that Arthur Bell Nicholls was much more than it generally believed. As Charlotte said of Arthur, ( and I have her say it in the story) that he was "one who has to be known to be appreciated". Arthur's day book is also full of poems. Copied from popular newspapers it's true, but none the less heartfelt and meaningful to him. His stance, in my view, is that plain bread can be nourishing too; something Charlotte came to consider.
I am also posting a link to my You Tube channel where I uploaded a video for the stories. I made it awhile ago and thought when it was made I would be publishing the whole novel at once. But what it says, that I plan to publish in 2022, still holds true for a group of stories beginning to appear in 2022.
I've made such videos for author friends for years. It was fun to make one for myself! The music is from the 1955 film " A Man called Peter" by the great Alfred Newman.
And now,“ Miss Emily's Stone”
Miss Emily's Stone
By Anne Lloyd
On Charlotte's side of our chamber, along the window, resided her dressing table. I was allotted a dressing chair and half a wardrobe on the portion near the door; more than enough for my needs.
Now that we had returned to Haworth, the “Bohemian arrangements" of putting up in inns and living from boxes was at an end. Charlotte’s dressing table had her things laid out just so. Orderly neatness ruled there as elsewhere naturally. I had by then become accustomed somewhat to the female toilet. There a brush, a comb, a small hand mirror, a trinket dish, a jar or two, a small vase for moor flowers, even a book given to Charlotte by Miss Wooler.
But what seemed out of place, even in my limited experience, was a small, flat beck stone. I made sure my eyes were not deceiving me. I could not fathom why a rude stone was among her dainty things and even given a place of prominence. There had to be a reason. Nothing was there by chance.
One day, when my Wife was nearly ready, I could not help but point to it and inquire.
"What is this, Charlotte?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Seems out of place.... among the rest," I said. When her surprise passed, for she was still not used to questions whilst at her dressing table, Charlotte's face gentled to a smile. She took up the stone and worried it as tenderly as an infidel would his beads.
"This is Emily's stone." She said, “I have it here by me for her sake."
"Miss Emily's stone? How do you mean?"
She looked at me thoughtfully and decided to tell me.
"It has a story." Charlotte said. "Years ago, when we were young, in fact, it was during Ellen's first visit, we five were all sitting by the beck. Miss Nussey, my sisters, Branwell and I. Emily was playing with some minnows in a pool, as she liked to do, chasing them with her hand and allowing them to swim between her fingers and such.
She suddenly sat up, turned to me and told me to extend my hand for a gift. I was slow to do so," Charlotte said.
"On the way to the beck, while my eyes were trustfully shut, Emily led me up to a cow on the moor,” Charlotte said. "She knew they terrified me of course and while Ellen was visiting too! Emily ran off and left me alone with the huge creature. My screams rang through out the moor hills. Oh, I can join in her laughter now, but I was very cross with her then and did not want to obey her so soon again.
However, at Emily’s second command, I did put out my hand. In it, Emily placed this stone you ask about. How happy I was it wasn't something repugnant! Emily gave me this stone and she said to me, 'Here Charlotte, out of my endless bounty, I give you this. Am I now forgiven for the cow?'
"I looked closely at it. Even I could see immediately what it was. 'An old stone?' I said to her. Was she mocking me again? I made to fling it back into the beck from whence it came."
"'Charlotte! No!' Emily cried out. Of course, I instantly obeyed her then. There was only one time when her hard command had no effect upon me. Even so, I was confused and still quarrelsome.
“An old stone." I repeated. “Why should I keep it?"
Emily snorted with exasperation as was her habit when annoyed. " She said to me, 'I hand you eons and still you complain. That beck stone is far nobler, and of far, far greater value than the flashing gems you write of endlessly, Sister. There is no comparison.'"
"I looked quickly to see if Ellen heard this reference to our under world, where such things dwelled. But thankfully she was a ways off, speaking with Anne and Branwell.
"An old stone." I grumbled again. “Are not cut diamonds eons years old too? "
'Yes, but affected surely,' Emily answered with a sniff. 'By frail, fickle humanity. Shaped, not as God made them, like the moor and that stone. But to contours deemed comely today and unseemly tomorrow. And why? All to satisfy a passing, vane fancy. Hardly worth even noticing.'
Emily was amused by the thought and its folly. But then she grew serious. "'Sister! Don’t you see? This stone was shaped by God's hand alone! From time immemorial, completely by His will! Think of it! It has known no other influence but His. Does that not excite and thrill you? Does that not immeasurably trump your so-called costly gems?'"
"An old stone" I repeated, for I did not like to agree so readily. I slipped it into my pocket and afterwards could never quite return it to Nature as I meant to. Later how glad I was I did keep it! Mostly for her sake, of course, but Arthur! Also, too because Emily was right! Among the countless beck stones, shaped by untold eons by God, Himself, from the beginning of the world, this one stone was chosen by Emily for me! This priceless gift is now in my hand and will forever be on my dressing table. It indeed is far more precious to me than any gem could be."
Charlotte opened her hand to ponder her treasure anew.
“It’s like one of her poems to me, Husband. It elevates one. Emily elevated an old stone as I called it, to eons, to endless wonder, to Providence Itself. And it's all true. Not fancy. That is poetry and also why it resides on my dressing table."
Charlotte had seen an opportunity for instruction and took it. Did I now see something of her notions of poetry expressed during our moor meetings? I had stubbornly stood with those who purposely recite poetry, as I have since a boy, reciting verse for family and friends. That was my calling in that line. There was a brief back-and-forth tussle until Charlotte said with some crispness, there would be nothing for anyone to recite without the poets. I could not refute that. However, it pleased me she had to resort to a practical point to win the day. This further understanding of the topic was new, yet dawning.
"Finding the wonder in what is believed to be commonplace?" I ventured. "The wonderful aspects that were there all along and true."
"Nothing is truer than poetry Husband."
I looked at her prized relic with new respect.
"It is more than just a stone then, isn't it?"
Charlotte was pleased. She placed the stone in my hand and clasped my fingers around it.
“It also reminds me of you, Arthur.’ Charlotte said. “The stone rejected by the builders that becomes the keystone. You must be known to be duly appreciated."
"Psalm 118," I said.
"You know your Bible better than I believed a Tractarian would.”
"I have had occasion to ponder that Psalm's meaning."
The stone now resides on my desk.
©Anne Lloyd 2022