Tatiana and Olga 2010

Tatiana and Olga  2010

Friday, May 19, 2023

Currer Bell means Charlotte Brontë 1850 II



When we last left my Brontë story from 1850, Arthur was about to ask Charlotte for the loan of her book. Did it happen this way? I don't know. But the scene rolled out before me and her great knowledge about what and when he was reading her works (expressed in her letters to Ellen) suggest an insight more thorough than simply hearing Martha speak about it.

 Arthur's relationship with the Brontës at this time is somewhat adversarial and that's expressed in the current stories

 There are a few of reasons for that; one being Arthur was a curate. Except for William Weightman, Patrick’s curate ,who was posted at Haworth in the early 1840's and who the Brontës came to love, the Brontës were not admirers of the breed. But even more the cause for less-than warm feelings was the fact that the Brontës were Evangelicals and Arthur was a Tractarian

People seem to think because they were in the same Church, this split between Arthur and the Brontës was not that significant. But religion and its different shades at this time was a blood sport that passionately absorbed people. To be frank, the Brontës and Arthur Bell Nicholls could not be further apart when it came to doctrine and each were ready to robustly defend their position. 

 The Brontës considered Arthur practically a Roman Catholic and at least, among those who wished to drag the English Church back to Rome. Arthur would say no, but back to the Church before Rome. By this time in 1850, Tractarians were actually going over to Rome and becoming outright Roman Catholics. So the Brontës felt fully justified in their suspicions about Haworth’s curate.
To break it down simply, Evangelicals felt one required only the Bible, oneself and God as the arbitrators of religious life. When Mary Taylor remarked that religion was between God and herself, Emily Brontë  piped up, “That’s right!" Really, one can't see Emily Brontë allowing anyone to stand between herself and God!

However for a Tractarian, leaving such important matters to mere  laymen, to just oneself, was folly. For guidance the Tractarian looked to the ancient Church Fathers, the long line of Churchmen since and their current descendants, fully ordained ministers; to those who had devoted their lives to the matter.
Both camps mistrusted humans in the question, but differently-placed humans. For the Brontës, their mistrust was for  the all-too human clergy; Arthur’s mistrust was lodged with the laymen. 

 Personally, I favor the Brontë's stance, but it's been fun to make Arthur's arguments while writing the stories. 

He says, "Through your father’s long years of study, no non-medical man knows more of the topic than Rev. Brontë and yet no one is swifter to call on a doctor when the need arises. Should it not be the same in religion?" That is, rely on the professional.

 Charlotte’s wry answer to that is ,“To err is human and if I am to be deceived in religious matters, it would be far better to be so by myself rather than another. I know my the state of my soul better than anyone else. I will not entrust it elsewhere. "

The Tractarians favored a return to ceremony, frequent communion, vestments, flowers and candles on the altar. To the Brontes such practices were seen as the snares of Rome's religious tyranny to be resisted at every turn. 

 There is a back story to Arthur's Tractarianism. His pastor when he was a boy and young man was Rev. Alexander Ross. From all reports, Rev. Ross was a wonderful man and he was an Evangelical as fervent as the Brontës themselves. But when Arthur was 17 or so Rev Ross experienced a personal tragedy that completely broke him for two years. 

 This actually happened and in the stories I have Arthur witness this event and it begins within him a quest for a creed far more certain than Rev.Ross's appears to be. A doctrine that relies on more than simply one's own convictions, as found in Evangelicalism....then Arthur is off to the Trinity College, a hotbed of Tractarianism and found for him, his answer. 

To add to all this contention, Arthur was well known to be  disapproving of novels (he was cured of that upon reading Charlotte’s, lol! ) so the Brontës would be defensive over that as well, naturally.

So as the current story illustrates, there is an adversarial atmosphere between Arthur and the Brontës at this time. The stories generally show an arc that takes the reader from here, where they are at odds, to eventually where the three come to love each other.

In later years, Arthur called Patrick his life’s “greatest friend.“ Indeed. Because Patrick Brontë taught Arthur Bell Nicholls the rigors of surviving a devastating grief when a trial of great loss, that he saw Rev. Ross experience, came to Arthur at last.

At this time in their story, Charlotte also is wary of Arthur as she has liked him as a man from the start. (In my view) But she doesn't like Haworth’s non-intellectual, high church curate having that power over her. It makes her extra prickly. Hence Charlotte’s disparaging remarks about Arthur in the early years. But whatever she said, the rumors of a romance between them came about soon after Arthur’s arrival at Haworth and where there is perceived smoke, there is often fire.

 I also try to show Charlotte could go from being frosty, even angry, to being tender and loving in the space of few moments. Her tenderness was as potent as her passion and Arthur is enthralled to see it.  

Arthur feared her prominence would mean the end of any chance he would have with Charlotte Brontë ; London would simply gobble her up. However her publishing career proved to be the making of them. 

 When Arthur read her mocking treatment of the curates in her novel Shirley, he laughed uproariously. Charlotte was told his landlady, Mrs. Brown, thought he went " off his head," such was the burst of mirth coming from his rooms. And such was his appreciation of her writing, Arthur hurried to the Parsonage to read those very passages aloud to Patrick. I can well imagine Charlotte overheard their laughter coming from her father's study...and likely they were laughing just at the places she intended.

 For Charlotte this, from "statue like", Tractarian Mr. Nicholls, is a much unexpected reaction, indeed, it's revelatory. She had expected a howl of wounded clerical dignity to issue forth from Arthur, not laughter and pleasure. 

Charlotte looked more favorably upon Arthur from that point on. She began to remember him in her letters to her father, along with Tabby and Martha.

 Charlotte 's English friends hated the part of her book about the young curates. Her publisher, Smith and Elder, tried to get Charlotte to delete those passages from the novel altogether. But the Irish clergymen in her life heartily approved of and enjoyed them!

  That was Charlotte and Arthur's beginning. 

 The Rev. James Smith mentioned in the following story was Haworth's curate before Arthur. There is among the stories one where Rev. Smith hands off  the curacy to Arthur, which contains Rev. Smith's  pungent comments about the post.(lol)

Speaking of comments, a friend tells me the comments on this blog do not work. I wish I was tech handy enough to fix that! However questions, comments and criticisms can always be sent my way via YouTube.

 Here is the link for a promotional video for my Brontë Stories

 My Brontë Stories

Leave any questions and criticisms in the comment section and they will be addressed.
 Thank you.

I must give a shout out to my husband, Ed 
for all the proofreading and listening! Thank you, Hon!

Next installment is called “ Miss Emily's Shepherd 1846.

 And now Part two of

  Currer Bell means Charlotte Brontë 1850


Currer Bell means Charlotte Brontë 1850 II

by Anne Lloyd

“Tell her you have my sanction,“ Brontë had said, as if that was all that was needed. The topic was closed and he went back to his former occupation. I stepped out and looked at the dining room door. I rather quaked to have this procurement be the first mention between Miss Brontë and myself about her authorship and book.

 I had only heard injurious tidings of it in the Church reviews and as Sowden and Brontë both had said, I was well known to be disapproving of novel reading and to even rail against the practice from the pulpit. Here I was asking Miss Brontë for her novel. I could already feel Charlotte's quiet, understated, yet stinging barbs of mockery.

 Charlotte and I would not be dutifully sitting across from each other at the Parsonage tea table as she pours and in Rev. Brontë's presence. We would be alone in the dining room; her lair, as it were. The Brontë rough side would be employed. 

Had I not seen that in full tide in '45 over what Brontë later told me were poems? I could scare believe the high emotions on display that day, nor my consequent excitement. All this was causing me to be even more unsettled. Once I begin to quake, it's hard to stop.

Indeed, Charlotte might not favor my reading her works at all, much less having to supply me with the very means to do so. However, since I had Rev. Brontë's approval, indeed, his order, Charlotte would be greatly obliged to give the book to me regardless of her own inclinations. I had only to inform her.

It was but a step to the sitting room and a knock to enter. My heart continued to pound. 

It was not to be the last fervent petition I would bring to that room. 

 Nothing for it, I tapped and waited. The tap and pause,requesting admission, told her it was not her father or the servants at her door and I was called in by a perplexed Miss Brontë. What did the fellow want?

 She looked up from the table, with some papers, perhaps letters, before her, obviously occupied. Her brow knitted, the pouting lips more drawn. Usually I stood in the Brontë dining room only when called to attend, as when Miss Emily or Anne wished a word over the dogs. The last time I had come just on my own initiative was years before, when I first arrived. 

 I came to request, from Miss Brontë, reported to be the Parish’s best seamstress, new church linens to replace the ancient rags my vestry inspection had uncovered. That went none too well. First, it was seen as presumption and a bold criticism of her Father's stewardship and ill-form from a brand new curate. Then, it was suspected, I was mounting a Popish insurrection among my first acts of my curacy! What was next then?" Charlotte asked. “Flowers and candles upon the Lord's supper table?” I was also reminded Our Lord favored plain home spun and no decoration.

 However, you can be sure; in the end I got the new linens and beautifully done too. We compromised. There was merely a slim, crimson boarder at their edge for decoration, instead of the Angels and Saints Charlotte had feared.

Grief had softened her greatly since those days, but not completely.

 "Yes, Mr. Nicholls?" Charlotte was waiting.

 "Good day to you, Miss Brontë." I didn't know how to begin, so I simply plunged ahead. In my great discomfort, I became haughty. I informed her I knew she had written a book, in fact a novel, in fact two. I informed her I had spoken to her father, had asked him for a copy of the first one to read and said her father instructed me to apply to her for a lending copy.

 This was something of a bombshell. That I knew of her authorship at all was startling. But here too, I was now in front of her coolly demanding a copy of her book to read! This latter part alone was "beyond enough" as Tabby would bark when put out. I'm afraid my voice was indeed disapproving. In my state, I could not help it as a means to keep at least the appearance of calm.

 Miss Brontë’s look of amazement to be so addressed, in her own sitting room was something to see. Charlotte was rendered speechless. I had never witnessed that before. When I later heard reports of her social discomfort whilst in London, I could hardly credit it. I had only known her in Haworth where she was in total and easeful command. That was the Charlotte Brontë I knew.

 All this caused me to suddenly realize, that unlike any other individual in the world, I had the power to come into her presence whenever I wished; without note or notice. All I had to do was cross the passage and knock. Everyone else could be put off endlessly with the plea of headaches and or Papa's capricious health.

 This realization formed momentous events later. I looked quickly back to the door in my own amazement. The knowledge of this power would work on my mind ever afterwards as a goad.

 Presently, Charlotte had collected herself almost immediately. There was no blushing to be sure. She was again the woman I knew; and ready to stoutly defend her authorship and books, much as if she held the Parsonage's pistol.

"Indeed, Mr. Nicholls? May I ask how did you hear of it Sir?" came the pointed reply. A topic that always deeply absorbed her; by what means did news of her travel? 

 Blessedly, Charlotte had not asked who told me. Not for worlds would I betray Sowden. So I was able to say truthfully, “Oh, it has been spoken of, here and there. I asked your father for the truth of the matter and he confirmed it to me. Your father did not introduce the topic to me you can be sure Miss, he merely confirmed what I heard elsewhere."

 "I see." And she kept regarding me.

 "Your father says I may read it and directed me to apply to you for a copy." All repeated in a rush. This did not sit well with Miss Brontë. Her father's and my presumption rankled. I quickly added,” If you please, Miss."

 Charlotte could not easily refuse the loan, but she could get some of her own back before giving over the volumes. She sat back to consider me further. Now that her surprise had faded, no one has ever seemed more collected than Miss Brontë at that moment.

“You quite take my breath Mr. Nicholls," said with a purr. “I’m greatly surprised you wish to read a frivolous novel. You disapprove of them so." She was laying the bait, which I nibbled. I could hardly disown it.

 “Miss Brontë, I am, I must say, I too am surprised. Surprised to find a minister's daughter, no less, an authoress of such a production as your book purports to be."

 "Is that the line you take when making a request of an author, Sir?"

 I had no answer. I could only blush. 

Charlotte took some pity and broke the silence. "Oh, I'm well aware of what the high church publications think of my works," she said. “They often take the lash to Mr. Currer Bell. I have the scars to prove it! I imagine you agree with their assertions, as you voted down my novel’s inclusion to the Mechanics Library."

So she knew that did she? Well, it wasn't a secret.

"Yes, I did.”

 "Today I learn you did so when you had not even read it." Charlotte tapped her pen upon the table in annoyance. She was in her severe, Sunday School mode when faced with a hapless scholar who had incriminated himself out of his own mouth. I wished I had sat down at the start.

“I read the reviews. It seemed best to me exclude it.” I said.

“I see. Because it was deemed ....course?” She was angry.

 The spoken word shocked me. It was jarring enough to read it in the review. Here the lady said herself. 

“Miss Brontë, I recall the word, um…"torrid" and that young girls should be shielded from it. That seemed bad enough.” 

That did not sit well either. 

“Bad enough?” Charlotte breathed, then she laughed. “You amaze me Sir! As comfortable as a thorn bush you are. Well, at least you’re honest.”

 I quickly moved to another aspect.

 “Also, and this was most concerning to me as a clergyman,” I said, “one review reported and I quote, 'the author employs a flippant use of the Bible, as if it were Shakespeare', if I recall correctly." Of course, I had.
But what was I about? Did I expect her to agree? Fool!

Charlotte eyes widened at my further temerity to quote one of the scathing reviews to her face! Her eyes threw off the sparks I recalled from ’45 when she shouted down us curates at the Parsonage tea table. Hazel brown with green tints, or blazing ,deep caramel, depending on her mood. They were arresting pools filled with lights and power; which could see all and where one could also see an all too clear reflection of one's hapless self. I was on dangerous ground.

"You seem to have made a study of the topic, Mr. Nicholls."

 "I have a good memory and it was my duty as a member of the Committee to read such reviews, Miss Brontë, in preparation for the vote. If it's any comfort, I was roundly voted down.” That seemed to calm her. A smile peeked.

 “For which I must thank the other members of the committee," Charlotte said.

 "They were very keen,” I admitted. “One member told me later his wife would have accepted no other outcome and he could not return home if it was otherwise."

 This caused another bark of laughter. My artless manner, my blundering-out the truth, appealed to her humor in spite of herself. Our deeply shared mirth glimmered, because I too had to smile over the comical statement when I heard that laugh.

 Presently, however this accord was another cause for some resentment on Charlotte’s part. How can you comfortably disapprove of a body one greatly disagrees with, but who makes you laugh? I thought her authorship had closed the door between us irredeemably. But nay, it had pried opened a way, via humor.

 "But Miss Brontë, even you must own, indiscriminate novel reading can be injurious to young or idle minds." I would not give up that point at least.

 “I don't know that I must agree, Sir, and that is what puzzles me, Mr. Nicholls,” Charlotte said. “Since it is your firm view, that novels are injurious morally, it is very strange you wish to read one. Are you not afraid to read such trash as my production? Are you not concerned by my novel's ill influence upon you?" 

Far from being allowed freely to borrow the tome, I was being made to pay for the privilege. She was enjoying the guilty pleasure of her mild mockery.

 I was about to answer in kind, that I was neither young nor idle and could try the experiment in safety. However if our barbs became too pointed, if this exchange became even more heated, Charlotte was more than capable of defying her father, refusing the loan of her book altogether and he would accept it like a lamb. Brontë would not overly care if his mere curate didn't read the marvelous book. Not when the world praised it so. 

 My heart knew none of our words or their cause. It only knew its greatest desire was before it, agitated and stirred in its presence, and my heart keened for her.

 In another moment, Charlotte could well call me a hypocrite for wishing to read a novel which I had so disapproved. She would be justified in doing so. I wanted the book. So I simply said as smoothly as possible, I had never known an authoress before and wish to read it, "in the interest of knowledge."

 Charlotte shook her head. She told me later she did not believe a word of this nonsense and was about to press me further as to why I wanted her books so fervently. But she drew back. She suddenly feared my answer. Charlotte feared the reason was personal. That I liked her too well in spite of all.

The situation was ridiculous. With a suppressed laugh, I went on to say I was certain I could withstand the possible danger the book may pose to my morals. I think that last part won me the day. It was such a clumsy, yet humorous remark, she could not help but be amused. 

 How often this trait of mine, this freak of personality, would spare me censure in the future and would win me, prize after prize from this bristling Queen? She could never resist a good laugh shared.

 I remember James Smith telling me I could be a dry stick, but at least I was not a prig. I asked him what the difference was.

Smith said, "A prig doesn't know when he is being ridiculous. A stick will know and even may join in the laughter." Ha! Well I certainly knew.

Charlotte studied me for a time. I had received such scrutiny before. I was undaunted. I remained silent whilst looking at her expectedly. That seemed the best course. Charlotte was nettled, yet her mouth was still twisted from our amusement. 

Certainly this was a kind of victory for her, having the deep-dyed Tractarian curate humble himself so far as to ask her for her novel! She had had her pound of flesh. Best to call it quits.

 Charlotte then heaved herself out of her chair and said much as her father had said before her, “Oh very well then." She collected the first volume from the shelf. I saw Rev. Brontë just take one earlier too and I sang out.

“All three volumes at once if you please, Miss Brontë." My greed was a further exasperation, but she put them all on the table.  

I could not tell whether I was to take them from the there or receive them from her hands. Charlotte was looking down at the books with an expression, both soft and melancholy. Such was this sudden change, I was held still, as well, and watched her.

 Charlotte gently picked up the first volume and bought it closer to her eyes. She looked upon it lovingly. It was said she was not comely. Certainly Charlotte thought herself ill-favored. But at such moments as this, her supreme loving expression superseded all other considerations.

When in the full tide of her love, I am here to say, no woman appeared more beautiful than Charlotte Brontë. I wanted to reach out to her, not just for the books, but dared not.

In time, Charlotte left her private thoughts and feelings. She held up the volume to me and looked keenly.

“Tell me, Mr. Nicholls have you have seen my nom de plume? The name I used? The name Bell?"

 “Indeed, Miss.”

 "Have you wondered, Sir, if was derived partly from your own?"

 To be frank, I had not the time to consider it. It wasn't a full day since I learned of this whole matter. Undoubtedly, I would have in due course. I had held on tightly to the Bell part of my name since a boy and was known for it still. 

 I merely told Charlotte I had not made such a connection.

Charlotte looked at me soberly. “Nevertheless, Mr. Nicholls,” she said, “I wish it distinctly understood such is indeed not the case. You must remember a few years back when St. Michael’s tower received its new bells?"

 "Of course, Miss. That’s never to be forgotten.”

 It was a grand event. St. Michael’s tower finally had six bells, not just four. Rev. Brontë raised the necessary sum in mere weeks. Never had there been a more successful campaign. There was great excitement and pride within the congregation as our bell ringers could now compete properly with the other parishes.

"A very great occasion, Miss Brontë, and a triumph for your Father."

Charlotte nodded. “Indeed it was. It was about that time when my sisters and I were pondering our authorship. We picked the name Bell in honor of those six Haworth Bells. Six, you see. Each of the bells stood for one of us.”

“For each of you, Miss?”

“My family originally had six children, Mr. Nicholls. We lost my two elder sisters in childhood."

"I am most sorry, Miss."

 I had heard something of this long-ago loss. No house in Haworth was spared from death. But few were as scourged as the Brontës. For Charlotte it was as if that long ago loss was yesterday, since truly, it was. The Brontë children fell in groups, even though years apart.

 Charlotte went back to looking at the book with her soft expression. She tenderly traced the name with her finger tips and said quietly to herself, deep in memory.

 "All for one.... and one for all.”  

 The mood was then broken and Charlotte looked up. 

"That is why we choose the name Bell."

 "I see Miss." And there was but one Bell left.

 Charlotte closed the book firmly, replaced the volume and pushed the pile my way.

"Here you are Sir, and much good may they do you."

I suppressed my eagerness as best I could as I slipped them into my copious coat pockets.
 Charlotte picked up the last one to hand to me, but held it back first to gain my attention. 

 “Have you seen who the publishing firm is Mr. Nicholls?" She asked me.

 “Yes, Miss, Smith and Elder. It surprised me. I thought….well that they did not publish novels.”

 "As it turns out, they do publish novels and I must thank you for alerting me to that firm, Sir. They have been most accommodating and kind to a unknown author. You remember lending your book to us published by them? "

"Indeed, I do."

Soon after I arrived, Charlotte asked me if I had any books to lend beside religious ones, they had plenty of those. The Brontës were voracious when it came to reading material and all in their sphere were applied to for any contribution. I told her about my copy of Rev. Ross's book length poem and was duly pressed for its loan.

 "I also remember, Miss Brontë, that it was returned to me with coffee stains."

"Oh yes that.” Charlotte looked amused again and even, remarkably, momentarily chagrined. " I should have warned you that was a possibility, but I wanted the book."

 “I understand, Miss Brontë.” Indeed, I did! 

 It was time to leave with my treasure. “I thank you, Miss, I understand there is second book. I'll collect that after I read this one." 

 More greed! Charlotte's  great brow flew up at such presumption.

 "I don't recall you asking me for that one Mr. Nicholls."

 “I beg your pardon, Miss Brontë.”

  “See if you like this one, Sir, before calling for the other and you may have to wait, as the new one has more applicants,” Charlotte said.

 I gave a curt nod. “Good day to you, Miss Brontë! Good day!" I made to leave, but there was a finale barb at the door.

"One more moment please, Mr. Nicholls." I waited as Charlotte joined me at the threshold.

"Yes, Miss?"

 "It is said I put acquaintances, those around me, as characters in my books. The second one particularly."

 "I have heard that.” I admitted.

“Indeed, Sir?" 

"Yes, but Miss Brontë, can you mean you actually include...that is, in your books, you describe faithfully ...living persons?" I was appalled. She was admitting it to me and even seemed proud. It was not merely Sowden's or my fancy.

 She pulled herself to her full height such as it was. "It's a libel of course," Charlotte said coolly. "Erroneous charges made by individuals who do not understand the art of fiction. But as you read....see what you think, Sir. Particularly about the second book. If you indeed call for it." 

 Now I was sure to do so. I set out at last, the volumes were fairly burning in my pockets, such was my eagerness to open them at last 

 It was half way to the Browns before I recalled from the year before Miss Anne’s peculiar remarks about books, made to me during her last illness. Why had I not remembered them before? 

 It was in early May, as I carried her out to her seat in the garden. Miss Anne looked just as the starving did at home during the Hunger; gaunt and skeletal. The only difference was she was immaculately dressed from head to toe, with her face deep in a fine bonnet.

As I carried her, Miss Anne weakly thanked me for my aid and then suddenly said in a bemused manner.

 “I put you in my book Mr. Nicholls," she gasped.

I could not make out what she meant. Had I heard a right?

“Your... book, Miss Anne?"

She gravely nodded. She was looking at me with her violet blue eyes. Miss Anne favored her father, though her face had an infinitely more feminine cast than his. However every feature had withered save for those truth-seeking eyes.

"You mean your common day book, Miss?" What else could she mean?

 “Oh no, I mean Wildfell of course."

 Miss Anne seem to wait for my comprehension.

 "Wildfell? " I could only repeat the word. What could that be?

 "And I named my villain after you too, Mr. Nicholls.”

“Your villain, Miss Anne?”

“My Arthur in Wildfell," said like to a child.

 I thought her completely in the sway of a strange, hallucinatory dream, brought on by her mortal illness. I have been to many a death bed and I found myself entering her waking dream, as one does. It is often safer to do so. The shock of refuting the assertions of the sick and dying can cause them great distress just when they need peace.

 “Why your villain, Miss Anne?"

 She looked at me. Oh, she was a Brontë through and through.

 “Because I sense violence within in you, Mr. Nicholls," Anne Brontë said. 

 “Violence, Miss Anne?" 

“Of feeling, Mr. Nicholls. You feel much Sir." What had she seen in me?

 “Is that villainous, Miss Anne?”

“It can be." She panted as she fought for air, “if a heart is thwarted enough." She seem to speak with experience. 

I didn't know what to say.

Miss Anne smiled the brilliant Brontë smile, which they seem to keep only for each other. Until that time, it was a phenomenon I had inadvertently witnessed, but never as yet been given. I own it was effecting even in her fevered, ill state. 

But none of what she said made any sense whatsoever. Miss Anne was in some delirium. 
I feared a grave turn for the worse. I stopped walking to enquire.

 “Are you feeling poorly, Miss Anne? Should I return you to the house?"

She went on as if I have not spoken. Something like a giggle and a gasp erupted.

“Yes, you are also in my book as another character altogether, among other persons of course. But don't be alarmed, Sir!" Miss Anne gasped out a silent laugh. "No one will recognize you. Because I placed you in ....petticoats!”

 “Petticoats!?” What could she mean?

 "Indeed, you are well-hidden. They will never find you!" Miss Anne stopped speaking to gather strength and air

 “You are Mary Millward of course. 'A body loved and courted by all dogs, cats, children, and poor people, and slighted and neglected by everybody else.' It is not criticism, Sir! I greatly admire a person with such a following as that. It is the very best!”

 Miss Anne began to truly laugh and then to cough strongly, nearly shaking herself to pieces even as I held her. Charlotte had stayed behind briefly to speak to Rev. Brontë. Now she flew to us from the house in alarm. We were all used to Miss Anne's speechless lassitude. 

 “What is happening here? Anne!” 

I gently placed Miss Anne in her chair, hastily arranged the rugs and addressed Charlotte. 

 "Please see to your sister Miss Brontë.” I whispered. “I will return to the Parsonage. I wish to speak to you” and I left them. Charlotte joined me after a short while for an explanation.

“Well, Mr. Nicholls?”

"Miss Brontë. Miss Anne is not herself. I fear she is more ill than we believed.”

 “In what way, Sir?”

 “In her mind. Your sister spoke of me being hidden in some book" and I swallowed, “in petticoats.”

 Charlotte bit her lip. The picture was too absurd. I had the distinct feeling that she stared up at me and then towards the graveyard in order to keep from laughing outright. The little body jerked once or twice with repressed mirth.

 “Indeed" said Charlotte at last. “My sister's mind does seem affected today. Thank you for your assistance, Sir. Good day to you.”

"Should I return to take Miss Anne in, Miss?”

“John Brown will carry my sister back, Sir. Good day," and I was dismissed.

Now, half a year later, I had learned there were indeed such things in this world as Brontë publications and I and others were in them!

The Rev. James Smith was right. The Brontë girls were savages!

©Anne Lloyd 2023

Arthur reading Charlotte 's books in later life