Tatiana and Olga 2010

Tatiana and Olga  2010

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Miss Emily's Shepherd. 1846



The following story is fiction. But like all historical fiction, it rests on a nest of facts. The inspiration for the following scene stems from reading the opening of Wuthering Heights where Emily Brontë describes, in great detail, the interior of the ancient farm house. 


Her protagonist, Lockwood, is somewhat based on Emily's brother Branwell. Lockwood find such places odd and wonders why his landlord, Heathcliff, still lives at the old farm and rents out the finer property to him.


But though her creation thinks little of the interior of Wuthering Heights , Emily's familiarity and admiration for such places cannot be hid.


The Brontë family's servant, Tabby Aykroyd, was the Brontë children 's introduction to old time moor life. None could be better! Tabby spent much of her life as a moor farm worker before coming down to the village and being hired by the Brontë family in her middle age.


The Brontë children were Tabby's "childer." Tabby was like a moor guru to the little brood; full of stories and local lore. My story about Emily's knowledge of the moor folk and her comfort with them doesn't seem a stretch to me. 


 When this story takes place, the Brontës are in a rough patch. The father, Rev. Patrick Brontë, was blind due to cataracts and there was the worry he would lose his post, rendering the Brontës homeless.


Branwell Brontë was doing little besides drinking and dreaming of a future marriage to Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his last employer. The Brontë sisters , Charlotte, Emily and Anne, were writing and sending out their novels to the world, but meeting no success. There was a book of their poems, but they had paid for its publication themselves.

Early on, Charlotte mentions three friends who may aid them if they did become homeless. Joe Taylor, a Yorkshire merchant she's known since her youth. Ellen Nussey, Charlotte 's dear friend from girlhood and Mary Taylor ,another dear friend who was Joe's sister. Mary Taylor emigrated to New Zealand in the early 1840's


We know of the  Brontës' eventual triumph, but at this time, they certainly did not. 

Things were looking pretty bleak.


Charlotte told Lucretia Wheelwright, a friend and former student, that she had to be "quite decided" in convincing her father to chance the operation.


In the story I show a possible motivation, a last straw as it were,

that moved her from asking to insisting. 


So Charlotte took the responsibility and insisted her father go though the procedure. She stayed with him in Manchester for a month as he recovered in a darkened room. The operation was a great success. But as I say, they did not know it would be.


At this nadir, as Charlotte Brontë sat next to her father's sick bed  and while not knowing what the operation’s results would be, Charlotte began to write Jane Eyre.


The rest is history.


My story takes place just before.


These stories are written from the view point Arthur Bell Nicholls. Whatever Charlotte says or does, while part of him may smart from a remark, or greatly disagree with her opinion, at bottom ( and not very far from the top) Arthur adores her regardless and everything, whether it’s positive or negative, is but fuel for that fire.


Something about Charlotte Brontë moved Arthur on the elemental level. Such love is revelatory. The human personality is rather helpless in the face of it and must be carried away, differences or not.


Eventually Arthur moved Charlotte the same way, but it took time. Because she first had to come to believe in his love and also because Charlotte had always sought to attract and attach herself to others via her remarkable gifts. With a  professor, a publisher and James Taylor, she relied on her genius to do the wooing. 


Arthur loved Charlotte well before he knew she wrote anything besides letters. And while he always honored her genius and works, Arthur loved Charlotte. Her home self. That was disconcerting for Charlotte. All her life, she counted that part of herself for very little.


As she wrote to her friend, Ellen Nussey, Charlotte had no idea where Arthur's love and great emotions for her came from. Indeed not. Charlotte had to learn to value the personal aspects of herself as well as her gifts before she could fathom it.


In her exploration of the matter, Charlotte put Mr. Nicholls though a series of tests. One being her suddenly appearance at the communion rail during, what Arthur believed was, his last service in Haworth.


Charlotte had avoided Arthur for months before hand. He is about to leave the village under a cloud and he is already in an emotional state. But there Charlotte was and in front of the whole Haworth congregation, ready to take communion and from Arthur's shaking hands, receive the chalice.


She also received, "a lesson not to be repeated".


Arthur nearly breaks down completel. He may not of known of or have understood the Brontë "underworld", but Arthur Bell Nicholls had and lived the emotions of that sphere to a degree Charlotte never saw before outside of the family.


Patrick Brontë took umbrage at these signs of  seeming"unmanly" weakness. But those high emotions felt and expressed with utter sincerity are exactly what draws Charlotte to Arthur.


His distraught proposal, the communion rail near breakdown and Arthur's complete breakdown at the Parsonage's back gate on the next night, act as Vulcan blows on an anvil to what is "sensible". Charlotte cannot help but be drawn to Arthur after these events.


He is of her tribe.


This is how people of very different beliefs and abilities love, marry and find happiness.


Also last time I mentioned they had a shared humor. This was revealed when Arthur roared with laughter over Charlotte's curates in her novel, Shirley.


But it even more evident two years later when Charlotte was off by herself in Finely on the Yorkshire coast in 1852. She went to a local church service and observed the comical doings of  the choir. They made her laugh behind her missile. She wrote to her father that she," wished Mr. Nicholls had been there" for he would have laughed too.


This shows by this time Charlotte was confident she knew what made Arthur laugh and they had a history of laughing together. The importance of shared humor in a relationship cannot be over stated.


So Arthur Bell Nicholls shared Charlotte's sense of humor and high, emotional temperament ...and he adored her. That’s quite a lot to offer.


When Patrick Brontë was in his Parsonage study, the Brontë children were told to play among themselves in a quite manner. However when Papa was out doing his parish visiting; loud, swashbuckling play acting ensued.


The children played boisterous games of all kinds: full of heroes, queens ,dungeons and daring do. A call to courage was often part of their plays ( if we are to believe the little books) 

It is poignant to think on Anne's last words in this context. 


"Take courage, Charlotte, take courage " Anne said as she died.


Was it a remembrance of that call for courage from their childhood plays?  

If so, Anne's words would hold even more significance for the sobbing Charlotte.  As they underlined exactly what was passing from her life with Anne's death; all her siblings and the world they shared.


In the following story Emily issues that childhood exhortation for a far happier reason.


This no holds barred, frank, back and forth exchange from their childhood  influenced their interactions henceforth in adulthood when among themselves ( imo) and that is reflected in the conversation between Charlotte and Emily in the following story.They played rough!


I end this introduction by posting Emily's poem, No Coward Soul is Mine to show the inspiration for my portrayal of Emily Brontë. I always say; if you want to know these young women, read their works. It's all there. 

Oh when Tabby says "larkin", she means "  fooling ."

Thank you and I hope you enjoy the story.

Have a great summer. See you in the autumn.

Anne Lloyd



 No Coward Soul is Mine 

No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven's glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear
O God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest,
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity,
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality.
With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears
Though earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And Thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee
There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed





 Miss Emily's Shepherd. 1846


By Anne Lloyd


The Parsonage back kitchen served as a sort of an study for Haworth's curate. As I was finishing some school reports and church warden meeting notes, when  I heard voices raised in the kitchen proper.


It was Miss Emily and Charlotte.


I should have left. I would have before. However I instantly became too engrossed in their spirited exchange to move from the table.


"If Papa does not regain his sight, I know not what will we do," I heard Charlotte say."He could lose the living and that means we will lose the house. Joe Taylor has told me he'll not let us be homeless. But he blows warm, then cool and is so often away. I'm sure Ellen would want to help us, but she and her mother are dependents themselves! If I told Mary of our plight, months after the fact, she would say hooray and press me to emigrate...again. God help us, we would have to return to the world to earn our keep. Aunt's legacy won't completely answer forever and our writing does not pay. It costs! At least, Tabby has her nephew to go to if needs be and Martha has a home."


"Perhaps Tabby's nephew can take us in as well?" Miss Emily said merrily. "Tabby!" she called loud enough for the deaf old woman to hear.


"Aye? What's wanted?"


"Does your nephew have room in his cottage for you and all your Parsonage bairns too?" Miss Emily boomed.


"Wha' nonsense are theur talken?" Tabby barked.


"Please Emily, it's not a joking matter!" Charlotte said wearily.


"Indeed, it's not, Charlotte. And if Papa loses the living and we are turned out in our shifts and shawls, I'll marry into one of the shepherd families on the moor," Miss Emily said.


"I have no patience for more of your ill-jokes Emily!" Charlotte said, now annoyed.


"Why Charlotte, I am not jesting. Rather than leave the moor and be stuck in some village as a Taylor or Nussey dependent, I say, I will marry into one of the shepherd families. I have had an offer while on the moor."


"An offer! " Charlotte cried disbelieving." You mean of marriage?!"


"Indeed. What else ?"


"How can that be!? And you haven't told me?!"


"To what purpose?" Miss Emily asked. "I had no intention of accepting nor a reason to, up till now. Do not for an instant, believe he meant to insult me or I received it as such. If we are turned out, Charlotte, you will find our English veneer rubbed clean and we will be openly treated as we are seen on the moor; as Irish women who can read! It is they who need to be  condescending to me as they see it" and she laughed heartily.


"Emily! What did he say to you? Tell me!" Charlotte demanded.


"Oh, why not tell you since you are so aching to know. He said I was no talker and looked strong enough. He had heard I baked a goodly loaf and likely I could brew as well."


"What did you answer?" asked Charlotte weakly.


"I told him to keep his soft words to himself and for a moment, he grinned appreciatively. We understood each other perfectly."


"God help us! You'd enter that mute bound life so easily!" Charlotte cried again.


"It would be far more congenial to me than being forever among the Nusseys and Taylors!"


"But you care for them, Emily!"


"I do! But what does that have to do with anything? I don't care for how and where they live! Duce! No!"


What did she say? Duce!? I could scare believe it.


"Did he say any thing else?" Charlotte asked.


"He also heard I was a fine shot and that was deemed a grand advantage as well."


"Oh God. You would shoot in the garden with Papa for all to see."


"Charlotte! Someone besides Papa must be practiced in the art. He can barely make out the tower, much less an intruder. It was my duty...."


This was dismissed.


"You adored it." Charlotte said.


"I don't like to boast..."




"... but I am a fine shot. Rather fitting for a Major, don't you think?”

 And I could feel Miss Emily's smile though the door.

It was sometime before I learned Miss Emily's family nickname was, " The Major." When I did, I told Charlotte "If Miss Emily's nickname was "The Major," yours must of been"The General". I was always so pleased when I caused Charlotte to laugh by design, rather than just  inadvertently. 

Presently Miss Emily continued to speak.


"And as for Papa and I doing my practice in the front garden, it is very well the village knows the Parsonage can still see to itself though its Parson be blind. In any case, an alliance with a woman so skilled, was not unwelcome to Mr. Shepherd."


"How did this fellow even begin to broach the topic?"


"We were passing each other on the moor and each gave our usual, short nod of greeting. "


" Usual nod!" Charlotte said.


"I know the family." Miss Emily said. "However this time, instead of going on, the Shepherd stopped and muttered, "Miss." I knew it was serious then and I stopped too." Miss Emily said. "And then he just began. He instantly was in a confused muddle. But I knew what he was about and I had seen him before on the path on the moor and elsewhere, looking at me."


"He dared to look at you!" Charlotte cried.


"A man may look, Charlotte," Miss Emily answered. "If that be all. I also have visited, over the years, his family farm, among the rest. Their moorlandsCharlotte! I near swoon when I think on them! Wonderful! I have spent time with his mother and I have been in the family's ancient oak panel rooms. The oak tables and benches are black and slumped with age. The pewter plate and tankards, centuries old and in a great, noble line; gleaming like the French knights' breast plates at Agincourt on St. Crispin's Day." Miss Emily sighed with reverence, " Ah! So lovely."


"I did not think such worldly things attracted you," Charlotte said mockingly


"I revere the years! Not the objects!" Miss Emily said tartly. "That oak and pewter would be deemed as worthless by many. I honor the use and the polishing by the generations upon generations."


"You visit the farms socially?" Charlotte said incredulously.


"A few," answered Miss Emily, "among my other haunts."




"I always have Keeper with me and my good knife on the moor."


"And you didn't tell me about these visits?"


"Whatever for?" Miss Emily asked. "Don't you visit the farms yourself?"


"Of course. I have always done my duty as the Parson's daughter!"


"Well, I come among them in a more humble mode... as a friend," with a chuckle.


"What the duce do you talk about?" Charlotte wondered.


Duce, again! I marveled to hear gentlewomen speak so. Yet had I not heard worse when they fought over the poems?


"There's na talk, which is just to my liking!" said Miss Emily. "Sister, I don't talk! I listen; to the moor, the fire, the wind, to Nature. These do the choicest speaking. They cannot be heard if there's useless prattle. "


"When it rattles the windows, we hear the east wind well enough at the Parsonage!" Charlotte said.


"It's a very uninteresting wind if I may say so." Miss Emily answered. "Charlotte, I will tell you something.The Shepherd feels as I do about the moor. He could not articulate it to spare his life. But I am sensible of his feeling when I'm with him. I see it in his eyes and manner. How he looks upon the land. Oh, I would much prefer fellow feeling in something so important as that, than fine words."


Charlotte said quietly, "I cannot counter that.”


"Remember,they live on the moor, not on its edge as we do. Lucky that! And no Ecclesiastical body can ever remove them! He may not have a well appointed parlor. However their ancient hearth is their own! And if I clean that hearth, it will be because it is my hearth that belongs to me and mine! Not this galling, temporary arrangement with the Parish of Bradford!" Miss Emily said.


"Temporary? We have been here over twenty-five years. I intend on us staying for far longer!" Charlotte answered.


"Aye, but we can be turned out! You've said so yourself."


There seemed to be no answer to that.


"What else did you say to this peculiar proposal?" Charlotte asked.


"I told him if I ever did marry, it would be him."


"You didn't!" Charlotte cried.


Miss Emily then became as serious as her sister and as boisterous.


"Indeed, I did! Charlotte! Understand once and for all, I would marry ten shepherds before I'll leave the moor again! I'll never leave it and that's flat. Frankly, Charlotte if there wasn't a shepherd's offer, and we had to return to service, or live as a dependency, I'd hike up to the farms to hire myself out as a house keep, like our Tabby before me."


Charlotte exclaimed, "Our good Tabby, who Papa saved by taking her in after the farms had used her up!"


"Who saved who I wonder?" Emily replied.


"I meant no disrespect to beloved Tabby and you know it! I meant it's a hard life!" Charlotte answered. "And what of your music in such a brute place?" she asked. "Can you see your piano among the ancient oak?"


"I dare say my piano would look far better in a farm house than on the lane or sold off if we lose the Parsonage. We could hardly take it into exile," Miss Emily said. "But all this is useless speculation, Charlotte. You see, I am already wed!"


"What? To that ruffian? Impossible!"


"I'd be in his house this night if that was so. No, I'm married to the moor is what I mean to say and even God could not pull us asunder now, nor one of your schemes. If we are forced to leave this house, I will marry the Shepherd. If not, I won't. Does that satisfy you?"




"Well it must."


"You would turn from the world" Charlotte said " yet when the Queen visited Brussels, you could not have shown more interest. Your letter teemed with curiosity over every detail!"

" I have a vested interest in Queens, Charlotte, after all! " Miss Emily said with a good laugh.

"Emily, you abhor restraint of any kind or the least intrusion upon your privacy... How could you possibly think to... "


"But Charlotte, it's the very uncongeniality you decry that inclines me! My freedom would be assured! Mr. Shepherd would not dream of following me where I dwell. He has no notion of the burningclimes, our underworld's existence, or of its Queens and castles. God spare me from any man who seeks to follow me there! The finest poet in Europe would find the door iron bolted. I will have the privacy I crave. The Shepard will take my moods as he does the weather. Silence and obscurity equal freedom to me and that is as close as we can come to Eternity whilst on earth.


"Sister! We are given the gift of Nature as a consolation to make this world of longing for our true home at all supportable. You ask me to turn my back on this gift and dwell where the longing would be unrelieved and utterly unbearable. No! If the worst happens and we must leave this house, I will retreat into a bonnie moor farm, gladly. Look for me there."


"And what if he beats you? Have you thought of that?" Miss Charlotte asked.


"As I say, I have Keeper and my good knife and I'm none too dull with my own fists. It would not be tried twice. I have seen no vestige of that. His mother would beat him when I was done. She books no nonsense."


"It's preposterous. You cannot love this man or there would have been some insinuations. Can you marry without love?" Charlotte asked, as if she had finally stumped Miss Emily.


"I love the moor and don't mind the man," Miss Emily said. That was a swift, high compliment for Mr Shepherd.


"And can you leave Papa, Anne, Branwell and me?" Charlotte demanded.


"Only if we must leave our home!" said Miss Emily. "And go where? Where?"


"Joe Taylor? Ellen?" said again weakly.


"Can you really see me residing in such places, Charlotte? Truly?"


"I see you with us, Emily!" Charlotte cried. "Here! At Haworth Parsonage!"


"I long to stay here! It is my greatest wish to live and die at Haworth Parsonage and after many years, have my old bones reside under St Michael's stones forever! I took up this household's keys and would never leave my post on my own. But again I ask, what if Papa loses the living because of his blindness? Or perhaps Papa loses it because Mr. Nicholls leaves and we cannot get another curate who is willing to take on the Parish for a blind old man and his pack of failures?"


"You don't believe that!" came Charlotte's fierce answer.


"No! But you do... when feeling low enough and see as the World does."


"Sister! No! Not truly. Certainly not since I found the poems!

I know we have gifts. I want the world to know it too!"


"Oh yes, that battle," I thought. The poems. This was a quiet conversation next to that.


Miss Emily seemed mollified. "Oh very well." She conceded. "But what if, God forbid, Papa even dies? What then? What is swifter than the broom that sweeps though a Parsonage when an incumbent is no more? Haven't we seen other hasty Parsonage house sales, even down to the books and buckets?"


"I don't know!" Charlotte cried again."I cannot rest over the worry of it. Papa blind, Branny always ill, we three with what is left of Aunt's legacy and can expect no more! Who would take us on? Will we even have to return to service to earn our bread? God help us!"


"I will serve none again besides my father, our family or a husband and his," Miss Emily said quietly, but finally.


"I do not understand."


"Be that as it may," said Miss Emily."But don't you find the prospect of becoming someone's dependent galling as well? You couldn't bear it for a week with your pride. Every glass of water would choke you."


"I would loath it. But what else could we do?" Miss Charlotte asked.


"As you say, go out governessing again?" said in a teasing manner. I would later learn what a goad that was.


"I would far rather teach and that itself would be a kind of death. Are we even fit for that now?  Only Anne was an able and willing teacher and she is quite finished with it all. We are being driven into a corner," Charlotte lamented.


"Not I!" Miss Emily laughed. "I have a marriage offer!"


"But you refused, did you not?"


"Yes, but the offer still stands. He told me that. I softly closed the door to the notion, but I did not latch it," Miss Emily said.


"That is almost as good as accepting him!" Charlotte cried. You have given him hope! Do you fancy Papa would ever allow such a marriage? He did not raise himself from the lower order so you can return to it."


"I am of age, Charlotte."Miss Emily said. "If Papa cannot provide me with a roof himself, he can hardly object to my marrying to have another, humble though it may be. "


Then an impish quality came into Miss Emily's voice.


"Charlotte! Instead of sending her to her nephew, should I take Tabby with me? Our Tabby!" Miss Emily said. "Now there's a handsome dowry for anyone! I would come to my shepherd bridegroom laden with great riches!"


"Tabby! Old bother!" Miss Emily called out again." Deaf one! Hark to me!"


"Aye? Wha' naw?" Tabby answered. "Mooar theur larkin?"


"Will you come with me and go back to one of the moor farms if I marry?"


"Daft lass! Whoa 'ould have tha?" Tabby said and Miss Emily laughed even more.


"What I cannot see Emily," Charlotte said sternly "is you enduring having such a person as your relation and..."


Charlotte spoke lowly now, but I still could ascertain her every word. For I found, to my deep shame, I had moved to the very door in order to hear them better. I had not realized it until that moment. I have no excuse, save, love makes criminals of us all.


"...and I cannot see," Charlotte went on, "you being a true wife to such a one as that. That you would allow him to come near you."


"There are still old families yet on the moor, who have remnants of refinement, rude though the current generations may be," Miss Emily answered. "It would be no come-down for me to join one if we lose the Parsonage."


"And the other?" Charlotte asked breathlessly" What of that?"


"Most seem to hanker after it. You certainly do, my Dear."




"If I find the duty repellent, I can always take off for other climes."


"Leave the marriage!" Charlotte said aghast.


"Of course not, I would go into my world and leave the body to its courses. Old Eve knows what she's about better than I, I shouldn't wonder. She rather grudges the lack of employment, Charlotte."


"And what of … children?"


"I'll welcome them as I would the spring lambs," Miss Emily said simply.


"You always said such matters were insipid milk to you!" Charlotte said.


"It might be different with a shepherd's rough wooing'er?"


"Now you are trying to shock me."


"Charlotte! I am being truthful. I love God, the Immortal! I love His creation, Nature and what is natural! Life! I adore the courage of the smallest seed which insists on life, undaunted by any circumstance. Life! Come on Lads, Courage! Courage! To your posts! I have near convinced myself to agree."


All said with an exuberance I had never witnessed before or after.


"And this is from the woman who as a girl proclaimed she could have no proper mate since Byron had passed!" Charlotte said.


"Now who is jesting? Or do you really mean to throw my childhood fancies in my face? Well, the Shepherd is no Byron," Miss Emily laughed. "But he would likely match his Lordship in vehemence if not style. You must own, I have always favored the former over the latter."


There was silence for a time when Miss Emily spoke again quietly.


"Charlotte, you used to care about such matters, no one more. Have you given up all thought of a woman's life?"


"Hardly, but I've learned to conceal it," Charlotte said. "An unmarried woman my age must! I cannot chance being even amiable to a man without daring ridicule and being accused of husband hunting! In any case, who is there Emily? There's not an educated man or family in the district who would look our way or we theirs."


"There is Mr. Nicholls," Miss Emily said with a sarcastic chuckle. "He's certainly educated, at least in High Church doctrine."


I felt nearly ill to be brought into the scene.


"Mr. Nicholls! The Comely Pussyite? Now you are being ridiculous," Charlotte said. "My hope is to be somewhat free of Haworth one day. That can hardly be answered by marrying its curate! Besides, Mr. Nicholls is, as I say, a Pussyite. He is also penniless, Irish and worse, anti-intellectual. Even if he could follow us intellectually, he would refuse do so... not completely because of inability, but on principle! He deems such matters a waste of time!" And they both laughed.


That was a sting. But was I completely wrong? Had they ever spent twelve hours behind a loom as did most of Haworth's flock? Pondering needs time. A great  luxury to most. It's all I can do to have the children come to our school before their mill shifts to learn to read and write!


How do you know he hasn't any income?" Miss Emily asked. "You barely speak to him! I doubt that topic ever arose between you and he."


"Of course not! Charlotte said." But he's here, isn't he? Would even an Irishman be Haworth's curate if they had a bit o' brass ? Mr. Nicholls owns the black coat on his back, a few theology books and what he and Papa can beg from the curate societies pay his salary. Not that that poverty should signify in such considerations," she said loftily.


"Oh, indeed not." Miss Emily laughed.


He has landed folk at home.....so he says." Charlotte said. "But he's the usual Pussyite Irish curate out of Trinity. They are all around us! Under foot! They have no hope of a living at home and even if they did, the Trinity Pussyite graduates of today sail too close to Rome to be endured by their own diminutive Protestant congregations, as their practices are too like those of the Catholic hordes around them!


"Vestments! Candles, Communion, every week! In some cases, even incense! Dreadful! So the newly minted Irish Pussyite clergymen must keep trooping onward, ever eastward from Trinity across the Irish Sea, and land in Yorkshire in an unending line. So Papa says."


The comely Pussyite! So that's what she calls me? I could never break Charlotte of that habit of referring to us Tractarians as "Pussyites". It is most offensive. We do not follow a man named Dr. Pussey! We follow God and Our Lord, Jesus Christ! That is rather the point! She at least, in time, ceased using the term to my face.


Charlotte also had the Evangelical seeminly willful misunderstanding of the Oxford Moment and Tractarians. In later years, ceremony was over enpazied, I  admit. But the original tenets were concerned only with the freely sooken deep belief in the Incarnation, the Atonement, Baptism and Holy Communion. Not their outward trappings. Which was why I could serve a devoted Evangelical parson such as Patrick Brontë for sixteen years as his curate.


And as for Rev. Brontë's opinion of Trinity curates, I was well aware of it and it was only too true. We newly minted Irish clergymen, indeed were packed off to English curacies along with our fellow countrymen laborers who came to the English mills; and for the same reason, we were cheaper. Few Englishman would work for my wage. But what is considered the wades of poverty in England, are deemed riches in Ireland. So, here we are.


"I suppose Mr. Nicholls is comely." said Miss Emily. My unknown advocate, gave me a start with that pronouncement.


"Fancy you noticing such things. " Charlotte said. "Oh, you are just saying that to tease me futher. Well, those comely looks have to be admitted and of course it makes one even more mistrustful of him. Mr. Nicholls reads well, I'll own. His voice is fine. He appears respectable. But so narrow, Emily! He is well educated yes, but to what purpose? As I say, if a conversation over tea leans towards an intellectual theme, he stops speaking altogether and stares into his tea cup!" They laughed merrily again.


This habit of mine was not wholly to avoid intellectual, that is secular, conversations. It was because that I learned early on how pointless it was to cross lances with Miss Charlotte Brontë when the lady was in the mood to bait the curate as she poured. It was best to simply chew your tart, try not fidget too noisily with your tea-cup and drink in silence.


I admit I felt a pain, like a sear, at being spoken of so. It is hard to be misunderstood by those one admires and harder still to be understood and still not liked. Those who say I was not subjected to Charlotte's scalpel, her keen judgements, like some others, are mistaken.


Yes, she was kind to me in her second book. (for which I am thankful!), However her treatment of me was just not in her books, but in life. When one reads or hears her skillful summing up a person, as I just had, you can't say she lies and that's the worst of it. She sees one all too clearly.


There was often a dismissive quality in Charlotte's articulation about one, even when neutral. Because she was a genius, that bites deeply. You are pictured truly and left in pieces, that one must, through time, slowly reunite.


Sometimes the scars are of honor and sometimes, of shame. But marks always remain, precisely because what she said or wrote was unforgettable.


"He more than favors you, sister," Miss Emily said archly. I grimaced. How did she know that?


"What nonsense! Mr. Nicholls and I mildly bristle at each other with a chilly courtesy, and that is all." Charlotte said, "He disapproves of novels, attempted to lecture me about that early on. He appears to like poetry, which is encouraging; Martha says they can hear him recite to his curate friends of an evening. But Mr. N. condemns novels outright. Could I even be on friendly terms with such a person? And believe me, I don't seek it. Curates! Deliver us oh Lord!"


"There are rumors, Charlotte. About you and he."


"Don't I know it! Ellen tells me that too, and she sees germs of goodness in him as well! She's always ready to harp on about imagined romances. How would you hear of the rumors?" Charlotte asked.


"They repeat them on the farms," Miss Emily said with a laugh."Last year they asked me when is the wedding day!"


"Even at the farms?" Charlotte cried. "Wedding day! When I cannot even find out where these rumors begin!"


"I'd say with him! The way he looks at you! He follows you with his eyes like Keeper does a rabbit."


"I have not noticed that!"


"He dashes them down if you look round." Miss Emily said. "Whatever else Mr. Nicholls is or isn't, he's a fervent fellow, in religion and liking."


"Don't even begin, Emily!" Charlotte said. "I believe you all are mad or at least mistaken. This is what I'm talking about. If I were to even jest about such things to him, he and his pack of fellow curates would treat me as a laughing stock for half a year. I would curse the day I spoke of it. I am destined to be an old maid of the Parish. I am one already, but I will not be made a ridiculous figure by my own doing as well! Mr. Nicholls will not hear about these rumors from me!"


"The farm folk favor him. Not for his High Church doctrines to be sure, I doubt there is much talk of them! But they admit he is kind."


"Truly?" That seemed to impress Charlotte at last. "That is not to be taken lightly."


"It's the sort of kindness they like, hidden, not showy. Keeper and Flossy favor him as well," Miss Emily said. " The dogs liking him, recommend Mr. Nicholls to me most of all of course."


"Well then why don't you take up with the comely Pussyite, our

Mr. O'Curate in stead of the Shepherd?" Charlotte said laughing. "Keeper can give you away when Papa objects to you marrying a penniless, Irish Tractarian! And he would, believe me, quite violently."


Miss Emily laughed right back."You forget, Charlotte, Mr. Nicholls hasn't a moorland farm. That is my destiny if we lose the Parsonage. In fact, in that case I am already promised."


Charlotte said, "Och! Don't even say it! Yes, the moorland farm that looms! Let us return to the real subject at hand. It is of far more importance!"


"Aye, !" I thought. "Anything but myself."


"And what of your writing?" Charlotte demanded. "How would that fare at a moorland farm?"


I did not understand that reference fully as yet. I thought this simply referred to the poems they had fought over earlier. And I was mulling over what they said of me too much to think further on it.


Miss Emily answered. "It would fair no worse than here as I do my chores and see to the house. I would make notes as I knead the bread like always. I believe I can rely on you to see my writing being sent out to the world, as you have. Indeed! Try and stop you! Charlotte, I would not go of my own volition! Only if we lose the Parsonage! A moorland farm is far better than no moor roost at all."


There was silence for a few moment, I thought they had done, but there was more and it rooted me again where I stood.


"Have you told Anne?" Charlotte asked quietly, all laughter gone.

" About the shepherd?"


"I did," answered Miss Emily. "Anne knows."


"I see."


"And do you know why, Charlotte?"


"Because you love her more!" She spoke so pitifully, my heart clenched.


"No, child, no. You know better. That is not the reason," said with an unfathomable tenderness.


"Then why Emily? Why?"


"Because when I told Anne, she said 'Oh how remarkable' and that was the end of it, as I knew it would be. There was not an endless interrogation such as this!" Miss Emily said. "I have been indulgent today. Do not expect such leniency to continue."


Heedlessly, Charlotte asked her sister, "Still, I want to know, who is he? Do I know the family?"


"No. That is my business." Miss Emily said. "But comprehend at last the prospect is not abhorrent to me and for the very reasons you would rather die than find yourself at one of the moor farm's hearth as its mistress."


"I cannot do without you Emily!" Charlotte answered piteously. "You cannot be in earnest."


"Never more."


"That decides it!" Charlotte cried, and there seemed a blow struck upon the table.

 "No more shilly-shally! Papa will have that operation. I will absolutely compel Papa to have the operation upon his eyes!"


"How do you propose to do that?" Miss Emily asked


I could see in my mind the commanding figure that now stood before Miss Emily. We curates were at tea with our Parson the year before on baking day. We were there to procure some of Miss Emily's excellent tarts. Miss Brontë poured as usual.


We were not asked you see, we four curates had rushed the Parsonage uninvited in pursuit of the treat. We proceeded to add to our rude account by not taking our tea quietly like gentlemen. When Charlotte had had enough, we received an indignant repudiation none of us ever forgot.


With a smack, down came the tea pot and up rose our hostess.


She proceed to berate us for "gobbling like common louts and spewing unseemly clerical gossip !" Where was our dignity? Where was our respect for our Parson? Did we even realize a lady was among us?


In my memory I could see again the glowing eyes, the stony expression; the tiny figure, pulled to her full height such as it was and yet, even so ; imposing, imperial, law-giving.


My fellow curates and our Pastor were mute with shock. I finally remembered my manners and stood up, as a lady indeed was standing. I thus drew attention to myself and when she turned my way, I received a full charge of her fury from those eyes. Then Charlotte removed herself from our presence with a last pronouncement from the door.


" I pity your good landladies! From my heart, I do!"


I was left staring after Charlotte, adoring and wanting to match that figure, storm for storm, as I have never wanted anything else before.


Listening to her now, I felt that excitement again.


Presently, I heard Charlotte proclaim to her sister.


"Papa will have the operation because I will no longer plead, I will insist, I will command!"


"Right! Now I believe you, Charlotte!" said Miss Emily, "and I will accompany you to Manchester to interview the doctor. Here's my hand on it."


Said in earnest, yet with irony. Miss Emily seemed to have little confidence in the worth of a human vow, even her own. As it turned out, she was as good as her word.


"You will come with me?" Charlotte gushed, the imperious figure had vanished for now. "Oh! I was hoping you would! Thank you Emily! Thank you!"


"Och! No fuss!"


And then I silently fled the back kitchen lest they came in and found me out.


I thought over what I had heard. It was nothing I didn't know; the Parsonage's dogs liked me and Miss Brontë thought me a dull dog. Yet it was still galling to hear the sentiments spoken so plainly. I had no further illusions or reasons to believe my regard would be welcomed by Miss Charlotte Brontë. And yet.... how love laughs at reason.



©Anne Lloyd 2023