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.