Tatiana and Olga 2010

Tatiana and Olga  2010

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Brontë Stories: Moor Meeting Late July 1853


 Anthony Trollope may not be considered among the first rank of Victorian novelists, but he's a very fun read and he spends a great deal of time ruminating over the how and why of Victorian thoughts and feelings. Trollope is an excellent aid to understanding the Victorian view point.


It's not ours in the least and one can only understand the real drama for Victorians if you can appreciate how they viewed and felt about certain situations. Otherwise there is a lot of discounting their views altogether as we eagerly apply thick coats of our modern values upon them.


Trollope teaches us that in the Victorian world, any hesitation, any postponement about a proposal from the lady in question is, in effect, a half acceptance of said proposal.


To the Victorian view point saying, " You’ll have your answer on the morrow," during, even an ambush proposal, and saying it repeatedly, as Charlotte did,  while allowing the gentleman to go on and on without instantly stopping him....is tantamount to the lady's, at least, half acceptance.


Certainly the two Irishmen in the drama thought so. That is why when Mr. Nicholls was outright refused the next day, he plunged into a great gloom that lasted months. He had hope and it was dashed.


That is why Patrick Brontë became so enraged over the event, Charlotte feared for his health. Papa entered, “a state not to be trifled with."


I suspect Father Brontë had an idea of what was going on across the passage in the dining room that Monday evening. He had recently commented to Charlotte about Mr. Nicholls' sudden complaints and talk of emigration. Something was up with the fellow.


Patrick had not heard the front door clash after his curate left his sitting room himself. (His eyes were poor, not his ears) and likely he knew Arthur was still in the house.


Rev. Brontë, in my opinion, may have been anticipating, even relishing, a retelling of his daughter’s sure to be stinging refusal. When Charlotte came to him afterwards, one can see him looking up expectantly for the report with a slight smile.


Instead of a sharp rebuke, Patrick heard Charlotte had told the "villainous schemer",


“You’’ll have your answer on the morrow."




Even though Charlotte wrote Arthur a "distinct" refusal the next day, Rev. Brontë spent months afterwards angrily running down his curate to his daughter at every opportunity. Because to Patrick, Arthur Bell Nicholls was not the danger in that situation and he never was. Charlotte was the danger and as it turned out, Papa was right.


Patrick was angry with Arthur, but once he heard "on the morrow", he was furious with Charlotte, knowing she was the proactive actor in the piece...as always. 


Put into this volatile mix, clandestine meetings on the moor! Arthur left Haworth at the end of May in 1853. It’s my opinion he was recalled by Charlotte a little more than a month later for the commencement of those secret moor meetings.


It’s to be remembered Charlotte became quite ill just after Arthur left. So ill, Papa had to write to Mrs. Gaskell and put off her proposed visit. As soon as Charlotte was better, Papa had an attack while going up the Parsonage stair and was stuck blind for a time. So when it’s said CB recalled Arthur within five weeks or so of his leaving Haworth, we are talking A.S.A.P.  


The last few days of June 1853. This was same time Charlotte had pressed Ellen Nussey to visit the Parsonage. It's my stipulation CB had in mind asking Ellen to come along on that first meeting with Arthur as she had Ellen return with her to Hawoth after her last visit to London. At that time Ellen was asked to be a buffer with still angry Papa.


However this time Ellen flatly refused the office of shield. I believe going behind Rev. Brontë's back played a part in Ellen’s negative decision. But too, while she went on a great deal about a fantasy romance between Charlotte and Publisher Smith, Ellen was by no means approving of a far more likely alliance between Charlotte Brontë and Arthur Bell Nicholls. Ellen, like Papa, had supposed she had seen the curate’s back for good.


Also in my opinion, Ellen and Rev. Bronte, at times, were in correspondence with each other and how could Ellen keep the meetings secret while writing to Patrick?


I got the idea of that correspondence between them because CB, in a letter to her friend years before, Charlotte wrote to Ellen ," You would be amazed with what coolness I intercepted your letter to Papa." At that time Ellen's letter to Patrick was about a visit well and before fame had visited Haworth Parsonage...but the precedent is there.


Also I suspect Ellen gave Patrick the remarkable idea Charlotte was to be married during her 1851 visit to London. As far as Charlotte was concerned, out of the blue, Patrick became so worried about the prospect, he declared to CB he would give up the church and go into lodging if she married. He had gotten Tabby and Martha in a twist about it too.


Where else would Patrick get such a notion? Not from his daughter, to be sure. Charlotte was highly annoyed over the pointless hubbub and said to Ellen she was mystified about where her father got the idea. But I wonder if Charlotte really was.


All that's why Ellen and Charlotte fell out so severely in late June 1853.

Now, before engaging in secret meetings with Mr. Nicholls, Charlotte informed Ellen that Mr. Nicholls would be waiting on the moor for them and she had to know where Ellen stood; with her or Papa? Ellen choose to stand with Papa.


But more, apparently things were said between the friends that would prove hard to forgive. The break was total for a time.


It took Miss Wooler six months and Ellen's illness to mend the friendship. Even when Charlotte and Ellen became friends again, Mr. Nicholls was never mentioned between the two women until months later when CB had fully accepted Mr. Nicholls’ proposal and the topic was moot. 


 Charlotte then wrote a letter to Ellen, telling her friend she had become "What people call engaged" and  she informed Ellen about the events around Mr. Nicholls since the friendship broke down. That’s where you can find the timing of the moor meeting's beginning.

Charlotte also told Ellen that Papa was quite in favour of the idea now. It was then Ellen came on board for the wedding.


If those clandestine meetings on the moor had not happened, I, as a Brontë historical writer, would have had to invent them. They are too delicious. CB had written of such secret meetings throughout her youth. It was a stock scene in her juvenile writings.


To be sure, the meetings she dreamed of were between a comely young woman and a criminal Duke, not "tha Parson’s Charlotte" and the local High Church curate.


However in “the upper world” of everyday reality, one must do what they can and Charlotte Brontë had secret meetings with a suitor in fact, not just in her imagination.


So in this installment of my Brontë stories, I’m presenting a moor meeting storiy. This one takes place in late July. They have meet a few times as Arthur's new curacy did not begin until August.

 I have so much moor meeting material, I’m starting the installment in mid-conversation.

 The moor meetings are interesting as a piece of writing because you have to show an arc of these two people drawing closer over time and so there is a question is where to put what, such when they get to given names etc.


 I have to give my husband, Ed a shout out for proof reading so many revisions. Thanks, Hon!

 any case,





Moor Meeting Late July 1853

We had settled ourselves upon some quarry waste slabs.


"You spoke often of my sitting room," Charlotte remarked. "The dining room."


I nodded. "It seemed like a prison cell to me afterwards."


"After they were gone?"



"When Anne passed, I thought, it is over," Charlotte said. "Branwell, Emily, Anne are gone like dreams – gone as Maria and Elizabeth went twenty years ago. My two older sisters."


"I remember you mentioning them," was all I could say.


"One by one I have watched them all fall asleep on my arm – and closed their glazed eyes and I have seen them buried one by one. Thus far – God has upheld me.  From my heart I thank Him.”


I believe I simply stared.


“What is a Brontë alone?“ Charlotte asked, herself more than me. “I could not conceive of it. I have had to learn the condition step by step. It is an alien thing.“


Charlotte went on."I could not remain in the same room afterwards. Oppressive recollections pressed upon me so. So I altered the room as best I could. When the Parsonage's reroofing commenced, I stipulated the room's south wall to be expanded as well to enlarge the room, even though there was but one occupant now, not three. 

I dared to have curtains installed."


Charlotte glanced heavenward."Undreamed of license! You know my father's ban on such adornments."


It was not a question, Patrick Brontë's curate would know it well.


"Of course." I said. "Because he fears fire so. He fears for children's safety especially. 

He told me that."


"I decided to lift the ban," Charlotte said. "There are no more children at

 Haworth Parsonage." 


“Your Father would not agree, Miss Brontë," I answered. For me it was simply an observation. She knew that, but it fell upon the ear as an unintended witticism, which 

I seem to mint without effort and Charlotte smiled.


“Well, Papa was not pleased with my aim, you can be sure." Charlotte said."He puffed 

and grumbled, but he allowed it."


"Are you pleased with them?" I asked.


"No, the color is wrong. They were ill-dyed.“


Then Charlotte chuckled, but not with much humor. "That's my just punishment for mortifying the paternal edict. I will replace them. But at least the wind does not sing though the windows quite the same way. I also ordered the new table, as the faded ink 

and cup stains from happier times, that marked our old one, were now... unbearable to me. They brought to mind too keenly those who had made them, those who will make no more.”


“Did these alterations help?" I asked her.


“Not really. But the hope that they might was an aid for a time and I was thankful to come home to a different arrangement, glad for the least mitigation."


Charlotte watched the horizon for a time and then regarded a clump of moor grass at her moor boots and she seem to address it.


"When visiting London and friends as I do now, I begin to feel again. Oh, I am in tumult of course due to the new people and strange surroundings, but for all that, I am in the midst of other human beings. We have conversations, my opinion is sought, there is give and take. I even laugh.


But then I return home. Where I am again alone. There is nothing and no one, besides Papa at breakfast like always and because of this seclusion, I dare not feel. You were right to point out my solitude when you declared yourself.”


I nodded. This was much tribute sent my way.


"The first few days after each return,” Charlotte said, "I experience what I call 

"The Weird."


"The Weird?" I echoed.


"It is when in those first few days back at Haworth when I must again grow accustomed to the utter lack of companionship. To repress myself. To curb the natural expectations I indulged in elsewhere until I no longer expect to speak aloud, to listen, and to be with others!


I can't stay away too long from home, there is Papa, of course, but too, the longer I am away among others, the worse the Weird is afterwards for me at home. Yet I can bear the silence and solitude at home only for so long before I must flee again. So I am like a bird 

in a cage, going from one place to another, yet always returning, beating my wings against the bars."


I was again mute before this ghastly vision of her solitude, the torture of it.


Charlotte went on, regarding me.


"You are asking me to stay home and feel.”


“It’s not the other life," I said." I do not say it would be better, I wouldn't dare. 

But it would be a different one."


“Yes. That is how I can contemplate your proposal at all." Charlotte's wry smile appeared again. “But unlike the curtains, Mr. Nicholls, if you and I do not suit, I could not send you back to a Keighley draper."


I could not help laughing. "You’re jesting.”


Charlotte bowed in acknowledgement, but said, “Not entirely, Sir.“


“We have laughed together since their passing,“. I reminded Charlotte. 


“We have indeed. It has been a boon to me."


She grew gloomy again.


"But you see to agree to your proposal, I must also give up all hope for them."


I knew who she meant, but I was confused by what she meant.


"You must in any case. They are gone.” Thankfully, my bluntness bemused her. There was hope in that.


“My mind tells me so and I accept it of course. I know the truth of it, believe me," Charlotte said. "But for the heart to actually embrace such knowledge.... is another matter. If I give up all inner hope, false as it may be, the full measure of my grief will engulf me altogether."


Then Charlotte whispered as if the grief could hear her otherwise.


"It is fearful." she said and I saw she was afraid. "So while home in Haworth, I live in kind of suspension and as for conversing with others, I look to and hope for letters from afar ....as I have much of my life. All the hope I dare to have, rests upon that fitful reed, the post hour, as you also have observed.”


I had expected our usual sparring. I had not dreamt of such confidences, even if I could then, understand but half.


“You speak so freely, Miss Brontë," I said in wonder.


"I rarely can." Charlotte looked about. “Perhaps because our meetings on the moor are also held in a kind of suspension. They are in secret, subsequently they are not held in a parlor or even under a roof. The clandestine is a strange mixture of the truth and falsehood. I am quite use to such proceedings due to my years of secret writings. It's full of such meetings. Though not with the local curate, it must be said." This made her smile and laugh.


"Secret writings?" I asked. Had I heard aright?


Charlotte decidedly waved away the topic, “When I was a girl. It is of no matter."


It was a momentary lapse. There was a further fence of confidence Charlotte decided to try with me. She looked purposeful, crossed her arms, stared ahead and went on.


“I will tell you something, Mr. Nicholls."




"My father’s and my grief is great and it has a similar tincture. But we find solace from it  in very differently ways. I cannot simply stay alone in a room and be comforted as my Father can. You see, when Papa is in his room alone, he is with them. But when I am in the dining room alone; I am only aware that I am without them."


 Charlotte looked to me. “You do understand?”


"Yes, of course." It explained much and I wished to encourage her speech.


"It's a habit he began when my mother died and he sought such comfort even more when my older sisters died a few years later. It is Papa's way.


“But my sitting alone in the dining room only keenly brings to bear upon me my loss. 

How could it not? I and my sisters spent so much time there together the last few years when we were all home. Those evening hours werefor each of us, a cherished time that eased every trial, every disappointment and then added to every happiness. Those hours ultimately made all that followed possible. They were a touchstone of life. The loss to me

 is incalculable.


“If I had only to endure my siblings’ absence, it would be bad enough, but at times while sitting in that room, I see each them in their graves, or in their last, painful moments over and over and I am left alone with those visions. My sisters and brother are gone, but the visions cling and remain."


"Ghastly!" I interjected.


“You may well say so," Charlotte said. “So Papa sits in his study comforted by his memories, but when health and opportunity allow, I travel to escape the dining room, its loneliness and those visions. The winter of '51 was terrible. My heath was wretched and I was immured in that torture chamber for months on end."


“But if you were you to spend those evening hours with him, your father," I said. 

"Perhaps the visions would not come?"


She had just explained how this would not be of help in her case. But I could not think of what else to say.


"And intrude on my Father’s solace and his need for solitude? I could not be that cruel," Charlotte said.


“My presence would keep my Father from his consoling reverie. Were I to joined Papa more, he would feel their absence more and I would too, seeing how he suffered. We Brontës feel even more keenly when among ourselves; whether it be joy or pain. And if it is pain, it is impossible to witness for long."


I stood up and paced before I spoke, such was my agitation.


"I beg your forgiveness, Miss Brontë!"


“Indeed, Mr. Nicholls, why?" She was a bit dazed.


"I thought I knew the extent of your loneliness. I ask your forgiveness. How foolish I was to speak of it the night I declared myself.“ 

In the midst of my loving family and friends, how could I know? 

Yet I was to learn of such things keenly later.


“It moved me that you did....but it does not frighten you, Sir?" Charlotte asked tentatively.


“What should frighten me?” Among the many things.


“Seeing the extent of my grief, my turmoil," Charlotte said.


“No! I want to offer you comfort all the more!"


"You are unusual, Mr. Nicholls."


“You are jesting again.” I said. "I am an ordinary man, Miss Brontë, let that be settled between us."


"You are unique in my experience, Sir, "Charlotte said. “Though granted, I haven't had much. But when, on the rare occasion, others of your sex gain a glimpse of my true nature, they have fled the tempest.”




"I thank you for saying that."


"Fools and knaves!" I then begged her pardon again for such an outburst.


"I like your outbursts, they are honest. They warm me.”


"At times they can't be helped," I admitted.


“That’s why I like them," Charlotte answered.


"You understand I have been admonished for it since I was as boy.“ I informed her. “I have had to steel myself against the tendency all my life.”


“Well, outbursts are not a wholesome diet if indulged in too frequently." Charlotte said. "But I value what is said with warmth far more than what is said coolly.  It is coldness I cannot abide. You must admit your former manner was formal, and chilly."


"Do you imagine yours was any better?” I asked her.


“Ha! No, I can't,“ Charlotte smiled at the justice of my remark and my pique.


"You always presented a cool manner to me as well Miss Brontë. I said. "But I have known of your true, warm nature for years now. It has no terrors for me, indeed it inclines me to you. There were indications before, but I've known the truth about your temperament since the day you stole Miss Emily's poems in '45."


 Her shock could not have been greater. She shot up.


"Found!” Charlotte cried," I found them!"


"Have it your way." I said. "But Miss Emily said stole .  

She called you a thief and other unseemly epithets I will not repeat."


The import of my words finally reached her.


"You were there?" she demanded.


"Meeting with your father." I said." But first I encountered a frightened Martha and an annoyed Tabby in the back kitchen on my way. Both urged me to be off if I valued my life."


"I don't remember you!" Charlotte said, challenging my claim.


"Is that surprising? You were running down Miss Emily like a hare and she you, upon the upstairs passage between rooms. You looked down, right though me for a moment as I went to your father," I said.


"When I reached your father's sitting room, he asked my pardon for the disturbance and told me, in chagrin, that his two adult daughters, ages twenty- nine and twenty- seven, were rendering asunder the house's peace  fighting over poems. At least that is what he gathered from the shouting. He did say however that poems were, after all, a better reason for fighting than most."


Charlotte sank back down upon the stone slab. It was some moments before she spoke.


"I found the poems." she said quietly. "Truly, I did. I think she wanted me to."


"Why do you say that? That did not seem so to me."


 "Like my elder sister Maria, my sister Emily was untidy. I was used to that of course. But on that day, after making a show of telling one and all she was off for a long moor walk and leaving her room door open, I saw papers that were simply strewn everywhere. That was impossible to resist! Emily knew my need for neatness and order. Papers so disarranged would always draw my attention. I meant only to gather them. But then I saw the writing and gained a great shock. One that was the causation of everything that followed. "


"And what was that?" I asked her, to urge her on.


"The pages were in great disarray, as I said. But the writing! It was not her usual blotted scrawl in the least. No, it was as neat and tidy as if the poems were printed in a book. Printed, Mr. Nicholls. It was then I knew that despite her many protestations to the contrary, Emily, indeed had some worldly ambitions and, oh yes, then I read her poems.


"And when I did,I was gripped by an imperative force. So commanding, so authoritative

I thought nothing of confronting Emily about them.


"My family take the principle of personal privacy very seriously, Mr. Nicholls. It is one's very self. Before that hour I would have said no possible inducement would cause me to read Emily's papers, trifle with them in any manner and alert her anger on such a tender point. I could not confront her later when she was dying.


“Yet that was different, she had grown even more intractable. I feared her then. I feared  constant confrontation over her condition would cleave Emily more from me than even the illness. I was therefore meek before her every whim. But on that day, I did not fear her or anything else, save the world's loss of those poems.


“When Emily returned , her every step upon the stairs, caused me to quake over what was to come. She instantly saw the manuscript papers were missing of course. A great bellow ensued. I came from my room holding them close to my chest."


Charlotte repeated the gesture as she spoke.


"I said, ‘Here they are, Emily!’ She was speechless at first. I told her that I had read her poems and they must be published. The world must have them!


“Emily said she would burn them now that other eyes had seen them. I screeched ‘That must not be!’ I didn't allow them to leave my hands after that. I ran off, back to my room closely followed I assure you. We flew back and forth shouting, as you saw."


"I was trembling violently throughout it all. But her writing that appeared as print, told me if I held fast, I would win the day. I was meant to win and I did. I knew we had talent. Here was immortal proof. When Emily finally allowed my aim, she insisted on utter anonymity as a condition and I instantly agreed. I was glad to have such a reason to keep it from my father and brother."


"And why was that?" I asked.


"Because my father would have poured doubt upon it. He would have been dismissive, fearful of the cost and when we proved determined, he would have worried and fussed excessively. He does so even now. Even my publisher does not pour over the reviews as he does. I keep the bad ones from his notice. Papa might have required us to invite Branwell to join us as an aid to him. But that could not be."


I had my suspicions, but asked her why all the same.


“Like Papa, my brother would also have no faith in the endeavor. How could we succeed where he failed? Impossible. He would tell us, as he often did, one cannot publish without influence and patronage. What of that did we have? He would laugh us to scorn. He did when I asked his advice about hearing an answer back from editors years before. That was the end of that."


"Besides as I say, Emily insisted on our anonymity. There would be none if Branwell was invited to join the effort. Those at the Bull and his Halifax friends would have heard all about it. Anne knew the folly of trying to help him. There was no protest there when I said it would just be we three. "


"What did your father and brother think you were doing for those years after prayers in the dining room?" I asked.


"I believe they never gave it a thought. They were both too engaged to live though each day, particularly the nights."


I could only nod. I well remember my tired Parson, dozing at his desk when the night of nursing of his son had been especially bad.


Charlotte went on. "I would sacrifice my youth, my toil, my wages for Branwell's sake and at one time I did. But not my gift, nor my sister's gifts. That was what I came to realize after I read Emily's poems. Our gifts must now be given wings. They must be given our first fruits. And , well... everything else had been tried."


Charlotte went on. "Reading those poems gave me once again an animating purpose! My years of torpor were immediately lifted. I had resolved to put away writing for teaching, but Emily's writing could not be! Greater work was never penned! The world needed to have Emily's poems! Even if it doesn't know it yet," Charlotte said. "Our book of poems was not successful."


"Indeed ?" I had heard about that book from Sowden years before.


"We paid to have it published with funds from my Aunt's legacy."


"Was that not foolish?"


"It would have seemed so to Papa! But when our railroad shares faltered, I was glad some of Aunt's legacy went to our authorship instead of thin air. Our book was the better investment in the end and I had sworn Emily's poems would be printed. 

Still, the pages of our edition are lining many new trunks by now I dare say." Charlotte sighed, "Even now the new edition from my publisher is securely lodged in his warehouse. But that is of no matter."


I seemed to be awakening from the interview and looked all about.


"The moor is uncommonly empty today. Some Fair perhaps?" I asked her.


Charlotte smiled and looked around with pleasure.


"It appears empty, Mr. Nicholls, because our encounters have met with approval."




"We have been left in peace accordingly, and it is of the greatest import. We are trusted. If it were not so, the moor would appear as crowed as a market place."


"I have seen no one," I said.


"But we have been seen, I assure you," Charlotte said.


I looked about.

 "Perhaps word will reach you father ? Should we seek a more secluded place?"


Her smiled vanished. "Such nonsense! That would give great offense, cause suspicion and rightly so!" Charlotte said strongly. "We are in the Moor folk’s care. Let us not give offence by spurning it. Besides, it is much in your favor the moor appears empty, Mr. Nicholls. It's even possible that my father has not heard of these proceedings."


I stepped forward more as if better to see these hidden friends, but all I saw was moor, some farms, a few sheep and the very top of St. Michael's tower peeking over the ridge.


She had never brought up the subject of what her father knew or did not know before.


"You say he has not heard?" That seemed incredible.


"I conjecture," Charlotte said. “I do not know. Likely he has. John Brown must know

 and if he does, so does my Father. But Papa will not speak of it to me. Iron silence will be maintained between the two of us until, if and when, I broach the topic to him." 


"I see, until you must bring me to his notice."

She nodded, "Yes. If I need to. If not, no harm is done by silence. Papa will keep the silence about these meetings strictly in the hope it is never broken."


Her eyes were filled with another scene altogether, another battle.


"My father is angry with you Mr. Nicholls, but the full measure of his ire is my portion alone, if that is any comfort for you," Charlotte said.


"Why would that be? Miss Bronte?"


"Because instead of strongly refusing you and ordering you out of the house, the moment your aim was clear, I said to you, more than once, you would have your answer "on the morrow." My father felt such an utterance was at least a half-acceptance on my part."


I said nothing. I couldn't. There was too much to say.


"I see you believed the same as Papa," Charlotte said.


I shortly admitted I did. My pain was plain, I'm sure.


“I can’t explain it, “ Charlotte said. “I knew you had paused in the passage after meeting with Papa.  I wondered at it. But when you finally knocked, I immediately knew what was to come and I was prepared to refuse you. "

"But you didn't


"I found I could not kill outright the aim of a man in such distress and who professed to love me as vehemently as you did, speaking of a regard no man had ever dreamed to harbor, much less speak of to me! And I saw what it costs a man to declare himself when unsure of the answer. It was harrowing. I ought to have stopped you instantly and refused you. But I could not. I'm sorry if it misled you." 


I was in turmoil over another aspect." It was a shambles!" I said cried." That wretched proposal! I cannot think on it without pain... horror!  I had practiced, for years! Yet when it came to it, I stuttered, blustered, became insensible, could not stop shaking. Awful! "


"Do not grieve over it Sir," Charlotte said soberly. "No other manner could be better suited to win your cause. No craft or fine words could supersede your sincerity."


Hope showed its face.


"So you will speak to your father?" I asked.


Charlotte drew back and spoke coolly. "If I need to. That is yet unknown."


"I see. It would be quite an undertaking."


"Do you still fear him"? Charlotte asked.


"Miss Brontë, I told you when I declared myself to you, I do not fear your father. I feared to speak to him about the matter for his health's sake. I feared him expiring at my feet from wrath. I feared injuring him."


"That is my fear as well," Charlotte said. 


"That is why I went to you and not him," I said.

"You care for him," she said.


"Of course." There was no need to add more.


We were both silent, thinking , when I recalled Charlotte’s statement about the moor 

and I became angry.


"Miss Brontë, you say we are trusted? Well, I should hope so!" I said indignantly.


"Indeed? Why? Because you are a clergyman?" Was she mocking me?


"Because Miss Brontë I should hope those whom I served for eight years would know I'd rather die than do injury to you or your virtue in any way."


"I believe that was taken into consideration," Charlotte smiled. "But also, Mr. Nicholls, was my determination to keep it."


I thought her jest almost shocking and my pride was stung.


"You should have no fear there," I said stiffly. "The idea! You are in perfect security. "


My vanity, from this time forward always caused at least a smile, if not a laugh. This was progress, though I did not know it then.


"Some would say, we meeting alone in secret was in itself endangering my honor."

 Charlotte said coyly.


"In appearances perhaps, but not in truth. Besides, you say we are not alone."


Charlotte shook her head and glanced about.


"Indeed. We are not. Can you not feel the eyes upon us? However, thanks to our

 Moor folk 's delicacy, we are given the comforting illusion of privacy."


I could tell our time was running low by the slant of the sun.


 She too looked up to her sky.


"It's time I returned."


"I will see you to the Moor's edge."


"Not all the way!"


When we stood up, I could not refrain from remarking.


“I amuse you."


"At times you do,” Charlotte said.


I was glad of it. I'd far rather her amusement than her mockery. It is not the same thing.


"Miss Brontë you have honored me with your confidences today," I said gratefully.


“I can speak freely to you, Mr. Nicholls because you know a great deal already, far more than I ever realized. You also, Sir, knew them, my siblings. So many I meet today do not, cannot, and never will. My family seem like mere specters to others. However, when I say "Anne" or "Emily", you know of whom I speak.


"Of equal import, no one would think to apply to you for such knowledge as I impart during our meetings. Even if they did, you would not speak of it. You showed that admirable quality those last months in Haworth. You kept your counsel even though closely questioned and on numerous occasions. I respect you for that.”


"Upon my life! But have I spoken of this matter with Mr. Sowden,” I told her.


“Mr. Sowden, your good friend.“ Charlotte was considering this exception.


"Indeed. He is completely in my confidence. "


“He was a friend of my brother in his railroad days," she remarked.


“He remembers those days fondly Miss Brontë,” I said. “Mr. Sowden is the best of men.”


Charlotte pondered, “I will allow Mr. Sowden," she said, like a wise old judge on the bench.


“You may tell him your secrets, but not mine."


Fair enough




                                                           The End

©Anne Lloyd 2024