He is early;
interrupting my reverie. The door slams below, and then he calls for me,
Cathy and I reluctantly go downstairs to take off his boots and
serve him his tea. My swarthy Heathcliff; love of my life, destroyer of my
I dream of them
again and again; the three sisters and their brother; sat round in a circle,
writing industriously as if in a factory. Occasionally they talk but mostly it
is the sound of metal on paper that I hear and then one of them stops, and it
is as if their thoughts are almost visible, and they sigh as one.
They are all young,
a little younger than me, but none of them are really beautiful; but rather
small and squinting, hunched up. And yet they are my own creation, come from my
mind. And then Miriam cries, waking me from this semi-dream, and I hurry to
soothe her, before the colossus who lies beside me wakens. And whilst I
tend to her, the vision fades, but I know that it will return when I sleep or
when I am washing or even when Heathcliff forces himself upon me in the
I bought a notebook
yesterday; I could not really afford it, especially now that another child is
due, but I have always been impulsive, after all I was the one who went up to
Heathcliff in the mill, even though he was older than me and of a surly temper.
He eventually succumbed to me, and I actually think he wanted me all the time
but had to let me come to him. A man like Heathcliff cannot bring himself to
woo a mere chitterling, a mere nothing.
It isnt a
large notebook and is of the cheapest paper, but it is paper, something that I
can write on, and that is all that matters. I held it to my breast as if
it was the most precious thing that I had ever owned. And when I got home
Miriam slept and I sat down to write, whilst Emily stirred inside me (I know it
is Emily, although Heathcliff wants a boy and for him to be called Charles for
some reason). I wrote small so that I could fit as much in as possible. Thank
God my father taught me to write, having had no sons of his own to teach, so
that I can write as well as any clerk, and can set down all that is in my
The stories now just
flow out of me in scraps, as if from up on high. The two older sisters sent to
a boarding school and then dead, like their mother before them. And their
three sisters and their brother, left, motherless, bereaved, with just
themselves for comfort. And then I pictured their father, Patrick, tall,
austere and grief stricken. Turning to his religion and to campaigns for the
poor; endless letters to the newspapers as if that could bring back his wife
and his two darlings.
At the heart of my
stories is Haworth, although I dont know why. I remember the town from
when I was young; my grandmother lived there in a cottage down the hill from
the parsonage. A cold, raw place, we had walked from Keighley, towards the end
my father carried me, whilst mother ailing even then stumbled on
behind, determined to reach it without help, but blue with the icy wind.
We had sat in a cold
room, with draughts coming from all over, whilst an old woman my
fathers mother - mumbled in an accent noticeably different from that of
Keighley, even though it was such a short distance away. She told us about the
rector, a young single man who struggled with his health and who was nothing
like the Patrick of my imagining. But it captured me. I would like to go to
Haworth again; walk the cold streets and head onto the moor. It isnt far
but when could I go?
He is more gentle
with me now that I am expecting our second child. He kisses my tummy and has
called his sister (well step-sister) Sally to help with housework. She is a
friendly body who enjoys a gossip and loves Miriam, and I would enjoy having
her in the house but I cannot write, as she is always at my back, trying to
help, but all I want is to lie on my bed and scribble down my dreams. The
need becomes more urgent as if I am running out of time, so that even when I am
in the closet I take the opportunity to write something down.
Eventually one day I
told her that I was tired and once I had persuaded her to let me sleep I got
out my notebook; started to write, and now every afternoon I have two hours,
where I lie down to rest, undisturbed by child or adult, and it is
I write about the
older sisters Charlotte and Emily in Belgium, teaching at a lycee. Charlotte
falls in love with the owner of the school The Professor; older
than her and married. Constantin flirted with her shamelessly, with no thought
of the passions he was arousing in Charlottes breast.
rose he called her, and bent over and kissed her hand with a flourish,
whilst his wife, confident and self-satisfied, chuckled. As she lay in bed at
night, she remembers the feel of his lips on her hand, his moustache, so
Why do I love
him? Would he carry me away?
yearned for him to touch her, hold her in his arms and bend down and kiss her,
There was a church
in Brussels where she liked to linger even though it was Papist, but here in
Belgium she could be whoever she wanted to be. No more the Rectors
daughter with two sisters to mother and a brother to worry about. She sat in
the tall church, looking over at the altar, praying that she could stay here
forever. She thought about Constantin; imagining being married to him, becoming
headmistress of the lycee; no longer a simple Yorkshire girl, but a
sophisticated woman, with a handsome lover and pupils who were scared of her
and yet admired her at the same time.
A figure in black
appeared from the shadows and walked into the confessional, and after a moment
she joined him
Father I have
She opened her heart
more than she had ever done, whilst the Priest sat silently, so that she
occasionally had to open her eyes to make sure that he was still there, and had
not left, disgusted by what he was hearing.
I am a
Protestant she told him, but he remained silent. And then at the end, a
bless you child in accented English, and she realised that he had
not understood a word that she had said.
For a moment,
ashamed, she left the church knowing that she would soon have to go back to her
family, that she could not escape being who she was.
I am homesick;
I miss the moors said Emily. Charlotte was shocked at her tone, Emily
always the quiet one, who did as she was told, or at least appeared to.
is beautiful, and there are our pupils.
You hate them
as much as I do; horrible little foreigners, more interested in their finery
and their gossip. Just passing their time until their parents find them a
I thought you
didnt care if I was happy or not. You just care about Monsieur, and his
Emily even smelt of
the moor; despite being so many miles away from Haworth.
Well I am
staying here Charlotte told her sister; you do as you
shrugged. Charlotte had brought up her sister and yet they were so apart,
so different. Charlotte knew that they were all odd; being vicars
children and bereft of their mother so long had made them strange, despite
Charlottes best efforts, but Emily was the strangest, living completely
in her head, an ethereal creature who loved animals more than people, and who
at times seemed Simple, a Natural.
had tried to control them all, but it was for their own good; how else could
they survive, particularly when their father died and they had to make their
own way in the world? They could not live like this forever, in the rectory,
but sooner or later they would have to earn their own living or marry, and
forget all this writing and phantasy.
And then their
father wrote to them to say that their Aunt Elizabeth was dying, and so
Charlotte had no choice; and so she and her sister packed and returned to more
mourning. And when she watched her sister floating about the house; talking to
animals, writing her strange verse, Charlotte felt happy for her, and wondered
if her will was so strong that she could do anything to bring them both back to
happier sister Emily said to her, did you miss Yorkshire more than
you thought you would?
No, I am
pleased for you as she were clearly so lonely; but no I will not stay here
forever. I will return either to Brussels or go to Paris. I will not stay here
in this godforsaken hole to die of typhoid or marry one of fathers
earnest curates. You and I are different Emily, and that is not a bad thing,
but I need to leave, or else I will die.
He caught me as I
wrote my stories.
the Hell are you doing? Sally said you were resting.
I pushed the
notebook aside and hoped he hadnt seen what I was writing. I had been so
engrossed that I had not heard him come in.
Just writing a
list for Sally, we need so much stuff before the baby arrives.
sympathetic; dont worry about that love, it is all in hand. Sally
knows what she is doing. Now come to bed.
Gently he tucked me
in and, fully dressed, lay down beside me, smelling of sweat and smoke.
Why are you so
worried? he asked, there were no problems when Miriam was born. You
are a healthy lass, thats why I chose you, and we have money, and with
Sally to help...why are you mithering?
I laughed, to pacify
I am not
worried I told him, I am just trying to sort everything out.
But then I realised that I actually was worried and that I had so much to do
before Emily was born, so much to complete, and not just things for the baby.
Anne lay frail on
the white bed. Her sister could hear the seagulls almost as if they were in the
room with them.
You do not need to stay Charlotte; go for a walk, I will not die in the
I have lost
Emily and Branwell, I will not leave you.
her sisters forehead; she felt hot, but where could the heat be coming
from? Such a frail body could not contain such warmth.
sister, she murmured, get well, I cannot cope on my own, all this
responsibility. She prayed, hoping that God would spare the last of her
siblings so that she would not be on her own with her testy father and a cold
and empty rectory.
She could hear her
sister breathing gently, her eyes closed, and then the outside called to her.
What harm a walk in the sunshine?
I am just
going out a few minutes she told Mrs MacDonald their landlady. As she
walked along the promenade, she looked up at the cliffs and wished she was
amongst them, flying, free at last. She saw three young women approaching her,
and she prepared a smile, but they hurried past her giggling. Have I become a
figure of fun? She imagined what she must look like, a small, hunched figure
who could barely see the road ahead of her. Or perhaps they had not been
laughing at her, had not even seen her, just a nothing, and that felt
She hurried back to
the boarding house, but Anne was dead.
wait until their loved ones have gone. She wanted to spare you. And Mrs
MacDonald held the strange woman tight, until she wept and threw herself on the
bed with her sister and held her tight.
The baby is due soon
and I have a yearning to climb on the moor before it arrives. So as soon
as Heathcliff had got up and left the house, I too dressed quietly, trying not
to disturb Sally who slept in the back room, and whose gentle snoring I could
hear, as I quickly sprinkled myself with water. Miriam held out her hand to me,
and I was glad because I did not like the thought of leaving her behind.
There was a coach
from the Red Duke at Keighley and we reached there shortly before seven. On the
way I had seen a few faces that I knew, and a couple bowed to me, and I smiled,
however I was beginning to struggle, having not been out of the house for
weeks, and I realised that it was a foolish mistake, and Miriam was looking
alarmed, sensing my unease and fear.
But the coach was
there waiting, and we got an inside seat; Miriam and I sharing with two young
girls who gazed out of the window and said not a word whilst we rode through
the Yorkshire hills. It had been drizzling whilst we walked through Keighley,
but then as the coach drove higher and higher the rain began to pour and my
heart lurched within me; what had I done? Sally would realise that we had
gone and panic and rush to find Heathcliff, and when I returned he would scream
and punch me despite my being with child, and Miriam would no doubt be punished
Just as we arrived
near the Black Horse in Haworth the sun came out and suddenly I felt
exultation, whilst the two young girls whom Miriam had been staring at
in fascination hugged each other with glee. I forgot all my
worries and resolved to enjoy my day out. An old man was waiting for the
two sisters, and they walked away with him without a backwards glance at
We walked up towards
the church; Miriam chattering by my side; I can only have been a year or so
older than her when I first visited Haworth. The houses were as poor as
in Keighley, poorer probably, and the locals dressed very badly; hunched and
weary-looking, ignoring us as we walked past. We reached the rectory; grey and
quiet; the only sign of life was washing hung out over the hedges. I longed to
go inside and see where my family lived, to see the three sisters and their
brother writing away, instead we sat on one of the graves and each chewed on a
piece of bread, which I had brought with us. And as we ate, it started to
rain again, and so we hurried into the church.
religion and we had not gone to church since our marriage, but the building
felt peaceful and whilst Miriam raced down the centre, I sat down and rested my
aching back and wondered if the three sisters and their brother had sat on this
pew, whilst their father preached; I had to remind myself that they were not
real, but I could imagine them so clearly; how it could it just be my
And then a door
creaked and I saw a young woman glide into the church and look about her.
called, and she started, and our eyes met before she hurried out. I followed
her out into the graveyard, but she was not there. I walked round, but the
place was bleak and there was no movement anywhere; perhaps she had hurried
back to the rectory. I called her name again, but there was no response
and then I remembered Miriam and I went to find her, but she had not noticed my
absence and was racing about the empty church.
As the rain had
stopped, we walked over the moor; the heather wet under foot and then we ran
like two mad things, sliding and slipping but never falling.
I love you
mama Miriam told me, and I kissed her. And then as the rain started
once more, we hurtled back down towards the coach, and sat dripping wet but
happy as we rode through the wet streets to Keighley. I worried that
Miriam would catch a fever, but she seemed so happy, and we cuddled up together
to keep warm.
I was expecting
Heathcliff to beat me, indeed he had his hand raised to do so, but he realised
how ill I was and instead sent me to bed under strict instructions not to leave
until the baby arrived. I heard a slap and Sally cry as she got the beating
that I deserved, and then I slept and dreamt.
looking through Emilys things; she had meant to do it weeks ago but could
not face it, but then her publisher had written to her yet again requesting
anything she had been working on before her death. And Charlotte wanted
to know what was there and what was fit to be published; rather her read it
than her publisher who would be less discriminating. Emily had been writing up
to her death but had refused to tell Charlotte what she was creating, perhaps
after Charlottes reaction to her novel, which had horrified her, even
though she had tried to hide her feelings from her sister.
She had broken open
Emilys desk and found piles of papers, full of her miniscule handwriting.
There had been poems; and drawings; drawings of Grasper, the dog she loved so
much and of Anne, and Branwell; and even one of Charlotte which made her
cry. And pictures of Haworth, and even one of Constantin, who looked the
frivolous dilettante that he was, but who Charlotte still loved.
And then beneath all
this was a small manuscript presumably put there in haste, and never touched
again. Charlotte opened it and started to read, squinting most dreadfully,
occasionally she wiped her face, and at times she sighed. She had not
even read a third of it, before she started to cross out lines and even whole
paragraphs, and then, angrily, started to tear it up, before giving up and
throwing the whole manuscript onto the fire, along with the poems and drawings;
they burnt steadily and then they were gone, leaving just a trace of ash and
the smelt of burnt paper.
I woke up and there
were figures by my side; Heathcliff, Charlotte and Anne. Ghosts. And there was
the cry of a baby.
called, and I felt the smallest of beings put into my arms, and before I could
hold her properly, she was gone, and I wept, knowing that I was dying; that
Miriam and Emma would grow up without me; alone, with Heathcliff as father and
And then there was
another feeling of pain and listlessness. I knew that Heathcliff would find my
manuscripts and destroy them and that my family would disappear as if they had
never existed. I tried to cry out to him, to beg, but there was nobody there,
just a shadow in the corner, who turned her head and looked at me with eyes
that gazed at me steadily and with compassion, and then she too was