The Brontes at Home
The only sound to be heard in the front room of Haworth parsonage was the ticking of a clock. In the study across the passage, the Reverend Bronte worked on a sermon. Upstairs, Branwell was sleeping off the night before. In the drawing room, the three sisters were, as usual, quiet. Charlotte was at the table, reading from a magazine; Anne sat by her, writing in her diary, and Emily was on the sofa, sewing a sampler.
The clock ticked on. The silence lengthened beyond an hour, until at last Charlotte could bear it no longer. She shut the magazine, sat upright, and spoke, in a quiet but firm voice. "Sisters," she said. "Listen to me; I have something to tell you."
The other two looked up at her with expressions of mild interest.
"I have been writing a great deal, lately, as you may have noticed," Charlotte continued.
Anne and Emily looked at one another, and then at their sister.
"No," Emily said.
"Oh. Well, I have, and what I have to tell you is - I have written a book!"
Dead silence greeted this announcement. Charlotte frowned. She had been hoping for some enthusiasm.
"Are you not surprised?" she asked them.
Emily stared at her before replying.
"Let me think -. no, can't say I am."
"Well, should you at least like to see the fruit of my labours?" Emily sighed.
"Go on then, drag it out."
Charlotte stood up, and removed a fat wodge of paper, held insecurely in card covers, from a cupboard, and laid it proudly on the table.
"There," she said.
Anne picked it up, and turned a page.
"What kind of a name," she began, sounding a little severe, "is Currer?"
"Well," Charlotte replied eagerly, "I was advised that as a mere woman I should stand little chance of publication, so I chose a pseudonym. Currer Bell, do you see – C.B. My initials."
"Silly name," Emily observed.
"And who," Anne went on, sounding more annoyed yet, "advised you of this?"
"Oh, a most remarkable person, with a name quite as unusual as Currer! I met her at a tea party in Bradford-a Miss Next, would you believe – Miss Thursday Next! Have you ever heard the like?"
"Yes," Anne replied evenly. She opened her reticule and pulled out another fat manuscript, and laid it on the table beside Charlotte's. "She told me to call myself Acton."
Charlotte glared at the manuscript, her thunder quite stolen.
"Acton!" she cried. "Whatever next! What would she call Emily, pray, Ealing?"
"Nope," Emily put in, dragging her own manuscript out from under the sofa.
Charlotte's frown doubled in intensity.
"Strange taste in names our friend has," she said. "Still, it could have been worse -. she kept referring to us as Scary, Baby and Posh for some reason."
She opened Emily's manuscript.
"Wuthering Heights!" she said, witheringly. "What, pray tell, is 'wuthering' supposed to mean?"
"It's the noise the wind makes up on the high moors," Emily replied defensively; "for it is a tale of passion, set up on th'moors, where men are manly and women are glad of it!"
"Passion!" Charlotte laughed. "What do you know of passion, child?"
"Plenty since I caught Aunt Branwell at it with the coalman," Emily answered.
"Emily! For shame! I have never heard such talk!"
"Oh, come on Charlie, you must have - who was that old goat in Brussels who used to chase you round the schoolroom?"
"Oh! Never! Monsieur's intentions toward me were strictly honourable - more's the pity - I mean, how dare you say such things."
"Excuse me," Anne put in; "but what was it Aunt Branwell was at, exactly?"
Emily told her.
"Oh. Really. Fancy that." Suddenly Anne brightened; "Ah, that explains what brother Branwell gets up to in the sheepfold every Saturday night."
Charlotte glared at her.
"Be that as it may," she said severely, "it remains that we all three appear to have written a book. A fine pickle this Next woman has landed us in! What are we to do?"
"Well," Emily said, "you do as you like, but I intend to publish it and make pots of money. Possibly with a sideline in souvenirs and tasteless knick-knacks - what do you think of Heathcliff as a name for aftershave?"
"And how do you intend to get it published, exactly?"
"Who's that old bore you write fangirl letters to?"
"I presume you are referring to my correspondence with Mr. Thackeray."
"That's the bloke. Send them to him; if you suck up to him enough he might sick his publisher on to it. Job sorted."
"Is that the proper course to pursue, do you think?"
"Course it is. What's the alternative? Hawk the stuff round every publisher in the land until one of 'em reads it? Who needs seventy-six rejections? You have to have an in."
"I see. Very well, then."
At this point Emily broke into a coughing fit, in which she was shortly joined by Anne. When Emily had recovered, she turned to Charlotte; "Better write that letter, sis. Something tells me we haven't got much time."