Five Days of a Journal-
by Mrs Betty Ollerenshaw, Haworth, Yorkshire, September 1846
1 At last, a change in our routine and a rustle of excitement in the house. We have not long settled in and I find that our charwoman, Milly Keeble, who comes in the afternoons, is also working up at the Parsonage in the mornings. Now we shall get to know more about their goings-on. I said to Mr Ollerenshaw that we were lucky, but he merely put on his overcoat and went off to Keighley with the Post Carriage to his haberdashery business.
I spent the entire afternoon going through the linen cupboard and checking for moths, a finickity job. The damsons are picked though, which is good planning.
2 By careful, casual questioning, I am managing to get bits of news from Milly Keeble, our charwoman. It does mean that I have to go into the back kitchen and the larder and laundry room more often than usual, but it is well worth it. Milly told me after careful leading questions, that the brother up at the Parsonage, Branwell, was in trouble at the Black Bull here on Saturday night. He has come back from studying art in Leeds, it is thought he was expelled. What a rumour!
The three sisters are quiet and reserved and of course the Reverend Bronte is much changed after the death of his wife. In the afternoon Milly helped me make damson jam as I have the intention of taking a precious jar up to the Parsonage. Mr Ollerenshaw says I am like a cat ready to pounce. I said he was being nonsensical, it was proper neighbourly interest, something I should have done ages ago when we first moved in.
Evening-time, we played cards with Aunt Amy and Uncle Hubert, which was as boring and as fraught as ever, though my sloe gin (from last year) was much appreciated, though the sandwich cake had not risen again.
3 After going all the way up to the Parsonage with the damson jam I was most put out not to be invited in. The youngest of the sisters, Ann, opened the door and while being most grateful and polite, announced that all the rugs were being beaten in the yard, so she could not invite me in. Some other time would be most suitable. However, I was given a precious snippet by our scullery maid, that she had been sitting on the other aisle of the church on Sunday and, on careful inspection, Branwell Bronte definitely had a black eye. Unfortunately Mr Ollerenshaw and myself were sitting in our pew at the front, near the pulpit.
Mr Ollerenshaw says I am spending too much time gossiping with servants and it will have a bad end. We ate in silence, although the savoury rice croquettes mollified him rather and we spent the rest of the evening amicably beside the fire. A terrible gale ensued during the night.
4 The air extremely fresh after last night’s storm. A few branches down here and there and a fresh layering of autumn leaves everywhere. Feeling newly exhilarated, I though to take a walk as far as cousin Harriet’s, and saw the eldest Bronte girl, Charlotte, striding across the moors into the distance. I know there are no houses in that direction, so I wonder what she does, wandering off like that.
Perhaps with five of them crammed into that Parsonage it is the only way to get some privacy. I could invite one or two of them to tea – why hadn’t I thought of it before? Mr Ollerenshaw can hardly object, as he will be at his office every day until late, as usual.
5 September 14th. Tabitha, the Bronte housekeeper, sent the young garden boy to say that Milly Keeble could not attend today. There is a sad event at the Parsonage as Branwell Bronte fell seriously ill overnight and has suddenly passed away. And then Mr Ollerenshaw advised me against inviting anyone from the Parsonage, as he says they are all mad and I should steer clear of the entire family. I spent the afternoon fuming, cutting up rags ready for autumn rug-making. Annoyed at being deprived of all the gossip, I shall attend the funeral and make certain to get into their house this time. There’s definitely something odd going on there. Otherwise I shall make sure to loiter around the moors on fine afternoons in order to encounter Miss Charlotte or Miss Emily or the quiet one, Ann.