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The author describes a pilgrimage she made to Haworth, the home of the Bronte sisters – Bronte who wrote Jane Eyre, Emily who wrote Wuthering Heights, and Anne who wrote Agnes Grey.
One fine day in February, I landed at Keighley station! Friends had recommended that I travel by road to Haworth to visit the famous Bronte parsonage and there were convenient buses, but I being a railway aficionado preferred the train.
Exactly at 10:20 the train arrived. I looked up with utter fascination – the train was a beauty all from the past! A small steam engine tugged along four correspondingly small sized bogies! This train reminded me of our own Blue Mountain train of Ooty or the Toy train of Darjeeling! The coaches were made of wood, very finely polished and cleaned. How well maintained, I thought. Yet they must be about a century old. A passerby noticing my astonishment stopped to exclaim, “This train is pretty old, maybe more than a hundred years old. We love the Bronte sisters so this special arrangement. This train operates only on weekends. But in July and August it runs daily. Hop in or you’ll miss it.”
Promptly, I got into the nearest compartment. A couple of tourists had already settled down. Surprisingly, there were more foreigners than locals. A Thai girl graciously offered me a seat next to her. I accepted with a smile and greetings “Sawadi kha”. She beamed! “Your first trip to Haworth?” she began the conversation. I answered her in the affirmative. She helped me remove my backpack and place it on the luggage shelf. I thanked her.
Meanwhile, the engine coughed, puffed and tugged along. Gradually it gained speed and glided smoothly over fields, countryside, small bridges and undulating road. My co-passengers had stopped chatting and were gazing at the natural beauty that was being unfolded! Many captured them on their video cameras. I did too. There was utter silence as everyone was engrossed in the countryside rolling by.
Within two hours or so we reached the renowned Haworth station! Following the crowd, I reached the exit, crossed the railway footbridge and arrived at the cobbled lane. From here my destination to the Haworth village was not very far. Hence, I chose to walk.
I looked around and was spellbound and astounded! Time seemed to have stood still. The lanes and houses and buildings all seemed exactly as I had seen in Bronte movies and books. The town was perched on hills and I was grateful that my local friend had told me to wear good walking shoes, preferably boots, and also carry a mackintosh in case of rain. “Wuthering” is a Yorkshire word which means stormy weather! So there was great veracity and sagacity in my friend’s advice. Several tourists too were enjoying their walk. Suddenly, there was a slight shower, so I put on my mackintosh.
As the rain became heavier, I gazed around for shelter and found a small snack bar, named Villette Coffee House – I just walked in and a young girl, probably a waitress, welcomed me. She smiled and presented the menu card. I nodded and informed her that I wanted something vegetarian and clearly explained – no meat, no eggs but I could accept butter and cheese. Finally I settled for grilled cheese sandwich and coffee with little cream. This simple dish tasted delicious and I realised how hungry I had been.
The rains had stopped and my meal too was over so I sauntered out. Just when I was wondering which path to take, I noticed a board pointing towards Haworth Museum. I quickened my steps, but with caution as the main street was relatively steep. I noticed the Haworth post office nearby. The pub where Branwell used to drink was also close by. The Brontes’ imprints were visible everywhere.
My program was to visit the most popular Bronte Parsonage. I gazed around and was fascinated by the 19th century ambience. Of course people were of the present era but buildings mostly Georgian!
Then I spotted another Bronte Museum signage. I hastened my footsteps and kept on walking and walking. It was bit tiring, but the thrill of visiting my favourite authors’ home lifted my spirits. I had to cross a narrow walled lane, which was filled with grass and plants. Finally, I was standing before the very house where Charlotte, Emily, Anne and their brother, Branwell had lived. It was in this building that they had conceived and written the most absorbing novels and poems. In 1847, Charlotte has published Jane Eyre, Emily had published Wuthering Heights and Anne had published Agnes Grey. Sadly, all three had died within eight years of this.
I was overjoyed to tread on the very ground these great authors had strode upon! A lady at the door smiled and let me in.
The house seemed pretty small for a large family even though, I had read, an extension had been added. The dining room had that famous dining table on which the sisters worked, chopped vegetables and also wrote their novels. It was fascinating to find a lot of objects the Brontes must have used. There was kettle, few utensils, writing cases, hats and dresses of the three sisters. A narrow staircase led to their room. The custodian showed me the siblings’ juvenile literary magazine- Blackwood’s Young Men’s Magazine! She let me touch provided I put on my gloves, which I promptly did. My hands shook when I gazed at the tiny books hand-sewn with brown sugar paper covers. The four children had been inspired to create a fantasy world by a set of ten toy soldiers. These toys too were displayed on a shelf. I marvelled at the meticulous care the Museum caretakers took of the objects.
At the Parsonage Museum there was a store that sold souvenirs, which had the images of the Bronte Sisters. I purchased a dozen of them.
I now desired to visit the much renowned moor. So I trekked a few miles and reached the Wild Moors. There were a few sheep and cows grazing. But that did not dampen my enthusiasm. This was the very moorland of which the sisters, especially Emily passionately talked about in her novel. In fact the moorland formed an important character in the novels. I saw an old dilapidated farmhouse. A local passing by explained that this was the house that had inspired Wuthering Heights. By now I was tired and thirsty but extremely happy, and turned back to go back to the village.
It had been a good day.
Image source: By SpaceMonkey at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
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I am an English teacher. Have taught in three colleges for almost twenty years. Later
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