The Life of Charlotte Bronte HTML version

Chapter 5
For the reason just stated, the little girls were sent home in the autumn of 1825, when
Charlotte was little more than nine years old.
About this time, an elderly woman of the village came to live as servant at the parsonage.
She remained there, as a member of the household, for thirty years; and from the length
of her faithful service, and the attachment and respect which she inspired, is deserving of
mention. Tabby was a thorough specimen of a Yorkshire woman of her class, in dialect,
in appearance, and in character. She abounded in strong practical sense and shrewdness.
Her words were far from flattery; but she would spare no deeds in the cause of those
whom she kindly regarded. She ruled the children pretty sharply; and yet never grudged a
little extra trouble to provide them with such small treats as came within her power. In
return, she claimed to be looked upon as a humble friend; and, many years later, Miss
Bronte told me that she found it somewhat difficult to manage, as Tabby expected to be
informed of all the family concerns, and yet had grown so deaf that what was repeated to
her became known to whoever might be in or about the house. To obviate this publication
of what it might be desirable to keep secret, Miss Bronte used to take her out for a walk
on the solitary moors; where, when both were seated on a tuft of heather, in some high
lonely place, she could acquaint the old woman, at leisure, with all that she wanted to
Tabby had lived in Haworth in the days when the pack-horses went through once a week,
with their tinkling bells and gay worsted adornment, carrying the produce of the country
from Keighley over the hills to Colne and Burnley. What is more, she had known the
"bottom," or valley, in those primitive days when the fairies frequented the margin of the
"beck" on moonlight nights, and had known folk who had seen them. But that was when
there were no mills in the valleys; and when all the wool-spinning was done by hand in
the farm-houses round. "It wur the factories as had driven 'em away," she said. No doubt
she had many a tale to tell of by-gone days of the country-side; old ways of living, former
inhabitants, decayed gentry, who had melted away, and whose places knew them no
more; family tragedies, and dark superstitious dooms; and in telling these things, without
the least consciousness that there might ever be anything requiring to be softened down,
would give at full length the bare and simple details.
Miss Branwell instructed the children at regular hours in all she could teach, making her
bed-chamber into their school-room. Their father was in the habit of relating to them any
public news in which he felt an interest; and from the opinions of his strong and
independent mind they would gather much food for thought; but I do not know whether
he gave them any direct instruction. Charlotte's deep thoughtful spirit appears to have felt
almost painfully the tender responsibility which rested upon her with reference to her
remaining sisters. She was only eighteen months older than Emily; but Emily and Anne
were simply companions and playmates, while Charlotte was motherly friend and