فصل 03

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فصل 03

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CHAPTER TREE

The little hooks

I had four children now - Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne. I did not send them to school again for many years. God’s ways are hard to understand, I thought. Perhaps God was not pleased with me; perhaps He wanted Maria and Elizabeth for Himself. I decided to keep the others at home. Aunt Branwell could teach them, and I could help when I had time.

They were clever children, quick at learning. They loved to write and draw and paint, and they talked all day long. And, thank God, they were not ill. In the afternoons, my servant, Tabby, took them for long walks on the moors behind the house. They walked for miles on the hilltops in the strong clean wind, alone with the birds and the sheep. I think it was good for them.

They grew stronger, and there was a bright light in their eyes.

I was not the only sad father in Haworth. Many, many children died, and I had to bury them all. The water in Haworth was bad, so many children died from illness. And many more died from accidents; I saw a hundred children die from fire. In my house, I was always very careful. I had no curtains, no carpets, because I was afraid of fire. My children never wore cotton clothes, because they burn so easily.

One day in 1826 I brought a box of toy soldiers home from Leeds. Next morning the children began to play games with them.

‘This one is mine!’ Charlotte said. ‘He’s the Duke of Wellington!’

‘And this is mine!’ said Branwell. ‘He’s Napoleon Bonaparte!’ The children liked the wooden soldiers and began to tell a story about them. It was a very exciting story, I remember. They read it to me and Aunt Branwell and Tabby, our servant. The next day they invented another story, and then another. And then for several days the children were very quiet, and I wondered what they were doing.

I went upstairs, and opened their bedroom door. Inside, they were all busily writing or drawing on small pieces of paper. The wooden soldiers were in the middle of the room in front of them.

‘What are you doing?’ I asked.

Emily looked up. ‘Oh, father, please go away,’ she said. ‘We’re writing our secret books.’

I suppose I looked sad. ‘What? Can’t I see them?’ I asked.

They all thought for a minute. Then Charlotte said, very seriously: ‘You can see some of them, of course, papa. But they aren’t easy to read, because it’s very small writing. We’ll show them to you when we are ready.’

These toy soldiers opened a new world for my children. They showed me some of their stories, but there were hundreds that they kept secret. They all began writing so young - Charlotte, the oldest, was only ten, and Emily was eight. I don’t think they ever stopped. Mr Nicholls has all Charlotte’s little books now, in a cupboard in his room. Some of them are no more than five or six centimetres high. They are beautifully made, and full of small pictures and tiny writing. There is one on my desk now, but I can’t read it, my eyes are too bad.

Charlotte and Branwell wrote about a country called Angria, while Emily and Anne wrote about a land called Gondal. The people in those countries fought battles and fell in love, and wrote letters and poems. My children wrote these poems and letters, and they wrote books about Angria and Gondal. They drew maps of the countries, wrote newspapers about them, and drew pictures of the towns and people in their stories. They invented a new world for themselves.

They wrote many of these stories when I was in bed. I used to read to the family, and pray with them in the evening, and then I usually went to bed at nine o’clock. One night, I remember, I woke up and came down again at ten. There was a noise in my room - this room where I am writing now. I opened the door and saw Charlotte and Branwell with a candle, looking at a picture on my wall.

‘What are you doing here?’ I asked.

‘We’re looking at the picture, papa,’ Branwell said. ‘It’s the Duke of Zamorna and the Duke of Northangerland fighting in Glasstown.’

I looked at the picture. It’s here now behind me. It’s a picture of a story in the Bible, with a town, mountains, and hundreds of people in it. ‘What do you mean?’ I asked.

‘It’s one of our stories, papa,’ Charlotte said. ‘We have to come in here to look at the picture. Then we invent what happens.’

‘Tell me, then,’ I said. They both looked very excited; their faces were pink, and their eyes were bright in the candlelight. But they looked happy too. I put my candle on the table, and sat down here, where I am sitting now, to listen to their story.

It was a wonderful story. Charlotte’s wooden soldier, the Duke of Wellington, had had a son, Arthur, Duke of Zamorna. Branwell’s toy soldier, Bonaparte, had become the strong, bad, good-looking Duke of Northangerland. The two Dukes were fighting a terrible battle in a city called Glasstown. There were soldiers who died bravely, and beautiful women who fell in love. I listened until two o’clock in the morning. There was much more, but I have forgotten it now.

But I remember the excitement in my children’s faces. Sometimes I thought they could actually see these people, as they talked.

Next day they said no more about it, and I did not ask. It was their own secret world, and they did not let me into it again. But I was pleased they had told me about it once. And sometimes they showed me drawings of places in Angria or Gondal. All my children could draw and paint beautifully. Charlotte used watercolours, and often spent hours painting small pictures. Branwell used oil-paints as well.

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