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Charlotte Bronte
by [?]

I got out of the train at Keighley, which you must pronounce “Keethley,” and leaving my valise with the station-master started on foot for Haworth, four miles away.

Keighley is a manufacturing town where various old mansions have been turned into factories, and new factories have sprung up, square, spick-span, trimmed-stone buildings, with fire-escapes and red tanks on top.

One of these old mansions I saw had a fine copper roof that shone in the sun like a monster Lake Superior agate. It stands a bit back from the road, and on one great gatepost is a brass plate reading “Cardigan Hall,” and on the other a sign, “No Admittance–Apply at the Office.” So I applied at the office, which is evidently the ancient lodge, and asked if Mr. Cardigan was in. Four clerks perched on high stools, crouching over big ledgers, dropped their pens and turning on their spiral seats looked at me with staring eyes, and with mouths wide open. I repeated the question and one of the quartette, a wheezy little old man in spectacles and with whiskers on his neck, clambered down from his elevated position and ambled over near, walking around me, eying me curiously.

“Go wan wi’ yer wurruk, ye idlers!” he suddenly commanded the others. And then he explained to me that Mr. Cardigan was not in, neither was Mr. Jackson. In fact, Mr. Cardigan had not been in for a hundred years–being dead. But if I wanted to look at goods I could be accommodated with bargains fully five per cent below Lunnon market. The little old man was in such serious earnest that I felt it would be a sin to continue a joke. I explained that I was only a tourist in search of the picturesque, and thereby did I drop ten points in the old man’s estimation. But this did I learn, that Lord Cardigan has won deathless fame by attaching his name to a knit jacket, just as the name Jaeger will go clattering down the corridors of time attached to a “combination suit.”

This splendid old mansion was once the ancestral home of a branch of the noble family of Cardigan. But things got somewhat shuffled, through too many hot suppers up to London (being south), and stacks of reds and stacks of blues were drawn in towards the dealer, and so the old mansion fell under the hammer of the auctioneer. What an all-powerful thing is an auctioneer’s hammer! And now from the great parlors, and the library, and the “hall,” and the guest-chambers echo the rattle of spinning-jennies and the dull booming of whirling pulleys. And above the song of whirring wheels came the songs of girls at their work–voices that alone might have been harsh and discordant, but blending with the monotone of the factory’s roar were really melodious.

“We cawn’t keep the nasty things from singin’,” said the old man apologetically.

“Why should you?” I asked.

“Huh, mon! but they sing sacred songs, and chaunts, and a’ that, and say all together from twenty rooms, a hundred times a day, ‘Aws ut wuz in th’ beginnin,’ uz now awn ever shawl be, worl’ wi’out end, Aamen.’ It’s not right. I’ve told Mr. Jackson. Listen now, didn’t I tell ye?”

“Then you are a Churchman?”

And the old man wiped his glasses and told me that he was a Churchman, although an unworthy one, and had been for fifty-four years, come Michaelmas. Yes, he had always lived here, was born only across the beck away–his father was gamekeeper for Lord Cardigan, and afterwards agent. He had been to Haworth many times, although not for ten years. He knew the Reverend Patrick Bronte well, for the Incumbent from Haworth used to preach at Keighley once a year, and sometimes twice. Bronte was a fine man, with a splendid voice for intoning, and very strict about keeping out all heresies and such. He had a lot of trouble, had Bronte: his wife died and left him with eight or ten children, all smart, but rather wild. They gave him a lot of bother, especially the boy. One of the girls married Mr. Bronte’s curate, Mr. Nicholls, a very decent kind of man who comes to Keighley once a year, and always comes to the factory to ask how things are going.