First Page: The Bronte Curse
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Here’s one thing that I kept to myself during the months of Preparation at the time travel institute: I can’t stomach the Brontës. So what brought me to that moment, to a dark Yorkshire night in 184-, all steampunk glory in mutton chops and a frock coat, for my new role as curate of Haworth, previous holder of the post having died of cholera? I was wondering that myself, truly I was, as I walked down that dark endless road that I hoped led toward Haworth, and sort of hoped didn’t, hands buried in my pockets, hat jammed on my head, wind in my face, walking faster and faster, yet feeling the cold insinuating itself under my clothes and slowly into my bones. I wanted to be by a fire, drinking tea, and even more I wanted to see Rachel, who had arrived two weeks ahead of me, to know she was all right. These are the only things in the world I want, I thought, then it started to rain.
The nearest portal the institute could manage was in Ripon. I missed a connection in Leeds and waited hours for the next train, arriving in Keighley after dark to find all the hired carriages already spoken for or their horses tucked into bed. A person of sense would have spent the night at the town’s one inn, fleas and bedbugs be damned; I decided to walk to Haworth. How bad could it be? I was tired of sitting. I had that jittery feeling that can be a side effect of time travel. Mental confusion is another, as I remembered later.
By the time I saw lights in the distance that promised — and eventually delivered – the village, a forbidding confection of tight-packed stone cottages fronting muddy streets, I was wet through, shivering uncontrollably, and making bargains with a god I don’t believe in. At the top of a steep hill, past the jagged teeth of the churchyard’s gravestones, the black rectangle of Haworth Parsonage loomed up like something in a fever dream, and despite the prospect of shelter (and maybe tea) the sight made me hesitate.