1801-- I have just returned from a visit to my landlord-the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. This is a certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society. A perfect misanthropists's Heaven-and Mr. Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the desolation between us. A capital fellow! He little imagined how my heart warmed towards him when I beheld his black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under their brows, as I rode up, and when his fingers sheltered themselves, with a jealous resolution, still further in his waistcoat, as I announced my name.
"Mr. Heathcliff?" I said.
A nod was the answer.
"Mr. Lockwood, your new tenant, sir-I do myself the honour of calling as soon as possible after my arrival, to express the hope that I have not inconvenienced you by my perseverance in soliciting the occupation of Thrushcross Grange: I heard, yesterday, you had had some thoughts-"
"Thrushcross Grange is my own, sir, " he interrupted, wincing,
"I should not allow any one to inconvenience me, if I could hinder it-walk in!"
The "walk in" was uttered with closed teeth and expressed the sentiment, " Go to the Deuce!" Even the gate over which he leant manifested no sympathizing movement to the words; and I think that circumstance determined me to accept the invitation: I felt interested in a man who seemed more exaggeratedly reserved than myself.
When he saw my horse's breast fairly pushing the barrier, he did pull out his hand to unchain it, and then suddenly preceded me up the causeway, calling, as we entered the court:
"Joseph, take Mr. Lockwood's horse; and bring up some wine."
"Here we have the whole establishment of domestics, I suppose," was the reflection, suggested by this compound order.
"No wonder the grass grows up between the flags, and cattle are the only hedge-cutters."
Joseph was an elderly, nay, an old man: very old, perhaps, though hale and sinewy.
"The Lord help us!" he soliloquised in an undertone of peevish displeasure, while relieving me of my horse: looking, meantime, in my face so sourly that I charitably conjectured he must have need of divine aid to digest his dinner, and his pious ejaculation had no reference to my unexpected advent.
Wuthering Heights' is the name of Mr. Heathcliff's dwelling, "Wuthering" being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather.
Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there, at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun. Happily, the architect had foresight to build it strong: the narrow windows are deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended with large jutting stones.
Before passing the threshold, I paused to admire a quantity of grotesque carving lavished over the front, and especially about the principal door, above which, among a wilderness of crumbling griffins and shameless little boys, I detected the date "1500" and the name "Harton Earnshaw." I would have made a few comments, and requested a short history of the place from the surly owner, but his attitude at the door appeared to demand my speedy entrance, or complete departure, and I had no desire to aggravate his impatience, previous to inspecting the penetralium.
One step brought us into the family sitting-room, without any introductory lobby or passage: they call it here "the house" preeminently. It includes kitchen and parlor, generally, but I believe at Wuthering Heights the kitchen is forced to retreat altogether into another quarter: at least I distinguished a chatter of tongues, and a clatter of culinary utensils, deep within; and I observed no signs of roasting, boiling, or baking, about the huge fire-place; nor any glitter of copper saucepans and tin cullenders on the walls. One end, indeed, reflected splendidly both light and heat from ranks of immense pewter dishes, interspersed with silver jugs and tankards, towering row after row, in a vast oak dresser, to the very roof. The latter had never been underdrawn: its entire anatomy lay bare to an inquiring eye, except where a frame of wood laden with oatcakes, and clusters of legs of beef, mutton and ham, concealed it. Above the chimney were sundry villanous old guns, and a couple of horse-pistols, and by way of ornament, three gaudily painted canisters disposed along its ledge. The floor was of smooth, white stone: the chairs, high- backed, primitive structures, painted green:one or two heavy black ones lurking in the shade. In an arch under the dresser, reposed a huge, liver coloured bitch pointer, surrounded by a swarm of squealing puppies, and other dogs haunted other recesses.
The apartment and furniture would have been nothing extraordinary as belonging to a homely, northern farmer, with a stubborn countenance, and stalwart limbs set out to advantage in knee-breeches and gaiters. Such an individual, seated in his armchair, his mug of ale frothing on the round table before him, is to seen in any circuit of five or six miles among these hills, if you go at the
right time, after dinner. But Mr. Heathcliff forms a singular contrast to his abode and style of living. He is dark skinned gypsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman-that is, as much a gentleman as many a country squire: rather slovenly, perhaps yet not looking amiss with his negligence, because he has an erect and handsome figure-and rather morose-possibly some people might suspect him of a degree under-bred pride-I have a sympathetic chord within that tells me it is nothing of the sort; I know, by instinct, his reserve springs from an aversion to showy displays of feeling-to manifestations of mutual kindliness. He'll love and hate, equally under cover esteem it as a species of impertinence to be loved or hated again-No, I'm running on too fast-I bestow my own attributes over-liberally on him. Mr. Heatheliff may have entirely dissimilar reasons for keeping his hand out of the way, when he meets a would-be acquaintances, to those which actuate me. Let me hope my constitution is almost peculiar: my dear mother used to say I should never have a comfortable home, and only last summer I proved myself perfectly unworthy of one.
While enjoying a month of fine weather at the sea-coast, I was thrown into the company of a most fascinating creature, a real goddess in my eyes, as long as she took no notice of me. I never told my love vocally; still, looks have language, the merest idiot might have guessed I was over head and cars: she understood me, at last, and looked a return-the sweetest of all imaginable looks-and what did I do? I confess it with shame-shrunk icily into myself, like a snail, at every glance retired colder and farther, till, finally, the poor innocent was led to doubt her own senses, and, overwhelmed with confusion at her supposed mistake, persuaded her mama to decamp.
By this curious turn of disposition, I have gained the reputation of deliberate heartlessness, how undeserved, I alone can appreciate.
I took a seat at the end of the hearthstone opposite that towards which my landlord advanced, and filled up an interval of silence by attempting to caress the canine mother, who had left her nursery, and was sneaking wolfishly to the back of my legs, her lip curled up, and her white teeth watering for a snatch.
My caress provoked a long, guttural gnarl.
"You'd better let the dog alone," growled Mr. Heathcliff, in unison, checking fiercer demonstration with a punch of his foot.
"She's not accustomed to be spoiled-not kept for a pet."
Then, striding to a side-door, he shouted again.
Joseph mumbled indistinctly in the depths of the cellar, but gave no intimation of ascending; so his master dived down to him, leaving me vis-a-vis the ruffianly bitch and a pair of grim, shaggy sheep dogs, who shared with her a jealous guardianship over all my movements.
Not anxious to come in contact with their fangs, I sat still-but, imagining they would scarcely understand tacit insults, I unfortunately indulged in winking and making faces at the trio, and some turn of my physiognomy so irritated madam, that she suddenly broke into a fury, and leapt on my knees. I flung her back, and hastened to interpose the table between us. This proceeding roused the whole hive. Half-a-dozen four-footed friends, of various sizes and ages, issued from hidden dens to the common centre. I felt my heels and coat-laps peculiar subjects of assault; and, parrying off the larger combatants as effectually as I could, with the poker, I was constrained to demand, aloud, assistance from some of the household in re-establishing peace.
Mr. Heathcliff and his man climbed the cellar steps with vexatious phlegm. I don't think they moved one second faster than usual, though the hearth was an absolute tempest of worrying and yelping.
Happily, an inhabitant of the kitchen made more dispatch; a lusty dame, with tucked-up gown, bare arms, and fire-flushed cheeks, rushed into the midst of us flourishing a frying-pan; and used that weapon, and her tongue, to shcu purpose, that the storm subsided magically, and she only remained, heaving like a sea after a high wind, when her master entered on the scene.
"What the devil is the matter?" he asked, eyeing me in a manner that I could ill endure after this inhospitable treatment.
"What the devil indeed!" I muttered. "The herd of possessed swine" could have had no worse spirits in them than those animals of yours, sir. You might as well leave a stranger with a brood of tigers!"
"They won't meddle with persons who touch nothing," he remarked, putting the bottle before me, and restoring the displaced table. "The dogs do right to be vigilant. Take a glass of wine?"
"No, thank you."
"Not bitten, are you?"
"If I had been, I would have set my signet on the biter."
Hedathcliff's countenance relaxed into a grin.
"Come, come," he said, "you are flurried, Mr. Lockwood. Here, take a little wine. Guests are so exceedingly reare in the house that I and my dogs, I am willing to own, hardly know how to receive them. Your health, sir!"
I bowed and returned the pledge; beginning to perceive that it would be foolish to sit sulking for the misbehaviour of a pack of curs: besides, I felt loath to yield the fellow further amusement, at my expense; since his humour took that turn.
He probably swayed by prudential considerations of the folly of offending a good tenant-relaxed a little in the laconic style or chipping off his pronouns and auxiliary verbs, and induced what he supposed would be a subject of interest to me, a discourse on the advantages and disavantages of my present place of retirement.
I found him very intelligent on the topics we touched; and, before I went home, I was encouraged so far as to volunteer another visit, tomorrow.
He evidently wished no repetition of my intrusion. I shall go, notwithstanding. It is astonishing how sociable I feel myself compared with him.
Yesterday afternoon set in misty and cold. I had half a mind to spend it by my study fire, instead of wading through heath and mud to Wuthering Heights.
On coming up from dinner, however,(N.B. I dine between twelve and one o'clock; the house keeper, a matronly lady taken as a fixture along with the house, could not, or would not comprehend my request that I might be served at five),-on mounting the stairs with this lazy intention, and stepping into the room, I saw a servant-girl on her knees, surrounded by brushes and coal-scuttles, and raising an infernal dust as she extinguished the flames with heaps of cinders. This spectacle drove me back immediately; I took my hat, and, after a four miles walk, arrived at Heathcliff's garden gate just in time to escape the first feathery flakes of a snow shower.
On that bleak hill top the earth was hard with a black frost, and the air made me shiver through every limb. Being unable to remove the chain, I jumped over, and running up the flagged causeway bordered with straggling gooseberry bushes, knocked vainly for admittance, till my knuckles tingled and the dogs howled.
"Wretched inmates!" I ejaculated, mentally, "You deserve perpetual isolation from your species for your churlish inhospitality. At least, I would not keep my doors barred in the day time-I don't care-I will get in!"
So resolved, I grasped the latch, and shook it vehemently.
Vinegar-faced Joseph projected his head from a round window of the barn.
"What are ye for?" he shouted. "T' maister's dahn i" t'fowld." Goa rahnd by th' end ut'laith, if yah went tuh spake tull him."
"Is there nobody inside to open the door?" I hallooed, responsively.
"They's nobbutt' msiiis; and shoo'll nut oppen't an ye mak yer flaysome dins till neeght."
"Why? Cannot you tell her who I am, eh, Joseph?"
"Nor-ne me! Aw'll hae noa hend wi't," muttered the head, vanishing.
The snow began to drive thickly. I seized the handle to essay another trial; When a young man, without a coat, and shouldering a pitchfork, appeared in the yard behind. He hailed me to follow him, and after marching through a wash-house, and a paved area containing a coal-shed, pump, and pigeon cote, we at length arrived in the large, warm, cheerful apartment where I was formerly received.
It glowed delightfully in the radiance of an immense fire, compounded of coal, peat, and wood: and near the table, laid for a plentiful evening meal, I was pleased to observe the "missis," an individual whose existence I had never previously suspected.
I bowed and waited, thinking she would bid me take a seat. She looked at me, leaning back in her chair, and remained motionless and mute.
"Rough weather!" I remarked. "I am afraid, Mrs. Heathcliff, the floor must bear the consequence of your servants' leisure attendance: I had hard work to make them hear me!"
She never opened her mouth. I stared-she stared also. At any rate, she ketp her eyes on me, in a cool, regardless manner, exceedingly embarrassing and disagreeable.
"Sit down," said the young man, gruffly. "He'll be in soon." I obeyed; and hemmed, and called the villain Juno, who deigned, at the second interview, to move the extreme tip of her tail, in token of my acquaintance.
"A beautiful animal!" I commenced again. "Do you intend parting with the little ones, madam?"
"They are not mine," said the amiable hostess more repellingly than Heathcliff himself could have replied.
"Ah, your favourites are among these!" I continues, turning to an obscure cushion full of something like cats.
"A strange choice of favourites," she observed scornfully.
Unluckily, it was a heap of dead rabbits-I hemmed once more, and drew closer to the hearth, repeating my comment on the wildness of the evening.
"You should not have come out," she said, rising and reaching from the chimney piece two of the painted canisters. Her position was sheltered from the light: now, I had a distinct view of her whole figure and countenance. She was slender, and apparently scarcely past girlhood: an admirable form, and the most exquisite little face that I have ever had the pleasure of beholding: small features, very fair; flaxen ringlets, or rather golden, hanging loose on her delicate neck; and eyes-had they been agreeable in expression, they would have been irresistible-fortunately for my susceptible heart, the only sentiment they evinced hovered between scorn and a kind of desperation, singularly unnatural to be detected there.
The canisters were almost out of her reach; I made a motion to aid her she turned upon me as a miser might turn, if any one attempted to assist him in counting his gold.
"I don't your help," she snapped, "I can get them for myself."
"I beg your pardon," I hastened to reply.
"Were you asked to tea? she demanded, trying an apron over her neat black frock, and standing with a spoonful of the leaf poised over the pot.
"I shall be glad to have a cup," I answered.
"Were you asked?" she repeated.
"No," I said, half smiling. "You are the proper person to ask me."
She flung the tea back, spoon and all; and resumed her chair in a pet, her forehead corrugated, and her red under-lip pushed out. like a child's, ready to cry.
Meanwhile, the young man had slung onto his person a decidedly shabby upper garment, and erecting himself before the blaze, looked down on me from the corner of his eyes, for all the world as if there were some mortal feud unavenged between us. I began to doubt whether he were a servant or not; I began to doubt whether he were a servant or not; his dress and speech were both rude, entirely devoid of the superiority observable in Mr. and Mrs. Heathcliff; his thick and brown curls were rough and uncultivated, his whiskers encroached bearishly over his cheeks, and his hands were embrowned like those of a common labourer, still his bearing was free, almost haughty, and he showed none of a domestic's assiduity in attending on the lady of the house.
In the absence of clear proofs of his condition, I deemed it best to abstain from noticing his curious conduct, and, five minutes afterwards, the entrance of Heathcliff relieved me, in some measure, from my uncomfortable state.
"You see, sir, I am come according to promise!" I exclaimed assuming the cheerful; " and I fear I shall be weather-bound for half an hour, if you can afford me shelter during that space."
"Half an hour?" he said, shaking the white flakes from his clothes; "I wonder you should select the thick of a snow-storm to ramble about in. Do you know you run the risk of being lost in the marshes? People familiar with these moors often miss their road on such evenings, and, I can tell you, there is no chance of a change at present."
"Perhaps I can get a guide among your lads, and he might stay at the Grange till morning-could you spare me one?"
"No, I could not."
"Oh, indeed! Well, then I must trust to my own sagacity."
"Are you going to make the tea?" demanded he of the shabby coat, shifting his ferocious gaze from me to the young lady.
"Is he to have any?" she asked, appealing to Heathcliff.
"Get it ready, will you?" was the answer, uttered so savagely that I started. The tone in which the words said revealed a genuine bad nature. I no longer felt inclined to call Heathcliff a capital fellow.
When the preparations were finished, he invited me with-"Now, sir, bring forward your chair." And we all, including the rustic youth, drew round the table, an austere silence prevailing while we discussed meal.
I thought, if I had caused the cloud, it was my duty to make an effort to dispel it. They could not everyday sit so grim and taciturn, and it was impossible, however ill-tempered they might be, that the universal scowl they wore was their every day countenance.
"It is strange," I began, in the interval of swallowing one cup of tea and receiving another, "it is strange how custom can mould our tastes and ideas; many could not imagine the existence of happiness in a life of such complete exile from the world as you spend, Mr. Heathcliff; yet, I'll venture to say, that surrounded by your family, and with your amiable lady as the presiding genius over your home and heart-"
"My amiable lady!" he interrupted, with an almost diabolical sneer on his face. "Where is she-my amiable lady?"
"Mrs. Heathcliff, your wife, I mean."
"Well, yes, Oh! you would intimate that her spirit has taken the post of ministering angel, and guards the fortunes of Wuthering Heights, even when her body is gone. Is that it?"
Perceiving myself in a blunder, I attempted to correct it. I might have seen there was too great a disparity. between the ages of the parties to make it likely that they were man and wife. One was about
forty; a period of mental vigour at which men seldom cherish the delusion of being married for love, by girls: that dream is reserved for the solace of our declining years. The other did not look seventeen.
Then it flashed upon me-"The clown at my elbow, who is drinking his tea out of basin and eating his bread with unwashed hands, may be her husband; Heathcliff junior, of course. Here is the consequence of being buried alive: she has thrown herself away upon that boor, from sheer ignorance that better individuals existed! A sad pity-I must beware how I cause her to regret her choice."
The last reflection may seem conceited; it was not. My neighbor struck me as bordering on repulsive. I knew, through experience, that I was tolerably attractive.
"Mrs. Heathcliff is my daughter-in-law," said Heathcliff, corroborating my surmise, as he spoke, a peculiar look in her direction, a look of hatred-unless he has most perverse set of facial muscles that will not, like those of other people, interpret the language of his soul.
"Ah, certainly-I see now; you are the favoured possessor of the beneficent fairy," I remarked, turning to my neighbour.
This was worse than before: the youth grew crimson, and clenched his fist with every appearance of a meditated assault. But he seemed to recollect himself, presently; and smothered the storm in a brutal curse, muttered on my behalf, which, however, I took care not to notice.
"Unhappy in your conjectures, sir!" observed my host; "we neither of us have the privilege of owning your good fairy; her mate is dead. I said she was my daughter-in-law, therefore, he must have married
"And this young man is-"
"Not my son, assuredly!"
Heathcliff smiled again, as if it were rather too bold a jest to attribute the paternity of that bear to him.
"My name is Hareton Earnshaw," growled the other; "and I'd counsel you to respect it!"
"I've shown no disrespect," was my reply, laughing internally at the dignity with which he announced himself.
He fixed his eye on me longer than I cared to return the stare, for fear I might be tempted either to box his ears or render my hilarity audible. I began to feel unmistakably out of place in that pleasant family circle. The dismal spiritual atmosphere overcame, and more than neutralized the glowing physical comforts round me; and I resolved to be cautious how I ventured under those rafters third time.
The business of eating being concluded, and no one uttering a word of sociable conversation, I approached a window to examine the weather.
A sorrow sight I saw; dark night coming down prematurely, and sky and hills mingled in one bitter whirl of wind and suffocating snow.
"I don't think it possible for me to get home now, without a guide," I could not help exclaiming. "The roads will be buried already; and, if they were bare, I could scarcely distinguish a foot in advance."
"Hareton, drive those dozen sheep into the barn porch. They'll be covered if left in the fold all night; and put a plank before them," said Heathcliff.
"How must I do?" I continued, with rising irritation.
There was no reply to my question; and, on looking round, I saw only Joseph bringing in a pail of porridge for the dogs and Mrs. Heathcliff leaning over the fire, diverting herself with burning a bundle of matches which had fallen from the chimney-piece as she restored the tea-canister to its place.
The former, when he had deposited his burden, took a critical survey of the room; and, in cracked tones, grated out:
"Aw woonder hagh yah can faishion tuh stand thear i'idleness un'war, when all on'em goan aght! Bud yah're a nowt, and it's noa use talking-yah'll niver mend uh yer ill ways; mbud goa raight thu t' divil, like yer mother afore ye!"
I imagined, for a moment, that this piece of eloquence wa addressed to me; and, sufficiently enraged, stepped towards the aged rascal with an intention of kicking him out of the door.
Mr's Heathcliff, however, checked me by her answer.
"You scandalous old hypocrite!" she replied. "Are you not afraid of being carried away bodily, whenever you mention the devil's name? I warn you to refrain from provoking me, or I'll ask your abduction as a special favour. Stop, look here, Joseph," she continued taking a long, dark book from a shelf. "I'll show you how fare I've progressed in the Black Art-I shall soon be competent to make a clear house of it. The red cow didn't die by chance; your rheumatism can hardly be reckoned among providential visitation!"
"Oh, wicked, wicked!" gasped the elder, "may the Lord deliver us from evil!"
"No, reprobate! you are a castaway-be off, or I'll hurt you seriously! I'll have you all modelled in was and clay, and the first who passes the limits I fix, shall-I'll not say what he shall be done tobut, you'll see! Go, I'm looking at you!"
The little witch put a mock malignity into her beautiful eyes, and Jpseph, trembling with sincere horror, hurried out praying and ejaculating "wicked" as he went.
I thought her conduct must be prompted by a species of dreary fun, and, now that we were alone, I endeavoured to interest her in my distress.
"Mrs. Heathcliff," I said, earnestly, "you must excuse me for troubling you-I presume, because, with that face, I'm sure you cannot help being good-hearted. Do point out some landmarks by which I may know my way home-I have no more idea how to get there than you would have how to get to London!"
"Take the road you came," she answered, ensconcing herself in a chair, with a candle, and the long book open before her. "It's a brief advice, but as sound as I can give."
"Then, if you hear of me being discovered dead in a bog or a pit full of snow, your conscience won't
whisper that it is partly your fault.?"
"How so? I cannot escort you. They wouldn't let me go to the end of the garden-wall."
"You! I should be sorry to ask you to cross the threshold, for my convenience, on such a night," I cried. "I want you to tell me my way, not to show it; or else to persuade Mr. Heathcliff to give me a guide."
"Who? There is himself, Earnshaw, Zillah, Joseph, and I. Which would you have?"
"Are there no boys at the farm?"
"No, those are all."
"Then, it follows that I am compelled to stay."
"That you may settle with your host. I have nothing to do with it."
"I hope it will be a lesson to you, to make no more rash journeys on these hills," cried Heathcliff's stern voice from the kitchen entrance. "As to staying here, I don't keep accommodations for visitors; you must share a bed with Hareton, or Joseph, if you do."
"I can sleep on a chair in this room," I replied.
"No, no! A stranger is a stranger, be he rich or poor-it will nit suit me to permit any one the range of the place while I am off guard!" said the unmannerly wretch.
With the insult my patience was at an end. I uttered an expression of disgust, and pushed past him into the yard, running against Earnshaw in my haste. It was so dark that I could not see the means of exit, and, as I wandered round, I heard another specimen of their civil behaviour amongst each other.
At first, the young man appeared about to befriend me.
"I'll go with him as far as the park," he said.
"You'll go with him to the hell!" exclaimed his master, or whatever relation he bore. "And who is look after the horses, eh?"
"A man's life is of more consequence than one evening's neglect of the horses; somebody must go." murmurred Mrs. Heathcliff, more kindly than I expected.
"Not at your comand!" retorted Hareton. "If you set store on him, you'd better be quiet."
"Then I hope his ghost will haunt you; and I hope Mr. Heathcliff will never get another tenant, she answered sharply.
"Hearken, hearken, shoo's cursing on 'em!" muttered Joseph, towards whom I had been steering.
He sat within earshot, milking the cows by the aid of a lantern which I seized unceremoniously, and, calling out that I would send it back on the morrow, rushed to the nearest postern.
"Maister, maister, he's stealing t'lantern! shouted the ancient, pursuing my retreat. "Hey, Gnasher! Hey, dog! Hey, Wolf, hold him, hold him!"
On opening the little door, two hairy monsters flew at my throat, bearing me down and extinguishing the light, while a mingled guffaw, from Heathcliff and Hareton, put the copestone on my rage and humiliation.
Fortunately, the beasts seemed more bent on stretching their paws, and yawning, and flourishing their tails, than devouring me alive; but they would suffer no resurrection, and I was forced to lie till their malignant masters pleased to deliver me: then hatless and trembling with wrath, I ordered the miscreants ot let me out-on their peril to keep me one minute longer-with several incoherent threats of rataliation that, in their indefinite depth of virulency, smacked of King Lear.
The vehemence of my agitation brought on a copious bleeding at the nose, and still Heathcliff laughed, and still I scolded. I don't know what would have concluded the scene had there not been one person at hand rather more rational than myself, and more benevolent than my entertainer. This was Zillah, the stout housewife; who at length issued forth to inquire into the nature of the uproar. She thought that some of them had been laying violent hands on me; and, not daring to attack her master, she turned her vocal artillery against the younger scoundrel.
"Well, Mr. Earnshaw," she cired," I wonder what you'll have agait next! Are we going to murder folk on our very door-stones? I see this house will never to for me-look at t'poor lad, he's fair choking! Wisht, wisht! you munn't go on so-come in, and I'll cure that. There now, hold ye still."
With these words she suddenly splashed a pint of icy water down my neck, and pulled me into the kitchen. Mr. Heathcliff followed, his accidental merriment expiring quickly in his habitual moroseness.
I was sick exceedingly, and dizzy and faint; and thus compelled, perforce, to accept lodgings under his roof. He told Zillah to give me a glass of brandy, and then passed on to the inner room, while she condoled with me on my sorry predicament, and having obeyed his orders, whereby I was somewhat revived.
While leading the way upstairs, she recommended that I should hide the candle, and not make a noise; for her master had an odd notion about the chamber she would put me in, and never let anybody lodge willingly.
I asked the reason.
She did not know, she answered; she had only lived there a year or two; and they had so many queer goings on, she could not begin to be curious.
Too stupified to be curious myself, I fastened my door and glanced round for the bed. The whole furniture consisted of a chair, a clothes-press, and a large oak case with squares cut out near the top resembling coach windows.
Having approached this structure, I looked inside, and perceived it to be a singular sort of old-fashioned couch, very conveniently designed to obviate the necessity for every member of the family having a room to himself. In fact, it formed a little closet, and the ledge of a window, which it enclosed, served as a table.
I slid back the panelled sides, got in with my light, pulled them together again, and felt secure against the vigilance of Heathcliff, and every one else.
The ledge, where I placed my candle, had a few mildewed books piled up on one corner; and it was covered with writing scratched on the paint. This writing, however, was nothing but a name repeated in all kinds of characters, large and small-Catherine Earnshaw, here and there varied to Catherine Heathcliff, and then again to Catherine Linton.
In vapid listlessness I leant my head against the window, and continued spelling over Catherine Catherine Earnshaw-Heathcliff-Linton, till my eyes closed; but they had not rested five minutes when a glare of white letters started from the dark, as vivid as spectres-the air swarmed with Catherine; and rousing myself to dispel the obtrusive name, I discovered my candle wick reclining on one of the antique volumes, and perfuming the place with an odour of roasted calf-skin.
I snuffed it off, and very ill at ease under the influence of cold and lingering nausea, sat up, and spread open the injured tome on my knee. It was a Testment, in lean type, and smelling dreadfully musty: a fly-leaf bore the inscription-"Catherine Earnshaw, her book," and a date some quarter of a century back.
I shut it, and took up another, and another, till I had examined all. Catherine's library was select, and its state of dilapidation proved it to have been well used, though not altogether for a legitimate purpose; scarcely one chapter had escaped a pen-and ink commentary-at least, the appearance of one-covering every morsel of blank that the printer had left.
Some were detached sentences; other parts took the form of a regular diary, scrawled in an unformed, childish hand. At the top of an extra page, quite a treasure probably when first lighted on, I was greatly amused to behold an excellent caricature of my friend Joseph, rudely yet powerfully sketched.
An immediate interest kindled within me for the unknown Catherine, and I began, forthwith, to decypher her faded hieroglyphics.
"An awful Sunday!" commenced the paragraph beneath. "I wish my father were back again. Hindley is detestable substitute-his conduct to Heathcliff is atrocious-H. and I are going to rebel-we took our initiatory step this evening.
"All day had been flooding with rain; we could not go to church, so Joseph must needs get up a congregation in the garret; and while Hindley and his wife basked down stairs before a comfortable fire-doing anything but reading their Bibles, I'll answer for it-Heathcliff, myself, and the unhappy plough-boy, were commanded to take our Prayer-books, and mount-we were ranged in a row, on a sack of corn, groaning and shivering, and hoping that Joseph would shiver too, so that he might give us a short homily for his own sake. A vain idea! The service lasted precisely three hours; and yet my brother had the face to exclaim, when he saw us descending.
"What, done already?"
"On Sunday evenings we used to be permitted to play, if we did not make much noise; now a mere titter is sufficient to send us into corners!
"'You forget you have a master here,' says the tyrant. ' I'll demolish the first who puts me out of temper! I insist on perfect sobriety and silence. Oh, boy! was that you? Frances, darling, pull his hair as you go by; I heard him snap his fingers.'
"Frances pulled his hair heartily, and then went and seated herself on her husband's knee; and there they were, like two babies, kissing and talking nonsense by the hour-foolish palaver that we should be ashamed of.
"We made ourselves as snug as our means allowed in the arch of the dresser. I had just fastened our pinafores together, and hung them up for a curtain, when in comes Joseph, on an errand from the stables. He tears down my handywork, boxes my ears, and croaks:
"T' maister nobbut just buried, and Sabbath nut o'ered, und t'sahnd uh t'gospel still i' yer lugs, and yah darr be laiking! shame on ye! sit ye dahn, ill childer! they's good books enough if ye'; read'em; sit ye dahn, and think uh yer sowls!
"Saying this, he compelled us so to square our positions that we might receive, from the fare-off fire, a dull ray to show us the text of the lumber he thrust upon us.
"I could not bear the employment. I took my dingy volume by the scroop, and hurled it into the dog-kennel, vowing I hated a good book.
"Heathcliff kicked his to the same place.
"Then there was a hubbub!
"'Maister Hindley!' shouted our chaplain. 'Maister, coom hither! Miss Cathy's riven th' back off "Th Helmet uh Salvation," un' Heathcliff's pawsed his fit intuh t' first part uh "T' Brooad Way to Destruction!" It's fair flaysome ut yah let'em goa on this gait. Ech! th'owd man ud uh laced'em prplerly-bud he's goan!'
"Hindley hurried up from his paradise on the hearth, and seizing one of us by the collar, and the other by the arm, hurled both into the back-kitchen; where, Joseph asseverated, owd Nick' would fetch us as sure as we were living; and so comforted, we each sought a separate nook to await his advent.
"I reached this book, and a pot of ink from a shelf, and pushed the house-door ajar to give me light, and I have got the time on with writing for twenty minutes; but my companion is impatient and proposes that we should appropriate the dairy woman's cloak, and have a scamper on the moors, under its shelter. A pleasant suggestion-and then, if the surly old man come in, he may believe his prophecy verified-we cannot be damper, or colder in the rain than we are here."