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 housekeeper, 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
"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
"Whet are ye for?" he shouted.
Goa rahnd by th' end ut' laith, if yah went tuh spake tull him."
"Is there nobody inside to open the door?" I hallooed,
"They's nobbut t' missis; and shoo'll not oppen't an ye mak yer
flaysome dins till neeght."
"Why? cannot you tell her who I am, eh, Joseph?"
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 coat, and shouldering a pitchfork, appeared in the yard
He hailed me to follow him, and, after marching through a
washhouse, 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'm afraid, Mrs Heathcliff, the door must bear the consequence of
your servants' leisure attendance: I had hard work to make them
She never opened her mouth.
I stared -- she stared also.
At any rate, she kept 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
this second interview, to move the extreme tip of her tail, in
token of owning 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 continued, 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
"You should not have come out," she said, rising and reaching from
the chimney piece two of the painted canisters.
Her position before 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 want 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, tying an apron
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 on to 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; his dress and
speech were both rude, entirely devoid of the superiority
observable in Mr and Mrs Heathcliff; his thick, 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
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
Do you know that you run a risk of being lost in the marshes?
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."
Well then, I must trust to my own sagacity."
"Are you going to mak th' 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
The tone in which the words were said, revealed a genuine bad
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 our meal.
I thought, if I had caused the cloud, it was my duty to make an
effort to dispel it.
They could not every day 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
"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 a 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
A sad pity--I must beware how I cause her to regret her choice."
The last reflection may seem conceited; it was not.
My neighbour 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.
He turned, as he spoke, a peculiar look in her direction, a look of
hatred unless he has a most perverse set of facial muscles that
will not, like those of other people, interpret the language of his
"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
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
I said she was my daughter-in-law, therefore, she 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
I began to feel unmistakably out of place in that pleasant family
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 a third time.
The business of eating being concluded, and no one uttering a word
of sociable conversation, I approached a window to examine the
A sorrowful sight I saw; dark night coming down prematurely, and
sky and hills mingled in one bitter whirl of wind and suffocating
"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's goan aght!
Bud yah're a nowt, and it's noa use talking -- yah'll niver mend uh
yer ill ways; bud goa raight tuh t' divil, like yer mother afore
I imagined, for a moment, that this piece of eloquence was
addressed to me; and, sufficiently enraged, stepped towards the
aged rascal with an intention of kicking him out of the door.
Mrs 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 far 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; and your rheumatism can hardly be
reckoned among providential visitations!"
"Oh, wicked, wicked!" gasped the elder, "may the Lord deliver us
"No, reprobate! you are a castaway -- be off, or I'll hurt you
I'll have you all modelled in wax and clay; and the first who
passes the limits, I fix, shall -- I'll not say what he shall be
done to -- but you'll see!
Go, I'm looking at you!"
The little witch put a mock malignity into her beautiful eyes, and
Joseph, 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
"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
"Take the road you came," she answered, ensconcing herself in a
chair, with a candle, and the long book open before her.
"It is 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
I cannot escort you.
They wouldn't let me go to the end of the garden wall."
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."
There is himself, Earnshaw, Zillah, Joseph, and I.
Which would you have?"
"Are there no boys at the farm?"
"No, those are all."
"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
"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.
A stranger is a stranger, be he rich or poor -- it will not suit me
to permit any one the range of the place while I am off guard!"
said the unmannerly wretch.
With this 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 hell!" exclaimed his master, or whatever
relation he bore.
"And who is to look after the horses, eh?"
"A man's life is of more consequence than one evening's neglect of
the horses; somebody must go," murmured Mrs Heathcliff, more kindly
than I expected.
"Not at your command!" 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, till the Grange is a ruin!" she
"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
would send it back on the morrow, rushed to the nearest postern.
"Maister, maister, he's staling t' lantern!" shouted the ancient,
pursuing my retreat.
Hey, Wolf, holld him, holld 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
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 to let me out --
on their peril to keep me one minute longer -- with several
incoherent threats of retaliation, 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 cried, "I wonder what you'll have agait
Are we going to murder folk on our very door-stones?
I see this house will never do for me -- look at t' poor lad, he's
Wisht, wisht! you mun'n't go on so -- come in, and I'll cure that.
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,
ushered me to bed.