While leading the way upstairs, she recommended that I should hide thecandle, and not make a noise; for her master had an odd notion about thechamber she would put me in, and never let anybody lodge there willingly.I asked the reason. She did not know, she answered: she had only livedthere a year or two; and they had so many queer goings on, she could notbegin to be curious.
Too stupefied to be curious myself, I fastened my door and glanced roundfor 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 coachwindows. Having approached this structure, I looked inside, andperceived it to be a singular sort of old-fashioned couch, veryconveniently designed to obviate the necessity for every member of thefamily having a room to himself. In fact, it formed a little closet, andthe ledge of a window, which it enclosed, served as a table. I slid backthe panelled sides, got in with my light, pulled them together again, andfelt secure against the vigilance of Heathcliff, and every one else.
The ledge, where I placed my candle, had a few mildewed books piled up inone corner; and it was covered with writing scratched on the paint. Thiswriting, however, was nothing but a name repeated in all kinds ofcharacters, large and small--_Catherine Earnshaw_, here and there variedto _Catherine Heathcliff_, and then again to _Catherine Linton_.
In vapid listlessness I leant my head against the window, and continuedspelling over Catherine Earnshaw--Heathcliff--Linton, till my eyesclosed; but they had not rested five minutes when a glare of whiteletters started from the dark, as vivid as spectres--the air swarmed withCatherines; and rousing myself to dispel the obtrusive name, I discoveredmy candle-wick reclining on one of the antique volumes, and perfuming theplace with an odour of roasted calf-skin. I snuffed it off, and, veryill at ease under the influence of cold and lingering nausea, sat up andspread open the injured tome on my knee. It was a Testament, in leantype, and smelling dreadfully musty: a fly-leaf bore theinscription--'Catherine Earnshaw, her book,' and a date some quarter of acentury back. I shut it, and took up another and another, till I hadexamined all. Catherine's library was select, and its state ofdilapidation proved it to have been well used, though not altogether fora legitimate purpose: scarcely one chapter had escaped, a pen-and-inkcommentary--at least the appearance of one--covering every morsel ofblank that the printer had left. Some were detached sentences; otherparts took the form of a regular diary, scrawled in an unformed, childishhand. At the top of an extra page (quite a treasure, probably, whenfirst lighted on) I was greatly amused to behold an excellent caricatureof my friend Joseph,--rudely, yet powerfully sketched. An immediateinterest kindled within me for the unknown Catherine, and I beganforthwith to decipher her faded hieroglyphics.
'An awful Sunday,' commenced the paragraph beneath. 'I wish my fatherwere back again. Hindley is a detestable substitute--his conduct toHeathcliff is atrocious--H. and I are going to rebel--we took ourinitiatory step this evening.
'All day had been flooding with rain; we could not go to church, soJoseph must needs get up a congregation in the garret; and, while Hindleyand his wife basked downstairs before a comfortable fire--doing anythingbut reading their Bibles, I'll answer for it--Heathcliff, myself, and theunhappy ploughboy were commanded to take our prayer-books, and mount: wewere ranged in a row, on a sack of corn, groaning and shivering, andhoping that Joseph would shiver too, so that he might give us a shorthomily for his own sake. A vain idea! The service lasted preciselythree hours; and yet my brother had the face to exclaim, when he saw usdescending, What, done already? On Sunday evenings we used to bepermitted to play, if we did not make much noise; now a mere titter issufficient to send us into corners.
'You forget you have a master here, says the tyrant. I'll demolishthe first who puts me out of temper! I insist on perfect sobriety andsilence. Oh, boy! was that you? Frances darling, pull his hair as yougo 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 theywere, like two babies, kissing and talking nonsense by the hour--foolishpalaver that we should be ashamed of. We made ourselves as snug as ourmeans allowed in the arch of the dresser. I had just fastened ourpinafores together, and hung them up for a curtain, when in comes Joseph,on an errand from the stables. He tears down my handiwork, boxes myears, and croaks:
'T' maister nobbut just buried, and Sabbath not o'ered, und t' sound o't' gospel still i' yer lugs, and ye darr be laiking! Shame on ye! sit yedown, ill childer! there's good books eneugh if ye'll read 'em: sit yedown, and think o' yer sowls!
'Saying this, he compelled us so to square our positions that we mightreceive from the far-off fire a dull ray to show us the text of thelumber he thrust upon us. I could not bear the employment. I took mydingy volume by the scroop, and hurled it into the dog-kennel, vowing Ihated a good book. Heathcliff kicked his to the same place. Then therewas a hubbub!
'Maister Hindley! shouted our chaplain. Maister, coom hither! MissCathy's riven th' back off 'Th' Helmet o' Salvation,' un' Heathcliff'spawsed his fit into t' first part o' 'T' Brooad Way to Destruction!' It'sfair flaysome that ye let 'em go on this gait. Ech! th' owd man wad ha'laced 'em properly--but he's goan!
'Hindley hurried up from his paradise on the hearth, and seizing one ofus by the collar, and the other by the arm, hurled both into theback-kitchen; where, Joseph asseverated, owd Nick would fetch us assure as we were living: and, so comforted, we each sought a separatenook to await his advent. I reached this book, and a pot of ink from ashelf, and pushed the house-door ajar to give me light, and I have gotthe time on with writing for twenty minutes; but my companion isimpatient, and proposes that we should appropriate the dairywoman'scloak, and have a scamper on the moors, under its shelter. A pleasantsuggestion--and then, if the surly old man come in, he may believe hisprophecy verified--we cannot be damper, or colder, in the rain than weare here.'
* * * * * *
I suppose Catherine fulfilled her project, for the next sentence took upanother subject: she waxed lachrymose.
'How little did I dream that Hindley would ever make me cry so!' shewrote. 'My head aches, till I cannot keep it on the pillow; and still Ican't give over. Poor Heathcliff! Hindley calls him a vagabond, andwon't let him sit with us, nor eat with us any more; and, he says, he andI must not play together, and threatens to turn him out of the house ifwe break his orders. He has been blaming our father (how dared he?) fortreating H. too liberally; and swears he will reduce him to his rightplace--'
* * * * * *
I began to nod drowsily over the dim page: my eye wandered frommanuscript to print. I saw a red ornamented title--'Seventy Times Seven,and the First of the Seventy-First. A Pious Discourse delivered by theReverend Jabez Branderham, in the Chapel of Gimmerden Sough.' And whileI was, half-consciously, worrying my brain to guess what Jabez Branderhamwould make of his subject, I sank back in bed, and fell asleep. Alas,for the effects of bad tea and bad temper! What else could it be thatmade me pass such a terrible night? I don't remember another that I canat all compare with it since I was capable of suffering.
I began to dream, almost before I ceased to be sensible of my locality. Ithought it was morning; and I had set out on my way home, with Joseph fora guide. The snow lay yards deep in our road; and, as we floundered on,my companion wearied me with constant reproaches that I had not brought apilgrim's staff: telling me that I could never get into the house withoutone, and boastfully flourishing a heavy-headed cudgel, which I understoodto be so denominated. For a moment I considered it absurd that I shouldneed such a weapon to gain admittance into my own residence. Then a newidea flashed across me. I was not going there: we were journeying tohear the famous Jabez Branderham preach, from the text--'Seventy TimesSeven;' and either Joseph, the preacher, or I had committed the 'First ofthe Seventy-First,' and were to be publicly exposed and excommunicated.
We came to the chapel. I have passed it really in my walks, twice orthrice; it lies in a hollow, between two hills: an elevated hollow, neara swamp, whose peaty moisture is said to answer all the purposes ofembalming on the few corpses deposited there. The roof has been keptwhole hitherto; but as the clergyman's stipend is only twenty pounds perannum, and a house with two rooms, threatening speedily to determine intoone, no clergyman will undertake the duties of pastor: especially as itis currently reported that his flock would rather let him starve thanincrease the living by one penny from their own pockets. However, in mydream, Jabez had a full and attentive congregation; and he preached--goodGod! what a sermon; divided into _four hundred and ninety_ parts, eachfully equal to an ordinary address from the pulpit, and each discussing aseparate sin! Where he searched for them, I cannot tell. He had hisprivate manner of interpreting the phrase, and it seemed necessary thebrother should sin different sins on every occasion. They were of themost curious character: odd transgressions that I never imaginedpreviously.
Oh, how weary I grow. How I writhed, and yawned, and nodded, andrevived! How I pinched and pricked myself, and rubbed my eyes, and stoodup, and sat down again, and nudged Joseph to inform me if he would _ever_have done. I was condemned to hear all out: finally, he reached the'_First of the Seventy-First_.' At that crisis, a sudden inspirationdescended on me; I was moved to rise and denounce Jabez Branderham as thesinner of the sin that no Christian need pardon.
'Sir,' I exclaimed, 'sitting here within these four walls, at onestretch, I have endured and forgiven the four hundred and ninety heads ofyour discourse. Seventy times seven times have I plucked up my hat andbeen about to depart--Seventy times seven times have you preposterouslyforced me to resume my seat. The four hundred and ninety-first is toomuch. Fellow-martyrs, have at him! Drag him down, and crush him toatoms, that the place which knows him may know him no more!'
'_Thou art the Man_!' cried Jabez, after a solemn pause, leaning over hiscushion. 'Seventy times seven times didst thou gapingly contort thyvisage--seventy times seven did I take counsel with my soul--Lo, this ishuman weakness: this also may be absolved! The First of theSeventy-First is come. Brethren, execute upon him the judgment written.Such honour have all His saints!'
With that concluding word, the whole assembly, exalting their pilgrim'sstaves, rushed round me in a body; and I, having no weapon to raise inself-defence, commenced grappling with Joseph, my nearest and mostferocious assailant, for his. In the confluence of the multitude,several clubs crossed; blows, aimed at me, fell on other sconces.Presently the whole chapel resounded with rappings and counter rappings:every man's hand was against his neighbour; and Branderham, unwilling toremain idle, poured forth his zeal in a shower of loud taps on the boardsof the pulpit, which responded so smartly that, at last, to myunspeakable relief, they woke me. And what was it that had suggested thetremendous tumult? What had played Jabez's part in the row? Merely thebranch of a fir-tree that touched my lattice as the blast wailed by, andrattled its dry cones against the panes! I listened doubtingly aninstant; detected the disturber, then turned and dozed, and dreamt again:if possible, still more disagreeably than before.
This time, I remembered I was lying in the oak closet, and I hearddistinctly the gusty wind, and the driving of the snow; I heard, also,the fir bough repeat its teasing sound, and ascribed it to the rightcause: but it annoyed me so much, that I resolved to silence it, ifpossible; and, I thought, I rose and endeavoured to unhasp the casement.The hook was soldered into the staple: a circumstance observed by me whenawake, but forgotten. 'I must stop it, nevertheless!' I muttered,knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out toseize the importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on thefingers of a little, ice-cold hand! The intense horror of nightmare cameover me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and amost melancholy voice sobbed, 'Let me in--let me in!' 'Who are you?' Iasked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself. 'Catherine Linton,'it replied, shiveringly (why did I think of _Linton_? I had read_Earnshaw_ twenty times for Linton)--'I'm come home: I'd lost my way onthe moor!' As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child's face lookingthrough the window. Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless toattempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the brokenpane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked thebedclothes: still it wailed, 'Let me in!' and maintained its tenaciousgrip, almost maddening me with fear. 'How can I!' I said at length.'Let _me_ go, if you want me to let you in!' The fingers relaxed, Isnatched mine through the hole, hurriedly piled the books up in a pyramidagainst it, and stopped my ears to exclude the lamentable prayer. Iseemed to keep them closed above a quarter of an hour; yet, the instant Ilistened again, there was the doleful cry moaning on! 'Begone!' Ishouted. 'I'll never let you in, not if you beg for twenty years.' 'Itis twenty years,' mourned the voice: 'twenty years. I've been a waif fortwenty years!' Thereat began a feeble scratching outside, and the pileof books moved as if thrust forward. I tried to jump up; but could notstir a limb; and so yelled aloud, in a frenzy of fright. To myconfusion, I discovered the yell was not ideal: hasty footstepsapproached my chamber door; somebody pushed it open, with a vigoroushand, and a light glimmered through the squares at the top of the bed. Isat shuddering yet, and wiping the perspiration from my forehead: theintruder appeared to hesitate, and muttered to himself. At last, hesaid, in a half-whisper, plainly not expecting an answer, 'Is any onehere?' I considered it best to confess my presence; for I knewHeathcliff's accents, and feared he might search further, if I keptquiet. With this intention, I turned and opened the panels. I shall notsoon forget the effect my action produced.
Heathcliff stood near the entrance, in his shirt and trousers; with acandle dripping over his fingers, and his face as white as the wallbehind him. The first creak of the oak startled him like an electricshock: the light leaped from his hold to a distance of some feet, and hisagitation was so extreme, that he could hardly pick it up.
'It is only your guest, sir,' I called out, desirous to spare him thehumiliation of exposing his cowardice further. 'I had the misfortune toscream in my sleep, owing to a frightful nightmare. I'm sorry Idisturbed you.'
'Oh, God confound you, Mr. Lockwood! I wish you were at the--' commencedmy host, setting the candle on a chair, because he found it impossible tohold it steady. 'And who showed you up into this room?' he continued,crushing his nails into his palms, and grinding his teeth to subdue themaxillary convulsions. 'Who was it? I've a good mind to turn them outof the house this moment?'
'It was your servant Zillah,' I replied, flinging myself on to the floor,and rapidly resuming my garments. 'I should not care if you did, Mr.Heathcliff; she richly deserves it. I suppose that she wanted to getanother proof that the place was haunted, at my expense. Well, itis--swarming with ghosts and goblins! You have reason in shutting it up,I assure you. No one will thank you for a doze in such a den!'
'What do you mean?' asked Heathcliff, 'and what are you doing? Lie downand finish out the night, since you _are_ here; but, for heaven's sake!don't repeat that horrid noise: nothing could excuse it, unless you werehaving your throat cut!'
'If the little fiend had got in at the window, she probably would havestrangled me!' I returned. 'I'm not going to endure the persecutions ofyour hospitable ancestors again. Was not the Reverend Jabez Branderhamakin to you on the mother's side? And that minx, Catherine Linton, orEarnshaw, or however she was called--she must have been achangeling--wicked little soul! She told me she had been walking theearth these twenty years: a just punishment for her mortaltransgressions, I've no doubt!'
Scarcely were these words uttered when I recollected the association ofHeathcliff's with Catherine's name in the book, which had completelyslipped from my memory, till thus awakened. I blushed at myinconsideration: but, without showing further consciousness of theoffence, I hastened to add--'The truth is, sir, I passed the first partof the night in--' Here I stopped afresh--I was about to say 'perusingthose old volumes,' then it would have revealed my knowledge of theirwritten, as well as their printed, contents; so, correcting myself, Iwent on--'in spelling over the name scratched on that window-ledge. Amonotonous occupation, calculated to set me asleep, like counting, or--'
'What _can_ you mean by talking in this way to _me_!' thunderedHeathcliff with savage vehemence. 'How--how _dare_ you, under myroof?--God! he's mad to speak so!' And he struck his forehead with rage.
I did not know whether to resent this language or pursue my explanation;but he seemed so powerfully affected that I took pity and proceeded withmy dreams; affirming I had never heard the appellation of 'CatherineLinton' before, but reading it often over produced an impression whichpersonified itself when I had no longer my imagination under control.Heathcliff gradually fell back into the shelter of the bed, as I spoke;finally sitting down almost concealed behind it. I guessed, however, byhis irregular and intercepted breathing, that he struggled to vanquish anexcess of violent emotion. Not liking to show him that I had heard theconflict, I continued my toilette rather noisily, looked at my watch, andsoliloquised on the length of the night: 'Not three o'clock yet! I couldhave taken oath it had been six. Time stagnates here: we must surelyhave retired to rest at eight!'
'Always at nine in winter, and rise at four,' said my host, suppressing agroan: and, as I fancied, by the motion of his arm's shadow, dashing atear from his eyes. 'Mr. Lockwood,' he added, 'you may go into my room:you'll only be in the way, coming down-stairs so early: and your childishoutcry has sent sleep to the devil for me.'
'And for me, too,' I replied. 'I'll walk in the yard till daylight, andthen I'll be off; and you need not dread a repetition of my intrusion.I'm now quite cured of seeking pleasure in society, be it country ortown. A sensible man ought to find sufficient company in himself.'
'Delightful company!' muttered Heathcliff. 'Take the candle, and gowhere you please. I shall join you directly. Keep out of the yard,though, the dogs are unchained; and the house--Juno mounts sentinelthere, and--nay, you can only ramble about the steps and passages. But,away with you! I'll come in two minutes!'
I obeyed, so far as to quit the chamber; when, ignorant where the narrowlobbies led, I stood still, and was witness, involuntarily, to a piece ofsuperstition on the part of my landlord which belied, oddly, his apparentsense. He got on to the bed, and wrenched open the lattice, bursting, ashe pulled at it, into an uncontrollable passion of tears. 'Come in! comein!' he sobbed. 'Cathy, do come. Oh, do--_once_ more! Oh! my heart'sdarling! hear me _this_ time, Catherine, at last!' The spectre showed aspectre's ordinary caprice: it gave no sign of being; but the snow andwind whirled wildly through, even reaching my station, and blowing outthe light.
There was such anguish in the gush of grief that accompanied this raving,that my compassion made me overlook its folly, and I drew off, half angryto have listened at all, and vexed at having related my ridiculousnightmare, since it produced that agony; though _why_ was beyond mycomprehension. I descended cautiously to the lower regions, and landedin the back-kitchen, where a gleam of fire, raked compactly together,enabled me to rekindle my candle. Nothing was stirring except abrindled, grey cat, which crept from the ashes, and saluted me with aquerulous mew.
Two benches, shaped in sections of a circle, nearly enclosed the hearth;on one of these I stretched myself, and Grimalkin mounted the other. Wewere both of us nodding ere any one invaded our retreat, and then it wasJoseph, shuffling down a wooden ladder that vanished in the roof, througha trap: the ascent to his garret, I suppose. He cast a sinister look atthe little flame which I had enticed to play between the ribs, swept thecat from its elevation, and bestowing himself in the vacancy, commencedthe operation of stuffing a three-inch pipe with tobacco. My presence inhis sanctum was evidently esteemed a piece of impudence too shameful forremark: he silently applied the tube to his lips, folded his arms, andpuffed away. I let him enjoy the luxury unannoyed; and after sucking outhis last wreath, and heaving a profound sigh, he got up, and departed assolemnly as he came.
A more elastic footstep entered next; and now I opened my mouth for a'good-morning,' but closed it again, the salutation unachieved; forHareton Earnshaw was performing his orison _sotto voce_, in a series ofcurses directed against every object he touched, while he rummaged acorner for a spade or shovel to dig through the drifts. He glanced overthe back of the bench, dilating his nostrils, and thought as little ofexchanging civilities with me as with my companion the cat. I guessed,by his preparations, that egress was allowed, and, leaving my hard couch,made a movement to follow him. He noticed this, and thrust at an innerdoor with the end of his spade, intimating by an inarticulate sound thatthere was the place where I must go, if I changed my locality.
It opened into the house, where the females were already astir; Zillahurging flakes of flame up the chimney with a colossal bellows; and Mrs.Heathcliff, kneeling on the hearth, reading a book by the aid of theblaze. She held her hand interposed between the furnace-heat and hereyes, and seemed absorbed in her occupation; desisting from it only tochide the servant for covering her with sparks, or to push away a dog,now and then, that snoozled its nose overforwardly into her face. I wassurprised to see Heathcliff there also. He stood by the fire, his backtowards me, just finishing a stormy scene with poor Zillah; who ever andanon interrupted her labour to pluck up the corner of her apron, andheave an indignant groan.
'And you, you worthless--' he broke out as I entered, turning to hisdaughter-in-law, and employing an epithet as harmless as duck, or sheep,but generally represented by a dash--. 'There you are, at your idletricks again! The rest of them do earn their bread--you live on mycharity! Put your trash away, and find something to do. You shall payme for the plague of having you eternally in my sight--do you hear,damnable jade?'
'I'll put my trash away, because you can make me if I refuse,' answeredthe young lady, closing her book, and throwing it on a chair. 'But I'llnot do anything, though you should swear your tongue out, except what Iplease!'
Heathcliff lifted his hand, and the speaker sprang to a safer distance,obviously acquainted with its weight. Having no desire to be entertainedby a cat-and-dog combat, I stepped forward briskly, as if eager topartake the warmth of the hearth, and innocent of any knowledge of theinterrupted dispute. Each had enough decorum to suspend furtherhostilities: Heathcliff placed his fists, out of temptation, in hispockets; Mrs. Heathcliff curled her lip, and walked to a seat far off,where she kept her word by playing the part of a statue during theremainder of my stay. That was not long. I declined joining theirbreakfast, and, at the first gleam of dawn, took an opportunity ofescaping into the free air, now clear, and still, and cold as impalpableice.
My landlord halloed for me to stop ere I reached the bottom of thegarden, and offered to accompany me across the moor. It was well he did,for the whole hill-back was one billowy, white ocean; the swells andfalls not indicating corresponding rises and depressions in the ground:many pits, at least, were filled to a level; and entire ranges of mounds,the refuse of the quarries, blotted from the chart which my yesterday'swalk left pictured in my mind. I had remarked on one side of the road,at intervals of six or seven yards, a line of upright stones, continuedthrough the whole length of the barren: these were erected and daubedwith lime on purpose to serve as guides in the dark, and also when afall, like the present, confounded the deep swamps on either hand withthe firmer path: but, excepting a dirty dot pointing up here and there,all traces of their existence had vanished: and my companion found itnecessary to warn me frequently to steer to the right or left, when Iimagined I was following, correctly, the windings of the road.
We exchanged little conversation, and he halted at the entrance ofThrushcross Park, saying, I could make no error there. Our adieux werelimited to a hasty bow, and then I pushed forward, trusting to my ownresources; for the porter's lodge is untenanted as yet. The distancefrom the gate to the grange is two miles; I believe I managed to make itfour, what with losing myself among the trees, and sinking up to the neckin snow: a predicament which only those who have experienced it canappreciate. At any rate, whatever were my wanderings, the clock chimedtwelve as I entered the house; and that gave exactly an hour for everymile of the usual way from Wuthering Heights.
My human fixture and her satellites rushed to welcome me; exclaiming,tumultuously, they had completely given me up: everybody conjectured thatI perished last night; and they were wondering how they must set aboutthe search for my remains. I bid them be quiet, now that they saw mereturned, and, benumbed to my very heart, I dragged up-stairs; whence,after putting on dry clothes, and pacing to and fro thirty or fortyminutes, to restore the animal heat, I adjourned to my study, feeble as akitten: almost too much so to enjoy the cheerful fire and smoking coffeewhich the servant had prepared for my refreshment.