ON the morning of a fine June day my first bonny little nursling, and the las_f the ancient Earnshaw stock, was born. We were busy with the hay in a far- away field, when the girl that usually brought our breakfasts came running a_our too soon across the meadow and up the lane, calling me as she ran.
'Oh, such a grand bairn!' she panted out. 'The finest lad that ever breathed!
But the doctor says missis must go: he says she's been in a consumption thes_any months. I heard him tell Mr. Hindley: and now she has nothing to kee_er, and she'll be dead before winter. You must come home directly. You're t_urse it, Nelly: to feed it with sugar and milk, and take care of it day an_ight. I wish I were you, because it will be all yours when there is n_issis!'
'But is she very ill?' I asked, flinging down my rake and tying my bonnet.
'I guess she is; yet she looks bravely,' replied the girl, 'and she talks a_f she thought of living to see it grow a man. She's out of her head for joy, it's such a beauty! If I were her I'm certain I should not die: I should ge_etter at the bare sight of it, in spite of Kenneth. I was fairly mad at him.
Dame Archer brought the cherub down to master, in the house, and his face jus_egan to light up, when the old croaker steps forward, and says he \-
"Earnshaw, it's a blessing your wife has been spared to leave you this son.
When she came, I felt convinced we shouldn't keep her long; and now, I mus_ell you, the winter will probably finish her. Don't take on, and fret abou_t too much: it can't be helped. And besides, you should have known bette_han to choose such a rush of a lass!"'
'And what did the master answer?' I inquired.
'I think he swore: but I didn't mind him, I was straining to see the bairn,'
and she began again to describe it rapturously. I, as zealous as herself, hurried eagerly home to admire, on my part; though I was very sad fo_indley's sake. He had room in his heart only for two idols - his wife an_imself: he doted on both, and adored one, and I couldn't conceive how h_ould bear the loss.
When we got to Wuthering Heights, there he stood at the front door; and, as _assed in, I asked, 'how was the baby?'
'Nearly ready to run about, Nell!' he replied, putting on a cheerful smile.
'And the mistress?' I ventured to inquire; 'the doctor says she's - '
'Damn the doctor!' he interrupted, reddening. 'Frances is quite right: she'l_e perfectly well by this time next week. Are you going up-stairs? will yo_ell her that I'll come, if she'll promise not to talk. I left her because sh_ould not hold her tongue; and she must - tell her Mr. Kenneth says she mus_e quiet.'
I delivered this message to Mrs. Earnshaw; she seemed in flighty spirits, an_eplied merrily, 'I hardly spoke a word, Ellen, and there he has gone ou_wice, crying. Well, say I promise I won't speak: but that does not bind m_ot to laugh at him!'
Poor soul! Till within a week of her death that gay heart never failed her; and her husband persisted doggedly, nay, furiously, in affirming her healt_mproved every day. When Kenneth warned him that his medicines were useless a_hat stage of the malady, and he needn't put him to further expense b_ttending her, he retorted, 'I know you need not - she's well - she does no_ant any more attendance from you! She never was in a consumption. It was _ever; and it is gone: her pulse is as slow as mine now, and her cheek a_ool.'
He told his wife the same story, and she seemed to believe him; but one night, while leaning on his shoulder, in the act of saying she thought she should b_ble to get up to-morrow, a fit of coughing took her - a very slight one - h_aised her in his arms; she put her two hands about his neck, her fac_hanged, and she was dead.
As the girl had anticipated, the child Hareton fell wholly into my hands. Mr.
Earnshaw, provided he saw him healthy and never heard him cry, was contented, as far as regarded him. For himself, he grew desperate: his sorrow was of tha_ind that will not lament. He neither wept nor prayed; he cursed and defied: execrated God and man, and gave himself up to reckless dissipation. Th_ervants could not bear his tyrannical and evil conduct long: Joseph and _ere the only two that would stay. I had not the heart to leave my charge; an_esides, you know, I had been his foster-sister, and excused his behaviou_ore readily than a stranger would. Joseph remained to hector over tenants an_abourers; and because it was his vocation to be where he had plenty o_ickedness to reprove.
The master's bad ways and bad companions formed a pretty example for Catherin_nd Heathcliff. His treatment of the latter was enough to make a fiend of _aint. And, truly, it appeared as if the lad WERE possessed of somethin_iabolical at that period. He delighted to witness Hindley degrading himsel_ast redemption; and became daily more notable for savage sullenness an_erocity. I could not half tell what an infernal house we had. The curat_ropped calling, and nobody decent came near us, at last; unless Edga_inton's visits to Miss Cathy might be an exception. At fifteen she was th_ueen of the country-side; she had no peer; and she did turn out a haughty, headstrong creature! I own I did not like her, after infancy was past; and _exed her frequently by trying to bring down her arrogance: she never took a_version to me, though. She had a wondrous constancy to old attachments: eve_eathcliff kept his hold on her affections unalterably; and young Linton, wit_ll his superiority, found it difficult to make an equally deep impression. H_as my late master: that is his portrait over the fireplace. It used to han_n one side, and his wife's on the other; but hers has been removed, or els_ou might see something of what she was. Can you make that out?
Mrs. Dean raised the candle, and I discerned a soft-featured face, exceedingl_esembling the young lady at the Heights, but more pensive and amiable i_xpression. It formed a sweet picture. The long light hair curled slightly o_he temples; the eyes were large and serious; the figure almost too graceful.
I did not marvel how Catherine Earnshaw could forget her first friend for suc_n individual. I marvelled much how he, with a mind to correspond with hi_erson, could fancy my idea of Catherine Earnshaw.
'A very agreeable portrait,' I observed to the house-keeper. 'Is it like?'
'Yes,' she answered; 'but he looked better when he was animated; that is hi_veryday countenance: he wanted spirit in general.'
Catherine had kept up her acquaintance with the Lintons since her five-weeks'
residence among them; and as she had no temptation to show her rough side i_heir company, and had the sense to be ashamed of being rude where sh_xperienced such invariable courtesy, she imposed unwittingly on the old lad_nd gentleman by her ingenious cordiality; gained the admiration of Isabella, and the heart and soul of her brother: acquisitions that flattered her fro_he first - for she was full of ambition - and led her to adopt a doubl_haracter without exactly intending to deceive any one. In the place where sh_eard Heathcliff termed a 'vulgar young ruffian,' and 'worse than a brute,'
she took care not to act like him; but at home she had small inclination t_ractise politeness that would only be laughed at, and restrain an unrul_ature when it would bring her neither credit nor praise.
Mr. Edgar seldom mustered courage to visit Wuthering Heights openly. He had _error of Earnshaw's reputation, and shrunk from encountering him; and yet h_as always received with our best attempts at civility: the master himsel_voided offending him, knowing why he came; and if he could not be gracious, kept out of the way. I rather think his appearance there was distasteful t_atherine; she was not artful, never played the coquette, and had evidently a_bjection to her two friends meeting at all; for when Heathcliff expresse_ontempt of Linton in his presence, she could not half coincide, as she did i_is absence; and when Linton evinced disgust and antipathy to Heathcliff, sh_ared not treat his sentiments with indifference, as if depreciation of he_laymate were of scarcely any consequence to her. I've had many a laugh at he_erplexities and untold troubles, which she vainly strove to hide from m_ockery. That sounds ill-natured: but she was so proud it became reall_mpossible to pity her distresses, till she should be chastened into mor_umility. She did bring herself, finally, to confess, and to confide in me: there was not a soul else that she might fashion into an adviser.
Mr. Hindley had gone from home one afternoon, and Heathcliff presumed to giv_imself a holiday on the strength of it. He had reached the age of sixtee_hen, I think, and without having bad features, or being deficient i_ntellect, he contrived to convey an impression of inward and outwar_epulsiveness that his present aspect retains no traces of. In the firs_lace, he had by that time lost the benefit of his early education: continua_ard work, begun soon and concluded late, had extinguished any curiosity h_nce possessed in pursuit of knowledge, and any love for books or learning.
His childhood's sense of superiority, instilled into him by the favours of ol_r. Earnshaw, was faded away. He struggled long to keep up an equality wit_atherine in her studies, and yielded with poignant though silent regret: bu_e yielded completely; and there was no prevailing on him to take a step i_he way of moving upward, when he found he must, necessarily, sink beneath hi_ormer level. Then personal appearance sympathised with mental deterioration: he acquired a slouching gait and ignoble look; his naturally reserve_isposition was exaggerated into an almost idiotic excess of unsociabl_oroseness; and he took a grim pleasure, apparently, in exciting the aversio_ather than the esteem of his few acquaintance.
Catherine and he were constant companions still at his seasons of respite fro_abour; but he had ceased to express his fondness for her in words, an_ecoiled with angry suspicion from her girlish caresses, as if conscious ther_ould be no gratification in lavishing such marks of affection on him. On th_efore-named occasion he came into the house to announce his intention o_oing nothing, while I was assisting Miss Cathy to arrange her dress: she ha_ot reckoned on his taking it into his head to be idle; and imagining sh_ould have the whole place to herself, she managed, by some means, to infor_r. Edgar of her brother's absence, and was then preparing to receive him.
'Cathy, are you busy this afternoon?' asked Heathcliff. 'Are you goin_nywhere?'
'No, it is raining,' she answered.
'Why have you that silk frock on, then?' he said. 'Nobody coming here, _ope?'
'Not that I know of,' stammered Miss: 'but you should be in the field now, Heathcliff. It is an hour past dinnertime: I thought you were gone.'
'Hindley does not often free us from his accursed presence,' observed the boy.
'I'll not work any more to-day: I'll stay with you.'
'Oh, but Joseph will tell,' she suggested; 'you'd better go!'
'Joseph is loading lime on the further side of Penistone Crags; it will tak_im till dark, and he'll never know.'
So, saying, he lounged to the fire, and sat down. Catherine reflected a_nstant, with knitted brows - she found it needful to smooth the way for a_ntrusion. 'Isabella and Edgar Linton talked of calling this afternoon,' sh_aid, at the conclusion of a minute's silence. 'As it rains, I hardly expec_hem; but they may come, and if they do, you run the risk of being scolded fo_o good.'
'Order Ellen to say you are engaged, Cathy,' he persisted; 'don't turn me ou_or those pitiful, silly friends of yours! I'm on the point, sometimes, o_omplaining that they - but I'll not - '
'That they what?' cried Catherine, gazing at him with a troubled countenance.
'Oh, Nelly!' she added petulantly, jerking her head away from my hands,
'you've combed my hair quite out of curl! That's enough; let me alone. Wha_re you on the point of complaining about, Heathcliff?'
'Nothing - only look at the almanack on that wall;' he pointed to a frame_heet hanging near the window, and continued, 'The crosses are for th_venings you have spent with the Lintons, the dots for those spent with me. D_ou see? I've marked every day.'
'Yes - very foolish: as if I took notice!' replied Catherine, in a peevis_one. 'And where is the sense of that?'
'To show that I DO take notice,' said Heathcliff.
'And should I always be sitting with you?' she demanded, growing mor_rritated. 'What good do I get? What do you talk about? You might be dumb, o_ baby, for anything you say to amuse me, or for anything you do, either!'
'You never told me before that I talked too little, or that you disliked m_ompany, Cathy!' exclaimed Heathcliff, in much agitation.
'It's no company at all, when people know nothing and say nothing,' sh_uttered.
Her companion rose up, but he hadn't time to express his feelings further, fo_ horse's feet were heard on the flags, and having knocked gently, youn_inton entered, his face brilliant with delight at the unexpected summon sh_ad received. Doubtless Catherine marked the difference between her friends, as one came in and the other went out. The contrast resembled what you see i_xchanging a bleak, hilly, coal country for a beautiful fertile valley; an_is voice and greeting were as opposite as his aspect. He had a sweet, lo_anner of speaking, and pronounced his words as you do: that's less gruff tha_e talk here, and softer.
'I'm not come too soon, am I?' he said, casting a look at me: I had begun t_ipe the plate, and tidy some drawers at the far end in the dresser.
'No,' answered Catherine. 'What are you doing there, Nelly?'
'My work, Miss,' I replied. (Mr. Hindley had given me directions to make _hird party in any private visits Linton chose to pay.)
She stepped behind me and whispered crossly, 'Take yourself and your duster_ff; when company are in the house, servants don't commence scouring an_leaning in the room where they are!'
'It's a good opportunity, now that master is away,' I answered aloud: 'h_ates me to be fidgeting over these things in his presence. I'm sure Mr. Edga_ill excuse me.'
'I hate you to be fidgeting in MY presence,' exclaimed the young lad_mperiously, not allowing her guest time to speak: she had failed to recove_er equanimity since the little dispute with Heathcliff.
'I'm sorry for it, Miss Catherine,' was my response; and I proceede_ssiduously with my occupation.
She, supposing Edgar could not see her, snatched the cloth from my hand, an_inched me, with a prolonged wrench, very spitefully on the arm. I've said _id not love her, and rather relished mortifying her vanity now and then: besides, she hurt me extremely; so I started up from my knees, and screame_ut, 'Oh, Miss, that's a nasty trick! You have no right to nip me, and I'm no_oing to bear it.'
'I didn't touch you, you lying creature!' cried she, her fingers tingling t_epeat the act, and her ears red with rage. She never had power to conceal he_assion, it always set her whole complexion in a blaze.
'What's that, then?' I retorted, showing a decided purple witness to refut_er.
She stamped her foot, wavered a moment, and then, irresistibly impelled by th_aughty spirit within her, slapped me on the cheek: a stinging blow tha_illed both eyes with water.
'Catherine, love! Catherine!' interposed Linton, greatly shocked at the doubl_ault of falsehood and violence which his idol had committed.
'Leave the room, Ellen!' she repeated, trembling all over.
Little Hareton, who followed me everywhere, and was sitting near me on th_loor, at seeing my tears commenced crying himself, and sobbed out complaint_gainst 'wicked aunt Cathy,' which drew her fury on to his unlucky head: sh_eized his shoulders, and shook him till the poor child waxed livid, and Edga_houghtlessly laid hold of her hands to deliver him. In an instant one wa_rung free, and the astonished young man felt it applied over his own ear in _ay that could not be mistaken for jest. He drew back in consternation. _ifted Hareton in my arms, and walked off to the kitchen with him, leaving th_oor of communication open, for I was curious to watch how they would settl_heir disagreement. The insulted visitor moved to the spot where he had lai_is hat, pale and with a quivering lip.
'That's right!' I said to myself. 'Take warning and begone! It's a kindness t_et you have a glimpse of her genuine disposition.'
'Where are you going?' demanded Catherine, advancing to the door.
He swerved aside, and attempted to pass.
'You must not go!' she exclaimed, energetically.
'I must and shall!' he replied in a subdued voice.
'No,' she persisted, grasping the handle; 'not yet, Edgar Linton: sit down; you shall not leave me in that temper. I should be miserable all night, and _on't be miserable for you!'
'Can I stay after you have struck me?' asked Linton.
Catherine was mute.
'You've made me afraid and ashamed of you,' he continued; 'I'll not come her_gain!'
Her eyes began to glisten and her lids to twinkle.
'And you told a deliberate untruth!' he said.
'I didn't!' she cried, recovering her speech; 'I did nothing deliberately.
Well, go, if you please - get away! And now I'll cry \- I'll cry myself sick!'
She dropped down on her knees by a chair, and set to weeping in seriou_arnest. Edgar persevered in his resolution as far as the court; there h_ingered. I resolved to encourage him.
'Miss is dreadfully wayward, sir,' I called out. 'As bad as any marred child: you'd better be riding home, or else she will be sick, only to grieve us.'
The soft thing looked askance through the window: he possessed the power t_epart as much as a cat possesses the power to leave a mouse half killed, or _ird half eaten. Ah, I thought, there will be no saving him: he's doomed, an_lies to his fate! And so it was: he turned abruptly, hastened into the hous_gain, shut the door behind him; and when I went in a while after to infor_hem that Earnshaw had come home rabid drunk, ready to pull the whole plac_bout our ears (his ordinary frame of mind in that condition), I saw th_uarrel had merely effected a closer intimacy \- had broken the outworks o_outhful timidity, and enabled them to forsake the disguise of friendship, an_onfess themselves lovers.
Intelligence of Mr. Hindley's arrival drove Linton speedily to his horse, an_atherine to her chamber. I went to hide little Hareton, and to take the sho_ut of the master's fowling-piece, which he was fond of playing with in hi_nsane excitement, to the hazard of the lives of any who provoked, or eve_ttracted his notice too much; and I had hit upon the plan of removing it, that he might do less mischief if he did go the length of firing the gun.