1801. - I have just returned from a visit to my
landlord - the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. This is
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 misanthropist'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 sympathising 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 put out his hand to unchain it, and then sullenly 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-
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 'Hareton
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 stop brought us into the family
sitting-room, without any introductory lobby or passage: they call it here 'the
house' pre- eminently. It includes kitchen and parlour, 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 fireplace; 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, on a vast oak dresser, to the very roof. The
latter had never been under-drawn: 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 villainous
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 arm-chair, his mug of ale frothing on
the round table before him, is to be 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 a dark-
skinned gipsy 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 of 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, and esteem it 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. Heathcliff may have entirely dissimilar reasons for
keeping his hand out of the way when he meets a would-be acquaintance, 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, if looks have language, the merest idiot might have guessed I
was over head and ears: 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 mamma 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 demonstrations 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!'
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 aroused the whole
hive: half-a-dozen four-footed fiends, 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 despatch: 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 such 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.' Heathcliff's countenance relaxed into a grin.
'Come, come,' he said, 'you are flurried, Mr.
Lockwood. Here, take a little wine. Guests are so exceedingly rare in this house
that I and my dogs, I am willing to own, hardly know how to receive them. Your
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 loth to yield the fellow further amusement at my
expense; since his humour took that turn. He - probably swayed by prudential
consideration of the folly of offending a good tenant - relaxed a little in the
laconic style of chipping off his pronouns and auxiliary verbs, and introduced
what he supposed would be a subject of interest to me, - a discourse on the
advantages and disadvantages 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 to-morrow. He evidently wished no
repetition of my intrusion. I shall go, notwithstanding. It is astonishing how
sociable I feel myself compared with him.