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第二章
   


昨天下午又冷又有雾。我想就在书房炉边消磨一下午,不想踩着杂草污泥到呼啸山庄了。

但是,吃过午饭(注意——我在十二点与一点钟之间吃午饭,而可以当作这所房子的附属物的管家婆,一位慈祥的太太却不能,或者并不愿理解我请求在五点钟开饭的用意),在我怀着这个懒惰的想法上了楼,迈进屋子的时候,看见一个女仆跪在地上,身边是扫帚和煤斗。她正在用一堆堆煤渣封火,搞起一片弥漫的灰尘。这景象立刻把我赶回头了。我拿了帽子,走了四里路,到达了希刺克厉夫的花园口口,刚好躲过了一场今年初降的鹅毛大雪。

在那荒凉的山顶上,土地由于结了一层黑冰而冻得坚硬,冷空气使我四肢发抖。我弄不开门链,就跳进去,顺着两边种着蔓延的醋栗树丛的石路跑去。我白白地敲了半天门,一直敲到我的手指骨都痛了,狗也狂吠起来。

“倒霉的人家!”我心里直叫,“只为你这样无礼待客,就该一辈子跟人群隔离。我至少还不会在白天把门闩住。我才不管呢——我要进去!”如此决定了。我就抓住门闩,使劲摇它。苦脸的约瑟夫从谷仓的一个圆窗里探出头来。

“你干吗?”他大叫。“主人在牛栏里,你要是找他说话,就从这条路口绕过去。”

“屋里没人开门吗?”我也叫起来。

“除了太太没有别人。你就是闹腾到夜里,她也不会开。”

“为什么?你就不能告诉她我是谁吗,呃,约瑟夫?”

“别找我!我才不管这些闲事呢,”这个脑袋咕噜着,又不见了。

雪开始下大了。我握住门柄又试一回。这时一个没穿外衣的年轻人,扛着一根草耙,在后面院子里出现了。他招呼我跟着他走,穿过了一个洗衣房和一片铺平的地,那儿有煤棚、抽水机和鸽笼,我们终于到了我上次被接待过的那间温暖的、热闹的大屋子。煤、炭和木材混合在一起燃起的熊熊炉火,使这屋子放着光彩。在准备摆上丰盛晚餐的桌旁,我很高兴地看到了那位“太太”,以前我从未料想到会有这么一个人存在的。我鞠躬等候,以为她会叫我坐下。她望望我,往她的椅背一靠,不动,也不出声。

“天气真坏!”我说,“希刺克厉夫太太,恐怕大门因为您的仆人偷懒而大吃苦头,我费了好大劲才使他们听见我敲门!”

她死不开口。我瞪眼——她也瞪眼。反正她总是以一种冷冷的、漠不关心的神气盯住我,使人十分窘,而且不愉快。

“坐下吧,”那年轻人粗声粗气地说,“他就要来了。”

我服从了;轻轻咳了一下,叫唤那恶狗朱诺。临到第二次会面,它总算赏脸,摇起尾巴尖,表示认我是熟人了。

“好漂亮的狗!”我又开始说话。“您是不是打算不要这些小的呢,夫人?”

“那些不是我的,”这可爱可亲的女主人说,比希刺克厉夫本人所能回答的腔调还要更冷淡些。

“啊,您所心爱的是在这一堆里啦!”我转身指着一个看不清楚的靠垫上那一堆像猫似的东西,接着说下去。

“谁会爱这些东西那才怪呢!”她轻蔑地说。

倒霉,原来那是堆死兔子。我又轻咳一声,向火炉凑近些,又把今晚天气不好的话评论一通。

“你本来就不该出来。”她说,站起来去拿壁炉台上的两个彩色茶叶罐。

她原先坐在光线被遮住的地方,现在我把她的全身和面貌都看得清清楚楚。她苗条,显然还没有过青春期。挺好看的体态,还有一张我生平从未有幸见过的绝妙的小脸蛋。五官纤丽,非常漂亮。淡黄色的卷发,或者不如说是金黄色的,松松地垂在她那细嫩的颈上。至于眼睛,要是眼神能显得和悦些,就要使人无法抗拒了。对我这容易动情的心说来倒是常事,因为它们所表现的只是在轻蔑与近似绝望之间的一种情绪,而在那张脸上看见那样的眼神是特别不自然的。

她简直够不到茶叶罐。我动了一动,想帮她一下。她猛地扭转身向我,像守财奴看见别人打算帮他数他的金子一样。

“我不要你帮忙,”她怒气冲冲地说,“我自己拿得到。”

“对不起!”我连忙回答。

“是请你来吃茶的吗?”她问,把一条围裙系在她那干净的黑衣服上,就这样站着,拿一匙茶叶正要往茶壶里倒。

“我很想喝杯茶。”我回答。

“是请你来的吗?”她又问。

“没有,”我说,勉强笑一笑。“您正好请我喝茶。”

她把茶叶丢回去,连匙带茶叶,一起收起来,使性地又坐在椅子上。她的前额蹙起,红红的下嘴唇撅起,像一个小孩要哭似的。

同时,那年轻人已经穿上了一件相当破旧的上衣,站在炉火前面,用眼角瞅着我,简直好像我们之间有什么未了的死仇似的。我开始怀疑他到底是不是一个仆人了。他的衣着和言语都显得没有教养,完全没有在希刺克厉夫先生和他太太身上所能看到的那种优越感。他那厚厚的棕色卷发乱七八糟,他的胡子像头熊似的布满面颊,而他的手就像普通工人的手那样变成褐色;可是,他的态度很随便,几乎有点傲慢,而且一点没有家仆伺候女主人那谨慎殷勤的样子。既然缺乏关于他的地位的明白证据,我认为最好还是不去注意他那古怪的举止。五分钟以后,希刺克厉夫进来了,多少算是把我从那不舒服的境况中解救出来了。

“您瞧,先生,说话算数,我是来啦!”我叫道,装着高兴的样子,“我担心要给这天气困住半个钟头呢,您能不能让我在这会儿避一下。”

“半个钟头?”他说,抖落他衣服上的雪片,“我奇怪你为什么要挑这么个大雪天出来逛荡。你知道你是在冒着迷路和掉在沼泽地里的危险吗?熟悉这些荒野的人,往往还会在这样的晚上迷路的。而且我可以告诉你,目前天气是不会转好的。”

“或许我可以在您的仆人中间找一位带路人吧,他可以在田庄住到明天早上——您能给我一位吗?”

“不,我不能。”

“啊呀!真的!那我只得靠我自己的本事啦。”

“哼!”

“你是不是该准备茶啦?”穿着破衣服的人问,他那恶狠狠的眼光从我身上转到那年轻的太太那边。

“请他喝吗?”她问希刺克厉夫。

“准备好,行吗?”这就是回答,他说得这么蛮横,竟把我吓了一跳。这句话的腔调露出他真正的坏性子。我再也不想称希刺克厉夫为一个绝妙的人了。茶预备好了之后,他就这样请我,“现在,先生,把你的椅子挪过来。”于是我们全体,包括那粗野的年轻人在内,都拉过椅子来围桌而坐。在我们品尝食物时,四下里一片严峻的沉默。

我想,如果是我引起了这块乌云,那我就该负责努力驱散它。他们不能每天都这么阴沉缄默地坐着吧。无论他们有多坏的脾气,也不可能每天脸上都带着怒容吧。

“奇怪的是,”我在喝完一杯茶,接过第二杯的当儿开始说,“奇怪的是习惯如何形成我们的趣味和思想,很多人就不能想象,像您,希刺克厉夫先生,所过的这么一种与世完全隔绝的生活里也会有幸福存在。可是我敢说,有您一家人围着您,还有您可爱的夫人作为您的家庭与您的心灵上的主宰——”

“我可爱的夫人!”他插嘴,脸上带着几乎是恶魔似的讥笑。“她在哪儿——我可爱的夫人?”

“我的意思是说希刺克厉夫夫人,您的太太。”

“哦,是啦——啊!你是说甚至在她的肉体死去了以后,她的灵魂还站在家神的岗位上,而且守护着呼啸山庄的产业。

是不是这样?”

我察觉我搞错了,便企图改正它。我本来该看出双方的年龄相差太大,不像是夫妻。一个大概四十了,正是精力健壮的时期,男人在这时期很少会怀着女孩子们是由于爱情而嫁给他的妄想。那种梦是留给我们到老年聊以自慰的。另一个人呢,望上去却还不到十七岁。

于是一个念头在我心上一闪,“在我胳臂肘旁边的那个傻瓜,用盆喝茶,用没洗过的手拿面包吃,也许就是她的丈夫:希刺克厉夫少爷,当然是罗。这就是合理的后果:只因为她全然不知道天下还有更好的人,她就嫁给了那个乡下佬!憾事——我必须当心,我可别引起她悔恨她的选择。”最后的念头仿佛有点自负,其实倒也不是。我旁边的人在我看来近乎令人生厌。根据经验,我知道我多少还有点吸引力。

“希刺克厉夫太太是我的儿媳妇,”希刺克厉夫说,证实了我的猜测。他说着,掉过头以一种特别的眼光向她望着:一种憎恨的眼光,除非是他脸上的肌肉生得极反常,不会像别人一样地表现出他心灵的语言。

“啊,当然——我现在看出来啦:您才是这慈善的天仙的有福气的占有者哩。”我转过头来对我旁边那个人说。

比刚才更糟:这年轻人脸上通红,握紧拳头,简直想要摆出动武的架势。可是他仿佛马上又镇定了,只冲着我咕噜了一句粗野的骂人的话,压下了这场风波,这句话,我假装没注意。

“不幸你猜得不对,先生!”我的主人说,“我们两个都没那种福分占有你的好天仙,她的男人死啦。我说过她是我的儿媳妇,因此,她当然是嫁给我的儿子的了。”

“这位年轻人是——”

“当然不是我的儿子!”

希刺克厉夫又微笑了,好像把那个粗人算作他的儿子,简直是把玩笑开得太莽撞了。

“我的姓名是哈里顿·恩萧,”另一个人吼着,“而且我劝你尊敬它!”

“我没有表示不尊敬呀。”这是我的回答,心里暗笑他报出自己的姓名时的庄严神气。

他死盯着我,盯得我都不愿意再回瞪他了,唯恐我会耐不住给他个耳光或是笑出声来。我开始感到在这个愉快的一家人中间,我的确是碍事。那种精神上的阴郁气氛不止是抵销,而且是压倒了我四周明亮的物质上的舒适。我决心在第三次敢于再来到这屋里时可要小心谨慎。

吃喝完毕,谁也没说句应酬话,我就走到一扇窗子跟前去看看天气。我见到一片悲惨的景象:黑夜提前降临,天空和群山混杂在一团寒冽的旋风和使人窒息的大雪中。

“现在没有带路人,我恐怕不可能回家了,”我不禁叫起来。

“道路已经埋上了,就是还露出来的话,我也看不清往哪儿迈步啦。”

“哈里顿,把那十几只羊赶到谷仓的走廊上去,要是整夜留在羊圈就得给它们盖点东西,前面也要挡块木板。”希刺克厉夫说。

“我该怎么办呢?”我又说,更焦急了。

没有人搭理我。我回头望望,只见约瑟夫给狗送进一桶粥,希刺克厉夫太太俯身向着火,烧着火柴玩;这堆火柴是她刚才把茶叶罐放回炉台时碰下来的。约瑟夫放下了他的粥桶之后,找碴似地把这屋子浏览一通,扯着沙哑的喉咙喊起来:

“我真奇怪别人都出去了,你怎么能就闲在那儿站着!可你就是没出息,说也没用——你一辈子也改不了,就等死后见魔鬼,跟你妈一样!”

我一时还以为这一番滔滔不绝是对我而发的。我大为愤怒,便向着这老流氓走去,打算把他踢出门外。但是,希刺克厉夫夫人的回答止住了我。

“你这胡扯八道的假正经的老东西!”她回答,“你提到魔鬼的名字时,你就不怕给活捉吗?我警告你不要惹我,不然我就要特别请它把你勾去。站住!瞧瞧这儿,约瑟夫,”她接着说,并从书架上拿出一本大黑书,“我要给你看看我学魔术已经进步了多少,不久我就可以完全精通。那条红牛不是偶然死掉的,而你的风湿病还不能算作天赐的惩罚!”

“啊,恶毒,恶毒!”老头喘息着,“求主拯救我们脱离邪恶吧!”

“不,混蛋!你是个上帝抛弃的人——滚开,不然我要狠狠地伤害你啦!我要把你们全用蜡和泥捏成模型;谁先越过我定的界限,我就要——我不说他要倒什么样的霉——可是,瞧着吧!去,我可在瞅着你呢。”

这个小女巫那双美丽的眼睛里添上一种嘲弄的恶毒神气。约瑟夫真的吓得直抖,赶紧跑出去,一边跑一边祷告,还嚷着“恶毒!”我想她的行为一定是由于无聊闹着玩玩的。现在只有我们俩了,我想对她诉诉苦。

“希刺克厉夫太太,”我恳切地说,“您一定得原谅我麻烦您。我敢于这样是因为,您既有这么一张脸,我敢说您一定也心好。请指出几个路标,我也好知道回家的路。我一点也不知道该怎么走,就跟您不知道怎么去伦敦一样!”

“顺你来的路走回去好啦,”她回答,仍然安坐在椅子上,面前一支蜡烛,还有那本摊开的大书。“很简单的办法,可也是我所能提的顶稳当的办法。”

“那么,要是您以后听说我给人发现已经死在泥沼或雪坑里,您的良心就不会低声说您也有部分的过错吗?”

“怎么会呢?我又不能送你走。他们不许我走到花园墙那头的。”

“您送我!在这样一个晚上,为了我的方便就是请您迈出这个门槛,那我也于心不忍啊!”我叫道,“我要您告诉我怎么走,不是领我走。要不然就劝劝希刺克厉夫先生给我派一位带路人吧。”

“派谁呢?只有他自己,恩萧,齐拉,约瑟夫,我。你要哪一个呢?”

“庄上没有男孩子吗?”

“没有,就这些人。”

“那就是说我不得不住在这儿啦!”

“那你可以跟你的主人商量。我不管。”

“我希望这是对你的一个教训,以后别再在这山间瞎逛荡。”从厨房门口传来希刺克厉夫的严厉的喊声:“至于住在这儿,我可没有招待客人的设备。你要住,就跟哈里顿或者约瑟夫睡一张床吧!”

“我可以睡在这间屋子里的一把椅子上。”我回答。

“不行,不行!生人总是生人,不论他是穷是富。我不习惯允许任何人进入我防不到的地方!”这没有礼貌的坏蛋说。

受了这个侮辱,我的忍耐到头了。我十分愤慨地骂了一声,在他的身边擦过,冲到院子里,匆忙中正撞着恩萧。那时是这么漆黑,以至我竟找不到出口;我正在乱转,又听见他们之间有教养的举止的另一例证:起初那年轻人好像对我还友好。

“我陪他走到公园那儿去吧,”他说。

“你陪他下地狱好了!”他的主人或是他的什么亲属叫道。

“那么谁看马呢,呃?”

“一个人的性命总比一晚上没有人照应马重要些。总得有个人去的。”希刺克厉夫夫人轻轻地说,比我所想的和善多了。

“不要你命令我!”哈里顿反攻了。“你要是重视他,顶好别吭声。”

“那么我希望他的鬼魂缠住你,我也希望希刺克厉夫先生再也找不到一个房客,直等田庄全毁掉!”她尖刻地回答。

“听吧,听吧,她在咒他们啦!”约瑟夫咕噜着,我正向他走去。

他坐在说话听得见的近处,借着一盏提灯的光在挤牛奶,我就毫无礼貌地把提灯抢过来,大喊着我明天把它送回来,便奔向最近的一个边门。

“主人,主人,他把提灯偷跑啦!”这老头一面大喊,一面追我。“喂,咬人的!喂,狗!喂,狼!逮住他,逮住他!”

一开小门,两个一身毛的妖怪便扑到我的喉头上,把我弄倒了,把灯也弄灭了。同时希刺克厉夫与哈里顿一起放声大笑,这大大地激怒着我,也使我感到羞辱。幸而,这些畜生倒好像只想伸伸爪子,打呵欠,摇尾巴,并不想把我活活吞下去。但是它们也不容我再起来,我就不得不躺着等它们的恶毒的主人高兴在什么时候来解救我。我帽子也丢了,气得直抖。我命令这些土匪放我出去——再多留我一分钟,就要让他们遭殃——我说了好多不连贯的、恐吓的、要报复的话,措词之恶毒,颇有李尔王①之风。

①李尔王——“Kinglear”莎士比亚的名剧之一,剧名即以主人公李尔王为名。

我这剧烈的激动使我流了大量的鼻血,可是希刺克厉夫还在笑,我也还在骂,要不是旁边有个人比我有理性些,比我的款待者仁慈些,我真不知道怎么下台。这人是齐拉,健壮的管家婆。她终于挺身而出探问这场战斗的真相。她以为他们当中必是有人对我下了毒手。她不敢攻击她的主人,就向那年轻的恶棍开火了。

“好啊,恩萧先生,”她叫道,“我不知道你下次还要干出什么好事!我们是要在我们家门口谋害人吗?我瞧在这家里我可再也住不下去啦——瞧瞧这可怜的小子,他都要噎死啦!喂,喂!你可不能这样走。进来,我给你治治。好啦,别动。”

她说着这些话,就猛然把一桶冰冷的水顺着我的脖子上一倒,又把我拉进厨房里。希刺克厉夫先生跟在后面,他的偶尔的欢乐很快地消散,又恢复他的习惯的阴郁了。

我难过极了,而且头昏脑胀,因此不得不在他的家里借宿一宵。他叫齐拉给我一杯白兰地,随后就进屋去了。她呢,对我不幸的遭遇安慰一番,而且遵主人之命,给了我一杯白兰地,看见我略略恢复了一些,便引我去睡了。



Chapter 2
   

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 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.

`Whet are ye for?' he shouted. `T' maister's dahn i' t' fowld. Go 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 nobbut t' missis; 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 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 cot, we at length arrived in the huge, 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 hear me.'

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 the evening.

`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 anyone 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 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 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 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 weatherbound 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 snowstorm to ramble about in. Do you know that you run a 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.'

`Umph!'

`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 I started. The tone in which the words were 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 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 everyday 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 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 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 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 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, she must have married my son.'

`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 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 weather. A sorrowful 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'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 ye!'

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 from evil!'

`No, reprobate! you are a castaway--be off, or I'll hurt you seriously! 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 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 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 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, net 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 not suit me to permit anyone 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 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 light 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, 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 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 master 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 young scoundrel.

`Well, Mr Earnshaw,' she cried, `I wonder what you'll have agait next! Are we going to murder folk on our very doorstones? I see this house will never do for me--look at t' poor lad, he's fair choking! Wisht, wisht! you mun'n'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, ushered me to bed.