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第1节 第七章 【
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第七章
   

凯蒂在画眉田庄住了五个星期,一直住到圣诞节。那时候,她的脚踝已痊愈,举止也大有进步。在这期间,女主人常常去看她,开始了她的改革计划。先试试用漂亮衣服和奉承话来提高她的自尊心,她也毫不犹豫地接受了。因此,她不再是一个不戴帽子的小野人跳到屋里,冲过来把我们搂得都喘不过气,而是从一匹漂亮的小黑马身上下来一个非常端庄的人,棕色的发卷从一支插着羽毛的海狸皮帽子里垂下来,穿一件长长的布质的骑马服。她必须用双手提着衣裙,才能雍容华贵地走进。辛德雷把她扶下马来,愉快地惊叫着:“怎么,凯蒂,你简直是个美人啦!我都要认不出你了。你现在像个贵妇人啦。但莎贝拉·林惇可比不上她,是吧,弗兰西斯?”

“伊莎贝拉没有她的天生丽质,”他的妻子回答,“可是她得记住,在这儿可不要再变野了。艾伦,帮凯瑟琳小姐脱掉外衣,别动,亲爱的,你要把你的头发卷搞乱了。——让我把你的帽子解开吧。”

我脱下她的骑马服,里面露出了一件大方格子的丝长袍,白裤,还有亮光光的皮鞋。在那些狗也跳上来欢迎她的时候,她的眼睛高兴得发亮,可她不敢摸它们,生怕狗会扑到她漂亮的衣服上去。她温柔地亲我:我身上尽是面粉,正在作圣诞节蛋糕,要拥抱我可不行。然后她就四下里望着想找希刺克厉夫。恩萧先生和夫人很焦切地注视着他们的会面,认为这多少可以使他们判断,他们有没有根据希望把这两个朋友分开。

起初找不到希刺克厉夫。如果他在凯瑟琳不在家之前就是邋里邋遢,没人管的话,那么,后来他更糟上十倍。除了我以外,甚至没有人肯叫他一声脏孩子,也没有人叫他一星期去洗一次澡;像他这样大的孩子很少对肥皂和水有天生的兴趣。因此,姑且不提他那满是泥巴和灰土已穿了三个月的一身衣服,还有他那厚厚的从不梳理的头发,就是他的脸和手也盖上一层黑。他看到走进屋来的是这么一个漂亮而文雅的小姐,而不是如他所期望的,跟他配得上的一个披头散发的人,他只好藏在高背椅子后面了。

“希刺克厉夫不在这儿吗?”她问,脱下她的手套,露出了她那由于待在屋里不作事而显得特别白的手指头。

“希刺克厉夫,你可以走过来,”辛德雷先生喊着,看到他的狼狈相很高兴,望着他将不得不以一个可憎厌的小流氓的模样出场,而心满意足。“你可以来,像那些佣人一样来欢迎欢迎凯瑟琳小姐。”

凯蒂一瞅见她的朋友藏在那儿,便飞奔过去拥抱他。她在一秒钟内在他脸上亲了七八下,然后停住了,往后退,放声大笑,嚷道:

“怎么啦,你满脸的不高兴!而且多——多可笑又可怕呀!可那是因为我看惯了埃德加和伊莎贝拉·林惇啦。好呀,希刺克厉夫,你把我忘了吗?”

她是有理由提出这个问题来的,因为羞耻和自尊心在他脸上投下了双重的阴影,使他动弹不得。

“握下手吧,希刺克厉夫。”恩萧先生大模大样地说,“偶尔一次,是允许的。”

“我不,”这男孩终于开口了,“我可受不了让人笑话。我受不了!”他要从人群里走开,但是凯蒂小姐又把他拉住了。

“我并没有意思笑你呀,”她说,“刚才我是忍不住笑出来的。希刺克厉夫,至少握握手吧!你干吗不高兴呢?只不过是你看着有点古怪罢了。要是你洗洗脸,刷刷头发,就会好的,可是你这么脏!”

她关心地盯着握在自己手里的黑手指头,又看看她的衣服,怕自己的衣服和他的衣服一碰上会得不到好处。

“你用不着碰我!”他回答,看到她的眼色,就把手抽回来了。“我高兴怎么脏,就怎么脏。我喜欢脏,我就是要脏。”

他说完,就一头冲出屋外,使主人和女主人很开心,而凯瑟琳则十分不安;她不能理解她的话怎么会惹出这么一场坏脾气的爆发。

我作为女仆侍候了这位新来的人之后,把蛋糕放在烘炉里,在大厅与厨房里都升起旺火,搞得很像过圣诞节的样子。完事后,我就准备坐下来,唱几支圣诞歌来使自己开开心,也不管约瑟夫断言说什么我所选的欢乐的调子根本够不上是歌。他已经回到卧房独自祷告去了,恩萧夫妇正在用那些为她买来送小林惇兄妹的各式各样漂亮的小玩意吸引她的注意力,这些是用来答谢他们的招待的。他们已经邀请小林惇兄妹第二天来呼啸山庄,这邀请已被接受了,不过有个条件:林惇夫人请求把她的宝贝儿们和那个“顽皮、好咒骂人的男孩”小心隔开。

因此就剩下我一个人在这里。我闻到烂熟了的香料的浓郁香味,欣赏着那些闪亮的厨房用具,用冬青叶装饰着的擦亮了的钟,排列在盘里的银盆——它们是准备用来在晚餐时倒加料麦酒的。我最欣赏的是我特别小心擦洗得清洁无暇的东西,就是那洗过扫过的地板。我暗自对每样东西都恰如其分的赞美一番,于是我就记起老恩萧从前在一切收拾停当时,总是怎么走进来,说我是假正经的姑娘,而且把一个先令塞到我手里作为圣诞节的礼物。从这我又想起他对希刺克厉夫的喜爱,他生怕死后希刺克厉夫会没人照管为此所感到的恐惧,于是我很自然地接着想到现在这可怜的孩子的地位。我唱着唱着,哭起来了。但是一会我就猛然想到,弥补一下他所受的委屈,总比为这些事掉眼泪还有意义些。我起来,到院子里去找他。他就在不远的地方。我发现他在马厩里给新买的小马抚平那有光泽的毛皮,并且和往常一样在喂别的牲口。

“快,希刺克厉夫!”我说,“厨房里挺舒服。约瑟夫在楼上呢。快,让我在凯蒂小姐出来之前把你打扮得漂漂亮亮的,那你们就可以坐在一起,整个火炉归你们,而且可以长谈到睡觉的时候。”

他继续干他的事,死也不肯把头掉过来对着我。

“来呀——你来不来呀!”我接着说,“你们两个一人一小块蛋糕,差不多够了,你得要半个钟头打扮好哩。”

我等了五分钟,可是得不到回答,就走开了。凯瑟琳和她的哥哥嫂嫂一块吃晚饭。约瑟夫和我合吃了一顿不和气的饭,一方在申斥,另一方也不客气。他的蛋糕和干酪就一整夜摆在桌上留给神仙了。他干活直干到九点钟,然后不声不响,执拗地走进他的卧房。凯蒂呆到很迟的时候,为了接待她的新朋友们吩咐了一大堆事情。她到厨房来过一次,想跟她的老朋友说话。可是他不在,只问了一下他是怎么回事,就又回去了。第二天早晨他起得很早,那天正是假日,他就怏怏不乐地到旷野去,直到全家都出发到教堂去了,他才回来。饥饿和思索仿佛使他的兴致好些。他跟了我一阵,然后鼓起勇气,突然高声说:

“耐莉,把我打扮得体面些,我要学好啦!”

“正是时候,希刺克厉夫,”我说,“你已经把凯瑟琳搞伤心啦,她挺后悔回家来,我敢这么说!看来好像是你嫉妒她似的,只因为她比你多被人关心些。”

这嫉妒凯瑟琳的念头,他是不能理解的,可是使她伤心这个念头,他可是十分明白的。

“她说她伤心啦?”他追问,很严肃的样子。

“今天早上我告诉她你又走掉了,那时候她哭啦。”

“唉,我昨天夜里也哭的,”他回答说,“我比她更有理由哭哩。”

“是啊,你是有理由带着一颗骄傲的心和一个空肚子上床的。”我说,“骄傲的人给自己招来悲哀。可是,如果你为你那种暴脾气惭愧,记住,在她进来的时候,你一定得道歉。你一定得走过去请求亲亲她,而且说——你很知道该说什么。只是要诚心诚意地去做,不要认为她穿了漂亮的衣服就变成陌生人似的。现在,尽管我还要把中饭准备好,我还可以抽出空来把你打扮好,好让埃德加·林惇在你旁边显得像个洋娃娃:他是像洋娃娃。你虽比他小,可是,我可以断定,你高些,肩膀也比他宽一倍,你可以在一眨眼工夫就把他打倒。你不觉得你能够吗?”

希刺克厉夫的脸色开朗了一下,随后又阴沉下来,他叹气。

“可是,耐莉,就算我把他打倒二十回,也不会使他不漂亮些,或者使我更漂亮些。我愿我有浅色的头发,白白的皮肤,穿着和举动也像他,而且也有机会变得和他将来一样的有钱!”

“而且动不动就哭着喊妈妈,”我添上一句,“而且要是一个乡下孩子向你举起拳头的时候,就发抖,而且下一场大雨就整天坐在家里。啊,希刺克厉夫,你这是没出息!到镜子这儿来,我要让你看看你该愿望什么吧。你看到你两只眼睛中间那两条纹路没有,还有那浓眉毛,不在中间弓起来,却在中间低垂。还有那对黑黑的恶魔,埋得这么深,从来不大胆地打开它们的窗户,却在底下闪闪地埋伏着,像是魔鬼的奸细似的,但愿而且要学着把这些执拗的纹路摩平,坦率地抬起你的眼皮来,把恶魔变成可以信赖的、天真的天使,什么也不猜疑,对不一定是仇敌的人永远要当作朋友。不要现出恶狗的样子,好像知道被踢是该得的报酬,可又因为吃了苦头,就又恨全世界,以及那踢它的人。”

“换句话说,我一定要希望有埃德加·林惇的大蓝眼睛和平坦的额头才行,”他回答,“我真心愿望——可那也不会帮助我得到那些。”

“只要有了好心,就会使你有张好看的脸,我的孩子,”我接着说,“哪怕你是一个真正的黑人;而一颗坏心就会把最漂亮的脸变得比丑还要糟。现在我们洗呀,梳呀,闹别扭呀,都搞完啦。告诉我你是不是觉得你自己挺漂亮?我要告诉你,我可觉得你简直像一个化装的王子哩。谁知道呢?也许你父亲是中国的皇帝,你母亲是个印度皇后,他们俩中间一个人只要用一个星期的收入,就能把呼啸山庄和画眉田庄一块买过来?而你是被恶毒的水手绑了票,才带到英国来的。如果我处在你的地位,我就要对我的出身编造出很高的奇想。而且一想到我曾经是什么人,就可以给我勇气和尊严来抵得住一个小农场主的压迫!”

我就这样喋喋不休地扯下去,希刺克厉夫渐渐地消除了他的不快,开始表现得挺快乐了。这时我们的谈话一下子被一阵从大路上传来进了院子的辚辚车声打断了。他跑到窗口,我跑到了院子里,刚好看见林惇兄妹俩从家用马车中走下来,裹着大氅皮裘,恩萧们也从他们的马上下来,他们在冬天常常骑马去教堂的。凯瑟琳一手牵着一个孩子,把他们带到大厅里,安置在火炉前,他们的白脸很快地有了血色。

我催我的同伴现在要赶快收拾,还要显得和和气气,他心甘情愿地顺从了。可是倒楣的是,他一打开从厨房通过来的这边门,辛德雷也正打开另一边门。他们碰上了,主人一看见他又干净又愉快的样子就冒火了——或者,也许因为一心要对林惇夫人守信用吧——猛然一下把他推回去,而且生气地叫约瑟夫,“不许这家伙进这间屋子——把他送到阁楼里去,等午饭吃过再说。

要是让他跟他们在一起待上一分钟,他就要用手指头塞到果酱蛋糕里去,还会偷水果哩。”

“不会的,先生,”我忍不住搭腔了,“他什么也不会碰的,他不会的。而且我猜想他一定和我们一样也有他那份点心。”

“要是在天黑以前我在楼下捉到他,就叫他尝尝我的巴掌,”辛德雷吼着。“滚,你这流氓!什么?你打算作个花花公子么,是不是;等我抓住那些漂亮的卷发——瞧瞧我会不会把它再拉长一点!”

“那已经够长的啦,”林惇少爷说,从门口偷瞧,“我奇怪这些头发没让他头疼。耷拉到他的眼睛上面像马鬃似的!’

他说这话并没有侮辱他的想法。可是希刺克厉夫的暴性子却不准备忍受在那时候甚至似乎已经当作情敌来痛恨的那人的傲慢表现。他抓起一盆热苹果酱,这是他顺手抓到的头一件东西,把它整个向说话的人的脸上和脖子上泼去。那个人立刻哭喊起来,伊莎贝拉和凯瑟琳都连忙跑到这边儿来。恩萧先生马上抓起这个罪犯,把他送到他卧房里去。毫无疑问,他在那儿采用了一种粗暴的治疗法压下那一阵愤怒,因为他回来时脸挺红而且喘着气。我拿起擦碗布,恶狠狠地揩着埃德加的鼻子和嘴,说这是他多管闲事的报应。他的妹妹开始哭着要回家,凯蒂站在那里惊慌失措,为这一切羞得脸红。

“你不应该跟他说话!”她教训着林惇少爷,“他脾气不好,现在你把这一趟拜访搞糟糕啦。他还要挨鞭子,我可不愿意他挨鞭子!我吃不下饭啦。你干吗跟他说话呢,埃德加?”

“我没有,”这个少年抽泣着,从我手里挣脱出来,用他的白麻纱手绢结束剩余的清洁工作。“我答应过妈妈我一句话也不跟他说,我没有说。”

“好啦,别哭啦,”凯瑟琳轻蔑地回答,“你并没有被人杀死。别再淘气了。我哥哥来啦,安静些!嘘,伊莎贝拉!有人伤着你了吗?”

“喏,喏,孩子们——坐到你们的位子上去吧!”辛德雷匆匆忙忙进来喊着。“那个小畜生倒把我搞得挺暖和。下一回,埃德加少爷,就用你自己的拳头打吧——那会使你开胃的!”

一瞅见这香味四溢的筵席,这小小的一伙人又安定下来。他们在骑马之后已经饿了,而且那点气也容易平下来,因为他们并没有受到什么真正的伤害。恩萧先生切着大盘的肉,女主人的谈笑风生使他们高兴起来。我站在她椅子背后侍候着,而且很难过地看着凯瑟琳,她毫无眼泪的眼睛带着漠然的神气,开始切她面前的鹅翅膀。

“没心肝的孩子,”我心想,“她多么轻易地就把她从前游伴的苦恼给撇开啦。我没法想象她竟是这么自私。”

她拿起一口吃的送到嘴边,随后又把它放下了。她的脸绯红,眼泪涌出来。她把叉子滑落到地板上,赶紧钻到桌布下面去掩盖她的感情。没过多久我就再不能说她没心肝了,因为我看出来她一整天都在受罪,苦苦想着找个机会自己呆着,或是去看看希刺克厉夫——他已经被主人关起来了——照我看来,她想私下给他送吃的去。

晚上我们有个跳舞会。凯蒂请求这时把他放出来,因为伊莎贝拉·林惇没有舞伴。她的请求是白费的,我奉命来补这个缺。这种活动使我们兴奋,它驱散了一切忧郁和烦恼。吉默吞乐队的到来更增添了我们的欢乐。这乐队有十五个人之多——除了歌手外,还有一个喇叭,一个长喇叭,几支竖笛,低音笛,法国号角,一把低音提琴。每年圣诞节,他们轮流到所有的体面人家演奏,收点捐款。能听到他们的演奏,我们是当作一件头等乐事来看待的,等到一般的颂主诗歌唱之后,就请他们唱歌曲和重唱。恩萧太太爱好音乐,所以他们演奏了不少。

凯瑟琳也爱好音乐,可是她说在楼上听起来,那将会是最动听的了,于是,就摸黑上了楼,我也跟着走开。他们把楼下大厅的门关着,根本没注意我们,因为那屋里挤满了这么多人。她没有在楼梯口上停下,却往上走,走到禁闭希刺克厉夫的阁楼上,叫唤他。有一会他执拗地不理睬。她坚持叫下去,最后说服了他,隔着木板与她交谈。我让这两个可怜的东西谈着话,不受干扰,直等到我推测歌唱要停止,那些歌手要吃点东西了,我就爬上梯子去提醒她。我在外面没找到她,却听见她的声音在里面。这小猴子是从一个阁楼的天窗爬进去,沿着房顶,又进另一个阁楼的天窗。于是我费了好大劲才把她叫出来。当她真出来时,希刺克厉夫也跟她来了。她坚持要我把他带到厨房去,因为我那位伙伴约瑟夫,为了躲避他所谓的“魔鬼颂”,到邻居家去了。我告诉他们我无意鼓励他们玩这种把戏,但是既然这囚犯自从昨天午饭后就没吃过,我就默许他欺瞒辛德雷这一回。他下去了,我搬个凳子叫他坐在火炉旁,给他一大堆好吃的。可是他病了,吃不下,我本想款待他的企图也只好丢开了。他两个胳臂肘支在膝上,手托着下巴,一直不声不响地沉思着。我问他想些什么,他严肃地回答——

“我在打算怎样报复辛德雷。我不在乎要等多久,只要最后能报仇就行,希望他不要在我报复之前就死掉。”

“羞啊,希刺克厉夫!”我说,“惩罚恶人是上帝的事,我们应该学着饶恕人。”

“不,上帝得不到我那种痛快,”他回答,“但愿我能知道最好的方法才好!让我一个人呆着吧,我要把它计划出来。这样在想那件事的时候,我就不觉得痛苦了。”

可是,洛克乌德先生,我倒忘记了这些故事是不能供你消遣的。我再也没想到絮叨到这样地步,真气人。你的粥冷啦,你也瞌睡啦!我本来可以把你要听的关于希刺克厉夫的历史用几个字说完的。

管家这样打断了她自己的话,站起来,正要放下她的针线活,但是我觉得离不开壁炉,而且我一点睡意也没有。

“坐着吧,丁太太,”我叫着,“坐吧,再坐半个钟头!你这样慢条斯理地讲故事正合我的意,你就用同样的口气讲完吧。我对你所提的每个人物或多或少都感到有兴趣哩。”

“钟在打十一点啦,先生。”

“没关系——我不习惯在十二点以前上床的。对于一个睡到十点钟才起来的人,一两点钟睡已经够早的啦。”

“你不应该睡到十点钟。早上最好的时间在十点以前就过去啦。一个人要是到十点钟还没有做完他一天工作的一半,就大有可能剩下那一半也做不完。”

“不管怎么样,丁太太,还是再坐下来吧,因为明天我打算把夜晚延长到下午哩。我已经预感到自己至少要得一场重伤风。”

“我希望不会,先生。好吧,你必须允许我跳过三年,在那期间,恩萧夫人——”

“不,不,我不允许这样搞法!你熟悉不熟悉那样的心情:如果你一个人坐着,猫在你面前地毯上舐它的小猫,你那么专心地看着这个动作,以致有一只耳朵猫忘记舐了,就会使你大不高兴?”

“我得说,是一种很糟糕的懒性子。”

“相反,是一种紧张得令人讨厌的心情。在目前,我的心情正是这样。因此,你要详详细细地接着讲下去。我看出来这一带的人,对于城里的那些形形色色的居民来说,就好比地窖里的蜘蛛见着茅舍里的蜘蛛,得益不少。这并不完全我是个旁观者,才得出这种日益深刻的印象。他们确实更认真,更自顾自的过着日子,不太顾及那些表面变化的和琐碎的外界事物。我能想象在这儿,几乎可能存在着一种终生的爱;而我过去却死不相信会有什么爱情能维持一年。一种情况像是把一个饥饿的人,安放在仅仅一盘菜前面,他可以精神专注地大嚼一顿,毫不怠慢它。另一种情况,是把他领到法国厨子摆下的一桌筵席上,他也可能从这整桌菜肴中同样享用了一番,但是各盆菜肴在他心目中、记忆里却仅仅是极微小的分子而已。”

“啊!你跟我们熟了的时候,就知道我们这儿跟别地方的人是一样的。”丁太太说,对我这番话多少有点莫名其妙。

“原谅我,”我搭腔,“你,我的好朋友,这是反对那句断言的一个显著证据。我一向认为的你们这一阶层人所固有的习气,在你身上并未留下痕迹,你只是稍稍有点乡土气罢了。我敢说你比一般仆人想得多些。你不得不培养你思考的能力,因为你没有必要把生命消耗在愚蠢的琐事中。

丁太太笑起来。

“我的确认为我自己是属于一种沉着清醒的人,”她说,

“这倒不一定是由于一年到头住在山里,老是看见那几张面孔和老套的动作,而是我受过严格的训练,这个给了我智慧;而且我读过的书比你想象的还多些,洛克乌德先生。在这个图书室里,你可找不到有哪本书我没看过,而且本本书,我都有所得益。除了那排希腊文和拉丁文的,还有那排法文的,但那些书我也能分辨得出。对于一个穷人的女儿,你也只能期望这么多。只是,如果你希望我像闲聊一样,把整个来龙去脉都要细讲,那我就这样说下去吧。而且,时间上不跳过三年,就从第二年夏天讲起也可以啦——一七七八年的夏天,那就是,差不多二十三年前。”



Chapter 7


Cathy stayed at Thrushcross Grange five weeks: till Christmas. By that time her ankle was thoroughly cured, and her manners much improved. The mistress visited her often in the interval, and commenced her plan of reform by trying to raise her self-respect with fine clothes and flattery, which she took readily; so that, instead of a wild, hatless little savage jumping into the house, and rushing to squeeze us all breathless, there alighted from a handsome black pony a very dignified person, with brown ringlets falling from the cover of a feathered beaver, and a long cloth habit, which she was obliged to hold up with both hands that she might sail in. Hindley lifted her from her horse, exclaiming delightedly, `Why, Cathy, you are quite a beauty! I should scarcely have known you: you look like a lady now. Isabella Linton is not to be compared with her, is she, Frances?'

`Isabella has not her natural advantages,' replied his wife: `but she must mind and not grow wild again here. Ellen, help Miss Catherine off with her things--stay, dear, you will disarrange your curls--let me untie your hat.'

I removed the habit, and there shone forth, beneath a grand plaid silk frock, white trousers, and burnished shoes; and, while her eyes sparkled joyfully when the dogs came bounding up to welcome her, she dare hardly touch them lest they should fawn upon her splendid garments. She kissed me gently: I was all flour making the Christmas cake, and it would not have done to give me a hug; and, then, she looked round for Heathcliff. Mr and Mrs Earnshaw watched anxiously their meeting; thinking it would enable them to judge, in some measure, what grounds they had for hoping to succeed in separating the two friends.

Heathcliff was hard to discover, at first. If he were careless, and uncared for, before Catherine's absence, he had been ten times more so, since. Nobody but I even did him the kindness to call him a dirty boy, and bid him wash himself, once a week; and children of his age seldom have a natural pleasure in soap and water. Therefore, not to mention his clothes, which had seen three months' service in mire and dust, and his thick uncombed hair, the surface of his face and hands was dismally beclouded. He might well skulk behind the settle, on beholding such a bright, graceful damsel enter the house, instead of a rough-headed counterpart of himself, as he expected. `Is Heathcliff not here?' she demanded, pulling off her gloves, and displaying fingers wonderfully whitened with doing nothing and staying indoors.

`Heathcliff, you may come forward,' cried Mr Hindley, enjoying his discomfiture, and gratified to see what a forbidding young blackguard he would be compelled to present himself. `You may come and wish Miss Catherine welcome, like the other servants.'

Cathy, catching a glimpse of her friend in his concealment, flew to embrace him; she bestowed seven or eight kisses on his cheek within the second, and then stopped, and drawing back, burst into a laugh, exclaiming, `Why, how very black and cross you look! and how--how funny and grim! But that's because I'm used to Edgar and Isabella Linton. Well, Heathcliff, have you forgotten me?'

She had some reason to put the question, for shame and pride threw double gloom over his countenance, and kept him immovable.

`Shake hands, Heathcliff,' said Mr Earnshaw, condescendingly; `once in a way, that is permitted.'

`I shall not,' replied the boy, finding his tongue at last; `I shall not stand to be laughed at. I shall not bear it!'

And he would have broken from the circle, but Miss Cathy seized him again.

`I did not mean to laugh at you,' she said; `I could not hinder myself: Heathcliff, shake hands at least! What are you sulky for? It was only that you looked odd. If you wash your face and brush your hair, it will be all right: but you are so dirty!'

She gazed concernedly at the dusky fingers she held in her own, and also at her dress; which she feared had gained no embellishment from its contact with his.

`You needn't have touched me!' he answered, following her eye and snatching away his hand. `I shall be as dirty as I please: and I like to be dirty, and I will be dirty.'

With that he dashed head foremost out of the room, amid the merriment of the master and mistress, and to the serious disturbance of Catherine; who could not comprehend how her remarks should have produced such an exhibition of bad temper.

After playing lady's-maid to the newcomer, and putting my cakes in the oven, and making the house and kitchen cheerful with great fires, befitting Christmas eve, I prepared to sit down and amuse myself by singing carols, all alone; regardless of Joseph's affirmations that he considered the merry tunes I chose as next door to songs. He had retired to private prayer in his chamber, and Mr and Mrs Earnshaw were engaging Missy's attention by sundry gay trifles bought for her to present to the little Lintons, as an acknowledgment of their kindness. They had invited them to spend the morrow at Wuthering Heights, and the invitation had been accepted, on one condition: Mrs Linton begged that her darlings must be kept carefully apart from that `naughty swearing boy'.

Under these circumstances I remained solitary. I smelt the rich scent of the heating spices; and admired the shining kitchen utensils, the polished clock, decked in holly, the silver mugs ranged on a tray ready to be filled with mulled ale for supper; and above all, the speckless purity of my particular care--the scoured and well-swept floor. I gave due inward applause to every object, and then I remembered how old Earnshaw used to come in when all was tidied, and call me a cant lass, and slip a shilling into my hand as a Christmas box; and from that I went on to think of his fondness for Heathcliff, and his dread lest he should suffer neglect after death had removed him; and that naturally led me to consider the poor lad's situation now, and from singing I changed my mind to crying. It struck me soon, however, there would be more sense in endeavouring to repair some of his wrongs than shedding tears over them: I got up and walked into the court to seek him. He was not far; I found him smoothing the glossy coat of the new pony in the stable, and feeding the other beasts, according to custom.

`Make haste, Heathcliff!' I said, `the kitchen is so comfortable; and Joseph is upstairs: make haste, and let me dress you smart before Miss Cathy comes out, and then you can sit together, with the whole hearth to yourselves, and have a long chatter till bedtime.'

He proceeded with his task and never turned his head towards me.

`Come--are you coming?' I continued. `There's a little cake for each of you, nearly enough; and you'll need half an hour's donning.'

I waited five minutes, but getting no answer, left him. Catherine supped with her brother and sister-in-law: Joseph and I joined in an unsociable meal, seasoned with reproofs on one side and sauciness on the other. His cake and cheese remained on the table all night for the fairies. He managed to continue work till nine o'clock, and then marched dumb and dour to his chamber. Cathy sat up late, having a world of things to order for the reception of her new friends: she came into the kitchen once to speak to her old one; but he was gone, and she only stayed to ask what was the matter with him, and then went back. In the morning he rose early; and as it was a holiday carried his ill humour on to the moors; not reappearing till the family were departed for church. Fasting and reflection seemed to have brought him to a better spirit. He hung about me for a while, and having screwed up his courage, exclaimed abruptly:

`Nelly, make me decent, I'm going to be good.'

`High time, Heathcliff,' I said; `you have grieved Catherine: she's sorry she ever came home, I dare say! It looks as if you envied her, because she is more thought of than you.'

The notion of envying Catherine was incomprehensible to him, but the notion of grieving her he understood clearly enough.

`Did she say she was grieved?' he inquired, looking very serious. `She cried when I told her you were off again this morning.'

`Well, I cried last night,' he returned, `and I had more reason to cry than she.'

`Yes: you had the reason of going to bed with a proud heart and an empty stomach,' said I. `Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves. But, if you be ashamed of your touchiness, you must ask pardon, mind, when she comes in. You must go up and offer to kiss her, and say--you know best what to say; only do it heartily, and not as if you thought her converted into a stranger by her grand dress. And now, though I have dinner to get ready, I'll steal time to arrange you so that Edgar Linton shall look quite a doll beside you: and that he does. You are younger, and yet, I'll be bound, you are taller and twice as broad across the shoulders: you could knock him down in a twinkling? don't you feel that you could?'

Heathcliff's face brightened a moment; then it was overcast afresh, and he sighed.

`But, Nelly, if I knocked him down twenty times, that wouldn't make him less handsome or me more so. I wish I had light hair and a fair skin, and was dressed and behaved as well, and had a chance of being as rich as he will be!'

`And cried for mamma at every turn,' I added, `and trembled if a country lad heaved his fist against you, and sat at home all day for a shower of rain. Oh, Heathcliff, you are showing a poor spirit! Come to the glass, and I'll let you see what you should wish. Do you mark those two lines between your eyes; and those thick brows, that instead of rising arched, sink in the middle; and that couple of black fiends, so deeply buried, who never open their windows boldly, but lurk glinting under them, like devil's spies? Wish and learn to smooth away the surly wrinkles, to raise your lids frankly, and change the fiends to confident, innocent angels, suspecting and doubting nothing, and always seeing friends where they are not sure of foes. Don't get the expression of a vicious cur that appears to know the kicks it gets are its desert, and yet hates all the world as well as the kicker, for what it suffers.'

`In other words, I must wish for Edgar Linton's great blue eyes and even forehead,' he replied. `I do--and that won't help me to them.'

`A good heart will help you to a bonny face, my lad,' I continued, `if you were a regular black; and a bad one will turn the bonniest into something worse than ugly. And now that we've done washing, and combing, and sulking--tell me whether you don't think yourself rather handsome? I'll tell you, I do. You're fit for a prince in disguise. Who knows but your father was Emperor of China, and your mother an Indian queen, each of them able to buy up, with one week's income, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange together? And you were kidnapped by wicked sailors and brought to England. Were I in your place, I would frame high notions of my birth; and the thoughts of what I was should give me courage and dignity to support the oppressions of a little farmer!'

So I chattered on; and Heathcliff gradually lost his frown and began to look quite pleasant, when all at once our conversation was interrupted by a rumbling sound moving up the road and entering the court. He ran to the window and I to the door, just in time to behold the two Lintons descend from the family carriage, smothered in cloaks and furs, and the Earnshaws dismount from their horses: they often rode to church in winter. Catherine took a hand of each of the children, and brought them into the house and set them before the fire, which quickly put colour into their white faces.

I urged my companion to hasten now and show his amiable humour, and he willingly obeyed; but ill luck would have it that, as he opened the door leading from the kitchen on one side, Hindley opened it on the other. They met, and the master, irritated at seeing him clean and cheerful; or, perhaps, eager to keep his promise to Mrs Linton, shoved him back with a sudden thrust, and angrily bade Joseph `keep the fellow out of the room--send him into the garret till dinner is over. He'll be cramming his fingers in the tarts and stealing the fruit, if left alone with them a minute.'

`Nay, sir,' I could not avoid answering, `he'll touch nothing, not he: and I suppose he must have his share of the dainties as well as we.'

`He shall have his share of my hand, if I catch him downstairs again till dark,' cried Hindley. `Begone, you vagabond! What! you are attempting the coxcomb, are you? Wait till I get hold of those elegant locks--see if I won't pull them a bit longer.'

`They are long enough, already,' observed Master Linton, peeping from the doorway; `I wonder they don't make his head ache. It's like a colt's mane over his eyes!'

He ventured his remark without any intention to insult; but Heathcliff's violent nature was not prepared to endure the appearance of impertinence from one whom he seemed to hate, even then, as a rival. He seized a tureen of hot apple sauce (the first thing that came under his gripe) and dashed it full against the speaker's face and neck; who instantly commenced a lament that brought Isabella and Catherine hurrying to the place. Mr Earnshaw snatched up the culprit directly and conveyed him to his chamber; where, doubtless, he administered a rough remedy to cool the fit of passion, for he reappeared red and breathless. I got the dish-cloth and rather spitefully scrubbed Edgar's nose and mouth, affirming it served him right for meddling. His sister began weeping to go home, and Cathy stood by confounded, blushing for all.

`You should not have spoken to him!' she expostulated with Master Linton. `He was in a bad temper, and now you've spoilt your visit; and he'll be flogged: I hate him to be flogged! I can't eat my dinner. Why did you speak to him, Edgar?'

`I didn't,' sobbed the youth, escaping from my hands, and finishing the remainder of the purification with his cambric pocket handkerchief. `I promised mamma that I wouldn't say one word to him, and I didn't.'

`Well, don't cry,' replied Catherine, contemptuously, `you're not killed. Don't make more mischief; my brother is coming: be quiet! Give over, Isabella! Has anybody hurt you?'

`There, there, children--to your seats!' cried Hindley, bustling in. `That brute of a lad has warmed me nicely. Next time, Master Edgar, take the law into your own fists--it will give you an appetite!'

The little party recovered its equanimity at sight of the fragrant feast. They were hungry after their ride, and easily consoled, since no real harm had befallen them. Mr Earnshaw carved bountiful platefuls, and the mistress made them merry with lively talk. I waited behind her chair, and was pained to behold Catherine, with dry eyes and an indifferent air, commence cutting up the wing of a goose before her. `An unfeeling child,' I thought to myself; `how lightly she dismisses her old playmate's troubles. I could not have imagined her to be so selfish.' She lifted a mouthful to her lips; then she set it down again: her cheeks flushed, and the tears gushed over them. She slipped her fork to the floor, and hastily dived under the cloth to conceal her emotion. I did not cal her unfeeling long; for I perceived she was in purgatory through out the day, and wearying to find an opportunity of getting by herself, or paying a visit to Heathcliff, who had been locked up b the master: as I discovered, on endeavouring to introduce to him private mess of victuals.

In the evening we had a dance. Cathy begged that he might b liberated then, as Isabella Linton had no partner; her entreaties were vain, and I was appointed to supply the deficiency. We got rid of all gloom in the excitement of the exercise, and our pleasure was increased by the arrival of the Gimmerton band, mustering fifteen strong: a trumpet, a trombone, clarionets, bassoon French horns, and a bass viol, besides singers. They go the rounds of all the respectable houses, and receive contributions every Christmas, and we esteemed it a first-rate treat to hear them. After the usual carols had been sung, we set them to songs and glees. Mrs Earnshaw loved the music, and so they gave us plenty.

Catherine loved it too; but she said it sounded sweetest at the top of the steps, and she went up in the dark; I followed. They shut the house door below, never noting our absence, it was so full people. She made no stay at the stair's head, but mounted farther, to the garret where Heathcliff was confined, and called him. I stubbornly declined answering for a while; she persevered, and finally persuaded him to hold communion with her through the boards. I let the poor things converse unmolested, till I supposed the songs were going to cease, and the singers to get some refreshment; then, I clambered up the ladder to warn her. Instead of finding her outside, I heard her voice within. The little monkey had crept by the skylight of one garret, along the roof, into the skylight of the other, and it was with the utmost difficulty I could coax her out again. When she did come Heathcliff came with her, and she insisted that I should take him into the kitchen, as my fellow-servant had gone to a neighbour's to be removed from the sound of our `devil's psalmody', as it pleased him to call it. I told them I intended by no means to encourage their tricks; but as the prisoner had never broken his fast since yesterday's dinner, I would wink at his cheating Mr Hindley that once. He went down; I set him a stool by the fire, and offered him a quantity of good things; but he was sick and could eat little, and my attempts to entertain him were thrown away. He leant his two elbows on his knees, and his chin on his hands, and remained wrapt in dumb meditation. On my inquiring the subject of his thoughts, he answered gravely:

`I'm trying to settle how I shall pay Hindley back. I don't care how long I wait, if I can only do it at last. I hope he will not die before I do!'

`For shame, Heathcliff!' said I. `It is for God to punish wicked people; we should learn to forgive.'

`No, God won't have the satisfaction that I shall,' he returned. `I only wish I knew the best way! Let me alone, and I'll plan it out: while I'm thinking of that I don't feel pain.'

But, Mr Lockwood, I forget these tales cannot divert you. I'm annoyed how I should dream of chattering on at such a rate; and your gruel cold, and you nodding for bed! I could have told Heathcliffs history, all that you need hear, in half a dozen words.

Thus interrupting herself, the housekeeper rose, arid proceeded to lay aside her sewing; but I felt incapable of moving from the hearth, and I was very far from nodding. `Sit still, Mrs Dean,' I cried, `do sit still, another half-hour! You've done just right to tell the story leisurely. That is the method I like; and you must finish it in the same style. I am interested in every character you have mentioned, more or less.'

`The clock is on the stroke of eleven, sir.'

`No matter--I'm not accustomed to go to bed in the long hours. One or two is early enough for a person who lies till ten.'

`You shouldn't lie till ten. There's the very prime of the morning gone long before that time. A person who has not done one half his day's work by ten o'clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.'

`Nevertheless, Mrs Dean, resume your chair; because to morrow I intend lengthening the night till afternoon. I prognosticate for myself an obstinate cold, at least.'

`I hope not, sir. Well, you must allow me to leap over some three years; during that space Mrs Earnshaw---'

`No, no, I'll allow nothing of the sort! Are you acquainted with the mood of mind in which, if you were seated alone, and the cat licking its kitten on the rug before you, you would watch the operation so intently that puss's neglect of one ear would put you seriously out of temper?'

`A terribly lazy mood, I should say.'

`On the contrary, a tiresomely active one. It is mine, at present; and, therefore, continue minutely. I perceive that people in these regions acquire over people in towns the value that the spider in a dungeon does over a spider in a cottage, to their various occupants; and yet the deepened attraction is not entirely owing to the situation of the looker-on. They do live more in earnest, more in themselves, and less in surface change, and frivolous external things. I could fancy a love for life here almost possible; and I was a fixed unbeliever in any love of a year's standing. One state resembles setting a hungry man down to a single dish, on which he may concentrate his entire appetite and do it justice; the other, introducing him to a table laid out by French cooks: he can perhaps extract as much enjoyment from the whole; but each part is a mere atom in his regard and remembrance.'

`Oh! here we are the same as anywhere else, when you get to know us,' observed Mrs Dean, somewhat puzzled at my speech.

`Excuse me,' I responded; `you, my good friend, are a striking evidence against that assertion. Excepting a few provincialisms of slight consequence, you have no marks of the manners which I am habituated to consider as peculiar to your class. I am sure you have thought a great deal more than the generality of servants think. You have been compelled to cultivate your reflective faculties for want of occasions for frittering your life away in silly trifles.'

Mrs Dean laughed.

`I certainly esteem myself a steady, reasonable kind of body,' she said; `not exactly from living among the hills and seeing one set of faces, and one series of actions, from year's end to year's end; but I have undergone sharp discipline, which has taught me wisdom; and then, I have read more than you would fancy, Mr Lockwood. You could not open a book in this library that I have not looked into, and got something out of also: unless it be that range of Greek and Latin and that of French; and those I know one from another: it is as much as you can expect of a poor man's daughter. However, if I am to follow my story in true gossip's fashion, I had better go on; and instead of leaping three years, I will be content to pass to the next summer--the summer of 1778, that is, nearly twenty-three years ago.'