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第3节 第九章 【
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第九章
   

他进来了,叫喊着不堪入耳的咒骂的话,刚好看见我正把他的儿子往厨房碗橱里藏。哈里顿对于碰上他那野兽般的喜爱或疯人般的狂怒,都有一种恐怖之感,这是因为在前一种情况下他有被挤死或吻死的机会,而在另一种情况下他又有被丢在火里或撞在墙上的机会。他的惊恐倒使我可以随意地把他放在任何地方,这可怜的东西总是不声不响。

“哪,我到底发现啦!”辛德雷大叫,抓着我脖子上的皮,像拖只狗似地往后拖。“天地良心,你们一定发了誓要谋害那个孩子!现在我知道他怎么总不在我的跟前了。可是,魔鬼帮助我,我要让你吞下这把切肉刀,耐莉!你不用笑,因为我刚刚把肯尼兹头朝下闷到黑马沼地里,两个一个都一样——我要杀掉你们几个,我不杀就不安心!”

“可我不喜欢切肉刀,辛德雷先生,”我回答,“这刀刚切过熏青鱼。要是你愿意的话,我情愿被枪杀。”

“你还是遭天杀吧,”他说,“而且你将来也非遭不可。在英格兰没有一条法律能禁止一个人把他的家弄得像样,可我的家却乱七八糟!——张开你的嘴!”

他握住刀子,把刀尖向我的牙齿缝里戳。而我可从来不太怕他的奇想。我唾一下,肯定说味道很讨厌——我无论如何不要吞下去。

“啊!”他放开了我,说道,“我看出那个可恶的小流氓不是哈里顿——我请你原谅,耐儿——要是他的话,他就应该活剥皮,因为他不跑来欢迎我,而且还尖声大叫,倒好像我是个妖怪。不孝的崽子,过来!你欺骗一个好心肠的、上当的父亲,我要教训教训你。现在,你不觉得这孩子头发剪短点还可以漂亮些吗?狗的毛剪短可以显得凶些,我爱凶的东西——给我一把剪刀——凶而整洁的东西!而且,那是地狱里才有的风气——珍爱我们的耳朵是魔鬼式的狂妄,——我们没有耳朵,也够像驴子的啦。嘘,孩子,嘘!好啦,我的乖宝贝!别哭啦,揩干你的眼睛——这才是个宝贝啦。亲亲我。什么!他不肯?亲亲我,哈里顿!该死的,亲亲我!上帝呀,好像我愿意养这么个怪物似的!我非把这臭孩子的脖子摔断不可。”

可怜的哈里顿在他父亲怀里拚命又喊又踢,当他把哈里顿抱上楼,而且把他举到栏杆外面的时候,他更加倍地喊叫。我一边嚷着他会把孩子吓疯的,一边跑去救他。我刚走到他们那儿,辛德雷在栏杆上探身向前倾听楼下有个声音,几乎忘记他手里有什么了。“是谁?”他听到有人走近楼梯跟前,便问道。我也探身向前,为的是想作手势给希刺克厉夫,我已经听出他的脚步声了,叫他不要再走过来。就在我的眼睛刚刚离开哈里顿这一瞬间,他猛然一窜,便从那不当心的怀抱中挣脱出来,掉下去了。

我们只顾看这个小东西是否安全,简直没有时间来体验那尖锐的恐怖感觉了。希刺克厉夫正在紧要关头走到了楼下,他下意识地把他接住了,并且扶他站好,抬头看是谁惹下的祸。即使是一个守财奴为了五分钱舍弃一张幸运的彩票,而第二天发现他在这交易上损失了五千镑,也不能表现出当希刺克厉夫看见楼上的人是恩萧先生时那副茫然若失的神气。那副神气比言语还更能明白地表达出那种极其深沉的苦痛,因为他竟成了阻挠他自己报仇的工具。若是天黑,我敢说,他会在楼梯上打碎哈里顿的头颅来补救这错误,但是我们亲眼看见孩子得救了,我立刻下楼把我的宝贝孩子抱过来,紧贴在心上。辛德雷从容不迫地下来,酒醒了,也觉得羞愧了。

“这是你的错,艾伦,”他说,“你该把他藏起来不让我看见。你该把他从我手里抢过去。他跌伤了什么地方没有?”

“跌伤!”我生气地喊着,“他要是没死,也会变成个白痴!啊!我奇怪他母亲怎么不从她的坟里站起来瞧瞧你怎样对待他。你比一个异教徒还坏——这样对待你的亲骨肉!”

他想要摸摸孩子。这孩子一发觉他是跟着我,就马上发泄出他的恐怖,放声哭出来。但是他父亲的手指头刚碰到他,他就又尖叫起来,叫得比刚才更高,而且挣扎着像要惊风似的。

“你不要管他啦!”我接着说。“他恨你——他们都恨你——这是实话!你有一个快乐的家庭,却给你弄到这样一个糟糕的地步!”

“我还要弄得更糟哩,耐莉,”这陷入迷途的人大笑,恢复了他的顽强,“现在,你把他抱走吧。而且,你听着,希刺克厉夫!你也走开,越远越好。我今晚不会杀你,除非,也许,我放火烧房子:那只是我这么想想而已。”

说着,他从橱里拿出一小瓶白兰地,倒一些在杯子里。

“不,别!”我请求,“辛德雷先生,请接受我的警告吧。

如果你不爱惜你自己,就可怜可怜这不幸的孩子吧!”

“任何人都会比我待他更好些,”他回答。

“可怜可怜你自己的灵魂吧!”我说,竭力想从他手里夺过杯子。

“我可不。相反,我宁愿叫它沉沦来惩罚它的造物主,”这亵渎神明的人喊叫着,“为灵魂的甘心永堕地狱而干杯!”

他喝掉了酒,不耐烦地叫我们走开。用一连串的可怕的,不堪重述也不能记住的咒骂,来结束他的命令。

“可惜他不能醉死,”希刺克厉夫说。在门关上时,也回报了一阵咒骂,“他是在拚命,可是他的体质顶得住,肯尼兹先生说拿自己的马打赌,在吉默吞这一带,他要比任何人都活得长,而且将像个白发罪人似的走向坟墓,除非他碰巧遇上什么越出常情的机会。”

我走进厨房,坐下来哄我的小羔羊入睡。我以为希刺克厉夫走到谷仓去了。后来才知道他只走到高背长靠椅的那边,倒在墙边的一条凳子上,离火挺远,而且一直不吭声。

我正把哈里顿放在膝上摇着,而且哼着一支曲子,那曲子是这样开始的——

“夜深了,孩子睡着了。

坟堆里的母亲听见了——”

这时凯蒂小姐,已经在她屋里听见了这场骚扰,伸进头来,小声说:

“你一个人吗,耐莉?”

“是啊,小姐,”我回答。

她走进来,走近壁炉。我猜想她要说什么话,就抬头望着。她脸上的表情看来又烦又忧虑不安。她的嘴半张着,好像有话要说。她吸了一口气,但是这口气化为一声叹息而不是一句话。我继续哼我的歌,还没有忘记她刚才的态度。

“希刺克厉夫呢?”她打断了我的歌声,问我。

“在马厩里干他的活哩,”这是我的回答。

他也没有纠正我,也许他在瞌睡。接着又是一阵长长的停顿。这时我看见有一两滴水从凯瑟琳的脸上滴落到石板地上。她是不是为了她那可羞的行为而难过呢?我自忖着,那倒要成件新鲜事哩。可是她也许愿意这样——反正我不去帮助她!不,她对于任何事情都不大操心,除非是跟她自己有关的事。

“啊,天呀!”她终于喊出来,“我非常不快乐!”

“可惜,”我说,“要你高兴真不容易,这么多朋友和这么少牵挂,还不能使你自己知足!”

“耐莉,你肯为我保密吗?”她纠缠着,跪在我旁边,抬起她那迷人的眼睛望着我的脸,那种神气足以赶掉人的怒气,甚至在一个人极有理由发怒的时候也可以。

“值得保守吗?”我问,不太别扭了。

“是的,而且它使我很烦,我非说出来不可!我要想知道我该怎么办。今天,埃德加·林惇要求我嫁给他,我也已经给他回答了。现在,在我告诉你这回答是接受还是拒绝之前,你告诉我应该是什么。”

“真是的,凯瑟琳小姐,我怎么知道呢?”我回答。“当然,想想今天下午你当着他的面出了那么大的丑,我可以说拒绝他是聪明的。既然他在那件事之后请求你,他一定要么是个没希望的笨蛋,要么就是一个好冒险的傻瓜。”

“要是你这么说,我就不再告诉你更多的了,”她抱怨地回答,站起来了。“我接受了,耐莉。快点,说我是不是错了!”

“你接受了?那么讨论这件事又有什么好处呢?你已经说定,就不能收回啦。”

“可是,说说我该不该这样作——说吧!”她用激怒的声调叫着,绞着她的双手,皱着眉。

“在正确地回答那个问题之前,有许多事要考虑的,”我说教似地讲着。“首先,最重要的是你爱不爱埃德加先生?”

“谁能不爱呢?当然我爱。”她回答。

然后我就跟她一问一答:对于一个二十二岁的姑娘说来,这些问话倒不能算是没有见识。

“你为什么爱他,凯蒂小姐?”

“问得无聊,我爱——那就够了。”

“不行,你一定要说为什么。”

“好吧,因为他漂亮,而且在一起很愉快。”

“糟,”这是我的评语。

“而且因为他又年轻又活泼。”

“还是糟。”

“而且因为他爱我。”

“那一点无关紧要。”

“而且他将要有钱,我愿意做附近最了不起的女人,而我有这么一个丈夫就会觉得骄傲。”

“太糟了!现在,说说你怎么爱他吧?”

“跟每一个人恋爱一样。你真糊涂,耐莉。”

“一点也不,回答吧。”

“我爱他脚下的地,他头上的天,他所碰过的每一样东西,以及他说出的每一个字。我爱他所有的表情和所有的动作,还有整个的完完全全的他。好了吧!”

“为什么呢?”

“不,你是在开玩笑,这可太恶毒了!对我可不是开玩笑的事!”小姐说,并且皱起眉,掉过脸向着炉火。

“我绝不是开玩笑,凯瑟琳小姐!”我回答。“你爱埃德加先生是因为他漂亮、年轻、活泼、有钱,而且爱你。最后这一点,不管怎么样,没什么作用,没有这一条,你也许还是爱他;而有了这条,你倒不一定,除非他具备四个优点。”

“是啊,当然,如果他生得丑,而且是个粗人,也许我只能可怜他——恨他。”

“可是世界上还有好多漂亮的、富裕的年轻人呀——可能比他还漂亮,还有钱。你怎么不去爱他们呢?”

“如果有的话,他们也不在我的道路上!我还没有看见过像埃德加这样的人。”

“你还可以看见一些,而且他不会总是漂亮、年轻,也不会总是有钱的。”

“他现在是,而我只要顾眼前,我希望你说点合乎情理的话。”

“好啦,那就解决了,如果你只顾眼前,就嫁林惇先生好啦。”

“这件事我并不要得到你的允许——我要嫁他。可是你还没有告诉我,我到底对不对。”

“如果人们结婚只顾眼前是对的话,那就完全正确。现在让我们听听你为什么不高兴。你的哥哥会高兴的,那位老太太和老先生也不会反对。我想,你将从一个乱糟糟的、不舒服的家庭逃脱,走进一个富裕的体面人家。而且你爱埃德加,埃德加也爱你。一切看来是顺心如意——障碍又在哪儿呢?”

“在这里,在这里!”凯瑟琳回答,一只手捶她的前额,一只手捶胸:“在凡是灵魂存在的地方——在我的灵魂里,而且在我的心里,我感到我是错了!”

“那是非常奇怪的!我可不懂。”

“那是我的秘密。可要是你不嘲笑我,我就要解释一下了。

我不能说得很清楚——可是我要让你感觉到我是怎样感觉的。”

她又在我旁边坐下来,她的神气变得更忧伤、更严肃,她紧攥着的手在颤抖。

“耐莉,你从来没有做过稀奇古怪的梦吗?”她想了几分钟后,忽然说。

“有时候做。”我回答。

“我也是的。我这辈子做过的梦有些会在梦过以后永远留下来跟我在一起,而且还会改变我的心意。这些梦在我心里穿过来穿过去,好像酒流在水里一样,改变了我心上的颜色。这是一个——我要讲了——可是你可别对随便什么话都笑。”

“啊,别说啦,凯瑟琳小姐!”我叫着,“用不着招神现鬼来缠我们,我们已够惨的啦。来,来,高兴起来,像你本来的样子!看看小哈里顿——他梦中想不到什么伤心事。他在睡眠中笑得多甜啊!”

“是的,他父亲在寂寞无聊时也诅咒得多甜!我敢说,你还记得他和那个小胖东西一样的时候——差不多一样的小而天真。可是,耐莉,我要请你听着——并不长;而我今天晚上也高兴不起来。”

“我不要听,我不要听!”我赶紧反复说着。

那时候我很迷信梦,现在也还是。凯瑟琳脸上又有一种异常的愁容,这使我害怕她的梦会使我感到什么预兆,使我预见一件可怕的灾祸。她很困恼,可是她没有接着讲下去。停一会她又开始说了,显然是另拣一个题目。

“如果我在天堂,耐莉,我一定会非常凄惨。”

“因为你不配到那儿去,”我回答,“所有的罪人在天堂里都会凄惨的。”

“可不是为了那个。我有一次梦见我在那儿了。”

“我告诉你我不要听你的梦,凯瑟琳小姐!我要上床睡觉啦。”我又打断了她。她笑了,按着我坐下来,因为我要离开椅子走了。

“这并没有什么呀,”她叫着,“我只是要说天堂并不是像我的家。我就哭得很伤心,要回到尘世上来。而天使们大为愤怒,就把我扔到呼啸山庄的草原中间了。我就在那儿醒过来,高兴得直哭。这就可以解释我的秘密了,别的也是一样。讲到嫁给埃德加·林惇,我并不比到天堂去更热心些。如果那边那个恶毒的人不把希刺克厉夫贬得这么低,我还不会想到这个。现在,嫁给希刺克厉夫就会降低我的身份,所以他永远也不会知道我多么爱他;那并不是因为他漂亮,耐莉,而是因为他比我更像我自己。不论我们的灵魂是什么做成的,他的和我的是一模一样的;而林惇的灵魂就如月光和闪电,或者霜和火,完全不同。”

这段话还没有讲完,我发觉希刺克厉夫就在这儿。我注意到一个轻微的动作,我回过头,看见他从凳子上站起来,不声不响地悄悄出去了。他一直听到凯瑟琳说嫁给他就会降低她的身份,就没再听下去。我的同伴,坐在地上,正被高背长靠椅的椅背挡住,看不见他在这儿,也没看见他离开。可是我吃了一惊,叫她别出声。

“干吗?”她问,神经过敏地向四周望着。

“约瑟夫来了,”我回答,碰巧听见他的车轮在路上隆隆的声音,“希刺克厉夫会跟他进来的。我不能担保他这会儿在不在门口哩。”

“啊,他不可能在门口偷听我的!”她说。“把哈里顿交给我,你去准备晚饭,弄好了叫我去跟你一块吃吧。我愿意欺骗我这不好受的良心,而且也深信希刺克厉夫没想到这些事。

他没有,是吧?他不知道什么叫做爱吧?”

“我看不出有什么理由说他不能跟你一样地了解。”我回答,“如果你是他所选定的人,他就要成为天下最不幸的人了。你一旦变成林惇夫人,他就失去了朋友、爱情以及一切!你考虑过没有?你将怎样忍受这场分离,而他又将怎么忍受完全被人遗弃在世上,因为,凯瑟琳小姐——”

“他完全被人遗弃!我们分开!”她喊,带着愤怒的语气。

“请问,谁把我们分开?他们要遭到米罗①的命运!只要我还活着,艾伦——谁也不敢这么办。世上每一个林惇都可以化为乌有,我绝不能够答应放弃希刺克厉夫。啊,那可不是我打算的——那不是我的意思!要付这么一个代价,我可不作林惇夫人!将来他这一辈子,对于我,就和他现在对于我一样地珍贵。埃德加一定得消除对希刺克厉夫的反感,而且,至少要容忍他。当他知道了我对他的真实感情,他就会的。耐莉,现在我懂了,你以为我是个自私的贱人。可是,你难道从来没想到,如果希刺克厉夫和我结婚了,我们就得作乞丐吗?而如果我嫁给林惇,我就能帮助希刺克厉夫高升,并且把他安置在我哥哥无权过问的地位。”

①米罗——Milo,纪元前57年曾为罗马护民官。原为宠贝的手下人,原组织斗士与克劳狄斯暗斗达五年之久。纪元前55年做了罗马执政官。纪元前52年谋杀了克劳狄斯,后被控告并放逐。纪元前48年又组织叛乱,在科萨被捕并被处死。

“用你丈夫的钱吗,凯瑟琳小姐?”我问,“你要发觉他可不是你估计的这么顺从。而且,虽然我不便下断言,我却认为那是你要作小林惇的妻子的最坏的动机。”

“不是,”她反驳,“那是最好的!其他的动机都是为了满足我的狂想;而且也是为了埃德加的缘故——因为在他的身上,我能感到,既包含着我对埃德加的还包含着他对我自己的那种感情。我不能说清楚,可是你和别人当然都了解,除了你之外,还有,或是应该有,另一个你的存在。如果我是完完全全都在这儿,那么创造我又有什么用处呢?在这个世界上,我的最大的悲痛就是希刺克厉夫的悲痛,而且我从一开始就注意并且互相感受到了。在我的生活中,他是我最强的思念。如果别的一切都毁灭了,而他还留下来,我就能继续活下去;如果别的一切都留下来,而他却给消灭了,这个世界对于我就将成为一个极陌生的地方。我不会像是它的一部分。我对林惇的爱像是树林中的叶子:我完全晓得,在冬天变化树木的时候,时光便会变化叶子。我对希刺克厉夫的爱恰似下面的恒久不变的岩石:虽然看起来它给你的愉快并不多,可是这点愉快却是必需的。耐莉,我就是希刺克厉夫!他永远永远地在我心里。他并不是作为一种乐趣,并不见得比我对我自己还更有趣些,却是作为我自己本身而存在。所以别再谈我们的分离了——那是作不到的;而且——”

她停住了,把脸藏到我的裙褶子里;可是我用力把她推开。对她的荒唐,我再也没有耐心了!

“如果我能够从你的胡扯中找出一点意义来,小姐,”我说,“那只是使我相信你完全忽略了你在婚姻中所要承担的责任;不然,你就是一个恶毒的、没有品德的姑娘。可不要再讲什么秘密的话来烦我。我不能答应保守这些秘密。”

“这点秘密你肯保守吧?”她焦急地问。

“不,我不答应,”我重复说。

她正要坚持,约瑟夫进来了,我们的谈话就此结束。凯瑟琳把她的椅子搬到角落里,照管着哈里顿,我就做饭。饭做好后,我的伙伴就跟我开始争执谁该给辛德雷送饭菜去,我们没能解决,直到饭菜都快冷了。然后我们达成协议说,我们就等他来要吧,如果他想吃的话。因为当他暂时单独一个人的时候,我们都特别怕走到他面前。

“到这时候了,那个没出息的东西怎么还不从地里回来?他干嘛去啦?又闲荡去啦?”这老头子问着,四下里望着,想找希刺克厉夫。

“我去喊他,”我回答。“他在谷仓里,我想没问题。”

我去喊了,可是没有答应。回来时,我低声对凯瑟琳说,我料到他已经听到她所说的大部分话,并且告诉她正当她抱怨她哥哥对他的行为的时候,我是怎样看见他离开厨房的。她吃惊地跳起来——把哈里顿扔到高背椅子上,就自己跑出去找她的朋友了,也没有好好想想她为什么这么激动,或是她的谈话会怎样影响他。她去了很久,因此约瑟夫建议我们不必再等了。他多心地猜测他们在外面逗留为的是避免听他那拖得很长的祷告。他们是“坏得只会作坏事了,”他断定说。而且,为了他们的行为,那天晚上他在饭前通常作一刻钟的祈祷外,又加上一个特别祈祷,本来还要在祈祷之后再来一段,要不是他的小女主人这时冲进来,匆忙地命令他必须跑到马路上去,不管希刺克厉夫游荡到哪儿,也得找到他,要他马上再进来!

“我要跟他说话,在我上楼以前,我非跟他说话不可,”她说。“大门是开着的,他跑到一个听不见喊叫的地方去啦。因为我在农场的最高处尽量使劲大声喊叫,他也不答理。”

约瑟夫起初不肯,但是她太着急了,不容他反对。终于他把帽子往头上一戴,嘟哝着走出去了。

这时,凯瑟琳在地板上来回走着,嚷着,“我奇怪他在哪儿——我奇怪他能跑到哪儿去了!我说了什么啦,耐莉?我都忘啦,他是怪我今天下午发脾气吗?亲爱的,告诉我,我说了什么使他难过的话啦?我真想他来。真想他会来呀!”

“无缘无故嚷嚷什么!”我喊,虽然我自己也有点不定心。

“这一丁点儿小事就把你吓着啦!当然是没有值得大惊小怪的大事,希刺克厉夫没准在旷野上来一个月下散步,或者就躺在稻草的厩楼里,别扭得不想跟我们说话。我敢说他是躲在那儿呢。瞧,我要不把他搜出来才怪!”

我去重新找一遍,结果是失望,而约瑟夫找的结果也是一样。

“这孩子越来越糟!”他一进来就说。“他把大门敞开了,小姐的小马都踏倒了两排小麦,还直冲到草地里去了!反正,主人明天早上一定要闹一场,闹个好看。他对这样不小心的,可怕的家伙可没有什么耐心——他可没有那份耐心!可他不能老是这样——你瞧着吧,你们大家!你们不应该让他无缘无故地发一阵疯!”

“你找到希刺克厉夫没有?你这个蠢驴,”凯瑟琳打断他。

“你有没有照我吩咐的找他?”

“我倒情愿去找马,”他回答。“那还有意义些。可是在这样的夜晚,人马都没法找——黑得像烟囱似的!而且希刺克厉夫也不是听我一叫就来的人——没准你叫他还听得入耳些呢!”

正当夏天,那倒真是一个非常黑的晚上。阴云密布,很像要有雷雨,我说我们最好还是坐下来吧:即将到来的大雨一定会把他带回家的,用不着再费事。但是没法把凯瑟琳劝得平静下来。她一直从大门到屋门来回徘徊,激动得一刻也不肯休息,终于在靠近路上一面墙边站住不动。在那儿,不顾我的忠告,不顾那隆隆的雷声和开始在她四周哗啦哗啦落下的大雨点,她就待在那儿,时不时喊叫一下,又听听,跟着放声大哭。这一场放声嚎啕大哭是哈里顿,或任何孩子都比不过的。

大约午夜时分,我们都还坐着的当儿,暴风雨来势汹汹地在山庄顶上隆隆作响。起了一阵狂风,打了一阵劈雷,不知是风还是雷把屋角的一棵树劈倒了。一根粗大的树干掉下来压到房顶上,把东边烟囱也打下来一块,给厨房的炉火里送来一大堆石头和煤灰。我们还以为闪电落在我们中间了呢,约瑟夫跪下来,祈求主不要忘记诺亚和罗得①。而且,更像从前一样,虽然他要打击不敬神的人,却要赦免无辜的人。我也有点感到这一定也是对我们的裁判。在我的心里,约拿②就是恩萧先生。我就摇摇他小屋的门柄,想弄明白他是不是还活着。他回答得有气无力,使我的同伴比刚才喊得更热闹,好像要把像他自己这样的圣人和像他主人这样的罪人划清界限似的。但是二十分钟后这场骚扰过去了,留下我们全都安全无恙。只是凯蒂,由于她固执地拒绝避雨而淋得浑身湿透,不戴帽子,不披肩巾地站在那儿,任凭她的头发和衣服渗透了雨水。她进来了,躺在高背椅上,浑身水淋淋的,把脸对着椅背,手放在脸前。

①诺亚——Noah,见《圣经》旧约创世记第六、七、八、九章。上帝忿怒降洪水于世,诺亚受神示,造方舟将其家和各种家禽置于舟中,得免灾祸。

罗得——Lot,为亚伯拉罕之侄,见《圣经》旧约创世记第十九章。在今死海边曾有一城名索顿Sodom,(《圣经》上名所多玛),圣经中谓该城居民罪恶深重,故天降大火焚之,罗得于该城灭亡时幸免于难。

②约拿——Jonah,见《圣经》旧约约拿书第一章。约拿因违抗上帝,乘船逃遁,上帝施以巨风,遂致吹入海中,为巨鱼所吞,而困于鱼腹中三昼夜。

“好啦,小姐!”我叫着,抚着她的肩。“你不是下决心找死吧,是吗?你知道这是几点钟啦?十二点半啦。来吧!睡觉去。用不着再等那个傻孩子啦,他一定去吉默吞了,而且现在他一定住在那儿了。他猜想这么晚我们不会醒着等他,至少他猜到只有辛德雷先生会起来,他是宁可避免让主人给他开门的。”

“不,不,他不会在吉默吞,”约瑟夫说。“我看他一定是掉在泥塘底下去啦。这场天降之祸不是无所谓的。我希望你们瞧瞧,小姐——下一回该是你了。为了一切感谢上帝!一切配合起来都是为了他们好,仿佛从垃圾堆里挑选出来的!你们知道《圣经》上说什么——”

他开始引了好几段经文,给我们指明章节,叫我们去查。

我求这执拗的姑娘站起来换掉她的湿衣服,却是白费劲,只好走开,任她祈祷,任她发抖,我自己就带着哈里顿睡觉去了。小哈里顿睡得这么香,好像是他四周的每一个人都睡着了似的。以后我还听见约瑟夫读了一会经。然后,我还听得出他上梯子时慢腾腾的脚步,后来我就睡着了。

我比平时下楼迟些,靠着百叶窗缝中透进来的阳光,看见凯瑟琳小姐还坐在壁炉房。大厅的门也还是半开,从那没有关上的窗户那儿进来了光亮。辛德雷已经出来了,站在厨房炉边,憔悴而懒塌塌的。

“什么事让你难过呀,凯蒂?”我进来时他正在说。“看你像个淹死的小狗那样惨凄凄的。孩子,你怎么这么混,这么苍白?”

“我淋湿了,”她勉强回答,“而且我冷,就这么回事。”

“啊,她太不乖啦!”我大声说,看出来主人还相当清醒,

“她昨天晚上在大雨里泡,而且她又坐了个通宵,我也没法劝得她动一动。”

恩萧先生惊奇地瞅瞅我们。“通宵,”他重复着,“什么事使她不睡?当然,不会是怕雷吧?几个钟头以前就不打雷了。”

我们都不愿意提希刺克厉夫失踪的事,我们能瞒多久就瞒多久,所以我回答,我不知道她怎么想起来坐着不睡,她也没说什么。早上的空气是新鲜凉快的,我把窗户拉开,屋里立刻充满了从花园里来的甜甜的香气。可是凯瑟琳暴躁地叫唤我,“艾伦,关上窗户。我都要冻死了!”她向那几乎灭了的灰烬那边移近些,缩成一团,牙齿直打颤。

“她病了,”辛德雷说,拿起她的手腕,“我想这是她不肯上床去的缘故。倒霉!我可不愿这儿再有人生病添麻烦,你干吗到雨里去呢?”

“和平时一样,追男孩子呀!”约瑟夫嗄声说,趁我们在犹豫时,就抓住机会进谗言。“如果我是你,主人,我就不论他们是贵是贱都给他们一顿耳光!只要有一天你不在家,那个贪嘴的猫林惇可就偷着来啦。还有耐莉小姐呀,她也是个不赖的小姐!她就坐在厨房守着你,你一进这个门,她就出了那个门。还有,我们那个贵妇人就走到她跟前巴结去!这可是好事,夜里十二点钟过了,跟那个吉普赛人生的野鬼,希刺克厉夫,躲在地里!他们以为我是瞎子,我才不是:一点也不瞎!我瞧见小林惇来,也瞧见他走,我还瞅见你(指着我说),你这没出息的,破破烂烂的巫婆!你一听见主人的马蹄在路上响,你就跳起来窜到大厅里去。”

“住嘴,偷听话的!”凯瑟琳嚷着,“在我面前不容你放肆!辛德雷,埃德加·林惇昨天是碰巧来的,是我叫他走的,因为我知道你一直不喜欢遇见他。”

“你撒谎,凯蒂,毫无疑问,”她哥哥回答,“你是一个讨厌的呆子!可是目前先别管林惇吧。——告诉我,你昨天夜里没跟希刺克厉夫在一起么?现在,说实话。你用不着怕我害他,虽然我一直这么恨他,不久以前他却为我作了件好事,使我的良心没法让我掐断他的脖子了。为了防止这种事,我今天早上就要赶他走。等他走后,我劝你们都小心点,我可要对你们不客气哪!”

“我昨天夜里根本没有看见希刺克厉夫,”凯瑟琳回答。开始痛哭起来:“你要是把他撵出大门,我就一定要跟他走。可是,也许,你永远不会有机会啦!也许他已经走啦。”说到这儿,她忍不住放声哀哭,她下面的话就听不清了。

辛德雷向她冷嘲热讽,大骂一场,叫她立刻回她屋里去,要不然的话,就不该无缘无故地大哭!我请求她服从。当我们到了她的卧房时,我永远不会忘记她演了怎样的一场戏,真的把我吓坏了——我以为她要疯了,我就求约瑟夫快跑去请大夫。这证实是热病的开始,肯尼兹先生一看见她,就宣布她病势危险,她在发烧。他给她放血,又告诉我只给她乳浆和稀饭吃;而且要小心别让她跳楼,或是跳窗,然后他就走了。因为他在这教区里是够忙的,而在这一带,这个村和那个村,中间相隔两三英里远是常有的事。

虽然我不能说我是一个温柔的看护,可是约瑟夫和主人总不见得比我好。而且虽然我们的病人是病人中最麻烦、最任性的——可是她总算起死回生了。当然啦,老林惇夫人来拜访了好几次,而且百般挑剔,把我们都骂了一阵,吩咐了一阵,当凯瑟琳病快复原的时候,她坚持要把她送到画眉田庄去。这真是皇恩大赦,我们非常感谢。但是这可怜的太太很有理由后悔她的善心,她和她丈夫都被传染了热病,在几天之内,两人便相继逝世了。

我们的小姐回到我们这儿来,比以前更拗,更暴躁,也更傲慢了。希刺克厉夫自从雷雨之夜后就毫无音讯。有一天她惹得我气极啦,我自认倒霉竟把他的失踪归罪于她身上了。的确这责任是该她负,她自己也明白。从那个时期起,有好几个月,她不理我,仅仅保持主仆关系。约瑟夫也受到冷遇:尽管他只顾说他自己的想法,还拿她当个小姑娘似的教训她,她却把自己当作成年女子,是我们的女主人。并且以为她最近这场病使她有权要求别人体谅她。还有,大夫也说过她不能再受很多打击了,她得由着她自己的性子才行。在她眼里,任何人若敢于站起来反对她,就跟谋杀差不多。她对恩萧先生和他的同伴们都躲得远远的,她哥哥受了肯尼兹的教导,又想到她的狂怒常常会引起一阵癫痫的严重威胁,也就对她百依百顺,尽量不去惹恼她。讲到容忍她的反复无常,他实在是太迁就了,这并不是出于感情,而是出于妄自尊大,他真心盼望能看到她和林惇家联姻以便门第增光,并且只要她不去打扰他,她就尽可以把我们当奴隶一样践踏,他才不管呢!埃德加·林惇,像在他以前和以后的多数人一样,是给迷住了。他父亲逝世三年后,他把她领到吉默吞教堂那天,他自信是世上最幸福的人。

我很勉强地被劝说离开了呼啸山庄,陪她到这儿来了。小哈里顿差不多五岁了,我才开始教他认字,我们分别得很惨。可是凯瑟琳的眼泪比我们的更有力量——当我拒绝去,而她发觉她的请求不能感动我的时候,她就到她丈夫和她哥哥跟前去恸哭。她丈夫要给我很多工钱,她哥哥命令我打铺盖——他说,现在没有女主人啦,他屋里不需要女佣人了。至于哈里顿,不久就有副牧师来照管了。因此我只有一条路可以选择,叫我做什么就照办吧。我告诉主人说,他把所有的正派人都打发走了,那只会让他毁灭得更快些。我亲亲哈里顿作为告别。从此以后他和我是陌生人啦,想起来可非常古怪,可是我敢说他已把丁艾伦一古脑儿全忘了,也忘了他曾经是她在世上最宝贵的,而她也曾是他最宝贵的!

管家把故事讲到这里,偶然向烟囱上的时钟瞅了一眼:出乎她的意料,时针已指到一点半。她就再也不肯多待一秒钟。老实说,我自己也有意让她的故事的续篇搁一搁。现在她已经不见踪影,睡觉去了,我又沉思了一两个钟头,虽然我的头和四肢痛得不想动,可是我也得鼓起勇气去睡觉了。

 



Chapter 9
   

He entered, vociferating oaths dreadful to hear; and caught me in the act of stowing his son away in the kitchen cupboard. Hareton was impressed with a wholesome terror of encountering either his wild beast's fondness or his madman's rage; for in one he ran a chance of being squeezed and kissed to death, and in the other of being flung into the fire, or dashed against the wall; and the poor thing remained perfectly quiet wherever I chose to put him.

`There, I've found it out at last!' cried Hindley, pulling me back by the skin of my neck, like a dog. `By heaven and hell, you've sworn between you to murder that child! I know how it is, now, that he is always out of my way. But, with the help of Satan, I shall make you swallow the carving-knife, Nelly! You needn't laugh; for I've just crammed Kenneth, head downmost, in the Blackhorse marsh; and two is the same as one--and I want to kill some of you: I shall have no rest till I do!'

`But I don't like the carving-knife, Mr Hindley,' I answered: `it has been cutting red herrings. I'd rather be shot, if you please.'

`You'd rather be damned!' he said; `and so you shall. No law in England can hinder a man from keeping his house decent, and mine's abominable! open your mouth.'

He held the knife in his hand, and pushed its point between my teeth: but, for my part, I was never much afraid of his vagaries. I spat out, and affirmed it tasted detestably--I would not take it on any account.

`Oh!' said he, releasing me, `I see that hideous little villain is not Hareton: I beg your pardon, Nell. If it be, he deserves flaying alive for not running to welcome me, and for screaming as if I were a goblin. Unnatural cub, come hither! I'll teach thee to impose on a good-hearted, deluded father. Now, don't you think the lad would be handsomer cropped? It makes a dog fiercer, and I love something fierce--get me a scissors--something fierce and trim! Besides, it's infernal affectation--devilish conceit it is, to cherish our ears--we're asses enough without them. Hush, child, hush! Well then, it is my darling! wisht, dry thy eyes--there's a joy; kiss me. What! it won't? Kiss me, Hareton! Damn thee, kiss me! By God, as if 1 would rear such a monster! As sure as I'm living, I'll break the brat's neck.'

Poor Hareton was squalling and kicking in his father's arms with all his might, and redoubled his yells when he carried him upstairs and lifted him over the banister. I cried out that he would frighten the child into fits, and ran to rescue him. As I reached them, Hindley leant forward on the rails to listen to a noise below; almost forgetting what he had in his hands. `Who is that?' he asked, hearing someone approaching the stair's foot. I leant forward also, for the purpose of signing to Heathcliff, whose step I recognized, not to come farther; and, at the instant when my eye quitted Hareton, he gave a sudden spring, delivered himself from the careless grasp that held him, and fell.

There was scarcely time to experience a thrill of horror before we saw that the little wretch was safe. Heathcliff arrived underneath just at the critical moment; by a natural impulse, he arrested his descent, and setting him on his feet, looked up to discover the author of the accident. A miser who has parted with a lucky lottery ticket for five shillings, and finds next day he has lost in the bargain five thousand pounds, could not show a blanker countenance than he did on beholding the figure of Mr Earnshaw above. It expressed, plainer than words could do, the intense anguish at having made himself the instrument of thwarting his own revenge. Had it been dark, I dare say, he would have tried to remedy the mistake by smashing Hareton's skull on the steps; but we witnessed his salvation; and I was presently below with my precious charge pressed to my heart. Hindley descended more leisurely, sobered and abashed.

`It is your fault, Ellen,' he said; `you should have kept him out of sight: you should have taken him from me! Is he injured anywhere?'

`Injured!' I cried angrily; `if he's not killed, he'll be an idiot! Oh! I wonder his mother does not rise from her grave to see how you use him. You're worse than a heathen--treating your own flesh and blood in that manner!'

He attempted to touch the child, who, on finding himself with me, sobbed off his terror directly. At the first finger his father laid on him, however, he shrieked again louder than before, and struggled as if he would go into convulsions.

`You shall not meddle with him!' I continued. `He hates you--they all hate you--that's the truth! A happy family you have: and a pretty state you're come to!'

`I shall come to a prettier, yet, Nelly,' laughed the misguided man, recovering his hardness. `At present, convey yourself and him away. And, hark you, Heathcliff! clear you too, quite from my reach and hearing. I wouldn't murder you tonight; unless, perhaps, I set the house on fire: but that's as my fancy goes.

While saying this he took a pint bottle of brandy from the dresser, and poured some into a tumbler.

`Nay, don't!' I entreated. `Mr Hindley, do take warning. Have mercy on this unfortunate boy, if you care nothing for yourself!'

`Anyone will do better for him than I shall,' he answered.

`Have mercy on your own soul!' I said, endeavouring to snatch the glass from his hand.

`Not I! On the contrary, I shall have great pleasure in sending it to perdition to punish its Maker,' exclaimed the blasphemer. `Here's to its hearty damnation!'

He drank the spirits and impatiently bade us go; terminating his command with a sequel of horrid imprecations, too bad to repeat or remember.

`It's a pity he cannot kill himself with drink,' observed Heathcliff, muttering an echo of curses back when the door was shut. `He's doing his very utmost; but his constitution defies him. Mr Kenneth says he would wager his mare, that he'll outlive any man on this side Gimmerton, and go to the grave a hoary sinner; unless some happy chance out of the common course befall him.'

I went into the kitchen, and sat down to lull my little lamb to sleep. Heathcliff, as I thought, walked through to the barn. It turned out afterwards that he only got as far as the other side the settle, when he flung himself on a bench by the wall, removed from the fire, and remained silent.

I was rocking Hareton on my knee, and humming a song that began:



It was far in the night, and the bairnies grat,

The mither beneath the mools heard that--

when Miss Cathy, who had listened to the hubbub from her room, put her head in, and whispered:

`Are you alone, Nelly?'

`Yes, miss,' I replied.

She entered and approached the hearth. I, supposing she was going to say something, looked up. The expression of her face seemed disturbed and anxious. Her lips were half asunder, as if she meant to speak, and she drew a breath; but it escaped in a sigh instead of a sentence. I resumed my song; not having forgotten her recent behaviour.

`Where's Heathcliff?' she said, interrupting me.

`About his work in the stable,' was my answer.

He did not contradict me; perhaps he had fallen into a doze. There followed another long pause, during which I perceived a drop or two trickle from Catherine's cheek to the flags. Is she sorry for her shameful conduct? I asked myself. That will be a novelty: but she may come to the point as she will--I shan't help her! No, she felt small trouble regarding any subject, save her own concerns.

`Oh, dear!' she cried at last. `I'm very unhappy!'

`A pity,' observed I. `You're hard to please: so many friends and so few cares, and can't make yourself content!'

`Nelly, will you keep a secret for me?' she pursued, kneeling down by me, and lifting her winsome eyes to my face with that sort of look which turns off bad temper, even when one has all the right in the world to indulge it.

`Is it worth keeping?' I inquired, less sulkily.

`Yes, and it worries me, and I must let it out! I want to know what I should do. Today, Edgar Linton has asked me to marry him, and I've given him an answer. Now, before I tell you whether it was a consent or denial, you tell me which it ought to have been.'

`Really, Miss Catherine, how can I know?' I replied. `To be sure, considering the exhibition you performed in his presence this afternoon, I might say it would be wise to refuse him: since he asked you after that, he must either be hopelessly stupid or a venturesome fool.'

`If you talk so, I won't tell you any more,' she returned peevishly, rising to her feet. `I accepted him, Nelly. Be quick, and say whether I was wrong!'

`You accepted him! then what good is it discussing the matter? You have pledged your word, and cannot retract.'

`But, say whether I should have done so--do!' she exclaimed in an irritated tone; chafing her hands together, and frowning.

`There are many things to be considered before that question can be answered properly,' I said sententiously. `First and fore-most, do you love Mr Edgar?'

`Who can help it? Of course I do,' she answered.

Then I put her through the following catechism: for a girl of twenty-two it was not injudicious.

`Why do you love him, Miss Cathy?'

`Nonsense, I do--that's sufficient.'

`By no means; you must say why?'

`Well, because he is handsome, and pleasant to be with.'

`Bad!' was my commentary.

`And because he is young and cheerful.'

`Bad, still.'

`And because he loves me.'

`Indifferent, coming there.'

`And he will be rich, and I shall like to be the greatest woman of the neighbourhood, and I shall be proud of having such a husband.'

`Worst of all. And now, say how you love him?'

`As everybody loves--You're silly, Nelly.'

`Not at all--Answer.'

`I love the ground under his feet, and the air over his head, and everything he touches, and every word he says. I love all his looks, and all his actions, and him entirely and altogether. There now!'

`And why?'

`Nay; you are making a jest of it; it is exceedingly ill-natured! It's no jest to me!' said the young lady, scowling, and turning her face to the fire.

`I'm very far from jesting, Miss Catherine,' I replied. `You love Mr Edgar because he is handsome, and young, and cheerful, and rich, and loves you. The last, however, goes for nothing: you would love him without that, probably; and with it you wouldn't, unless he possessed the four former attractions.'

`No, to be sure not: I should only pity him--hate him, perhaps, if he were ugly, and a clown.'

`But there are several other handsome, rich young men in the world: handsomer, possibly, and richer than he is. What should hinder you from loving them?'

`If there be any, they are out of my way! I've seen none like Edgar.'

`You may see some; and he won't always be handsome, and young, and may not always be rich.'

`He is now; and I have only to do with the present. I wish you would speak rationally.'

`Well, that settles it: if you have only to do with the present, marry Mr Linton.'

`I don't want your permission for that--I shall marry him: and yet you have not told me whether I'm right.'

`Perfectly right; if people be right to marry only for the present. And now, let us hear what you are unhappy about. Your brother will be pleased; the old lady and gentleman will not object, I think; you will escape from a disorderly, comfortless home into a wealthy, respectable one; and you love Edgar, and Edgar loves you. All seems smooth and easy: where is the obstacle?'

`Here! and here!' replied Catherine, striking one hand on her forehead, and the other on her breast: `in whichever place the soul lives. In my soul and in my heart, I'm convinced I'm wrong!'

`That's very strange! I cannot make it out.'

`It's my secret. But if you will not mock at me, I'll explain it: I can't do it distinctly: but I'll give you a feeling of how I feel.'

She seated herself by me again: her countenance grew sadder and graver, and her clasped hands trembled.

`Nelly, do you never dream queer dreams?' she said, suddenly, after some minutes' reflection.

`Yes, now and then,' I answered.

`And so do I. I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind. And this is one; I'm going to tell it--but take care not to smile at any part of it.'

`Oh! don't, Miss Catherine!' I cried. `We're dismal enough without conjuring up ghosts and visions to perplex us. Come, come, be merry and like yourself! Look at little Hareton! he's dreaming nothing dreary. How sweetly he smiles in his sleep!'

`Yes; and how sweetly his father curses in his solitude! You remember him, I dare say, when he was just such another as that chubby thing: nearly as young and innocent. However, Nelly, I shall oblige you to listen: it's not long; and I've no power to be merry tonight.'

`I won't hear it, I won't hear it!' I repeated hastily.

I was superstitious about dreams then, and am still; and Catherine had an unusual gloom in her aspect, that made me dread something from which I might shape a prophecy, and foresee a fearful catastrophe. She was vexed, but she did not proceed. Apparently taking up another subject, she recommenced in a short time.

`If I were in heaven, Nelly, I should be extremely miserable.'

`Because you are not fit to go there,', I answered. `All sinners would be miserable in heaven.'

`But it is not for that. I dreamt once that I was there.'

`I tell you I won't hearken to your dreams, Miss Catherine! I'll go to bed,' I interrupted again.

She laughed, and held me down; for I made a motion to leave my chair.

`This is nothing,' cried she: `I was only going to say that heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy. That will do to explain my secret, as well as the other. I've no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn't have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.'

Ere this speech ended, I became sensible of Heathcliff's presence. Having noticed a slight movement, I turned my head, and saw him rise from the bench, and steal out noiselessly. He had listened till he heard Catherine say it would degrade her to marry him, and then he stayed to hear no further. My companion, sitting on the ground, was prevented by the back of the settle from remarking his presence or departure; but I started, and bade her hush!

`Why?' she asked, gazing nervously round.

`Joseph is here,' I answered, catching opportunely the roll of his cart-wheels up the road; `and Heathcliff will come in with him. I'm not sure whether he were not at the door this moment.'

`Oh, he couldn't overhear me at the door!' said she. `Give me Hareton, while you get the supper, and when it is ready ask me to sup with you. I want to cheat my uncomfortable conscience, and be convinced that Heathcliff has no notion of these things. He has not, has he? He does not know what being in love is?'

`I see no reason that he should not know, as well as you,' I returned; `and if you are his choice, he will be the most unfortunate creature that ever was born! As soon as you become Mrs Linton, he loses friend, and love, and all! Have you considered how you'll bear the separation, and how he'll be deserted in the world? Because, Miss Catherine---'

`He quite deserted! we separated!' she exclaimed, with an accent of indignation. `Who is to separate us, pray? They'll meet the fate of Milo! Not as long as I live, Ellen: for no mortal creature. Every Linton on the face of the earth might melt into nothing, before I could consent to forsake Heathcliff. Oh, that's not what I intend--that's not what I mean! I shouldn't be Mrs Linton were such a price demanded! He'll be as much to me as he has been all his lifetime. Edgar must shake off his antipathy, and tolerate him, at least. He will, when he learns my true feelings towards him. Nelly, I see now, you think me a selfish wretch; but did it never strike you that if Heathcliff and I married, we should be beggars? whereas, if I marry Linton, I can aid Heathcliff to rise, and place him out of my brother's power.'

`With your husband's money, Miss Catherine?' I asked. `You'll find him not so pliable as you calculate upon: and, though I'm hardly a judge, I think that's the worst motive you've given yet for being the wife of young Linton.'

`It is not,' retorted she; `it is the best! The others were the satisfaction of my whims: and for Edgar's sake, too, to satisfy him. This is for the sake of one who comprehends in his person my feelings to Edgar and myself. I cannot express it; but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is or should be an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He's always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So don't talk of our separation again: it is impracticable; and---'

She paused, and hid her face in the folds of my gown; but I jerked it forcibly away. I was out of patience with her folly!

`If I can make any sense of your nonsense, miss,' I said, `it only goes to convince me that you are ignorant of the duties you undertake in marrying; or else that you are a wicked, unprincipled girl. But trouble me with no more secrets: I'll not promise to keep them.'

`You'll keep that?' she asked eagerly.

`No, I'll not promise,' I repeated.

She was about to insist, when the entrance of Joseph finished our conversation; and Catherine removed her seat to a corner, and nursed Hareton, while I made the supper. After it was cooked, my fellow-servant and I began to quarrel who should carry some to Mr Hindley; and we didn't settle it till all was nearly cold. Then we came to the agreement that we would let him ask, if he wanted any; for we feared particularly to go into his presence when he had been some time alone.

`Und hah isn't that nowt comed in frough th' field, be this time? What is he abaht? girt eedle seeght!' demanded the old man, looking round for Heathcliff.

`I'll call him,' I replied. `He's in the barn, I've no doubt.'

I went and called, but got no answer. On returning, I whispered to Catherine that he had heard a good part of what she said, I was sure; and told how I saw him quit the kitchen just as she complained of her brother's conduct regarding him. She jumped up in a fine fright, flung Hareton on to the settle, and ran to seek for her friend herself; not taking leisure to consider why she was so flurried, or how her talk would have affected him. She was absent such a while that Joseph proposed we should wait no longer. He cunningly conjectured they were staying away in order to avoid hearing his protracted blessing. They were `ill eneugh for ony fahl manners', he affirmed. And on their behalf he added that night a special prayer to the usual quarter of an hour's supplication before meat, and would have tacked another to the end of the grace, had not his young mistress broken in upon him with a hurried command that he must run down the road, and wherever Heathcliff had rambled, find and make him re-enter directly!

`I want to speak to him, and I must, before I go upstairs,' she said. `And the gate is open: he is somewhere out of hearing; for he would not reply, though I shouted at the top of the fold as loud as I could.'

Joseph objected at first; she was too much in earnest, however, to suffer contradiction; and at last he placed his hat on his head, and walked grumbling forth. Meantime, Catherine paced up and down the floor, exclaiming:

`I wonder where he is--I wonder where he can be? What did I say, Nelly? I've forgotten. Was he vexed at my bad humour this afternoon? Dear! tell me what I've said to grieve him? I do wish he'd come. I do wish he would!'

`What a noise for nothing!' I cried, though rather uneasy myself. `What a trifle scares you! It's surely no great cause of alarm that Heathcliff should take a moonlight saunter on the moors, or even lie too sulky to speak to us in the hay-loft. I'll engage he's lurking there. See if I don't ferret him out!'

I departed to renew my search; its result was disappointment, and Joseph's quest ended in the same.

`Yon lads gets war un war!' observed he on re-entering. `He's left th' yate ut t' full swing, and Miss's pony has trodden dahn two rigs uh corn, un plottered through, raight o'er intuh t' meadow! Hahsomdiver, t' maister 'ull play t' devil tomorn, and he'll do weel. He's patience itsseln wi' sich careless, offald craters--patience itsseln he is! Bud he'll nut be soa allus--yah's see, all on ye! Yah mum'nt drive him aht uf his heead for nowt!'

`Have you found Heathcliff, you ass?' interrupted Catherine. `Have you been looking for him, as I ordered?'

`Aw sud more likker look for th' horse,' he replied. `It 'ud be tuh more sense. Bud, Aw can look for norther horse nur man uf a neeght loike this--as black as t' chimbley! und Hathecliff's noan t' chap to coom at maw whistle--happen he'll be less hard uh hearing wi' ye!'

It was a very dark evening for summer: the clouds appeared inclined to thunder, and I said we had better all sit down; the approaching rain would be certain to bring him home without further trouble. However, Catherine would not be persuaded into tranquillity. She kept wandering to and fro, from the gate to the door, in a state of agitation which permitted no repose; and at length took up a permanent situation on one side of the wall, near the road: where, heedless of my expostulations and the growling thunder, and the great drops that began to plash around her, she remained, calling at intervals, and then listening, and then crying outright. She beat Hareton, or any child, at a good passionate fit of crying.

About midnight, while we still sat up, the storm came rattling over the Heights in full fury. There was a violent wind, as well as thunder, and either one or the other split a tree off at the corner of the building: a huge bough fell across the roof, and knocked down a portion of the east chimney-stack, sending a clatter of stones and soot into the kitchen fire. We thought a bolt had fallen in the middle of us; and Joseph swung on to his knees beseeching the Lord to remember the patriarchs Noah and Lot, and, as in former times, spare the righteous, though He smote the ungodly. I felt some sentiment that it must be a judgment on us also. The Jonah, in my mind, was Mr Earnshaw; and I shook the handle of his den that I might ascertain if he were yet living. He replied audibly enough, in a fashion which made my companion vociferate, more clamorously than before, that a wide distinction might be drawn between saints like himself and sinners like his master. But the uproar passed away in twenty minutes, leaving us all unharmed; excepting Cathy, who got thoroughly drenched for her obstinacy in refusing to take shelter, and standing bonnetless and shawl-less to catch as much water as she could with her hair and clothes. She came in and lay down on the settle, all soaked as she was, turning her face to the back, and putting her hands before it.

`Well, miss!' I exclaimed, touching her shoulder; `you are not bent on getting your death, are you? Do you know what o'clock it is? Half past twelve. Come, come to bed! there's no use waiting longer on that foolish boy: he'll be gone to Gimmetton, and he'll stay there now. He guesses we shouldn't wait for him till this late hour: at least, he guesses that only Mr Hindley would be up; and he'd rather avoid having the door opened by the master.

`Nay, nay, he's noan at Gimmerton,' said Joseph. `Aw's niver wonder, bud he's at t' bothom uf a bog-hoile. This visitation worn't for nowt, and I wod hev ye to look out, miss--yah muh be t' next. Thank Hiven for all! All warks togither for gooid to them as is chozzen, and piked out fro' th' rubbidge! Yah knaw whet t' Scripture ses.' And he began quoting several texts, referring us to the chapters and verses where we might find them.

I, having vainly begged the wilful girl to rise and remove her wet things, left him preaching and her shivering, and betook myself to bed with little Hareton, who slept as fast as if everyone had been sleeping round him. I heard Joseph read on a while afterwards; then I distinguished his slow step on the ladder, and then I dropped asleep.

Coming down somewhat later than usual, I saw, by the sunbeams piercing the chinks of the shutters, Miss Catherine still seated near the fireplace. The house door was ajar, too; light entered from its unclosed windows; Hindley had come out, and stood on the kitchen hearth, haggard and drowsy.

`What ails you, Cathy?' he was saying when I entered: `you look as dismal as a drowned whelp. Why are you so damp and pale, child?'

`I've been wet,' she answered reluctantly' `and I'm cold, that's all.'

`Oh, she is naughty!' I cried, perceiving the master to be tolerably sober. `She got steeped in the shower of yesterday evening, and there she has sat the night through, and I couldn't prevail on her to stir.'

Mr Earnshaw stared at us in surprise. `The night through,' he repeated. `What kept her up? not fear of the thunder, surely? That was over hours since.'

Neither of us wished to mention Heathcliff's absence, as long as we could conceal it; so I replied, I didn't know how she took it into her head to sit up; and she said nothing. The morning was fresh and cool; I threw back the lattice, and presently the room filled with sweet scents from the garden; but Catherine called peevishly to me, `Ellen, shut the window. I'm starving!' And her teeth chattered as she shrunk closer to the almost extinguished embers.

`She's ill,' said Hindley, taking her wrist; `I suppose that's the reason she would not go to bed. Damn it! I don't want to be troubled with more sickness here. What took you into the rain!'

`Running after t' lads, as usuald!' croaked Joseph, catching an opportunity, from our hesitation, to thrust in his evil tongue. `If I war yah, maister, I'd just slam t' boards i' their faces all on 'em, gentle and simple! Never a day ut yah're off, but yon cat o' Linton comes sneaking hither; and Miss Nelly, shoo's a fine lass! shoo sits watching for ye i' t' kitchen; and as yah're in at one door, he's out at t'other; and, then, wer grand lady goes a coorting of her side! It's bonny behaviour, lurking amang t' fields, after twelve o' t' night, wi' that fahl, flaysome divil of a gipsy, Heathcliff! They think I'm blind; but I'm noan: nowt ut t' soart!--I seed young Linton boath coming and going, and I seed yah' (directing his discourse to me), `yah gooid fur nowt, slattenly witch! nip up and bolt into th' house, t' minute yah heard t' maister's horse fit clatter up t' road.'

`Silence, eavesdropper!' cried Catherine; `none of your insolence before me! Edgar Linton came yesterday by chance, Hindley; and it was I who told him to be off: because I knew you would not like to have met him as you were.

`You lie, Cathy, no doubt,' answered her brother, `and you are a confounded simpleton! But never mind Linton at present: tell me, were you not with Heathcliff last night? Speak the truth, now. You need not be afraid of harming him: though I hate him as much as ever, he did me a good turn a short time since, that will make my conscience tender of breaking his neck. To prevent it, I shall send him about his business, this very morning; and after he's gone, I'd advise you all to look sharp: I shall only have the more humour for you.

`I never saw Heathcliff last night,' answered Catherine, beginning to sob bitterly: `and if you do turn him out of doors, I'll go with him. But, perhaps, you'll never have an opportunity: perhaps he's gone.' Here she burst into uncontrollable grief, and the remainder of her words were inarticulate.

Hindley lavished on her a torrent of scornful abuse, and bade her get to her room immediately, or she shouldn't cry for nothing! I obliged her to obey; and I shall never forget what a scene she acted when we reached her chamber: it terrified me. I thought she was going mad, and I begged Joseph to run for the doctor. It proved the commencement of delirium: Mr Kenneth, as soon as he saw her, pronounced her dangerously ill; she had a fever. He bled her, and he told me to let her live on whey and water gruel, and take care she did not throw herself downstairs or out of the window; and then he left: for he had enough to do in the parish, where two or three miles was the ordinary distance between cottage and cottage.

Though I cannot say I made a gentle nurse, and Joseph and the master were no better; and though our patient was as wearisome and headstrong as a patient could be, she weathered it through. Old Mrs Linton paid us several visits, to be sure, and set things to rights, and scolded and ordered us all; and when Catherine was convalescent, she insisted on conveying her to Thrushcross Grange: for which deliverance we were very grateful. But the poor dame had reason to repent of her kindness: she and her husband both took the fever, and died within a few days of each other.

Our young lady returned to us, saucier and more passionate, and haughtier than ever. Heathcliff had never been heard of since the evening of the thunder-storm; and one day I had the misfortune, when she had provoked me exceedingly, to lay the blame of his disappearance on her: where indeed it belonged, as she well knew. From that period, for several months, she ceased to hold any communication with me, save in the relation of a mere servant. Joseph fell under a ban also: he would speak his mind, and lecture her all the same as if she were a little girl; and she esteemed herself a woman, and our mistress, and thought that her recent illness gave her a claim to be treated with consideration. Then the doctor had said that she would not bear crossing much; she ought to have her own way; and it was nothing less than murder in her eyes for anyone to presume to stand up and contradict her. From Mr Earnshaw and his companions she kept aloof; and tutored by Kenneth, and serious threats of a fit that often attended her rages, her brother allowed her whatever she pleased to demand, and generally avoided aggravating her fiery temper. He was rather too indulgent in humouring her caprices; not from affection, but from pride: he wished earnestly to see her bring honour to the family by an alliance with the Lintons, and as long as she let.him alone she might trample us like slaves, for aught he cared! Edgar Linton, as multitudes have been before and will be after him, was infatuated; and believed himself th,e happiest man alive on the day he led her to Gimmerton Chapel, three years subsequent to his father's death.

Much against my inclination, I was persuaded to leave Wuthering Heights and accompany her here. Little Hareton was nearly five years old, and I had just begun to teach him his letters. We made a sad parting; but Catherine's tears were more powerful than ours. When I refused to go, and when she found her entreaties did not move me, she went lamenting to her husband and brother. The former offered me munificent wages; the latter ordered me to pack up: he wanted no women in the house, he said, now that there was no mistress; and as to Hareton, the curate should take him in hand, by and by. And so I had but one choice left: to do as I was ordered. I told the master he got rid of all decent people only to run to ruin a little faster; I kissed Hareton goodbye; and since then he has been a stranger: and it's very queer to think it, but I've no doubt he has completely forgotten all about Ellen Dean, and that he was ever more than all the world to her, and she to him!

At this point of the housekeeper's story, she chanced to glance towards the timepiece over the chimney; and was in amazement on seeing the minute hand measure half past one. She would not hear of staying a second longer: in truth, I felt rather disposed to defer the sequel of her narrative, myself. And now that she is vanished to her rest, and I have meditated for another hour or two, I shall summon courage to go, also, in spite of aching laziness of head and limbs.