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第4节 第三十四章 【
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第三十四章

那天晚上之后,有好几天,希刺克厉夫先生避免在吃饭时候遇见我们;但是他不愿意正式地承认不想要哈里顿和凯蒂在场。他厌恶自己完全屈从于自己的感情,宁可自己不来;

而且在二十四小时内吃一顿饭在他似乎是足够了。

一天夜里,家里人全都睡了,我听见他下楼,出了前门。我没有听见他再进来,到了早上我发现他还是没回来。那时正是在四月里,天气温和悦人,青草被雨水和阳光滋养得要多绿有多绿,靠南墙的两棵矮苹果树正在盛开时节。早饭后,凯瑟琳坚持要我搬出一把椅子带着我的活计,坐在这房子尽头的枞树底下,她又引诱那早已把他的不幸之事丢开的哈里顿给她挖掘并布置她的小花园,这小花园,受了约瑟夫诉苦的影响,已经移到那个角落里去了。我正在尽情享受四周的春天的香气和头顶上那美丽的淡淡的蓝天,这时我的小姐,她原是跑到大门去采集些樱草根围花圃的,只带了一半就回来了,并且告诉我们希刺克厉夫先生进来了。“他还跟我说话来着,”她又说,带着迷惑不解的神情。

“他说什么?”哈里顿问。

“他告诉我尽可能赶快走开,”她回答。“可是他看来和平常的样子太不同了,我就盯了他一会。”

“怎么不同?”他问。

“唉,几乎是兴高采烈,挺开心的。不,几乎没有什么——

非常兴奋,急切,而且高高兴兴的!”

“那么是夜间的散步使他开心啦,”我说,作出不介意的神气。其实我和她一样地惊奇,并且很想去证实她所说的事实,因为并不是每天都可以看见主人高兴的神色的。我编造了一个借口走过去了。希刺克厉夫站在门口。他的脸是苍白的,而且他在发抖,可是,确实在他眼里有一种奇异的欢乐的光辉,使他整个面容都改了样。

“你要吃点早餐吗?”我说。“你荡了一整夜,一定饿了!”

我想知道他到哪里去了,可是我不愿直接问。

“不,我不饿,”他回答,掉过他的头,说得简直有点轻蔑的样子,好像他猜出我是在想推测他的兴致的缘由。

我觉得很惶惑。我不知道现在是不是奉献忠告的合适机会。

“我认为在门外闲荡,而不去睡觉,是不对的。”我说,“无论怎么样,在这个潮湿的季度里,这是不聪明的。我敢说你一定要受凉,或者发烧:你现在就有点不大对了!”

“我什么都受得了,”他回答,“而且以极大的愉快来承受,只要你让我一个人呆着:进去吧,不要打搅我。”

我服从了;在我走过他身边时,我注意到他呼吸快得像只猫一样。

“是的,”我自己想着:“要有场大病了。我想不出他刚刚作了什么事。”

那天中午他坐下来和我们一块吃饭,而且从我手里接过一个堆得满满的盘子,好像他打算补偿先前的绝食似的。

“我没受凉,也没发烧,耐莉。”他说,指的是我早上说的话,“你给我这些吃的,我得领情。”

他拿起他的刀叉,正要开始吃,忽然又转念了。他把刀叉放在桌上,对着窗子热切地望着,然后站起来出去了。我们吃完饭,还看见他在花园里走来走去,恩萧说他得去问问为什么不吃饭:他以为我们一定不知怎么让他难受了。

“喂,他来了吗?”当表哥回转来时,凯瑟琳叫道。

“没有,”他回答道,“可是他不是生气。他的确仿佛很少有这样高兴;倒是我对他说话说了两遍使他不耐烦了,然后他叫我到你这儿来;他奇怪我怎么还要找别人作伴。”

我把他的盘子放在炉栅上热着,过了一两个钟头,他又进来了,这时屋里人都出去了,他并没平静多少:在他黑眉毛下面仍然现出同样不自然的——的确是不自然的——欢乐的表情。还是血色全无,他的牙齿时不时地显示出一种微笑;他浑身发抖,不像是一个人冷得或衰弱得发抖,而是像一根拉紧了的弦在颤动——简直是一种强烈的震颤,而不是发抖了。

我想,我一定要问问这是怎么回事;不然谁该问呢?我就叫道:

“你听说了什么好消息,希刺克厉夫先生?你望着像非常兴奋似的。”

“从哪里会有好消息送来给我呢?”他说。“我是饿得兴奋,好像又吃不下。”

“你的饭就在这儿”我回答,“你为什么不拿去吃呢?”

“现在我不要,”他急忙喃喃地说。“我要等到吃晚饭的时候,耐莉,就只这一次吧,我求你警告哈里顿和别人都躲开我。我只求没有人来搅我。我愿意自己待在这地方。”

“有什么新的理由要这样隔离呢?”我问。“告诉我你为什么这样古怪,希刺克厉夫先生?你昨天夜里去哪儿啦?我不是出于无聊的好奇来问这话,可是——”

“你是出于非常无聊的好奇来问这话,”他插嘴,大笑一声。“可是,我要答复你的。昨天夜里我是在地狱的门槛上。今天,我望得见我的天堂了。我亲眼看到了,离开我不到三尺!现在你最好走开吧!如果你管住自己,不窥探的话,你不会看到或听到什么使你害怕的事。”

扫过炉台、擦过桌子之后,我走开了,更加惶惑不安了。

那天下午他没再离开屋子,也没人打搅他的孤独,直到八点钟时,虽然我没有被召唤,我以为该给他送去一支蜡烛和他的晚饭了。

他正靠着开着的窗台边,可并没有向外望;他的脸对着屋里的黑暗。炉火已经烧成灰烬;屋子里充满了阴天晚上的潮湿温和的空气;如此静,不止是吉默吞那边流水淙淙可以很清楚地听到,就连它的涟波潺潺,以及它冲过小石子上或穿过那些它不能淹没的大石头中间的汩汩声也听得见。我一看到那阴暗的炉子便发出一声不满意的惊叫,我开始关窗子,一扇一扇地关,直到我来到他靠着的那扇窗子跟前。

“要不要关上这扇?”我问,为的是要唤醒他,因为他一动也不动。

我说话时,烛光闪到他的面容上。啊,洛克乌德先生,我没法说出我一下子看到他时为何大吃一惊!那对深陷的黑眼睛!那种微笑和像死人一般的苍白,在我看来,那不是希刺克厉夫先生,却是一个恶鬼;我吓得拿不住蜡烛,竟歪到墙上,屋里顿时黑了。

“好吧,关上吧,”他用平时的声音回答着,“哪,这纯粹是笨!你为什么把蜡烛横着拿呢?赶快再拿一支来。”

我处于一种吓呆了的状态,匆匆忙忙跑出去,跟约瑟夫说——“主人要你给他拿支蜡烛,再把炉火生起来。”因为那时我自己再也不敢进去了。

约瑟夫在煤斗里装了些煤,进去了,可是他立刻又回来了,另一只手端着晚餐盘子,说是希刺克厉夫先生要上床睡了,今晚不要吃什么了。我们听见他径直上楼;他没有去他平时睡的卧室,却转到有嵌板床的那间:我在前面提到过,那间卧室的窗子是宽得足够让任何人爬进爬出的,这使我忽然想到他打算再一次夜游,而不想让我们生疑。

“他是一个食尸鬼,还是一个吸血鬼呢?”我冥想着。我读过关于这类可怕的化身鬼怪的书。然后我又回想在他幼年时我曾怎样照顾他,守着他长成青年,几乎我这一辈子都是跟着他的,而现在我被这种恐怖之感所压倒是多荒谬的事啊。

“可是这个小黑东西,被一个好人庇护着,直到这个好人死去,他是从哪儿来的呢?”在我昏昏睡去的时候,迷信在咕哝着。我开始半醒半梦地想象他的父母该是怎样的人,这些想象使我自己很疲劳;而且,重回到我醒时的冥想,我把他充满悲惨遭遇的一生又追溯了一遍,最后,又想到他的去世和下葬,关于这一点,我只能记得,是为他墓碑上的刻字的事情特别烦恼,还去和看坟的人商议;因为他既没有姓,我们又说不出他的年龄,就只好刻上一个“希刺克厉夫”。这梦应验了;我们就这样作的。如果你去墓园,你可以在他的墓碑上读到只有那个字,以及他的死期。

黎明使我恢复了常态。我才能瞅得见就起来了,到花园里去,想弄明白他窗下有没有足迹。没有。“他在家里,”我想,“今天他一定完全好了。”

我给全家预备早餐,这是我通常的惯例,可是告诉哈里顿和凯瑟琳不要等主人下来就先吃他们的早餐,因为他睡得迟。他们愿意在户外树下吃,我就给他们安排了一张小桌子。

我再进来时,发现希刺克厉夫先生已在楼下了。他和约瑟夫正在谈着关于田地里的事情,他对于所讨论的事都给了清楚精确的指示,但是他说话很急促,总是不停地掉过头去,而且仍然有着同样兴奋的表情,甚至更比原来厉害些。当约瑟夫离开这间屋子时,他便坐在他平时坐的地方,我便把一杯咖啡放在他面前。他把杯子拿近些,然后把胳臂靠在桌子上,向对面墙上望着。据我猜想,是看一块固定的部分,用那闪烁不安的眼睛上上下下地看,而且带着这么强烈的兴趣,以至于他有半分钟都没喘气。

“好啦,”我叫,把面包推到他手边,“趁热吃点、喝点吧。

等了快一个钟头了。”

他没理会到我,可是他在微笑着。我宁可看他咬牙也不愿看这样的笑。

“希刺克厉夫先生!主人!”我叫,“看在上帝的面上,不要这么瞪着眼,好像是你看见了鬼似的。”

“看在上帝面上,不要这么大声叫。”他回答。“看看四周,告诉我,是不是只有我们俩在这儿?”

“当然,”这是我的回答,“当然只有我们俩。”

可是我还是身不由己地服从了他,好像是我也没有弄明白似的。他用手一推,在面前这些早餐什物之间清出一块空地方,更自在地向前倾着身子凝视着。

现在,我看出来他不是在望着墙;因为当我细看他时,真像是他在凝视着两码之内的一个什么东西。不论那是什么吧,显然它给予了极端强烈的欢乐与痛苦;至少他脸上那悲痛的,而又狂喜的表情使人有这样的想法。那幻想的东西也不是固定的;他的眼睛不倦地追寻着,甚至在跟我说话的时候,也从来不舍得移去。我提醒他说他很久没吃东西了,可也没用,即使他听了我的劝告而动弹一下去摸摸什么,即使他伸手去拿一块面包,他的手指在还没有摸到的时候就握紧了,而且就摆在桌上,忘记了它的目的。

我坐着,像一个有耐心的典范,想把他那全神贯注的注意力从它那一心一意的冥想中牵引出来;到后来他变烦躁了,站起来,问我为什么不肯让他一个人吃饭?又说下一次我用不着侍候:我可以把东西放下就走。说了这些话,他就离开屋子,慢慢地顺着花园小径走去,出了大门不见了。

时间在焦虑不安中悄悄过去:又是一个晚上来到了。我直到很迟才去睡,可是当我睡下时,我又睡不着。他过了半夜才回来,却没有上床睡觉,而把自己关在楼下屋子里。我谛听着,翻来覆去,终于穿上衣服下了楼。躺在那儿是太烦神了,有一百种没根据的忧虑困扰着我的头脑。

我可以听到希刺克厉夫先生的脚步不安定地在地板上踱着,他常常深深地出一声气,像是呻吟似的,打破了寂静。他也喃喃地吐着几个字;我听得出的只有凯瑟琳的名字,加上几声亲昵的或痛苦的呼喊。他说话时像是面对着一个人;声音低而真挚,是从他的心灵深处绞出来的。我没有勇气径直走进屋里,可是我又很想把他从他的梦幻中岔开,因此就去摆弄厨房里的火,搅动它,开始铲炭渣。这把他引出来了,比我所期望的还来得快些。他立刻开了门,说:

“耐莉,到这儿来——已经是早上了吗?把你的蜡烛带进来。”

“打四点了,”我回答。“你需要带支蜡烛上楼去,你可以在这火上点着一支。”

“不,我不愿意上楼去,”他说。“进来,给我生起炉火,就收拾这间屋子吧。”

“我可得先把这堆煤煽红,才能去取煤。”我回答,搬了一把椅子和一个风箱。

同时,他来回走着,那样子像是快要精神错乱了;他的接连不断的重重的叹气,一声连着一声,十分急促,仿佛没有正常呼吸的余地了。

“等天亮时我要请格林来,”他说,“在我还能想这些事情,能平静地安排的时候,我想问他一些关于法律的事。我还没有写下我的遗嘱;怎样处理我的产业我也不能决定。我愿我能把它从地面上毁灭掉。”

“我可不愿谈这些,希刺克厉夫先生,”我插嘴说,“先把你的遗嘱摆一摆;你还要省下时间来追悔你所作的许多不公道的事哩!我从来没料到你的神经会错乱;可是,在目前,它可错乱得叫人奇怪;而且几乎是完全由于你自己的错。照你这三天所过的生活方式,连泰坦①也会病倒的。吃点东西,休息一下吧。你只要照照镜子,就知道你多需要这些了。你的两颊陷下去了,你的眼睛充血,像是一个人饿得要死,而且由于失眠都快要瞎啦。”

①泰坦——希腊神话传说中之神,也是太阳的拟人称。意为“巨人”。

“我不能吃、不能睡,可不能怪我,”他回答。“我跟你担保这不是有意要这样。只要我一旦能作到的话,我就要又吃又睡。可是你能叫一个在水里挣扎的人在离岸只有一臂之远的时候休息一下吗!我必须先到达,然后我才休息。好吧,不要管格林先生:至于追悔我作的不公道的事,我并没有作过,我也没有追悔的必要。我太快乐了;可是我还不够快乐。我灵魂的喜悦杀死了我的躯体,但是并没有满足它本身。”

“快乐,主人?”我叫。“奇怪的快乐!如果你能听我说而不生气,我可以奉劝你几句使你比较快乐些。”

“是什么?”他问,“说吧。”

“你是知道的,希刺克厉夫先生,”我说,“从你十三岁起,你就过着一种自私的非基督徒的生活;大概在那整个的时期中你手里简直没有拿过一本圣经。你一定忘记这圣书的内容了,而你现在也许没工夫去查。可不可以去请个人——任何教会的牧师,那没有什么关系——来解释解释这圣书,告诉你,你在歧途上走多远了;还有,你多不适宜进天堂,除非在你死前来个变化,这样难道会有害吗?”

“我并不生气,反而很感激,耐莉,”他说,“因为你提醒了我关于我所愿望的埋葬方式。要在晚上运到礼拜堂的墓园。如果你们愿意,你和哈里顿可以陪我去:特别要记住,注意教堂司事要遵照我关于两个棺木的指示!不需要牧师来;也不需要对我念叨些什么。——我告诉你我快要到达我的天堂了;别人的天堂在我是毫无价值的,我也不希罕。”

“假如你坚持固执地绝食下去,就那样死了,他们拒绝把你埋葬在礼拜堂范围之内呢?”我说,听到他对神这样漠视大吃一惊。

“那你怎么样呢?”

“他们不会这样作的,”他回答,“万一他们真这样作,你们一定要秘密地把我搬去;如果你们不管,你们就会证明出实际上死者并不是完全灭亡!”

他一听到家里别人在走动了,就退避到他的屋里去,我也呼吸得自在些了。但是在下午,当约瑟夫和哈里顿正在干活时,他又来到厨房里,带着狂野的神情,叫我到大厅里来坐着:他要有个人陪他。我拒绝了;明白地告诉他,他那奇怪的谈话和态度让我害怕,我没有那份胆量,也没有那份心意来单独跟他作伴。

“我相信你认为我是个恶魔吧,”他说,带着他凄惨的笑,“像是一个太可怕的东西,不合适在一个体面的家里过下去吧。”然后他转身对凯瑟琳半讥笑地说着。凯瑟琳正好在那里,他一进来,她就躲在我的背后了,——“你肯过来吗,小宝贝儿?我不会伤害你的。不!对你我已经把自己变得比魔鬼还坏了。好吧,有一个人不怕陪我!天呀!她是残酷的。啊,该死的!这对于有血有肉的人是太难堪啦——连我都受不了啦!”

他央求不要有人来陪他。黄昏时候他到卧室里去了。一整夜,直到早上我们听见他呻吟自语。哈里顿极想进去;但我叫他去请肯尼兹先生,他应该进去看看他。

等他来时,我请求进去,想试试开开门,我发现门锁上了;希刺克厉夫叫我们滚。他好些了,愿一个人呆着;因此医生又走了。

当晚下大雨。可真是,倾盆大雨一直下到天亮。在我清晨绕屋散步时,我看到主人的窗子开着摆来摆去,雨都直接打进去了。我想,他不在床上:这场大雨要把他淋透了。他一定不是起来了就是出去了。但我也不要再胡乱猜测了,我要大胆地进去看看。

我用另一把钥匙开了门,进去之后,我就跑去打开板壁,因为那卧室是空的;我很快地把板壁推开,偷偷一看,希刺克厉夫先生在那儿——仰卧着。他的眼睛那么锐利又凶狠地望着我,我大吃一惊;跟着仿佛他又微笑了。

我不能认为他是死了:可他的脸和喉咙都被雨水冲洗着;床单也在滴水,而他动也不动。窗子来回地撞,擦着放在窗台上的一只手;破皮的地方没有血流出来,我用我的手指一摸,我不能再怀疑了;他死了而且僵了!

我扣上窗子;我把他前额上长长的黑发梳梳;我想合上他的眼睛,因为如果可能的话,我是想在任何别人来看前消灭那种可怕的,像活人似的狂喜的凝视。眼睛合不上;它们像是嘲笑我的企图;他那分开的嘴唇和鲜明的白牙齿也在嘲笑!我又感到一阵胆怯,就大叫约瑟夫。约瑟夫拖拖拉拉地上来,叫了一声,却坚决地拒绝管闲事。

“魔鬼把他的魂抓去啦,”他叫,“还可以把他的尸体拿去,我可不在乎!唉!他是多坏的一个人啊,对死还龇牙咧嘴地笑!”这老罪人也讥嘲地龇牙咧嘴地笑着。

我以为他还打算要围绕着床大跳一阵呢;可是他忽然镇定下来,跪下来,举起他的手,感谢上天使合法的主人与古老的世家又恢复了他们的权利。

这可怕的事件使我昏了头:我不可避免地怀着一种压抑的悲哀回忆起往日。但是可怜的哈里顿,虽是最受委屈的,却也是唯一真正十分难受的人。他整夜坐在尸体旁边,真挚地苦苦悲泣。他握住它的手,吻那张人人都不敢注视的讥讽的、残暴的脸。他以那种从一颗慷慨宽容的心里很自然地流露出来的强烈悲痛来哀悼他,虽然那颗心是像钢一样地顽强。

肯尼兹先生对于主人死于什么病不知该怎样宣布才好。我把他四天没吃东西的事实隐瞒起来了,生怕会引起麻烦来,可我也确信他不是故意绝食;那是他的奇怪的病的结果,不是原因。

我们依着他愿望的那样把他埋葬了,四邻都认为是怪事。恩萧和我、教堂司事,和另外六个人一起抬棺木,这便是送殡全体。那六个人在他们把棺木放到坟穴里后就离去了。我们留在那儿看它掩埋好。哈里顿泪流满面,亲自掘着绿草泥铺在那棕色的坟堆上。目前这个坟已像其他坟一样地光滑青绿了——我希望这坟里的人也安睡得同样踏实。但是如果你问起乡里的人们,他们就会手按着圣经起誓说他还在走来走去:有些人说见过他在教堂附近,在旷野里,甚至在这所房子里。你会说这是无稽之谈,我也这么说。可是厨房火边的那个老头子肯定说,自从他死后每逢下雨的夜晚,他就看见他们两个从他的卧室窗口向外望:——大约一个月之前我也遇见一件怪事。有天晚上我正到田庄去——一个乌黑的晚上,快要有雷雨了——就在山庄转弯的地方,我遇见一个小男孩子,他前面有一只羊和两只羊羔。他哭得很厉害,我以为是羊羔撒野,不听他话。“怎么回事,我的小人儿?”我问。

“希刺克厉夫和一个女人在那边,在山岩底下,”他哭着,“我不敢走过。”

我什么也没看见,可是他和羊都不肯往前走;因此我就叫他从下面那条路绕过去,他也许是在他独自经过旷野时,想起他所听过的他父母和同伴们老是说起那些无稽之谈就幻想出鬼怪来。但现在我也不愿在天黑时出去了,我也不愿一个人留在这阴惨惨的房子里。我没办法。等他们离开这儿搬到田庄去时我就高兴了。

“那么,他们是要到田庄去啦?”我说。

“是的,”丁太太回答,“他们一结过婚就去,是在新年那天。”

“那么谁住在这里呢?”

“哪,约瑟夫照料这房子,也许,再找个小伙子跟他作伴。

他们将要住在厨房里,其余的房间都锁起来。”

“鬼可以利用它住下来吧?”我说。

“不,洛克乌德先生,”耐莉说,摇摇她的头。“我相信死者是太平了,可没有权利来轻贱他们。”

这时花园的门开了;遨游的人回来了。

“他们什么也不怕,”我咕噜着,从窗口望着他们走过来。

“两人在一起,他们可以勇敢地应付撒旦和它所有的军队的。”

他们踏上门阶,停下来对着月亮看最后一眼——或者,更确切地说,借着月光彼此对看着——我不由自主地又想躲开他们。我把一点纪念物按到丁太太手里,不顾她抗议我的莽撞,我就在他们开房门时,从厨房里溜掉了;要不是因为我幸亏在约瑟夫脚前丢下了一块钱,很好听地噹了一下,使他认出我是个体面人,他一定会认为他的同伴真的在搞风流韵事哩。

因为我绕路到教堂去而延长了回家的路程。当我走到教堂的墙脚下,我看出,只不过七个月的工夫,它就已经显得益发朽坏了。不止一个窗子没有玻璃,显出黑洞洞来;屋顶右边的瓦片有好几块地方凸出来,等到秋天的风雨一来,就要渐渐地掉光了。

我在靠旷野的斜坡上找那三块墓碑,不久就发现了:中间的一个是灰色的,一半埋在草里;埃德加-林惇的墓碑脚下才被草皮青苔复盖;希刺克厉夫的确还是光秃秃的。

我在那温和的天空下面,在这三块墓碑前留连!望着飞蛾在石南丛和兰铃花中扑飞,听着柔风在草间吹动,我纳闷有谁能想象得出在那平静的土地下面的长眠者竟会有并不平静的睡眠。
 


Chapter 34
   
For some days after that evening, Mr Heathcliff shunned meeting us at meals; yet he would not consent formally to exclude Hareton and Cathy. He had an aversion to yielding so completely to his feelings, choosing rather to absent himself; and eating once in twenty-four hours seemed sufficient sustenance for him.

One night, after the family were in bed, I heard him go downstairs, and out at the front door. I did not hear him re-enter, and in the morning I found he was still away. We were in April then: the weather was sweet and warm, the grass as green as showers and sun could make it, and the two dwarf apple trees near the southern wall in full bloom. After breakfast, Catherine insisted on my bringing a chair and sitting with my work under the fir trees at the end of the house; and she beguiled Hareton, who had perfectly recovered from his accident, to dig and arrange her little garden, which was shifted to that corner by the influence of Joseph's complaints. I was comfortably revelling in the spring fragrance around, and the beautiful soft blue overhead, when my young lady, who had run down near the gate to procure some primrose roots for a border, returned only half laden, and informed us that Mr Heathcliff was coming in. `And he spoke to me,' she added, with a perplexed countenance.

"What did he say?' asked Hareton.

`He told me to begone as fast as I could,' she answered. `But he looked so different from his usual look that I stopped a moment to stare at him.'

`How?' he inquired.

`Why, almost bright and cheerful. No, almost nothing--very much excited, and wild and glad!' she replied.

`Night walking amuses him, then,' I remarked, affecting a careless manner: in reality as surprised as she was, and anxious to ascertain the truth of her statement; for to see the master looking glad would not be an everyday spectacle. I framed an excuse to go in. Heathcliff stood at the open door, he was pale, and he trembled: yet, certainly, he had a strange, joyful glitter in his eyes, that altered the aspect of his whole face.

`Will you have some breakfast?' I said. `You must be hungry, rambling about all night!' I wanted to discover where he had been, but I did not like to ask directly.

`No, I'm not hungry,' he answered, averting his head, and speaking rather contemptuously, as if he guessed I was trying to divine the occasion of his good humour.

I felt perplexed: I didn't know whether it were not a proper opportunity to offer a bit of admonition.

`I don't think it right to wander out of doors,' I observed, `instead of being in bed: it is not wise, at any rate, this moist season. I dare say you'll catch a bad cold, or a fever: you have something the matter with you now!'

`Nothing but what I can bear,' he replied; `and with the greatest pleasure, provided you'll leave me alone; get in, and don't annoy me.'

I obeyed: and, in passing, I noticed he breathed as fast as a cat.

`Yes!' I reflected to myself, `we shall have a fit of illness. I cannot conceive what he has been doing.'

That noon he sat down to dinner with us, and received a heaped-up plate from my hands, as if he intended to make amends for previous fasting.

`I've neither cold nor fever, Nelly,' he remarked, in allusion to my morning's speech; `and I'm ready to do justice to the food you give me.

He took his knife and fork, and was going to commence eating, when the inclination appeared to become suddenly extinct. He laid them on the table, looked eagerly towards the window, then rose and went out. `We saw him walking to and fro in the garden while we concluded our meal, and Earnshaw said he'd go and ask why he would not dine: he thought we had grieved him some way.

`Well, is he coming?' cried Catherine, when her cousin returned.

`Nay,' he answered; `but he's not angry: he seemed rare and pleased indeed; only I made him impatient by speaking to him twice; and then he bid me be off to you: he wondered how I could want the company of anybody else.'

I set his plate to keep warm on the fender; and after an hour or two he re-entered, when the room was clear, in no degree calmer: the same unnatural--it was unnatural--appearance of joy under his black brows; the same bloodless hue, and his teeth visible, now and then, in a kind of smile; his frame shivering, not as one shivers with chill or weakness, but as a tight-stretched cord vibrates--a strong thrilling, rather than trembling.

I will ask what is the matter, I thought; or who should? And I exclaimed:

`Have you heard any good news, Mr Heathcliff? You look uncommonly animated.'

`Where should good news come from to me?' he said. `I'm animated with hunger; and, seemingly, I must not eat.'

`Your dinner is here,' I returned; `why won't you get it?'

`I don't want it now;' he muttered hastily; `I'll wait till supper. And, Nelly, once for all, let me beg you to warn Hareton and the other away from me. I wish to be troubled by nobody: I wish to have this place to myself.'

`Is there some new reason for this banishment?' I inquired. `Tell me why you are so queer, Mr Heathcliff? `Where were you last night? I'm not putting the question through idle curiosity, but--'

`You are putting the question through very idle curiosity,' he interrupted, with a laugh. `Yet I'll answer it. Last night I was on the threshold of hell. Today, I am within sight of my heaven. I have my eyes on it: hardly three feet to sever me! And now you'd better go! You'll neither see nor hear anything to frighten you, if you refrain from prying.'

Having swept the hearth and wiped the table, I departed; more perplexed than ever.

He did not quit the house again that afternoon, and no one intruded on his solitude; till, at eight o'clock, I deemed it proper, though unsummoned, to carry a candle and his supper to him. He was leaning against the ledge of an open lattice, but not looking out: his face was turned to the interior gloom. The fire had smouldered to ashes; the room was filled with the damp, mild air of the cloudy evening; and so still, that not only the murmur of the beck down Gimmerton was distinguishable, but its ripples and its gurgling over the pebbles, or through the large stones which it could not cover. I uttered an ejaculation of discontent at seeing the dismal grate, and commenced shutting the casements, one after another, till I came to his.

`Must I close this?' I asked, in order to rouse him; for he would not stir.

The light flashed on his features as I spoke. Oh, Mr Lockwood, I cannot express what a terrible start I got by the momentary view! Those deep black eyes! That smile, and ghastly paleness! It appeared to me, not Mr Heathcliff, but a goblin; and, in my terror, I let the candle bend towards the wall, and it left me in darkness.

`Yes, close it,' he replied, in his familiar voice. `There, that is pure awkwardness! Why did you hold the candle horizontally? Be quick, and bring another.'

I hurried out in a foolish state of dread, and said to Joseph: `The master wishes you to take him a light and rekindle the fire.'

For I dare not go in myself again just then.

Joseph rattled some fire into the shovel, and went; but he brought it back immediately, with the supper tray in his other hand, explaining that Mr Heathcliff was going to bed, and he wanted nothing to eat till morning. We heard him mount the stairs directly; he did not proceed to his ordinary chamber, but turned into that with the panelled bed: its window, as I mentioned before, is wide enough for anybody to get through; and it struck me that he plotted another midnight excursion, of which he had rather we had no suspicion.

`Is he a ghoul or a vampire?' I mused. I had read of such hideous incarnate demons. And then I set myself to reflect how I had tended him in infancy, and watched him grow to youth, and followed him almost through his whole course; and what absurd nonsense it was to yield to that sense of horror. `But where did he come from, the little dark thing, harboured by a good man to his bane?' muttered Superstition, as I dozed into unconsciousness. And I began, half dreaming, to weary myself with imagining some fit parentage for him; and, repeating my waking meditations, I tracked his existence over again, with grim variations; at last, picturing his death and funeral: of which, all I can remember is, being exceedingly vexed at having the task of dictating an inscription for his monument, and consulting the sexton about it; and, as he had no surname, and we could not `tell his age, we were obliged to content ourselves with the single word, `Heathcliff'. That came true: we were. If you enter the kirkyard, you'll read on his headstone, only that, and the date of his death.

Dawn restored me to common sense. I rose, and went into the garden, as soon as I could see, to ascertain if there were any footmarks under his window. There were none. `He has stayed at home~ought, `and he'll be all right today.' I prepared breakfast for the household, as was my usual custom, but told Hareton and Catherine to get theirs ere the master came down, for he lay late. They preferred taking it out of doors, under the trees, and I set a little table to accommodate them.

On my re-entrance, I found Mr Heathcliff below. He and Joseph were conversing about some farming business; he gave clear, minute directions concerning the matter discussed, but he spoke rapidly, and turned his head continually aside, and had the same excited expression, even more exaggerated. `When Joseph quitted the room he took his seat in the place he generally chose, and I put a basin of coffee before him. He drew it nearer, and then rested his arms on the table, and looked at the opposite wall, as I supposed, surveying one particular portion, up and down, with glittering, restless eyes, and with such eager interest that he stopped breathing during half a minute together.

`Come now, I exclaimed, pushing some bread against his hand, `eat and drink that, while it is hot: it has been waiting near an hour.'

He didn't notice me, and yet he smiled. I'd rather have seen him gnash his teeth than smile so.

`Mr Heathcliff! master!' I cried, `don't, for God's sake, stare as if you saw an unearthly vision.'

`Don't, for God's sake, shout so loud,' he replied. `Turn round, and tell me, are we by ourselves?'

`Of course,' was my answer; `of course we are.'

Still I involuntarily obeyed him, as if I were not quite sure. `With a sweep of his hand he cleared a vacant space in front among the breakfast things, and leant forward to gaze more at his ease.

Now, I perceived he was not looking at the wall; for when I regarded him alone, it seemed exactly that he gazed at something within two yards' distance. And whatever it was, it communicated, apparently, both pleasure and pain in exquisite extremes: at least the anguished, yet raptured, expression of his countenance suggested that idea. The fancied object was not fixed: either his eyes pursued it with unwearied diligence, and, even in speaking to me, were never weaned away. I vainly reminded him of his protracted abstinence from food: if he stirred to touch anything in compliance with my entreaties, if he stretched his hand out to get a piece of bread, his fingers clenched before they reached it, and remained on the table, forgetful of their aim.

I sat, a model of patience, trying to attract his absorbed attention from its engrossing speculation; till he grew irritable, and got--up, asking why I would not allow him to have his own time in taking his meals? and saying that on the next occasion, I needn't wait: I might set the things down and go. Having uttered these words he left the house, slowly sauntered down the garden path, and disappeared through the gate.

The hours crept anxiously by: another evening came. I did not retire to rest till late, and when I did, I could not sleep. He returned after midnight, and, instead of going to bed, shut himself into the room beneath. I listened, and tossed about, and, finally, dressed and descended. It was too irksome to lie up there, harassing my brain with a hundred idle misgivings.

I distinguished Mr Heathcliff's step, restlessly measuring the floor, and he frequently broke the silence by a deep inspiration, resembling a groan. He muttered detached words also; the only one I could catch was the name of Catherine, coupled with some wild term of endearment or suffering; and spoken as one would speak to a person present: low and earnest, and wrung from the depth of his soul. I had not courage to walk straight into the apartment; but I desired to divert him from his reverie, and therefore fell foul of the kitchen fire, stirred it, and began to scrape the cinders. It drew him forth sooner than I expected. He opened the door immediately, and said:

`Nelly, come here--is it morning? Come in with your light.'

`It is striking four,' I answered. `You want a candle to take upstairs: you might have lit one at this fire.'

`No, I don't wish to go upstairs,' he said. `Come in, and kindle me a fire, and do anything there is to do about the room.'

`I must blow the coals red first, before I can carry any,' I replied, getting a chair and the bellows.

He roamed to and fro, meantime, in a state approaching distraction; his heavy sighs succeeding each other so thick as to leave no space for common breathing between.

"When day breaks I'll send for Green,' he said; `I wish to make some legal inquiries of him while I can bestow a thought on those matters, and while I can act calmly. I have not written my will yet; and how to leave my property I cannot determine. I wish I could annihilate it from the face of the earth.'

`I would not talk so, Mr Heathcliff,' I interposed. `Let your will be a while: you'll be spared to repent of your many injustices yet. I never expected that your nerves would be disordered: they are, at present, marvellously so, however; and almost entirely through your own fault. The way you've passed these three last days might knock up a Titan. Do take some food, and some repose. You need only look at yourself in a glass to see how you require both. Your cheeks are hollow, and your eyes bloodshot, like a person starving with hunger and going blind with loss of sleep.'

`It is not my fault that I cannot eat or rest,' he replied. `I assure you it is through no settled designs. I'll do both as soon as I possibly can. But you might as well bid a man struggling in the water rest within arm's length of the shore! I must reach it first, and then I'll rest. Well, never mind Mr Green: as to repenting of my injustices, I've done no injustice, and I repent of nothing. I'm too happy; and yet I'm not happy enough. My soul's bliss kills my body, but does not satisfy itself.'

`Happy, master?' I cried. `Strange happiness! If you would hear me without being angry, I might offer some advice that would make you happier.

"What is that?' he asked. `Give it.'

`You are aware, Mr Heathcliff,' I said, `that from the time you were thirteen years old, you have lived a selfish, unchristian life; and probably hardly had a Bible in your hands during all that period. You must have forgotten the contents of the book, and you may not have space to search it now. Could it be hurtful to send for someone--some minister of any denomination, it does not matter which--to explain it, and show you how very far you have erred from its precepts; and how unfit you will be for its heaven, unless a change takes place `before you die?'

`I'm rather obliged than angry, Nelly,' he said, `for you remind me of the manner that I desire to be buried in. It is to be carried to the churchyard in the evening. You and Hareton may, if you please, accompany me: and mind, particularly, to notice that the sexton obeys my directions concerning the two coffins! No minister need come; nor need anything be said over me.--I tell you I have nearly attained my heaven; and that of others is altogether unvalued and uncovered by me.

`And supposing you persevered in your obstinate fast, and died by that means, and they refused to bury you in the precincts of the kirk?' I said, shocked at his godless indifference. `How would you like it?'

`They won't do that,' he replied: `if they did, you must have me removed secretly: and if you neglect it you shall prove, practically, that the dead are not annihilated!'

As soon as he heard the other members of the family stirring he retired to his den, and I breathed freer. But in the afternoon, while Joseph and Hareton were at their work, he came into the kitchen again, and, with a wild look, bid me come and sit in the house: he wanted somebody with him. I declined: telling him plainly that his strange talk and manner frightened me, and I had neither the nerve nor the will to be his companion alone.

`I believe you think me a fiend,' he said, with his dismal laugh: something too horrible to live under a decent roof.' Then turning to Catherine, who was there, and who drew behind me at his approach, he added, half sneeringly--`Will you come, chuck? I'll not hurt you. No! to you I've made myself worse than the devil. Well, there is one who won't shrink from my company! By God! she's relentless. Oh, damn it! It's unutterably too much for flesh and blood to bear--even mine.'

He solicited the society of no one more. At dusk, he went into his chamber. Through the whole night, and far into the morning, we heard him groaning and murmuring to himself. Hareton was anxious to enter; but I bade him fetch Mr Kenneth, and he should go in and see him. When he came, and I requested admittance and tried to open the door, I found it locked; and Heathcliff bid us be damned. He was better, and would be left alone; so the doctor went away.

The following evening was very wet: indeed it poured down till day-dawn; and, as I took my morning walk round the house, I observed the master's window swinging open, and the rain driving straight in. He cannot be in bed, I thought: those showers would drench him through. He must either be up or out. But I'll make no more ado, I'll go boldly and look.

Having succeeded in obtaining entrance with another key, I ran to unclose the panels, for the chamber was vacant; quickly pushing them aside, I peeped in. Mr Heathcliff was there--laid on his back. His eyes met mine so keen and fierce, I started; and then he seemed to smile. I could not think him dead: but his face and throat were washed with rain; the bedclothes dripped, and he was ~ perfectly still. The lattice, flapping to and fro, had grazed one hand that rested on the sill; no blood trickled from the broken skin, and when I put my fingers to it, I could doubt no more: he was dead and stark!

I hasped the window; I combed his black long hair from his forehead; I tried to close his eyes: to extinguish, if possible, that frightful, lifelike gaze of exultation before anyone else beheld it. They would not shut: they seemed to sneer at my attempts: and his parted lips and sharp white teeth sneered too! Taken with another fit of cowardice, I cried out for Joseph. Joseph shuffled up and made a noise; but resolutely refused to meddle with him.

`Th' divil's harried off his soul,' he cried, `and he muh hev his carcass intuh t' bargain, for ow't Aw care! Ech! what a wicked un he looks girning at death!' and the old sinner grinned in mockery. I thought he intended to cut a caper round the bed; but, suddenly composing himself, he fell on his knees, and raised his hands, and returned thanks that the lawful master and the ancient stock were restored to their rights.

I felt stunned by the awful event; and my memory unavoidably recurred to former times with a sort of oppressive sadness. But poor Hareton, the most wronged, was the only one that really suffered much. He sat by the corpse all night, weeping in bitter earnest. He pressed its hand, and kissed the sarcastic savage face that everyone else shrank from contemplating; and bemoaned him with that strong grief which springs naturally from a generous heart, though it be tough as tempered steel.

Mr Kenneth was perplexed to pronounce of what disorder the master died. I concealed the fact of his having swallowed nothing for four days, fearing it might lead to trouble, and then, I am persuaded, he did not abstain on purpose: it was the consequence of his strange illness, not the cause.

`We buried him, to the scandal of the whole neighbourhood, as he wished. Earnshaw and I, the sexton, and six men to carry the coffin, comprehended the whole attendance. The six men departed when they had let it down into the grave: we stayed to see it covered. Hareton, with a streaming face, dug green sods, and laid them over the brown mould himself: at present it is as smooth and verdant as its companion mounds--and I hope its tenant sleeps as soundly. But the country folk, if you ask them, would swear on the Bible that he walks: there are those who speak to having met him near the church, and on the moor, and even in this house. Idle tales, you'll say, and so say I. Yet that old man by the kitchen fire affirms he has seen two on `em, looking out of his chamber window, on every rainy night since his death: and an odd thing happened to me about a month ago. I was going to the Grange one evening--a dark evening, threatening thunder--and, just at the turn of the Heights, I encountered a little boy with a sheep and two lambs before him; he was crying terribly; and I supposed the lambs were skittish, and would not be guided.

"What's the matter, my little man?' I asked.

`There's Heathcliff and a woman, yonder, under t' nab,' he blubbered, `un' I darnut pass `em.'

I saw nothing; but neither the sheep nor he would go on; so I bid him take the road lower down. He probably raised the phantoms from thinking, as he traversed the moors alone, on the nonsense he had heard his parents and companions repeat. Yet, still, I don't like being out in the dark now; and I don't like being left by myself in this grim house: I cannot help it; I shall be glad when they leave it, and shift to the Grange.

`They are going to the Grange, then,' I said.

`Yes,' answered Mrs Dean, `is soon as they are married, and that will be on New Year's Day.'

`And who will live here, then?'

`Why, Joseph will take care of the house, and, perhaps, a lad to keep him company. They will live in the kitchen, and the rest will be shut up.'

`For the use of such ghosts as choose to inhabit it,' I observed.

`No, Mr Lockwood,' said Nelly, shaking her head. `I believe the dead are at peace: but it is not right to speak of them with levity.'

At that moment the garden gate swung to; the ramblers were returning.

`They are afraid of nothing,' I grumbled, watching their approach through the window. `Together they would brave Satan and all his legions.'

As they stepped on to the doorstones, and halted to take a last look at the moon--or, more correctly, at each other by her light--I felt irresistibly impelled to escape them again; and, pressing a remembrance into the hand of Mrs Dean, and disregarding her expostulations at my rudeness, I vanished through the kitchen as they opened the house-door; and so should have confirmed Joseph in his opinion of his fellow-servant's gay indiscretions, had he not fortunately recognized me for a respectable character by the sweet ring of a sovereign at his feet.

My walk home was lengthened by a diversion in the direction of the kirk. `When beneath its walls, I perceived decay had made progress, even in seven months: many a window showed black gaps deprived of glass; and slates jutted off, here and there, beyond the right line of the roof, to be gradually worked off in coming autumn storms.

I sought, and soon discovered, the three headstones on the slope next the moor: the middle one grey, and half buried in heath: Edgar Linton's only harmonized by the turf and moss creeping up its foot: Heathcliff's still bare.

I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.