Emily Bront"e introduces Heathcliff

``Heathcliff!'' The cry became part of 20th-century pop culture after the Laurence Olivier-Merle Oberon movie of Emily Bront"e's 1847 novel ``Wuthering Heights'' -- that prototypical mixture of wind-swept romance and melodrama whose descendants proliferate on paperback shelves. Here housekeeper Mrs. Dean recalls how the orphan Heathcliff came into the moorland family whose lives he was so darkly to affect -- not one of the gifts the children were awaiting from their father's long walk to Liverpool. m

It seemed a long while to us all -- the three days of his absence -- and often did little Cathy ask when he would be home. Mrs Earnshaw expected him by supper-time, on the third evening; and she put off the meal hour after hour; there were no signs of his coming, however, and at last the children got tired of running down to the gate to look -- Then it grew dark, she would have had them to bed, but they begged sadly to be allowed to stay up; and, just about eleven o'clock, the door-latch was raise d quietly and in stept the master. He threw himself into a chair, laughing and groaning, and bid them all stand off, for he was nearly killed -- he would not have another walk for the three kingdoms.

``And at the end of it, to be flighted to death!'' he said, opening his great coat, which he held bundled up in his arms. ``See here, wife; I was never so beaten with anything in my life; but you must e'en take it as a gift of God; though it's as dark almost as if it came from the devil.''

We crowded round, and, over Miss Cathy's head, I had a peep at a dirty, ragged, black-haired child; big enough both to walk and talk -- indeed, its face looked older than Catherine's -- yet, when it was set on its feet, it only stared round, and repeated over and over again some gibberish that nobody could understand. I was frightened, and Mrs Earnshaw was ready to fling it out of doors: she did fly up -- asking how he could fashion to bring that gipsy brat into the house, when they had their own bairns

to feed, and fend for? What he meant to do with it, and whether he were mad?

The master tried to explain the matter; but he was really half dead with fatigue, and all that I could make out, amongst her scolding, was a tale of seeing it starving, and houseless, and as good as dumb in the streets of Liverpool where he picked it up and inquired for its owner -- Not a soul knew to whom it belonged, he said, and his money and time, being both limited, he thought it better to take it home with him, at once, than run into vain expenses there; because he was determined he would not leav e it as he found it.

Well, the conclusion was that my mistress grumbled herself calm; and Mr Earnshaw told me to wash it, and give it clean things, and let it sleep with the children.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.