A face at the window

[1], with the snow swirling outside the window and the wind moaning in the trees. As I listen to the wind, the sound begins to change and I hear that ghostly voice once more. Again and again, I hear it crying, «Let me in, Let me in!» But when I run to the window, there is no one there, and the only sound I can hear is the wind wuthering over the moors.

Ever since my stay in Yorkshire, I have been troubled by bad dreams. In these dreams, I’m always in the same place… the small, bare bedroom at Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights – that it is the name of the house where my story begins. I’ve often wished that I had never set foot inside its door…

I have just returned from Wuthering Heights – the loneliest house you could ever imagine. The ancient stone farmhouse stands high up on the moors, blank-faced and grim, with a hedge of stunted trees bent almost double by the wind. Wuthering Heights is the home of Mr. Heathcliff, who also owns Thrushcross Grange[2], the house where I am staying. So, once I had settled into my rooms at the Grange, I thought it would be polite to visit my landlord, up at the Heights.

It was a hard ride across the moors, and as I approached Wuthering Heights, I was pleased to see a man who I thought must be Heathcliff, leaning on his garden gate, and gazing out over the moors. He was tall and wild-looking, with a mane of thick, dark hair, and as I came nearer, he seemed to shrink away from me, scowling up from under heavy, black eyebrows.

«Mr. Heathcliff?» I asked politely.

The man nodded.

«Let my introduce myself, sir,» I continued. «I am Mr. Lockwood, your new tenant, and I hope I won’t be troubling you too much if…»

«I don’t allow anyone to trouble me,» he interrupted rudely. Then, after a pause, he added gruffly, «Walk in!»

Heathcliff showed me into a large sitting room. The room was dark and plainly furnished, with an enormous fireplace and some vicious-looking pistols hanging on the wall. In one corner, a huge hound was curled up in a basket, surrounded by a mass of squealing puppies, and I could just make out some other large dogs hiding in the shadows.

I sat down by the fireside and tried to stroke one of the wolfish-looking beasts,

«You’d better leave her alone,» growled Heathcliff, «she’s not used to being spoiled.»

Then he strode off in search of a servant, leaving me alone in the room.

Almost as soon as their master had disappeared, the beasts began to close in on me. Two shaggy-haired sheepdogs advanced menacingly towards me and others appeared from all corners of the room. I stayed very still in my chair, but couldn’t resist pulling faces and winking at the dogs. This foolish action drove them into a frenzy[3], and soon they were attacking me from all sides, tugging at my clothes, and baring their teeth in a storm of snarling and yelping.

Fortunately for me, the housemaid arrived just in time. She swirled around the room swinging at the dogs with her heavy frying pan, and was just chasing away the last of them when her master returned.

«What the devil is the matter?» he asked angrily.

But I was angry too. «What the devil indeed!» I replied. «You might just as well leave your guests alone with a pack of tigers!»

At this, Heathcliff’s face relaxed into a smile.

«Come, come,» he said, «don’t be flustered, Mr. Lockwood. Guests are so exceedingly rare in this house that I and my dogs hardly know how to look after them. Here, take a little wine with me. To your good health, sir!»

I decided to put the unfortunate incident behind me and gracefully accepted Heathcliff’s offer of wine. Then we settled down by the fireplace and talked for almost an hour, discussing the moors and the history of the area. To my surprise, my landlord turned out to be a well-educated man, and I asked myself why a gentleman like him would choose to spend his life cut off from the rest of the world.

All the way back across the moors, I thought about Heathcliff and his lonely life, and by the time I reached the Grange, I had made up my mind. I would make a friend of him, whether he liked it or not.

The next day was cold and misty, but I was determined to see my new friend again, so as soon as lunch was over, I set off to walk the four miles to the Heights. But even before I reached the house, I was regretting my plan. I was shivering and exhausted, and the first flakes of snow were just starting to fall.

I hammered on the door until my knuckles tingled and the dogs howled.

«Wretched people,» I shouted, shaking the door latch, «I’m freezing to death out here. Why don’t you let me in?»

A vinegary-faced old servant stuck his head out of the window.

«The master’s not at home. You’ll have to go and find him out in the fields.»

«Well, isn’t there anyone here to let me in?»

«There’s only the missus,» the old man replied, «and she wouldn’t open the door if you made that noise all night.»

By this time, the snow had begun to fall heavily and I had just seized the knocker to start hammering again when a young man with a pitchfork appeared in the yard. He called to me to follow him and we soon arrived in the room where I had been before.

I cheered up greatly when I saw a large fire burning in the grate, and I was delighted to see the «missus», sitting next to a table laid for supper. I bowed and waited, thinking that she would offer me a seat, but she stayed completely silent, staring up at me from her chair. She was about eighteen years old and very slim, with fair, curling hair. She also had the most exquisite face I had ever seen, with small features and eyes which would have been irresistible, if only they had a less disagreeable expression.

«Rough weather!» I remarked to the beautiful young lady.

She stared at me without smiling.

«Sit down,» said the young man, gruffly. «He’ll be in soon.»

I obeyed, and began to fondle the wretched dog that had caused me so much trouble on my last visit.

«A beautiful animal!» I started again. «Do you plan to keep her puppies, madam?»

«They’re not mine,» my charming hostess replied in a voice even more chilling than Heathcliff would have used.

«Ah, so these are your pets then?» I said, turning to a cushion full of something like cats.

«A strange choice of pets», she observed scornfully.

Unfortunately, the pets turned out to be a heap of dead rabbits! I cleared my throat again and tried repeating my comments on the weather.

«Well you shouldn’t have come out,» was all the rude young woman could say as she reached up for a canister of tea.

«Were you asked for tea?» she demanded.

«I would very much like a cup.»

«But were you asked?»

«No,» I said, half smiling. «But surely it’s up to you, madam, to ask me that.»

This reply seemed to make her even angrier, and she flung the teaspoon back into the canister and slumped into her chair, her lower lip pushed out, ready to cry.

All this time, the young man was standing in front of the fire, glaring at me as if I were his deadly enemy. I had thought at first that he must be a servant, but now I began to wonder – he seemed so proud, and made no effort at all to look after the lady of the house. I decided it would be best to ignore him, and after five minutes of awkward silence I was greatly relieved when Heathcliff arrived.

«You see sir, I have come to visit you again,» I announced cheerfully, «but I’ll need to stay for another half an hour until the snow has died down again[4].»

«Half an hour?» said Heathcliff, shaking the snowflakes from his clothes. «I can tell you there’s no chance of this snow stopping now. Whatever made you come out in weather like this?»

«Well perhaps one of your servants could guide me back across the moors? Could you spare me one for the night?»

«No, I could not.»

Then Heathcliff turned to the young lady, «Are you going to make the tea?» he demanded.

«Is he having any?» she asked in disgust.

«Just get it ready,» was all he said, in a voice so savage I drew back in shock. Was this the man I wanted to have as my friend?

As soon as the tea was ready, the four of us sat down to eat. I decided it was up to me to put everyone in a better mood[5].

«It’s strange,» I began, «how different people are. Some folks would feel very lonely up here, cut off from the rest of the world. But I’m sure, Mr. Heathcliff, you are perfectly happy, with your charming lady by your side…»

«My charming lady!» he interrupted, with a sneer on his face. «Where is she – my charming lady?»

«Mrs. Heathcliff, your wife, I mean.»

«Oh – my wife! So you reckon she’s become an angel and hovers around us here, even though she’s dead and buried? Is that what you mean, sir?»

I realized I had made a terrible mistake. But then a new thought struck me – the rough young man who was sitting beside me must be Heathcliff’s son and the lady’s husband.

«Mrs. Heathcliff is my daughter-in-law,» said Heathcliff, confirming my guess.

«Ah, now I see,» I said, turning to the lad who was busy slurping his tea, «so you, sir, are the fortunate husband of this good fairy.»

But this was worse than before. The young man turned crimson and clenched his fist, as though he wanted to punch me in the face.

«Wrong again, sir,» said Heathcliff. «We neither of us have the privilege of owning this ‘good fairy’ as you call her. Her husband is dead. I said she was my daughter-in-law, so she must have married my son.»

«And this young man is —»

«Certainly not my son!»

«My name is Hareton Earnshaw,» he growled angrily, «and you’d better make sure you respect it.»

After that, no one said another word and we finished our meal in dismal silence.

The moment supper was over, I went straight to the window to check the weather. While we had been eating, the storm had grown much worse and now the sky was almost black. Thick snowflakes were whirling outside the window and I couldn’t even see as far as the gate. There was no way I could find my way back to the Grange that night. I would have to spend the night at Wuthering Heights.

No one in that wretched house tried to make me welcome or even offered to find me a place to sleep, but eventually the housemaid, Zillah, took pity on me. She found me a candle and some blankets and led me upstairs, showing me into a small, cold room that was almost completely empty of furniture.

I was just about to thank her, when she whispered to me, «Make as little noise as possible, sir. The master doesn’t like anyone staying in this room.»

Too tired to be curious about this warning, I slumped down on a window-seat and stared out at the snow. The ledge where I had placed my candle had a few tattered books piled up in one corner and seemed to be covered with writing scratched into the paint. At first, I took no notice of the scratches, but then I realized that they spelled out a name, repeated many times in all kinds of letters, large and small – Catherine Earnshaw, again and again, and then Catherine Linton, and sometimes Catherine Heathcliff. I puzzled over the names until my eyes began to close, but five minutes later I was jolted awake by the smell of burning leather – one of the books had fallen on top of the candle flame.

Drowsily, I opened the book and saw a name written in the front – Catherine Earnshaw, and underneath a date from over twenty years before. I soon discovered that all the books belonged to the same girl. They were a collection of schoolbooks, histories and sermons, most of them very dull. I was just dropping off to sleep again when I noticed a note scribbled in a margin[6]…

«I wish my father was still alive. Hindley is so cruel to us. He makes H. work in the fields all day and never allows us to play together. H. and I are going to rebel. We will take our first steps tomorrow…»

But then the writing ended and I dozed off again, dreaming of a swarm of Catherines – Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Linton, Catherine Heathcliff – all jumbled up together, until my head was spinning.

Finally, I managed to drag myself into bed. But just as I was drifting off to sleep I became aware of a loud, insistent noise. Somewhere outside, a branch was knocking against the window, scratching and thumping in time to the wailing of the wind.

Eventually, I could bear it no longer. I climbed out of bed, determined to break off the branch and put an end to the noise. But when I tried to open the window, I found that it had been sealed tightly shut[7]. By this time, I was so desperate to stop the knocking that I pushed my knuckles right through the glass. Then I stretched out my hand, ready to grasp the branch… but instead my fingers closed on a small, ice-cold hand!

I tried to pull back, but the icy fingers tightened their grip[8], and I heard a melancholy voice moaning,

«Let me in – let me in!»

«Who are you?» I shouted, struggling to be free[9].

«Catherine Linton,» the shivery voice replied. «I’ve come home. I lost my way on the moor, but now I’ve come home.»

I peered out into the snow and saw, very faintly, the outline of a young girl’s face, staring back at me!

Terror made me cruel, and finding it impossible to shake off the creature’s hand, I rubbed the delicate wrist across the broken glass, until the ledge was covered in blood. But still the hand kept its grip, driving me mad with fear, while the voice continued to wail, «Let me in!»

«How can I let you in,» I said grimly, «if you hold my hand so tightly? You’ll have to let me go if you want to come in.»

As soon as the fingers relaxed, I snatched back my hand and blocked up the hole with a pile of books. Then I covered my ears to keep out the sound of the terrible wailing.

I kept my ears covered for more than quarter of an hour, but the moment I listened again, I heard the mournful cry once more.

«Go away!» I shouted, «I’ll never let you in – not if you beg for twenty years!»

«But it is twenty years,» moaned the voice. «I’ve been wandering the moors for twenty years!»

Then the scratching began again and the books on the ledge started to shake. I tried to jump up, but found I couldn’t move, so I opened my mouth and yelled as loudly as I could.

Almost immediately, the door was wrenched open and Heathcliff burst into the room[10]. His face was as white as the walls around him and he was trembling from head to foot.

«Is anybody there?» he said in a half-whisper.

«It’s only your guest,» I announced, pulling myself together[11], «I was having a bad dream.»

«God damn you, sir!» he replied, shaking so hard that he had to put down his candle. «Who showed you into this room? I’ve a good mind to turn them out into the snow this minute![12]»

«It was your housemaid, Zillah,» I replied, dressing myself quickly, «and you can turn her out if you like, sir. I’m sure she deserves it, for letting me sleep in a room that’s swarming with ghosts and goblins!»

«What do you mean?» roared Heathcliff. «And what do you think you’re doing here? Lie down and finish the night, but for heaven’s sake don’t make that noise again. It sounded as though you were having your throat cut!»

«If the little fiend had got in, she probably would have strangled me to death!» I replied crossly.» I won’t put up with your horrible ghosts a moment longer. And as for that vixen, Catherine Linton, or Earnshaw, or whatever she’s called – she must have been a wicked little fiend. She told me she’d been walking the earth for twenty years – I expect she was being punished for her sins!»

«How dare you talk like that under my roof!» thundered Heathcliff.

«Don’t worry, sir,» I replied, pulling on the rest of my clothes as fast as I could. «I don’t intend to spend another moment in this house!»

Heathcliff took no more notice of me. In seconds, he was at the window, forcing it wide open[13] with incredible strength.

«Come in! Come in!» he sobbed, leaning out into the snow. «Oh, my heart’s darling, hear me this time. Cathy, my darling, come in at last!»

But the ghost behaved as ghosts usually do, and showed no sign of ever having being there at all. Now there was nothing outside the window except the snow and wind, whirling around wildly in the dark. And, as I watched, the snowflakes blew into the room, and danced around madly, filling it with icy cold and blowing out the candle.

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