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her delicate neck; and eyes-had they been agres able in expression, they would have been irresistible —fortunately for my susceptible heart, the only sentiment they evinced hovered between scorn and a kind of desperation, singularly unnatural to be detected there.
The canisters were almost out of her reach; I made a motion to aid her; she turned upon que as a miser might turn, if anyone attempted to assist him in counting his gold.
“I don't want your help,” she snapped, “I can get them for myself.”
“I beg your pardon,” I hastened to reply.
“ Were you asked to tea ?” she demanded, tying an apron over her neat black frock, and standing with a spoonful of the leaf prised over the pot.
“ I shall be glad to have a cup," I answered. “Were you asked ? ” she repeated.
“No;" I said, half smiling. “You are the proper person to ask me.”
She flung the tea back, spoon and all; and resumed her chair in a pet, her forehead corrugated, and her red under-lip pushed out like a child's ready to cry.
Meanwhile, the young man kad slung on to his person a decidedly shabby upper garment, and, erecting himself before the blaze, looked down on me from the corner of his eyes, for all the world as if there were some mortal feud unavenged between us. I began to doubt whether he were a servant or not; his dress and speech were both rude, entirely devoid of the superiority observable in Mr. and Mrs. Heathcliff; his thick, brown curls were rough and uncultivated, his whiskers encroached bearishly over his cheeks, and his hands were embrowned like those of a common laborer; still his bearing was free, almost haughty; and he showed none of a domestic's assiduity in attending on the lady of the house.
In the absence of clear proofs of his condition, I deemed it best to abstain from noticing his curious conduct, and, five minutes afterward, the entrance of Heathcliff relieved me, in some measure, from my uncomfortable state.
“You see, sir, I am come, according to promise !” I exclaimed, assuming the cheerful, “and I fear I shall be weatherbound for half an hour, if you can afford me shelter during that space."
“Half an hour !” he said, shaking the white flakes from his clothes; “I wonder you should select the thick of a snowstorm to ramble about in. Do you know that you run a risk of being lost in the marshes? People familiar with these moors often miss their road on such evenings, and, I can tell you, there is no chance of a change at present.”
“Perhaps I can get a guide among your lads, and he might stay at the Grange till morning-could Nu spare me one ?"
“No, I could not.”
“Oh, indeed! Well then, I must trust to my own sagacity.”
“Are you going to mak th' tea ?” demanded he of the shabby coat, shifting his ferocious gaze from me to the young lady.
“ Is he to have any ? ” she asked, appealing to Heathcliff.
“Get it ready, will you ? ” was the answer, uttered so savagely that I started. The tone in which the words were said revealed a genuine bad nature. I no longer felt inclined to call Heathcliff a capital fellow.
When the preparations were finished, he invited me with“Now, sir, bring forward your chair.” And we all, including the rustic youth, drew 'round the table, an austere silence prevailing while we discussed our meal.
I thought, if I had caused the cloud, it was my duty to make an effort to dispel it. They could not every day sit so grim and taciturn, and it was impossible, however ill-tempered they might be, that the universal scowl they wore was their every-day countenance.
" It is strange," I began, in the interval of swallowing one cup of tea, and receiving another, “it is strange how custom can mold our tastes and ideas; many could not imagine the existence of happiness in a life of such complete exile from the world as you spend, Mr. Heathcliff; yet, I'll venture to say, that surrounded by your family, and with your amiable lady as the presiding genius over your home and heart,"
“My amiable lady !” he interrupted, with an almost diabolical sneer on his face. “Where is she my amiable lady ?”
“Mrs. Heathcliff, your wife, I mean.”
“Well, yes-Oh! you would intimate that her spirit has taken the post of ministering angel, and guards the fortunes of Wuthering Heights, even when her body is gone. Is that it ? ”.
Perceiving myself in a blunder, I attempted to correct it. I might have seen there was too great a disparity between the ages of the parties to make it likely that they were man and wife. One was about forty; a period of mental vigor at which men seldom cherish the delusion of being married for love, by girls: that dream is reserved for the solace of our declining years. The other did not look seventeen.
Then it flashed upon me; “ the clown at my elbow, who is drinking his tea out of a basin, and eating his bread with unwashed hands, may be her husband. Heathcliff junior, of course. Here is the
consequence of being buried alive: she has thrown herself away upon that boor, from sheer ignorance that better individuals existed! A sad pity- I must beware how I cause her to regret her choice.”
The last reflection may seem conceited; it was not. My neighbor struck me as bordering on repulsive. I knew, through experience, that I was tolerably attractive.
“ Mrs. Heathcliff is my daughter-in-law," said Heathcliff, corroborating my surmise. He turned, as he spoke, a peculiar look in her direction, a look of hatred, unless he has a most perverse set of facial muscles that will not, like those of other people, interpret the language of his soul.
“ Ah, certainly-I see now; you are the favored possessor of the beneficent fairy," I remarked, turning to my neighbor.
This was worse than before; the youth grew crimson, and clenched his fist with every appearance of meditated assault. But he seemed to recollect himself, presently; and smothered the storm in a brutal curse, muttered on my behalf, which, however, I took care not to notice.”
“Unhappy in your conjecture, sir !” observed my host; “we neither of us have the privilege of owning your good fairy; her mate is dead. I said she was my daughter-in-law. therefore she must have married my son.”
“And this young man is—" “ Not my son, assuredly !”
Heathcliff smiled again, as if it were rather too bold a jest to attribute the paternity of that year to gim.
“My name is Hareton Earnshaw," growled the other; " and I'd counsel you to respect it !”
" I've shown no disrespect,” was my reply, liughing internally at the dignity with which he announced himself.
He fixed his eye on me longer than I cared to return the stare, for fear I might be tempted either to box his ears, or render my hilarity audible. I began to feel unmistakably out of place in that pleasant family circle. The dismal spiritual atmosphere overcame, and more than neutralized, the glowing physical comforts round me; and I resolved to be cautious how I ventured under those rafters a third time.
The business of eating being concluded, and no one uttering a word of sociable conversation, I approached a window to examine the weather.
A sorrowful sight I saw! dark night coming down prematurely, and sky and hills mingled in one bitter whirl of wind and suffocating snow.
“I don't think it possible for me to get home now without a guide," I could not help exclaiming. “The roads will be buried already; and if they were bare I could scarcely distinguish a foot in advance."
“Hareton, drive those dozen sheep into the barn porch. They'll be covered if left in the fold all night; and put a plank before them,” said Heathcliff.
“How must I do ?” I continued, with rising irritation.
There was no reply to my question; and on looking round I saw only Joseph, bringing in a pail of porridge for the dogs, and Mrs. Heathcliff, leaning over the fire, diverting herself with burning a bundle of matches which had fallen from the chimney-piece as she restored the tea-canister to its place.
The former, when he had deposited his burden, took a critical survey of the room; and in cracked tones grated out:
“Aw woonderd hagh yah can faishion tuh stand thear i’ idleness un war, when all on 'em's goan aght! Bud yah're a nowt, and it's noa use talking