15 Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights, selection from Chapters 17-26

Chapter 17, Page 135

‘The doleful silence was broken at length by the sound of the kitchen latch: Heathcliff had returned from his watch earlier than usual; owing, I suppose, to the sudden storm. That entrance was fastened, and we heard him coming round to get in by the other. I rose with an irrepressible expression of what I felt on my lips, which induced my companion, who had been staring towards the door, to turn and look at me.

“I’ll keep him out five minutes,” he exclaimed. “You won’t object?”

“No, you may keep him out the whole night for me,” I answered. “Do! put the key in the look, and draw the bolts.”

‘Earnshaw accomplished this ere his guest reached the front; he then came and brought his chair to the other side of my table, leaning over it, and searching in my eyes for a sympathy with the burning hate that gleamed from his: as he both looked and felt like an assassin, he couldn’t exactly find that; but he discovered enough to encourage him to speak.

“You, and I,” he said, “have each a great debt to settle with the man out yonder! If we were neither of us cowards, we might combine to discharge it. Are you as soft as your brother? Are you willing to endure to the last, and not once attempt a repayment?”

“I’m weary of enduring now,” I replied; “and I’d be glad of a retaliation that wouldn’t recoil on myself; but treachery and violence are spears pointed at both ends; they wound those who resort to them worse than their enemies.”

“Treachery and violence are a just return for treachery and violence!” cried Hindley. “Mrs. Heathcliff, I’ll ask you to do nothing; but sit still and be dumb. Tell me now, can you? I’m sure you would have as much pleasure as I in witnessing the conclusion of the fiend’s existence; he’ll be your death unless you overreach him; and he’ll be my ruin. Damn the hellish villain! He knocks at the door as if he were master here already! Promise to hold your tongue, and before that clock strikes—it wants three minutes of one—you’re a free woman!”

‘He took the implements which I described to you in my letter from his breast, and would have turned down the candle. I snatched it away, however, and seized his arm.

“I’ll not hold my tongue!” I said; “you mustn’t touch him. Let the door remain shut, and be quiet!”

“No! I’ve formed my resolution, and by God I’ll execute it!” cried the desperate being. “I’ll do you a kindness in spite of yourself, and Hareton justice! And you needn’t trouble your head to screen me; Catherine is gone. Nobody alive would regret me, or be ashamed, though I cut my throat this minute—and it’s time to make an end!”

‘I might as well have struggled with a bear, or reasoned with a lunatic. The only resource left me was to run to a lattice and warn his intended victim of the fate which awaited him.

 

 

Chapter 17, Page 139

‘This morning, when I came down, about half an hour before noon, Mr. Earnshaw was sitting by the fire, deadly sick; his evil genius, almost as gaunt and ghastly, leant against the chimney. Neither appeared inclined to dine, and, having waited till all was cold on the table, I commenced alone. Nothing hindered me from eating heartily, and I experienced a certain sense of satisfaction and superiority, as, at intervals, I cast a look towards my silent companions, and felt the comfort of a quiet conscience within me. After I had done, I ventured on the unusual liberty of drawing near the fire, going round Earnshaw’s seat, and kneeling in the corner beside him.

‘Heathcliff did not glance my way, and I gazed up, and contemplated his features almost as confidently as if they had been turned to stone. His forehead, that I once thought so manly, and that I now think so diabolical, was shaded with a heavy cloud; his basilisk eyes were nearly quenched by sleeplessness, and weeping, perhaps, for the lashes were wet then: his lips devoid of their ferocious sneer, and sealed in an expression of unspeakable sadness. Had it been another, I would have covered my face in the presence of such grief. In his case, I was gratified; and, ignoble as it seems to insult a fallen enemy, I couldn’t miss this chance of sticking in a dart: his weakness was the only time when I could taste the delight of paying wrong for wrong.’