Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights: Ch. 1

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‘You’d better let the dog alone,’ growled Mr. Heathcliff in unison, checking fiercer demonstrations with a punch of his foot.  ‘She’s not accustomed to be spoiled—not kept for a pet.’  Then, striding to a side door, he shouted again, ‘Joseph!’

Joseph mumbled indistinctly in the depths of the cellar, but gave no intimation of ascending; so his master dived down to him, leaving me vis-à-vis the ruffianly bitch and a pair of grim shaggy sheep-dogs,d who shared with her a jealous guardianship over all my movements.  Not anxious to come in contact with their fangs, I sat still; but, imagining they would scarcely understand tacit insults, I unfortunately indulged in winking and making faces at the trio, and some turn of my physiognomy so irritated madam, that she suddenly broke into a fury and leapt on my knees.  I flung her back, and hastened to interpose the table between us.  This proceeding aroused the whole hive: half-a-dozen four-footed fiends, of various sizes and ages, issued from hidden dens to the common centre.  I felt my heels and coat-laps peculiar subjects of assault; and parrying off the larger combatants as effectually as I could with the poker, I was constrained to demand, aloud, assistance from some of the household in re-establishing peace.

Mr. Heathcliff and his man climbed the cellar steps with vexatious phlegm:h I don’t think they moved one second faster than usual, though the hearth was an absolute tempest of worrying and yelping.  Happily, an inhabitant of the kitchen made more despatch: a lusty dame, with tucked-up gown, bare arms, and fire-flushed cheeks, rushed into the midst of us flourishing a frying-pan: and used that weapon, and her tongue, to such purpose, that the storm subsided magically, and she only remained, heaving like a sea after a high wind, when her master entered on the scene.

‘What the devil is the matter?’ he asked, eyeing me in a manner that I could ill endure, after this inhospitable treatment.

‘What the devil, indeed!’ I muttered.  ‘The herd of possessed swine could have had no worse spirits in them than those animals of yours, sir.  You might as well leave a stranger with a brood of tigers!’

‘They won’t meddle with persons who touch nothing,’ he remarked, putting the bottle before me, and restoring the displaced table.  ‘The dogs do right to be vigilant.  Take a glass of wine?’

‘No, thank you.’

‘Not bitten, are you?’

‘If I had been, I would have set my signet on the biter.’  Heathcliff’s countenance relaxed into a grin.

‘Come, come,’ he said, ‘you are flurried, Mr. Lockwood.  Here, take a little wine.  Guests are so exceedingly rare in this house that I and my dogs, I am willing to own, hardly know how to receive them.  Your health, sir?’

I bowed and returned the pledge; beginning to perceive that it would be foolish to sit sulking for the misbehaviour of a pack of curs; besides, I felt loth to yield the fellow further amusement at my expense; since his humour took that turn.  He—probably swayed by prudential consideration of the folly of offending a good tenant—relaxed a little in the laconic style of chipping off his pronouns and auxiliary verbs, and introduced what he supposed would be a subject of interest to me,—a discourse on the advantages and disadvantages of my present place of retirement.  I found him very intelligent on the topics we touched; and before I went home, I was encouraged so far as to volunteer another visit to-morrow.  He evidently wished no repetition of my intrusion.  I shall go, notwithstanding.  It is astonishing how sociable I feel myself compared with him.

X [d] sheep-dogs,

Writing & Reading

Animals were supremely important to Emily Brontë (see the first annotation). The two sheep-dogs and the huge pointer are strictly working dogs, not "pets," as Heathcliff warns.  The names of these three are Juno (Jupiter’s vigilant, vengeful wife), Gnasher, and Wolf.

X [h] phlegm:

Here slowness, referring to the four humours (ReSearch).