Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights: Ch. 2

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‘A beautiful animal!’ I commenced again.  ‘Do you intend parting with the little ones, madam?’

‘They are not mine,’ said the amiable hostess, more repellingly than Heathcliff himself could have replied.

‘Ah, your favourites are among these?’ I continued, turning to an obscure cushion full of something like cats.

‘A strange choice of favourites!’ she observed scornfully.

Unluckily, it was a heap of dead rabbits.d  I hemmed once more, and drew closer to the hearth, repeating my comment on the wildness of the evening.

‘You should not have come out,’ she said, rising and reaching from the chimney-piece two of the painted canisters.

Her position before was sheltered from the light; now, I had a distinct view of her whole figure and countenance.  She was slender, and apparently scarcely past girlhood: an admirable form, and the most exquisite little face that I have ever had the pleasure of beholding; small features, very fair; flaxen ringlets, or rather golden, hanging loose on her delicate neck; and eyes, had they been agreeable in expression, that would have been irresistible: fortunately for my susceptible heart,d 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 me as a miser might turn if any one 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 poised 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 had 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 labourer: still his bearing was free, almost haughty,d 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 afterwards, 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 weather-bound for half an hour, if you can afford me shelter during that space.’

X [d] Unluckily, it was a heap of dead rabbits.

Writing & Reading

One of several instances in the early chapters that Brontë uses sardonic humor to reveal Lockwood's misperception as he attempts to ingratiate himself and demonstrate his savoir faire.

The novel's dramatic intensity should not obscure its occasional comedy, which in these chapters includes Joseph's ranting cussedness, Hareton's bullying, and Heathcliff's unrepentant rudeness. The c…

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X [d] fortunately for my susceptible heart,

Love & Marriage

We learn something of his "susceptible heart"—it flutters timorously. He thinks of himself as a dashing rake but in the one case we know of, his recent flirtation at a seaside resort, when the woman responded encouragingly, he shrunk "icily into myself, like a snail." To the extent that Lockwood is representative of cosmopolitan men, love beyond the moors proceeds on tip-toes.

X [d] free, almost haughty,

Class

Lockwood is accustomed to a society in which class, rank, connection, and gender define a carefully observed hierarchy. The Heights is intrinsically egalitarian and, driven by strong, passionate personalities that override or resist stratification even between servants and landlord, allows for autonomy and outspokenness. The Heights's egalitarianism reflects the healthy, invigorati…

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