Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights: Ch. 6

[+] | [-] | reset
 

Chapter VI

Mr. Hindley came home to the funeral; and—a thing that amazed us, and set the neighbours gossiping right and left—he brought a wife with him.  What she was, and where she was born, he never informed us: probably, she had neither money nor name to recommend her, or he would scarcely have kept the union from his father.

She was not one that would have disturbed the house much on her own account.  Every object she saw, the moment she crossed the threshold, appeared to delight her; and every circumstance that took place about her: except the preparing for the burial, and the presence of the mourners.  I thought she was half sillyw, from her behaviour while that went on: she ran into her chamber, and made me come with her, though I should have been dressing the children: and there she sat shivering and clasping her hands, and asking repeatedly—‘Are they gone yet?’  Then she began describing with hystericalw emotion the effect it produced on her to see black; and started, and trembled, and, at last, fell a-weeping—and when I asked what was the matter, answered, she didn’t know; but she felt so afraid of dying!  I imagined her as little likely to die as myself.  She was rather thin, but young, and fresh-complexioned, and her eyes sparkled as bright as diamonds.  I did remark, to be sure, that mounting the stairs made her breathe very quick; that the least sudden noise set her all in a quiver, and that she coughed troublesomely sometimes: but I knew nothing of what these symptoms portended,h and had no impulse to sympathise with her.  We don’t in general take to foreignersd here, Mr. Lockwood, unless they take to us first.

Young Earnshaw was altered considerably in the three years of his absence.  He had grown sparer, and lost his colour, and spoke and dressed quite differently; and, on the very day of his return, he told Joseph and me we must thenceforth quarter ourselves in the back-kitchen, and leave the house for him.  Indeed, he would have carpeted and papered a small spare room for a parlour; but his wife expressed such pleasure at the white floor and huge glowing fireplace, at the pewter dishes and delf-case, and dog-kennel, and the wide space there was to move about ind where they usually sat, that he thought it unnecessary to her comfort, and so dropped the intention.

She expressed pleasure, too, at finding a sister among her new acquaintance; and she prattled to Catherine, and kissed her, and ran about with her, and gave her quantities of presents, at the beginning.  Her affection tired very soon, however, and when she grew peevish, Hindley became tyrannical.d  A few words from her, evincing a dislike to Heathcliff, were enough to rouse in him all his old hatred of the boy.  He drove him from their company to the servants, deprived him of the instructions of the curate, and insisted that he should labour out of doors instead; compelling him to do so as hard as any other lad on the farm.

Heathcliff bore his degradation pretty well at first, because Cathy taught him what she learnt, and worked or played with him in the fields.  They both promised fair to grow up as rude as savages; the young master being entirely negligent how they behaved, and what they did, so they kept clear of him.  He would not even have seen after their going to church on Sundays, only Joseph and the curate reprimanded his carelessness when they absented themselves; and that reminded him to order Heathcliff a flogging, and Catherine a fast from dinner or supper.  But it was one of their chief amusements to run away to the moors in the morning and remain there all day, and the after punishment grew a mere thing to laugh at.  The curate might set as many chapters as he pleased for Catherine to get by heart, and Joseph might thrash Heathcliff till his arm ached; they forgot everything the minute they were together again: at least the minute they had contrived some naughty plan of revenge; and many a time I’ve cried to myself to watch them growing more reckless daily, and I not daring to speak a syllable, for fear of losing the small power I still retained over the unfriended creatures.  One Sunday evening, it chanced that they were banished from the sitting-room, for making a noise, or a light offence of the kind; and when I went to call them to supper, I could discover them nowhere.  We searched the house, above and below, and the yard and stables; they were invisible: and, at last, Hindley in a passion told us to bolt the doors, and swore nobody should let them in that night.  The household went to bed; and I, too, anxious to lie down, opened my latticew and put my head out to hearken, though it rained: determined to admit them in spite of the prohibition, should they return.  In a while, I distinguished steps coming up the road, and the light of a lantern glimmered through the gate.  I threw a shawl over my head and ran to prevent them from waking Mr. Earnshaw by knocking.  There was Heathcliff, by himself: it gave me a start to see him alone.

X [w] silly

Feeble, mentally, or ailing.

X [w] hysterical

Body

Specifically a woman's ailment, attributed to some deformation of the womb and producing hypersensitive emotions and sometimes mental problems. (ReSearch.)

X [h] these symptoms portended,

Body

They portend tuberculosis, or what was then called consumption, a "wasting disease."

The Brontës suffered repeated tragedy from sickness, and Emily will die within two to three years of writing this passage. See the first annotation. 

X [d] foreigners

Manners & Morals

The word attests to the entrenched provincialism of the place. Though a landholder Mr. Earnshaw has no carriage but walks to and from Liverpool. The Yorkshire moors represent an isolated micro-community akin to Appalachia or the Ozarks in 19th-c. America. We learn in the next sentence how contact with the greater world has altered Hindley. This chapter introduces an example of civilized life, Thrushcross Grange, a comparatively luxurious manor house similar to that we find in Austen. 

X [d] and the wide space there was to move about in

The signs indicate that Mrs. Fanny Earnshaw comes from an urban background. She finds novel a large fireplace, pewter, a kennel, delft (glazed earthenware, often with a blue and white pattern), and space to move about. 

X [d] tyrannical.

Class

As with the earlier "oppressor" and "usurper," the term is political. Hindley revenges himself in depriving Heathcliff of the privileges of the class to which he'd been brought up. Now he must sleep outside the house, to which he no longer has free access, and we learn that he is deprived of any further education, the chief means he would have to improve his lot. 

X [w] lattice

Things

A troublesome word in the novel. The OED does not give "window" as a synonym but rather something like a shutter made of either iron or wood cross-hatching. Lattice at times can be this in the novel, but in the last chapter Brontë uses lattice to mean a glazed window.