Wuthering Heights: An Untold Chapter
[My take on an additional chapter to the novel ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Brontë]
The soft drips fell from the branches above him, slipping easily from the buds and sliding freely through the air until landing, unnoticed, onto his head. From there they dripped down his face and clothes, but not a hint of recognition showed on his face.
He did not move; not even when he was soaked through. Not when the first signs of morning began casting shadows across him as he stood under the towering ash. The man remained, leaning heavily against the trunk, his cheek pressed into the moist bark, still. His face was contorted, eyes staring but unseeing, thick eyebrows scrunched in pain. His position was unnatural – agonising to look at. It was as though he were waiting, suspended in time, until someone were to call his name and set him free. Only no one did. So there he stayed in the early morning darkness, waiting. Only when the sun began to appear form behind the Grange did he stir, moving ever so slightly as a woman made her way from the house towards him. She walked slowly, uncertainly, watching and waiting for any sign of reaction. He did not. He did not look at her at all, but she knew he was aware of her presence for tears slowly began to trace his cheeks, merging into the bark of the tree. It was as though he were refusing to listen to her before she even opened her mouth; refusing to accept what she was going to tell him.
It was as if he already knew.
The darkness began to fade, receding slowly until the sky shone down. I remember the patterns the sun cast and the way they were reflected in the puddles before me; different colours flickering across the surface. I let my fingers skim across the surface, disturbing the peace and beauty of it. I could feel the heat begin to burn the back of my neck but I did nothing, I just sat, swirling the water. Eventually the sun was fully up, the streets had become busy. People blundered about, bumping into one another, breathing down each other’s necks. It was a crowded day in Liverpool. I could see feet splashing in the puddles, kicking through them as they rushed about, sending dirty droplets into the air. Jostling people hurried past me – not one sparing a glance for the little ragged child crouched by the wall. In fact, they barely even acknowledged each other.
My hair was plastered to the sides of my face, grit and sweat making it cling to my head as I leant my cheek against the hard brick behind me; chin tilted down. My knees were hunched up close to me, quivering as I shoved them harder into my chest. My feet shook, splattering water up my bare shins, etching lines into the grime. I looked up ever so slightly. My body position barely changed; fingers still resting in the puddle; torso still hunched, leaning against the wall; head still bowed; but my eyes shifted upwards, straining against exhaustion, looking for an opportunity. From there I could see the legs scurrying past, see the carts trundling across the cobbles – bouncing up and down as they were knocked from the sides. Behind the wall, I was shielded from the wind which whipped the salt from the sea, but I could still taste the bitterness of it as my dry tongue scraped over my coarse lips.
As every other day, I hid – not concealed, but unseen in the corner of the walls, waiting for my moment, my chance. It had once been so easy to steal food, but now, what with so many other children, my options had become scarce and I had been left with nothing for days. Children flocked in almost every day from the ships: poor orphans like me. People were becoming more careful, I had to hide, hoping nobody would chase me away. I had to fight for my position by the wall and my hands still bled from the nights scuffle. Blood had been swirling in the puddle, staining the patterns red. The wall, too, was stained, and so was my body. Still I have scars from those fights. They wind their way across my chest and down my arms, not deep, but thin lines, reminding me who I was, who I really am.
Now stumbling to my feet; splashing through the puddle; sprinting and dodging through the crowds; colliding with something – someone. Falling.
Hands pulled me roughly to my feet. They grabbed my arms and held tight, leaving me useless and incapable of movement. Struggling against the vice like grip I wrestled in his arms, for he was a him, as evident from the size of the hands and the general attire. Forcing my head up, and using one hand to brush the hair from my face, he looked into my eyes. I stared back, quivering and shaking, but unable to look away. Those eyes that gazed upon me. The dazzling Earnshaw eyes.
His face was that of… pity? In that moment I could not comprehend exactly what it was, just different from any expression I had seen before, but now, now I know that it was pity, which made him stop. Which made him look at me as though I were worthwhile. As though I were something more than a disgusting, thieving orphan. His gaze quickly dropped to evaluate the rest of my appearance but I did not turn away, I did not struggle or flinch from him anymore. It was as though those eyes knew what I had been trying to do, knew that I would never have succeeded, knew my exhaustion was too much to keep me alive for much longer. Those eyes saved me, and yet they haunt me now, they hang menacingly in my mind. They have never clouded through time; never faded; never stopped looking, searing through me and into my soul.
Returning to his full height – yet not letting go of my arm – the man started to walk away, gliding through the crowds as they parted for him. He was speaking all the while, talking to me, but I understood little of what he said, I just followed. Tripping along behind him, I was more dragged than guided. I know not how long we travelling like this but I do remember when the docks became lost from sight. I also cannot tell if the crowds became less or more as we travelled further and further from what was once my home. Eventually, my eyes began to sag from exhaustion, my feet dragged and I took my last jittering step, falling heavily into the blackness of his boots.
I was in his arms when I awoke. He had lifted me from the ground and now held me beneath his coat, pressed tightly to his warm body. There was green all around me, colours I could only just make out. The countryside, and Wuthering Heights. The moors and hills seemed endless, reaching up into the mist that furled round the peaks. Although my eyes were still heavy, and although it was nearing dark, the beauty of the deserted moors consumed me. I could just make out the billowing yellow grass as it danced in the wind, rustling as though there were someone running through in that very moment. Someone playing, glancing behind her, calling me to go after her.
I can hear her whispers, calling me to join her.
Darkness grows fast here: a door being slammed instead of shut gently; a think curtain being drawn on the sky. It was the same then. Soon I could make out nothing more than the single light ahead, bright against the blurred night. We were headed straight for it.
Remembering where I was, in the man’s arms, I wrenched my gaze from the light to look into the face of the man once more. He glanced down at me, his lips moving, disjointed sounds coming out. I just stared into those eyes that has brought me here until I plunged once again into darkness.
I was being shaken when I awoke. The man was looking at me, talking again but I could not comprehend much of it. There were noises coming from behind the door we stood before, making me shrink further into his great coat. I heard a click of the latch and light forced itself upon us. My eyes were tight, but the light was still bright behind my eyelids. We crossed the threshold. I could feel his laugh shuddering through me, hear children’s cries, but the man did not stop. He crossed the room within a few steps and fell into a large chair by the fireplace. He began to talk, allowing me to remain concealed beneath his coat. Then, gently for such a great man, he opened his jacket to reveal Wuthering Heights and to reveal me to his family. I saw nothing of the first, only the faces watching me.
Two more pairs of those Earnshaw eyes scrutinised me from the other side of his arm. Cathy and Hindley Earnshaw. There was a woman too, she spoke harshly and gestured wildly, and another child, older that I, Nelly Dean, curious and intrigued, but they all receded into the background for before me was Cathy. Cathy. Her brother stood behind her – taller and fairer, blurring in the light of the fire, but it was her eyes that peered over her father’s arm, inches from me. He tried to push her back a little but exhaustion overcame him and he simply sat with me in his arms, talking softly to his wife. They glittered, those eyes. They shone from within. Her cheeks were rosy, heated by the fire that danced behind. She lay her cheek on her father’s arm, oblivious of the arguing going on in the room. The boy soon lost interest, moving further into the room, disgruntled at something his father said. She, however – Cathy – she held me in a deep gaze, even more powerful that her fathers. Thick, dark curls framed her face: one strand of hair straying across her cheek. Her lips were parted, as though she were going to speak, but she uttered no word, just watched. I dared not move.
He moved beneath me, pushing me up so I was sitting on the chair beside him as he said something that caused Nelly to come over. She batted away Cathy – who fought against her at first but receded when her father spoke to her – and plucked me from his arms, dragging me to the door. As we reached the other side of the room I turned and saw those eyes – sparkling from the light of the fire – watch me go, before I was pulled from her sight, and she from mine.
The man straightened from the hunched position over the desk. He slowly got up from his chair and made his way past the large oak case to the window. Opening it, he looked out, facing in the direction of Thrushcross Grange. Dark was beginning to fall, gliding its way across the moors, the wind howling to him from outside. His eyes were red and raw; he had not slept for days. His silhouette was thin; he had not eaten either. Tears continued to slide down his pale cheeks, twinkling in the candlelight and etching marks into the grime that coated his face. For some time he stared out into the approaching blackness, barely moving at all. His hands were clenched on either side of the window frame, his knuckles white against the darkness beyond him. Tilting his face towards the ground below, he closed his eyes and began to murmur to himself, just one word over and over, whispering it into the night. The wind forced its way into the room; silently shoving passed him and rustling the discarded papers on the desk. The ink glistened in the lit of the candle, which flickered making shadows run across the page. Opening his eyes, he looked across at the words covering the page. The writing was untidy and fragmented, as though it had rushed out of him and into ink. The words were already blotted and murky. One word, however, stood out. One word was bold, alienated from the rest. One word screamed at him from the page on the desk as he turned and called it out of the window, crying it into approaching night. One word. Howling and shrieking he pounded at the frame of the open window, screaming to her. Screaming for her.
But she did not appear.
He stayed there all night.
He had been set free from Thrushcross Grange, he no longer had to wait in the shadows, watching over her, waiting for her. For she was no longer there to wait for.
And yet there he stood, for he was not free of her.