Miss Dean sat back in her worn, old leather chair, contentedly twisting and twirling her knitting needles in a fashion only a very expert woman could. She appeared pleased to have finished telling me the tale of Wuthering Heights, though it was clear that the story itself did not please her. Of course, it was dreadfully morbid; not a soul involved gained anything positive, at least, not without a greater loss. I daresay, I felt as involved as if I had been there, living through the story the way Miss Dean had experienced. I felt I knew each of the characters intimately, yet I had only become acquainted with half, if you could call it acquaintanceship.
"Mr. Lockwood, I do believe time has made fools of us; once again, we have conversed past resting time!" She exclaimed all of a sudden.
"Oh, Miss Dean; I doubt I would have been capable of resting, not if you had cut the story short for another night. I do believe I am quite hooked." I laughed.
"The story is finished, Sir." She said warily. "There is nothing more to be revealed other than the present." Said she quickly. The sharp, withdrawn way she spoke raised a lazy suspicion in me, but I didn't challenge her, not now.
"Alright. I doubt I shall have pleasant dreams, after hearing of this misery." I chuckled. I found it easier to laugh when deeply shaken, and of course I meant it as light humour, but Miss Dean instantly took it as a complaint.
"I do apologize, Sir. I did not wish to cause you any grievances,"
"Not at all, not at all. I enquired, and I'm glad you were so happy to disclose your, and your masters' pasts. I enjoyed hearing the house's heritage. Thank you." With that, I rose, relenting to the fatigued haze in my mind, and heading off to sleep. I looked back at Miss Dean as I retreated; surprised that she was not leaving for her own quarters. Rather, she stayed where she sat, twisting and twirling the metal knitting needles absentmindedly. She was chewing her lip, almost anxiously, and intently staring at the floorboards. I felt the need to speak to her, make sure she was well, but I held my tongue. But I knew, there was more to her story, and I would ask her to reveal it, in due time. But at present, if I did not rest immediately, I would not have remembered. I bid her a good rest, and was upstairs in my bed before it registered in my mind that it was happening.
The next day, I was woken uncomfortably to the bleak sound of heavy rain. Notwithstanding my predictions, I did not dream at all that night. Saying that, I did remember: one solitary image haunted my mind. Mr. Heathcliff stood still before the cool, damp window, his legs quivering in a way ridiculous for such a strong hearted, unfeeling man, as he leant over slowly and opened the window. I could hear him, as I walked away, calling for his Catherine.
I shuddered, although I was warm in my bed. Yes, it was certainly disturbing. I didn't know whether I felt hatred or pity toward the brutish man; both were lucid thoughts. It made me fearful to think of a creature so blinded by the need for revenge. Every action he had committed was performed with calculation, cunning, overriding any logic and feeling. Did he deserve mine, or anyone else's pity, or did he get what he deserved from his recklessness?
The more I thought on it, the more my head ached, so I decided to let my personal thoughts on the matter be. My opinion wasn't required, so it could be several things at once.
I dressed for break-fast, and descended the stairs quickly, in a haste to see whether Miss Dean was in a more talkative mood, and more willing to reveal what had distressed her so. It raised my spirits slightly to know that there was perhaps something she had not told me. It didn't necessarily seem like a happy piece, if she had avoided it, but it was something else on the matter; a matter that I was admittedly rather captivated.
I reached the landing to find her boiling a pot of tea. She whistled a merry tune, one I didn't know all too well, but was pleased to hear. "Miss Dean," I said, wishing her a good-morn. She readily jumped out her skin!
"Oh! Mr Lockwood!" She was startled, but she turned and smiled warmly. "Please, feel free to call me Ellen, or Nelly." Her smile was welcoming, yet, her eyes appeared guarded. "Would you care for tea?"
"I would, thank you," I said, taking a seat.
"Did you rest well?" She asked in a cavalier tone.
"I did." I answered in the same tone. "Did you?" The back of her head ducked slightly in a nod. She carefully walked over, carrying a tray with a teapot, and a teacup and sugar resting atop it. Her arms shook slightly. She knew that her secret was uncovered, and I would not rest until she told me. We both remained courteously silent, of course. I was not willing to demand, and she was not willing to reveal.
"You did not have very terrible dreams, did you?" She asked, taking a seat as I poured myself a cup of the hot tea. I simply shook my head, my thoughts a sole application of not spilling the tea. "I'm glad," She stated. A presence hung in the air, one that had never been before. I knew that it was only so long before she would tell me.
"Are you not having any tea?" I enquired. My question was met with a brisk head shake.
"What do you plan to do today?" She asked in return.
"I'm not sure," I sighed, blowing into the cup, before taking a cautious sip.
"You're not planning on travelling to the Wuthering Heights, are you? The weather will put you severely out of good health, and I doubt you will find a suitably safe road. I do fear it is dangerous."
"I don't plan on going there, Ellen. Indeed, I consider resting here. Our chatter shall keep us amused in the dreadful weather, shall it not?" I hinted.
She avoided, standing purposefully. "I'm afraid I shall be terribly busy today, Mr. Lockwood. Indeed, I have plenty of work in need of doing, and the house is in desperate need of provisions – I do believe it is time for me to take a trip to yon markets, otherwise we should all starve!"
"Ah! Dear Ellen, as you said, it is no day for travels! Please, sit with me and enjoy conversation. Take a rest; we should not go hungry for one day. I believe there are provisions aplenty! Please. Sit. I insist,"
Her face paled as she sat with great hesitance, and it was time for her to tell. I am an avid reader, listener – I take pleasure in hearing tales, light-hearted or miserable. I was not one to be cheated out of the full narrative.
"Mr. Lockwood; what I am about to tell you," She began in a hushed tone. I leaned closer to hear her whispered words. "I have not told a soul, and have never intended to. If I abandon this secret, I need to know it is going to remain as such, as there is nothing but harm to come of its disclosure to another soul, some particularly. You will understand my tenacity when it is revealed, yet you must comprehend that it is not only my secret to keep, nor will it be your secret to keep, therefore please keep in mind the very need for secrecy itself."
I nodded. "I completely understand – it is not my secret, and it is not your secret, and I shan't reveal it to a soul. Yet, by disclosing it to myself, are you not…?" I started, before I thought to close my mouth.
She smiled grimly. "I appreciate your honesty; despite your raw curiosity you nearly attempted to convince me not to tell you," Her smile became slightly more genuine. "However, I find your nature… trustworthy. And I feel that I should go mad if I do not share the secret. And a being outside the situation is the only being I feel it is safe to share it with. I am certain she shan't mind."
"Please, you have my word: what do you hide, Ellen?"
"Are you not enjoying your tea?" She asked, eyeing the full cup.
I grasped the handle tightly, and took a large gulp, finishing it in almost one swallow. "It was delightfully sweet, and more perfect than the teas of China." I ejaculated excitedly, eager to compliment her, if it meant she would tell me.
Her eyes widened with sanguine surprise as I dropped the empty mug back on the saucer. "Very well," She sighed. "You will recall… In my narrative, I told you of Mrs. Linton's last days? She was delirious with emotions even I didn't dare comprehend. I believe that it was unclear, even to herself, how she felt about Edgar and Heathcliff. It was clear, very early on, that her choice of Edgar had been a whim, instigated by the simple fact that marriage to him was the proper choice, and by the fact that he was ever so enchanted by her. I am willing to admit, though I harbour great disdain for the beast, that if she had not married Linton, and had she instead waited on Heathcliff's return, the two may have found happiness together. I believe that is one of the several outcomes he had hoped for, when he departed Wuthering Heights.
"At the end of Catherine's days, perhaps her heart cried out for the one person it had longed for all her life, perhaps she just forgot their lives were very different from when they were children. Whatever the case, she knew she wanted Heathcliff. And though he had become twisted by jealousy and abuse, he was only happy to any of her wants. But of course, they both had very different lives; Catherine was still very much bound to Edgar, and she still loved him, perhaps not in any way she once had, but all the same, she could not hurt him by running off with his rival, enemy. And Heathcliff himself! Out of pure jealousy, he too had bound himself in a way he never had wanted. Isabella was but a pawn to him, but she was his by name and law. It was very much impossible. Add to these troubles the very obvious fact that Catherine had very little time left, and even if they eloped, disregarding everyone, they had no time together."
She stopped talking abruptly, and I wondered if she had, after all, cheated me: cheated me into believing there was more still to be heard. "Ellen, do tell me there is more, that you did not mean to just retell your story." I said disappointedly.
She ignored my words. There was a pause, awkward as it was consuming. Ellen appeared to be considering her words, however, so I waited it out with painful anticipation. "If Heathcliff and Catherine were together, would they be happy?" Her voice was scratchy and quiet, I had to strain to hear.
"But of course! She had said herself that they were practically soul-mates! Why wouldn't they, when it was what they both desired, deep down?" I said, surprised.
"Yes, but they had both been through such alterations, did they really want each other? Would Catherine accept the brutal changes to Heathcliff? Or did she accept the orphaned young boy, fostered by her family?"
"She accepted him enough to remain his friend – she knew his soul to realize her childhood friend was still there!" I cried. It distressed me, hearing her questions, yet I enjoyed the challenge. I felt as passionate about the two lovers' happiness as they themselves may have.
"Noted, but… would Heathcliff have recognized her as the child he knew? His changes had been drastic – the timid, hateful boy to a ruthless, jealous monster – yet had she transformed? How could he love her, after she was the one to dismiss his feelings, and marry his nemesis? Everything he did was out of hatred and revenge, could he push that aside for the one person he loved, the person who shunned him?"
"She had endured the same childhood as him," I reminded her.
"He had been alone; she was allowed to flourish in her future husband's company." She reminded me.
"Yes, but she always tried to be there for him, she always cared about him. And doesn't his behaviour when he reappeared to her, now as Mrs. Linton, does that not show his affection? And when he came to visit her on her death bed, doesn't that show-"
"That is not my question, Mr, Lockwood; I don't doubt their affections – I wonder if they would be happy. Love can make the heart sick. Their love may have brought upon misery. After all, they are both very strong minded, strong willed people, two forces that can be dangerous together."
I opened my mouth to answer, but found at that moment, I was no longer up for the debate. My head spun with indecisiveness, and I remembered that the whole situation we debated was of no real importance, as it was of no real possibility. "This has all been very entertaining, Ellen, but you have a secret, I am certain of it, and as of yet, I have heard nothing of which I did not know from your story before. Your great secret was not that you believed it would never work in the first place, was it?" I felt my face fall, beginning to believe that indeed was the only 'secret'.
She didn't even appear to contemplate a reply. Instead, she watched me with cool, thoughtful grey eyes. Something very strange happened then; and if I did not know any better, I would have believed her to be one of the witches of old, ones that I had learnt about in foolish, childish tales. But nonetheless, as I gazed into her eyes, I began to feel very ill. I felt very warm, but I was visibly shaking, and large, shadowed spots began blooming before my eyes. My head was not only spinning, it was pounding. I inhaled deeply, suddenly feeling as though I had ran for miles without rest, yet I found that my lungs were reluctant to comply. I grasped at my throat, scratching at the thin skin of my neck, and in the seconds before I lost consciousness, I knew the old hag had poisoned me, and that I was going to die. A large, black spot sizzled in front of my eyes, blinding me entirely, but I could swear I saw the woman smile sympathetically at me. I cursed her with my dying breath.
Helloo... just an idea I had, I'm obsessing over Wuthering Heights.. this is not a one-shot. I doubt the language is right, but if you were interested enough to read it, please, tell me if I got it right, & if you like it... :)
Thanks :D xxx