Emma Ch. 0/Wuthering Heights Ch. 31.5

Having with great difficulty and much soothing of anxious nerves impressed upon Mr. Woodhouse the absolute necessity of immediate removal to the fresher air of the north, Emma found herself in some confusion when she finally arrived. A bracing wind and the melancholy solemnity of the moor were very well in principle, but on coming face to face with these figments of the Yorkshire landscape she discovered herself quite at a loss. She had on the morning of the first day ventured into Gimmerton and judged it wanting – why, even Mrs. Elton with all her airs and pretended sympathies would have made a better companion than any she chanced upon in the village! Had the dialect been the gentler speech to which she was accustomed, she felt quite sure that the grim features and dull stares of the locals would have been more than enough to enable her to deny herself the pleasure of their acquaintance. The second day had been spent in idle wanderings upon the moor and starings out the window, and had been found wholly insufficient.

It was with unusual interest, therefore, that Emma welcomed the strange visit she had that evening. Upon finishing her supper, she had resolved to pass the time to sundown in quiet reading, having fixed on the idea that the contemplative nature of the landscape should imbue her with an equivalent spirit. She soon found, however, that despite the geographical distance she had put between herself and Hartfield, she could put none between herself and herself, and was quite unable to sit still for more than half an hour before turning, sighing, to gaze despondently out the window. She was sitting thus, occupied in tying together the fringes of her shawl, when she observed a lantern moving across the moor, and distinguished the travelers belonging to it. These were a tall man of perhaps five and forty and a matronly woman, about the same age. The pair were engaged in such vivid debate that Emma, unable though she was to discern their speech through the glass and the darkness, felt herself a regular busybody, and turned away for a moment – but only a moment, for a curious nature will excuse itself most any indiscretion.

She amused herself awhile in wondering aloud what the relation between the two figures in the dark might be. "By age they might be husband and wife" she guessed, but on further consideration quickly dismissed the thought. Her experience was too filled with placid marriages to admit the idea. "Master and servant, then" – and, after a pause – "but which is which!" The man had a confidence she was not used to expect in the lower classes, but a meanness and dark hue that she could not associate with her own. The woman was dressed poorly, she thought, but berated her companion with such liveliness that Emma could not believe her to be a domestic. These thoughts so occupied that she failed to anticipate the destination of the lantern and its attendants until they were nearly at the gate.

A sudden banging upon the door summoned Emma from her solitary occupation. Her haste, though of that degree considered correct on the arrival of unexpected guests, was yet not enough to prevent the issuing of language foreign to her ears from the opposite side of the entry. Indignant, Emma quickened her pace and arrived at the door in time to intercept a second outburst of what she could only assume was the native speech of the country in which she found herself. Undoing the latch, she came face to face with the very same pair that had caught her notice in the library. Closer inspection of the two yielded no further intelligence on their status or relation. As neither pair of muddy boots seemed inclined to wipe itself on the mat, and neither owner to perform the nicety, she judged it best to admit the two to the sitting room, where they might explain their presence and perhaps their identities, if the two items were not mutually explanatory.

During the time that Emma had been making these observations, the two visitors had by no means waited upon her acknowledgement of the fact of their material presence to begin their intrusions on her studious solitude. By the time she had conducted her guests to the sitting room, their part of the conversation had long since begun.

"A fine request for a young lady no doubt" the rough man commenced with a contempt the like of which Emma had never before been the target. "And how very ladylike in its ignorance of the trouble to which it would put us all. I suppose she thinks we might just drive one over in our carriage. That mode of transportation seems to be a favorite among the weak and fancy. Look at her!" he very nearly spat in disgust, "a vain thing, fit only for decorating a couch or standing in front of a window, and holding a candle and looking mournful. I've known the sort and have no desire to do so again."

From this speech and the familiarity with which her visitor regarded his surroundings, Emma ascertained with some surprise that she was in fact in the presence not of a guest but of a host; this was the landlord with whom she had until this moment corresponded solely by letter, and from whom, she now reddened somewhat to recall, she had requested the small service of the delivery of a pianoforte for her amusement and betterment while at the Grange.

"Let her be, master Heathcliff" interposed the female member of the pair. This gave Emma some small degree of gratification, for from the form of address she was now able to detect the relationship of the two. "Wasn't long before you were complaining that the Grange was going to waste sitting here empty. She's been used to have some comforts at home, we can't fault her for thinking they might be continued here."

Her strange companion seemed to feel perfectly justified in doing just that, for he took to sneering at Emma's person in a manner to which she was completely unused. She deemed it correct to take advantage of the momentary silence to make introductions. She addressed herself to her landlord. "I must admit to some surprise at seeing you here. In my part of the country such a day as this would be spent by the fireside wrapped in blankets. But I suppose you are accustomed to such weather, and I will not take on the role of my father and chide my guests for their kindness in leaving the safety of their dwellings to wait upon me in mine. Indeed, Mr. Perry assures me that rain and wind can have a fortifying effect on those who, in their youths, have cultivated a tolerance to exposure. I have not, unfortunately. But I forget myself. I am Emma, and you, I presume, are Mr. Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, and therefore my host during this holiday."

Her speech was met with a quick motion of the dark, brooding eyes possessed by her intended addressee. It was not he, however, who responded.

"Yes, that's master Heathcliff" the woman confirmed, "and about as jolly as I've yet seen him. I'm Ellen Dean, Nelly to them as knows me. Your Mr. Perry's right, excepting that those as were born outside this country come to live through our weather. The last tenant we had here at the Grange had some adventures himself with our peculiarities of climate."

What those adventures were, Emma did not have the pleasure of learning, for Heathcliff, as she now felt entitled to call him, silenced Nelly with a gesture and an admonition: "I've yet to meet a stranger to these parts who could avoid disgracing himself where the climate's concerned. Excepting one, of course, and that one perhaps in one way and not another." This last seemed delivered neither to Nelly nor to Emma, but rather to the speaker himself.

Nelly spoke again. "You must understand that our poor village isn't like the great towns of the south. It's hard enough to find someone to play the hymns down at the church of a Sunday. Such a thing as a pianoforte isn't easy to come by, and if it were, there'd be nobody willing to carry it. We're a humble sort here, and not used to satisfying the needs of the likes of you, Ms. Woodhouse."

"I should hesitate to elevate my whims to the level of necessity," Emma replied, blushing slightly. But she was not one to give up hope so easily, and had been trained to expect a degree of accommodation by her cultivation in a society where the wishes of a young lady were to be delivered lightly, but not taken so. "Surely, Mr. Heathcliff, your town is not so unfamiliar, so hostile, to the greatest creative delights of our day that such a thing as a pianoforte may be entirely unknown."

It was again Nelly who answered: "Hah! Though he is not such a preacher as Joseph, Heathcliff has no love for music in his heart, and that not because the room is taken by the Lord." Emma was surprised at this language from a servant about her master, but as it was delivered with absolute certainty and received with contempt rather than anger, she did not pause long on it.

As there seemed no chance of changing the fate of her musical plans, Emma resolved to think no more on the matter, and hastened to make her comprehension of the situation known to her hosts. "I'm obliged to you for your visit. I understand the difficulties involved in the transportation of such large items as a pianoforte quite well, I assure you. I don't fault you a bit, but rather take this as an education about the society in which I find myself." After addressing herself thus to Nelly, Emma turned to Heathcliff, who smiled mockingly. Following this exchange, there seemed little more to be accomplished by prolonging the visit, and the two departed soon after.

On the morrow, Emma returned to Gimmerton to arrange for her passage home. She was enticed to enter one of the little shops by some pretty figures in porcelain displayed in the window. She chose a shepherdess in a pink country dress and white bonnet, holding a small, delicate crook. It was wrapped for her and she conveyed it back from the village. When the time came to depart, however, it seemed to her that it was not quite right that the little shepherdess should be removed from her native country, and she was left to rest above the hearth, to be treasured by the next tenant.