Chapter Five: Heathcliff's Tale
By Ivy Rangee
You may wonder; is it possible? Would Heathcliff tell three boys a story? He is not known for storytelling and yet, his recounting of the Cathy's capture at Thrushcross Grange is not only articulate but engaging - see chapter seven. Or did Ellen Dean lie? Earlier in her narrative, she claims that Heathcliff is quiet and sullen, yet truthful. But Heathcliff's description of the Grange is spectacular– well, perhaps you should go back and read it. That is the trouble with gossip, isn't it? How to ferret out the truth from the lies.
This chapter picks up where chapter four left off – on the way to hire Oisin's mother, the laundress.
With Fin Ward and Oisin astride the saddle of his spirited blood horse, Heathcliff led the graceful animal down a narrow country lane that followed a gurgling stream. Flanking Heathcliff, on his shaggy brown pony, rode Hareton. Tender young leaves adorned the trees that lined either side of the lane, creating a pale, fuzzy green halo around the spreading branches. Closing his eyes and breathing deeply, Heathcliff inhaled the mild, fragrant, spring air as a persistent breeze ruffled his dark hair. The zephyr's gentle, embracing warmth whispered a languid promise of the long summer days to come. Wishing its mild touch on his skin, Heathcliff removed his tie and opened the top three buttons of his shirt as he stopped suddenly, realizing this place seemed familiar. He blinked and rubbed his eyes, for as he gazed at the stream he thought he saw his Cathy wading in the water in search of tadpoles.
"Why are ye stopping, Heathcliff?" demanded Hareton.
Heathcliff shivered as her visage disappeared.
"Did ye see that doe over yonder? Drinking at the stream? Is that why ye stare, Mister Heathcliff?" asked Fin.
"Doe?" asked Heathcliff, coming back from his dream.
"Heathcliff," complained Hareton. "A story – a true account of yer travels - ye promised."
"A true account is it?" whispered Heathcliff, vaguely.
"Yes," commanded the three boys in unison.
"What do you mean by true?" asked the young man, pulling on his horse's reins as he continued down the lane.
"Something real," said Hareton, decisively.
"Hmmm … what is real?' wondered Heathcliff aloud, thinking perhaps he'd spent too much time in Asia. "Never mind, I shall recount a tale of Cathay, and its surrounds, but this tale is for your six ears only," cautioned Heathcliff, his deep, resonant voice taking possession of the children's attention. "Should I hear it spread across the countryside, you will never hear another tale from me. Agreed?"
The three boys nodded their heads earnestly.
"Well then, since we are in agreement, I shall begin. One fair morning, not terribly long ago, some comrades of mine and I, having commandeered a Cathayan sailing ship called a junk, made our way inland, up the infamous Yangtze River."
"But why, Heathcliff?" frowned Hareton. "Why go inland?"
"To see where it would lead. And it took us far indeed – a thousand miles, at least, until we finally could go no farther, for the river ended in a mighty waterfall of enormous power."
"So what did ye do?" asked Fee.
"We climbed the mountain from which the water fell."
"But why did ye not return by the river?" asked Hareton, incredulous.
"We had business on the high plateau above."
"Business?" said Hareton. "But ye said ye took the river just to see where it would lead."
"Did I say that?" wondered Heathcliff, scratching his chin. "Then it must be true."
"What business?" asked Fee.
"None of your business, Mister Ward."
"But Mister Heathcliff…" protested Fee.
"When we reached the top of that mountain an unparalleled view stretched before us, vast and extraordinary."
"What did ye sthee?" asked Oisin.
"A range of mountains, hundreds of them, stretching as far as the eye could see in three directions."
"What did ye do?" asked Fee. "Did ye return to yer boat?"
"Of course not, we sensed adventure, so we climbed down the other side of that mountain and up the next. Exhaustion plagued us, for every time we reached a mountaintop we had to march down again, since passing over that mountain range was the only way to reach our destination."
"Ye had a destination?" asked Hareton. "But ye said…"
"At the base of every mountain lay tropical swamps while every pinnacle lie in perpetual winter, and in between - every sort of weather imaginable, necessitating that we lug clothing and equipment for all climes.
"The extreme variety of conditions provided a habitat for every sort of creature from tiny insects to pesky rodents to mountain snow tigers. Worst of all were the leeches, some the size of sausages, and we learned the hard way to tie our mouths shut at night."
"Why did ye do have to that?" asked Oisin, whose eyes resembled an owl's.
"Many's the morning we woke to find ourselves covered in them head to toe. But one of my comrades suffered frightfully for, on awakening one morning, he found a large glittering, slimy black leech had lodged itself in the roof of his mouth."
"How did ye get it out?" asked Hareton.
"We had to shoot the poor man – put him out of his misery."
"Ye shot him?" screamed Fee.
"Of course not, don't be idiots; we removed it just as you would any leech."
"How is that?"
"A stiff shot of whiskey will cause it to detach. Remember that should you find yourselves in such a bind."
"We will," the three whispered.
"After weeks of hiking over those peaks that shown like diamonds, we struggled up to a vast grassy plateau at such a high elevation that not a tree could be seen, only shiny dark-green shrubs. The horizon stretched on forever under the vast dome of the heavens, and, in that place, the clear, brisk air rarely rested as we watched it move in waves across the tall yellow tasseled grass. Though the air was thin, I have never breathed fresher. And the deities of the vast sky rained their luminous blueness down on us, allowing us to see with great clarity for miles.
"We rested two days for some of my companions had trouble breathing due to the altitude. But once they adjusted, we set out; only to be surrounded a few miles later by the greatest horsemen I have ever encountered."
"There are none better than the English," pronounced Hareton with authority. "Ye speak heresy."
"Heresy is it? You have spent too much time with Joseph. And how would you know how well they rode?" asked Heathcliff. "You've never been past the Yorkshire border."
"I know the English are the best at everything!" said Hareton, stubborn as only the ignorant can be.
"Do you wish to hear my tale, Hareton?" asked Heathcliff as they reached a fork in the path. Heathcliff turned to Oisin, who pointed to the narrower trail to the left, which continued along the stream.
"Then be still! Now, where was I?"
"Besthesth hrosthman ever," exclaimed Oisin.
"Ah, yes, well done Mister Oisin. Indeed, they could ride at a gallop while standing on the backs of their shaggy mounts. When hunting game, they used bows and arrows, maneuvering their horses with their knees. And, as the game went down, they swiftly rode to it, sliding down their saddles and sweeping it up at full speed. It was as if they and their horses were one."
"Wasth thosth horsthes like oursth?" asked the tiny, but very curious Oisin.
"Those mounts were much smaller and rounder than English horses, but just as stout-hearted and brave. Then too, their coats, manes and tails, though long and shaggy, shown like starlight. In fact their coats were so shiny that from a distance, as they grazed, they glowed like a herd of magic steeds come from the heavens to rest awhile upon the earth."
"Did ye ride one of these beasts, Mister Heathcliff?" asked Fee.
"I did, as the headman gifted me with a real beauty. I have never ridden another horse with such grace – present company excluded," said Heathcliff, patting his horse's muzzle. "When I looked into her eyes I knew I was in the presence of a deeply intelligent being."
"What wasth her name?" asked Oisin, another deeply intelligent being.
"What happened to her?"
"It is not her story I wish to tell."
"Then whose?" demanded the impatient Hareton. "For by that oak yonder we are halfway there."
"You have been to Oisin's before?" asked Heathcliff.
"Once or twice … "
"For what reason?"
"Joseph preaches repentance to Oisin's mother."
"Ah … I see … the woman has my sympathy."
"What isth the sthtory about, Misther Heathcwiff?" asked Oisin.
"Not what, Mister Oisin, who - A boy, a strange, enchanted boy, who was born of our mother the earth."
"What do you mean?" frowned the dour Hareton.
"I mean he rose from the earth one day, a new born babe. The headman's mother and father watched it with their own eyes. They were on pilgrimage, for the headman's mother was with child, and they sought a blessing for a healthy birth from a local deity that governed such things. The headman's mother was far along, and his father helped her down a narrow path that led to the deity's secluded grotto. All went well until the mother tripped, falling to the ground and dragging her husband down with her, for she was not only with child but stout as well. It was then, as they sat on the hard rocky ground laughing, that they saw it was not a twig or a stone that had caused their fall but a tiny toe. In fear they rose to their knees, while the headman's mother wept for she believed the sight an ill omen, but as she cried the tiny toe was followed by a tiny foot and then a chubby belly, but a belly with no button. Instead this child had two buttons, one on each of his two little feet. Gradually, bit by bit, the infant rose from the ground until a tiny, fully formed baby boy rested in the tall yellow tasseled grass. And from that day forward that child could travel anywhere he desired by sinking into the earth and reappearing at his desired destination, which made keeping track of him very difficult.
"The headman, Bat, still a boy at the time, was made the babe's guardian – a difficult job indeed. For the child was full of energy and always wreaking havoc. But as the baby grew older he settled down, his temperament growing increasingly dour as time past, for the rest of the tribe shunned him, believing that Bat's mother and father had brought a demon to live among them."
"What was the boy's name?" asked Hareton.
"Wasth he a demon?" asked Oisin.
"I cannot answer that, but Bat told me the boy had power over animals, using them to gain information on the location of the tribe's enemies. This power saved Bat's nomadic band from attack time after time, and so it was the others accepted his presence, though few befriended him.
"What about the unborn babe?" asked Fee.
"I shall get to that in due time. Now, do not interrupt me again!"
"One day in midsummer, when Hedatiwi had reached the age of thirteen and Bat twenty, the band trekked over the rolling hills of that vast high plain to its northern region. There a great lake covered the land, and beyond the lake a lone blue mountain distinct for a cleft that separated its two soaring, snowy peaks. Every summer the nomads fished and gathered the valuable tiny, glimmering stones that lined the beaches of that crystal clear lake. On this particular day, while the children played in the water, their parents and older siblings caught and preserved fish. Alone on the sandy shore, Hedatiwi would not join in the work for in communion with the creatures of the lake, he had learned of the presence of naga, water spirits with snake like legs.
"Going to Bat's father, Hedatiwi warned the headman that homage must be paid to the King of the Naga or he would take a woman or a child, or maybe both. Now Bat's father did not hold with spirits and such – that is why he had no fear of Hedatiwi, believing nothing to be supernatural, and all phenomena the result of cause and effect, even if the reasons could not be discerned at the moment.
"'Fear not, Hedatiwi,' Bat's father said. 'Should the King of the Naga show himself we will make him welcome.'
"And no sooner did Bat's father speak those bloody words then the water began to roil and bubble as if it boiled from the intense heat of an underground fire, yet it was not hot. From the seething water rose a being, and it was none other than the Naga King himself. He towered to the heavens, and all stared in awe as they beheld his magnificence. From the waist up his well-muscled form resembled a human's, but along his back, up his neck and down the sides of his face shown iridescent silver-blue scales like those of marine serpents. His waist long black hair shown like the star filled heavens on the night of a new moon, and it flowed about him as if the wind blew, yet all was still."
Heathcliff squinted as he searched the faces of the three boys who were completely under his thrall. Thus he skipped not a beat, continuing immediately with his story.
"The king's eyes were of the deepest blue-green, but, instead of circles at their center, there were vertical slits. The women marveled at him, their desire clear in their sparkling, dark eyes, for Bat described this king as the handsomest being he'd ever laid eyes on. Noticing his admirers, a slow, confident smile graced the mighty king's apple red lips, revealing his sharp, pearly teeth. Several women swooned; and Bat said that nine months later a few strange and beautiful children were born to the tribe."
"Were they bastards like Oisin, Mister Heathcliff?" asked Fee.
"I do not know, perhaps it was coincidence or it may have been the king's magical powers. It is of no consequence, so do not interrupt me with such trivialities, Mister Ward."
"No consequence … but my papa says …"
"On my journeys I have encountered much, Mister Ward, and this I have learned: when it comes to a crisis, the nature of your birth, race or class have no bearing. I have seen those from the upper classes crumble into the most heinous of cowards, and those of low birth shine forth like the noble knights of old."
"You did, Misther Heathcwiff?" asked Oisin.
"I did, Mister Oisin. Do wish to hear more of my story?"
"We do," said the three lads in unison.
"Hedatiwi rushed to the shore, falling to his knees and bowing low, as he motioned to the others to do the same.
"'Mighty King Shehsha," said Hedatiwi. 'We are honored by your presence.'
"'Honored by my presence?' boomed the king. 'This place belongs to me; I retire here in the summer. By what authority do you fish the waters of my summer domain?'
"'But … we always …' stuttered Bat's foolish father, for no one in his right mind argues with the Naga King.
"'Hush,' whispered Hedatiwi to the headman. 'Let me handle this.'
"'Do not hush me, boy,' replied Bat's father. 'I'm in charge here.'
"'Be silent!' shouted King Shehsha. 'These waters are mine. If you have used them before without permission then you owe me even greater tribute.'
"Hedatiwi frowned at the headman while the foolish fellow rubbed his ears in pain for when King Shehsha raised his voice mountains trembled. Conceding to the boy, the headman waved to Hedatiwi, indicating that he should take over the negotiations.
"'As you say, Your Majesty, we owe you a great debt of gratitude, for we would starve without the fish from your lake,' praised Hedatiwi. 'What sort of tribute did you have in mind?'
"'My jewel has been stolen.'
"'Are you deaf? I can speak louder.'
"'I heard you well, King of the underworld. I merely speculated on which jewel.'
"'I would speak with you alone, boy. You seem to be the only intelligent being in this motley lot,' said the king, beckoning Hedatiwi to approach.
"'As you wish, King Shehsha,' answered Hedatiwi, walking to the shore.
"'Hold a moment,' said the king, raising his hand. 'Who is that lovely child?'
"With those words the king moved rapidly to the shore where he reached down and touched the earth with his forefinger, where upon his luminous form immediately transformed into that of a very tall human male. He moved gracefully over the sandy beach, seeming to float, as he made his way to one of the clan's adolescent girls. With horror Hedatiwi watched for the girl turned out to be none other than Bat's little sister, Chabi. The very child for whom Bat's parents had sought a blessing on that day long ago when they'd found Hedatiwi, rising from the earth. She had been born the very next night by a full moon. Having grown up as playmates, Hedatiwi loved Chabi with all his heart, wishing to take her as his wife when he reached manhood. And he was not alone in his affection; everyone loved her for she glowed with a generous, vibrant spirit.
"'What is your name?' asked King Shehsha, when he reached the bedazzled girl.
"'I…' Chabi whispered, barely able to speak as she gazed into the king's eyes. For she, like everyone who beheld him at that moment, watched enraptured as he floated above them, his eyes gleaming with wild vitality while his silky black hair waved in an undetectable breeze, modestly encircling his magnificent body in lieu of clothing.
"'Your name!' he commanded, flashing a brilliant, savage, condescending, yet utterly irresistible smile.
"'Do not speak your name!' shouted Hedatiwi.
"King Shehsha waved his hand gracefully at Hedatiwi and then repeated. 'Your name!'
"Hedatiwi tried to shout again, but the king's gesture had rendered him mute. Thus Hedatiwi was forced to reveal his ability. Closing his eyes and sinking into the earth he rose within the blink of an eye behind Chabi, covering her mouth so she could not speak. The king's eyes widened for a moment as he fixed Hedatiwi with a paralyzing gaze, and then, with a wave of his hand, he captured both Hedatiwi and Chabi in a spinning vortex, after which the king moved rapidly to the lake where he resumed his previous gigantic form.
"Once in the water, King Shehsha reached down and picked up the vortex, holding it in the palm of his hand as he sank into the lake. The force and speed of the shift to the naga spirits' world rendered Hedatiwi senseless and, when he woke, it was to the sounds of murmuring and laughter. Sitting up, he found himself in a momentous hall.
"Hedatiwi, having grown up as a nomad, had never seen anything like it. Above him, shimmering like a rainbow, the ceiling was lit by thousands of soft, little tapers held in place by the numberless crystal and silver chandeliers. The walls, covered with pale iridescent damask, caught the many colors, subtly reflecting them. On the floor lay a rug the color of a clear aqua sea and, when Hedatiwi stood, his bare feet sunk into the deep, silky, soft pile. The chairs and tables were of pale shining wood, carved with beautiful geometric deigns, and covered in blue-green silk.
"'Ah, Hedatiwi, you've finally risen,' called a beautiful blue boy and beside that gleaming boy stood Chabi.
"'Who are you?' asked our hero.
"'It's King Shehsha,' laughed Chabi. 'Don't you recognize him?'
"'You've told him our names?'
"'Indeed, Hedatiwi, without your meddling Chabi is very cooperative,' said the king, stroking Chabi's hair.
"'Chabi, how could you?'
"'You need not fear the king. He's wonderful! Look at what he made.'
"When Hedatiwi walked to the place where they played the reason for Chabi's enthusiasm became clear. The Naga King had fashioned miniature animals of all types and sizes from clay. Chabi merely had to whisper her commands, and the animals sprang to life, doing whatever she requested.
"'I would speak with you alone, Hedatiwi,' ordered King Shehsha, growing in size.
"'Don't you ever get confused about who you are – changing your form all the time?' frowned Hedatiwi, crossing his arms and turning his back on the Naga Lord.
"'I do not. Now, let's get to it. We have business.'
"'We do not have business. You tricked Chabi with enchantments and hold both of us against our will. Free us now.'
"'I did all that?' whispered the charming king, with an infuriating smirk.
"'I think not. Chabi is delighted to be here. I believe she will fit in quite well. Unless …you are willing …'
"'What is it you want?'
"'I know what you are, Lord Hedatiwi.'
"'Your lineage is ancient – so ancient I thought such beings extinct,' said the king, glancing sidelong at Hedatiwi.
"'You know where I come from?'
"'You must do something for me first.'
"'What is it?'
"'Find the wish fulfilling gem that was stolen from my crown. When you return with it; I shall tell you all I know.'
"'None of your trickery – how much do you know?'
"'Enough to make it worth your while,' said the king, picking up a cluster of grapes and tossing one into his mouth. He offered some to Hedatiwi, who shook his head.
"'Be precise,' said Hedatiwi, squinting at the king suspiciously.
"'Let me see; how do I explain this to a simpleton? Ah, yes, what I know would fill a book.'
"'How many pages?'
"'What size type?'
"'What size paper?'
"'Two by twenty.'
"'What a strange book!'
"'It is standard size in my domain.'
"'That is approximately two sentences per page or four thousand sentences,' calculated Hedatiwi.
"'Well, to be precise it just one very long sentence, but I think you will find it of interest.'
"'I promise you will be able to read it.'
"'That is interesting, for I have no knowledge of reading in any language.'
"'You will not need it for this book.'
"'Why?' asked Hedatiwi.
"'I can see you do not trust me; so I shall give you a peek.'
"Without further ado, the king snapped his fingers, and, from thin air, a very long but exceedingly narrow, ancient brown leather text appeared. The letters of its cover glowed with golden light, and, when King Shehsha murmured a song, those letters flew from the cover, swirling about Hedatiwi, enveloping him in a strange world that slowly unfolded before his eyes.
"Under the brilliant blue dome of a vast, clear sky, an exceedingly tall, radiant woman stood on a rocky promontory, overlooking a hazy aqua sea. She wore the gold circlet of a queen atop her waist length, wavy black hair. Her soft white dress reached her ankles in three tiers, each with an embroidered boundary of colorful geometric designs. Attached to her dress by gleaming golden pins that looked like writhing snakes, hung a multicolor striped cape that fluttered in the chilly breeze; while upon her ivory feet, she wore bejeweled sandals.
"Hedatiwi watched her in profile, though she saw him not. By her clothing and bearing, he knew, she must be, at the very least nobility, more likely royalty. She seemed to be scanning the horizon in search of something, and, as she turned in his direction, he saw she clutched a small bundle to her chest. Her beauty so mesmerized Hedatiwi that he could not pull his gaze from her, and, when, from that bundle of soft sky blue cloth two little feet kicked the air, he realized she held a baby.
"The child began to whimper, and she hushed it, allowing it to suckle at her breast while she turned three hundred sixty degrees searching the heavens. When she stopped Hedatiwi followed her line of sight and saw a speck of green light enclosed in concentric circles of blue and red. At this, she climbed quickly down the promontory and hid under a rocky overhang. The restless child squirmed in her arms, letting out a wail, as the lovely woman calmed it with a lullaby of such heart-wrenching beauty, that both the enchanted child and Hedatiwi drifted to sleep. But what happened next brought Hedatiwi flying back from the edge of the dream realm, for from the earth rose a woman, holding up her strong, lovely arms to receive the babe.
"Though older, the earth woman bore a remarkable resemblance to the woman who held the child. She, too, wore a crown, but hers sparkled with gems. The two women spoke in a language Hedatiwi did not comprehend, but the sound of it filled him with great wonder and joy. When their conversation came to an end, the younger woman lifted the sleeping child, kissing his forehead, and then, after searching his tiny face, she delivered him into the arms of the earth woman, who immediately disappeared beneath the ground.
"Now alone, the lovely women wept as the scene faded, and Hedatiwi once more faced King Shehsha.
"'I take it that piqued your interest?' asked the Naga King.
"'Who are they?' asked Hedatiwi, moved by the woman's plight.
"'Who? Tell me!'
"'All will be revealed when you return with my wish fulfilling jewel.'
"'And what of Chabi?'
"'If, after you have returned the jewel, she wishes to go with you, she may.'
"'How will I find you?'
"'Well, it's a wish fulfilling jewel, is it not? Make a wish.'
"'How will I find it?'
"'I shall bestow two gifts upon you that should help. This vial of mercury and my beloved creature of the skies.'
"'When did you last have the jewel?'
"'At the palace of my fourth wife – the lovely and youthful Lady Kotone – on the occasion of her first millennial birthday party. Later that evening, I allowed her the great honor of removing my crown. She placed it on the bedside table as we prepared to roam the bliss fields, but when we returned, after many days, though the crown remained, the wish fulfilling jewel had disappeared.'
"'When did this happen?'
"'A few days ago, two hundred years by your reckoning.'
"'Two hundred years?'
"'I must speak with Lady Kotone.'
"'You may not!'
"'Then how can I conduct an investigation? I must have access to her and her palace.'
"'What is the meaning of this word access?'
"'I must interrogate her and her staff.'
"'Interrogate?' asked the king, scandalized.
"'Ask her questions, my lord.'
"'I see; then you will be accompanied by one of my servants. '
"'As you wish.'
"'Now, go along with you. Chabi and I have ...'
Heathcliff stopped; the path had ended in at a hedgerow with a wicket. He turned to Oisin. "What now, Mister Oisin?"
"Through the wicket to that field yonder," answered Fin Ward.
Upon closer examination Heathcliff could see smoke rising, and, in the quiet, heard the laughter of a small child or two. He opened the wicket and led his horse through, followed by Hareton.
"Close that, Hareton," ordered Heathcliff, surveying the land with admiration. It looked as if it had once been an estate garden which left untended had only increased in beauty. "Whose land is this?"
"It's Hindley's," said Hareton. "He won it playing cards."
"Did he now?" laughed Heathcliff, coveting all he saw. After passing through the wicket, they followed a narrow trail that brought them past a hill with a granite rock face. It turned abruptly, climbing to the top of the grassy hill side where they now stood under the branches of an ancient oak, surveying fields dotted by overgrown flowering bushes and exotic trees.
"Your father cheated!" said Fin.
"He did not!" exclaimed Hareton.
"And who was the unlucky man?" asked Heathcliff.
"I don't know," said Fin, turning away.
"How is it Mister Oisin lives here?"
"His mum shelters in yonder cottage."
"That is clear. Does she pay rent?" Heathcliff could see the rundown cottage.
"She dosth," said Oisin.
"The landlord is robbing her," frowned Fin.
"That he is," said a voice from above them. "The bastard!"
"Aideen! Annie!" shouted Fin and Oisin, laughing.
Heathcliff looked up to find a young girl of perhaps twelve, sitting above them on a strong, thick branch of the giant oak. A smaller girl sat next to her. They bore an obvious resemblance to Oisin.
"And who might he be?" asked Aideen, the older girl of the two girls, pointing at Heathcliff.
"Thasth's Misther Heathcwiff," said Oisin.
"Why are the likes of ye riding such a noble horse?"
"Mister Heathcliff needs a laundress," explained Finn. "He asked us to show him the way."
"Ye had better wait here. The landlord's come for the rent, and he's drunk as a lord."
"But … the rent isth paid," said Oisin.
"Ye are so clever for a little one, Oisin. Indeed, Mum showed him the receipt, but he tore it up. Why are ye with that one?" asked Aideen, pointing to Hareton Earnshaw, who turned his face away in obvious shame.
"Mister Heathcliff is his uncle," explained Fin.
"Ye are Mister Earnshaw's brother?" said the girl, staring at him in surprise.
"Only by the vagaries of ill luck," said Heathcliff. "I must have my horse, lads."
Lifting Oisin, Heathcliff set the boy on the ground as Fin Ward slid down the horse's flank. Then he mounted his horse, and watched for a moment as Aideen stood and gracefully walked the length of the branch.
"Come on, Annie," coaxed Aideen, when she had reached the trunk. Heathcliff, who stood under the little girl, prepared to catch her, but she crawled without incident down the branch to her sister. Aideen handed Annie down to Fin and then climbed down herself. Impressed, Heathcliff turned his horse toward the cottage.
"You lot wait here. And no more gambling, Hareton," ordered Heathcliff. "Do you hear me?"
"I'll be back shortly. Mistress Aideen you are in charge."
"But Misther Heathcwiff …"
"What happened to Lord Hedasthiwi?"
"Who is Lord Hedasthiwi?" asked Aideen.
"It's Hedatiwi!" said Hareton, disgusted.
"Why he went on the quest for the wish fulfilling gem, of course," explained Heathcliff.
"But how did it turn out?" asked Fin.
"He's had many adventures, but still he searches."
"What of Chabi?" asked Hareton.
"When time and circumstances permit I'll tell more. Now I have business to conduct." Heathcliff nudged his horse, following the trail to the dilapidated cottage, chuckling to himself. He would have this land today.
"Tell me," shouted Aideen. "Who is this Lord Hedatiwi?"
Heathcliff drew up his horse and listened.
"We are sworn to secrecy," said Hareton. "Girls like ye are not permitted to know."
"You may tell her the story of Hedatiwi, but that is all," called Heathcliff, irritated by Hareton's snobbery. "The rest is a secret."
"Ye will be amazed," said Fin. "I've never heard the like."
"Well, get on with it," said Aideen, settling on the ground with Annie on her lap.
"Hesth a boy born from the earth," said Oisin. "And he hasth magic powersth."
"I don't understand."
"Well, shut yer trap, and we'll tell you," said Fin.
Heathcliff wondered how the story would morph, but that could wait. Hindley Earnshaw needed taking down.