Mileage today: 2.95 miles, which reflects the fact that I didn’t get out for my usual walk. I blame meetings, etc.
The lack of mileage means that I can reflect on reading, specifically my progress through what I consider the quintessential Yorkshire novel, Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. I began my Yorkshire reading with a Bronte, Charlotte, but the first novel was Villette, not the most Yorkshire of the Bronte productions. But WH puts me smack dab in the middle of the place where Nick and I will be walking coming July 2010. Here is the gratuitous portrait of Emily.
I first read WH as a senior in AP English class in high school with Nelson Sudderth, the second of my most memorable English teachers at Girls Preparatory School. Since I have the 45 minute commute each way to and from the Haute, I am “reading” this book via Audible. I suppose listening may not be the same as reading, but I can say in truth that listening to the following passage is even more hair-raising than reading it the first time way back sometime in 1977-78:
“This time, I remembered I was lying in the oak closet, and I heard distinctly the gusty wind, and the driving of the snow; I heard, also, the fir bough repeat its teasing sound, and ascribed it to the right cause: but it annoyed me so much, that I resolved to silence it, if possible; and, I thought, I rose and endeavoured to unhasp the casement. The hook was soldered into the staple: a circumstance observed by me when awake, but forgotten.
‘I must stop it, nevertheless!’ I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand! The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, ‘Let me in – let me in!’
‘Who are you?’ I asked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself.
‘Catherine Linton,’ it replied, shiveringly (why did I think of Linton? I had read Earnshaw twenty times for Linton) – ‘I’m come home: I’d lost my way on the moor!’ As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child’s face looking through the window. Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bedclothes: still it wailed, ‘Let me in!’ and maintained its tenacious gripe, almost maddening me with fear.
‘How can I!’ I said at length. ‘Let me go, if you want me to let you in!’ The fingers relaxed, I snatched mine through the hole, hurriedly piled the books up in a pyramid against it, and stopped my ears to exclude the lamentable prayer. I seemed to keep them closed above a quarter of an hour; yet, the instant I listened again, there was the doleful cry moaning on!
‘Begone!’ I shouted. ‘I’ll never let you in, not if you beg for twenty years.’
‘It is twenty years,’ mourned the voice: ‘twenty years. I’ve been a waif for twenty years!’ Thereat began a feeble scratching outside, and the pile of books moved as if thrust forward. I tried to jump up; but could not stir a limb; and so yelled aloud, in a frenzy of fright.”
I don’t think fiction gets more blood-curdling than this passage. This is the kind of book that Nelson said should be read “at high noon in a crowd.” She has a gift for the bon mot!
This novel puts me in mind of Yorkshire not only because of its setting. The brutality of Heathcliff, the raw passion of Cathy, the emotions of these characters makes me think that Yorkshire will be a landscape of extremes. How else would the story evolve in the mind of Emily Bronte?