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Ellen Dean’s story - Catherine and Heath cliff as children
when i was a child, I was always at Wuthering Heights, because my mother was a servant with the Earnshaw family. They are a very old family who have lived in that house for centuries, as you can see from their name on the stone over the front door. I grew up with Catherine and Hindley Earnshaw, and we three played together as children.
One day, their father Mr Earnshaw came back from a long journey. He had travelled sixty miles to Liverpool and back on business, and was very tired.
‘Look what I’ve brought you!’ he told us all, unwrapping something he was holding carefully in his arms. Catherine and Hindley were expecting presents, and they rushed eagerly to see what it was. They were very disappointed to see only a dirty, black-haired gipsy child.
‘I found him all alone in the busy streets of Liverpool,’ Mr Earnshaw explained to them, ‘and 1 couldn’t leave him to die. He can sleep in your room.’ But Hindley and Catherine were angry because they had not received any presents, and refused to let the strange child share their room. However Mr Earnshaw insisted, and little by little the boy became accepted by the family. He was called Heathcliff, as a first and last name. No one ever discovered who his parents had been.
Catherine and he became great friends, but Hindley hated him, and was often cruel to him. Old Mr Earnshaw was strangely fond of this gipsy child, and frequently punished his son for behaving badly to Heathcliff. Hindley began to be jealous of his father’s feelings for Heathcliff, and saw them both as enemies.
This situation could not last. As Mr Earnshaw grew old and ill, Heathcliff became even more his favourite, and Hindley often quarrelled with his father. When Hindley was sent away to study, I hoped that we would have peace in the house. But then it was that old servant Joseph who caused trouble. He tried to persuade his master to be stricter with the children, and was always complaining that Heathcliff and Catherine did not spend enough time studying the Bible or attending church services.
Catherine was a wild, wicked girl in those days. We had to watch her every moment of the day, to stop her playing her tricks on us. She was proud, and liked giving orders. But she had the prettiest face and the sweetest smile you’ve ever seen. I could forgive her anything when she came to say she was sorry.
She was much too fond of Heathcliff, and the worst punishment we could invent was to keep her separate from him. Her father could no longer understand her or her behaviour, and Catherine did not realize that his illness made him less patient with her.
At last Mr Earnshaw found peace. He died quietly in his chair by the fire one October evening in 1775. The night was wild and stormy, and we were all sitting together in the big kitchen. Joseph was reading his Bible at the table, while Catherine had her head on her father’s knee. He was pleased to see her so gentle for once, and she was singing him to sleep. I was glad the old gentleman was sleeping so well. But when it was time to go to bed, Catherine put her arms round her father’s neck to say goodnight, and immediately screamed, ‘Oh, he’s dead, Heathcliff! He’s dead!’ Heathcliff and I started crying loudly and bitterly too. Joseph
told me to fetch the doctor, so I ran to the village, although I knew it was too late. When I came back, I went to the children’s room, to see if they needed me, and I listened for a moment at their door. They were imagining the dead man in a beautiful distant place, far from the troubles of this world. And as I listened, crying silently, I could not help wishing we were all there safe together.
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