wind and wuthering
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by Andrew Lee-Hart



He is early; interrupting my reverie. The door slams below, and then he calls for me, “Cathy” and I reluctantly go downstairs to take off his boots and serve him his tea. My swarthy Heathcliff; love of my life, destroyer of my dreams.


I dream of them again and again; the three sisters and their brother; sat round in a circle, writing industriously as if in a factory. Occasionally they talk but mostly it is the sound of metal on paper that I hear and then one of them stops, and it is as if their thoughts are almost visible, and they sigh as one.


They are all young, a little younger than me, but none of them are really beautiful; but rather small and squinting, hunched up. And yet they are my own creation, come from my mind. And then Miriam cries, waking me from this semi-dream, and I hurry to soothe her, before the colossus who lies beside me wakens.  And whilst I tend to her, the vision fades, but I know that it will return when I sleep or when I am washing or even when Heathcliff forces himself upon me in the night.



a line, (a short blue one)


I bought a notebook yesterday; I could not really afford it, especially now that another child is due, but I have always been impulsive, after all I was the one who went up to Heathcliff in the mill, even though he was older than me and of a surly temper. He eventually succumbed to me, and I actually think he wanted me all the time but had to let me come to him. A man like Heathcliff cannot bring himself to woo a mere chitterling, a mere nothing.


It isn’t a large notebook and is of the cheapest paper, but it is paper, something that I can write on, and that is all that matters.  I held it to my breast as if it was the most precious thing that I had ever owned. And when I got home Miriam slept and I sat down to write, whilst Emily stirred inside me (I know it is Emily, although Heathcliff wants a boy and for him to be called Charles for some reason). I wrote small so that I could fit as much in as possible. Thank God my father taught me to write, having had no sons of his own to teach, so that I can write as well as any clerk, and can set down all that is in my head.



a line, (a short blue one)


The stories now just flow out of me in scraps, as if from up on high. The two older sisters sent to a boarding school and then dead, like their mother before them.  And their three sisters and their brother, left, motherless, bereaved, with just themselves for comfort. And then I pictured their father, Patrick, tall, austere and grief stricken. Turning to his religion and to campaigns for the poor; endless letters to the newspapers as if that could bring back his wife and his two darlings.


At the heart of my stories is Haworth, although I don’t know why. I remember the town from when I was young; my grandmother lived there in a cottage down the hill from the parsonage. A cold, raw place, we had walked from Keighley, towards the end my father carried me, whilst mother – ailing even then – stumbled on behind, determined to reach it without help, but blue with the icy wind.


We had sat in a cold room, with draughts coming from all over, whilst an old woman – my father’s mother - mumbled in an accent noticeably different from that of Keighley, even though it was such a short distance away. She told us about the rector, a young single man who struggled with his health and who was nothing like the Patrick of my imagining. But it captured me. I would like to go to Haworth again; walk the cold streets and head onto the moor. It isn’t far but when could I go?


He is more gentle with me now that I am expecting our second child. He kisses my tummy and has called his sister (well step-sister) Sally to help with housework. She is a friendly body who enjoys a gossip and loves Miriam, and I would enjoy having her in the house but I cannot write, as she is always at my back, trying to help, but all I want is to lie on my bed and scribble down my dreams.  The need becomes more urgent as if I am running out of time, so that even when I am in the closet I take the opportunity to write something down.


Eventually one day I told her that I was tired and once I had persuaded her to let me sleep I got out my notebook; started to write, and now every afternoon I have two hours, where I lie down “to rest”, undisturbed by child or adult, and it is bliss. 


I write about the older sisters Charlotte and Emily in Belgium, teaching at a lycee. Charlotte falls in love with the owner of the school “The Professor”; older than her and married. Constantin flirted with her shamelessly, with no thought of the passions he was arousing in Charlotte’s breast.

“My English rose” he called her, and bent over and kissed her hand with a flourish, whilst his wife, confident and self-satisfied, chuckled. As she lay in bed at night, she remembers the feel of his lips on her hand, his moustache, so intimate.

“Why do I love him? Would he carry me away?”

Sometimes she yearned for him to touch her, hold her in his arms and bend down and kiss her, stroke her.


There was a church in Brussels where she liked to linger even though it was Papist, but here in Belgium she could be whoever she wanted to be. No more the Rector’s daughter with two sisters to mother and a brother to worry about. She sat in the tall church, looking over at the altar, praying that she could stay here forever. She thought about Constantin; imagining being married to him, becoming headmistress of the lycee; no longer a simple Yorkshire girl, but a sophisticated woman, with a handsome lover and pupils who were scared of her and yet admired her at the same time.


A figure in black appeared from the shadows and walked into the confessional, and after a moment she joined him….

“Father I have sinned…”

She opened her heart more than she had ever done, whilst the Priest sat silently, so that she occasionally had to open her eyes to make sure that he was still there, and had not left, disgusted by what he was hearing.

“I am a Protestant” she told him, but he remained silent. And then at the end, a “bless you child” in accented English, and she realised that he had not understood a word that she had said.

For a moment, ashamed, she left the church knowing that she would soon have to go back to her family, that she could not escape being who she was.



a line, (a short blue one)


“I am homesick; I miss the moors” said Emily. Charlotte was shocked at her tone, Emily always the quiet one, who did as she was told, or at least appeared to.

“But Brussels is beautiful, and there are our pupils.”

“You hate them as much as I do; horrible little foreigners, more interested in their finery and their gossip. Just passing their time until their parents find them a husband.”

Charlotte sighed.

“I thought you were happy.”

“No, you didn’t care if I was happy or not. You just care about Monsieur, and his approval.”


Emily even smelt of the moor; despite being so many miles away from Haworth.

“Well I am staying here” Charlotte told her sister; “you do as you will.”

Emily shrugged.  Charlotte had brought up her sister and yet they were so apart, so different. Charlotte knew that they were all odd; being vicar’s children and bereft of their mother so long had made them strange, despite Charlotte’s best efforts, but Emily was the strangest, living completely in her head, an ethereal creature who loved animals more than people, and who at times seemed Simple, a Natural. 


Perhaps Charlotte had tried to control them all, but it was for their own good; how else could they survive, particularly when their father died and they had to make their own way in the world? They could not live like this forever, in the rectory, but sooner or later they would have to earn their own living or marry, and forget all this writing and phantasy.


And then their father wrote to them to say that their Aunt Elizabeth was dying, and so Charlotte had no choice; and so she and her sister packed and returned to more mourning. And when she watched her sister floating about the house; talking to animals, writing her strange verse, Charlotte felt happy for her, and wondered if her will was so strong that she could do anything to bring them both back to Yorkshire.


“You seem happier sister” Emily said to her, “did you miss Yorkshire more than you thought you would?”

“No, I am pleased for you as she were clearly so lonely; but no I will not stay here forever. I will return either to Brussels or go to Paris. I will not stay here in this godforsaken hole to die of typhoid or marry one of father’s earnest curates. You and I are different Emily, and that is not a bad thing, but I need to leave, or else I will die.”



a line, (a short blue one)


He caught me as I wrote my stories.

“Cathy, what the Hell are you doing? Sally said you were resting.”

I pushed the notebook aside and hoped he hadn’t seen what I was writing. I had been so engrossed that I had not heard him come in.

“Just writing a list for Sally, we need so much stuff before the baby arrives.”

He became sympathetic; “don’t worry about that love, it is all in hand. Sally knows what she is doing. Now come to bed.”

Gently he tucked me in and, fully dressed, lay down beside me, smelling of sweat and smoke.


“Why are you so worried?” he asked, “there were no problems when Miriam was born. You are a healthy lass, that’s why I chose you, and we have money, and with Sally to help...why are you mithering?”

I laughed, to pacify him.

“I am not worried” I told him, “I am just trying to sort everything out.” But then I realised that I actually was worried and that I had so much to do before Emily was born, so much to complete, and not just things for the baby.



a line, (a short blue one)


Anne lay frail on the white bed. Her sister could hear the seagulls almost as if they were in the room with them.

Anne smiled. “You do not need to stay Charlotte; go for a walk, I will not die in the meantime.”

“I have lost Emily and Branwell, I will not leave you.”

Charlotte touched her sister’s forehead; she felt hot, but where could the heat be coming from? Such a frail body could not contain such warmth.

“Oh my sister,” she murmured, “get well, I cannot cope on my own, all this responsibility.” She prayed, hoping that God would spare the last of her siblings so that she would not be on her own with her testy father and a cold and empty rectory.


She could hear her sister breathing gently, her eyes closed, and then the outside called to her. What harm a walk in the sunshine?

“I am just going out a few minutes” she told Mrs MacDonald their landlady. As she walked along the promenade, she looked up at the cliffs and wished she was amongst them, flying, free at last. She saw three young women approaching her, and she prepared a smile, but they hurried past her giggling. Have I become a figure of fun? She imagined what she must look like, a small, hunched figure who could barely see the road ahead of her.  Or perhaps they had not been laughing at her, had not even seen her, just a nothing, and that felt worse.


She hurried back to the boarding house, but Anne was dead.

“Sometimes they wait until their loved ones have gone. She wanted to spare you.” And Mrs MacDonald held the strange woman tight, until she wept and threw herself on the bed with her sister and held her tight.



a line, (a short blue one)


The baby is due soon and I have a yearning to climb on the moor before it arrives.  So as soon as Heathcliff had got up and left the house, I too dressed quietly, trying not to disturb Sally who slept in the back room, and whose gentle snoring I could hear, as I quickly sprinkled myself with water. Miriam held out her hand to me, and I was glad because I did not like the thought of leaving her behind.


There was a coach from the Red Duke at Keighley and we reached there shortly before seven. On the way I had seen a few faces that I knew, and a couple bowed to me, and I smiled, however I was beginning to struggle, having not been out of the house for weeks, and I realised that it was a foolish mistake, and Miriam was looking alarmed, sensing my unease and fear.


But the coach was there waiting, and we got an inside seat; Miriam and I sharing with two young girls who gazed out of the window and said not a word whilst we rode through the Yorkshire hills. It had been drizzling whilst we walked through Keighley, but then as the coach drove higher and higher the rain began to pour and my heart lurched within me; what had I done?  Sally would realise that we had gone and panic and rush to find Heathcliff, and when I returned he would scream and punch me despite my being with child, and Miriam would no doubt be punished too.


Just as we arrived near the Black Horse in Haworth the sun came out and suddenly I felt exultation, whilst the two young girls – whom Miriam had been staring at in fascination – hugged each other with glee.  I forgot all my worries and resolved to enjoy my day out.  An old man was waiting for the two sisters, and they walked away with him without a backwards glance at us.


We walked up towards the church; Miriam chattering by my side; I can only have been a year or so older than her when I first visited Haworth.  The houses were as poor as in Keighley, poorer probably, and the locals dressed very badly; hunched and weary-looking, ignoring us as we walked past. We reached the rectory; grey and quiet; the only sign of life was washing hung out over the hedges. I longed to go inside and see where my family lived, to see the three sisters and their brother writing away, instead we sat on one of the graves and each chewed on a piece of bread, which I had brought with us.  And as we ate, it started to rain again, and so we hurried into the church.


Heathcliff hated religion and we had not gone to church since our marriage, but the building felt peaceful and whilst Miriam raced down the centre, I sat down and rested my aching back and wondered if the three sisters and their brother had sat on this pew, whilst their father preached; I had to remind myself that they were not real, but I could imagine them so clearly; how it could it just be my imaginings?


And then a door creaked and I saw a young woman glide into the church and look about her.

“Emily” I called, and she started, and our eyes met before she hurried out. I followed her out into the graveyard, but she was not there. I walked round, but the place was bleak and there was no movement anywhere; perhaps she had hurried back to the rectory.  I called her name again, but there was no response and then I remembered Miriam and I went to find her, but she had not noticed my absence and was racing about the empty church.


As the rain had stopped, we walked over the moor; the heather wet under foot and then we ran like two mad things, sliding and slipping but never falling.

“I love you mama” Miriam told me, and I kissed her.  And then as the rain started once more, we hurtled back down towards the coach, and sat dripping wet but happy as we rode through the wet streets to Keighley.  I worried that Miriam would catch a fever, but she seemed so happy, and we cuddled up together to keep warm.


I was expecting Heathcliff to beat me, indeed he had his hand raised to do so, but he realised how ill I was and instead sent me to bed under strict instructions not to leave until the baby arrived. I heard a slap and Sally cry as she got the beating that I deserved, and then I slept and dreamt.



a line, (a short blue one)


Charlotte sat looking through Emily’s things; she had meant to do it weeks ago but could not face it, but then her publisher had written to her yet again requesting anything she had been working on before her death.  And Charlotte wanted to know what was there and what was fit to be published; rather her read it than her publisher who would be less discriminating. Emily had been writing up to her death but had refused to tell Charlotte what she was creating, perhaps after Charlotte’s reaction to her novel, which had horrified her, even though she had tried to hide her feelings from her sister. 


She had broken open Emily’s desk and found piles of papers, full of her miniscule handwriting. There had been poems; and drawings; drawings of Grasper, the dog she loved so much and of Anne, and Branwell; and even one of Charlotte which made her cry.  And pictures of Haworth, and even one of Constantin, who looked the frivolous dilettante that he was, but who Charlotte still loved.


And then beneath all this was a small manuscript presumably put there in haste, and never touched again. Charlotte opened it and started to read, squinting most dreadfully, occasionally she wiped her face, and at times she sighed.  She had not even read a third of it, before she started to cross out lines and even whole paragraphs, and then, angrily, started to tear it up, before giving up and throwing the whole manuscript onto the fire, along with the poems and drawings; they burnt steadily and then they were gone, leaving just a trace of ash and the smelt of burnt paper.


I woke up and there were figures by my side; Heathcliff, Charlotte and Anne. Ghosts. And there was the cry of a baby.

“Emily” I called, and I felt the smallest of beings put into my arms, and before I could hold her properly, she was gone, and I wept, knowing that I was dying; that Miriam and Emma would grow up without me; alone, with Heathcliff as father and mother. 


And then there was another feeling of pain and listlessness. I knew that Heathcliff would find my manuscripts and destroy them and that my family would disappear as if they had never existed. I tried to cry out to him, to beg, but there was nobody there, just a shadow in the corner, who turned her head and looked at me with eyes that gazed at me steadily and with compassion, and then she too was gone.



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