[Setting: Wuthering Heights, in the great oak lined ‘house place’. The wind moans eerily outside, bending the tormented trees into ever more distorted shapes (symbolic, or what?).]
Heathcliff: Curse it, that festive season only heightens my anguish of despair. Above fifteen years, torn apart from my heart and soul. Reunion with her forever in front of my eyes, and ever denied me – my only distraction to bring sorrow and anguish onto that cursed Edgar Linton and his descendants. (adds in a mutter) I hope he despaired over his Christmas feast, sitting opposite that hateful brat Cathy, that living proof that he usurped my place in her mother’s bed. That’s it! That’s my New Year’s resolution; this year, I will draw her into my web of deceit and devilish cunning.
[Enter Joseph, face even more sour than usual] Ha! Tis another year of sin and greetin’ ahead in this house. Nought will go wheel until the rightful heir takes his place. And I still say t’ auld maister Hindley did not die a natural death.
Heathcliff: Quiet, or I’ll put you in the coal hole.
Joseph: [tottering towards the great stove] I would be no blacker theere than your soul. Where’s the oats for t’porridge for t’dinner? Well, that be one good thing. There’s nought in the way of sinful celebration and a feastin’ and a merry makin’ in t’house these days… There’s a stranger to see you. A stranger to these parts. A worthless looking fellow belonging to t’gentry with fine clothes which do nothing to hide t’ fact that he is noo member of t’elect.
Heathcliff: Visitor? Why didn’t you say before, you old fool? What does he want?
Joseph: I couldna say. Perhaps he came for t’pleasure of your company. [totters out]
[Zillah the housekeeper enters with Arhtur Huntingdon. With his merry blue eyes and abundant chestnut curls, his thick red whiskers, sensual mouth and high spirits, he is a startling contrast to the dark, morose Heathcliff. ]
Huntingdon: Halloo, old fellow! Damn me, but that’s a weary journey, and a God forsaken place the alight in at the end of it. So this is Wuthering Heights?
Heathcliff: If you don’t like it, I don’t suppose anyone will care if you turn about and go back where you came from.
Huntingdon: Well, that might be a bit difficult in way, as that’s in another book. ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ don’t you know; I’m the villain in that.
Heathcliff: [grunts] I’ve heard of you. Anyway, you’re an arriviste. It’s not as if you belong in the Gondal saga. I date my genesis from there, even if I don’t have a surname. My author’s sister wrote you as a warning to foolish young girls not to marry charming rakes, and least of all ones with a drinking problem.
Huntingdon: Devil take me, I could do with a drink! I had one in that dismal tavern on the way up. Not a serving wench worth bedding in the place.
Heathcliff [makes a coarse and misogynistic remark about looking at fireplaces and the use of pokers which I will spare the reader’s feelings by not relating].
Huntingdon: Ah, ha, caught you out! So much for your talk of never sparing a look for another woman but Catherine Earnshaw.
Heathcliff: I just said I didn’t look at them, didn’t I? [recollects himself] What am I doing, wasting my time in idle chatter with a fickle trifler like you? Why are you here? [looks alarmed] Don’t tell me some fool of an aspiring author wrote one of these appalling ‘sequels’ to our author’s books in which we meet?
Huntingdon: That’s about it, old fellow, so you might offer me a glass of wine.
Heathcliff: I’ll offer you the door.
Huntingdon: Cursed sanguinary fellow that you are, I’ll buy one and then be on my way to Wildfell Hall.
Heathcliff: Buy one? Fair enough! [bawls] Joseph! Fetch a glass of Zillah’s home made wine, and no whittering about alcohol being the invention of the devil.
Huntingdon: If Benson or any of my staff dared to say as much to me, I’d box their ears.
Heathcliff: He might leave, and I can’t keep any staff as it is. [suddenly struck]. Did you say Wlldfell Hall? Now, that makes sense. It’s an old house and estate, probably Jacobean, but it suddenly appeared there not long since, and some reclusive woman lives there. That’s the sort of neighbour I like. Come to think of it, her name is ‘Huntingdon’ too. Supposed to be main and handsome, but I have no eyes for any style of beauty but that of my lost Catherine.
Hutingdon: That’s my wife! Helen Huntingdon, I mean, not your Catherine. The jade deserted me, taking off our son. By hell, I’ve tracked her down at last! [mutters some more maledictions].
Heathcliff: Ah, did yours run off, too? Isabella did as much to me, curse her for a writhing worm, and I want custody of my son, too. We might have more in common than first I realised!
[Burst of dramatic music; the credits begin to roll up]
Voiceover: Will Huntingdon seize young Arthur from poor Helen Huntingdon? Will he and Heathcliff come to some villainous understanding? Find out in next week’s exciting second instalment of ‘Heathcliff and Huntingdon (and Hareton, Hattersley and sundry other H’s).