Part 2 - Wuthering Heights Audiobook by Emily Bronte (Chs 08-11)


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Transcript:
CHAPTER VIII
On the morning of a fine June day my first bonny little nursling, and the last of the
ancient Earnshaw stock, was born.
We were busy with the hay in a far-away field, when the girl that usually brought
our breakfasts came running an hour too soon across the meadow and up the lane,
calling me as she ran.
'Oh, such a grand bairn!' she panted out. 'The finest lad that ever breathed!
But the doctor says missis must go: he says she's been in a consumption these many
months.
I heard him tell Mr. Hindley: and now she has nothing to keep her, and she'll be dead
before winter. You must come home directly.
You're to nurse it, Nelly: to feed it with sugar and milk, and take care of it day and
night. I wish I were you, because it will be all
yours when there is no missis!'
'But is she very ill?' I asked, flinging down my rake and tying my
bonnet.
'I guess she is; yet she looks bravely,' replied the girl, 'and she talks as if she
thought of living to see it grow a man. She's out of her head for joy, it's such a
beauty!
If I were her I'm certain I should not die: I should get better at the bare sight of
it, in spite of Kenneth. I was fairly mad at him.
Dame Archer brought the cherub down to master, in the house, and his face just
began to light up, when the old croaker steps forward, and says he--"Earnshaw, it's
a blessing your wife has been spared to leave you this son.
When she came, I felt convinced we shouldn't keep her long; and now, I must
tell you, the winter will probably finish her.
Don't take on, and fret about it too much: it can't be helped.
And besides, you should have known better than to choose such a rush of a lass!"'
'And what did the master answer?'
I inquired. 'I think he swore: but I didn't mind him,
I was straining to see the bairn,' and she began again to describe it rapturously.
I, as zealous as herself, hurried eagerly home to admire, on my part; though I was
very sad for Hindley's sake.
He had room in his heart only for two idols--his wife and himself: he doted on
both, and adored one, and I couldn't conceive how he would bear the loss.
When we got to Wuthering Heights, there he stood at the front door; and, as I passed
in, I asked, 'how was the baby?' 'Nearly ready to run about, Nell!' he
replied, putting on a cheerful smile.
'And the mistress?' I ventured to inquire; 'the doctor says
she's--' 'Damn the doctor!' he interrupted,
reddening.
'Frances is quite right: she'll be perfectly well by this time next week.
Are you going up-stairs? will you tell her that I'll come, if she'll promise not to
talk.
I left her because she would not hold her tongue; and she must--tell her Mr. Kenneth
says she must be quiet.'
I delivered this message to Mrs. Earnshaw; she seemed in flighty spirits, and replied
merrily, 'I hardly spoke a word, Ellen, and there he has gone out twice, crying.
Well, say I promise I won't speak: but that does not bind me not to laugh at him!'
Poor soul!
Till within a week of her death that gay heart never failed her; and her husband
persisted doggedly, nay, furiously, in affirming her health improved every day.
When Kenneth warned him that his medicines were useless at that stage of the malady,
and he needn't put him to further expense by attending her, he retorted, 'I know you
need not--she's well--she does not want any more attendance from you!
She never was in a consumption.
It was a fever; and it is gone: her pulse is as slow as mine now, and her cheek as
cool.'
He told his wife the same story, and she seemed to believe him; but one night, while
leaning on his shoulder, in the act of saying she thought she should be able to
get up to-morrow, a fit of coughing took
her--a very slight one--he raised her in his arms; she put her two hands about his
neck, her face changed, and she was dead. As the girl had anticipated, the child
Hareton fell wholly into my hands.
Mr. Earnshaw, provided he saw him healthy and never heard him cry, was contented, as
far as regarded him. For himself, he grew desperate: his sorrow
was of that kind that will not lament.
He neither wept nor prayed; he cursed and defied: execrated God and man, and gave
himself up to reckless dissipation.
The servants could not bear his tyrannical and evil conduct long: Joseph and I were
the only two that would stay.
I had not the heart to leave my charge; and besides, you know, I had been his foster-
sister, and excused his behaviour more readily than a stranger would.
Joseph remained to hector over tenants and labourers; and because it was his vocation
to be where he had plenty of wickedness to reprove.
The master's bad ways and bad companions formed a pretty example for Catherine and
Heathcliff. His treatment of the latter was enough to
make a fiend of a saint.
And, truly, it appeared as if the lad were possessed of something diabolical at
that period.
He delighted to witness Hindley degrading himself past redemption; and became daily
more notable for savage sullenness and ferocity.
I could not half tell what an infernal house we had.
The curate dropped calling, and nobody decent came near us, at last; unless Edgar
Linton's visits to Miss Cathy might be an exception.
At fifteen she was the queen of the country-side; she had no peer; and she did
turn out a haughty, headstrong creature!
I own I did not like her, after infancy was past; and I vexed her frequently by trying
to bring down her arrogance: she never took an aversion to me, though.
She had a wondrous constancy to old attachments: even Heathcliff kept his hold
on her affections unalterably; and young Linton, with all his superiority, found it
difficult to make an equally deep impression.
He was my late master: that is his portrait over the fireplace.
It used to hang on one side, and his wife's on the other; but hers has been removed, or
else you might see something of what she was.
Can you make that out?
Mrs. Dean raised the candle, and I discerned a soft-featured face, exceedingly
resembling the young lady at the Heights, but more pensive and amiable in expression.
It formed a sweet picture.
The long light hair curled slightly on the temples; the eyes were large and serious;
the figure almost too graceful.
I did not marvel how Catherine Earnshaw could forget her first friend for such an
individual.
I marvelled much how he, with a mind to correspond with his person, could fancy my
idea of Catherine Earnshaw. 'A very agreeable portrait,' I observed to
the house-keeper.
'Is it like?' 'Yes,' she answered; 'but he looked better
when he was animated; that is his everyday countenance: he wanted spirit in general.'
Catherine had kept up her acquaintance with the Lintons since her five-weeks' residence
among them; and as she had no temptation to show her rough side in their company, and
had the sense to be ashamed of being rude
where she experienced such invariable courtesy, she imposed unwittingly on the
old lady and gentleman by her ingenious cordiality; gained the admiration of
Isabella, and the heart and soul of her
brother: acquisitions that flattered her from the first--for she was full of
ambition--and led her to adopt a double character without exactly intending to
deceive any one.
In the place where she heard Heathcliff termed a 'vulgar young ruffian,' and 'worse
than a brute,' she took care not to act like him; but at home she had small
inclination to practise politeness that
would only be laughed at, and restrain an unruly nature when it would bring her
neither credit nor praise. Mr. Edgar seldom mustered courage to visit
Wuthering Heights openly.
He had a terror of Earnshaw's reputation, and shrunk from encountering him; and yet
he was always received with our best attempts at civility: the master himself
avoided offending him, knowing why he came;
and if he could not be gracious, kept out of the way.
I rather think his appearance there was distasteful to Catherine; she was not
artful, never played the coquette, and had evidently an objection to her two friends
meeting at all; for when Heathcliff
expressed contempt of Linton in his presence, she could not half coincide, as
she did in his absence; and when Linton evinced disgust and antipathy to
Heathcliff, she dared not treat his
sentiments with indifference, as if depreciation of her playmate were of
scarcely any consequence to her.
I've had many a laugh at her perplexities and untold troubles, which she vainly
strove to hide from my mockery.
That sounds ill-natured: but she was so proud it became really impossible to pity
her distresses, till she should be chastened into more humility.
She did bring herself, finally, to confess, and to confide in me: there was not a soul
else that she might fashion into an adviser.
Mr. Hindley had gone from home one afternoon, and Heathcliff presumed to give
himself a holiday on the strength of it.
He had reached the age of sixteen then, I think, and without having bad features, or
being deficient in intellect, he contrived to convey an impression of inward and
outward repulsiveness that his present aspect retains no traces of.
In the first place, he had by that time lost the benefit of his early education:
continual hard work, begun soon and concluded late, had extinguished any
curiosity he once possessed in pursuit of
knowledge, and any love for books or learning.
His childhood's sense of superiority, instilled into him by the favours of old
Mr. Earnshaw, was faded away.
He struggled long to keep up an equality with Catherine in her studies, and yielded
with poignant though silent regret: but he yielded completely; and there was no
prevailing on him to take a step in the way
of moving upward, when he found he must, necessarily, sink beneath his former level.
Then personal appearance sympathised with mental deterioration: he acquired a
slouching gait and ignoble look; his naturally reserved disposition was
exaggerated into an almost idiotic excess
of unsociable moroseness; and he took a grim pleasure, apparently, in exciting the
aversion rather than the esteem of his few acquaintance.
Catherine and he were constant companions still at his seasons of respite from
labour; but he had ceased to express his fondness for her in words, and recoiled
with angry suspicion from her girlish
caresses, as if conscious there could be no gratification in lavishing such marks of
affection on him.
On the before-named occasion he came into the house to announce his intention of
doing nothing, while I was assisting Miss Cathy to arrange her dress: she had not
reckoned on his taking it into his head to
be idle; and imagining she would have the whole place to herself, she managed, by
some means, to inform Mr. Edgar of her brother's absence, and was then preparing
to receive him.
'Cathy, are you busy this afternoon?' asked Heathcliff.
'Are you going anywhere?' 'No, it is raining,' she answered.
'Why have you that silk frock on, then?' he said.
'Nobody coming here, I hope?' 'Not that I know of,' stammered Miss: 'but
you should be in the field now, Heathcliff.
It is an hour past dinnertime: I thought you were gone.'
'Hindley does not often free us from his accursed presence,' observed the boy.
'I'll not work any more to-day: I'll stay with you.'
'Oh, but Joseph will tell,' she suggested; 'you'd better go!'
'Joseph is loading lime on the further side of Penistone Crags; it will take him till
dark, and he'll never know.' So, saying, he lounged to the fire, and sat
down.
Catherine reflected an instant, with knitted brows--she found it needful to
smooth the way for an intrusion.
'Isabella and Edgar Linton talked of calling this afternoon,' she said, at the
conclusion of a minute's silence.
'As it rains, I hardly expect them; but they may come, and if they do, you run the
risk of being scolded for no good.'
'Order Ellen to say you are engaged, Cathy,' he persisted; 'don't turn me out
for those pitiful, silly friends of yours! I'm on the point, sometimes, of complaining
that they--but I'll not--'
'That they what?' cried Catherine, gazing at him with a troubled countenance.
'Oh, Nelly!' she added petulantly, jerking her head away from my hands, 'you've combed
my hair quite out of curl!
That's enough; let me alone. What are you on the point of complaining
about, Heathcliff?'
'Nothing--only look at the almanack on that wall;' he pointed to a framed sheet hanging
near the window, and continued, 'The crosses are for the evenings you have spent
with the Lintons, the dots for those spent with me.
Do you see? I've marked every day.'
'Yes--very foolish: as if I took notice!' replied Catherine, in a peevish tone.
'And where is the sense of that?' 'To show that I do take notice,' said
Heathcliff.
'And should I always be sitting with you?' she demanded, growing more irritated.
'What good do I get? What do you talk about?
You might be dumb, or a baby, for anything you say to amuse me, or for anything you
do, either!'
'You never told me before that I talked too little, or that you disliked my company,
Cathy!' exclaimed Heathcliff, in much agitation.
'It's no company at all, when people know nothing and say nothing,' she muttered.
Her companion rose up, but he hadn't time to express his feelings further, for a
horse's feet were heard on the flags, and having knocked gently, young Linton
entered, his face brilliant with delight at the unexpected summon she had received.
Doubtless Catherine marked the difference between her friends, as one came in and the
other went out.
The contrast resembled what you see in exchanging a bleak, hilly, coal country for
a beautiful fertile valley; and his voice and greeting were as opposite as his
aspect.
He had a sweet, low manner of speaking, and pronounced his words as you do: that's less
gruff than we talk here, and softer.
'I'm not come too soon, am I?' he said, casting a look at me: I had begun to wipe
the plate, and tidy some drawers at the far end in the dresser.
'No,' answered Catherine.
'What are you doing there, Nelly?' 'My work, Miss,' I replied.
(Mr. Hindley had given me directions to make a third party in any private visits
Linton chose to pay.)
She stepped behind me and whispered crossly, 'Take yourself and your dusters
off; when company are in the house, servants don't commence scouring and
cleaning in the room where they are!'
'It's a good opportunity, now that master is away,' I answered aloud: 'he hates me to
be fidgeting over these things in his presence.
I'm sure Mr. Edgar will excuse me.'
'I hate you to be fidgeting in my presence,' exclaimed the young lady
imperiously, not allowing her guest time to speak: she had failed to recover her
equanimity since the little dispute with Heathcliff.
'I'm sorry for it, Miss Catherine,' was my response; and I proceeded assiduously with
my occupation.
She, supposing Edgar could not see her, snatched the cloth from my hand, and
pinched me, with a prolonged wrench, very spitefully on the arm.
I've said I did not love her, and rather relished mortifying her vanity now and
then: besides, she hurt me extremely; so I started up from my knees, and screamed out,
'Oh, Miss, that's a nasty trick!
You have no right to nip me, and I'm not going to bear it.'
'I didn't touch you, you lying creature!' cried she, her fingers tingling to repeat
the act, and her ears red with rage.
She never had power to conceal her passion, it always set her whole complexion in a
blaze. 'What's that, then?'
I retorted, showing a decided purple witness to refute her.
She stamped her foot, wavered a moment, and then, irresistibly impelled by the naughty
spirit within her, slapped me on the cheek: a stinging blow that filled both eyes with
water.
'Catherine, love! Catherine!' interposed Linton, greatly
shocked at the double fault of falsehood and violence which his idol had committed.
'Leave the room, Ellen!' she repeated, trembling all over.
Little Hareton, who followed me everywhere, and was sitting near me on the floor, at
seeing my tears commenced crying himself, and sobbed out complaints against 'wicked
aunt Cathy,' which drew her fury on to his
unlucky head: she seized his shoulders, and shook him till the poor child waxed livid,
and Edgar thoughtlessly laid hold of her hands to deliver him.
In an instant one was wrung free, and the astonished young man felt it applied over
his own ear in a way that could not be mistaken for jest.
He drew back in consternation.
I lifted Hareton in my arms, and walked off to the kitchen with him, leaving the door
of communication open, for I was curious to watch how they would settle their
disagreement.
The insulted visitor moved to the spot where he had laid his hat, pale and with a
quivering lip. 'That's right!'
I said to myself.
'Take warning and begone! It's a kindness to let you have a glimpse
of her genuine disposition.' 'Where are you going?' demanded Catherine,
advancing to the door.
He swerved aside, and attempted to pass. 'You must not go!' she exclaimed,
energetically. 'I must and shall!' he replied in a subdued
voice.
'No,' she persisted, grasping the handle; 'not yet, Edgar Linton: sit down; you shall
not leave me in that temper. I should be miserable all night, and I
won't be miserable for you!'
'Can I stay after you have struck me?' asked Linton.
Catherine was mute. 'You've made me afraid and ashamed of you,'
he continued; 'I'll not come here again!'
Her eyes began to glisten and her lids to twinkle.
'And you told a deliberate untruth!' he said.
'I didn't!' she cried, recovering her speech; 'I did nothing deliberately.
Well, go, if you please--get away! And now I'll cry--I'll cry myself sick!'
She dropped down on her knees by a chair, and set to weeping in serious earnest.
Edgar persevered in his resolution as far as the court; there he lingered.
I resolved to encourage him.
'Miss is dreadfully wayward, sir,' I called out.
'As bad as any marred child: you'd better be riding home, or else she will be sick,
only to grieve us.'
The soft thing looked askance through the window: he possessed the power to depart as
much as a cat possesses the power to leave a mouse half killed, or a bird half eaten.
Ah, I thought, there will be no saving him: he's doomed, and flies to his fate!
And so it was: he turned abruptly, hastened into the house again, shut the door behind
him; and when I went in a while after to inform them that Earnshaw had come home
rabid drunk, ready to pull the whole place
about our ears (his ordinary frame of mind in that condition), I saw the quarrel had
merely effected a closer intimacy--had broken the outworks of youthful timidity,
and enabled them to forsake the disguise of friendship, and confess themselves lovers.
Intelligence of Mr. Hindley's arrival drove Linton speedily to his horse, and Catherine
to her chamber.
I went to hide little Hareton, and to take the shot out of the master's fowling-piece,
which he was fond of playing with in his insane excitement, to the hazard of the
lives of any who provoked, or even
attracted his notice too much; and I had hit upon the plan of removing it, that he
might do less mischief if he did go the length of firing the gun.
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CHAPTER IX
He entered, vociferating oaths dreadful to hear; and caught me in the act of stowing
his son sway in the kitchen cupboard.
Hareton was impressed with a wholesome terror of encountering either his wild
beast's fondness or his madman's rage; for in one he ran a chance of being squeezed
and kissed to death, and in the other of
being flung into the fire, or dashed against the wall; and the poor thing
remained perfectly quiet wherever I chose to put him.
'There, I've found it out at last!' cried Hindley, pulling me back by the skin of my
neck, like a dog. 'By heaven and hell, you've sworn between
you to murder that child!
I know how it is, now, that he is always out of my way.
But, with the help of Satan, I shall make you swallow the carving-knife, Nelly!
You needn't laugh; for I've just crammed Kenneth, head-downmost, in the Black-horse
marsh; and two is the same as one--and I want to kill some of you: I shall have no
rest till I do!'
'But I don't like the carving-knife, Mr. Hindley,' I answered; 'it has been cutting
red herrings. I'd rather be shot, if you please.'
'You'd rather be damned!' he said; 'and so you shall.
No law in England can hinder a man from keeping his house decent, and mine's
abominable!
Open your mouth.' He held the knife in his hand, and pushed
its point between my teeth: but, for my part, I was never much afraid of his
vagaries.
I spat out, and affirmed it tasted detestably--I would not take it on any
account.
'Oh!' said he, releasing me, 'I see that hideous little villain is not Hareton: I
beg your pardon, Nell.
If it be, he deserves flaying alive for not running to welcome me, and for screaming as
if I were a goblin. Unnatural cub, come hither!
I'll teach thee to impose on a good- hearted, deluded father.
Now, don't you think the lad would be handsomer cropped?
It makes a dog fiercer, and I love something fierce--get me a scissors--
something fierce and trim!
Besides, it's infernal affectation-- devilish conceit it is, to cherish our
ears--we're asses enough without them. Hush, child, hush!
Well then, it is my darling! wisht, dry thy eyes--there's a joy; kiss me.
What! it won't? Kiss me, Hareton!
Damn thee, kiss me!
By God, as if I would rear such a monster! As sure as I'm living, I'll break the
brat's neck.'
Poor Hareton was squalling and kicking in his father's arms with all his might, and
redoubled his yells when he carried him up- stairs and lifted him over the banister.
I cried out that he would frighten the child into fits, and ran to rescue him.
As I reached them, Hindley leant forward on the rails to listen to a noise below;
almost forgetting what he had in his hands.
'Who is that?' he asked, hearing some one approaching the stairs'-foot.
I leant forward also, for the purpose of signing to Heathcliff, whose step I
recognised, not to come further; and, at the instant when my eye quitted Hareton, he
gave a sudden spring, delivered himself
from the careless grasp that held him, and fell.
There was scarcely time to experience a thrill of horror before we saw that the
little wretch was safe.
Heathcliff arrived underneath just at the critical moment; by a natural impulse he
arrested his descent, and setting him on his feet, looked up to discover the author
of the accident.
A miser who has parted with a lucky lottery ticket for five shillings, and finds next
day he has lost in the bargain five thousand pounds, could not show a blanker
countenance than he did on beholding the figure of Mr. Earnshaw above.
It expressed, plainer than words could do, the intensest anguish at having made
himself the instrument of thwarting his own revenge.
Had it been dark, I daresay he would have tried to remedy the mistake by smashing
Hareton's skull on the steps; but, we witnessed his salvation; and I was
presently below with my precious charge pressed to my heart.
Hindley descended more leisurely, sobered and abashed.
'It is your fault, Ellen,' he said; 'you should have kept him out of sight: you
should have taken him from me! Is he injured anywhere?'
'Injured!'
I cried angrily; 'if he is not killed, he'll be an idiot!
Oh! I wonder his mother does not rise from her grave to see how you use him.
You're worse than a heathen--treating your own flesh and blood in that manner!'
He attempted to touch the child, who, on finding himself with me, sobbed off his
terror directly.
At the first finger his father laid on him, however, he shrieked again louder than
before, and struggled as if he would go into convulsions.
'You shall not meddle with him!'
I continued. 'He hates you--they all hate you--that's
the truth! A happy family you have; and a pretty state
you're come to!'
'I shall come to a prettier, yet, Nelly,' laughed the misguided man, recovering his
hardness. 'At present, convey yourself and him away.
And hark you, Heathcliff! clear you too quite from my reach and hearing.
I wouldn't murder you to-night; unless, perhaps, I set the house on fire: but
that's as my fancy goes.'
While saying this he took a pint bottle of brandy from the dresser, and poured some
into a tumbler. 'Nay, don't!'
I entreated.
'Mr. Hindley, do take warning. Have mercy on this unfortunate boy, if you
care nothing for yourself!' 'Any one will do better for him than I
shall,' he answered.
'Have mercy on your own soul!' I said, endeavouring to snatch the glass
from his hand.
'Not I! On the contrary, I shall have great pleasure in sending it to perdition to
punish its Maker,' exclaimed the blasphemer.
'Here's to its hearty damnation!'
He drank the spirits and impatiently bade us go; terminating his command with a
sequel of horrid imprecations too bad to repeat or remember.
'It's a pity he cannot kill himself with drink,' observed Heathcliff, muttering an
echo of curses back when the door was shut. 'He's doing his very utmost; but his
constitution defies him.
Mr. Kenneth says he would wager his mare that he'll outlive any man on this side
Gimmerton, and go to the grave a hoary sinner; unless some happy chance out of the
common course befall him.'
I went into the kitchen, and sat down to lull my little lamb to sleep.
Heathcliff, as I thought, walked through to the barn.
It turned out afterwards that he only got as far as the other side the settle, when
he flung himself on a bench by the wall, removed from the fire and remained silent.
I was rocking Hareton on my knee, and humming a song that began,--
It was far in the night, and the bairnies grat, The mither beneath the mools heard
that, when Miss Cathy, who had listened to the hubbub from her room, put her head in,
and whispered,--'Are you alone, Nelly?'
'Yes, Miss,' I replied. She entered and approached the hearth.
I, supposing she was going to say something, looked up.
The expression of her face seemed disturbed and anxious.
Her lips were half asunder, as if she meant to speak, and she drew a breath; but it
escaped in a sigh instead of a sentence.
I resumed my song; not having forgotten her recent behaviour.
'Where's Heathcliff?' she said, interrupting me.
'About his work in the stable,' was my answer.
He did not contradict me; perhaps he had fallen into a doze.
There followed another long pause, during which I perceived a drop or two trickle
from Catherine's cheek to the flags. Is she sorry for her shameful conduct?--I
asked myself.
That will be a novelty: but she may come to the point--as she will--I sha'n't help her!
No, she felt small trouble regarding any subject, save her own concerns.
'Oh, dear!' she cried at last.
'I'm very unhappy!' 'A pity,' observed I.
'You're hard to please; so many friends and so few cares, and can't make yourself
content!'
'Nelly, will you keep a secret for me?' she pursued, kneeling down by me, and lifting
her winsome eyes to my face with that sort of look which turns off bad temper, even
when one has all the right in the world to indulge it.
'Is it worth keeping?' I inquired, less sulkily.
'Yes, and it worries me, and I must let it out!
I want to know what I should do. To-day, Edgar Linton has asked me to marry
him, and I've given him an answer.
Now, before I tell you whether it was a consent or denial, you tell me which it
ought to have been.' 'Really, Miss Catherine, how can I know?'
I replied.
'To be sure, considering the exhibition you performed in his presence this afternoon,
I might say it would be wise to refuse him: since he asked you after that, he must
either be hopelessly stupid or a venturesome fool.'
'If you talk so, I won't tell you any more,' she returned, peevishly rising to
her feet.
'I accepted him, Nelly. Be quick, and say whether I was wrong!'
'You accepted him! Then what good is it discussing the matter?
You have pledged your word, and cannot retract.'
'But say whether I should have done so-- do!' she exclaimed in an irritated tone;
chafing her hands together, and frowning.
'There are many things to be considered before that question can be answered
properly,' I said, sententiously. 'First and foremost, do you love Mr.
Edgar?'
'Who can help it? Of course I do,' she answered.
Then I put her through the following catechism: for a girl of twenty-two it was
not injudicious.
'Why do you love him, Miss Cathy?' 'Nonsense, I do--that's sufficient.'
'By no means; you must say why?' 'Well, because he is handsome, and pleasant
to be with.'
'Bad!' was my commentary. 'And because he is young and cheerful.'
'Bad, still.' 'And because he loves me.'
'Indifferent, coming there.'
'And he will be rich, and I shall like to be the greatest woman of the neighbourhood,
and I shall be proud of having such a husband.'
'Worst of all.
And now, say how you love him?' 'As everybody loves--You're silly, Nelly.'
'Not at all--Answer.'
'I love the ground under his feet, and the air over his head, and everything he
touches, and every word he says. I love all his looks, and all his actions,
and him entirely and altogether.
There now!' 'And why?'
'Nay; you are making a jest of it: it is exceedingly ill-natured!
It's no jest to me!' said the young lady, scowling, and turning her face to the fire.
'I'm very far from jesting, Miss Catherine,' I replied.
'You love Mr. Edgar because he is handsome, and young, and cheerful, and rich, and
loves you.
The last, however, goes for nothing: you would love him without that, probably; and
with it you wouldn't, unless he possessed the four former attractions.'
'No, to be sure not: I should only pity him--hate him, perhaps, if he were ugly,
and a clown.'
'But there are several other handsome, rich young men in the world: handsomer,
possibly, and richer than he is. What should hinder you from loving them?'
'If there be any, they are out of my way: I've seen none like Edgar.'
'You may see some; and he won't always be handsome, and young, and may not always be
rich.'
'He is now; and I have only to do with the present.
I wish you would speak rationally.' 'Well, that settles it: if you have only to
do with the present, marry Mr. Linton.'
'I don't want your permission for that--I shall marry him: and yet you have not
told me whether I'm right.' 'Perfectly right; if people be right to
marry only for the present.
And now, let us hear what you are unhappy about.
Your brother will be pleased; the old lady and gentleman will not object, I think; you
will escape from a disorderly, comfortless home into a wealthy, respectable one; and
you love Edgar, and Edgar loves you.
All seems smooth and easy: where is the obstacle?'
'Here! and here!' replied Catherine, striking one hand on her forehead, and the
other on her breast: 'in whichever place the soul lives.
In my soul and in my heart, I'm convinced I'm wrong!'
'That's very strange! I cannot make it out.'
'It's my secret.
But if you will not mock at me, I'll explain it: I can't do it distinctly; but
I'll give you a feeling of how I feel.'
She seated herself by me again: her countenance grew sadder and graver, and her
clasped hands trembled.
'Nelly, do you never dream queer dreams?' she said, suddenly, after some minutes'
reflection. 'Yes, now and then,' I answered.
'And so do I.
I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my
ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the
colour of my mind.
And this is one: I'm going to tell it--but take care not to smile at any part of it.'
'Oh! don't, Miss Catherine!' I cried.
'We're dismal enough without conjuring up ghosts and visions to perplex us.
Come, come, be merry and like yourself! Look at little Hareton!
he's dreaming nothing dreary.
How sweetly he smiles in his sleep!' 'Yes; and how sweetly his father curses in
his solitude!
You remember him, I daresay, when he was just such another as that chubby thing:
nearly as young and innocent.
However, Nelly, I shall oblige you to listen: it's not long; and I've no power to
be merry to-night.' 'I won't hear it, I won't hear it!'
I repeated, hastily.
I was superstitious about dreams then, and am still; and Catherine had an unusual
gloom in her aspect, that made me dread something from which I might shape a
prophecy, and foresee a fearful catastrophe.
She was vexed, but she did not proceed. Apparently taking up another subject, she
recommenced in a short time.
'If I were in heaven, Nelly, I should be extremely miserable.'
'Because you are not fit to go there,' I answered.
'All sinners would be miserable in heaven.'
'But it is not for that. I dreamt once that I was there.'
'I tell you I won't hearken to your dreams, Miss Catherine!
I'll go to bed,' I interrupted again.
She laughed, and held me down; for I made a motion to leave my chair.
'This is nothing,' cried she: 'I was only going to say that heaven did not seem to be
my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were
so angry that they flung me out into the
middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy.
That will do to explain my secret, as well as the other.
I've no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the
wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn't have thought
of it.
It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him:
and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am.
Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton's is as
different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.'
Ere this speech ended I became sensible of Heathcliff's presence.
Having noticed a slight movement, I turned my head, and saw him rise from the bench,
and steal out noiselessly.
He had listened till he heard Catherine say it would degrade her to marry him, and then
he stayed to hear no further.
My companion, sitting on the ground, was prevented by the back of the settle from
remarking his presence or departure; but I started, and bade her hush!
'Why?' she asked, gazing nervously round.
'Joseph is here,' I answered, catching opportunely the roll of his cartwheels up
the road; 'and Heathcliff will come in with him.
I'm not sure whether he were not at the door this moment.'
'Oh, he couldn't overhear me at the door!' said she.
'Give me Hareton, while you get the supper, and when it is ready ask me to sup with
you.
I want to cheat my uncomfortable conscience, and be convinced that
Heathcliff has no notion of these things. He has not, has he?
He does not know what being in love is!'
'I see no reason that he should not know, as well as you,' I returned; 'and if you
are his choice, he'll be the most unfortunate creature that ever was born!
As soon as you become Mrs. Linton, he loses friend, and love, and all!
Have you considered how you'll bear the separation, and how he'll bear to be quite
deserted in the world?
Because, Miss Catherine--' 'He quite deserted! we separated!' she
exclaimed, with an accent of indignation. 'Who is to separate us, pray?
They'll meet the fate of Milo!
Not as long as I live, Ellen: for no mortal creature.
Every Linton on the face of the earth might melt into nothing before I could consent to
forsake Heathcliff.
Oh, that's not what I intend--that's not what I mean!
I shouldn't be Mrs. Linton were such a price demanded!
He'll be as much to me as he has been all his lifetime.
Edgar must shake off his antipathy, and tolerate him, at least.
He will, when he learns my true feelings towards him.
Nelly, I see now you think me a selfish wretch; but did it never strike you that if
Heathcliff and I married, we should be beggars? whereas, if I marry Linton I can
aid Heathcliff to rise, and place him out of my brother's power.'
'With your husband's money, Miss Catherine?'
I asked.
'You'll find him not so pliable as you calculate upon: and, though I'm hardly a
judge, I think that's the worst motive you've given yet for being the wife of
young Linton.'
'It is not,' retorted she; 'it is the best! The others were the satisfaction of my
whims: and for Edgar's sake, too, to satisfy him.
This is for the sake of one who comprehends in his person my feelings to Edgar and
myself.
I cannot express it; but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is or
should be an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation, if I were
entirely contained here?
My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and
felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself.
If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all
else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger:
I should not seem a part of it.--My love for
Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as
winter changes the trees.
My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little
visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff!
He's always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a
pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So don't talk of our separation again: it
is impracticable; and--'
She paused, and hid her face in the folds of my gown; but I jerked it forcibly away.
I was out of patience with her folly!
'If I can make any sense of your nonsense, Miss,' I said, 'it only goes to convince me
that you are ignorant of the duties you undertake in marrying; or else that you are
a wicked, unprincipled girl.
But trouble me with no more secrets: I'll not promise to keep them.'
'You'll keep that?' she asked, eagerly. 'No, I'll not promise,' I repeated.
She was about to insist, when the entrance of Joseph finished our conversation; and
Catherine removed her seat to a corner, and nursed Hareton, while I made the supper.
After it was cooked, my fellow-servant and I began to quarrel who should carry some to
Mr. Hindley; and we didn't settle it till all was nearly cold.
Then we came to the agreement that we would let him ask, if he wanted any; for we
feared particularly to go into his presence when he had been some time alone.
'And how isn't that nowt comed in fro' th' field, be this time?
What is he about? girt idle seeght!' demanded the old man, looking round for
Heathcliff.
'I'll call him,' I replied. 'He's in the barn, I've no doubt.'
I went and called, but got no answer.
On returning, I whispered to Catherine that he had heard a good part of what she said,
I was sure; and told how I saw him quit the kitchen just as she complained of her
brother's conduct regarding him.
She jumped up in a fine fright, flung Hareton on to the settle, and ran to seek
for her friend herself; not taking leisure to consider why she was so flurried, or how
her talk would have affected him.
She was absent such a while that Joseph proposed we should wait no longer.
He cunningly conjectured they were staying away in order to avoid hearing his
protracted blessing.
They were 'ill eneugh for ony fahl manners,' he affirmed.
And on their behalf he added that night a special prayer to the usual quarter-of-an-
hour's supplication before meat, and would have tacked another to the end of the
grace, had not his young mistress broken in
upon him with a hurried command that he must run down the road, and, wherever
Heathcliff had rambled, find and make him re-enter directly!
'I want to speak to him, and I must, before I go upstairs,' she said.
'And the gate is open: he is somewhere out of hearing; for he would not reply, though
I shouted at the top of the fold as loud as I could.'
Joseph objected at first; she was too much in earnest, however, to suffer
contradiction; and at last he placed his hat on his head, and walked grumbling
forth.
Meantime, Catherine paced up and down the floor, exclaiming--'I wonder where he is--I
wonder where he can be! What did I say, Nelly?
I've forgotten.
Was he vexed at my bad humour this afternoon?
Dear! tell me what I've said to grieve him? I do wish he'd come.
I do wish he would!'
'What a noise for nothing!' I cried, though rather uneasy myself.
'What a trifle scares you!
It's surely no great cause of alarm that Heathcliff should take a moonlight saunter
on the moors, or even lie too sulky to speak to us in the hay-loft.
I'll engage he's lurking there.
See if I don't ferret him out!' I departed to renew my search; its result
was disappointment, and Joseph's quest ended in the same.
'Yon lad gets war und war!' observed he on re-entering.
'He's left th' gate at t' full swing, and Miss's pony has trodden dahn two rigs o'
corn, and plottered through, raight o'er into t' meadow!
Hahsomdiver, t' maister 'ull play t' devil to-morn, and he'll do weel.
He's patience itsseln wi' sich careless, offald craters--patience itsseln he is!
Bud he'll not be soa allus--yah's see, all on ye!
Yah mun'n't drive him out of his heead for nowt!'
'Have you found Heathcliff, you ass?' interrupted Catherine.
'Have you been looking for him, as I ordered?'
'I sud more likker look for th' horse,' he replied.
'It 'ud be to more sense.
Bud I can look for norther horse nur man of a neeght loike this--as black as t'
chimbley! und Heathcliff's noan t' chap to coom at my whistle--happen he'll be less
hard o' hearing wi' ye!'
It was a very dark evening for summer: the clouds appeared inclined to thunder,
and I said we had better all sit down; the approaching rain would be certain to bring
him home without further trouble.
However, Catherine would not be persuaded into tranquillity.
She kept wandering to and fro, from the gate to the door, in a state of agitation
which permitted no repose; and at length took up a permanent situation on one side
of the wall, near the road: where, heedless
of my expostulations and the growling thunder, and the great drops that began to
plash around her, she remained, calling at intervals, and then listening, and then
crying outright.
She beat Hareton, or any child, at a good passionate fit of crying.
About midnight, while we still sat up, the storm came rattling over the Heights in
full fury.
There was a violent wind, as well as thunder, and either one or the other split
a tree off at the corner of the building: a huge bough fell across the roof, and
knocked down a portion of the east chimney-
stack, sending a clatter of stones and soot into the kitchen-fire.
We thought a bolt had fallen in the middle of us; and Joseph swung on to his knees,
beseeching the Lord to remember the patriarchs Noah and Lot, and, as in former
times, spare the righteous, though he smote the ungodly.
I felt some sentiment that it must be a judgment on us also.
The Jonah, in my mind, was Mr. Earnshaw; and I shook the handle of his den that I
might ascertain if he were yet living.
He replied audibly enough, in a fashion which made my companion vociferate, more
clamorously than before, that a wide distinction might be drawn between saints
like himself and sinners like his master.
But the uproar passed away in twenty minutes, leaving us all unharmed; excepting
Cathy, who got thoroughly drenched for her obstinacy in refusing to take shelter, and
standing bonnetless and shawl-less to catch
as much water as she could with her hair and clothes.
She came in and lay down on the settle, all soaked as she was, turning her face to the
back, and putting her hands before it.
'Well, Miss!' I exclaimed, touching her shoulder; 'you
are not bent on getting your death, are you?
Do you know what o'clock it is?
Half-past twelve. Come, come to bed! there's no use waiting
any longer on that foolish boy: he'll be gone to Gimmerton, and he'll stay there
now.
He guesses we shouldn't wait for him till this late hour: at least, he guesses that
only Mr. Hindley would be up; and he'd rather avoid having the door opened by the
master.'
'Nay, nay, he's noan at Gimmerton,' said Joseph.
'I's niver wonder but he's at t' bothom of a bog-hoile.
This visitation worn't for nowt, and I wod hev' ye to look out, Miss--yah muh be t'
next. Thank Hivin for all!
All warks togither for gooid to them as is chozzen, and piked out fro' th' rubbidge!
Yah knaw whet t' Scripture ses.'
And he began quoting several texts, referring us to chapters and verses where
we might find them.
I, having vainly begged the wilful girl to rise and remove her wet things, left him
preaching and her shivering, and betook myself to bed with little Hareton, who
slept as fast as if everyone had been sleeping round him.
I heard Joseph read on a while afterwards; then I distinguished his slow step on the
ladder, and then I dropped asleep.
Coming down somewhat later than usual, I saw, by the sunbeams piercing the chinks of
the shutters, Miss Catherine still seated near the fireplace.
The house-door was ajar, too; light entered from its unclosed windows; Hindley had come
out, and stood on the kitchen hearth, haggard and drowsy.
'What ails you, Cathy?' he was saying when I entered: 'you look as dismal as a drowned
whelp. Why are you so damp and pale, child?'
'I've been wet,' she answered reluctantly, 'and I'm cold, that's all.'
'Oh, she is naughty!' I cried, perceiving the master to be
tolerably sober.
'She got steeped in the shower of yesterday evening, and there she has sat the night
through, and I couldn't prevail on her to stir.'
Mr. Earnshaw stared at us in surprise.
'The night through,' he repeated. 'What kept her up? not fear of the thunder,
surely? That was over hours since.'
Neither of us wished to mention Heathcliff's absence, as long as we could
conceal it; so I replied, I didn't know how she took it into her head to sit up; and
she said nothing.
The morning was fresh and cool; I threw back the lattice, and presently the room
filled with sweet scents from the garden; but Catherine called peevishly to me,
'Ellen, shut the window.
I'm starving!' And her teeth chattered as she shrank
closer to the almost extinguished embers.
'She's ill,' said Hindley, taking her wrist; 'I suppose that's the reason she
would not go to bed. Damn it!
I don't want to be troubled with more sickness here.
What took you into the rain?'
'Running after t' lads, as usuald!' croaked Joseph, catching an opportunity from our
hesitation to thrust in his evil tongue.
'If I war yah, maister, I'd just slam t' boards i' their faces all on 'em, gentle
and simple!
Never a day ut yah're off, but yon cat o' Linton comes sneaking hither; and Miss
Nelly, shoo's a fine lass! shoo sits watching for ye i' t' kitchen; and as
yah're in at one door, he's out at t'other;
and, then, wer grand lady goes a-courting of her side!
It's bonny behaviour, lurking amang t' fields, after twelve o' t' night, wi' that
fahl, flaysome divil of a gipsy, Heathcliff!
They think I'm blind; but I'm noan: nowt ut t' soart!--I seed young Linton boath
coming and going, and I seed yah' (directing his discourse to me), 'yah gooid
fur nowt, slattenly witch! nip up and bolt
into th' house, t' minute yah heard t' maister's horse-fit clatter up t' road.'
'Silence, eavesdropper!' cried Catherine; 'none of your insolence before me!
Edgar Linton came yesterday by chance, Hindley; and it was I who told him to be
off: because I knew you would not like to have met him as you were.'
'You lie, Cathy, no doubt,' answered her brother, 'and you are a confounded
simpleton! But never mind Linton at present: tell me,
were you not with Heathcliff last night?
Speak the truth, now.
You need not be afraid of harming him: though I hate him as much as ever, he did
me a good turn a short time since that will make my conscience tender of breaking his
neck.
To prevent it, I shall send him about his business this very morning; and after he's
gone, I'd advise you all to look sharp: I shall only have the more humour for you.'
'I never saw Heathcliff last night,' answered Catherine, beginning to sob
bitterly: 'and if you do turn him out of doors, I'll go with him.
But, perhaps, you'll never have an opportunity: perhaps, he's gone.'
Here she burst into uncontrollable grief, and the remainder of her words were
inarticulate.
Hindley lavished on her a torrent of scornful abuse, and bade her get to her
room immediately, or she shouldn't cry for nothing!
I obliged her to obey; and I shall never forget what a scene she acted when we
reached her chamber: it terrified me. I thought she was going mad, and I begged
Joseph to run for the doctor.
It proved the commencement of delirium: Mr. Kenneth, as soon as he saw her, pronounced
her dangerously ill; she had a fever.
He bled her, and he told me to let her live on whey and water-gruel, and take care she
did not throw herself downstairs or out of the window; and then he left: for he had
enough to do in the parish, where two or
three miles was the ordinary distance between cottage and cottage.
Though I cannot say I made a gentle nurse, and Joseph and the master were no better,
and though our patient was as wearisome and headstrong as a patient could be, she
weathered it through.
Old Mrs. Linton paid us several visits, to be sure, and set things to rights, and
scolded and ordered us all; and when Catherine was convalescent, she insisted on
conveying her to Thrushcross Grange: for which deliverance we were very grateful.
But the poor dame had reason to repent of her kindness: she and her husband both took
the fever, and died within a few days of each other.
Our young lady returned to us saucier and more passionate, and haughtier than ever.
Heathcliff had never been heard of since the evening of the thunder-storm; and, one
day, I had the misfortune, when she had provoked me exceedingly, to lay the blame
of his disappearance on her: where indeed it belonged, as she well knew.
From that period, for several months, she ceased to hold any communication with me,
save in the relation of a mere servant.
Joseph fell under a ban also: he would speak his mind, and lecture her all the
same as if she were a little girl; and she esteemed herself a woman, and our mistress,
and thought that her recent illness gave
her a claim to be treated with consideration.
Then the doctor had said that she would not bear crossing much; she ought to have her
own way; and it was nothing less than murder in her eyes for any one to presume
to stand up and contradict her.
From Mr. Earnshaw and his companions she kept aloof; and tutored by Kenneth, and
serious threats of a fit that often attended her rages, her brother allowed her
whatever she pleased to demand, and
generally avoided aggravating her fiery temper.
He was rather too indulgent in humouring her caprices; not from affection, but from
pride: he wished earnestly to see her bring honour to the family by an alliance with
the Lintons, and as long as she let him
alone she might trample on us like slaves, for aught he cared!
Edgar Linton, as multitudes have been before and will be after him, was
infatuated: and believed himself the happiest man alive on the day he led her to
Gimmerton Chapel, three years subsequent to his father's death.
Much against my inclination, I was persuaded to leave Wuthering Heights and
accompany her here.
Little Hareton was nearly five years old, and I had just begun to teach him his
letters. We made a sad parting; but Catherine's
tears were more powerful than ours.
When I refused to go, and when she found her entreaties did not move me, she went
lamenting to her husband and brother.
The former offered me munificent wages; the latter ordered me to pack up: he wanted no
women in the house, he said, now that there was no mistress; and as to Hareton, the
curate should take him in hand, by-and-by.
And so I had but one choice left: to do as I was ordered.
I told the master he got rid of all decent people only to run to ruin a little faster;
I kissed Hareton, said good-by; and since then he has been a stranger: and it's very
queer to think it, but I've no doubt he has
completely forgotten all about Ellen Dean, and that he was ever more than all the
world to her and she to him!
At this point of the housekeeper's story she chanced to glance towards the time-
piece over the chimney; and was in amazement on seeing the minute-hand measure
half-past one.
She would not hear of staying a second longer: in truth, I felt rather disposed to
defer the sequel of her narrative myself.
And now that she is vanished to her rest, and I have meditated for another hour or
two, I shall summon courage to go also, in spite of aching laziness of head and limbs.
>
CHAPTER X
A charming introduction to a hermit's life! Four weeks' torture, tossing, and sickness!
Oh, these bleak winds and bitter northern skies, and impassable roads, and dilatory
country surgeons!
And oh, this dearth of the human physiognomy! and, worse than all, the
terrible intimation of Kenneth that I need not expect to be out of doors till spring!
Mr. Heathcliff has just honoured me with a call.
About seven days ago he sent me a brace of grouse--the last of the season.
Scoundrel!
He is not altogether guiltless in this illness of mine; and that I had a great
mind to tell him.
But, alas! how could I offend a man who was charitable enough to sit at my bedside a
good hour, and talk on some other subject than pills and draughts, blisters and
leeches?
This is quite an easy interval. I am too weak to read; yet I feel as if I
could enjoy something interesting. Why not have up Mrs. Dean to finish her
tale?
I can recollect its chief incidents, as far as she had gone.
Yes: I remember her hero had run off, and never been heard of for three years; and
the heroine was married.
I'll ring: she'll be delighted to find me capable of talking cheerfully.
Mrs. Dean came. 'It wants twenty minutes, sir, to taking
the medicine,' she commenced.
'Away, away with it!' I replied; 'I desire to have--'
'The doctor says you must drop the powders.'
'With all my heart!
Don't interrupt me. Come and take your seat here.
Keep your fingers from that bitter phalanx of vials.
Draw your knitting out of your pocket--that will do--now continue the history of Mr.
Heathcliff, from where you left off, to the present day.
Did he finish his education on the Continent, and come back a gentleman? or
did he get a sizar's place at college, or escape to America, and earn honours by
drawing blood from his foster-country? or
make a fortune more promptly on the English highways?'
'He may have done a little in all these vocations, Mr. Lockwood; but I couldn't
give my word for any.
I stated before that I didn't know how he gained his money; neither am I aware of the
means he took to raise his mind from the savage ignorance into which it was sunk:
but, with your leave, I'll proceed in my
own fashion, if you think it will amuse and not weary you.
Are you feeling better this morning?' 'Much.'
'That's good news.'
I got Miss Catherine and myself to Thrushcross Grange; and, to my agreeable
disappointment, she behaved infinitely better than I dared to expect.
She seemed almost over-fond of Mr. Linton; and even to his sister she showed plenty of
affection. They were both very attentive to her
comfort, certainly.
It was not the thorn bending to the honeysuckles, but the honeysuckles
embracing the thorn.
There were no mutual concessions: one stood erect, and the others yielded: and who can
be ill-natured and bad-tempered when they encounter neither opposition nor
indifference?
I observed that Mr. Edgar had a deep-rooted fear of ruffling her humour.
He concealed it from her; but if ever he heard me answer sharply, or saw any other
servant grow cloudy at some imperious order of hers, he would show his trouble by a
frown of displeasure that never darkened on his own account.
He many a time spoke sternly to me about my pertness; and averred that the stab of a
knife could not inflict a worse pang than he suffered at seeing his lady vexed.
Not to grieve a kind master, I learned to be less touchy; and, for the space of half
a year, the gunpowder lay as harmless as sand, because no fire came near to explode
it.
Catherine had seasons of gloom and silence now and then: they were respected with
sympathising silence by her husband, who ascribed them to an alteration in her
constitution, produced by her perilous
illness; as she was never subject to depression of spirits before.
The return of sunshine was welcomed by answering sunshine from him.
I believe I may assert that they were really in possession of deep and growing
happiness. It ended.
Well, we must be for ourselves in the long run; the mild and generous are only
more justly selfish than the domineering; and it ended when circumstances caused each
to feel that the one's interest was not the
chief consideration in the other's thoughts.
On a mellow evening in September, I was coming from the garden with a heavy basket
of apples which I had been gathering.
It had got dusk, and the moon looked over the high wall of the court, causing
undefined shadows to lurk in the corners of the numerous projecting portions of the
building.
I set my burden on the house-steps by the kitchen-door, and lingered to rest, and
drew in a few more breaths of the soft, sweet air; my eyes were on the moon, and my
back to the entrance, when I heard a voice behind me say,--'Nelly, is that you?'
It was a deep voice, and foreign in tone; yet there was something in the manner of
pronouncing my name which made it sound familiar.
I turned about to discover who spoke, fearfully; for the doors were shut, and I
had seen nobody on approaching the steps.
Something stirred in the porch; and, moving nearer, I distinguished a tall man dressed
in dark clothes, with dark face and hair.
He leant against the side, and held his fingers on the latch as if intending to
open for himself. 'Who can it be?'
I thought.
'Mr. Earnshaw? Oh, no!
The voice has no resemblance to his.'
'I have waited here an hour,' he resumed, while I continued staring; 'and the whole
of that time all round has been as still as death.
I dared not enter.
You do not know me? Look, I'm not a stranger!'
A ray fell on his features; the cheeks were sallow, and half covered with black
whiskers; the brows lowering, the eyes deep-set and singular.
I remembered the eyes.
'What!' I cried, uncertain whether to regard him as
a worldly visitor, and I raised my hands in amazement.
'What! you come back?
Is it really you? Is it?'
'Yes, Heathcliff,' he replied, glancing from me up to the windows, which reflected
a score of glittering moons, but showed no lights from within.
'Are they at home? where is she?
Nelly, you are not glad! you needn't be so disturbed.
Is she here? Speak!
I want to have one word with her--your mistress.
Go, and say some person from Gimmerton desires to see her.'
'How will she take it?'
I exclaimed. 'What will she do?
The surprise bewilders me--it will put her out of her head!
And you are Heathcliff!
But altered! Nay, there's no comprehending it.
Have you been for a soldier?' 'Go and carry my message,' he interrupted,
impatiently.
'I'm in hell till you do!' He lifted the latch, and I entered; but
when I got to the parlour where Mr. and Mrs. Linton were, I could not persuade
myself to proceed.
At length I resolved on making an excuse to ask if they would have the candles lighted,
and I opened the door.
They sat together in a window whose lattice lay back against the wall, and displayed,
beyond the garden trees, and the wild green park, the valley of Gimmerton, with a long
line of mist winding nearly to its top (for
very soon after you pass the chapel, as you may have noticed, the sough that runs from
the marshes joins a beck which follows the bend of the glen).
Wuthering Heights rose above this silvery vapour; but our old house was invisible; it
rather dips down on the other side.
Both the room and its occupants, and the scene they gazed on, looked wondrously
peaceful.
I shrank reluctantly from performing my errand; and was actually going away leaving
it unsaid, after having put my question about the candles, when a sense of my folly
compelled me to return, and mutter, 'A
person from Gimmerton wishes to see you ma'am.'
'What does he want?' asked Mrs. Linton. 'I did not question him,' I answered.
'Well, close the curtains, Nelly,' she said; 'and bring up tea.
I'll be back again directly.' She quitted the apartment; Mr. Edgar
inquired, carelessly, who it was.
'Some one mistress does not expect,' I replied.
'That Heathcliff--you recollect him, sir-- who used to live at Mr. Earnshaw's.'
'What! the gipsy--the ploughboy?' he cried.
'Why did you not say so to Catherine?' 'Hush! you must not call him by those
names, master,' I said. 'She'd be sadly grieved to hear you.
She was nearly heartbroken when he ran off.
I guess his return will make a jubilee to her.'
Mr. Linton walked to a window on the other side of the room that overlooked the court.
He unfastened it, and leant out.
I suppose they were below, for he exclaimed quickly: 'Don't stand there, love!
Bring the person in, if it be anyone particular.'
Ere long, I heard the click of the latch, and Catherine flew up-stairs, breathless
and wild; too excited to show gladness: indeed, by her face, you would rather have
surmised an awful calamity.
'Oh, Edgar, Edgar!' she panted, flinging her arms round his neck.
'Oh, Edgar darling! Heathcliff's come back--he is!'
And she tightened her embrace to a squeeze.
'Well, well,' cried her husband, crossly, 'don't strangle me for that!
He never struck me as such a marvellous treasure.
There is no need to be frantic!'
'I know you didn't like him,' she answered, repressing a little the intensity of her
delight. 'Yet, for my sake, you must be friends now.
Shall I tell him to come up?'
'Here,' he said, 'into the parlour?' 'Where else?' she asked.
He looked vexed, and suggested the kitchen as a more suitable place for him.
Mrs. Linton eyed him with a droll expression--half angry, half laughing at
his fastidiousness. 'No,' she added, after a while; 'I cannot
sit in the kitchen.
Set two tables here, Ellen: one for your master and Miss Isabella, being gentry; the
other for Heathcliff and myself, being of the lower orders.
Will that please you, dear?
Or must I have a fire lighted elsewhere? If so, give directions.
I'll run down and secure my guest. I'm afraid the joy is too great to be
real!'
She was about to dart off again; but Edgar arrested her.
'You bid him step up,' he said, addressing me; 'and, Catherine, try to be
glad, without being absurd.
The whole household need not witness the sight of your welcoming a runaway servant
as a brother.'
I descended, and found Heathcliff waiting under the porch, evidently anticipating an
invitation to enter.
He followed my guidance without waste of words, and I ushered him into the presence
of the master and mistress, whose flushed cheeks betrayed signs of warm talking.
But the lady's glowed with another feeling when her friend appeared at the door: she
sprang forward, took both his hands, and led him to Linton; and then she seized
Linton's reluctant fingers and crushed them into his.
Now, fully revealed by the fire and candlelight, I was amazed, more than ever,
to behold the transformation of Heathcliff.
He had grown a tall, athletic, well-formed man; beside whom my master seemed quite
slender and youth-like. His upright carriage suggested the idea of
his having been in the army.
His countenance was much older in expression and decision of feature than Mr.
Linton's; it looked intelligent, and retained no marks of former degradation.
A half-civilised ferocity lurked yet in the depressed brows and eyes full of black
fire, but it was subdued; and his manner was even dignified: quite divested of
roughness, though stern for grace.
My master's surprise equalled or exceeded mine: he remained for a minute at a loss
how to address the ploughboy, as he had called him.
Heathcliff dropped his slight hand, and stood looking at him coolly till he chose
to speak. 'Sit down, sir,' he said, at length.
'Mrs. Linton, recalling old times, would have me give you a cordial reception; and,
of course, I am gratified when anything occurs to please her.'
'And I also,' answered Heathcliff, 'especially if it be anything in which I
have a part. I shall stay an hour or two willingly.'
He took a seat opposite Catherine, who kept her gaze fixed on him as if she feared he
would vanish were she to remove it.
He did not raise his to her often: a quick glance now and then sufficed; but it
flashed back, each time more confidently, the undisguised delight he drank from hers.
They were too much absorbed in their mutual joy to suffer embarrassment.
Not so Mr. Edgar: he grew pale with pure annoyance: a feeling that reached its
climax when his lady rose, and stepping across the rug, seized Heathcliff's hands
again, and laughed like one beside herself.
'I shall think it a dream to-morrow!' she cried.
'I shall not be able to believe that I have seen, and touched, and spoken to you once
more.
And yet, cruel Heathcliff! you don't deserve this welcome.
To be absent and silent for three years, and never to think of me!'
'A little more than you have thought of me,' he murmured.
'I heard of your marriage, Cathy, not long since; and, while waiting in the yard
below, I meditated this plan--just to have one glimpse of your face, a stare of
surprise, perhaps, and pretended pleasure;
afterwards settle my score with Hindley; and then prevent the law by doing execution
on myself.
Your welcome has put these ideas out of my mind; but beware of meeting me with another
aspect next time! Nay, you'll not drive me off again.
You were really sorry for me, were you?
Well, there was cause. I've fought through a bitter life since I
last heard your voice; and you must forgive me, for I struggled only for you!'
'Catherine, unless we are to have cold tea, please to come to the table,' interrupted
Linton, striving to preserve his ordinary tone, and a due measure of politeness.
'Mr. Heathcliff will have a long walk, wherever he may lodge to-night; and I'm
thirsty.'
She took her post before the urn; and Miss Isabella came, summoned by the bell; then,
having handed their chairs forward, I left the room.
The meal hardly endured ten minutes.
Catherine's cup was never filled: she could neither eat nor drink.
Edgar had made a slop in his saucer, and scarcely swallowed a mouthful.
Their guest did not protract his stay that evening above an hour longer.
I asked, as he departed, if he went to Gimmerton?
'No, to Wuthering Heights,' he answered: 'Mr. Earnshaw invited me, when I called
this morning.' Mr. Earnshaw invited him! and he called
on Mr. Earnshaw!
I pondered this sentence painfully, after he was gone.
Is he turning out a bit of a hypocrite, and coming into the country to work mischief
under a cloak?
I mused: I had a presentiment in the bottom of my heart that he had better have
remained away.
About the middle of the night, I was wakened from my first nap by Mrs. Linton
gliding into my chamber, taking a seat on my bedside, and pulling me by the hair to
rouse me.
'I cannot rest, Ellen,' she said, by way of apology.
'And I want some living creature to keep me company in my happiness!
Edgar is sulky, because I'm glad of a thing that does not interest him: he refuses to
open his mouth, except to utter pettish, silly speeches; and he affirmed I was cruel
and selfish for wishing to talk when he was so sick and sleepy.
He always contrives to be sick at the least cross!
I gave a few sentences of commendation to Heathcliff, and he, either for a headache
or a pang of envy, began to cry: so I got up and left him.'
'What use is it praising Heathcliff to him?'
I answered.
'As lads they had an aversion to each other, and Heathcliff would hate just as
much to hear him praised: it's human nature.
Let Mr. Linton alone about him, unless you would like an open quarrel between them.'
'But does it not show great weakness?' pursued she.
'I'm not envious: I never feel hurt at the brightness of Isabella's yellow hair and
the whiteness of her skin, at her dainty elegance, and the fondness all the family
exhibit for her.
Even you, Nelly, if we have a dispute sometimes, you back Isabella at once; and I
yield like a foolish mother: I call her a darling, and flatter her into a good
temper.
It pleases her brother to see us cordial, and that pleases me.
But they are very much alike: they are spoiled children, and fancy the world was
made for their accommodation; and though I humour both, I think a smart chastisement
might improve them all the same.'
'You're mistaken, Mrs. Linton,' said I. 'They humour you: I know what there would
be to do if they did not.
You can well afford to indulge their passing whims as long as their business is
to anticipate all your desires.
You may, however, fall out, at last, over something of equal consequence to both
sides; and then those you term weak are very capable of being as obstinate as you.'
'And then we shall fight to the death, sha'n't we, Nelly?' she returned, laughing.
'No! I tell you, I have such faith in Linton's love, that I believe I might kill
him, and he wouldn't wish to retaliate.'
I advised her to value him the more for his affection.
'I do,' she answered, 'but he needn't resort to whining for trifles.
It is childish and, instead of melting into tears because I said that Heathcliff was
now worthy of anyone's regard, and it would honour the first gentleman in the country
to be his friend, he ought to have said it
for me, and been delighted from sympathy.
He must get accustomed to him, and he may as well like him: considering how
Heathcliff has reason to object to him, I'm sure he behaved excellently!'
'What do you think of his going to Wuthering Heights?'
I inquired.
'He is reformed in every respect, apparently: quite a Christian: offering the
right hand of fellowship to his enemies all around!'
'He explained it,' she replied.
'I wonder as much as you.
He said he called to gather information concerning me from you, supposing you
resided there still; and Joseph told Hindley, who came out and fell to
questioning him of what he had been doing,
and how he had been living; and finally, desired him to walk in.
There were some persons sitting at cards; Heathcliff joined them; my brother lost
some money to him, and, finding him plentifully supplied, he requested that he
would come again in the evening: to which he consented.
Hindley is too reckless to select his acquaintance prudently: he doesn't trouble
himself to reflect on the causes he might have for mistrusting one whom he has basely
injured.
But Heathcliff affirms his principal reason for resuming a connection with his ancient
persecutor is a wish to install himself in quarters at walking distance from the
Grange, and an attachment to the house
where we lived together; and likewise a hope that I shall have more opportunities
of seeing him there than I could have if he settled in Gimmerton.
He means to offer liberal payment for permission to lodge at the Heights; and
doubtless my brother's covetousness will prompt him to accept the terms: he was
always greedy; though what he grasps with one hand he flings away with the other.'
'It's a nice place for a young man to fix his dwelling in!' said I.
'Have you no fear of the consequences, Mrs. Linton?'
'None for my friend,' she replied: 'his strong head will keep him from danger; a
little for Hindley: but he can't be made morally worse than he is; and I stand
between him and bodily harm.
The event of this evening has reconciled me to God and humanity!
I had risen in angry rebellion against Providence.
Oh, I've endured very, very bitter misery, Nelly!
If that creature knew how bitter, he'd be ashamed to cloud its removal with idle
petulance.
It was kindness for him which induced me to bear it alone: had I expressed the agony I
frequently felt, he would have been taught to long for its alleviation as ardently as
I.
However, it's over, and I'll take no revenge on his folly; I can afford to
suffer anything hereafter!
Should the meanest thing alive slap me on the cheek, I'd not only turn the other, but
I'd ask pardon for provoking it; and, as a proof, I'll go make my peace with Edgar
instantly.
Good-night! I'm an angel!'
In this self-complacent conviction she departed; and the success of her fulfilled
resolution was obvious on the morrow: Mr. Linton had not only abjured his peevishness
(though his spirits seemed still subdued by
Catherine's exuberance of vivacity), but he ventured no objection to her taking
Isabella with her to Wuthering Heights in the afternoon; and she rewarded him with
such a summer of sweetness and affection in
return as made the house a paradise for several days; both master and servants
profiting from the perpetual sunshine.
Heathcliff--Mr. Heathcliff I should say in future--used the liberty of visiting at
Thrushcross Grange cautiously, at first: he seemed estimating how far its owner would
bear his intrusion.
Catherine, also, deemed it judicious to moderate her expressions of pleasure in
receiving him; and he gradually established his right to be expected.
He retained a great deal of the reserve for which his boyhood was remarkable; and that
served to repress all startling demonstrations of feeling.
My master's uneasiness experienced a lull, and further circumstances diverted it into
another channel for a space.
His new source of trouble sprang from the not anticipated misfortune of Isabella
Linton evincing a sudden and irresistible attraction towards the tolerated guest.
She was at that time a charming young lady of eighteen; infantile in manners, though
possessed of keen wit, keen feelings, and a keen temper, too, if irritated.
Her brother, who loved her tenderly, was appalled at this fantastic preference.
Leaving aside the degradation of an alliance with a nameless man, and the
possible fact that his property, in default of heirs male, might pass into such a one's
power, he had sense to comprehend
Heathcliff's disposition: to know that, though his exterior was altered, his mind
was unchangeable and unchanged.
And he dreaded that mind: it revolted him: he shrank forebodingly from the idea of
committing Isabella to its keeping.
He would have recoiled still more had he been aware that her attachment rose
unsolicited, and was bestowed where it awakened no reciprocation of sentiment; for
the minute he discovered its existence he
laid the blame on Heathcliff's deliberate designing.
We had all remarked, during some time, that Miss Linton fretted and pined over
something.
She grew cross and wearisome; snapping at and teasing Catherine continually, at the
imminent risk of exhausting her limited patience.
We excused her, to a certain extent, on the plea of ill-health: she was dwindling and
fading before our eyes.
But one day, when she had been peculiarly wayward, rejecting her breakfast,
complaining that the servants did not do what she told them; that the mistress would
allow her to be nothing in the house, and
Edgar neglected her; that she had caught a cold with the doors being left open, and we
let the parlour fire go out on purpose to vex her, with a hundred yet more frivolous
accusations, Mrs. Linton peremptorily
insisted that she should get to bed; and, having scolded her heartily, threatened to
send for the doctor.
Mention of Kenneth caused her to exclaim, instantly, that her health was perfect, and
it was only Catherine's harshness which made her unhappy.
'How can you say I am harsh, you naughty fondling?' cried the mistress, amazed at
the unreasonable assertion. 'You are surely losing your reason.
When have I been hash, tell me?'
'Yesterday,' sobbed Isabella, 'and now!' 'Yesterday!' said her sister-in-law.
'On what occasion?'
'In our walk along the moor: you told me to ramble where I pleased, while you sauntered
on with Mr. Heathcliff!' 'And that's your notion of harshness?' said
Catherine, laughing.
'It was no hint that your company was superfluous?
We didn't care whether you kept with us or not; I merely thought Heathcliff's talk
would have nothing entertaining for your ears.'
'Oh, no,' wept the young lady; 'you wished me away, because you knew I liked to be
there!' 'Is she sane?' asked Mrs. Linton, appealing
to me.
'I'll repeat our conversation, word for word, Isabella; and you point out any charm
it could have had for you.' 'I don't mind the conversation,' she
answered: 'I wanted to be with--'
'Well?' said Catherine, perceiving her hesitate to complete the sentence.
'With him: and I won't be always sent off!' she continued, kindling up.
'You are a dog in the manger, Cathy, and desire no one to be loved but yourself!'
'You are an impertinent little monkey!' exclaimed Mrs. Linton, in surprise.
'But I'll not believe this idiotcy!
It is impossible that you can covet the admiration of Heathcliff--that you consider
him an agreeable person! I hope I have misunderstood you, Isabella?'
'No, you have not,' said the infatuated girl.
'I love him more than ever you loved Edgar, and he might love me, if you would let
him!'
'I wouldn't be you for a kingdom, then!' Catherine declared, emphatically: and she
seemed to speak sincerely. 'Nelly, help me to convince her of her
madness.
Tell her what Heathcliff is: an unreclaimed creature, without refinement, without
cultivation; an arid wilderness of furze and whinstone.
I'd as soon put that little canary into the park on a winter's day, as recommend you to
bestow your heart on him!
It is deplorable ignorance of his character, child, and nothing else, which
makes that dream enter your head.
Pray, don't imagine that he conceals depths of benevolence and affection beneath a
stern exterior!
He's not a rough diamond--a pearl- containing oyster of a rustic: he's a
fierce, pitiless, wolfish man.
I never say to him, "Let this or that enemy alone, because it would be ungenerous or
cruel to harm them;" I say, "Let them alone, because I should hate them to be
wronged:" and he'd crush you like a
sparrow's egg, Isabella, if he found you a troublesome charge.
I know he couldn't love a Linton; and yet he'd be quite capable of marrying your
fortune and expectations: avarice is growing with him a besetting sin.
There's my picture: and I'm his friend--so much so, that had he thought seriously to
catch you, I should, perhaps, have held my tongue, and let you fall into his trap.'
Miss Linton regarded her sister-in-law with indignation.
'For shame! for shame!' she repeated, angrily.
'You are worse than twenty foes, you poisonous friend!'
'Ah! you won't believe me, then?' said Catherine.
'You think I speak from wicked selfishness?'
'I'm certain you do,' retorted Isabella; 'and I shudder at you!'
'Good!' cried the other.
'Try for yourself, if that be your spirit: I have done, and yield the argument to your
saucy insolence.'-- 'And I must suffer for her egotism!' she
sobbed, as Mrs. Linton left the room.
'All, all is against me: she has blighted my single consolation.
But she uttered falsehoods, didn't she?
Mr. Heathcliff is not a fiend: he has an honourable soul, and a true one, or how
could he remember her?' 'Banish him from your thoughts, Miss,' I
said.
'He's a bird of bad omen: no mate for you. Mrs. Linton spoke strongly, and yet I can't
contradict her.
She is better acquainted with his heart than I, or any one besides; and she never
would represent him as worse than he is. Honest people don't hide their deeds.
How has he been living? how has he got rich? why is he staying at Wuthering
Heights, the house of a man whom he abhors? They say Mr. Earnshaw is worse and worse
since he came.
They sit up all night together continually, and Hindley has been borrowing money on his
land, and does nothing but play and drink: I heard only a week ago--it was Joseph who
told me--I met him at Gimmerton: "Nelly,"
he said, "we's hae a crowner's 'quest enow, at ahr folks'.
One on 'em 's a'most getten his finger cut off wi' hauding t' other fro' stickin'
hisseln loike a cawlf.
That's maister, yeah knaw, 'at 's soa up o' going tuh t' grand 'sizes.
He's noan feared o' t' bench o' judges, norther Paul, nur Peter, nur John, nur
Matthew, nor noan on 'em, not he!
He fair likes--he langs to set his brazened face agean 'em!
And yon bonny lad Heathcliff, yah mind, he's a rare 'un.
He can girn a laugh as well 's onybody at a raight divil's jest.
Does he niver say nowt of his fine living amang us, when he goes to t' Grange?
This is t' way on 't:--up at sun-down: dice, brandy, cloised shutters, und can'le-
light till next day at noon: then, t'fooil gangs banning und raving to his cham'er,
makking dacent fowks dig thur fingers i'
thur lugs fur varry shame; un' the knave, why he can caint his brass, un' ate, un'
sleep, un' off to his neighbour's to gossip wi' t' wife.
I' course, he tells Dame Catherine how her fathur's goold runs into his pocket, and
her fathur's son gallops down t' broad road, while he flees afore to oppen t'
pikes!"
Now, Miss Linton, Joseph is an old rascal, but no liar; and, if his account of
Heathcliff's conduct be true, you would never think of desiring such a husband,
would you?'
'You are leagued with the rest, Ellen!' she replied.
'I'll not listen to your slanders.
What malevolence you must have to wish to convince me that there is no happiness in
the world!'
Whether she would have got over this fancy if left to herself, or persevered in
nursing it perpetually, I cannot say: she had little time to reflect.
The day after, there was a justice-meeting at the next town; my master was obliged to
attend; and Mr. Heathcliff, aware of his absence, called rather earlier than usual.
Catherine and Isabella were sitting in the library, on hostile terms, but silent: the
latter alarmed at her recent indiscretion, and the disclosure she had made of her
secret feelings in a transient fit of
passion; the former, on mature consideration, really offended with her
companion; and, if she laughed again at her pertness, inclined to make it no laughing
matter to her.
She did laugh as she saw Heathcliff pass the window.
I was sweeping the hearth, and I noticed a mischievous smile on her lips.
Isabella, absorbed in her meditations, or a book, remained till the door opened; and it
was too late to attempt an escape, which she would gladly have done had it been
practicable.
'Come in, that's right!' exclaimed the mistress, gaily, pulling a chair to the
fire.
'Here are two people sadly in need of a third to thaw the ice between them; and you
are the very one we should both of us choose.
Heathcliff, I'm proud to show you, at last, somebody that dotes on you more than
myself. I expect you to feel flattered.
Nay, it's not Nelly; don't look at her!
My poor little sister-in-law is breaking her heart by mere contemplation of your
physical and moral beauty. It lies in your own power to be Edgar's
brother!
No, no, Isabella, you sha'n't run off,' she continued, arresting, with feigned
playfulness, the confounded girl, who had risen indignantly.
'We were quarrelling like cats about you, Heathcliff; and I was fairly beaten in
protestations of devotion and admiration: and, moreover, I was informed that if I
would but have the manners to stand aside,
my rival, as she will have herself to be, would shoot a shaft into your soul that
would fix you for ever, and send my image into eternal oblivion!'
'Catherine!' said Isabella, calling up her dignity, and disdaining to struggle from
the tight grasp that held her, 'I'd thank you to adhere to the truth and not slander
me, even in joke!
Mr. Heathcliff, be kind enough to bid this friend of yours release me: she forgets
that you and I are not intimate acquaintances; and what amuses her is
painful to me beyond expression.'
As the guest answered nothing, but took his seat, and looked thoroughly indifferent
what sentiments she cherished concerning him, she turned and whispered an earnest
appeal for liberty to her tormentor.
'By no means!' cried Mrs. Linton in answer. 'I won't be named a dog in the manger
again. You shall stay: now then!
Heathcliff, why don't you evince satisfaction at my pleasant news?
Isabella swears that the love Edgar has for me is nothing to that she entertains for
you.
I'm sure she made some speech of the kind; did she not, Ellen?
And she has fasted ever since the day before yesterday's walk, from sorrow and
rage that I despatched her out of your society under the idea of its being
unacceptable.'
'I think you belie her,' said Heathcliff, twisting his chair to face them.
'She wishes to be out of my society now, at any rate!'
And he stared hard at the object of discourse, as one might do at a strange
repulsive animal: a centipede from the Indies, for instance, which curiosity leads
one to examine in spite of the aversion it raises.
The poor thing couldn't bear that; she grew white and red in rapid succession, and,
while tears beaded her lashes, bent the strength of her small fingers to loosen the
firm clutch of Catherine; and perceiving
that as fast as she raised one finger off her arm another closed down, and she could
not remove the whole together, she began to make use of her nails; and their sharpness
presently ornamented the detainer's with crescents of red.
'There's a tigress!' exclaimed Mrs. Linton, setting her free, and shaking her hand with
pain.
'Begone, for God's sake, and hide your vixen face!
How foolish to reveal those talons to him. Can't you fancy the conclusions he'll draw?
Look, Heathcliff! they are instruments that will do execution--you must beware of your
eyes.'
'I'd wrench them off her fingers, if they ever menaced me,' he answered, brutally,
when the door had closed after her. 'But what did you mean by teasing the
creature in that manner, Cathy?
You were not speaking the truth, were you?' 'I assure you I was,' she returned.
'She has been dying for your sake several weeks, and raving about you this morning,
and pouring forth a deluge of abuse, because I represented your failings in a
plain light, for the purpose of mitigating her adoration.
But don't notice it further: I wished to punish her sauciness, that's all.
I like her too well, my dear Heathcliff, to let you absolutely seize and devour her
up.'
'And I like her too ill to attempt it,' said he, 'except in a very ghoulish
fashion.
You'd hear of odd things if I lived alone with that mawkish, waxen face: the most
ordinary would be painting on its white the colours of the rainbow, and turning the
blue eyes black, every day or two: they detestably resemble Linton's.'
'Delectably!' observed Catherine. 'They are dove's eyes--angel's!'
'She's her brother's heir, is she not?' he asked, after a brief silence.
'I should be sorry to think so,' returned his companion.
'Half a dozen nephews shall erase her title, please heaven!
Abstract your mind from the subject at present: you are too prone to covet your
neighbour's goods; remember this neighbour's goods are mine.'
'If they were mine, they would be none the less that,' said Heathcliff; 'but
though Isabella Linton may be silly, she is scarcely mad; and, in short, we'll dismiss
the matter, as you advise.'
From their tongues they did dismiss it; and Catherine, probably, from her thoughts.
The other, I felt certain, recalled it often in the course of the evening.
I saw him smile to himself--grin rather-- and lapse into ominous musing whenever Mrs.
Linton had occasion to be absent from the apartment.
I determined to watch his movements.
My heart invariably cleaved to the master's, in preference to Catherine's
side: with reason I imagined, for he was kind, and trustful, and honourable; and
she--she could not be called opposite,
yet she seemed to allow herself such wide latitude, that I had little faith in her
principles, and still less sympathy for her feelings.
I wanted something to happen which might have the effect of freeing both Wuthering
Heights and the Grange of Mr. Heathcliff quietly; leaving us as we had been prior to
his advent.
His visits were a continual nightmare to me; and, I suspected, to my master also.
His abode at the Heights was an oppression past explaining.
I felt that God had forsaken the stray sheep there to its own wicked wanderings,
and an evil beast prowled between it and the fold, waiting his time to spring and
destroy.
>
CHAPTER XI
Sometimes, while meditating on these things in solitude, I've got up in a sudden
terror, and put on my bonnet to go see how all was at the farm.
I've persuaded my conscience that it was a duty to warn him how people talked
regarding his ways; and then I've recollected his confirmed bad habits, and,
hopeless of benefiting him, have flinched
from re-entering the dismal house, doubting if I could bear to be taken at my word.
One time I passed the old gate, going out of my way, on a journey to Gimmerton.
It was about the period that my narrative has reached: a bright frosty afternoon; the
ground bare, and the road hard and dry.
I came to a stone where the highway branches off on to the moor at your left
hand; a rough sand-pillar, with the letters W.H. cut on its north side, on the east,
G., and on the south-west, T.G.
It serves as a guide-post to the Grange, the Heights, and village.
The sun shone yellow on its grey head, reminding me of summer; and I cannot say
why, but all at once a gush of child's sensations flowed into my heart.
Hindley and I held it a favourite spot twenty years before.
I gazed long at the weather-worn block; and, stooping down, perceived a hole near
the bottom still full of snail-shells and pebbles, which we were fond of storing
there with more perishable things; and, as
fresh as reality, it appeared that I beheld my early playmate seated on the withered
turf: his dark, square head bent forward, and his little hand scooping out the earth
with a piece of slate.
'Poor Hindley!' I exclaimed, involuntarily.
I started: my bodily eye was cheated into a momentary belief that the child lifted its
face and stared straight into mine!
It vanished in a twinkling; but immediately I felt an irresistible yearning to be at
the Heights. Superstition urged me to comply with this
impulse: supposing he should be dead!
I thought--or should die soon!--supposing it were a sign of death!
The nearer I got to the house the more agitated I grew; and on catching sight of
it I trembled in every limb.
The apparition had outstripped me: it stood looking through the gate.
That was my first idea on observing an elf- locked, brown-eyed boy setting his ruddy
countenance against the bars.
Further reflection suggested this must be Hareton, my Hareton, not altered greatly
since I left him, ten months since. 'God bless thee, darling!'
I cried, forgetting instantaneously my foolish fears.
'Hareton, it's Nelly! Nelly, thy nurse.'
He retreated out of arm's length, and picked up a large flint.
'I am come to see thy father, Hareton,' I added, guessing from the action that Nelly,
if she lived in his memory at all, was not recognised as one with me.
He raised his missile to hurl it; I commenced a soothing speech, but could not
stay his hand: the stone struck my bonnet; and then ensued, from the stammering lips
of the little fellow, a string of curses,
which, whether he comprehended them or not, were delivered with practised emphasis, and
distorted his baby features into a shocking expression of malignity.
You may be certain this grieved more than angered me.
Fit to cry, I took an orange from my pocket, and offered it to propitiate him.
He hesitated, and then snatched it from my hold; as if he fancied I only intended to
tempt and disappoint him. I showed another, keeping it out of his
reach.
'Who has taught you those fine words, my bairn?'
I inquired. 'The curate?'
'Damn the curate, and thee!
Gie me that,' he replied. 'Tell us where you got your lessons, and
you shall have it,' said I. 'Who's your master?'
'Devil daddy,' was his answer.
'And what do you learn from daddy?' I continued.
He jumped at the fruit; I raised it higher. 'What does he teach you?'
I asked.
'Naught,' said he, 'but to keep out of his gait.
Daddy cannot bide me, because I swear at him.'
'Ah! and the devil teaches you to swear at daddy?'
I observed. 'Ay--nay,' he drawled.
'Who, then?'
'Heathcliff.' 'I asked if he liked Mr. Heathcliff.'
'Ay!' he answered again.
Desiring to have his reasons for liking him, I could only gather the sentences--'I
known't: he pays dad back what he gies to me--he curses daddy for cursing me.
He says I mun do as I will.'
'And the curate does not teach you to read and write, then?'
I pursued.
'No, I was told the curate should have his- -teeth dashed down his--throat, if he
stepped over the threshold--Heathcliff had promised that!'
I put the orange in his hand, and bade him tell his father that a woman called Nelly
Dean was waiting to speak with him, by the garden gate.
He went up the walk, and entered the house; but, instead of Hindley, Heathcliff
appeared on the door-stones; and I turned directly and ran down the road as hard as
ever I could race, making no halt till I
gained the guide-post, and feeling as scared as if I had raised a goblin.
This is not much connected with Miss Isabella's affair: except that it urged me
to resolve further on mounting vigilant guard, and doing my utmost to cheek the
spread of such bad influence at the Grange:
even though I should wake a domestic storm, by thwarting Mrs. Linton's pleasure.
The next time Heathcliff came my young lady chanced to be feeding some pigeons in the
court.
She had never spoken a word to her sister- in-law for three days; but she had likewise
dropped her fretful complaining, and we found it a great comfort.
Heathcliff had not the habit of bestowing a single unnecessary civility on Miss Linton,
I knew.
Now, as soon as he beheld her, his first precaution was to take a sweeping survey of
the house-front. I was standing by the kitchen-window, but I
drew out of sight.
He then stepped across the pavement to her, and said something: she seemed embarrassed,
and desirous of getting away; to prevent it, he laid his hand on her arm.
She averted her face: he apparently put some question which she had no mind to
answer.
There was another rapid glance at the house, and supposing himself unseen, the
scoundrel had the impudence to embrace her. 'Judas!
Traitor!'
I ejaculated. 'You are a hypocrite, too, are you?
A deliberate deceiver.'
'Who is, Nelly?' said Catherine's voice at my elbow: I had been over-intent on
watching the pair outside to mark her entrance.
'Your worthless friend!'
I answered, warmly: 'the sneaking rascal yonder.
Ah, he has caught a glimpse of us--he is coming in!
I wonder will he have the heart to find a plausible excuse for making love to Miss,
when he told you he hated her?'
Mrs. Linton saw Isabella tear herself free, and run into the garden; and a minute
after, Heathcliff opened the door.
I couldn't withhold giving some loose to my indignation; but Catherine angrily insisted
on silence, and threatened to order me out of the kitchen, if I dared to be so
presumptuous as to put in my insolent tongue.
'To hear you, people might think you were the mistress!' she cried.
'You want setting down in your right place!
Heathcliff, what are you about, raising this stir?
I said you must let Isabella alone!--I beg you will, unless you are tired of being
received here, and wish Linton to draw the bolts against you!'
'God forbid that he should try!' answered the black villain.
I detested him just then. 'God keep him meek and patient!
Every day I grow madder after sending him to heaven!'
'Hush!' said Catherine, shutting the inner door!
'Don't vex me.
Why have you disregarded my request? Did she come across you on purpose?'
'What is it to you?' he growled. 'I have a right to kiss her, if she
chooses; and you have no right to object.
I am not your husband: you needn't be jealous of me!'
'I'm not jealous of you,' replied the mistress; 'I'm jealous for you.
Clear your face: you sha'n't scowl at me!
If you like Isabella, you shall marry her. But do you like her?
Tell the truth, Heathcliff! There, you won't answer.
I'm certain you don't.'
'And would Mr. Linton approve of his sister marrying that man?'
I inquired. 'Mr. Linton should approve,' returned my
lady, decisively.
'He might spare himself the trouble,' said Heathcliff: 'I could do as well without his
approbation. And as to you, Catherine, I have a mind to
speak a few words now, while we are at it.
I want you to be aware that I know you have treated me infernally--infernally!
Do you hear?
And if you flatter yourself that I don't perceive it, you are a fool; and if you
think I can be consoled by sweet words, you are an idiot: and if you fancy I'll suffer
unrevenged, I'll convince you of the contrary, in a very little while!
Meantime, thank you for telling me your sister-in-law's secret: I swear I'll make
the most of it.
And stand you aside!' 'What new phase of his character is this?'
exclaimed Mrs. Linton, in amazement. 'I've treated you infernally--and you'll
take your revenge!
How will you take it, ungrateful brute? How have I treated you infernally?'
'I seek no revenge on you,' replied Heathcliff, less vehemently.
'That's not the plan.
The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don't turn against him; they crush those
beneath them.
You are welcome to torture me to death for your amusement, only allow me to amuse
myself a little in the same style, and refrain from insult as much as you are
able.
Having levelled my palace, don't erect a hovel and complacently admire your own
charity in giving me that for a home. If I imagined you really wished me to marry
Isabel, I'd cut my throat!'
'Oh, the evil is that I am not jealous, is it?' cried Catherine.
'Well, I won't repeat my offer of a wife: it is as bad as offering Satan a lost soul.
Your bliss lies, like his, in inflicting misery.
You prove it.
Edgar is restored from the ill-temper he gave way to at your coming; I begin to be
secure and tranquil; and you, restless to know us at peace, appear resolved on
exciting a quarrel.
Quarrel with Edgar, if you please, Heathcliff, and deceive his sister: you'll
hit on exactly the most efficient method of revenging yourself on me.'
The conversation ceased.
Mrs. Linton sat down by the fire, flushed and gloomy.
The spirit which served her was growing intractable: she could neither lay nor
control it.
He stood on the hearth with folded arms, brooding on his evil thoughts; and in this
position I left them to seek the master, who was wondering what kept Catherine below
so long.
'Ellen,' said he, when I entered, 'have you seen your mistress?'
'Yes; she's in the kitchen, sir,' I answered.
'She's sadly put out by Mr. Heathcliff's behaviour: and, indeed, I do think it's
time to arrange his visits on another footing.
There's harm in being too soft, and now it's come to this--.'
And I related the scene in the court, and, as near as I dared, the whole subsequent
dispute.
I fancied it could not be very prejudicial to Mrs. Linton; unless she made it so
afterwards, by assuming the defensive for her guest.
Edgar Linton had difficulty in hearing me to the close.
His first words revealed that he did not clear his wife of blame.
'This is insufferable!' he exclaimed.
'It is disgraceful that she should own him for a friend, and force his company on me!
Call me two men out of the hall, Ellen.
Catherine shall linger no longer to argue with the low ruffian--I have humoured her
enough.'
He descended, and bidding the servants wait in the passage, went, followed by me, to
the kitchen.
Its occupants had recommenced their angry discussion: Mrs. Linton, at least, was
scolding with renewed vigour; Heathcliff had moved to the window, and hung his head,
somewhat cowed by her violent rating apparently.
He saw the master first, and made a hasty motion that she should be silent; which she
obeyed, abruptly, on discovering the reason of his intimation.
'How is this?' said Linton, addressing her; 'what notion of propriety must you have to
remain here, after the language which has been held to you by that blackguard?
I suppose, because it is his ordinary talk you think nothing of it: you are habituated
to his baseness, and, perhaps, imagine I can get used to it too!'
'Have you been listening at the door, Edgar?' asked the mistress, in a tone
particularly calculated to provoke her husband, implying both carelessness and
contempt of his irritation.
Heathcliff, who had raised his eyes at the former speech, gave a sneering laugh at the
latter; on purpose, it seemed, to draw Mr. Linton's attention to him.
He succeeded; but Edgar did not mean to entertain him with any high flights of
passion.
'I've been so far forbearing with you, sir,' he said quietly; 'not that I was
ignorant of your miserable, degraded character, but I felt you were only partly
responsible for that; and Catherine wishing
to keep up your acquaintance, I acquiesced- -foolishly.
Your presence is a moral poison that would contaminate the most virtuous: for that
cause, and to prevent worse consequences, I shall deny you hereafter admission into
this house, and give notice now that I require your instant departure.
Three minutes' delay will render it involuntary and ignominious.
Heathcliff measured the height and breadth of the speaker with an eye full of
derision. 'Cathy, this lamb of yours threatens like a
bull!' he said.
'It is in danger of splitting its skull against my knuckles.
By God! Mr. Linton, I'm mortally sorry that you are not worth knocking down!'
My master glanced towards the passage, and signed me to fetch the men: he had no
intention of hazarding a personal encounter.
I obeyed the hint; but Mrs. Linton, suspecting something, followed; and when I
attempted to call them, she pulled me back, slammed the door to, and locked it.
'Fair means!' she said, in answer to her husband's look of angry surprise.
'If you have not courage to attack him, make an apology, or allow yourself to be
beaten.
It will correct you of feigning more valour than you possess.
No, I'll swallow the key before you shall get it!
I'm delightfully rewarded for my kindness to each!
After constant indulgence of one's weak nature, and the other's bad one, I earn for
thanks two samples of blind ingratitude, stupid to absurdity!
Edgar, I was defending you and yours; and I wish Heathcliff may flog you sick, for
daring to think an evil thought of me!' It did not need the medium of a flogging to
produce that effect on the master.
He tried to wrest the key from Catherine's grasp, and for safety she flung it into the
hottest part of the fire; whereupon Mr. Edgar was taken with a nervous trembling,
and his countenance grew deadly pale.
For his life he could not avert that excess of emotion: mingled anguish and humiliation
overcame him completely. He leant on the back of a chair, and
covered his face.
'Oh, heavens! In old days this would win you knighthood!'
exclaimed Mrs. Linton. 'We are vanquished! we are vanquished!
Heathcliff would as soon lift a finger at you as the king would march his army
against a colony of mice. Cheer up! you sha'n't be hurt!
Your type is not a lamb, it's a sucking leveret.'
'I wish you joy of the milk-blooded coward, Cathy!' said her friend.
'I compliment you on your taste.
And that is the slavering, shivering thing you preferred to me!
I would not strike him with my fist, but I'd kick him with my foot, and experience
considerable satisfaction.
Is he weeping, or is he going to faint for fear?'
The fellow approached and gave the chair on which Linton rested a push.
He'd better have kept his distance: my master quickly sprang erect, and struck him
full on the throat a blow that would have levelled a slighter man.
It took his breath for a minute; and while he choked, Mr. Linton walked out by the
back door into the yard, and from thence to the front entrance.
'There! you've done with coming here,' cried Catherine.
'Get away, now; he'll return with a brace of pistols and half-a-dozen assistants.
If he did overhear us, of course he'd never forgive you.
You've played me an ill turn, Heathcliff! But go--make haste!
I'd rather see Edgar at bay than you.'
'Do you suppose I'm going with that blow burning in my gullet?' he thundered.
'By hell, no! I'll crush his ribs in like a rotten hazel-
nut before I cross the threshold!
If I don't floor him now, I shall murder him some time; so, as you value his
existence, let me get at him!' 'He is not coming,' I interposed, framing a
bit of a lie.
'There's the coachman and the two gardeners; you'll surely not wait to be
thrust into the road by them!
Each has a bludgeon; and master will, very likely, be watching from the parlour-
windows to see that they fulfil his orders.'
The gardeners and coachman were there: but Linton was with them.
They had already entered the court.
Heathcliff, on the second thoughts, resolved to avoid a struggle against three
underlings: he seized the poker, smashed the lock from the inner door, and made his
escape as they tramped in.
Mrs. Linton, who was very much excited, bade me accompany her up-stairs.
She did not know my share in contributing to the disturbance, and I was anxious to
keep her in ignorance.
'I'm nearly distracted, Nelly!' she exclaimed, throwing herself on the sofa.
'A thousand smiths' hammers are beating in my head!
Tell Isabella to shun me; this uproar is owing to her; and should she or any one
else aggravate my anger at present, I shall get wild.
And, Nelly, say to Edgar, if you see him again to-night, that I'm in danger of being
seriously ill. I wish it may prove true.
He has startled and distressed me shockingly!
I want to frighten him.
Besides, he might come and begin a string of abuse or complainings; I'm certain I
should recriminate, and God knows where we should end!
Will you do so, my good Nelly?
You are aware that I am no way blamable in this matter.
What possessed him to turn listener?
Heathcliff's talk was outrageous, after you left us; but I could soon have diverted him
from Isabella, and the rest meant nothing.
Now all is dashed wrong; by the fool's craving to hear evil of self, that haunts
some people like a demon! Had Edgar never gathered our conversation,
he would never have been the worse for it.
Really, when he opened on me in that unreasonable tone of displeasure after I
had scolded Heathcliff till I was hoarse for him, I did not care hardly what they
did to each other; especially as I felt
that, however the scene closed, we should all be driven asunder for nobody knows how
long!
Well, if I cannot keep Heathcliff for my friend--if Edgar will be mean and jealous,
I'll try to break their hearts by breaking my own.
That will be a prompt way of finishing all, when I am pushed to extremity!
But it's a deed to be reserved for a forlorn hope; I'd not take Linton by
surprise with it.
To this point he has been discreet in dreading to provoke me; you must represent
the peril of quitting that policy, and remind him of my passionate temper,
verging, when kindled, on frenzy.
I wish you could dismiss that apathy out of that countenance, and look rather more
anxious about me.'
The stolidity with which I received these instructions was, no doubt, rather
exasperating: for they were delivered in perfect sincerity; but I believed a person
who could plan the turning of her fits of
passion to account, beforehand, might, by exerting her will, manage to control
herself tolerably, even while under their influence; and I did not wish to 'frighten'
her husband, as she said, and multiply his
annoyances for the purpose of serving her selfishness.
Therefore I said nothing when I met the master coming towards the parlour; but I
took the liberty of turning back to listen whether they would resume their quarrel
together.
He began to speak first. 'Remain where you are, Catherine,' he said;
without any anger in his voice, but with much sorrowful despondency.
'I shall not stay.
I am neither come to wrangle nor be reconciled; but I wish just to learn
whether, after this evening's events, you intend to continue your intimacy with--'
'Oh, for mercy's sake,' interrupted the mistress, stamping her foot, 'for mercy's
sake, let us hear no more of it now!
Your cold blood cannot be worked into a fever: your veins are full of ice-water;
but mine are boiling, and the sight of such chillness makes them dance.'
'To get rid of me, answer my question,' persevered Mr. Linton.
'You must answer it; and that violence does not alarm me.
I have found that you can be as stoical as anyone, when you please.
Will you give up Heathcliff hereafter, or will you give up me?
It is impossible for you to be my friend and his at the same time; and I
absolutely require to know which you choose.'
'I require to be let alone!' exclaimed Catherine, furiously.
'I demand it! Don't you see I can scarcely stand?
Edgar, you--you leave me!'
She rang the bell till it broke with a twang; I entered leisurely.
It was enough to try the temper of a saint, such senseless, wicked rages!
There she lay dashing her head against the arm of the sofa, and grinding her teeth, so
that you might fancy she would crash them to splinters!
Mr. Linton stood looking at her in sudden compunction and fear.
He told me to fetch some water. She had no breath for speaking.
I brought a glass full; and as she would not drink, I sprinkled it on her face.
In a few seconds she stretched herself out stiff, and turned up her eyes, while her
cheeks, at once blanched and livid, assumed the aspect of death.
Linton looked terrified.
'There is nothing in the world the matter,' I whispered.
I did not want him to yield, though I could not help being afraid in my heart.
'She has blood on her lips!' he said, shuddering.
'Never mind!' I answered, tartly.
And I told him how she had resolved, previous to his coming, on exhibiting a fit
of frenzy.
I incautiously gave the account aloud, and she heard me; for she started up--her hair
flying over her shoulders, her eyes flashing, the muscles of her neck and arms
standing out preternaturally.
I made up my mind for broken bones, at least; but she only glared about her for an
instant, and then rushed from the room.
The master directed me to follow; I did, to her chamber-door: she hindered me from
going further by securing it against me.
As she never offered to descend to breakfast next morning, I went to ask
whether she would have some carried up. 'No!' she replied, peremptorily.
The same question was repeated at dinner and tea; and again on the morrow after, and
received the same answer.
Mr. Linton, on his part, spent his time in the library, and did not inquire concerning
his wife's occupations.
Isabella and he had had an hour's interview, during which he tried to elicit
from her some sentiment of proper horror for Heathcliff's advances: but he could
make nothing of her evasive replies, and
was obliged to close the examination unsatisfactorily; adding, however, a solemn
warning, that if she were so insane as to encourage that worthless suitor, it would
dissolve all bonds of relationship between herself and him.
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