Following her habit, my young lady descended early, and visited the kitchen: I watched her go to the door, on the arrival of a certain little boy; and, while the dairymaid filled his can, she tucked something into his jacket pocket, and plucked something out. I went round by the garden, and laid wait for the messenger; who fought valorously to defend his trust, and we spilt the milk between us; but I succeeded in abstracting the epistle; and, threatening serious consequences if he did not look sharp home, I remained under the wall and perused Miss Cathy’s affectionate composition. It was more simple and more eloquent than her cousin’s; very pretty and very silly. I shook my head and went meditating into the house. The day being wet, she could not divert herself with rambling about the park; so, at the conclusion of her morning studies, she resorted to the solace of the drawer. Her father sat reading at the table; and I, on purpose, had sought a bit of work in some unripped fringes of the window curtain, keeping my eye steadily fixed on her proceedings. Never did any bird flying back to a plundered nest which it had left brimful of chirping young ones, express more complete despair in its anguished cries and flutterings, than she by her single “Oh!” and the change that transfigured her late happy countenance.
Mr. Linton looked up.
“What is the matter, love? Have you hurt yourself?” he said.
His tone and look assured her he had not been the discoverer of the hoard.
“No, papa!” she gasped. “Ellen! Ellen! come upstairs—I’m sick!”
I obeyed her summons, and accompanied her out.
“Oh, Ellen! you have got them,” she commenced immediately, dropping on her knees, when we were enclosed alone. “Oh, give them to me, and I’ll never, never do so again! Don’t tell papa. You have not told papa, Ellen? say you have not? I’ve been exceedingly naughty, but I won’t do it any more!”
With a grave severity in my manner, I bade her stand up.
“So,” I exclaimed, “Miss Catherine, you are tolerably far on, it seems: you may well be ashamed of them! a fine bundle of trash you study in your leisure hours, to be sure: why, it’s good enough to be printed! And what do you suppose the master will think, when I display it before him? I haven’t shown it yet, but you needn’t imagine I shall keep your ridiculous secrets. For shame! and you must have led the way in writing such absurdities: he would not have thought of beginning, I’m certain.”
“I didn’t! I didn’t!” sobbed Cathy, fit to break her heart. “I didn’t once think of loving him till-”
“Loving!” cried I, as scornfully as I could utter the word. “Loving! Did anybody ever hear the like! I might just as well talk of loving the miller who comes once a year to buy our corn. Pretty loving, indeed! and both times together you have seen Linton hardly four hours in your life! Now here is the babyish trash. I’m going with it to the library; and we’ll see what your father says to such loving.”
She sprang at her precious epistles, but I held them above my head; and then she poured out further frantic entreaties that I would burn them—do anything rather than show them. And being really fully as much inclined to laugh as scold—for I esteemed it all girlish vanity—I at length relented in a measure, and asked:
“If I consent to burn them, will you promise faithfully neither to send nor receive a letter again, nor a book (for I perceive you have sent him books), nor locks of hair, nor rings, nor playthings?”
“We don’t send playthings!” cried Catherine, her pride overcoming her shame.
“Nor anything at all, then, my lady,” I said. “Unless you will, here I go.”
“I promise, Ellen!” she cried, catching my dress. “Oh, put them in the fire, do, do!”
But when I proceeded to open a place with the poker, the sacrifice was too painful to be borne. She earnestly supplicated that I would spare her one or two.
“One or two, Ellen, to keep for Linton’s sake!”
I unknotted the handkerchief, and commenced dropping them in from an angle, and the flame curled up the chimney.
“I will have one, you cruel wretch!” she screamed, darting her hand into the fire, and drawing forth some half consumed fragments, at the expense of her fingers.
“Very well—and I will have some to exhibit to papa!” I answered, shaking back the rest into the bundle, and turning anew to the door.
She emptied her blackened pieces into the flames, and motioned me to finish the immolation. It was done; I stirred up the ashes, and interred them under a shovelful of coals; and she mutely, and with a sense of intense injury, retired to her private apartment. I descended to tell my master that the young lady’s qualm of sickness was almost gone, but I judged it best for her to lie down a while. She wouldn’t dine; but she reappeared at tea, pale, and red about the eyes, and marvellously subdued in outward aspect. Next morning, I answered the letter by a slip of paper, inscribed, “Master Heathcliff is requested to send no more notes to Miss Linton, as she will not receive them.” And, thenceforth, the little boy came with vacant pockets.
SUMMER drew to an end, and early autumn: it was past Michaelmas, but the harvest was late that year, and a few of our fields were still uncleared. Mr. Linton and his daughter would frequently walk out among the reapers; at the carrying of the last sheaves, they stayed till dusk, and the evening happening to be chill and damp, my master caught a bad cold, that settled obstinately on his lungs, and confined him indoors throughout the whole of the winter, nearly without intermission.
Poor Cathy, frightened from her little romance, had been considerably sadder and duller since its abandonment; and her father insisted on her reading less, and taking more exercise. She had his companionship no longer; I esteemed it a duty to supply its lack, as much as possible, with mine: an inefficient substitute; for I could only spare two or three hours, from my numerous diurnal occupations, to follow her footsteps, and then my society was obviously less desirable than his.
On an afternoon in October, or the beginning of November—a fresh watery afternoon, when the turf and paths were rustling with moist, withered leaves, and the cold, blue sky was half hidden by clouds—dark grey streamers, rapidly mounting from the west, and boding abundant rain—I requested my young lady to forego her ramble, because I was certain of showers. She refused; and I unwillingly donned a cloak, and took my umbrella to accompany her on a stroll to the bottom of the park: a formal walk which she generally affected if low-spirited—and that she invariably was when Mr. Edgar had been worse than ordinary, a thing never known from his confession, but guessed both by her and me, from his increased silence and the melancholy of his countenance. She went sadly on: there was no running or bounding now, though the chill wind might well have tempted her to race. And often, from the side of my eve, I could detect her raising a hand, and brushing something off her cheek. I gazed round for a means of diverting her thoughts. On one side of the road rose a high, rough bank, where hazels and stunted oaks, with their roots half-exposed held uncertain tenure: the soil was too loose for the latter; and strong winds had blown some nearly horizontal. In summer, Miss Catherine delighted to climb along these trunks, and sit in the branches, swinging twenty feet above the ground; and I, pleased with her agility and her light, childish heart, still considered it proper to scold every time I caught her at such an elevation, but so that she knew there was no necessity for descending. From dinner to tea she would lie in her breeze-rocked cradle, doing nothing except singing old songs—my nursery lore—to herself, or watching the birds, joint tenants, feed and entice their young ones to fly: or nestling with closed lids, half thinking, half dreaming, happier than words can express.
“Look, miss!” I exclaimed, pointing to a nook under the roots of one twisted tree. “Winter is not here yet. There’s a little flower up yonder, the last bud from the multitude of bluebells that clouded those turf steps in July with a lilac mist. Will you clamber up, and pluck it to show to papa?”
Cathy stared a long time at the lonely blossom trembling in its earthy shelter, and replied, at length:
“No, I’ll not touch it; but it looks melancholy, does it not, Ellen?”
“Yes,” I observed, “about as starved and sackless as you: your cheeks are bloodless; let us take hold of hands and run. You’re so low, I dare say I shall keep up with you.”
“No,” she repeated, and continued sauntering on, pausing at intervals, to muse over a bit of moss, or a tuft of blanched grass, or a fungus spreading its bright orange among the heaps of brown foliage; and, ever and anon, her hand was lifted to her averted face.
“Catherine, why are you crying, love?” I asked, approaching and putting my arm over her shoulder. “You mustn’t cry because papa has a cold; be thankful it is nothing worse.”
She now put no further restraint on her tears; her breath was stifled by sobs.
“Oh, it will be something worse,” she said. “And what shall I do when papa and you leave me, and I am by myself! I can’t forget your words, Ellen; they are always in my ear. How life will be changed, how dreary the world will be when papa and you are dead.”
“None can tell, whether you won’t die before us,” I replied. “It’s wrong to anticipate evil. We’ll hope there are years and years to come before any of us go: master is young, and I am strong, and hardly forty-five. My mother lived till eighty, a canty dame to the last. And suppose Mr. Linton were spared till he saw sixty, that would be more years than you have counted, miss. And would it not be foolish to mourn a calamity above twenty years beforehand?”
“But Aunt Isabella was younger than papa,” she remarked, gazing up with timid hope to seek further consolation.
“Aunt Isabella had not you and me to nurse her,” I replied. “She wasn’t as happy as master; she hadn’t as much to live for. All you need do, is to wait well on your father, and cheer him by letting him see you cheerful; and avoid giving him anxiety on any subject: mind that, Cathy! I’ll not disguise but you might kill him, if you were wild and reckless, and cherished a foolish, fanciful affection for the son of a person who would be glad to have him in his grave; and allowed him to discover that you fretted over the separation he has judged it expedient to make.”
“I fret about nothing on earth except papa’s illness,” answered my companion. “I care for nothing in comparison with papa. And I’ll never—never—oh, never, while I have my senses, do an act or say a word to vex him. I love him better than myself, Ellen; and I know it by this: I pray every night that I may live after him; because I would rather be miserable than that he should be: that proves I love him better than myself”
“Good words,” I replied. “But deeds must prove it also; and after he is well, remember you don’t forget resolutions formed in the hour of fear.”
As we talked, we neared a door that opened on the road; and my young lady, lightening into sunshine again, climbed up and seated herself on the top of the wall, reaching over to gather some hips that bloomed scarlet on the summit branches of the wild rose trees, shadowing the highway side: the lower fruit had disappeared, but only birds could touch the upper, except from Cathy’s present station. In stretching to pull them, her hat fell off; and as the door was locked, she proposed scrambling down to recover it. I bid her be cautious lest she got a fall, and she nimbly disappeared. But the return was no such easy matter: the stones were smooth and neatly cemented, and the rose bushes and blackberry stragglers could yield no assistance in re-ascending. I, like a fool, didn’t recollect that, till I heard her laughing and exclaiming:
“Ellen, you’ll have to fetch the key, or else I must run round to the porter’s lodge. I can’t scale the ramparts on this side!”
“Stay where you are,” I answered, “I have my bundle of keys in my pocket: perhaps I may manage to open it; if not I’ll go.”
Catherine amused herself with dancing to and fro before the door, while I tried all the large keys in succession. I had applied the last, and found that none would do; so, repeating my desire that she would remain there, I was about to hurry home as fast as I could, when an approaching sound arrested me. It was the trot of a horse; Cathy’s dance stopped also.
“Who is that?” I whispered.
“Ellen, I wish you could open the door,” whispered back my companion anxiously.
“Ho, Miss Linton!” cried a deep voice (the rider’s), “I’m glad to meet you. Don’t be in haste to enter, for I have an explanation to ask and obtain.”
“I shan’t speak to you, Mr. Heathcliff,” answered Catherine. “Papa says you are a wicked man, and you hate both him and me; and Ellen says the same.”
“That is nothing to the purpose,” said Heathcliff. (He it was.) “I don’t hate my son, I suppose; and it is concerning him that I demand your attention. Yes; you have cause to blush. Two or three months since, were you not in the habit of writing to Linton? making love in play, eh? You deserved, both of you, flogging for that! You especially, the elder; and less sensitive, as it turns out. I’ve got your letters, and if you give me any pertness I’ll send them to your father. I presume you grew weary of the amusement and dropped it, didn’t you? Well, you dropped Linton with it into a Slough of Despond. He was in earnest: in love, really. As true as I live, he’s dying for you; breaking his heart at your fickleness: not figuratively, but actually. Though Hareton has made him a standing jest for six weeks, and I have used more serious measures, and attempted to frighten him out of his idiocy, he gets worse daily; and he’ll be under the sod before summer, unless you restore him!”
“How can you lie so glaringly to the poor child?” I called from the inside. “Pray ride on! How can you deliberately get up such paltry falsehoods? Miss Cathy, I’ll knock the lock off with a stone: you won’t believe that vile nonsense. You can feel in yourself, it is impossible that a person should die for love of a stranger.”
“I was not aware there were eavesdroppers,” muttered the detected villain. “Worthy Mrs. Dean, I like you, but I don’t like your double-dealing,” he added aloud. “How could you lie so glaringly, as to affirm I hated the ‘poor child’? and invent bugbear stories to terrify her from my door-stones? Catherine Linton (the very name warms me), my bonnie lass, I shall be from home all this week; go and see if I have not spoken truth: do, there’s a darling! just imagine your father in my place, and Linton in yours; then think how you would value your careless lover if he refused to stir a step to comfort you, when your father himself entreated him; and don’t, from pure stupidity, fall into the same error. I swear, on my salvation, he’s going to his grave, and none but you can save him!”
The lock gave way and I issued out.
“I swear Linton is dying,” repeated Heathcliff, looking hard at me. “And grief and disappointment are hastening his death. Nelly, if you won’t let her go, you can walk over yourself. But I shall not return till this time next week; and I think your master himself would scarcely object to her visiting her cousin!”
“Come in,” said I, taking Cathy by the arm and half-forcing her to re-enter; for she lingered, viewing with troubled eyes the features of the speaker, too stern to express his inward deceit.
He pushed his horse close, and bending down, observed:
“Miss Catherine, I’ll own to you that I have little patience with Linton; and Hareton and Joseph have less. I’ll own that he’s with a harsh set. He pines for kindness, as well as love; and a kind word from you would be his best medicine. Don’t mind Mrs. Dean’s cruel cautions; but be generous, and contrive to see him. He dreams of you day and night, and cannot be persuaded that you don’t hate him, since you neither write nor call.”
I closed the door, and rolled a stone to assist the loosened lock in holding it; and spreading my umbrella, I drew my charge underneath: for the rain began to drive through the moaning branches of the trees, and warned us to avoid delay. Our hurry prevented any comment on the encounter with Heathcliff, as we stretched towards home; but I divined instinctively that Catherine’s heart was clouded now in double darkness. Her features were so sad, they did not seem hers: she evidently regarded what she had heard as every syllable true.
The master had retired to rest before we came in. Cathy stole to his room to enquire how he was; he had fallen asleep. She returned, and asked me to sit with her in the library. We took our tea together; and afterwards she lay down on the rug, and told me not to talk, for she was weary. I got a book, and pretended to read. As soon as she supposed me absorbed in my occupation, she recommenced her silent weeping; it appeared, at present, her favourite diversion. I suffered her to enjoy it a while; then I expostulated: deriding and ridiculing a Mr. Heathcliff’s assertions about his son, as if I were certain she would coincide. Alas! I hadn’t skill to counteract the effect his account had produced: it was just what he intended.
“You may be right, Ellen,” she answered; “but I shall never feel at ease till I know. And I must tell Linton it is not my fault that I don’t write, and convince him that I shall not change.”
What use were anger and protestations against her silly credulity? We parted that night—hostile; but next day beheld me on the road to Wuthering Heights, by the side of my wilful young mistress’s pony. I couldn’t bear to witness her sorrow: to see her pale dejected countenance, and heavy eyes; and I yielded, in the faint hope that Linton himself might prove, by his reception of us, how little of the tale was founded on fact.
THE RAINY NIGHT had ushered in a cold, misty morning—half-frost, half-drizzle—and temporary brooks crossed our path, gurgling from the uplands. My feet were thoroughly wetted; I was cross and low; exactly the humour suited for making the most of these disagreeable things. We entered the farmhouse by the kitchen way, to ascertain whether Mr. Heathcliff were really absent; because I put slight faith in his own affirmation.
Joseph seemed sitting in a sort of elysium alone, beside a roaring fire; a quart of ale on the table near him, bristling with large pieces of toasted oat-cake; and his black, short pipe in his mouth. Catherine ran to the hearth to warm herself I asked if the master was in? My question remained so long unanswered, that I thought the old man had grown deaf, and repeated it louder.
“Na-ay!” he snarled, or rather screamed through his nose. “Na-ay! yah muh goa back whear yah coom frough.”
“Joseph!” cried a peevish voice, simultaneously with me, from the inner room. “How often am I to call you? There are only a few red ashes now. Joseph! come this moment.”
Vigorous puffs, and a resolute stare into the grate declared he had no ear for this appeal. The housekeeper and Hareton were invisible; one gone on an errand, and the other at his work, probably. We knew Linton’s tones, and entered.
“Oh, I hope you’ll die in a garret! starved to death,” said the boy, mistaking our approach for that of his negligent attendant.
He stopped, on observing his error; his cousin flew to him.
“Is that you, Miss Linton?” he said, raising his head from the arm of the great chair, in which he reclined. “No—don’t kiss me: it takes my breath. Dear me! papa said you would call,” continued he, after recovering a little from Catherine’s embrace; while she stood by looking very contrite. “Will you shut the door, if you please? you left it open; and those—those detestable creatures won’t bring coals to the fire. It’s so cold!”
I stirred up the cinders, and fetched a scuttleful myself. The invalid complained of being covered with ashes; but he had a tiresome cough, and looked feverish and ill, so I did not rebuke his temper.
“Well, Linton,” murmured Catherine, when his corrugated brow relaxed. “Are you glad to see me? Can I do you any good?”
“Why didn’t you come before?” he asked. “You should have come, instead of writing. It tired me dreadfully, writing those long letters. I’d far rather have talked to you. Now, I can neither bear to talk, nor anything else. I wonder where Zillah is! Will you (looking at me) step into the kitchen and see?”
I had received no thanks for my other service; and being unwilling to run to and fro at his behest, I replied: “Nobody is out there but Joseph.”
“I want to drink,” he exclaimed fretfully, turning away. “Zillah is constantly gadding off to Gimmerton since papa went: it’s miserable! And I’m obliged to come down here—they resolved never to hear me upstairs.”
“Is your father attentive to you, Master Heathcliff?” I asked, perceiving Catherine to be checked in her friendly advances.
“Attentive? He makes them a little more attentive at least,” he cried. “The wretches! Do you know, Miss Linton, that brute Hareton laughs at me! I hate him! indeed, I hate them all: they are odious beings.”
Cathy began searching for some water; she lighted on a pitcher in the dresser, filled a tumbler, and brought it. He bid her add a spoonful of wine from a bottle on the table; and having swallowed a small portion, appeared more tranquil, and said she was very kind.
“And are you glad to see me?” asked she, reiterating her former question, and pleased to detect the faint dawn of a smile.
“Yes, I am. It’s something new to hear a voice like yours!” he replied. “But I have been vexed, because you wouldn’t come. And papa swore it was owing to me: he called me a pitiful, shuffling, worthless thing; and said you despised me; and if he had been in my place, he would be more the master of the Grange than your father, by this time. But you don’t despise me do you, Miss-”
“I wish you would say Catherine, or Cathy,” interrupted my young lady. “Despise you? No! Next to papa and Ellen, I love you better than anybody living. I don’t love Mr. Heathcliff, though; and I dare not come when he returns; will he stay away many days?”
“Not many,” answered Linton; “but he goes on to the moors frequently, since the shooting season commenced; and you might spend an hour or two with me in his absence. Do say you will. I think I should not be peevish with you: you’d not provoke me, and you’d always be ready to help me, wouldn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Catherine, stroking his long soft hair; “if I could only get papa’s consent, I’d spend half my time with you. Pretty Linton! I wish you were my brother.”
“And then you would like me as well as your father?” observed he, more cheerfully. “But papa says you would love me better than him and all the world, if you were my wife; so I’d rather you were that.”
“No I should never love anybody better than papa,” she returned gravely. “And people hate their wives, sometimes; but not their sisters and brothers: and if you were the latter you would live with us, and papa would be as fond of you as he is of me.”
Linton denied that people ever hated their wives; but Cathy affirmed they did, and, in her wisdom, instanced his own father’s aversion to her aunt. I endeavoured to stop her thoughtless tongue. I couldn’t succeed till everything she knew was out. Master Heathcliff, much irritated, asserted her relation was false.
“Papa told me; and papa does not tell falsehoods,” she answered pertly:
“My papa scorns yours!” cried Linton. “He calls him a sneaking fool.”
“Yours is a wicked man,” retorted Catherine; “and you are very naughty to dare to repeat what he says. He must be wicked to have made Aunt Isabella leave him as she did.”
“She didn’t leave him,” said the boy; “you shan’t contradict me.”
“She did,” cried my young lady.
“Well, I’ll tell you something!” said Linton. “Your mother hated your father: now then.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Catherine, too enraged to continue.
“And she loved mine,” added he.
“You little liar! I hate you now!” she panted, and her face grew red with passion.
“She did! she did!” sang Linton, sinking into the recess of his chair, and leaning back his head to enjoy the agitation of the other disputant, who stood behind.
“Hush, Master Heathcliff!” I said; “that’s your father’s tale, too, I suppose.”
“It isn’t: you hold your tongue!” he answered. “She did, she did, Catherine! she did, she did!”
Cathy, beside herself, gave the chair a violent push, and caused him to fall against one arm. He was immediately seized by a suffocating cough that soon ended his triumph. It lasted so long that it frightened even me. As to his cousin, she wept, with all her might; aghast at the mischief she had done: though she said nothing. I held him till the fit exhausted itself. Then he thrust me away, and leant his head down silently. Catherine quelled her lamentations also, took a seat opposite, and looked solemnly into the fire.
“How do you feel now, Master Heathcliff?” I enquired, after waiting ten minutes.
“I wish she felt as I do,” he replied: “spiteful, cruel thing! Hareton never touches me: he never struck me in his life. And I was better today: and there-” his voice died in a whimper.
“I didn’t strike you!” muttered Cathy, chewing her lip to prevent another burst of emotion.
He sighed and moaned like one under great suffering, and kept it up for a quarter of an hour; on purpose to distress his cousin apparently, for whenever he caught a stifled sob from her he put renewed pain and pathos into the inflections of his voice.
“I’m sorry I hurt you, Linton,” she said at length racked beyond endurance. “But I couldn’t have been hurt by that little push, and I had no idea that you could, either: you’re not much, are you, Linton? Don’t let me go home thinking I’ve done you harm. Answer! speak to me.”
“I can’t speak to you,” he murmured; “you’ve hurt me so, that I shall lie awake all night choking with this cough. If you had it you’d know what it was; but you’ll be comfortably asleep while I’m in agony, and nobody near me. I wonder how you would like to pass those fearful nights!” And he began to wall aloud, for very pity of himself.
“Since you are in the habit of passing dreadful nights,” I said, “it won’t be miss who spoils your ease: you’d be the same had she never come. However, she shall not disturb you again; and perhaps you’ll get quieter when we leave you.”
“Must I go?” asked Catherine dolefully, bending over him. “Do you want me to go, Linton?”
“You can’t alter what you’ve done,” he replied pettishly, shrinking from her, “unless you alter it for the worse by teasing me into a fever.”
“Well, then, I must go?” she repeated.
“Let me alone, at least,” said he; “I can’t bear your talking.”
She lingered, and resisted my persuasions to departure a tiresome while; but as he neither looked up nor spoke, she finally made a movement to the door and I followed. We were recalled by a scream. Linton had slid from his seat on to the hearthstone, and lay writhing in the mere perverseness of an indulged plague of a child, determined to be as grievous and harassing as it can. I thoroughly gauged his disposition from his behaviour, and saw at once it would be folly to attempt humouring him. Not so my companion: she ran back in terror, knelt down, and cried, and soothed, and entreated, till he grew quiet from lack of breath: by no means from compunction at distressng her.
“I shall lift him on the settle,” I said, “and he may roll about as he pleases: we can’t stop to watch him. I hope you are satisfied, Miss Cathy, that you are not the person to benefit him; and that his condition of health is not occasioned by attachment to you. Now, then, there he is! Come away: as soon as he knows there is nobody by to care for his nonsense, he’ll be glad to lie still.”
She placed a cushion under his head, and offered him some water; he rejected the latter, and tossed uneasily on the former, as if it were a stone or a block of wood. She tried to put it more comfortably.
“I can’t do with that,” he said; “it’s not high enough.” Catherine brought another to lay above it.
“That’s too high,” murmured the provoking thing.
“How must I arrange it, then?” she asked despairingly.
He twined himself up to her, as she half knelt by the settle, and converted her shoulder into a support.
“No, that won’t do,” I said. “You’ll be content with the cushion, Master Heathcliff. Miss has wasted too much time on you already: we cannot remain five minutes longer.”
“Yes, yes, we can!” replied Cathy. “He’s good and patient now. He’s beginning to think I shall have far greater misery than he will tonight, if I believed he is the worse for my visit; and then I dare not come again. Tell the truth about it, Linton; for I mustn’t come, if I have hurt you.”
“You must come, to cure me,” he answered. “You ought to come, because you have hurt me: you know you have extremely! I was not as ill when you entered as I am at present—was I?”
“But you’ve made yourself ill by crying and being in a passion.”
“I didn’t do it at all,” said his cousin. “However, we’ll be friends now. And you want me: you would wish to see me sometimes, really?”