THAT Friday made the last of our fine days for a month. In the evening, the weather broke: the wind shifted from south to north-east, and brought rain first, and then sleet and snow. On the morrow one could hardly imagine that there had been three weeks of summer: the primroses and crocuses were hidden under wintry drifts; the larks were silent, the young leaves of the early trees smitten and blackened. And dreary, and chill, and dismal, that morrow did creep over! My master kept his room; I took possession of the lonely parlour, converting it into a nursery: and there I was, sitting with the moaning doll of a child laid on my knee; rocking it to and fro, and watching, meanwhile, the still driving flakes build up the uncurtained window, when the door opened, and some person entered, out of breath and laughing! My anger was greater than my astonishment for a minute. I supposed it one of the maids, and I cried —“Have done! How dare you show your giddiness here? What would Mr. Linton say if he heard you?”
“Excuse me!” answered a familiar voice; “but I know Edgar is in bed, and I cannot stop myself.”
With that the speaker came forward to the fire, panting and holding her hand to her side.
“I have run the whole way from Wuthering Heights!” she continued, after a pause; “except where I’ve flown. I couldn’t count the number of falls I’ve had. Oh, I’m aching all over! Don’t be alarmed! There shall be an explanation as soon as I can give it; only just have the goodness to step out and order the carriage to take me on to Gimmerton, and tell a servant to seek up a few clothes in my wardrobe.”
The intruder was Mrs. Heathcliff. She certainly seemed in no laughing predicament; her hair streamed on her shoulders, dripping with snow and water; she was dressed in the girlish dress she commonly wore, befitting her age more than her position: a low frock with short sleeves, and nothing on either head or neck. The frock was of light silk, and clung to her with wet, and her feet were protected merely by thin slippers; add to this a deep cut under one ear, which only the cold prevented from bleeding profusely, a white face scratched and bruised, and a frame hardly able to support itself, through fatigue; and you may fancy my first fright was not much allayed when I had had leisure to examine her.
“My dear young lady,” I exclaimed, “I’ll stir nowhere, and hear nothing, till you have removed every article of your clothes, and put on dry things; and certainly you shall not go to Gimmerton tonight, so it is needless to order the carriage.”
“Certainly, I shall,” she said; “walking or riding: yet I’ve no objection to dress myself decently. And—ah, see how it flows down my neck now! The fire does make it smart.”
She insisted on my fulfilling her directions, before she would let me touch her; and not till after the coachman had been instructed to get ready, and a maid set to pack up some necessary attire, did I obtain her consent for binding the wound and helping to change her garments.
“Now, Ellen,” she said, when my task was finished and she was seated in an easy chair on the hearth, with a cup of tea before her, “you sit down opposite me, and put poor Catherine’s baby away: I don’t like to see it! You mustn’t think I care little for Catherine, because I behaved so foolishly on entering: I’ve cried, too, bitterly—yes, more than any one else has reason to cry. We parted unreconciled, you remember, and I shan’t forgive myself. But, for all that, I was not going to sympathise with him—the brute beast! Oh, give me the poker! This is the last thing of his I have about me”: she slipped the gold ring from her third finger, and threw it on the floor. “I’ll smash it!” she continued, striking it with childish spite, “and then I’ll burn it!” and she took and dropped the misused article among the coals. “There! he shall buy another, if he gets me back again. He’d be capable of coming to seek me, to tease Edgar. I dare not stay, lest that notion should possess his wicked head! And besides, Edgar has not been kind, has he? And I won’t come suing for his assistance; nor will I bring him into more trouble. Necessity compelled me to seek shelter here; though, if I had not learned he was out of the way, I’d have halted at the kitchen, washed my face, warmed myself, got you to bring what I wanted, and departed again to anywhere out of the reach of my accursed—of that incarnate goblin! Ah! he was in such a fury! If he had caught me! It’s a pity Earnshaw is not his match in strength: I wouldn’t have run till I’d seen him all but demolished, had Hindley been able to do it!”
“Well don’t talk so fast miss!” I interrupted; “you’ll disorder the handkerchief I have tied round your face, and make the cut bleed again. Drink your tea, and take breath, and give over laughing: laughter is sadly out of place under this roof, and in your condition!”
“An undeniable truth,” she replied. “Listen to that child! It maintains a constant wail—send it out of my hearing for an hour; I shan’t stay any longer.”
I rang the bell, and committed it to a servant’s care; and then I enquired what had urged her to escape from Wuthering Heights in such an unlikely plight, and where she meant to go, as she refused remaining with us.
“I ought, and I wish to remain,” answered she, “to cheer Edgar and take care of the baby, for two things, and because the Grange is my right home. But I tell you he wouldn’t let me! Do you think he could bear to see me grow fat and merry—could bear to think that we were tranquil, and not resolve on poisoning our comfort? Now, I have the satisfaction of being sure that he detests me, to the point of its annoying him seriously to have me within earshot or eye-sight: I notice, when I enter his presence, the muscles of his countenance are involuntarily distorted into an expression of hatred; partly arising from his knowledge of the good causes I have to feel that sentiment for him, and partly from original aversion. It is strong enough to make me feel pretty certain that he would not chase me over England, supposing I contrived a clear escape; and therefore I must get quite away. I’ve recovered from my first desire to be killed by him: I’d rather he’d kill himself! He has extinguished my love effectually, and so I’m at my ease. I can recollect yet how I loved him; and can dimly imagine that I could still be loving him, if—no, no! Even if he had doted on me, the devilish nature would have revealed its existence somehow. Catherine had an awfully perverted taste to esteem him so dearly, knowing him so well, Monster! would that he could be blotted out of creation, and out of my memory!”
“Hush, hush! He’s a human being,” I said. “Be more charitable: there are worse men than he is yet!”
“He’s not a human being,” she retorted; “and he has no claim on my charity. I gave him my heart, and he took and pinched it to death, and flung it back to me. People feel with their hearts, Ellen: and since he has destroyed mine, I have not power to feel for him: and I would not, though he groaned from this to his dying day, and wept tears of blood for Catherine. No, indeed, indeed, I wouldn’t.” And here Isabella began to cry; but, immediately dashing the water from her lashes, she recommenced. “You asked, what has driven me to flight at last? I was compelled to attempt it, because I had succeeded in rousing his rage a pitch above his malignity. Pulling out the nerves with red-hot pincers requires more coolness than knocking on the head. He was worked up to forget the fiendish prudence he boasted of, and proceeded to murderous violence. I experienced pleasure in being able to exasperate him; the sense of pleasure woke my instinct of self-preservation, so I fairly broke free; and if ever I come into his hands again he is welcome to a signal revenge.
“Yesterday, you know, Mr. Earnshaw should have been at the funeral. He kept himself sober for the purpose—tolerably sober; not going to bed mad at six o’clock and getting up drunk at twelve. Consequently he rose, in suicidal low spirits, as fit for the church as for a dance; and instead, he sat down by the fire and swallowed gin or brandy by tumblerfuls.
“Heathcliff—I shudder to name him! has been a stranger in the house from last Sunday till to-day. Whether the angels have fed him, or his kin beneath, I cannot tell; but he has not eaten a meal with us for nearly a week. He has just come home at dawn, and gone upstairs to his chamber; locking himself in—as if anybody dreamt of coveting his company! There he has continued, praying like a Methodist: only the deity he implored is senseless dust and ashes; and God, when addressed, was curiously confounded with his own black father! After concluding the precious orisons—and they lasted generally till he grew hoarse and his voice was strangled in his throat—he would be off again; always straight down to the Grange! I wonder Edgar did not send for a constable, and give him into custody! For me, grieved as I was about Catherine, it was impossible to avoid regarding this season of deliverance from degrading oppression as a holiday.
“I recovered spirits sufficient to hear Joseph’s eternal lectures without weeping, and to move up and down the house less with the foot of a frightened thief than formerly. You wouldn’t think that I should cry at anything Joseph could say; but he and Hareton are detestable companions. I’d rather sit with Hindley, and hear his awful talk, than with t’ little maister and his staunch supporter, that odious old man! When Heathcliff is in I’m often obliged to seek the kitchen with their society or starve among the damp uninhabited chambers; when he is not, as was the case this week, I establish a table and chair at one corner of the house fire, and never mind how Mr. Earnshaw may occupy himself; and he does not interfere with my arrangements. He is quieter now than he used to be, if no one provokes him: more sullen and depressed, and less furious. Joseph affirms he’s sure he’s an altered man: that the Lord has touched his heart, and he is saved ‘so as by fire.’ I’m puzzled to detect signs of the favorable change: but it is not my business.
“Yester-evening I sat in my nook reading some old books till late on towards twelve. It seemed so dismal to go upstairs, with the wild snow blowing outside, and my thoughts continually reverting to the kirkyard and the new-made grave! I dared hardly lift my eyes from the page before me, that melancholy scene so instantly usurped its place. Hindley sat opposite, his head leant on his hand; perhaps meditating on the same subject. He had ceased drinking at a point below irrationality, and had neither stirred nor spoken during two or three hours. There was no sound through the house but the moaning wind, which shook the windows every now and then, the faint crackling of the coals, and the click of my snuffers as I removed at intervals the long wick of the candle. Hareton and Joseph were probably fast asleep in bed. It was very, very sad: and while I read I sighed, for it seemed as if all joy had vanished from the world, never to be restored.
“The doleful silence was broken at length by the sound of the kitchen latch: Heathcliff had returned from his watch earlier than usual; owing, I suppose, to the sudden storm. That entrance was fastened, and we heard him coming round to get in by the other. I rose with an irrepressible expression of what I felt on my lips, which induced my companion, who had been staring towards the door, to turn and look at me.
“’I’ll keep him out five minutes,’ he exclaimed. ‘You won’t object?’
“’No, you may keep him out the whole night for me,’ I answered. ‘Do! put the key in the lock, and draw the bolts.’
“Earnshaw accomplished this ere his guest reached the front; he then came and brought his chair to the other side of my table, leaning over it, and searching in my eyes for a sympathy with the burning hate that gleamed from his: as he both looked and felt like an assassin, he couldn’t exactly find that; but he discovered enough to encourage him to speak.
“’You and I,’ he said, ‘have each a great debt to settle with the man out yonder! If we were neither of us cowards, we might combine to discharge it. Are you as soft as your brother? Are you willing to endure to the last, and not once attempt a repayment?’
“’I’m weary of enduring now,’ I replied; ‘and I’d be glad of a retaliation that wouldn’t recoil on myself; but treachery and violence are spears pointed at both ends: they wound those who resort to them worse than their enemies.’
“’Treachery and violence are a just return for treachery and violence!’ cried Hindley. ‘Mrs. Heathcliff, I’ll ask you to do nothing; but sit still and be dumb. Tell me now, can you? I’m sure you would have as much pleasure as I in witnessing the conclusion of the fiend’s existence: he’ll be your death unless you overreach him; and he’ll be my ruin. Damn the hellish villain! He knocks at the door as if he were master here already! Promise to hold your tongue, and before that clock strikes—it wants three minutes of one—you’re a free woman!’
“He took the implements which I described to you in my letter from his breast, and would have turned down the candle. I snatched it away, however, and seized his arm. ‘I’ll not hold my tongue!’ I said; ‘you mustn’t touch him. Let the door remain shut, and be quiet!’
“’No! I’ve formed my resolution, and by God I’ll execute it!’ cried the desperate being. ‘I’ll do you a kindness in spite of yourself, and Hareton justice! And you needn’t trouble your head to screen me; Catherine is gone. Nobody alive would regret me or be ashamed, though I cut my throat this minute—and it’s time to make an end!’
“I might as well have struggled with a bear, or reasoned with a lunatic. The only resource left me was to run to a lattice and warn his intended victim of the fate which awaited him.
“’You’d better seek shelter somewhere else to-night!’ I exclaimed in rather a triumphant tone. “Mr. Earnshaw has a mind to shoot you, if you persist in endeavouring to enter.’
“’You’d better open the door, you-’ he answered, addressing me by some elegant term that I don’t care to repeat.
“’I shall not meddle in the matter,’ I retorted again. ‘Come in and get shot, if you please! I’ve done my duty.’
“With that I shut the window and returned to my place by the fire; having too small a stock of hypocrisy at my command to pretend any anxiety for the danger that menaced him. Earnshaw swore passionately at me: affirming that I loved the villain yet; and calling me all sorts of names for the base spirit I evinced. And I, in my secret heart (and conscience never reproached me), thought what a blessing it would be for him should Heathcliff put him out of misery; and what a blessing for me should he send Heathcliff to his right abode! As I sat nursing these reflections, the casement behind me was banged on to the floor by a blow from the latter individual, and his black countenance looked blightingly through. The stanchions stood too close to suffer his shoulders to follow, and I smiled, exulting in my fancied security. His hair and clothes were whitened with snow, and his sharp cannibal teeth, revealed by cold and wrath, gleamed through the dark.
“’Isabella, let me in, or I’ll make you repent!’ he ‘grined,’ as Joseph calls it.
“’I cannot commit murder,’ I replied. ‘Mr. Hindley stands sentinel with a knife and loaded pistol.’
“’Let me in by the kitchen door,’ he said.
“’Hindley will be there before you,’ I answered: ‘and that’s a poor love of yours that cannot bear a shower of snow! We were left at peace on our beds as long as the summer moon shone, but the moment a blast of winter returns, you must run for shelter! Heathcliff, if I were you, I’d go stretch myself over her grave and die like a faithful dog. The world is surely not worth living in now, is it? You had distinctly impressed on me the idea that Catherine was the whole joy of your life: I can’t imagine how you think of surviving her loss.’
“’He’s there, is he?’ exclaimed my companion, rushing to the gap. ‘If I can get my arm out I can hit him!’
“I’m afraid, Ellen, you’ll set me down as really wicked; but you don’t know all, so don’t judge. I wouldn’t have aided or abetted an attempt on even his life for anything. Wish that he were dead, I must; and therefore I was fearfully disappointed, and unnerved by terror for the consequences of my taunting speech, when he flung himself on Earnshaw’s weapon and wrenched it from his grasp.
“’The charge exploded, and the knife, in springing back, closed into its owner’s wrist. Heathcliff pulled it away by main force, slitting up the flesh as it passed on, and thrust it dripping into his pocket. He then took a stone, struck down the division between two windows, and sprang in. His adversary had fallen senseless with excessive pain and the flow of blood that gushed from an artery or a large vein. The ruffian kicked and trampled on him, and dashed his head repeatedly against the flags, holding me with one hand, meantime, to prevent me summoning Joseph. He exerted preterhuman self-denial in abstaining from finishing him completely; but getting out of breath he finally desisted, and dragged the apparently inanimate body on to the settle. There he tore off the sleeve of Earnshaw’s coat, and bound up the wound with brutal roughness; spitting and cursing during the operation as energetically as he had kicked before. Being at liberty, I lost no time in seeking the old servant; who, having gathered by degrees the purport of my hasty tale, hurried below, gasping, as he descended the steps two at once.
“’What is ther to do, now? what it ther to do, now?’
“’There’s this to do,’ thundered Heathcliff, ‘that your master’s mad; and should he last another month, I’ll have him to an asylum. And how the devil did you come to fasten me out, you toothless hound? Don’t stand muttering and mumbling there. Come, I’m not going to nurse him. Wash that stuff away; and mind the sparks of your candle—it is more than half brandy!’
‘And so, ye’ve been murthering on him?’ exclaimed Joseph, lifting his hands and eyes in horror. ‘If iver I seed a seeght loike this! May the Lord-’
“Heathcliff gave him a push on to his knees in the middle of the blood, and flung a towel to him; but instead of proceeding to dry it up, he joined his hands and began a prayer, which excited my laughter from its odd phraseology. I was in the conditon of mind to be shocked at nothing: in fact, I was as reckless as some malefactors show themselves at the foot of the gallows.
“’Oh, I forgot you,’ said the tyrant. ‘You shall do that. Down with you. And you conspire with him against me. do you, viper? There, that is work fit for you!’
“He shook me till my teeth rattled, and pitched me beside Joseph who steadily concluded his supplications and then rose, vowing he would set off for the Grange directly. Mr. Linton was a magistrate, and though he had fifty wives dead, he should enquire into this. He was so obstinate in his resolution, that Heathcliff deemed it expedient to compel from my lips a recapitulation of what had taken place; standing over me, heaving with malevolence, as I reluctantly delivered the account in answer to his questions. It required a great deal of labour to satisfy the old man that Heathcliff was not the aggressor; especially with my hardly-wrung replies. However, Mr. Earnshaw soon convinced him that he was alive still; Joseph hastened to administer a dose of spirits, and by their succour his master presently regained motion and consciousness. Heathcliff, aware that his opponent was ignorant of the treatment received while insensible, called him deliriously intoxicated; and said he should not notice his atrocious conduct further, but advised him to get to bed. To my joy, he left us, after giving this judicious counsel, and Hindley stretched himself on the hearthstone. I departed to my own room, marvelling that I had escaped so easily.
“This morning, when I came down, about half-an-hour before noon, Mr. Earnshaw was sitting by the fire, deadly sick; his evil genius, almost as gaunt and ghastly, leant against the chimney. Neither appeared inclined to dine, and, having waited till all was cold on the table, I commenced alone. Nothing hindered me from eating heartily, and I experienced a certain sense of satisfaction and superiority, as, at intervals, I cast a look towards my silent companions, and felt the comfort of a quiet conscience within me. After I had done, I ventured on the unusual liberty of drawing near the fire, going round Earnshaw’s seat, and kneeling in the corner beside him.
“Heathcliff did not glance my way, and I gazed up, and contemplated his features almost as confidently as if they had been turned to stone. His forehead, that I once thought so manly, and that I now think so diabolical, was shaded with a heavy cloud; his basilisk eyes were nearly quenched by sleeplessness, and weeping, perhaps, for the lashes were wet then; his lips devoid of their ferocious sneer, were sealed in an expression of unspeakable sadness. Had it been another, I would have covered my face in the presence of such grief. In his case, I was gratified; and, ignoble as it seems to insult a fallen enemy, I couldn’t miss this chance of sticking in a dart: his weakness was the only time when I could taste the delight of paying wrong for wrong.”
“Fie, fie, miss!” I interrupted. “One might suppose you had never opened a Bible in your life. If God afflict your enemies, surely that ought to suffice you. It is both mean and presumptuous to add your torture to His!”
“In general I’ll allow that it would be, Ellen,” she continued; “but what misery laid on Heathcliff could content me, unless I have a hand in it? I’d rather he suffered less, if I might cause his sufferings and he might know that I was the cause. Oh, I owe him so much. On only one condition can I hope to forgive him. It is, if I may take an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; for every wrench of agony return a wrench: reduce him to my level. As he was the first to injure, make him the first to implore pardon; and then—why then, Ellen, I might show you some generosity. But it is utterly impossible I can ever be revenged, and therefore I cannot forgive him. Hindley wanted some water, and I handed him a glass, and asked him how he was.
“’Not as ill as I wish,’ he replied. ‘But leaving out my arm, every inch of me is as sore as if I had been fighting with a legion of imps!’
“’Yes, no wonder,’ was my next remark. ‘Catherine used to boast that she stood between you and bodily harm: she meant that certain persons would not hurt you for fear of offending her. It’s well people don’t really rise from their grave, or, last night, she might have witnessed a repulsive scene! Are not you bruised and cut over your chest and shoulders?’
“’I can’t say,’ he answered: ‘but what do you mean? Did he dare to strike me when I was down?’
“’He trampled on and kicked you, and dashed you on the ground,’ I whispered. ‘And his mouth watered to tear you with his teeth; because he’s only half man: not so much, and the rest fiend.’
“Mr. Earnshaw looked up, like me, to the countenance of our mutual foe; who, absorbed in his anguish, seemed insensible to anything around him: the longer he stood, the plainer his reflections revealed their blackness through his features.
“’Oh, if God would but give me strength to strangle him in my last agony, I’d go to hell with joy,’ groaned the impatient man, writhing to rise, and sinking back in despair, convinced of his inadequacy for the struggle.
“’Nay, it’s enough that he has murdered one of you,’ I observed aloud. ‘At the Grange, every one knows your sister would have been living now, had it not been for Mr. Heathcliff. After all, it is preferable to be hated than loved by him. When I recollect how happy we were—how happy Catherine was before he came—I’m fit to curse the day.’
“Most likely, Heathcliff noticed more the truth of what was said, than the spirit of the person who said it. His attention was roused, I saw, for his eyes rained down tears among the ashes, and he drew his breath in suffocating sighs. I stared full at him, and laughed scornfully. The clouded windows of hell flashed a moment towards me; the fiend which usually looked out, however, was so dimmed and drowned that I did not fear to hazard another sound of derision.
“’Get up, and begone out of my sight,’ said the mourner.
“I guessed he uttered those words, at least, though his voice was hardly intelligible.
“’I beg your pardon,’ I replied. ‘But I loved Catherine too; and her brother requires attendance, which, for her sake, I shall supply. Now that she’s dead, I see her in Hindley: Hindley has exactly her eyes, if you had not tried to gouge them out, and made them black and red; and her-’
“’Get up, wretched idiot, before I stamp you to death!’ he cried, making a movement that caused me to make one also.
“’But then,’ I continued, holding myself ready to flee; ‘if poor Catherine had trusted you, and assumed the ridiculous, contemptible, degrading title of Mrs. Heathcliff, she would soon have presented a similar picture! She wouldn’t have borne your abominable behaviour quietly: her detestation and disgust must have found voice.’
“The back of the settle and Earnshaw’s person interposed between me and him: so instead of endeavouring to reach me, he snatched a dinner knife from the table and flung it at my head. It struck beneath my ear, and stopped the sentence I was uttering; but, pulling it out, I sprang to the door and delivered another; which I hope went a little deeper than his missile. The last glimpse I caught of him was a furious rush on his part, checked by the embrace of his host; and both fell locked together on the hearth. In my flight through the kitchen I bid Joseph speed to his master; I knocked over Hareton, who was hanging a litter of puppies from a chair-back in the doorway; and, blest as a soul escaped from purgatory, I bounded, leaped, and flew down the steep road; then, quitting its windings, shot direct across the moor, rolling over banks, and wading through marshes: precipitating myself, in fact, towards the beacon light of the Grange. And far rather would I be condemned to a perpetual dwelling in the infernal regions, than, even for one night, abide beneath the roof of Wuthering Heights again.”
Isabella ceased speaking, and took a drink of tea; then she rose, and bidding me put on her bonnet, and a great shawl I had brought, and turning a deaf ear to my entreaties for her to remain another hour, she stepped on to a chair, kissed Edgar’s and Catherine’s portraits, bestowed a similar salute on me, and descended to the carriage, accompanied by Fanny, who yelped wild with joy at recovering her mistress. She was driven away, never to revisit this neighbourhood: but a regular correspondence was established between her and my master when things were more settled. I believe her new abode was in the south, near London; there she had a son born, a few months subsequent to her escape. He was christened Linton, and, from the first, she reported him to be an ailing, peevish creature.
Mr. Heathcliff, meeting me one day in the village, enquired where she lived. I refused to tell. He remarked that it was not of any moment, only she must beware of coming to her brother: she should not be with him, if he had to keep her himself. Though I would give no information, he discovered, through some of the other servants, both her place of residence and the existence of the child. Still he didn’t molest her: for which forbearance she might thank his aversion, I suppose. He often asked about the infant, when he saw me; and on hearing its name, smiled grimly, and observed:
“They wish me to hate it too, do they?”
“I don’t think they wish you to know anything about it,” I answered.
“But I’ll have it,” he said, “when I want it. They may reckon on that!”
Fortunately, its mother died before the time arrived; some thirteen years after the decease of Catherine, when Linton was twelve, or a little more.
On the day succeeding Isabella’s unexpected visit, I had no opportunity of speaking to my master: he shunned conversation, and was fit for discussing nothing. When I could get him to listen, I saw it pleased him that his sister had left her husband; whom he abhorred with an intensity which the mildness of his nature would scarcely seem to allow. So deep and sensitive was his aversion, that he refrained from going anywhere where he was likely to see or hear of Heathcliff. Grief, and that together, transformed him into a complete hermit: he threw up his office of magistrate, ceased even to attend church, avoided the village on all occasions, and spent a life of entire seclusion within the limits of his park and grounds; only varied by solitary rambles on the moors, and visits to the grave of his wife, mostly at evening, or early morning before other wanderers were abroad. But he was too good to be thoroughly unhappy long. He didn’t pray for Catherine’s soul to haunt him. Time brought resignation, and a melancholy sweeter than common joy. He recalled her memory with ardent, tender love, and hopeful aspiring to the better world; where he doubted not she was gone.
And he had earthly consolation and affections also. For a few days I said he seemed regardless of the puny successor to the departed: the coldness melted as fast as snow in April, and ere the tiny thing could stammer a word or totter a step it wielded a despot’s sceptre in his heart. It was named Catherine; but he never called it the name in full, as he had never called the first Catherine short; probably because Heathcliff had a habit of doing so. The little one was always Cathy; it formed to him a distinction from the mother, and yet a connection with her; and his attachment sprang from its relation to her, far more than from its being his own.
I used to draw a comparison between him and Hindley Earnshaw, and perplex myself to explain satisfactorily why their conduct was so opposite in similar circumstances. They had both been fond husbands, and were both attached to their children; and I could not see how they shouldn’t both have taken the same road, for good or evil. But, I thought in my mind. Hindley, with apparently the stronger head, has shown himself sadly the worse and the weaker man. When his ship struck, the captain abandoned his post; and the crew, instead of trying to save her, rushed into riot and confusion, leaving no hope for their luckless vessel. Linton, on the contrary, displayed the true courage of a loyal and faithful soul: he trusted God; and God comforted him. One hoped, and the other despaired: they chose their own lots, and were righteously doomed to endure them. But you’ll not want to hear my moralising, Mr. Lockwood: you’ll judge as well as I can, all these things: at least, you’ll think you will, and that’s the same. The end of Earnshaw was what might have been expected; it followed fast on his sister’s: there was scarcely six months between them. We, at the Grange, never got a very succinct account of his state preceding it; all that I did learn, was on occasion of going to aid in the preparations for the funeral. Mr. Kenneth came to announce the event to my master.
“Well, Nelly,” said he, riding into the yard one morning, too early not to alarm me with an instant presentiment of bad news, “it’s yours and my turn to go into mourning at present. Who’s given us the slip now, do you think?”
“Who?” I asked in a flurry.
“Why, guess!” he returned, dismounting, and slinging his bridle on a hook by the door. “And nip up the corner of your apron: I’m certain you’ll need it.”
“Not Mr. Heathcliff, surely?” I exclaimed.
“What! would you have tears for him?” said the doctor. “No, Heathcliff’s a tough young fellow: he looks blooming today. I’ve just seen him. He’s rapidly regaining flesh since he lost his better half.”
“Who is it then, Mr. Kenneth?” I repeated impatiently.
“Hindley Earnshaw! Your old friend Hindley,” he replied, “and my wicked gossip: though he’s been too wild for me this long while. There! I said we should draw water. But cheer up. He died true to his character: drunk as a lord. Poor lad! I’m sorry, too. One can’t help missing an old companion: though he had the worst tricks with him that ever man imagined, and has done me many a rascally turn. He’s barely twenty-seven, it seems; that’s your own age: who would have thought you were born in one year?”
I confess this blow was greater to me than the shock of Mrs. Linton’s death: ancient associations lingered round my heart; I sat down in the porch and wept as for a blood relation, desiring Mr. Kenneth to get another servant to introduce him to the master. I could not hinder myself from pondering on the question —“Had he had fair play?” Whatever I did, that idea would bother me: it was so tiresomely pertinacious that I resolved on requesting leave to go to Wuthering Heights, and assist in the last duties to the dead. Mr. Linton was extremely reluctant to consent, but I pleaded eloquently for the friendless condition in which he lay; and I said my old master and foster-brother had a claim on my services as strong as his own. Besides, I reminded him that the child Hareton was his wife’s nephew, and, in the absence of nearer kin, he ought to act as its guardian; and he ought to and must enquire how the property was left, and look over the concerns of his brother-in-law. He was unfit for attending to such matters then, but he bid me speak to his lawyer; and at length permitted me to go. His lawyer had been Earnshaw’s also: I called at the village, and asked him to accompany me. He shook his head, and advised that Heathcliff should be let alone; affirming, if the truth were known, Hareton would be found little else than a beggar.
“His father died in debt,” he said; “the whole property is mortgaged, and the sole chance for the natural heir is to allow him an opportunity of creating some interest in the creditor’s heart, that he may be inclined to deal leniently towards him.”
When I reached the Heights, I explained that I had come to see everything carried on decently; and Joseph, who appeared in sufficient distress, expressed satisfaction at my presence. Mr. Heathcliff said he did not perceive that I was wanted; but I might stay and order the arrangements for the funeral, if I chose.
“Correctly,” he remarked, “that fool’s body should be buried at the cross-roads, without ceremony of any kind. I happened to leave him ten minutes yesterday afternoon, and in that interval he fastened the two doors of the house against me, and he has spent the night in drinking himself to death deliberately! We broke in this morning, for we heard him snorting like a horse; and there he was, laid over the settle; flaying and scalping would not have wakened him. I sent for Kenneth, and he came; but not till the beast had changed into carrion: he was both dead and cold, and stark; and so you’ll allow it was useless making more stir about him!”
The old servant confirmed this statement, but muttered:
“I’d rayther he’d goan hisseln for t’ doctor! I sud ha’ taen tent o’ t’ maister better nor him—and he warn’t deead when I left, naught o’ t’ soart!”
I insisted on the funeral being respectable. Mr. Heathcliff said I might have my own way there too; only, he desired me to remember that the money for the whole affair came out of his pocket. He maintained a hard, careless deportment, indicative of neither joy nor sorrow; if anything, it expressed a flinty gratification at a piece of difficult work successfully executed. I observed once, indeed, something like exultation in his aspect: it was just when the people were bearing the coffin from the house. He had the hypocrisy to represent a mourner: and previous to following Hareton, he lifted the unfortunate child on to the table and muttered, with peculiar gusto, “Now, my bonny lad, you are mine! And we’ll see if one tree won’t grow as crooked as another, with the same wind to twist it!” The unsuspecting thing was pleased at this speech: he played with Heathcliff’s whiskers, and stroked his cheek; but I divined its meaning, and observed tartly, “That boy must go back with me to Thrushcross Grange, sir. There is nothing in the world less yours than he is!”
“Does Linton say so?” he demanded.
“Of course—he has ordered me to take him,” I replied.
“Well,” said the scoundrel,” we’ll not argue the subject now: but I have a fancy to try my hand at rearing a young one; so intimate to your master that I must supply the place of this with my own, if he attempt to remove it. I don’t engage to let Hareton go undisputed; but I’ll be pretty sure to make the other come! Remember to tell him.”
This hint was enough to bind my hands. I repeated its substance on my return; and Edgar Linton, little interested at the commencement, spoke no more of interfering. I’m not aware that he could have done it to any purpose, had he been ever so willing.
The guest was now the master of Wuthering Heights: he held firm possession, and proved to the attorney—who, in his turn, proved it to Mr. Linton—that Earnshaw had mortgaged every yard of land he owned, for cash to supply his mania for gaming; and he, Heathcliff, was the mortgagee. In that manner Hareton, who should now be the first gentleman in the neighbourhood, was reduced to a state of complete dependence on his father’s inveterate enemy; and lives in his own house as a servant, deprived of the advantage of wages: quite unable to right himself, because of his friendlessness, and his ignorance that he has been wronged.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:06