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Wuthering Heights, Chapter 14 - The Best Place to Curl Up with a Good Book [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Big Comfy Chair

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Wuthering Heights, Chapter 14 [Apr. 27th, 2006|01:11 pm]
Big Comfy Chair

bigcomfychair

[cpt_babypants]

CHAPTER XIV



AS soon as I had perused this epistle I went to the master, and
informed him that his sister had arrived at the Heights, and sent
me a letter expressing her sorrow for Mrs. Linton's situation, and
her ardent desire to see him; with a wish that he would transmit to
her, as early as possible, some token of forgiveness by me.

'Forgiveness!' said Linton. 'I have nothing to forgive her, Ellen.
You may call at Wuthering Heights this afternoon, if you like, and
say that I am not angry, but I'm sorry to have lost her; especially
as I can never think she'll be happy. It is out of the question my
going to see her, however: we are eternally divided; and should
she really wish to oblige me, let her persuade the villain she has
married to leave the country.'

'And you won't write her a little note, sir?' I asked, imploringly.

'No,' he answered. 'It is needless. My communication with
Heathcliff's family shall be as sparing as his with mine. It shall
not exist!'

Mr. Edgar's coldness depressed me exceedingly; and all the way from
the Grange I puzzled my brains how to put more heart into what he
said, when I repeated it; and how to soften his refusal of even a
few lines to console Isabella. I daresay she had been on the watch
for me since morning: I saw her looking through the lattice as I
came up the garden causeway, and I nodded to her; but she drew
back, as if afraid of being observed. I entered without knocking.
There never was such a dreary, dismal scene as the formerly
cheerful house presented! I must confess, that if I had been in
the young lady's place, I would, at least, have swept the hearth,
and wiped the tables with a duster. But she already partook of the
pervading spirit of neglect which encompassed her. Her pretty face
was wan and listless; her hair uncurled: some locks hanging lankly
down, and some carelessly twisted round her head. Probably she had
not touched her dress since yester evening. Hindley was not there.
Mr. Heathcliff sat at a table, turning over some papers in his
pocket-book; but he rose when I appeared, asked me how I did, quite
friendly, and offered me a chair. He was the only thing there that
seemed decent; and I thought he never looked better. So much had
circumstances altered their positions, that he would certainly have
struck a stranger as a born and bred gentleman; and his wife as a
thorough little slattern! She came forward eagerly to greet me,
and held out one hand to take the expected letter. I shook my
head. She wouldn't understand the hint, but followed me to a
sideboard, where I went to lay my bonnet, and importuned me in a
whisper to give her directly what I had brought. Heathcliff
guessed the meaning of her manoeuvres, and said - 'If you have got
anything for Isabella (as no doubt you have, Nelly), give it to
her. You needn't make a secret of it: we have no secrets between
us.'

'Oh, I have nothing,' I replied, thinking it best to speak the
truth at once. 'My master bid me tell his sister that she must not
expect either a letter or a visit from him at present. He sends
his love, ma'am, and his wishes for your happiness, and his pardon
for the grief you have occasioned; but he thinks that after this
time his household and the household here should drop
intercommunication, as nothing could come of keeping it up.'

Mrs. Heathcliff's lip quivered slightly, and she returned to her
seat in the window. Her husband took his stand on the hearthstone,
near me, and began to put questions concerning Catherine. I told
him as much as I thought proper of her illness, and he extorted
from me, by cross-examination, most of the facts connected with its
origin. I blamed her, as she deserved, for bringing it all on
herself; and ended by hoping that he would follow Mr. Linton's
example and avoid future interference with his family, for good or
evil.

'Mrs. Linton is now just recovering,' I said; 'she'll never be like
she was, but her life is spared; and if you really have a regard
for her, you'll shun crossing her way again: nay, you'll move out
of this country entirely; and that you may not regret it, I'll
inform you Catherine Linton is as different now from your old
friend Catherine Earnshaw, as that young lady is different from me.
Her appearance is changed greatly, her character much more so; and
the person who is compelled, of necessity, to be her companion,
will only sustain his affection hereafter by the remembrance of
what she once was, by common humanity, and a sense of duty!'

'That is quite possible,' remarked Heathcliff, forcing himself to
seem calm: 'quite possible that your master should have nothing
but common humanity and a sense of duty to fall back upon. But do
you imagine that I shall leave Catherine to his DUTY and HUMANITY?
and can you compare my feelings respecting Catherine to his?
Before you leave this house, I must exact a promise from you that
you'll get me an interview with her: consent, or refuse, I WILL
see her! What do you say?'

'I say, Mr. Heathcliff,' I replied, 'you must not: you never
shall, through my means. Another encounter between you and the
master would kill her altogether.'

'With your aid that may be avoided,' he continued; 'and should
there be danger of such an event - should he be the cause of adding
a single trouble more to her existence - why, I think I shall be
justified in going to extremes! I wish you had sincerity enough to
tell me whether Catherine would suffer greatly from his loss: the
fear that she would restrains me. And there you see the
distinction between our feelings: had he been in my place, and I
in his, though I hated him with a hatred that turned my life to
gall, I never would have raised a hand against him. You may look
incredulous, if you please! I never would have banished him from
her society as long as she desired his. The moment her regard
ceased, I would have torn his heart out, and drunk his blood! But,
till then - if you don't believe me, you don't know me - till then,
I would have died by inches before I touched a single hair of his
head!'

'And yet,' I interrupted, 'you have no scruples in completely
ruining all hopes of her perfect restoration, by thrusting yourself
into her remembrance now, when she has nearly forgotten you, and
involving her in a new tumult of discord and distress.'

'You suppose she has nearly forgotten me?' he said. 'Oh, Nelly!
you know she has not! You know as well as I do, that for every
thought she spends on Linton she spends a thousand on me! At a
most miserable period of my life, I had a notion of the kind: it
haunted me on my return to the neighbourhood last summer; but only
her own assurance could make me admit the horrible idea again. And
then, Linton would be nothing, nor Hindley, nor all the dreams that
ever I dreamt. Two words would comprehend my future - DEATH and
HELL: existence, after losing her, would be hell. Yet I was a
fool to fancy for a moment that she valued Edgar Linton's
attachment more than mine. If he loved with all the powers of his
puny being, he couldn't love as much in eighty years as I could in
a day. And Catherine has a heart as deep as I have: the sea could
be as readily contained in that horse-trough as her whole affection
be monopolised by him. Tush! He is scarcely a degree dearer to
her than her dog, or her horse. It is not in him to be loved like
me: how can she love in him what he has not?'

'Catherine and Edgar are as fond of each other as any two people
can be,' cried Isabella, with sudden vivacity. 'No one has a right
to talk in that manner, and I won't hear my brother depreciated in
silence!'

'Your brother is wondrous fond of you too, isn't he?' observed
Heathcliff, scornfully. 'He turns you adrift on the world with
surprising alacrity.'

'He is not aware of what I suffer,' she replied. 'I didn't tell
him that.'

'You have been telling him something, then: you have written, have
you?'

'To say that I was married, I did write - you saw the note.'

'And nothing since?'

'No.'

'My young lady is looking sadly the worse for her change of
condition,' I remarked. 'Somebody's love comes short in her case,
obviously; whose, I may guess; but, perhaps, I shouldn't say.'

'I should guess it was her own,' said Heathcliff. 'She degenerates
into a mere slut! She is tired of trying to please me uncommonly
early. You'd hardly credit it, but the very morrow of our wedding
she was weeping to go home. However, she'll suit this house so
much the better for not being over nice, and I'll take care she
does not disgrace me by rambling abroad.'

'Well, sir,' returned I, 'I hope you'll consider that Mrs.
Heathcliff is accustomed to be looked after and waited on; and that
she has been brought up like an only daughter, whom every one was
ready to serve. You must let her have a maid to keep things tidy
about her, and you must treat her kindly. Whatever be your notion
of Mr. Edgar, you cannot doubt that she has a capacity for strong
attachments, or she wouldn't have abandoned the elegancies, and
comforts, and friends of her former home, to fix contentedly, in
such a wilderness as this, with you.'

'She abandoned them under a delusion,' he answered; 'picturing in
me a hero of romance, and expecting unlimited indulgences from my
chivalrous devotion. I can hardly regard her in the light of a
rational creature, so obstinately has she persisted in forming a
fabulous notion of my character and acting on the false impressions
she cherished. But, at last, I think she begins to know me: I
don't perceive the silly smiles and grimaces that provoked me at
first; and the senseless incapability of discerning that I was in
earnest when I gave her my opinion of her infatuation and herself.
It was a marvellous effort of perspicacity to discover that I did
not love her. I believed, at one time, no lessons could teach her
that! And yet it is poorly learnt; for this morning she announced,
as a piece of appalling intelligence, that I had actually succeeded
in making her hate me! A positive labour of Hercules, I assure
you! If it be achieved, I have cause to return thanks. Can I
trust your assertion, Isabella? Are you sure you hate me? If I
let you alone for half a day, won't you come sighing and wheedling
to me again? I daresay she would rather I had seemed all
tenderness before you: it wounds her vanity to have the truth
exposed. But I don't care who knows that the passion was wholly on
one side: and I never told her a lie about it. She cannot accuse
me of showing one bit of deceitful softness. The first thing she
saw me do, on coming out of the Grange, was to hang up her little
dog; and when she pleaded for it, the first words I uttered were a
wish that I had the hanging of every being belonging to her, except
one: possibly she took that exception for herself. But no
brutality disgusted her: I suppose she has an innate admiration of
it, if only her precious person were secure from injury! Now, was
it not the depth of absurdity - of genuine idiotcy, for that
pitiful, slavish, mean-minded brach to dream that I could love her?
Tell your master, Nelly, that I never, in all my life, met with
such an abject thing as she is. She even disgraces the name of
Linton; and I've sometimes relented, from pure lack of invention,
in my experiments on what she could endure, and still creep
shamefully cringing back! But tell him, also, to set his fraternal
and magisterial heart at ease: that I keep strictly within the
limits of the law. I have avoided, up to this period, giving her
the slightest right to claim a separation; and, what's more, she'd
thank nobody for dividing us. If she desired to go, she might:
the nuisance of her presence outweighs the gratification to be
derived from tormenting her!'

'Mr. Heathcliff,' said I, 'this is the talk of a madman; your wife,
most likely, is convinced you are mad; and, for that reason, she
has borne with you hitherto: but now that you say she may go,
she'll doubtless avail herself of the permission. You are not so
bewitched, ma'am, are you, as to remain with him of your own
accord?'

'Take care, Ellen!' answered Isabella, her eyes sparkling irefully;
there was no misdoubting by their expression the full success of
her partner's endeavours to make himself detested. 'Don't put
faith in a single word he speaks. He's a lying fiend! a monster,
and not a human being! I've been told I might leave him before;
and I've made the attempt, but I dare not repeat it! Only, Ellen,
promise you'll not mention a syllable of his infamous conversation
to my brother or Catherine. Whatever he may pretend, he wishes to
provoke Edgar to desperation: he says he has married me on purpose
to obtain power over him; and he sha'n't obtain it - I'll die
first! I just hope, I pray, that he may forget his diabolical
prudence and kill me! The single pleasure I can imagine is to die,
or to see him dead!'

'There - that will do for the present!' said Heathcliff. 'If you
are called upon in a court of law, you'll remember her language,
Nelly! And take a good look at that countenance: she's near the
point which would suit me. No; you're not fit to be your own
guardian, Isabella, now; and I, being your legal protector, must
retain you in my custody, however distasteful the obligation may
be. Go up-stairs; I have something to say to Ellen Dean in
private. That's not the way: up-stairs, I tell you! Why, this is
the road upstairs, child!'

He seized, and thrust her from the room; and returned muttering -
'I have no pity! I have no pity! The more the worms writhe, the
more I yearn to crush out their entrails! It is a moral teething;
and I grind with greater energy in proportion to the increase of
pain.'

'Do you understand what the word pity means?' I said, hastening to
resume my bonnet. 'Did you ever feel a touch of it in your life?'

'Put that down!' he interrupted, perceiving my intention to depart.
'You are not going yet. Come here now, Nelly: I must either
persuade or compel you to aid me in fulfilling my determination to
see Catherine, and that without delay. I swear that I meditate no
harm: I don't desire to cause any disturbance, or to exasperate or
insult Mr. Linton; I only wish to hear from herself how she is, and
why she has been ill; and to ask if anything that I could do would
be of use to her. Last night I was in the Grange garden six hours,
and I'll return there to-night; and every night I'll haunt the
place, and every day, till I find an opportunity of entering. If
Edgar Linton meets me, I shall not hesitate to knock him down, and
give him enough to insure his quiescence while I stay. If his
servants oppose me, I shall threaten them off with these pistols.
But wouldn't it be better to prevent my coming in contact with
them, or their master? And you could do it so easily. I'd warn
you when I came, and then you might let me in unobserved, as soon
as she was alone, and watch till I departed, your conscience quite
calm: you would be hindering mischief.'

I protested against playing that treacherous part in my employer's
house: and, besides, I urged the cruelty and selfishness of his
destroying Mrs. Linton's tranquillity for his satisfaction. 'The
commonest occurrence startles her painfully,' I said. 'She's all
nerves, and she couldn't bear the surprise, I'm positive. Don't
persist, sir! or else I shall be obliged to inform my master of
your designs; and he'll take measures to secure his house and its
inmates from any such unwarrantable intrusions!'

'In that case I'll take measures to secure you, woman!' exclaimed
Heathcliff; 'you shall not leave Wuthering Heights till to-morrow
morning. It is a foolish story to assert that Catherine could not
bear to see me; and as to surprising her, I don't desire it: you
must prepare her - ask her if I may come. You say she never
mentions my name, and that I am never mentioned to her. To whom
should she mention me if I am a forbidden topic in the house? She
thinks you are all spies for her husband. Oh, I've no doubt she's
in hell among you! I guess by her silence, as much as anything,
what she feels. You say she is often restless, and anxious-
looking: is that a proof of tranquillity? You talk of her mind
being unsettled. How the devil could it be otherwise in her
frightful isolation? And that insipid, paltry creature attending
her from DUTY and HUMANITY! From PITY and CHARITY! He might as
well plant an oak in a flower-pot, and expect it to thrive, as
imagine he can restore her to vigour in the soil of his shallow
cares? Let us settle it at once: will you stay here, and am I to
fight my way to Catherine over Linton and his footman? Or will you
be my friend, as you have been hitherto, and do what I request?
Decide! because there is no reason for my lingering another minute,
if you persist in your stubborn ill-nature!'

Well, Mr. Lockwood, I argued and complained, and flatly refused him
fifty times; but in the long run he forced me to an agreement. I
engaged to carry a letter from him to my mistress; and should she
consent, I promised to let him have intelligence of Linton's next
absence from home, when he might come, and get in as he was able:
I wouldn't be there, and my fellow-servants should be equally out
of the way. Was it right or wrong? I fear it was wrong, though
expedient. I thought I prevented another explosion by my
compliance; and I thought, too, it might create a favourable crisis
in Catherine's mental illness: and then I remembered Mr. Edgar's
stern rebuke of my carrying tales; and I tried to smooth away all
disquietude on the subject, by affirming, with frequent iteration,
that that betrayal of trust, if it merited so harsh an appellation,
should be the last. Notwithstanding, my journey homeward was
sadder than my journey thither; and many misgivings I had, ere I
could prevail on myself to put the missive into Mrs. Linton's hand.

But here is Kenneth; I'll go down, and tell him how much better you
are. My history is DREE, as we say, and will serve to while away
another morning.

Dree, and dreary! I reflected as the good woman descended to
receive the doctor: and not exactly of the kind which I should
have chosen to amuse me. But never mind! I'll extract wholesome
medicines from Mrs. Dean's bitter herbs; and firstly, let me beware
of the fascination that lurks in Catherine Heathcliff's brilliant
eyes. I should be in a curious taking if I surrendered my heart to
that young person, and the daughter turned out a second edition of
the mother.
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