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Wuthering Heights, Chapter 16 - The Best Place to Curl Up with a Good Book [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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Wuthering Heights, Chapter 16 [Jun. 19th, 2007|04:08 pm]
Big Comfy Chair




ABOUT twelve o'clock that night was born the Catherine you saw at
Wuthering Heights: a puny, seven-months' child; and two hours
after the mother died, having never recovered sufficient
consciousness to miss Heathcliff, or know Edgar. The latter's
distraction at his bereavement is a subject too painful to be dwelt
on; its after-effects showed how deep the sorrow sunk. A great
addition, in my eyes, was his being left without an heir. I
bemoaned that, as I gazed on the feeble orphan; and I mentally
abused old Linton for (what was only natural partiality) the
securing his estate to his own daughter, instead of his son's. An
unwelcomed infant it was, poor thing! It might have wailed out of
life, and nobody cared a morsel, during those first hours of
existence. We redeemed the neglect afterwards; but its beginning
was as friendless as its end is likely to be.

Next morning - bright and cheerful out of doors - stole softened in
through the blinds of the silent room, and suffused the couch and
its occupant with a mellow, tender glow. Edgar Linton had his head
laid on the pillow, and his eyes shut. His young and fair features
were almost as deathlike as those of the form beside him, and
almost as fixed: but HIS was the hush of exhausted anguish, and
HERS of perfect peace. Her brow smooth, her lids closed, her lips
wearing the expression of a smile; no angel in heaven could be more
beautiful than she appeared. And I partook of the infinite calm in
which she lay: my mind was never in a holier frame than while I
gazed on that untroubled image of Divine rest. I instinctively
echoed the words she had uttered a few hours before: 'Incomparably
beyond and above us all! Whether still on earth or now in heaven,
her spirit is at home with God!'

I don't know if it be a peculiarity in me, but I am seldom
otherwise than happy while watching in the chamber of death, should
no frenzied or despairing mourner share the duty with me. I see a
repose that neither earth nor hell can break, and I feel an
assurance of the endless and shadowless hereafter - the Eternity
they have entered - where life is boundless in its duration, and
love in its sympathy, and joy in its fulness. I noticed on that
occasion how much selfishness there is even in a love like Mr.
Linton's, when he so regretted Catherine's blessed release! To be
sure, one might have doubted, after the wayward and impatient
existence she had led, whether she merited a haven of peace at
last. One might doubt in seasons of cold reflection; but not then,
in the presence of her corpse. It asserted its own tranquillity,
which seemed a pledge of equal quiet to its former inhabitant.

Do you believe such people are happy in the other world, sir? I'd
give a great deal to know.

I declined answering Mrs. Dean's question, which struck me as
something heterodox. She proceeded:

Retracing the course of Catherine Linton, I fear we have no right
to think she is; but we'll leave her with her Maker.

The master looked asleep, and I ventured soon after sunrise to quit
the room and steal out to the pure refreshing air. The servants
thought me gone to shake off the drowsiness of my protracted watch;
in reality, my chief motive was seeing Mr. Heathcliff. If he had
remained among the larches all night, he would have heard nothing
of the stir at the Grange; unless, perhaps, he might catch the
gallop of the messenger going to Gimmerton. If he had come nearer,
he would probably be aware, from the lights flitting to and fro,
and the opening and shutting of the outer doors, that all was not
right within. I wished, yet feared, to find him. I felt the
terrible news must be told, and I longed to get it over; but how to
do it I did not know. He was there - at least, a few yards further
in the park; leant against an old ash-tree, his hat off, and his
hair soaked with the dew that had gathered on the budded branches,
and fell pattering round him. He had been standing a long time in
that position, for I saw a pair of ousels passing and repassing
scarcely three feet from him, busy in building their nest, and
regarding his proximity no more than that of a piece of timber.
They flew off at my approach, and he raised his eyes and spoke:-
'She's dead!' he said; 'I've not waited for you to learn that. Put
your handkerchief away - don't snivel before me. Damn you all! she
wants none of your tears!'

I was weeping as much for him as her: we do sometimes pity
creatures that have none of the feeling either for themselves or
others. When I first looked into his face, I perceived that he had
got intelligence of the catastrophe; and a foolish notion struck me
that his heart was quelled and he prayed, because his lips moved
and his gaze was bent on the ground.

'Yes, she's dead!' I answered, checking my sobs and drying my
cheeks. 'Gone to heaven, I hope; where we may, every one, join
her, if we take due warning and leave our evil ways to follow

'Did SHE take due warning, then?' asked Heathcliff, attempting a
sneer. 'Did she die like a saint? Come, give me a true history of
the event. How did - ?'

He endeavoured to pronounce the name, but could not manage it; and
compressing his mouth he held a silent combat with his inward
agony, defying, meanwhile, my sympathy with an unflinching,
ferocious stare. 'How did she die?' he resumed, at last - fain,
notwithstanding his hardihood, to have a support behind him; for,
after the struggle, he trembled, in spite of himself, to his very

'Poor wretch!' I thought; 'you have a heart and nerves the same as
your brother men! Why should you be anxious to conceal them? Your
pride cannot blind God! You tempt him to wring them, till he
forces a cry of humiliation.'

'Quietly as a lamb!' I answered, aloud. 'She drew a sigh, and
stretched herself, like a child reviving, and sinking again to
sleep; and five minutes after I felt one little pulse at her heart,
and nothing more!'

'And - did she ever mention me?' he asked, hesitating, as if he
dreaded the answer to his question would introduce details that he
could not bear to hear.

'Her senses never returned: she recognised nobody from the time
you left her,' I said. 'She lies with a sweet smile on her face;
and her latest ideas wandered back to pleasant early days. Her
life closed in a gentle dream - may she wake as kindly in the other

'May she wake in torment!' he cried, with frightful vehemence,
stamping his foot, and groaning in a sudden paroxysm of
ungovernable passion. 'Why, she's a liar to the end! Where is
she? Not THERE - not in heaven - not perished - where? Oh! you
said you cared nothing for my sufferings! And I pray one prayer -
I repeat it till my tongue stiffens - Catherine Earnshaw, may you
not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you - haunt me,
then! The murdered DO haunt their murderers, I believe. I know
that ghosts HAVE wandered on earth. Be with me always - take any
form - drive me mad! only DO not leave me in this abyss, where I
cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I CANNOT live
without my life! I CANNOT live without my soul!'

He dashed his head against the knotted trunk; and, lifting up his
eyes, howled, not like a man, but like a savage beast being goaded
to death with knives and spears. I observed several splashes of
blood about the bark of the tree, and his hand and forehead were
both stained; probably the scene I witnessed was a repetition of
others acted during the night. It hardly moved my compassion - it
appalled me: still, I felt reluctant to quit him so. But the
moment he recollected himself enough to notice me watching, he
thundered a command for me to go, and I obeyed. He was beyond my
skill to quiet or console!

Mrs. Linton's funeral was appointed to take place on the Friday
following her decease; and till then her coffin remained uncovered,
and strewn with flowers and scented leaves, in the great drawing-
room. Linton spent his days and nights there, a sleepless
guardian; and - a circumstance concealed from all but me -
Heathcliff spent his nights, at least, outside, equally a stranger
to repose. I held no communication with him: still, I was
conscious of his design to enter, if he could; and on the Tuesday,
a little after dark, when my master, from sheer fatigue, had been
compelled to retire a couple of hours, I went and opened one of the
windows; moved by his perseverance to give him a chance of
bestowing on the faded image of his idol one final adieu. He did
not omit to avail himself of the opportunity, cautiously and
briefly; too cautiously to betray his presence by the slightest
noise. Indeed, I shouldn't have discovered that he had been there,
except for the disarrangement of the drapery about the corpse's
face, and for observing on the floor a curl of light hair, fastened
with a silver thread; which, on examination, I ascertained to have
been taken from a locket hung round Catherine's neck. Heathcliff
had opened the trinket and cast out its contents, replacing them by
a black lock of his own. I twisted the two, and enclosed them

Mr. Earnshaw was, of course, invited to attend the remains of his
sister to the grave; he sent no excuse, but he never came; so that,
besides her husband, the mourners were wholly composed of tenants
and servants. Isabella was not asked.

The place of Catherine's interment, to the surprise of the
villagers, was neither in the chapel under the carved monument of
the Lintons, nor yet by the tombs of her own relations, outside.
It was dug on a green slope in a corner of the kirk-yard, where the
wall is so low that heath and bilberry-plants have climbed over it
from the moor; and peat-mould almost buries it. Her husband lies
in the same spot now; and they have each a simple headstone above,
and a plain grey block at their feet, to mark the graves.

Okay. That was a ridiculously long hiatus. Let's see if we can't finish this book.

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