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Wuthering Heights, Chapter 17 - The Best Place to Curl Up with a Good Book [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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Wuthering Heights, Chapter 17 [Jun. 20th, 2007|04:07 pm]
Big Comfy Chair

bigcomfychair

[cpt_babypants]



CHAPTER XVII



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 to-
night, 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 sha'n'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 sha'n't stay any longer.'

I rang the bell, and committed it to a servant's care; and then I
inquired 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 wished 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 ear-shot
or eyesight: 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
up-stairs to his chamber; looking 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 these 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 bear 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 and 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 favourable 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 up-stairs, with the
wild snow blowing outside, and my thoughts continually reverting to
the kirk-yard 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 look, 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 "girned," 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 me," I answered: "and that's a poor
love of yours that cannot bear a shower of snow! We were left at
peace in 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 is 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 condition 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 inquire
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, and 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, blessed 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, inquired 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: that 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 were 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 to-day. 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 inquire 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 he 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 sporting 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 with
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 our 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.
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