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Wuthering Heights, Chapter 18 [Jun. 22nd, 2007|09:36 am]
Big Comfy Chair

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[cpt_babypants]


CHAPTER XVIII



THE twelve years, continued Mrs. Dean, following that dismal period
were the happiest of my life: my greatest troubles in their
passage rose from our little lady's trifling illnesses, which she
had to experience in common with all children, rich and poor. For
the rest, after the first six months, she grew like a larch, and
could walk and talk too, in her own way, before the heath blossomed
a second time over Mrs. Linton's dust. She was the most winning
thing that ever brought sunshine into a desolate house: a real
beauty in face, with the Earnshaws' handsome dark eyes, but the
Lintons' fair skin and small features, and yellow curling hair.
Her spirit was high, though not rough, and qualified by a heart
sensitive and lively to excess in its affections. That capacity
for intense attachments reminded me of her mother: still she did
not resemble her: for she could be soft and mild as a dove, and
she had a gentle voice and pensive expression: her anger was never
furious; her love never fierce: it was deep and tender. However,
it must be acknowledged, she had faults to foil her gifts. A
propensity to be saucy was one; and a perverse will, that indulged
children invariably acquire, whether they be good tempered or
cross. If a servant chanced to vex her, it was always - 'I shall
tell papa!' And if he reproved her, even by a look, you would have
thought it a heart-breaking business: I don't believe he ever did
speak a harsh word to her. He took her education entirely on
himself, and made it an amusement. Fortunately, curiosity and a
quick intellect made her an apt scholar: she learned rapidly and
eagerly, and did honour to his teaching.

Till she reached the age of thirteen she had not once been beyond
the range of the park by herself. Mr. Linton would take her with
him a mile or so outside, on rare occasions; but he trusted her to
no one else. Gimmerton was an unsubstantial name in her ears; the
chapel, the only building she had approached or entered, except her
own home. Wuthering Heights and Mr. Heathcliff did not exist for
her: she was a perfect recluse; and, apparently, perfectly
contented. Sometimes, indeed, while surveying the country from her
nursery window, she would observe -

'Ellen, how long will it be before I can walk to the top of those
hills? I wonder what lies on the other side - is it the sea?'

'No, Miss Cathy,' I would answer; 'it is hills again, just like
these.'

'And what are those golden rocks like when you stand under them?'
she once asked.

The abrupt descent of Penistone Crags particularly attracted her
notice; especially when the setting sun shone on it and the topmost
heights, and the whole extent of landscape besides lay in shadow.
I explained that they were bare masses of stone, with hardly enough
earth in their clefts to nourish a stunted tree.

'And why are they bright so long after it is evening here?' she
pursued.

'Because they are a great deal higher up than we are,' replied I;
'you could not climb them, they are too high and steep. In winter
the frost is always there before it comes to us; and deep into
summer I have found snow under that black hollow on the north-east
side!'

'Oh, you have been on them!' she cried gleefully. 'Then I can go,
too, when I am a woman. Has papa been, Ellen?'

'Papa would tell you, Miss,' I answered, hastily, 'that they are
not worth the trouble of visiting. The moors, where you ramble
with him, are much nicer; and Thrushcross Park is the finest place
in the world.'

'But I know the park, and I don't know those,' she murmured to
herself. 'And I should delight to look round me from the brow of
that tallest point: my little pony Minny shall take me some time.'

One of the maids mentioning the Fairy Cave, quite turned her head
with a desire to fulfil this project: she teased Mr. Linton about
it; and he promised she should have the journey when she got older.
But Miss Catherine measured her age by months, and, 'Now, am I old
enough to go to Penistone Crags?' was the constant question in her
mouth. The road thither wound close by Wuthering Heights. Edgar
had not the heart to pass it; so she received as constantly the
answer, 'Not yet, love: not yet.'

I said Mrs. Heathcliff lived above a dozen years after quitting her
husband. Her family were of a delicate constitution: she and
Edgar both lacked the ruddy health that you will generally meet in
these parts. What her last illness was, I am not certain: I
conjecture, they died of the same thing, a kind of fever, slow at
its commencement, but incurable, and rapidly consuming life towards
the close. She wrote to inform her brother of the probable
conclusion of a four-months' indisposition under which she had
suffered, and entreated him to come to her, if possible; for she
had much to settle, and she wished to bid him adieu, and deliver
Linton safely into his hands. Her hope was that Linton might be
left with him, as he had been with her: his father, she would fain
convince herself, had no desire to assume the burden of his
maintenance or education. My master hesitated not a moment in
complying with her request: reluctant as he was to leave home at
ordinary calls, he flew to answer this; commanding Catherine to my
peculiar vigilance, in his absence, with reiterated orders that she
must not wander out of the park, even under my escort he did not
calculate on her going unaccompanied.

He was away three weeks. The first day or two my charge sat in a
corner of the library, too sad for either reading or playing: in
that quiet state she caused me little trouble; but it was succeeded
by an interval of impatient, fretful weariness; and being too busy,
and too old then, to run up and down amusing her, I hit on a method
by which she might entertain herself. I used to send her on her
travels round the grounds - now on foot, and now on a pony;
indulging her with a patient audience of all her real and imaginary
adventures when she returned.

The summer shone in full prime; and she took such a taste for this
solitary rambling that she often contrived to remain out from
breakfast till tea; and then the evenings were spent in recounting
her fanciful tales. I did not fear her breaking bounds; because
the gates were generally looked, and I thought she would scarcely
venture forth alone, if they had stood wide open. Unluckily, my
confidence proved misplaced. Catherine came to me, one morning, at
eight o'clock, and said she was that day an Arabian merchant, going
to cross the Desert with his caravan; and I must give her plenty of
provision for herself and beasts: a horse, and three camels,
personated by a large hound and a couple of pointers. I got
together good store of dainties, and slung them in a basket on one
side of the saddle; and she sprang up as gay as a fairy, sheltered
by her wide-brimmed hat and gauze veil from the July sun, and
trotted off with a merry laugh, mocking my cautious counsel to
avoid galloping, and come back early. The naughty thing never made
her appearance at tea. One traveller, the hound, being an old dog
and fond of its ease, returned; but neither Cathy, nor the pony,
nor the two pointers were visible in any direction: I despatched
emissaries down this path, and that path, and at last went
wandering in search of her myself. There was a labourer working at
a fence round a plantation, on the borders of the grounds. I
inquired of him if he had seen our young lady.

'I saw her at morn,' he replied: 'she would have me to cut her a
hazel switch, and then she leapt her Galloway over the hedge
yonder, where it is lowest, and galloped out of sight.'

You may guess how I felt at hearing this news. It struck me
directly she must have started for Penistone Crags. 'What will
become of her?' I ejaculated, pushing through a gap which the man
was repairing, and making straight to the high-road. I walked as
if for a wager, mile after mile, till a turn brought me in view of
the Heights; but no Catherine could I detect, far or near. The
Crags lie about a mile and a half beyond Mr. Heathcliff's place,
and that is four from the Grange, so I began to fear night would
fall ere I could reach them. 'And what if she should have slipped
in clambering among them,' I reflected, 'and been killed, or broken
some of her bones?' My suspense was truly painful; and, at first,
it gave me delightful relief to observe, in hurrying by the
farmhouse, Charlie, the fiercest of the pointers, lying under a
window, with swelled head and bleeding ear. I opened the wicket
and ran to the door, knocking vehemently for admittance. A woman
whom I knew, and who formerly lived at Gimmerton, answered: she
had been servant there since the death of Mr. Earnshaw.

'Ah,' said she, 'you are come a-seeking your little mistress!
Don't be frightened. She's here safe: but I'm glad it isn't the
master.'

'He is not at home then, is he?' I panted, quite breathless with
quick walking and alarm.

'No, no,' she replied: 'both he and Joseph are off, and I think
they won't return this hour or more. Step in and rest you a bit.'

I entered, and beheld my stray lamb seated on the hearth, rocking
herself in a little chair that had been her mother's when a child.
Her hat was hung against the wall, and she seemed perfectly at
home, laughing and chattering, in the best spirits imaginable, to
Hareton - now a great, strong lad of eighteen - who stared at her
with considerable curiosity and astonishment: comprehending
precious little of the fluent succession of remarks and questions
which her tongue never ceased pouring forth.

'Very well, Miss!' I exclaimed, concealing my joy under an angry
countenance. 'This is your last ride, till papa comes back. I'll
not trust you over the threshold again, you naughty, naughty girl!'

'Aha, Ellen!' she cried, gaily, jumping up and running to my side.
'I shall have a pretty story to tell to-night; and so you've found
me out. Have you ever been here in your life before?'

'Put that hat on, and home at once,' said I. 'I'm dreadfully
grieved at you, Miss Cathy: you've done extremely wrong! It's no
use pouting and crying: that won't repay the trouble I've had,
scouring the country after you. To think how Mr. Linton charged me
to keep you in; and you stealing off so! It shows you are a
cunning little fox, and nobody will put faith in you any more.'

'What have I done?' sobbed she, instantly checked. 'Papa charged
me nothing: he'll not scold me, Ellen - he's never cross, like
you!'

'Come, come!' I repeated. 'I'll tie the riband. Now, let us have
no petulance. Oh, for shame! You thirteen years old, and such a
baby!'

This exclamation was caused by her pushing the hat from her head,
and retreating to the chimney out of my reach.

'Nay,' said the servant, 'don't be hard on the bonny lass, Mrs.
Dean. We made her stop: she'd fain have ridden forwards, afeard
you should be uneasy. Hareton offered to go with her, and I
thought he should: it's a wild road over the hills.'

Hareton, during the discussion, stood with his hands in his
pockets, too awkward to speak; though he looked as if he did not
relish my intrusion.

'How long am I to wait?' I continued, disregarding the woman's
interference. 'It will be dark in ten minutes. Where is the pony,
Miss Cathy? And where is Phoenix? I shall leave you, unless you
be quick; so please yourself.'

'The pony is in the yard,' she replied, 'and Phoenix is shut in
there. He's bitten - and so is Charlie. I was going to tell you
all about it; but you are in a bad temper, and don't deserve to
hear.'

I picked up her hat, and approached to reinstate it; but perceiving
that the people of the house took her part, she commenced capering
round the room; and on my giving chase, ran like a mouse over and
under and behind the furniture, rendering it ridiculous for me to
pursue. Hareton and the woman laughed, and she joined them, and
waxed more impertinent still; till I cried, in great irritation, -
'Well, Miss Cathy, if you were aware whose house this is you'd be
glad enough to get out.'

'It's YOUR father's, isn't it?' said she, turning to Hareton.

'Nay,' he replied, looking down, and blushing bashfully.

He could not stand a steady gaze from her eyes, though they were
just his own.

'Whose then - your master's?' she asked.

He coloured deeper, with a different feeling, muttered an oath, and
turned away.

'Who is his master?' continued the tiresome girl, appealing to me.
'He talked about "our house," and "our folk." I thought he had
been the owner's son. And he never said Miss: he should have
done, shouldn't he, if he's a servant?'

Hareton grew black as a thunder-cloud at this childish speech. I
silently shook my questioner, and at last succeeded in equipping
her for departure.

'Now, get my horse,' she said, addressing her unknown kinsman as
she would one of the stable-boys at the Grange. 'And you may come
with me. I want to see where the goblin-hunter rises in the marsh,
and to hear about the FAIRISHES, as you call them: but make haste!
What's the matter? Get my horse, I say.'

'I'll see thee damned before I be THY servant!' growled the lad.

"You'll see me WHAT!' asked Catherine in surprise.

'Damned - thou saucy witch!' he replied.

'There, Miss Cathy! you see you have got into pretty company,' I
interposed. 'Nice words to be used to a young lady! Pray don't
begin to dispute with him. Come, let us seek for Minny ourselves,
and begone.'

'But, Ellen,' cried she, staring fixed in astonishment, 'how dare
he speak so to me? Mustn't he be made to do as I ask him? You
wicked creature, I shall tell papa what you said. - Now, then!'

Hareton did not appear to feel this threat; so the tears sprang
into her eyes with indignation. 'You bring the pony,' she
exclaimed, turning to the woman, 'and let my dog free this moment!'

'Softly, Miss,' answered she addressed: 'you'll lose nothing by
being civil. Though Mr. Hareton, there, be not the master's son,
he's your cousin: and I was never hired to serve you.'

'HE my cousin!' cried Cathy, with a scornful laugh.

'Yes, indeed,' responded her reprover.

'Oh, Ellen! don't let them say such things,' she pursued in great
trouble. 'Papa is gone to fetch my cousin from London: my cousin
is a gentleman's son. That my - ' she stopped, and wept outright;
upset at the bare notion of relationship with such a clown.

'Hush, hush!' I whispered; 'people can have many cousins and of all
sorts, Miss Cathy, without being any the worse for it; only they
needn't keep their company, if they be disagreeable and bad.'

'He's not - he's not my cousin, Ellen!' she went on, gathering
fresh grief from reflection, and flinging herself into my arms for
refuge from the idea.

I was much vexed at her and the servant for their mutual
revelations; having no doubt of Linton's approaching arrival,
communicated by the former, being reported to Mr. Heathcliff; and
feeling as confident that Catherine's first thought on her father's
return would be to seek an explanation of the latter's assertion
concerning her rude-bred kindred. Hareton, recovering from his
disgust at being taken for a servant, seemed moved by her distress;
and, having fetched the pony round to the door, he took, to
propitiate her, a fine crooked-legged terrier whelp from the
kennel, and putting it into her hand, bid her whist! for he meant
nought. Pausing in her lamentations, she surveyed him with a
glance of awe and horror, then burst forth anew.

I could scarcely refrain from smiling at this antipathy to the poor
fellow; who was a well-made, athletic youth, good-looking in
features, and stout and healthy, but attired in garments befitting
his daily occupations of working on the farm and lounging among the
moors after rabbits and game. Still, I thought I could detect in
his physiognomy a mind owning better qualities than his father ever
possessed. Good things lost amid a wilderness of weeds, to be
sure, whose rankness far over-topped their neglected growth; yet,
notwithstanding, evidence of a wealthy soil, that might yield
luxuriant crops under other and favourable circumstances. Mr.
Heathcliff, I believe, had not treated him physically ill; thanks
to his fearless nature, which offered no temptation to that course
of oppression: he had none of the timid susceptibility that would
have given zest to ill-treatment, in Heathcliff s judgment. He
appeared to have bent his malevolence on making him a brute: he
was never taught to read or write; never rebuked for any bad habit
which did not annoy his keeper; never led a single step towards
virtue, or guarded by a single precept against vice. And from what
I heard, Joseph contributed much to his deterioration, by a narrow-
minded partiality which prompted him to flatter and pet him, as a
boy, because he was the head of the old family. And as he had been
in the habit of accusing Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, when
children, of putting the master past his patience, and compelling
him to seek solace in drink by what he termed their 'offald ways,'
so at present he laid the whole burden of Hareton's faults on the
shoulders of the usurper of his property. If the lad swore, he
wouldn't correct him: nor however culpably he behaved. It gave
Joseph satisfaction, apparently, to watch him go the worst lengths:
he allowed that the lad was ruined: that his soul was abandoned to
perdition; but then he reflected that Heathcliff must answer for
it. Hareton's blood would be required at his hands; and there lay
immense consolation in that thought. Joseph had instilled into him
a pride of name, and of his lineage; he would, had he dared, have
fostered hate between him and the present owner of the Heights:
but his dread of that owner amounted to superstition; and he
confined his feelings regarding him to muttered innuendoes and
private comminations. I don't pretend to be intimately acquainted
with the mode of living customary in those days at Wuthering
Heights: I only speak from hearsay; for I saw little. The
villagers affirmed Mr. Heathcliff was NEAR, and a cruel hard
landlord to his tenants; but the house, inside, had regained its
ancient aspect of comfort under female management, and the scenes
of riot common in Hindley's time were not now enacted within its
walls. The master was too gloomy to seek companionship with any
people, good or bad; and he is yet.

This, however, is not making progress with my story. Miss Cathy
rejected the peace-offering of the terrier, and demanded her own
dogs, Charlie and Phoenix. They came limping and hanging their
heads; and we set out for home, sadly out of sorts, every one of
us. I could not wring from my little lady how she had spent the
day; except that, as I supposed, the goal of her pilgrimage was
Penistone Crags; and she arrived without adventure to the gate of
the farm-house, when Hareton happened to issue forth, attended by
some canine followers, who attacked her train. They had a smart
battle, before their owners could separate them: that formed an
introduction. Catherine told Hareton who she was, and where she
was going; and asked him to show her the way: finally, beguiling
him to accompany her. He opened the mysteries of the Fairy Cave,
and twenty other queer places. But, being in disgrace, I was not
favoured with a description of the interesting objects she saw. I
could gather, however, that her guide had been a favourite till she
hurt his feelings by addressing him as a servant; and Heathcliff's
housekeeper hurt hers by calling him her cousin. Then the language
he had held to her rankled in her heart; she who was always 'love,'
and 'darling,' and 'queen,' and 'angel,' with everybody at the
Grange, to be insulted so shockingly by a stranger! She did not
comprehend it; and hard work I had to obtain a promise that she
would not lay the grievance before her father. I explained how he
objected to the whole household at the Heights, and how sorry he
would be to find she had been there; but I insisted most on the
fact, that if she revealed my negligence of his orders, he would
perhaps be so angry that I should have to leave; and Cathy couldn't
bear that prospect: she pledged her word, and kept it for my sake.
After all, she was a sweet little girl.


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