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‘What is the matter, love? Have you hurt yourself?’ he said.
His tone and look assured her he had not been the discoverer of the hoard.
‘No, papa!’ she gasped. ‘Ellen! Ellen! come up-stairs—I’m sick!’
I obeyed her summons, and accompanied her out.
‘Oh, Ellen! you have got them,’ she commenced immediately, dropping on her knees, when we were enclosed alone. ‘Oh, give them to me, and I’ll never, never do so again! Don’t tell papa. You have not told papa, Ellen? say you have not? I’ve been exceedingly naughty, but I won’t do it any more!’
With a grave severity in my manner I bade her stand up.
‘So,’ I exclaimed, ‘Miss Catherine, you are tolerably far on, it seems: you may well be ashamed of them! A fine bundle of trash you study in your leisure hours, to be sure: why, it’s good enough to be printed! And what do you suppose the master will think when I display it before him? I hav’n’t shown it yet, but you needn’t imagine I shall keep your ridiculous secrets. For shame! and you must have led the way in writing such absurdities: he would not have thought of beginning, I’m certain.’
‘I didn’t! I didn’t!’ sobbed Cathy, fit to break her heart. ‘I didn’t once think of loving him till—’
‘Loving!’ cried I, as scornfully as I could utter the word. ‘Loving! Did anybody ever hear the like! I might just as well talk of loving the miller who comes once a year to buy our corn. Pretty loving, indeed! and both times together you have seen Linton hardly four hours in your life! Now here is the babyish trash. I’m going with it to the library; and we’ll see what your father says to such loving.’
She sprang at her precious epistles, but I held them above my head; and then she poured out further frantic entreaties that I would burn them—do anything rather than show them. And being really fully as much inclined to laugh as scold—for I esteemed it all girlish vanity—I at length relented in a measure, and asked,—‘If I consent to burn them, will you promise faithfully neither to send nor receive a letter again, nor a book (for I perceive you have sent him books), nor locks of hair, nor rings, nor playthings?’
‘We don’t send playthings,’ cried Catherine, her pride overcoming her shame.
‘Nor anything at all, then, my lady?’ I said. ‘Unless you will, here I go.’
‘I promise, Ellen!’ she cried, catching my dress. ‘Oh, put them in the fire, do, do!’
But when I proceeded to open a place with the poker the sacrifice was too painful to be borne. She earnestly supplicated that I would spare her one or two.
‘One or two, Ellen, to keep for Linton’s sake!’
I unknotted the handkerchief, and commenced dropping them in from an angle, and the flame curled up the chimney.
‘I will have one, you cruel wretch!’ she screamed, darting her hand into the fire, and drawing forth some half-consumed fragments, at the expense of her fingers.
‘Very well—and I will have some to exhibit to papa!’ I answered, shaking back the rest into the bundle, and turning anew to the door.
She emptied her blackened pieces into the flames, and motioned me to finish the immolation. It was done; I stirred up the ashes, and interred them under a shovelful of coals; and she mutely, and with a sense of intense injury, retired to her private apartment. I descended to tell my master that the young lady’s qualm of sickness was almost gone, but I judged it best for her to lie down a while. She wouldn’t dine; but she reappeared at tea, pale, and red about the eyes, and marvellously subdued in outward aspect. Next morning I answered the letter by a slip of paper, inscribed, ‘Master Heathcliff is requested to send no more notes to Miss Linton, as she will not receive them.’ And, henceforth, the little boy came with vacant pockets.
Summer drew to an end, and early autumn: it was past Michaelmas, but the harvest was late that year, and a few of our fields were still uncleared. Mr. Linton and his daughter would frequently walk out among the reapers; at the carrying of the last sheaves they stayed till dusk, and the evening happening to be chill and damp, my master caught a bad cold, that settled obstinately on his lungs, and confined him indoors throughout the whole of the winter, nearly without intermission.
Poor Cathy, frightened from her little romance, had been considerably sadder and duller since its abandonment; and her father insisted on her reading less, and taking more exercise. She had his companionship no longer; I esteemed it a duty to supply its lack, as much as possible, with mine: an inefficient substitute; for I could only spare two or three hours, from my numerous diurnal occupations, to follow her footsteps, and then my society was obviously less desirable than his.
On an afternoon in October, or the beginning of November—a fresh watery afternoon, when the turf and paths were rustling with moist, withered leaves, and the cold blue sky was half hidden by clouds—dark grey streamers, rapidly mounting from the west, and boding abundant rain—I requested my young lady to forego her ramble, because I was certain of showers. She refused; and I unwillingly donned a cloak, and took my umbrella to accompany her on a stroll to the bottom of the park: a formal walk which she generally affected if low-spirited—and that she invariably was when Mr. Edgar had been worse than ordinary, a thing never known from his confession, but guessed both by her and me from his increased silence and the melancholy of his countenance. She went sadly on: there was no running or bounding now, though the chill wind might well have tempted her to race. And often, from the side of my eye, I could detect her raising a hand, and brushing something off her cheek. I gazed round for a means of diverting her thoughts. On one side of the road rose a high, rough bank, where hazels and stunted oaks, with their roots half exposed, held uncertain tenure: the soil was too loose for the latter; and strong winds had blown some nearly horizontal. In summer Miss Catherine delighted to climb along these trunks, and sit in the branches, swinging twenty feet above the ground; and I, pleased with her agility and her light, childish heart, still considered it proper to scold every time I caught her at such an elevation, but so that she knew there was no necessity for descending. From dinner to tea she would lie in her breeze-rocked cradle, doing nothing except singing old songs—my nursery lore—to herself, or watching the birds, joint tenants, feed and entice their young ones to fly: or nestling with closed lids, half thinking, half dreaming, happier than words can express.
‘Look, Miss!’ I exclaimed, pointing to a nook under the roots of one twisted tree. ‘Winter is not here yet. There’s a little flower up yonder, the last bud from the multitude of bluebells that clouded those turf steps in July with a lilac mist. Will you clamber up, and pluck it to show to papa?’ Cathy stared a long time at the lonely blossom trembling in its earthy shelter, and replied, at length—‘No, I’ll not touch it: but it looks melancholy, does it not, Ellen?’
‘Yes,’ I observed, ‘about as starved and suckless as you: your cheeks are bloodless; let us take hold of hands and run. You’re so low, I daresay I shall keep up with you.’