Page 61 of 88
He pushed his horse close, and, bending down, observed—‘Miss Catherine, I’ll own to you that I have little patience with Linton; and Hareton and Joseph have less. I’ll own that he’s with a harsh set. He pines for kindness, as well as love; and a kind word from you would be his best medicine. Don’t mind Mrs. Dean’s cruel cautions; but be generous, and contrive to see him. He dreams of you day and night, and cannot be persuaded that you don’t hate him, since you neither write nor call.’
I closed the door, and rolled a stone to assist the loosened lock in holding it; and spreading my umbrella, I drew my charge underneath: for the rain began to drive through the moaning branches of the trees, and warned us to avoid delay. Our hurry prevented any comment on the encounter with Heathcliff, as we stretched towards home; but I divined instinctively that Catherine’s heart was clouded now in double darkness. Her features were so sad, they did not seem hers: she evidently regarded what she had heard as every syllable true.
The master had retired to rest before we came in. Cathy stole to his room to inquire how he was; he had fallen asleep. She returned, and asked me to sit with her in the library. We took our tea together; and afterwards she lay down on the rug, and told me not to talk, for she was weary. I got a book, and pretended to read. As soon as she supposed me absorbed in my occupation, she recommenced her silent weeping: it appeared, at present, her favourite diversion. I suffered her to enjoy it a while; then I expostulated: deriding and ridiculing all Mr. Heathcliff’s assertions about his son, as if I were certain she would coincide. Alas! I hadn’t skill to counteract the effect his account had produced: it was just what he intended.
‘You may be right, Ellen,’ she answered; ‘but I shall never feel at ease till I know. And I must tell Linton it is not my fault that I don’t write, and convince him that I shall not change.’
What use were anger and protestations against her silly credulity? We parted that night—hostile; but next day beheld me on the road to Wuthering Heights, by the side of my wilful young mistress’s pony. I couldn’t bear to witness her sorrow: to see her pale, dejected countenance, and heavy eyes: and I yielded, in the faint hope that Linton himself might prove, by his reception of us, how little of the tale was founded on fact.
The rainy night had ushered in a misty morning—half frost, half drizzle—and temporary brooks crossed our path—gurgling from the uplands. My feet were thoroughly wetted; I was cross and low; exactly the humour suited for making the most of these disagreeable things. We entered the farm-house by the kitchen way, to ascertain whether Mr. Heathcliff were really absent: because I put slight faith in his own affirmation.
Joseph seemed sitting in a sort of elysium alone, beside a roaring fire; a quart of ale on the table near him, bristling with large pieces of toasted oat-cake; and his black, short pipe in his mouth. Catherine ran to the hearth to warm herself. I asked if the master was in? My question remained so long unanswered, that I thought the old man had grown deaf, and repeated it louder.
‘Na—ay!’ he snarled, or rather screamed through his nose. ‘Na—ay! yah muh goa back whear yah coom frough.’
‘Joseph!’ cried a peevish voice, simultaneously with me, from the inner room. ‘How often am I to call you? There are only a few red ashes now. Joseph! come this moment.’
Vigorous puffs, and a resolute stare into the grate, declared he had no ear for this appeal. The housekeeper and Hareton were invisible; one gone on an errand, and the other at his work, probably. We knew Linton’s tones, and entered.
‘Oh, I hope you’ll die in a garret, starved to death!’ said the boy, mistaking our approach for that of his negligent attendant.
He stopped on observing his error: his cousin flew to him.
‘Is that you, Miss Linton?’ he said, raising his head from the arm of the great chair, in which he reclined. ‘No—don’t kiss me: it takes my breath. Dear me! Papa said you would call,’ continued he, after recovering a little from Catherine’s embrace; while she stood by looking very contrite. ‘Will you shut the door, if you please? you left it open; and those—those detestable creatures won’t bring coals to the fire. It’s so cold!’
I stirred up the cinders, and fetched a scuttleful myself. The invalid complained of being covered with ashes; but he had a tiresome cough, and looked feverish and ill, so I did not rebuke his temper.
‘Well, Linton,’ murmured Catherine, when his corrugated brow relaxed, ‘are you glad to see me? Can I do you any good?’
‘Why didn’t you come before?’ he asked. ‘You should have come, instead of writing. It tired me dreadfully writing those long letters. I’d far rather have talked to you. Now, I can neither bear to talk, nor anything else. I wonder where Zillah is! Will you’ (looking at me) ‘step into the kitchen and see?’
I had received no thanks for my other service; and being unwilling to run to and fro at his behest, I replied—‘Nobody is out there but Joseph.’
‘I want to drink,’ he exclaimed fretfully, turning away. ‘Zillah is constantly gadding off to Gimmerton since papa went: it’s miserable! And I’m obliged to come down here—they resolved never to hear me up-stairs.’
‘Is your father attentive to you, Master Heathcliff?’ I asked, perceiving Catherine to be checked in her friendly advances.
‘Attentive? He makes them a little more attentive at least,’ he cried. ‘The wretches! Do you know, Miss Linton, that brute Hareton laughs at me! I hate him! indeed, I hate them all: they are odious beings.’
Cathy began searching for some water; she lighted on a pitcher in the dresser, filled a tumbler, and brought it. He bid her add a spoonful of wine from a bottle on the table; and having swallowed a small portion, appeared more tranquil, and said she was very kind.
‘And are you glad to see me?’ asked she, reiterating her former question and pleased to detect the faint dawn of a smile.
‘Yes, I am. It’s something new to hear a voice like yours!’ he replied. ‘But I have been vexed, because you wouldn’t come. And papa swore it was owing to me: he called me a pitiful, shuffling, worthless thing; and said you despised me; and if he had been in my place, he would be more the master of the Grange than your father by this time. But you don’t despise me, do you, Miss—?’
‘I wish you would say Catherine, or Cathy,’ interrupted my young lady. ‘Despise you? No! Next to papa and Ellen, I love you better than anybody living. I don’t love Mr. Heathcliff, though; and I dare not come when he returns: will he stay away many days?’
‘Not many,’ answered Linton; ‘but he goes on to the moors frequently, since the shooting season commenced; and you might spend an hour or two with me in his absence. Do say you will. I think I should not be peevish with you: you’d not provoke me, and you’d always be ready to help me, wouldn’t you?’