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I did give him a slight shaking; but it brought on the cough, and he took to his ordinary resource of moaning and weeping, and Catherine rebuked me.
‘Stay all night? No,’ she said, looking slowly round. ‘Ellen, I’ll burn that door down but I’ll get out.’
And she would have commenced the execution of her threat directly, but Linton was up in alarm for his dear self again. He clasped her in his two feeble arms sobbing:—‘Won’t you have me, and save me? not let me come to the Grange? Oh, darling Catherine! you mustn’t go and leave, after all. You must obey my father—you must!’
‘I must obey my own,’ she replied, ‘and relieve him from this cruel suspense. The whole night! What would he think? He’ll be distressed already. I’ll either break or burn a way out of the house. Be quiet! You’re in no danger; but if you hinder me—Linton, I love papa better than you!’ The mortal terror he felt of Mr. Heathcliff’s anger restored to the boy his coward’s eloquence. Catherine was near distraught: still, she persisted that she must go home, and tried entreaty in her turn, persuading him to subdue his selfish agony. While they were thus occupied, our jailor re-entered.
‘Your beasts have trotted off,’ he said, ‘and—now Linton! snivelling again? What has she been doing to you? Come, come—have done, and get to bed. In a month or two, my lad, you’ll be able to pay her back her present tyrannies with a vigorous hand. You’re pining for pure love, are you not? nothing else in the world: and she shall have you! There, to bed! Zillah won’t be here to-night; you must undress yourself. Hush! hold your noise! Once in your own room, I’ll not come near you: you needn’t fear. By chance, you’ve managed tolerably. I’ll look to the rest.’
He spoke these words, holding the door open for his son to pass, and the latter achieved his exit exactly as a spaniel might which suspected the person who attended on it of designing a spiteful squeeze. The lock was re-secured. Heathcliff approached the fire, where my mistress and I stood silent. Catherine looked up, and instinctively raised her hand to her cheek: his neighbourhood revived a painful sensation. Anybody else would have been incapable of regarding the childish act with sternness, but he scowled on her and muttered—‘Oh! you are not afraid of me? Your courage is well disguised: you seem damnably afraid!’
‘I am afraid now,’ she replied, ‘because, if I stay, papa will be miserable: and how can I endure making him miserable—when he—when he—Mr. Heathcliff, let me go home! I promise to marry Linton: papa would like me to: and I love him. Why should you wish to force me to do what I’ll willingly do of myself?’
‘Let him dare to force you,’ I cried. ‘There’s law in the land, thank God! there is; though we be in an out-of-the-way place. I’d inform if he were my own son: and it’s felony without benefit of clergy!’
‘Silence!’ said the ruffian. ‘To the devil with your clamour! I don’t want you to speak. Miss Linton, I shall enjoy myself remarkably in thinking your father will be miserable: I shall not sleep for satisfaction. You could have hit on no surer way of fixing your residence under my roof for the next twenty-four hours than informing me that such an event would follow. As to your promise to marry Linton, I’ll take care you shall keep it; for you shall not quit this place till it is fulfilled.’
‘Send Ellen, then, to let papa know I’m safe!’ exclaimed Catherine, weeping bitterly. ‘Or marry me now. Poor papa! Ellen, he’ll think we’re lost. What shall we do?’
‘Not he! He’ll think you are tired of waiting on him, and run off for a little amusement,’ answered Heathcliff. ‘You cannot deny that you entered my house of your own accord, in contempt of his injunctions to the contrary. And it is quite natural that you should desire amusement at your age; and that you would weary of nursing a sick man, and that man only your father. Catherine, his happiest days were over when your days began. He cursed you, I dare say, for coming into the world (I did, at least); and it would just do if he cursed you as he went out of it. I’d join him. I don’t love you! How should I? Weep away. As far as I can see, it will be your chief diversion hereafter; unless Linton make amends for other losses: and your provident parent appears to fancy he may. His letters of advice and consolation entertained me vastly. In his last he recommended my jewel to be careful of his; and kind to her when he got her. Careful and kind—that’s paternal. But Linton requires his whole stock of care and kindness for himself. Linton can play the little tyrant well. He’ll undertake to torture any number of cats, if their teeth be drawn and their claws pared. You’ll be able to tell his uncle fine tales of his kindness, when you get home again, I assure you.’
‘You’re right there!’ I said; ‘explain your son’s character. Show his resemblance to yourself: and then, I hope, Miss Cathy will think twice before she takes the cockatrice!’
‘I don’t much mind speaking of his amiable qualities now,’ he answered; ‘because she must either accept him or remain a prisoner, and you along with her, till your master dies. I can detain you both, quite concealed, here. If you doubt, encourage her to retract her word, and you’ll have an opportunity of judging!’
‘I’ll not retract my word,’ said Catherine. ‘I’ll marry him within this hour, if I may go to Thrushcross Grange afterwards. Mr. Heathcliff, you’re a cruel man, but you’re not a fiend; and you won’t, from mere malice, destroy irrevocably all my happiness. If papa thought I had left him on purpose, and if he died before I returned, could I bear to live? I’ve given over crying: but I’m going to kneel here, at your knee; and I’ll not get up, and I’ll not take my eyes from your face till you look back at me! No, don’t turn away! do look! you’ll see nothing to provoke you. I don’t hate you. I’m not angry that you struck me. Have you never loved anybody in all your life, uncle? never? Ah! you must look once. I’m so wretched, you can’t help being sorry and pitying me.’
‘Keep your eft’s fingers off; and move, or I’ll kick you!’ cried Heathcliff, brutally repulsing her. ‘I’d rather be hugged by a snake. How the devil can you dream of fawning on me? I detest you!’
He shrugged his shoulders: shook himself, indeed, as if his flesh crept with aversion; and thrust back his chair; while I got up, and opened my mouth, to commence a downright torrent of abuse. But I was rendered dumb in the middle of the first sentence, by a threat that I should be shown into a room by myself the very next syllable I uttered. It was growing dark—we heard a sound of voices at the garden-gate. Our host hurried out instantly: he had his wits about him; we had not. There was a talk of two or three minutes, and he returned alone.