Page 74 of 88
He died blissfully, Mr. Lockwood: he died so. Kissing her cheek, he murmured,—‘I am going to her; and you, darling child, shall come to us!’ and never stirred or spoke again; but continued that rapt, radiant gaze, till his pulse imperceptibly stopped and his soul departed. None could have noticed the exact minute of his death, it was so entirely without a struggle.
Whether Catherine had spent her tears, or whether the grief were too weighty to let them flow, she sat there dry-eyed till the sun rose: she sat till noon, and would still have remained brooding over that deathbed, but I insisted on her coming away and taking some repose. It was well I succeeded in removing her, for at dinner-time appeared the lawyer, having called at Wuthering Heights to get his instructions how to behave. He had sold himself to Mr. Heathcliff: that was the cause of his delay in obeying my master’s summons. Fortunately, no thought of worldly affairs crossed the latter’s mind, to disturb him, after his daughter’s arrival.
Mr. Green took upon himself to order everything and everybody about the place. He gave all the servants but me, notice to quit. He would have carried his delegated authority to the point of insisting that Edgar Linton should not be buried beside his wife, but in the chapel, with his family. There was the will, however, to hinder that, and my loud protestations against any infringement of its directions. The funeral was hurried over; Catherine, Mrs. Linton Heathcliff now, was suffered to stay at the Grange till her father’s corpse had quitted it.
She told me that her anguish had at last spurred Linton to incur the risk of liberating her. She heard the men I sent disputing at the door, and she gathered the sense of Heathcliff’s answer. It drove her desperate. Linton who had been conveyed up to the little parlour soon after I left, was terrified into fetching the key before his father re-ascended. He had the cunning to unlock and re-lock the door, without shutting it; and when he should have gone to bed, he begged to sleep with Hareton, and his petition was granted for once. Catherine stole out before break of day. She dared not try the doors lest the dogs should raise an alarm; she visited the empty chambers and examined their windows; and, luckily, lighting on her mother’s, she got easily out of its lattice, and on to the ground, by means of the fir-tree close by. Her accomplice suffered for his share in the escape, notwithstanding his timid contrivances.
The evening after the funeral, my young lady and I were seated in the library; now musing mournfully—one of us despairingly—on our loss, now venturing conjectures as to the gloomy future.
We had just agreed the best destiny which could await Catherine would be a permission to continue resident at the Grange; at least during Linton’s life: he being allowed to join her there, and I to remain as housekeeper. That seemed rather too favourable an arrangement to be hoped for; and yet I did hope, and began to cheer up under the prospect of retaining my home and my employment, and, above all, my beloved young mistress; when a servant—one of the discarded ones, not yet departed—rushed hastily in, and said ‘that devil Heathcliff’ was coming through the court: should he fasten the door in his face?
If we had been mad enough to order that proceeding, we had not time. He made no ceremony of knocking or announcing his name: he was master, and availed himself of the master’s privilege to walk straight in, without saying a word. The sound of our informant’s voice directed him to the library; he entered and motioning him out, shut the door.
It was the same room into which he had been ushered, as a guest, eighteen years before: the same moon shone through the window; and the same autumn landscape lay outside. We had not yet lighted a candle, but all the apartment was visible, even to the portraits on the wall: the splendid head of Mrs. Linton, and the graceful one of her husband. Heathcliff advanced to the hearth. Time had little altered his person either. There was the same man: his dark face rather sallower and more composed, his frame a stone or two heavier, perhaps, and no other difference. Catherine had risen with an impulse to dash out, when she saw him.
‘Stop!’ he said, arresting her by the arm. ‘No more runnings away! Where would you go? I’m come to fetch you home; and I hope you’ll be a dutiful daughter and not encourage my son to further disobedience. I was embarrassed how to punish him when I discovered his part in the business: he’s such a cobweb, a pinch would annihilate him; but you’ll see by his look that he has received his due! I brought him down one evening, the day before yesterday, and just set him in a chair, and never touched him afterwards. I sent Hareton out, and we had the room to ourselves. In two hours, I called Joseph to carry him up again; and since then my presence is as potent on his nerves as a ghost; and I fancy he sees me often, though I am not near. Hareton says he wakes and shrieks in the night by the hour together, and calls you to protect him from me; and, whether you like your precious mate, or not, you must come: he’s your concern now; I yield all my interest in him to you.’
‘Why not let Catherine continue here,’ I pleaded, ‘and send Master Linton to her? As you hate them both, you’d not miss them: they can only be a daily plague to your unnatural heart.’
‘I’m seeking a tenant for the Grange,’ he answered; ‘and I want my children about me, to be sure. Besides, that lass owes me her services for her bread. I’m not going to nurture her in luxury and idleness after Linton is gone. Make haste and get ready, now; and don’t oblige me to compel you.’
‘I shall,’ said Catherine. ‘Linton is all I have to love in the world, and though you have done what you could to make him hateful to me, and me to him, you cannot make us hate each other. And I defy you to hurt him when I am by, and I defy you to frighten me!’
‘You are a boastful champion,’ replied Heathcliff; ‘but I don’t like you well enough to hurt him: you shall get the full benefit of the torment, as long as it lasts. It is not I who will make him hateful to you—it is his own sweet spirit. He’s as bitter as gall at your desertion and its consequences: don’t expect thanks for this noble devotion. I heard him draw a pleasant picture to Zillah of what he would do if he were as strong as I: the inclination is there, and his very weakness will sharpen his wits to find a substitute for strength.’
‘I know he has a bad nature,’ said Catherine: ‘he’s your son. But I’m glad I’ve a better, to forgive it; and I know he loves me, and for that reason I love him. Mr. Heathcliff you have nobody to love you; and, however miserable you make us, we shall still have the revenge of thinking that your cruelty arises from your greater misery. You are miserable, are you not? Lonely, like the devil, and envious like him? Nobody loves you—nobody will cry for you when you die! I wouldn’t be you!’
Catherine spoke with a kind of dreary triumph: she seemed to have made up her mind to enter into the spirit of her future family, and draw pleasure from the griefs of her enemies.
‘You shall be sorry to be yourself presently,’ said her father-in-law, ‘if you stand there another minute. Begone, witch, and get your things!’