Page 81 of 88
Then she looked at him; but he would neither open his mouth nor look again.
‘He’s, perhaps, dreaming now,’ she continued. ‘He twitched his shoulder as Juno twitches hers. Ask him, Ellen.’
‘Mr. Hareton will ask the master to send you up-stairs, if you don’t behave!’ I said. He had not only twitched his shoulder but clenched his fist, as if tempted to use it.
‘I know why Hareton never speaks, when I am in the kitchen,’ she exclaimed, on another occasion. ‘He is afraid I shall laugh at him. Ellen, what do you think? He began to teach himself to read once; and, because I laughed, he burned his books, and dropped it: was he not a fool?’
‘Were not you naughty?’ I said; ‘answer me that.’
‘Perhaps I was,’ she went on; ‘but I did not expect him to be so silly. Hareton, if I gave you a book, would you take it now? I’ll try!’
She placed one she had been perusing on his hand; he flung it off, and muttered, if she did not give over, he would break her neck.
‘Well, I shall put it here,’ she said, ‘in the table-drawer; and I’m going to bed.’
Then she whispered me to watch whether he touched it, and departed. But he would not come near it; and so I informed her in the morning, to her great disappointment. I saw she was sorry for his persevering sulkiness and indolence: her conscience reproved her for frightening him off improving himself: she had done it effectually. But her ingenuity was at work to remedy the injury: while I ironed, or pursued other such stationary employments as I could not well do in the parlour, she would bring some pleasant volume and read it aloud to me. When Hareton was there, she generally paused in an interesting part, and left the book lying about: that she did repeatedly; but he was as obstinate as a mule, and, instead of snatching at her bait, in wet weather he took to smoking with Joseph; and they sat like automatons, one on each side of the fire, the elder happily too deaf to understand her wicked nonsense, as he would have called it, the younger doing his best to seem to disregard it. On fine evenings the latter followed his shooting expeditions, and Catherine yawned and sighed, and teased me to talk to her, and ran off into the court or garden the moment I began; and, as a last resource, cried, and said she was tired of living: her life was useless.
Mr. Heathcliff, who grew more and more disinclined to society, had almost banished Earnshaw from his apartment. Owing to an accident at the commencement of March, he became for some days a fixture in the kitchen. His gun burst while out on the hills by himself; a splinter cut his arm, and he lost a good deal of blood before he could reach home. The consequence was that, perforce, he was condemned to the fireside and tranquillity, till he made it up again. It suited Catherine to have him there: at any rate, it made her hate her room up-stairs more than ever: and she would compel me to find out business below, that she might accompany me.
On Easter Monday, Joseph went to Gimmerton fair with some cattle; and, in the afternoon, I was busy getting up linen in the kitchen. Earnshaw sat, morose as usual, at the chimney corner, and my little mistress was beguiling an idle hour with drawing pictures on the window-panes, varying her amusement by smothered bursts of songs, and whispered ejaculations, and quick glances of annoyance and impatience in the direction of her cousin, who steadfastly smoked, and looked into the grate. At a notice that I could do with her no longer intercepting my light, she removed to the hearthstone. I bestowed little attention on her proceedings, but, presently, I heard her begin—‘I’ve found out, Hareton, that I want—that I’m glad—that I should like you to be my cousin now, if you had not grown so cross to me, and so rough.’
Hareton returned no answer.
‘Hareton, Hareton, Hareton! do you hear?’ she continued.
‘Get off wi’ ye!’ he growled, with uncompromising gruffness.
‘Let me take that pipe,’ she said, cautiously advancing her hand and abstracting it from his mouth.
Before he could attempt to recover it, it was broken, and behind the fire. He swore at her and seized another.
‘Stop,’ she cried, ‘you must listen to me first; and I can’t speak while those clouds are floating in my face.’
‘Will you go to the devil!’ he exclaimed, ferociously, ‘and let me be!’
‘No,’ she persisted, ‘I won’t: I can’t tell what to do to make you talk to me; and you are determined not to understand. When I call you stupid, I don’t mean anything: I don’t mean that I despise you. Come, you shall take notice of me, Hareton: you are my cousin, and you shall own me.’
‘I shall have naught to do wi’ you and your mucky pride, and your damned mocking tricks!’ he answered. ‘I’ll go to hell, body and soul, before I look sideways after you again. Side out o’ t’ gate, now, this minute!’
Catherine frowned, and retreated to the window-seat chewing her lip, and endeavouring, by humming an eccentric tune, to conceal a growing tendency to sob.
‘You should be friends with your cousin, Mr. Hareton,’ I interrupted, ‘since she repents of her sauciness. It would do you a great deal of good: it would make you another man to have her for a companion.’
‘A companion!’ he cried; ‘when she hates me, and does not think me fit to wipe her shoon! Nay, if it made me a king, I’d not be scorned for seeking her good-will any more.’
‘It is not I who hate you, it is you who hate me!’ wept Cathy, no longer disguising her trouble. ‘You hate me as much as Mr. Heathcliff does, and more.’
‘You’re a damned liar,’ began Earnshaw: ‘why have I made him angry, by taking your part, then, a hundred times? and that when you sneered at and despised me, and—Go on plaguing me, and I’ll step in yonder, and say you worried me out of the kitchen!’
‘I didn’t know you took my part,’ she answered, drying her eyes; ‘and I was miserable and bitter at everybody; but now I thank you, and beg you to forgive me: what can I do besides?’
She returned to the hearth, and frankly extended her hand. He blackened and scowled like a thunder-cloud, and kept his fists resolutely clenched, and his gaze fixed on the ground. Catherine, by instinct, must have divined it was obdurate perversity, and not dislike, that prompted this dogged conduct; for, after remaining an instant undecided, she stooped and impressed on his cheek a gentle kiss. The little rogue thought I had not seen her, and, drawing back, she took her former station by the window, quite demurely. I shook my head reprovingly, and then she blushed and whispered—‘Well! what should I have done, Ellen? He wouldn’t shake hands, and he wouldn’t look: I must show him some way that I like him—that I want to be friends.’
Whether the kiss convinced Hareton, I cannot tell: he was very careful, for some minutes, that his face should not be seen, and when he did raise it, he was sadly puzzled where to turn his eyes.
Catherine employed herself in wrapping a handsome book neatly in white paper, and having tied it with a bit of ribbon, and addressed it to ‘Mr. Hareton Earnshaw,’ she desired me to be her ambassadress, and convey the present to its destined recipient.