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‘And tell him, if he’ll take it, I’ll come and teach him to read it right,’ she said; ‘and, if he refuse it, I’ll go upstairs, and never tease him again.’
I carried it, and repeated the message; anxiously watched by my employer. Hareton would not open his fingers, so I laid it on his knee. He did not strike it off, either. I returned to my work. Catherine leaned her head and arms on the table, till she heard the slight rustle of the covering being removed; then she stole away, and quietly seated herself beside her cousin. He trembled, and his face glowed: all his rudeness and all his surly harshness had deserted him: he could not summon courage, at first, to utter a syllable in reply to her questioning look, and her murmured petition.
‘Say you forgive me, Hareton, do. You can make me so happy by speaking that little word.’
He muttered something inaudible.
‘And you’ll be my friend?’ added Catherine, interrogatively.
‘Nay, you’ll be ashamed of me every day of your life,’ he answered; ‘and the more ashamed, the more you know me; and I cannot bide it.’
‘So you won’t be my friend?’ she said, smiling as sweet as honey, and creeping close up.
I overheard no further distinguishable talk, but, on looking round again, I perceived two such radiant countenances bent over the page of the accepted book, that I did not doubt the treaty had been ratified on both sides; and the enemies were, thenceforth, sworn allies.
The work they studied was full of costly pictures; and those and their position had charm enough to keep them unmoved till Joseph came home. He, poor man, was perfectly aghast at the spectacle of Catherine seated on the same bench with Hareton Earnshaw, leaning her hand on his shoulder; and confounded at his favourite’s endurance of her proximity: it affected him too deeply to allow an observation on the subject that night. His emotion was only revealed by the immense sighs he drew, as he solemnly spread his large Bible on the table, and overlaid it with dirty bank-notes from his pocket-book, the produce of the day’s transactions. At length he summoned Hareton from his seat.
‘Tak’ these in to t’ maister, lad,’ he said, ‘and bide there. I’s gang up to my own rahm. This hoile’s neither mensful nor seemly for us: we mun side out and seearch another.’
‘Come, Catherine,’ I said, ‘we must “side out” too: I’ve done my ironing. Are you ready to go?’
‘It is not eight o’clock!’ she answered, rising unwillingly.
‘Hareton, I’ll leave this book upon the chimney-piece, and I’ll bring some more to-morrow.’
‘Ony books that yah leave, I shall tak’ into th’ hahse,’ said Joseph, ‘and it’ll be mitch if yah find ’em agean; soa, yah may plase yerseln!’
Cathy threatened that his library should pay for hers; and, smiling as she passed Hareton, went singing up-stairs: lighter of heart, I venture to say, than ever she had been under that roof before; except, perhaps, during her earliest visits to Linton.
The intimacy thus commenced grew rapidly; though it encountered temporary interruptions. Earnshaw was not to be civilized with a wish, and my young lady was no philosopher, and no paragon of patience; but both their minds tending to the same point—one loving and desiring to esteem, and the other loving and desiring to be esteemed—they contrived in the end to reach it.
You see, Mr. Lockwood, it was easy enough to win Mrs. Heathcliff’s heart. But now, I’m glad you did not try. The crown of all my wishes will be the union of those two. I shall envy no one on their wedding day: there won’t be a happier woman than myself in England!
On the morrow of that Monday, Earnshaw being still unable to follow his ordinary employments, and therefore remaining about the house, I speedily found it would be impracticable to retain my charge beside me, as heretofore. She got downstairs before me, and out into the garden, where she had seen her cousin performing some easy work; and when I went to bid them come to breakfast, I saw she had persuaded him to clear a large space of ground from currant and gooseberry bushes, and they were busy planning together an importation of plants from the Grange.
I was terrified at the devastation which had been accomplished in a brief half-hour; the black-currant trees were the apple of Joseph’s eye, and she had just fixed her choice of a flower-bed in the midst of them.
‘There! That will be all shown to the master,’ I exclaimed, ‘the minute it is discovered. And what excuse have you to offer for taking such liberties with the garden? We shall have a fine explosion on the head of it: see if we don’t! Mr. Hareton, I wonder you should have no more wit than to go and make that mess at her bidding!’
‘I’d forgotten they were Joseph’s,’ answered Earnshaw, rather puzzled; ‘but I’ll tell him I did it.’
We always ate our meals with Mr. Heathcliff. I held the mistress’s post in making tea and carving; so I was indispensable at table. Catherine usually sat by me, but to-day she stole nearer to Hareton; and I presently saw she would have no more discretion in her friendship than she had in her hostility.
‘Now, mind you don’t talk with and notice your cousin too much,’ were my whispered instructions as we entered the room. ‘It will certainly annoy Mr. Heathcliff, and he’ll be mad at you both.’
‘I’m not going to,’ she answered.
The minute after, she had sidled to him, and was sticking primroses in his plate of porridge.
He dared not speak to her there: he dared hardly look; and yet she went on teasing, till he was twice on the point of being provoked to laugh. I frowned, and then she glanced towards the master: whose mind was occupied on other subjects than his company, as his countenance evinced; and she grew serious for an instant, scrutinizing him with deep gravity. Afterwards she turned, and recommenced her nonsense; at last, Hareton uttered a smothered laugh. Mr. Heathcliff started; his eye rapidly surveyed our faces, Catherine met it with her accustomed look of nervousness and yet defiance, which he abhorred.
‘It is well you are out of my reach,’ he exclaimed. ‘What fiend possesses you to stare back at me, continually, with those infernal eyes? Down with them! and don’t remind me of your existence again. I thought I had cured you of laughing.’
‘It was me,’ muttered Hareton.
‘What do you say?’ demanded the master.
Hareton looked at his plate, and did not repeat the confession. Mr. Heathcliff looked at him a bit, and then silently resumed his breakfast and his interrupted musing. We had nearly finished, and the two young people prudently shifted wider asunder, so I anticipated no further disturbance during that sitting: when Joseph appeared at the door, revealing by his quivering lip and furious eyes that the outrage committed on his precious shrubs was detected. He must have seen Cathy and her cousin about the spot before he examined it, for while his jaws worked like those of a cow chewing its cud, and rendered his speech difficult to understand, he began:—
‘I mun hev’ my wage, and I mun goa! I hed aimed to dee wheare I’d sarved fur sixty year; and I thowt I’d lug my books up into t’ garret, and all my bits o’ stuff, and they sud hev’ t’ kitchen to theirseln; for t’ sake o’ quietness. It wur hard to gie up my awn hearthstun, but I thowt I could do that! But nah, shoo’s taan my garden fro’ me, and by th’ heart, maister, I cannot stand it! Yah may bend to th’ yoak an ye will—I noan used to ’t, and an old man doesn’t sooin get used to new barthens. I’d rayther arn my bite an’ my sup wi’ a hammer in th’ road!’