Page 83 of 88
‘Now, now, idiot!’ interrupted Heathcliff, ‘cut it short! What’s your grievance? I’ll interfere in no quarrels between you and Nelly. She may thrust you into the coal-hole for anything I care.’
‘It’s noan Nelly!’ answered Joseph. ‘I sudn’t shift for Nelly—nasty ill nowt as shoo is. Thank God! shoo cannot stale t’ sowl o’ nob’dy! Shoo wer niver soa handsome, but what a body mud look at her ‘bout winking. It’s yon flaysome, graceless quean, that’s witched our lad, wi’ her bold een and her forrard ways—till—Nay! it fair brusts my heart! He’s forgotten all I’ve done for him, and made on him, and goan and riven up a whole row o’ t’ grandest currant-trees i’ t’ garden!’ and here he lamented outright; unmanned by a sense of his bitter injuries, and Earnshaw’s ingratitude and dangerous condition.
‘Is the fool drunk?’ asked Mr. Heathcliff. ‘Hareton, is it you he’s finding fault with?’
‘I’ve pulled up two or three bushes,’ replied the young man; ‘but I’m going to set ’em again.’
‘And why have you pulled them up?’ said the master.
Catherine wisely put in her tongue.
‘We wanted to plant some flowers there,’ she cried. ‘I’m the only person to blame, for I wished him to do it.’
‘And who the devil gave you leave to touch a stick about the place?’ demanded her father-in-law, much surprised. ‘And who ordered you to obey her?’ he added, turning to Hareton.
The latter was speechless; his cousin replied—‘You shouldn’t grudge a few yards of earth for me to ornament, when you have taken all my land!’
‘Your land, insolent slut! You never had any,’ said Heathcliff.
‘And my money,’ she continued; returning his angry glare, and meantime biting a piece of crust, the remnant of her breakfast.
‘Silence!’ he exclaimed. ‘Get done, and begone!’
‘And Hareton’s land, and his money,’ pursued the reckless thing. ‘Hareton and I are friends now; and I shall tell him all about you!’
The master seemed confounded a moment: he grew pale, and rose up, eyeing her all the while, with an expression of mortal hate.
‘If you strike me, Hareton will strike you,’ she said; ‘so you may as well sit down.’
‘If Hareton does not turn you out of the room, I’ll strike him to hell,’ thundered Heathcliff. ‘Damnable witch! dare you pretend to rouse him against me? Off with her! Do you hear? Fling her into the kitchen! I’ll kill her, Ellen Dean, if you let her come into my sight again!’
Hareton tried, under his breath, to persuade her to go.
‘Drag her away!’ he cried, savagely. ‘Are you staying to talk?’ And he approached to execute his own command.
‘He’ll not obey you, wicked man, any more,’ said Catherine; ‘and he’ll soon detest you as much as I do.’
‘Wisht! wisht!’ muttered the young man, reproachfully; ‘I will not hear you speak so to him. Have done.’
‘But you won’t let him strike me?’ she cried.
‘Come, then,’ he whispered earnestly.
It was too late: Heathcliff had caught hold of her.
‘Now, you go!’ he said to Earnshaw. ‘Accursed witch! this time she has provoked me when I could not bear it; and I’ll make her repent it for ever!’
He had his hand in her hair; Hareton attempted to release her locks, entreating him not to hurt her that once. Heathcliff’s black eyes flashed; he seemed ready to tear Catherine in pieces, and I was just worked up to risk coming to the rescue, when of a sudden his fingers relaxed; he shifted his grasp from her head to her arm, and gazed intently in her face. Then he drew his hand over his eyes, stood a moment to collect himself apparently, and turning anew to Catherine, said, with assumed calmness—‘You must learn to avoid putting me in a passion, or I shall really murder you some time! Go with Mrs. Dean, and keep with her; and confine your insolence to her ears. As to Hareton Earnshaw, if I see him listen to you, I’ll send him seeking his bread where he can get it! Your love will make him an outcast and a beggar. Nelly, take her; and leave me, all of you! Leave me!’
I led my young lady out: she was too glad of her escape to resist; the other followed, and Mr. Heathcliff had the room to himself till dinner. I had counselled Catherine to dine up-stairs; but, as soon as he perceived her vacant seat, he sent me to call her. He spoke to none of us, ate very little, and went out directly afterwards, intimating that he should not return before evening.
The two new friends established themselves in the house during his absence; where I heard Hareton sternly check his cousin, on her offering a revelation of her father-in-law’s conduct to his father. He said he wouldn’t suffer a word to be uttered in his disparagement: if he were the devil, it didn’t signify; he would stand by him; and he’d rather she would abuse himself, as she used to, than begin on Mr. Heathcliff. Catherine was waxing cross at this; but he found means to make her hold her tongue, by asking how she would like him to speak ill of her father? Then she comprehended that Earnshaw took the master’s reputation home to himself; and was attached by ties stronger than reason could break—chains, forged by habit, which it would be cruel to attempt to loosen. She showed a good heart, thenceforth, in avoiding both complaints and expressions of antipathy concerning Heathcliff; and confessed to me her sorrow that she had endeavoured to raise a bad spirit between him and Hareton: indeed, I don’t believe she has ever breathed a syllable, in the latter’s hearing, against her oppressor since.
When this slight disagreement was over, they were friends again, and as busy as possible in their several occupations of pupil and teacher. I came in to sit with them, after I had done my work; and I felt so soothed and comforted to watch them, that I did not notice how time got on. You know, they both appeared in a measure my children: I had long been proud of one; and now, I was sure, the other would be a source of equal satisfaction. His honest, warm, and intelligent nature shook off rapidly the clouds of ignorance and degradation in which it had been bred; and Catherine’s sincere commendations acted as a spur to his industry. His brightening mind brightened his features, and added spirit and nobility to their aspect: I could hardly fancy it the same individual I had beheld on the day I discovered my little lady at Wuthering Heights, after her expedition to the Crags. While I admired and they laboured, dusk drew on, and with it returned the master. He came upon us quite unexpectedly, entering by the front way, and had a full view of the whole three, ere we could raise our heads to glance at him. Well, I reflected, there was never a pleasanter, or more harmless sight; and it will be a burning shame to scold them. The red fire-light glowed on their two bonny heads, and revealed their faces animated with the eager interest of children; for, though he was twenty-three and she eighteen, each had so much of novelty to feel and learn, that neither experienced nor evinced the sentiments of sober disenchanted maturity.