Wuthering Heights

Page 84 of 88

They lifted their eyes together, to encounter Mr. Heathcliff: perhaps you have never remarked that their eyes are precisely similar, and they are those of Catherine Earnshaw.  The present Catherine has no other likeness to her, except a breadth of forehead, and a certain arch of the nostril that makes her appear rather haughty, whether she will or not.  With Hareton the resemblance is carried farther: it is singular at all times, then it was particularly striking; because his senses were alert, and his mental faculties wakened to unwonted activity.  I suppose this resemblance disarmed Mr. Heathcliff: he walked to the hearth in evident agitation; but it quickly subsided as he looked at the young man: or, I should say, altered its character; for it was there yet.  He took the book from his hand, and glanced at the open page, then returned it without any observation; merely signing Catherine away: her companion lingered very little behind her, and I was about to depart also, but he bid me sit still.

‘It is a poor conclusion, is it not?’ he observed, having brooded awhile on the scene he had just witnessed: ‘an absurd termination to my violent exertions?  I get levers and mattocks to demolish the two houses, and train myself to be capable of working like Hercules, and when everything is ready and in my power, I find the will to lift a slate off either roof has vanished!  My old enemies have not beaten me; now would be the precise time to revenge myself on their representatives: I could do it; and none could hinder me.  But where is the use?  I don’t care for striking: I can’t take the trouble to raise my hand!  That sounds as if I had been labouring the whole time only to exhibit a fine trait of magnanimity.  It is far from being the case: I have lost the faculty of enjoying their destruction, and I am too idle to destroy for nothing.

‘Nelly, there is a strange change approaching; I’m in its shadow at present.  I take so little interest in my daily life that I hardly remember to eat and drink.  Those two who have left the room are the only objects which retain a distinct material appearance to me; and that appearance causes me pain, amounting to agony.  About her I won’t speak; and I don’t desire to think; but I earnestly wish she were invisible: her presence invokes only maddening sensations.  He moves me differently: and yet if I could do it without seeming insane, I’d never see him again!  You’ll perhaps think me rather inclined to become so,’ he added, making an effort to smile, ‘if I try to describe the thousand forms of past associations and ideas he awakens or embodies.  But you’ll not talk of what I tell you; and my mind is so eternally secluded in itself, it is tempting at last to turn it out to another.

‘Five minutes ago Hareton seemed a personification of my youth, not a human being; I felt to him in such a variety of ways, that it would have been impossible to have accosted him rationally.  In the first place, his startling likeness to Catherine connected him fearfully with her.  That, however, which you may suppose the most potent to arrest my imagination, is actually the least: for what is not connected with her to me? and what does not recall her?  I cannot look down to this floor, but her features are shaped in the flags!  In every cloud, in every tree—filling the air at night, and caught by glimpses in every object by day—I am surrounded with her image!  The most ordinary faces of men and women—my own features—mock me with a resemblance.  The entire world is a dreadful collection of memoranda that she did exist, and that I have lost her!  Well, Hareton’s aspect was the ghost of my immortal love; of my wild endeavours to hold my right; my degradation, my pride, my happiness, and my anguish—

‘But it is frenzy to repeat these thoughts to you: only it will let you know why, with a reluctance to be always alone, his society is no benefit; rather an aggravation of the constant torment I suffer: and it partly contributes to render me regardless how he and his cousin go on together.  I can give them no attention any more.’

‘But what do you mean by a change, Mr. Heathcliff?’ I said, alarmed at his manner: though he was neither in danger of losing his senses, nor dying, according to my judgment: he was quite strong and healthy; and, as to his reason, from childhood he had a delight in dwelling on dark things, and entertaining odd fancies.  He might have had a monomania on the subject of his departed idol; but on every other point his wits were as sound as mine.

‘I shall not know that till it comes,’ he said; ‘I’m only half conscious of it now.’

‘You have no feeling of illness, have you?’ I asked.

‘No, Nelly, I have not,’ he answered.

‘Then you are not afraid of death?’ I pursued.

‘Afraid?  No!’ he replied.  ‘I have neither a fear, nor a presentiment, nor a hope of death.  Why should I?  With my hard constitution and temperate mode of living, and unperilous occupations, I ought to, and probably shall, remain above ground till there is scarcely a black hair on my head.  And yet I cannot continue in this condition!  I have to remind myself to breathe—almost to remind my heart to beat!  And it is like bending back a stiff spring: it is by compulsion that I do the slightest act not prompted by one thought; and by compulsion that I notice anything alive or dead, which is not associated with one universal idea.  I have a single wish, and my whole being and faculties are yearning to attain it.  They have yearned towards it so long, and so unwaveringly, that I’m convinced it will be reached—and soon—because it has devoured my existence: I am swallowed up in the anticipation of its fulfilment.  My confessions have not relieved me; but they may account for some otherwise unaccountable phases of humour which I show.  O God!  It is a long fight; I wish it were over!’

He began to pace the room, muttering terrible things to himself, till I was inclined to believe, as he said Joseph did, that conscience had turned his heart to an earthly hell.  I wondered greatly how it would end.  Though he seldom before had revealed this state of mind, even by looks, it was his habitual mood, I had no doubt: he asserted it himself; but not a soul, from his general bearing, would have conjectured the fact.  You did not when you saw him, Mr. Lockwood: and at the period of which I speak, he was just the same as then; only fonder of continued solitude, and perhaps still more laconic in company.


For some days after that evening Mr. Heathcliff shunned meeting us at meals; yet he would not consent formally to exclude Hareton and Cathy.  He had an aversion to yielding so completely to his feelings, choosing rather to absent himself; and eating once in twenty-four hours seemed sufficient sustenance for him.

One night, after the family were in bed, I heard him go downstairs, and out at the front door.  I did not hear him re-enter, and in the morning I found he was still away.  We were in April then: the weather was sweet and warm, the grass as green as showers and sun could make it, and the two dwarf apple-trees near the southern wall in full bloom.  After breakfast, Catherine insisted on my bringing a chair and sitting with my work under the fir-trees at the end of the house; and she beguiled Hareton, who had perfectly recovered from his accident, to dig and arrange her little garden, which was shifted to that corner by the influence of Joseph’s complaints.  I was comfortably revelling in the spring fragrance around, and the beautiful soft blue overhead, when my young lady, who had run down near the gate to procure some primrose roots for a border, returned only half laden, and informed us that Mr. Heathcliff was coming in.  ‘And he spoke to me,’ she added, with a perplexed countenance.

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