FOR two months the fugitives remained absent; in those two months, Mrs. Linto_ncountered and conquered the worst shock of what was denominated a brai_ever. No mother could have nursed an only child more devotedly than Edga_ended her. Day and night he was watching, and patiently enduring all th_nnoyances that irritable nerves and a shaken reason could inflict; and, though Kenneth remarked that what he saved from the grave would onl_ecompense his care by forming the source of constant future anxiety - i_act, that his health and strength were being sacrificed to preserve a mer_uin of humanity - he knew no limits in gratitude and joy when Catherine'_ife was declared out of danger; and hour after hour he would sit beside her, tracing the gradual return to bodily health, and flattering his too sanguin_opes with the illusion that her mind would settle back to its right balanc_lso, and she would soon be entirely her former self.
The first time she left her chamber was at the commencement of the followin_arch. Mr. Linton had put on her pillow, in the morning, a handful of golde_rocuses; her eye, long stranger to any gleam of pleasure, caught them i_aking, and shone delighted as she gathered them eagerly together.
'These are the earliest flowers at the Heights,' she exclaimed. 'They remin_e of soft thaw winds, and warm sunshine, and nearly melted snow. Edgar, i_here not a south wind, and is not the snow almost gone?'
'The snow is quite gone down here, darling,' replied her husband; 'and I onl_ee two white spots on the whole range of moors: the sky is blue, and th_arks are singing, and the becks and brooks are all brim full. Catherine, las_pring at this time, I was longing to have you under this roof; now, I wis_ou were a mile or two up those hills: the air blows so sweetly, I feel tha_t would cure you.'
'I shall never be there but once more,' said the invalid; 'and then you'l_eave me, and I shall remain for ever. Next spring you'll long again to hav_e under this roof, and you'll look back and think you were happy to-day.'
Linton lavished on her the kindest caresses, and tried to cheer her by th_ondest words; but, vaguely regarding the flowers, she let the tears collec_n her lashes and stream down her cheeks unheeding. We knew she was reall_etter, and, therefore, decided that long confinement to a single plac_roduced much of this despondency, and it might be partially removed by _hange of scene. The master told me to light a fire in the many-weeks'
deserted parlour, and to set an easy-chair in the sunshine by the window; an_hen he brought her down, and she sat a long while enjoying the genial heat, and, as we expected, revived by the objects round her: which, though familiar, were free from the dreary associations investing her hated sick chamber. B_vening she seemed greatly exhausted; yet no arguments could persuade her t_eturn to that apartment, and I had to arrange the parlour sofa for her bed, till another room could be prepared. To obviate the fatigue of mounting an_escending the stairs, we fitted up this, where you lie at present - on th_ame floor with the parlour; and she was soon strong enough to move from on_o the other, leaning on Edgar's arm. Ah, I thought myself, she might recover, so waited on as she was. And there was double cause to desire it, for on he_xistence depended that of another: we cherished the hope that in a littl_hile Mr. Linton's heart would be gladdened, and his lands secured from _tranger's gripe, by the birth of an heir.
I should mention that Isabella sent to her brother, some six weeks from he_eparture, a short note, announcing her marriage with Heathcliff. It appeare_ry and cold; but at the bottom was dotted in with pencil an obscure apology, and an entreaty for kind remembrance and reconciliation, if her proceeding ha_ffended him: asserting that she could not help it then, and being done, sh_ad now no power to repeal it. Linton did not reply to this, I believe; and, in a fortnight more, I got a long letter, which I considered odd, coming fro_he pen of a bride just out of the honeymoon. I'll read it: for I keep it yet.
Any relic of the dead is precious, if they were valued living.
DEAR ELLEN, it begins, - I came last night to Wuthering Heights, and heard, for the first time, that Catherine has been, and is yet, very ill. I must no_rite to her, I suppose, and my brother is either too angry or too distresse_o answer what I sent him. Still, I must write to somebody, and the onl_hoice left me is you.
Inform Edgar that I'd give the world to see his face again - that my hear_eturned to Thrushcross Grange in twenty-four hours after I left it, and i_here at this moment, full of warm feelings for him, and Catherine! I CAN'_OLLOW IT THOUGH - (these words are underlined) - they need not expect me, an_hey may draw what conclusions they please; taking care, however, to la_othing at the door of my weak will or deficient affection.
The remainder of the letter is for yourself alone. I want to ask you tw_uestions: the first is, - How did you contrive to preserve the commo_ympathies of human nature when you resided here? I cannot recognise an_entiment which those around share with me.
The second question I have great interest in; it is this - Is Mr. Heathcliff _an? If so, is he mad? And if not, is he a devil? I sha'n't tell my reason_or making this inquiry; but I beseech you to explain, if you can, what I hav_arried: that is, when you call to see me; and you must call, Ellen, ver_oon. Don't write, but come, and bring me something from Edgar.
Now, you shall hear how I have been received in my new home, as I am led t_magine the Heights will be. It is to amuse myself that I dwell on suc_ubjects as the lack of external comforts: they never occupy my thoughts, except at the moment when I miss them. I should laugh and dance for joy, if _ound their absence was the total of my miseries, and the rest was a_nnatural dream!
The sun set behind the Grange as we turned on to the moors; by that, I judge_t to be six o'clock; and my companion halted half an hour, to inspect th_ark, and the gardens, and, probably, the place itself, as well as he could; so it was dark when we dismounted in the paved yard of the farm-house, an_our old fellow-servant, Joseph, issued out to receive us by the light of _ip candle. He did it with a courtesy that redounded to his credit. His firs_ct was to elevate his torch to a level with my face, squint malignantly, project his under-lip, and turn away. Then he took the two horses, and le_hem into the stables; reappearing for the purpose of locking the outer gate, as if we lived in an ancient castle.
Heathcliff stayed to speak to him, and I entered the kitchen - a dingy, untid_ole; I daresay you would not know it, it is so changed since it was in you_harge. By the fire stood a ruffianly child, strong in limb and dirty in garb, with a look of Catherine in his eyes and about his mouth.
'This is Edgar's legal nephew,' I reflected - 'mine in a manner; I must shak_ands, and - yes - I must kiss him. It is right to establish a goo_nderstanding at the beginning.'
I approached, and, attempting to take his chubby fist, said - 'How do you do, my dear?'
He replied in a jargon I did not comprehend.
'Shall you and I be friends, Hareton?' was my next essay at conversation.
An oath, and a threat to set Throttler on me if I did not 'frame off' rewarde_y perseverance.
'Hey, Throttler, lad!' whispered the little wretch, rousing a half- bred bull- dog from its lair in a corner. 'Now, wilt thou be ganging?' he aske_uthoritatively.
Love for my life urged a compliance; I stepped over the threshold to wait til_he others should enter. Mr. Heathcliff was nowhere visible; and Joseph, who_ followed to the stables, and requested to accompany me in, after staring an_uttering to himself, screwed up his nose and replied - 'Mim! mim! mim! Di_ver Christian body hear aught like it? Mincing un' munching! How can I tel_het ye say?'
'I say, I wish you to come with me into the house!' I cried, thinking hi_eaf, yet highly disgusted at his rudeness.
'None o' me! I getten summut else to do,' he answered, and continued his work; moving his lantern jaws meanwhile, and surveying my dress and countenance (th_ormer a great deal too fine, but the latter, I'm sure, as sad as he coul_esire) with sovereign contempt.
I walked round the yard, and through a wicket, to another door, at which _ook the liberty of knocking, in hopes some more civil servant might sho_imself. After a short suspense, it was opened by a tall, gaunt man, withou_eckerchief, and otherwise extremely slovenly; his features were lost i_asses of shaggy hair that hung on his shoulders; and HIS eyes, too, were lik_ ghostly Catherine's with all their beauty annihilated.
'What's your business here?' he demanded, grimly. 'Who are you?'
'My name was Isabella Linton,' I replied. 'You've seen me before, sir. I'_ately married to Mr. Heathcliff, and he has brought me here - I suppose, b_our permission.'
'Is he come back, then?' asked the hermit, glaring like a hungry wolf.
'Yes - we came just now,' I said; 'but he left me by the kitchen door; an_hen I would have gone in, your little boy played sentinel over the place, an_rightened me off by the help of a bull-dog.'
'It's well the hellish villain has kept his word!' growled my future host, searching the darkness beyond me in expectation of discovering Heathcliff; an_hen he indulged in a soliloquy of execrations, and threats of what he woul_ave done had the 'fiend' deceived him.
I repented having tried this second entrance, and was almost inclined to sli_way before he finished cursing, but ere I could execute that intention, h_rdered me in, and shut and re-fastened the door. There was a great fire, an_hat was all the light in the huge apartment, whose floor had grown a unifor_rey; and the once brilliant pewter-dishes, which used to attract my gaze whe_ was a girl, partook of a similar obscurity, created by tarnish and dust. _nquired whether I might call the maid, and be conducted to a bedroom! Mr.
Earnshaw vouchsafed no answer. He walked up and down, with his hands in hi_ockets, apparently quite forgetting my presence; and his abstraction wa_vidently so deep, and his whole aspect so misanthropical, that I shrank fro_isturbing him again.
You'll not be surprised, Ellen, at my feeling particularly cheerless, seate_n worse than solitude on that inhospitable hearth, and remembering that fou_iles distant lay my delightful home, containing the only people I loved o_arth; and there might as well be the Atlantic to part us, instead of thos_our miles: I could not overpass them! I questioned with myself - where must _urn for comfort? and - mind you don't tell Edgar, or Catherine - above ever_orrow beside, this rose pre-eminent: despair at finding nobody who could o_ould be my ally against Heathcliff! I had sought shelter at Wutherin_eights, almost gladly, because I was secured by that arrangement from livin_lone with him; but he knew the people we were coming amongst, and he did no_ear their intermeddling.
I sat and thought a doleful time: the clock struck eight, and nine, and stil_y companion paced to and fro, his head bent on his breast, and perfectl_ilent, unless a groan or a bitter ejaculation forced itself out at intervals.
I listened to detect a woman's voice in the house, and filled the interim wit_ild regrets and dismal anticipations, which, at last, spoke audibly i_rrepressible sighing and weeping. I was not aware how openly I grieved, til_arnshaw halted opposite, in his measured walk, and gave me a stare of newly- awakened surprise. Taking advantage of his recovered attention, I exclaimed -
'I'm tired with my journey, and I want to go to bed! Where is the maid- servant? Direct me to her, as she won't come to me!'
'We have none,' he answered; 'you must wait on yourself!'
'Where must I sleep, then?' I sobbed; I was beyond regarding self- respect, weighed down by fatigue and wretchedness.
'Joseph will show you Heathcliff's chamber,' said he; 'open that door - he'_n there.'
I was going to obey, but he suddenly arrested me, and added in the stranges_one - 'Be so good as to turn your lock, and draw your bolt - don't omit it!'
'Well!' I said. 'But why, Mr. Earnshaw?' I did not relish the notion o_eliberately fastening myself in with Heathcliff.
'Look here!' he replied, pulling from his waistcoat a curiously- constructe_istol, having a double-edged spring knife attached to the barrel. 'That's _reat tempter to a desperate man, is it not? I cannot resist going up wit_his every night, and trying his door. If once I find it open he's done for; _o it invariably, even though the minute before I have been recalling _undred reasons that should make me refrain: it is some devil that urges me t_hwart my own schemes by killing him. You fight against that devil for love a_ong as you may; when the time comes, not all the angels in heaven shall sav_im!'
I surveyed the weapon inquisitively. A hideous notion struck me: how powerfu_ should be possessing such an instrument! I took it from his hand, an_ouched the blade. He looked astonished at the expression my face assume_uring a brief second: it was not horror, it was covetousness. He snatched th_istol back, jealously; shut the knife, and returned it to its concealment.
'I don't care if you tell him,' said he. 'Put him on his guard, and watch fo_im. You know the terms we are on, I see: his danger does not shock you.'
'What has Heathcliff done to you?' I asked. 'In what has he wronged you, t_arrant this appalling hatred? Wouldn't it be wiser to bid him quit th_ouse?'
'No!' thundered Earnshaw; 'should he offer to leave me, he's a dead man: persuade him to attempt it, and you are a murderess! Am I to lose ALL, withou_ chance of retrieval? Is Hareton to be a beggar? Oh, damnation! I WILL hav_t back; and I'll have HIS gold too; and then his blood; and hell shall hav_is soul! It will be ten times blacker with that guest than ever it wa_efore!'
You've acquainted me, Ellen, with your old master's habits. He is clearly o_he verge of madness: he was so last night at least. I shuddered to be nea_im, and thought on the servant's ill-bred moroseness as comparativel_greeable. He now recommenced his moody walk, and I raised the latch, an_scaped into the kitchen. Joseph was bending over the fire, peering into _arge pan that swung above it; and a wooden bowl of oatmeal stood on th_ettle close by. The contents of the pan began to boil, and he turned t_lunge his hand into the bowl; I conjectured that this preparation wa_robably for our supper, and, being hungry, I resolved it should be eatable; so, crying out sharply, 'I'LL make the porridge!' I removed the vessel out o_is reach, and proceeded to take off my hat and riding-habit. 'Mr. Earnshaw,'
I continued, 'directs me to wait on myself: I will. I'm not going to act th_ady among you, for fear I should starve.'
'Gooid Lord!' he muttered, sitting down, and stroking his ribbed stocking_rom the knee to the ankle. 'If there's to be fresh ortherings - just when _etten used to two maisters, if I mun hev' a MISTRESS set o'er my heead, it'_ike time to be flitting. I niver DID think to see t' day that I mud lave th'
owld place - but I doubt it's nigh at hand!'
This lamentation drew no notice from me: I went briskly to work, sighing t_emember a period when it would have been all merry fun; but compelle_peedily to drive off the remembrance. It racked me to recall past happines_nd the greater peril there was of conjuring up its apparition, the quicke_he thible ran round, and the faster the handfuls of meal fell into the water.
Joseph beheld my style of cookery with growing indignation.
'Thear!' he ejaculated. 'Hareton, thou willn't sup thy porridge to-neeght; they'll be naught but lumps as big as my neive. Thear, agean! I'd fling i_owl un' all, if I wer ye! There, pale t' guilp off, un' then ye'll hae don_i' 't. Bang, bang. It's a mercy t' bothom isn't deaved out!'
It WAS rather a rough mess, I own, when poured into the basins; four had bee_rovided, and a gallon pitcher of new milk was brought from the dairy, whic_areton seized and commenced drinking and spilling from the expansive lip. _xpostulated, and desired that he should have his in a mug; affirming that _ould not taste the liquid treated so dirtily. The old cynic chose to b_astly offended at this nicety; assuring me, repeatedly, that 'the barn wa_very bit as good' as I, 'and every bit as wollsome,' and wondering how _ould fashion to be so conceited. Meanwhile, the infant ruffian continue_ucking; and glowered up at me defyingly, as he slavered into the jug.
'I shall have my supper in another room,' I said. 'Have you no place you cal_ parlour?'
'PARLOUR!' he echoed, sneeringly, 'PARLOUR! Nay, we've noa PARLOURS. If ya_unnut loike wer company, there's maister's; un' if yah dunnut loike maister, there's us.'
'Then I shall go up-stairs,' I answered; 'show me a chamber.'
I put my basin on a tray, and went myself to fetch some more milk. With grea_rumblings, the fellow rose, and preceded me in my ascent: we mounted to th_arrets; he opened a door, now and then, to look into the apartments w_assed.
'Here's a rahm,' he said, at last, flinging back a cranky board on hinges.
'It's weel eneugh to ate a few porridge in. There's a pack o' corn i' t'
corner, thear, meeterly clane; if ye're feared o' muckying yer grand sil_loes, spread yer hankerchir o' t' top on't.'
The 'rahm' was a kind of lumber-hole smelling strong of malt and grain; various sacks of which articles were piled around, leaving a wide, bare spac_n the middle.
'Why, man,' I exclaimed, facing him angrily, 'this is not a place to sleep in.
I wish to see my bed-room.'
'BED-RUME!' he repeated, in a tone of mockery. 'Yah's see all t' BED-RUME_hear is - yon's mine.'
He pointed into the second garret, only differing from the first in being mor_aked about the walls, and having a large, low, curtainless bed, with a_ndigo-coloured quilt, at one end.
'What do I want with yours?' I retorted. 'I suppose Mr. Heathcliff does no_odge at the top of the house, does he?'
'Oh! it's Maister HATHECLIFF'S ye're wanting?' cried he, as if making a ne_iscovery. 'Couldn't ye ha' said soa, at onst? un' then, I mud ha' telled ye, baht all this wark, that that's just one ye cannut see - he allas keeps i_ocked, un' nob'dy iver mells on't but hisseln.'
'You've a nice house, Joseph,' I could not refrain from observing, 'an_leasant inmates; and I think the concentrated essence of all the madness i_he world took up its abode in my brain the day I linked my fate with theirs!
However, that is not to the present purpose - there are other rooms. Fo_eaven's sake be quick, and let me settle somewhere!'
He made no reply to this adjuration; only plodding doggedly down the woode_teps, and halting, before an apartment which, from that halt and the superio_uality of its furniture, I conjectured to be the best one. There was a carpet - a good one, but the pattern was obliterated by dust; a fireplace hung wit_ut-paper, dropping to pieces; a handsome oak-bedstead with ample crimso_urtains of rather expensive material and modern make; but they had evidentl_xperienced rough usage: the vallances hung in festoons, wrenched from thei_ings, and the iron rod supporting them was bent in an arc on one side, causing the drapery to trail upon the floor. The chairs were also damaged, many of them severely; and deep indentations deformed the panels of the walls.
I was endeavouring to gather resolution for entering and taking possession, when my fool of a guide announced, - 'This here is t' maister's.' My supper b_his time was cold, my appetite gone, and my patience exhausted. I insisted o_eing provided instantly with a place of refuge, and means of repose.
'Whear the divil?' began the religious elder. 'The Lord bless us! The Lor_orgie us! Whear the HELL wdd ye gang? ye marred, wearisome nowt! Ye've see_ll but Hareton's bit of a cham'er. There's not another hoile to lig down i_' th' hahse!'
I was so vexed, I flung my tray and its contents on the ground; and the_eated myself at the stairs'-head, hid my face in my hands, and cried.
'Ech! ech!' exclaimed Joseph. 'Weel done, Miss Cathy! weel done, Miss Cathy!
Howsiver, t' maister sall just tum'le o'er them brooken pots; un' then we'_ear summut; we's hear how it's to be. Gooid-for-naught madling! ye desarv_ining fro' this to Churstmas, flinging t' precious gifts o'God under fooit i'
yer flaysome rages! But I'm mista'en if ye shew yer sperrit lang. Wil_athecliff bide sich bonny ways, think ye? I nobbut wish he may catch ye i'
that plisky. I nobbut wish he may.'
And so he went on scolding to his den beneath, taking the candle with him; an_ remained in the dark. The period of reflection succeeding this silly actio_ompelled me to admit the necessity of smothering my pride and choking m_rath, and bestirring myself to remove its effects. An unexpected ai_resently appeared in the shape of Throttler, whom I now recognised as a so_f our old Skulker: it had spent its whelphood at the Grange, and was given b_y father to Mr. Hindley. I fancy it knew me: it pushed its nose against min_y way of salute, and then hastened to devour the porridge; while I grope_rom step to step, collecting the shattered earthenware, and drying th_patters of milk from the banister with my pocket-handkerchief. Our labour_ere scarcely over when I heard Earnshaw's tread in the passage; my assistan_ucked in his tail, and pressed to the wall; I stole into the nearest doorway.
The dog's endeavour to avoid him was unsuccessful; as I guessed by a scutte_own-stairs, and a prolonged, piteous yelping. I had better luck: he passe_n, entered his chamber, and shut the door. Directly after Joseph came up wit_areton, to put him to bed. I had found shelter in Hareton's room, and the ol_an, on seeing me, said, - 'They's rahm for boath ye un' yer pride, now, I su_hink i' the hahse. It's empty; ye may hev' it all to yerseln, un' Him a_llus maks a third, i' sich ill company!'
Gladly did I take advantage of this intimation; and the minute I flung mysel_nto a chair, by the fire, I nodded, and slept. My slumber was deep and sweet, though over far too soon. Mr. Heathcliff awoke me; he had just come in, an_emanded, in his loving manner, what I was doing there? I told him the caus_f my staying up so late - that he had the key of our room in his pocket. Th_djective OUR gave mortal offence. He swore it was not, nor ever should be, mine; and he'd - but I'll not repeat his language, nor describe his habitua_onduct: he is ingenious and unresting in seeking to gain my abhorrence! _ometimes wonder at him with an intensity that deadens my fear: yet, I assur_ou, a tiger or a venomous serpent could not rouse terror in me equal to tha_hich he wakens. He told me of Catherine's illness, and accused my brother o_ausing it promising that I should be Edgar's proxy in suffering, till h_ould get hold of him.
I do hate him - I am wretched - I have been a fool! Beware of uttering on_reath of this to any one at the Grange. I shall expect you every day - don'_isappoint me! - ISABELLA.