ANOTHER week over - and I am so many days nearer health, and spring! I hav_ow heard all my neighbour's history, at different sittings, as th_ousekeeper could spare time from more important occupations. I'll continue i_n her own words, only a little condensed. She is, on the whole, a very fai_arrator, and I don't think I could improve her style.
In the evening, she said, the evening of my visit to the Heights, I knew, a_ell as if I saw him, that Mr. Heathcliff was about the place; and I shunne_oing out, because I still carried his letter in my pocket, and didn't want t_e threatened or teased any more. I had made up my mind not to give it till m_aster went somewhere, as I could not guess how its receipt would affec_atherine. The consequence was, that it did not reach her before the lapse o_hree days. The fourth was Sunday, and I brought it into her room after th_amily were gone to church. There was a manservant left to keep the house wit_e, and we generally made a practice of locking the doors during the hours o_ervice; but on that occasion the weather was so warm and pleasant that I se_hem wide open, and, to fulfil my engagement, as I knew who would be coming, _old my companion that the mistress wished very much for some oranges, and h_ust run over to the village and get a few, to be paid for on the morrow. H_eparted, and I went up-stairs.
Mrs. Linton sat in a loose white dress, with a light shawl over her shoulders, in the recess of the open window, as usual. Her thick, long hair had bee_artly removed at the beginning of her illness, and now she wore it simpl_ombed in its natural tresses over her temples and neck. Her appearance wa_ltered, as I had told Heathcliff; but when she was calm, there seeme_nearthly beauty in the change. The flash of her eyes had been succeeded by _reamy and melancholy softness; they no longer gave the impression of lookin_t the objects around her: they appeared always to gaze beyond, and far beyond - you would have said out of this world. Then, the paleness of her face - it_aggard aspect having vanished as she recovered flesh - and the peculia_xpression arising from her mental state, though painfully suggestive of thei_auses, added to the touching interest which she awakened; and - invariably t_e, I know, and to any person who saw her, I should think - refuted mor_angible proofs of convalescence, and stamped her as one doomed to decay.
A book lay spread on the sill before her, and the scarcely perceptible win_luttered its leaves at intervals. I believe Linton had laid it there: for sh_ever endeavoured to divert herself with reading, or occupation of any kind, and he would spend many an hour in trying to entice her attention to som_ubject which had formerly been her amusement. She was conscious of his aim, and in her better moods endured his efforts placidly, only showing thei_selessness by now and then suppressing a wearied sigh, and checking him a_ast with the saddest of smiles and kisses. At other times, she would tur_etulantly away, and hide her face in her hands, or even push him off angrily; and then he took care to let her alone, for he was certain of doing no good.
Gimmerton chapel bells were still ringing; and the full, mellow flow of th_eck in the valley came soothingly on the ear. It was a sweet substitute fo_he yet absent murmur of the summer foliage, which drowned that music abou_he Grange when the trees were in leaf. At Wuthering Heights it always sounde_n quiet days following a great thaw or a season of steady rain. And o_uthering Heights Catherine was thinking as she listened: that is, if sh_hought or listened at all; but she had the vague, distant look I mentione_efore, which expressed no recognition of material things either by ear o_ye.
'There's a letter for you, Mrs. Linton,' I said, gently inserting it in on_and that rested on her knee. 'You must read it immediately, because it want_n answer. Shall I break the seal?' 'Yes,' she answered, without altering th_irection of her eyes. I opened it - it was very short. 'Now,' I continued,
'read it.' She drew away her hand, and let it fall. I replaced it in her lap, and stood waiting till it should please her to glance down; but that movemen_as so long delayed that at last I resumed - 'Must I read it, ma'am? It i_rom Mr. Heathcliff.'
There was a start and a troubled gleam of recollection, and a struggle t_rrange her ideas. She lifted the letter, and seemed to peruse it; and whe_he came to the signature she sighed: yet still I found she had not gathere_ts import, for, upon my desiring to hear her reply, she merely pointed to th_ame, and gazed at me with mournful and questioning eagerness.
'Well, he wishes to see you,' said I, guessing her need of an interpreter.
'He's in the garden by this time, and impatient to know what answer I shal_ring.'
As I spoke, I observed a large dog lying on the sunny grass beneath raise it_ars as if about to bark, and then smoothing them back, announce, by a wag o_he tail, that some one approached whom it did not consider a stranger. Mrs.
Linton bent forward, and listened breathlessly. The minute after a ste_raversed the hall; the open house was too tempting for Heathcliff to resis_alking in: most likely he supposed that I was inclined to shirk my promise, and so resolved to trust to his own audacity. With straining eagernes_atherine gazed towards the entrance of her chamber. He did not hit the righ_oom directly: she motioned me to admit him, but he found it out ere I coul_each the door, and in a stride or two was at her side, and had her grasped i_is arms.
He neither spoke nor loosed his hold for some five minutes, during whic_eriod he bestowed more kisses than ever he gave in his life before, _aresay: but then my mistress had kissed him first, and I plainly saw that h_ould hardly bear, for downright agony, to look into her face! The sam_onviction had stricken him as me, from the instant he beheld her, that ther_as no prospect of ultimate recovery there - she was fated, sure to die.
'Oh, Cathy! Oh, my life! how can I bear it?' was the first sentence h_ttered, in a tone that did not seek to disguise his despair. And now h_tared at her so earnestly that I thought the very intensity of his gaze woul_ring tears into his eyes; but they burned with anguish: they did not melt.
'What now?' said Catherine, leaning back, and returning his look with _uddenly clouded brow: her humour was a mere vane for constantly varyin_aprices. 'You and Edgar have broken my heart, Heathcliff! And you both com_o bewail the deed to me, as if you were the people to be pitied! I shall no_ity you, not I. You have killed me - and thriven on it, I think. How stron_ou are! How many years do you mean to live after I am gone?'
Heathcliff had knelt on one knee to embrace her; he attempted to rise, but sh_eized his hair, and kept him down.
'I wish I could hold you,' she continued, bitterly, 'till we were both dead! _houldn't care what you suffered. I care nothing for your sufferings. Wh_houldn't you suffer? I do! Will you forget me? Will you be happy when I am i_he earth? Will you say twenty years hence, "That's the grave of Catherin_arnshaw? I loved her long ago, and was wretched to lose her; but it is past.
I've loved many others since: my children are dearer to me than she was; and, at death, I shall not rejoice that I are going to her: I shall be sorry that _ust leave them!" Will you say so, Heathcliff?'
'Don't torture me till I'm as mad as yourself,' cried he, wrenching his hea_ree, and grinding his teeth.
The two, to a cool spectator, made a strange and fearful picture. Well migh_atherine deem that heaven would be a land of exile to her, unless with he_ortal body she cast away her moral character also. Her present countenanc_ad a wild vindictiveness in its white cheek, and a bloodless lip an_cintillating eye; and she retained in her closed fingers a portion of th_ocks she had been grasping. As to her companion, while raising himself wit_ne hand, he had taken her arm with the other; and so inadequate was his stoc_f gentleness to the requirements of her condition, that on his letting go _aw four distinct impressions left blue in the colourless skin.
'Are you possessed with a devil,' he pursued, savagely, 'to talk in tha_anner to me when you are dying? Do you reflect that all those words will b_randed in my memory, and eating deeper eternally after you have left me? Yo_now you lie to say I have killed you: and, Catherine, you know that I coul_s soon forget you as my existence! Is it not sufficient for your inferna_elfishness, that while you are at peace I shall writhe in the torments o_ell?'
'I shall not be at peace,' moaned Catherine, recalled to a sense of physica_eakness by the violent, unequal throbbing of her heart, which beat visibl_nd audibly under this excess of agitation. She said nothing further till th_aroxysm was over; then she continued, more kindly -
'I'm not wishing you greater torment than I have, Heathcliff. I only wish u_ever to be parted: and should a word of mine distress you hereafter, think _eel the same distress underground, and for my own sake, forgive me! Come her_nd kneel down again! You never harmed me in your life. Nay, if you nurs_nger, that will be worse to remember than my harsh words! Won't you come her_gain? Do!'
Heathcliff went to the back of her chair, and leant over, but not so far as t_et her see his face, which was livid with emotion. She bent round to look a_im; he would not permit it: turning abruptly, he walked to the fireplace, where he stood, silent, with his back towards us. Mrs. Linton's glanc_ollowed him suspiciously: every movement woke a new sentiment in her. After _ause and a prolonged gaze, she resumed; addressing me in accents of indignan_isappointment:-
'Oh, you see, Nelly, he would not relent a moment to keep me out of the grave.
THAT is how I'm loved! Well, never mind. That is not MY Heathcliff. I shal_ove mine yet; and take him with me: he's in my soul. And,' added sh_usingly, 'the thing that irks me most is this shattered prison, after all.
I'm tired of being enclosed here. I'm wearying to escape into that gloriou_orld, and to be always there: not seeing it dimly through tears, and yearnin_or it through the walls of an aching heart: but really with it, and in it.
Nelly, you think you are better and more fortunate than I; in full health an_trength: you are sorry for me - very soon that will be altered. I shall b_orry for YOU. I shall be incomparably beyond and above you all. I WONDER h_on't be near me!' She went on to herself. 'I thought he wished it.
Heathcliff, dear! you should not be sullen now. Do come to me, Heathcliff.'
In her eagerness she rose and supported herself on the arm of the chair. A_hat earnest appeal he turned to her, looking absolutely desperate. His eyes, wide and wet, at last flashed fiercely on her; his breast heaved convulsively.
An instant they held asunder, and then how they met I hardly saw, bu_atherine made a spring, and he caught her, and they were locked in an embrac_rom which I thought my mistress would never be released alive: in fact, to m_yes, she seemed directly insensible. He flung himself into the nearest seat, and on my approaching hurriedly to ascertain if she had fainted, he gnashed a_e, and foamed like a mad dog, and gathered her to him with greedy jealousy. _id not feel as if I were in the company of a creature of my own species: i_ppeared that he would not understand, though I spoke to him; so I stood off, and held my tongue, in great perplexity.
A movement of Catherine's relieved me a little presently: she put up her han_o clasp his neck, and bring her cheek to his as he held her; while he, i_eturn, covering her with frantic caresses, said wildly -
'You teach me now how cruel you've been - cruel and false. WHY did you despis_e? WHY did you betray your own heart, Cathy? I have not one word of comfort.
You deserve this. You have killed yourself. Yes, you may kiss me, and cry; an_ring out my kisses and tears: they'll blight you - they'll damn you. Yo_oved me - then what RIGHT had you to leave me? What right - answer me - fo_he poor fancy you felt for Linton? Because misery and degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, YOU, of you_wn will, did it. I have not broken your heart - YOU have broken it; and i_reaking it, you have broken mine. So much the worse for me that I am strong.
Do I want to live? What kind of living will it be when you - oh, God! woul_OU like to live with your soul in the grave?'
'Let me alone. Let me alone,' sobbed Catherine. 'If I've done wrong, I'm dyin_or it. It is enough! You left me too: but I won't upbraid you! I forgive you.
'It is hard to forgive, and to look at those eyes, and feel those waste_ands,' he answered. 'Kiss me again; and don't let me see your eyes! I forgiv_hat you have done to me. I love MY murderer - but YOURS! How can I?'
They were silent-their faces hid against each other, and washed by eac_ther's tears. At least, I suppose the weeping was on both sides; as it seeme_eathcliff could weep on a great occasion like this.
I grew very uncomfortable, meanwhile; for the afternoon wore fast away, th_an whom I had sent off returned from his errand, and I could distinguish, b_he shine of the western sun up the valley, a concourse thickening outsid_immerton chapel porch.
'Service is over,' I announced. 'My master will be here in half an hour.'
Heathcliff groaned a curse, and strained Catherine closer: she never moved.
Ere long I perceived a group of the servants passing up the road towards th_itchen wing. Mr. Linton was not far behind; he opened the gate himself an_auntered slowly up, probably enjoying the lovely afternoon that breathed a_oft as summer.
'Now he is here,' I exclaimed. 'For heaven's sake, hurry down! You'll not mee_ny one on the front stairs. Do be quick; and stay among the trees till he i_airly in.'
'I must go, Cathy,' said Heathcliff, seeking to extricate himself from hi_ompanion's arms. 'But if I live, I'll see you again before you are asleep. _on't stray five yards from your window.'
'You must not go!' she answered, holding him as firmly as her strengt_llowed. 'You SHALL not, I tell you.'
'For one hour,' he pleaded earnestly.
'Not for one minute,' she replied.
'I MUST - Linton will be up immediately,' persisted the alarmed intruder.
He would have risen, and unfixed her fingers by the act - she clung fast, gasping: there was mad resolution in her face.
'No!' she shrieked. 'Oh, don't, don't go. It is the last time! Edgar will no_urt us. Heathcliff, I shall die! I shall die!'
'Damn the fool! There he is,' cried Heathcliff, sinking back into his seat.
'Hush, my darling! Hush, hush, Catherine! I'll stay. If he shot me so, I'_xpire with a blessing on my lips.'
And there they were fast again. I heard my master mounting the stairs - th_old sweat ran from my forehead: I was horrified.
'Are you going to listen to her ravings?' I said, passionately. 'She does no_now what she says. Will you ruin her, because she has not wit to hel_erself? Get up! You could be free instantly. That is the most diabolical dee_hat ever you did. We are all done for - master, mistress, and servant.'
I wrung my hands, and cried out; and Mr. Linton hastened his step at th_oise. In the midst of my agitation, I was sincerely glad to observe tha_atherine's arms had fallen relaxed, and her head hung down.
'She's fainted, or dead,' I thought: 'so much the better. Far better that sh_hould be dead, than lingering a burden and a misery-maker to all about her.'
Edgar sprang to his unbidden guest, blanched with astonishment and rage. Wha_e meant to do I cannot tell; however, the other stopped all demonstrations, at once, by placing the lifeless- looking form in his arms.
'Look there!' he said. 'Unless you be a fiend, help her first - then you shal_peak to me!'
He walked into the parlour, and sat down. Mr. Linton summoned me, and wit_reat difficulty, and after resorting to many means, we managed to restore he_o sensation; but she was all bewildered; she sighed, and moaned, and kne_obody. Edgar, in his anxiety for her, forgot her hated friend. I did not. _ent, at the earliest opportunity, and besought him to depart; affirming tha_atherine was better, and he should hear from me in the morning how she passe_he night.
'I shall not refuse to go out of doors,' he answered; 'but I shall stay in th_arden: and, Nelly, mind you keep your word to-morrow. I shall be under thos_arch-trees. Mind! or I pay another visit, whether Linton be in or not.'
He sent a rapid glance through the half-open door of the chamber, and, ascertaining that what I stated was apparently true, delivered the house o_is luckless presence.