TO obviate the danger of this threat being fulfilled, Mr. Linton commissione_e to take the boy home early, on Catherine's pony; and, said he - 'As w_hall now have no influence over his destiny, good or bad, you must sa_othing of where he is gone to my daughter: she cannot associate with hi_ereafter, and it is better for her to remain in ignorance of his proximity; lest she should be restless, and anxious to visit the Heights. Merely tell he_is father sent for him suddenly, and he has been obliged to leave us.'
Linton was very reluctant to be roused from his bed at five o'clock, an_stonished to be informed that he must prepare for further travelling; but _oftened off the matter by stating that he was going to spend some time wit_is father, Mr. Heathcliff, who wished to see him so much, he did not like t_efer the pleasure till he should recover from his late journey.
'My father!' he cried, in strange perplexity. 'Mamma never told me I had _ather. Where does he live? I'd rather stay with uncle.'
'He lives a little distance from the Grange,' I replied; 'just beyond thos_ills: not so far, but you may walk over here when you get hearty. And yo_hould be glad to go home, and to see him. You must try to love him, as yo_id your mother, and then he will love you.'
'But why have I not heard of him before?' asked Linton. 'Why didn't mamma an_e live together, as other people do?'
'He had business to keep him in the north,' I answered, 'and your mother'_ealth required her to reside in the south.'
'And why didn't mamma speak to me about him?' persevered the child. 'She ofte_alked of uncle, and I learnt to love him long ago. How am I to love papa? _on't know him.'
'Oh, all children love their parents,' I said. 'Your mother, perhaps, though_ou would want to be with him if she mentioned him often to you. Let us mak_aste. An early ride on such a beautiful morning is much preferable to a_our's more sleep.'
'Is SHE to go with us,' he demanded, 'the little girl I saw yesterday?'
'Not now,' replied I.
'Is uncle?' he continued.
'No, I shall be your companion there,' I said.
Linton sank back on his pillow and fell into a brown study.
'I won't go without uncle,' he cried at length: 'I can't tell where you mea_o take me.'
I attempted to persuade him of the naughtiness of showing reluctance to mee_is father; still he obstinately resisted any progress towards dressing, and _ad to call for my master's assistance in coaxing him out of bed. The poo_hing was finally got off, with several delusive assurances that his absenc_hould be short: that Mr. Edgar and Cathy would visit him, and other promises, equally ill-founded, which I invented and reiterated at intervals throughou_he way. The pure heather-scented air, the bright sunshine, and the gentl_anter of Minny, relieved his despondency after a while. He began to pu_uestions concerning his new home, and its inhabitants, with greater interes_nd liveliness.
'Is Wuthering Heights as pleasant a place as Thrushcross Grange?' he inquired, turning to take a last glance into the valley, whence a light mist mounted an_ormed a fleecy cloud on the skirts of the blue.
'It is not so buried in trees,' I replied, 'and it is not quite so large, bu_ou can see the country beautifully all round; and the air is healthier fo_ou - fresher and drier. You will, perhaps, think the building old and dark a_irst; though it is a respectable house: the next best in the neighbourhood.
And you will have such nice rambles on the moors. Hareton Earnshaw - that is, Miss Cathy's other cousin, and so yours in a manner - will show you all th_weetest spots; and you can bring a book in fine weather, and make a gree_ollow your study; and, now and then, your uncle may join you in a walk: h_oes, frequently, walk out on the hills.'
'And what is my father like?' he asked. 'Is he as young and handsome a_ncle?'
'He's as young,' said I; 'but he has black hair and eyes, and looks sterner; and he is taller and bigger altogether. He'll not seem to you so gentle an_ind at first, perhaps, because it is not his way: still, mind you, be fran_nd cordial with him; and naturally he'll be fonder of you than any uncle, fo_ou are his own.'
'Black hair and eyes!' mused Linton. 'I can't fancy him. Then I am not lik_im, am I?'
'Not much,' I answered: not a morsel, I thought, surveying with regret th_hite complexion and slim frame of my companion, and his large languid eyes - his mother's eyes, save that, unless a morbid touchiness kindled them _oment, they had not a vestige of her sparkling spirit.
'How strange that he should never come to see mamma and me!' he murmured. 'Ha_e ever seen me? If he has, I must have been a baby. I remember not a singl_hing about him!'
'Why, Master Linton,' said I, 'three hundred miles is a great distance; an_en years seem very different in length to a grown-up person compared wit_hat they do to you. It is probable Mr. Heathcliff proposed going from summe_o summer, but never found a convenient opportunity; and now it is too late.
Don't trouble him with questions on the subject: it will disturb him, for n_ood.'
The boy was fully occupied with his own cogitations for the remainder of th_ide, till we halted before the farmhouse garden- gate. I watched to catch hi_mpressions in his countenance. He surveyed the carved front and low-browe_attices, the straggling gooseberry-bushes and crooked firs, with solem_ntentness, and then shook his head: his private feelings entirely disapprove_f the exterior of his new abode. But he had sense to postpone complaining: there might be compensation within. Before he dismounted, I went and opene_he door. It was half-past six; the family had just finished breakfast: th_ervant was clearing and wiping down the table. Joseph stood by his master'_hair telling some tale concerning a lame horse; and Hareton was preparing fo_he hayfield.
'Hallo, Nelly!' said Mr. Heathcliff, when he saw me. 'I feared I should hav_o come down and fetch my property myself. You've brought it, have you? Let u_ee what we can make of it.'
He got up and strode to the door: Hareton and Joseph followed in gapin_uriosity. Poor Linton ran a frightened eye over the faces of the three.
'Sure-ly,' said Joseph after a grave inspection, 'he's swopped wi' ye, Maister, an' yon's his lass!'
Heathcliff, having stared his son into an ague of confusion, uttered _cornful laugh.
'God! what a beauty! what a lovely, charming thing!' he exclaimed. 'Hav'n'_hey reared it on snails and sour milk, Nelly? Oh, damn my soul! but that'_orse than I expected - and the devil knows I was not sanguine!'
I bid the trembling and bewildered child get down, and enter. He did no_horoughly comprehend the meaning of his father's speech, or whether it wer_ntended for him: indeed, he was not yet certain that the grim, sneerin_tranger was his father. But he clung to me with growing trepidation; and o_r. Heathcliff's taking a seat and bidding him 'come hither' he hid his fac_n my shoulder and wept.
'Tut, tut!' said Heathcliff, stretching out a hand and dragging him roughl_etween his knees, and then holding up his head by the chin. 'None of tha_onsense! We're not going to hurt thee, Linton \- isn't that thy name? Tho_rt thy mother's child, entirely! Where is my share in thee, puling chicken?'
He took off the boy's cap and pushed back his thick flaxen curls, felt hi_lender arms and his small fingers; during which examination Linton cease_rying, and lifted his great blue eyes to inspect the inspector.
'Do you know me?' asked Heathcliff, having satisfied himself that the limb_ere all equally frail and feeble.
'No,' said Linton, with a gaze of vacant fear.
'You've heard of me, I daresay?'
'No,' he replied again.
'No! What a shame of your mother, never to waken your filial regard for me!
You are my son, then, I'll tell you; and your mother was a wicked slut t_eave you in ignorance of the sort of father you possessed. Now, don't wince, and colour up! Though it is something to see you have not white blood. Be _ood lad; and I'll do for you. Nelly, if you be tired you may sit down; i_ot, get home again. I guess you'll report what you hear and see to the ciphe_t the Grange; and this thing won't be settled while you linger about it.'
'Well,' replied I, 'I hope you'll be kind to the boy, Mr. Heathcliff, o_ou'll not keep him long; and he's all you have akin in the wide world, tha_ou will ever know - remember.'
'I'll be very kind to him, you needn't fear,' he said, laughing. 'Only nobod_lse must be kind to him: I'm jealous of monopolising his affection. And, t_egin my kindness, Joseph, bring the lad some breakfast. Hareton, you inferna_alf, begone to your work. Yes, Nell,' he added, when they had departed, 'm_on is prospective owner of your place, and I should not wish him to die til_ was certain of being his successor. Besides, he's MINE, and I want th_riumph of seeing MY descendant fairly lord of their estates; my child hirin_heir children to till their fathers' lands for wages. That is the sol_onsideration which can make me endure the whelp: I despise him for himself, and hate him for the memories he revives! But that consideration i_ufficient: he's as safe with me, and shall be tended as carefully as you_aster tends his own. I have a room up-stairs, furnished for him in handsom_tyle; I've engaged a tutor, also, to come three times a week, from twent_iles' distance, to teach him what he pleases to learn. I've ordered Hareto_o obey him: and in fact I've arranged everything with a view to preserve th_uperior and the gentleman in him, above his associates. I do regret, however, that he so little deserves the trouble: if I wished any blessing in the world, it was to find him a worthy object of pride; and I'm bitterly disappointe_ith the whey-faced, whining wretch!'
While he was speaking, Joseph returned bearing a basin of milk- porridge, an_laced it before Linton: who stirred round the homely mess with a look o_version, and affirmed he could not eat it. I saw the old man-servant share_argely in his master's scorn of the child; though he was compelled to retai_he sentiment in his heart, because Heathcliff plainly meant his underlings t_old him in honour.
'Cannot ate it?' repeated he, peering in Linton's face, and subduing his voic_o a whisper, for fear of being overheard. 'But Maister Hareton nivir at_aught else, when he wer a little 'un; and what wer gooid enough for him'_ooid enough for ye, I's rayther think!'
'I SHA'N'T eat it!' answered Linton, snappishly. 'Take it away.'
Joseph snatched up the food indignantly, and brought it to us.
'Is there aught ails th' victuals?' he asked, thrusting the tray unde_eathcliff's nose.
'What should ail them?' he said.
'Wah!' answered Joseph, 'yon dainty chap says he cannut ate 'em. But I gues_t's raight! His mother wer just soa - we wer a'most too mucky to sow t' cor_or makking her breead.'
'Don't mention his mother to me,' said the master, angrily. 'Get him somethin_hat he can eat, that's all. What is his usual food, Nelly?'
I suggested boiled milk or tea; and the housekeeper received instructions t_repare some. Come, I reflected, his father's selfishness may contribute t_is comfort. He perceives his delicate constitution, and the necessity o_reating him tolerably. I'll console Mr. Edgar by acquainting him with th_urn Heathcliff's humour has taken. Having no excuse for lingering longer, _lipped out, while Linton was engaged in timidly rebuffing the advances of _riendly sheep-dog. But he was too much on the alert to be cheated: as _losed the door, I heard a cry, and a frantic repetition of the words -
'Don't leave me! I'll not stay here! I'll not stay here!'
Then the latch was raised and fell: they did not suffer him to come forth. _ounted Minny, and urged her to a trot; and so my brief guardianship ended.