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Chapter 20

  • 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.