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Chapter 24

  • AT the close of three weeks I was able to quit my chamber and move about th_ouse. And on the first occasion of my sitting up in the evening I aske_atherine to read to me, because my eyes were weak. We were in the library, the master having gone to bed: she consented, rather unwillingly, I fancied; and imagining my sort of books did not suit her, I bid her please herself i_he choice of what she perused. She selected one of her own favourites, an_ot forward steadily about an hour; then came frequent questions.
  • 'Ellen, are not you tired? Hadn't you better lie down now? You'll be sick, keeping up so long, Ellen.'
  • 'No, no, dear, I'm not tired,' I returned, continually.
  • Perceiving me immovable, she essayed another method of showing her disrelis_or her occupation. It changed to yawning, and stretching, and -
  • 'Ellen, I'm tired.'
  • 'Give over then and talk,' I answered.
  • That was worse: she fretted and sighed, and looked at her watch till eight, and finally went to her room, completely overdone with sleep; judging by he_eevish, heavy look, and the constant rubbing she inflicted on her eyes. Th_ollowing night she seemed more impatient still; and on the third fro_ecovering my company she complained of a headache, and left me. I thought he_onduct odd; and having remained alone a long while, I resolved on going an_nquiring whether she were better, and asking her to come and lie on the sofa, instead of up-stairs in the dark. No Catherine could I discover up-stairs, an_one below. The servants affirmed they had not seen her. I listened at Mr.
  • Edgar's door; all was silence. I returned to her apartment, extinguished m_andle, and seated myself in the window.
  • The moon shone bright; a sprinkling of snow covered the ground, and _eflected that she might, possibly, have taken it into her head to walk abou_he garden, for refreshment. I did detect a figure creeping along the inne_ence of the park; but it was not my young mistress: on its emerging into th_ight, I recognised one of the grooms. He stood a considerable period, viewin_he carriage-road through the grounds; then started off at a brisk pace, as i_e had detected something, and reappeared presently, leading Miss's pony; an_here she was, just dismounted, and walking by its side. The man took hi_harge stealthily across the grass towards the stable. Cathy entered by th_asement-window of the drawing-room, and glided noiselessly up to where _waited her. She put the door gently too, slipped off her snowy shoes, untie_er hat, and was proceeding, unconscious of my espionage, to lay aside he_antle, when I suddenly rose and revealed myself. The surprise petrified he_n instant: she uttered an inarticulate exclamation, and stood fixed.
  • 'My dear Miss Catherine,' I began, too vividly impressed by her recen_indness to break into a scold, 'where have you been riding out at this hour?
  • And why should you try to deceive me by telling a tale? Where have you been?
  • Speak!'
  • 'To the bottom of the park,' she stammered. 'I didn't tell a tale.'
  • 'And nowhere else?' I demanded.
  • 'No,' was the muttered reply.
  • 'Oh, Catherine!' I cried, sorrowfully. 'You know you have been doing wrong, o_ou wouldn't be driven to uttering an untruth to me. That does grieve me. I'_ather be three months ill, than hear you frame a deliberate lie.'
  • She sprang forward, and bursting into tears, threw her arms round my neck.
  • 'Well, Ellen, I'm so afraid of you being angry,' she said. 'Promise not to b_ngry, and you shall know the very truth: I hate to hide it.'
  • We sat down in the window-seat; I assured her I would not scold, whatever he_ecret might be, and I guessed it, of course; so she commenced -
  • 'I've been to Wuthering Heights, Ellen, and I've never missed going a da_ince you fell ill; except thrice before, and twice after you left your room.
  • I gave Michael books and pictures to prepare Minny every evening, and to pu_er back in the stable: you mustn't scold him either, mind. I was at th_eights by half-past six, and generally stayed till half-past eight, and the_alloped home. It was not to amuse myself that I went: I was often wretche_ll the time. Now and then I was happy: once in a week perhaps. At first, _xpected there would be sad work persuading you to let me keep my word t_inton: for I had engaged to call again next day, when we quitted him; but, a_ou stayed up-stairs on the morrow, I escaped that trouble. While Michael wa_efastening the lock of the park door in the afternoon, I got possession o_he key, and told him how my cousin wished me to visit him, because he wa_ick, and couldn't come to the Grange; and how papa would object to my going: and then I negotiated with him about the pony. He is fond of reading, and h_hinks of leaving soon to get married; so he offered, if I would lend hi_ooks out of the library, to do what I wished: but I preferred giving him m_wn, and that satisfied him better.
  • 'On my second visit Linton seemed in lively spirits; and Zillah (that is thei_ousekeeper) made us a clean room and a good fire, and told us that, as Josep_as out at a prayer-meeting and Hareton Earnshaw was off with his dogs - robbing our woods of pheasants, as I heard afterwards - we might do what w_iked. She brought me some warm wine and gingerbread, and appeared exceedingl_ood- natured, and Linton sat in the arm-chair, and I in the little rockin_hair on the hearth-stone, and we laughed and talked so merrily, and found s_uch to say: we planned where we would go, and what we would do in summer. _eedn't repeat that, because you would call it silly.
  • 'One time, however, we were near quarrelling. He said the pleasantest manne_f spending a hot July day was lying from morning till evening on a bank o_eath in the middle of the moors, with the bees humming dreamily about amon_he bloom, and the larks singing high up overhead, and the blue sky and brigh_un shining steadily and cloudlessly. That was his most perfect idea o_eaven's happiness: mine was rocking in a rustling green tree, with a wes_ind blowing, and bright white clouds flitting rapidly above; and not onl_arks, but throstles, and blackbirds, and linnets, and cuckoos pouring ou_usic on every side, and the moors seen at a distance, broken into cool dusk_ells; but close by great swells of long grass undulating in waves to th_reeze; and woods and sounding water, and the whole world awake and wild wit_oy. He wanted all to lie in an ecstasy of peace; I wanted all to sparkle an_ance in a glorious jubilee. I said his heaven would be only half alive; an_e said mine would be drunk: I said I should fall asleep in his; and he sai_e could not breathe in mine, and began to grow very snappish. At last, w_greed to try both, as soon as the right weather came; and then we kissed eac_ther and were friends.
  • 'After sitting still an hour, I looked at the great room with its smoot_ncarpeted floor, and thought how nice it would be to play in, if we remove_he table; and I asked Linton to call Zillah in to help us, and we'd have _ame at blindman's-buff; she should try to catch us: you used to, you know, Ellen. He wouldn't: there was no pleasure in it, he said; but he consented t_lay at ball with me. We found two in a cupboard, among a heap of old toys, tops, and hoops, and battledores and shuttlecocks. One was marked C., and th_ther H.; I wished to have the C., because that stood for Catherine, and th_. might be for Heathcliff, his name; but the bran came out of H., and Linto_idn't like it. I beat him constantly: and he got cross again, and coughed, and returned to his chair. That night, though, he easily recovered his goo_umour: he was charmed with two or three pretty songs - YOUR songs, Ellen; an_hen I was obliged to go, he begged and entreated me to come the followin_vening; and I promised. Minny and I went flying home as light as air; and _reamt of Wuthering Heights and my sweet, darling cousin, till morning.
  • 'On the morrow I was sad; partly because you were poorly, and partly that _ished my father knew, and approved of my excursions: but it was beautifu_oonlight after tea; and, as I rode on, the gloom cleared. I shall hav_nother happy evening, I thought to myself; and what delights me more, m_retty Linton will. I trotted up their garden, and was turning round to th_ack, when that fellow Earnshaw met me, took my bridle, and bid me go in b_he front entrance. He patted Minny's neck, and said she was a bonny beast, and appeared as if he wanted me to speak to him. I only told him to leave m_orse alone, or else it would kick him. He answered in his vulgar accent, "I_ouldn't do mitch hurt if it did;" and surveyed its legs with a smile. I wa_alf inclined to make it try; however, he moved off to open the door, and, a_e raised the latch, he looked up to the inscription above, and said, with _tupid mixture of awkwardness and elation: "Miss Catherine! I can read yon, now."
  • '"Wonderful," I exclaimed. "Pray let us hear you - you ARE grown clever!"
  • 'He spelt, and drawled over by syllables, the name - "Hareton Earnshaw."
  • '"And the figures?" I cried, encouragingly, perceiving that he came to a dea_alt.
  • '"I cannot tell them yet," he answered.
  • '"Oh, you dunce!" I said, laughing heartily at his failure.
  • 'The fool stared, with a grin hovering about his lips, and a scowl gatherin_ver his eyes, as if uncertain whether he might not join in my mirth: whethe_t were not pleasant familiarity, or what it really was, contempt. I settle_is doubts, by suddenly retrieving my gravity and desiring him to walk away, for I came to see Linton, not him. He reddened - I saw that by the moonlight - dropped his hand from the latch, and skulked off, a picture of mortifie_anity. He imagined himself to be as accomplished as Linton, I suppose, because he could spell his own name; and was marvellously discomfited that _idn't think the same.'
  • 'Stop, Miss Catherine, dear!' - I interrupted. 'I shall not scold, but I don'_ike your conduct there. If you had remembered that Hareton was your cousin a_uch as Master Heathcliff, you would have felt how improper it was to behav_n that way. At least, it was praiseworthy ambition for him to desire to be a_ccomplished as Linton; and probably he did not learn merely to show off: yo_ad made him ashamed of his ignorance before, I have no doubt; and he wishe_o remedy it and please you. To sneer at his imperfect attempt was very ba_reeding. Had you been brought up in his circumstances, would you be les_ude? He was as quick and as intelligent a child as ever you were; and I'_urt that he should be despised now, because that base Heathcliff has treate_im so unjustly.'
  • 'Well, Ellen, you won't cry about it, will you?' she exclaimed, surprised a_y earnestness. 'But wait, and you shall hear if he conned his A B C to pleas_e; and if it were worth while being civil to the brute. I entered; Linton wa_ying on the settle, and half got up to welcome me.
  • '"I'm ill to-night, Catherine, love," he said; "and you must have all th_alk, and let me listen. Come, and sit by me. I was sure you wouldn't brea_our word, and I'll make you promise again, before you go."
  • 'I knew now that I mustn't tease him, as he was ill; and I spoke softly an_ut no questions, and avoided irritating him in any way. I had brought some o_y nicest books for him: he asked me to read a little of one, and I was abou_o comply, when Earnshaw burst the door open: having gathered venom wit_eflection. He advanced direct to us, seized Linton by the arm, and swung hi_ff the seat.
  • '"Get to thy own room!" he said, in a voice almost inarticulate with passion; and his face looked swelled and furious. "Take her there if she comes to se_hee: thou shalln't keep me out of this. Begone wi' ye both!"
  • 'He swore at us, and left Linton no time to answer, nearly throwing him int_he kitchen; and he clenched his fist as I followed, seemingly longing t_nock me down. I was afraid for a moment, and I let one volume fall; he kicke_t after me, and shut us out. I heard a malignant, crackly laugh by the fire, and turning, beheld that odious Joseph standing rubbing his bony hands, an_uivering.
  • '"I wer sure he'd sarve ye out! He's a grand lad! He's getten t' raigh_perrit in him! HE knaws - ay, he knaws, as weel as I do, who sud be t'
  • maister yonder - Ech, ech, ech! He made ye skift properly! Ech, ech, ech!"
  • '"Where must we go?" I asked of my cousin, disregarding the old wretch'_ockery.
  • 'Linton was white and trembling. He was not pretty then, Ellen: oh, no! h_ooked frightful; for his thin face and large eyes were wrought into a_xpression of frantic, powerless fury. He grasped the handle of the door, an_hook it: it was fastened inside.
  • '"If you don't let me in, I'll kill you! - If you don't let me in, I'll kil_ou!" he rather shrieked than said. "Devil! devil! - I'll kill you - I'll kil_ou!"
  • Joseph uttered his croaking laugh again.
  • '"Thear, that's t' father!" he cried. "That's father! We've allas summut o'
  • either side in us. Niver heed, Hareton, lad - dunnut be 'feard - he cannot ge_t thee!"
  • 'I took hold of Linton's hands, and tried to pull him away; but he shrieked s_hockingly that I dared not proceed. At last his cries were choked by _readful fit of coughing; blood gushed from his mouth, and he fell on th_round. I ran into the yard, sick with terror; and called for Zillah, as lou_s I could. She soon heard me: she was milking the cows in a shed behind th_arn, and hurrying from her work, she inquired what there was to do? I hadn'_reath to explain; dragging her in, I looked about for Linton. Earnshaw ha_ome out to examine the mischief he had caused, and he was then conveying th_oor thing up-stairs. Zillah and I ascended after him; but he stopped me a_he top of the steps, and said I shouldn't go in: I must go home. I exclaime_hat he had killed Linton, and I WOULD enter. Joseph locked the door, an_eclared I should do "no sich stuff," and asked me whether I were "bahn to b_s mad as him." I stood crying till the housekeeper reappeared. She affirme_e would be better in a bit, but he couldn't do with that shrieking and din; and she took me, and nearly carried me into the house.
  • 'Ellen, I was ready to tear my hair off my head! I sobbed and wept so that m_yes were almost blind; and the ruffian you have such sympathy with stoo_pposite: presuming every now and then to bid me "wisht," and denying that i_as his fault; and, finally, frightened by my assertions that I would tel_apa, and that he should be put in prison and hanged, he commenced blubberin_imself, and hurried out to hide his cowardly agitation. Still, I was not ri_f him: when at length they compelled me to depart, and I had got some hundre_ards off the premises, he suddenly issued from the shadow of the road-side, and checked Minny and took hold of me.
  • '"Miss Catherine, I'm ill grieved," he began, "but it's rayther too bad - "
  • 'I gave him a cut with my whip, thinking perhaps he would murder me. He le_o, thundering one of his horrid curses, and I galloped home more than hal_ut of my senses.
  • 'I didn't bid you good-night that evening, and I didn't go to Wutherin_eights the next: I wished to go exceedingly; but I was strangely excited, an_readed to hear that Linton was dead, sometimes; and sometimes shuddered a_he thought of encountering Hareton. On the third day I took courage: a_east, I couldn't bear longer suspense, and stole off once more. I went a_ive o'clock, and walked; fancying I might manage to creep into the house, an_p to Linton's room, unobserved. However, the dogs gave notice of my approach.
  • Zillah received me, and saying "the lad was mending nicely," showed me into _mall, tidy, carpeted apartment, where, to my inexpressible joy, I behel_inton laid on a little sofa, reading one of my books. But he would neithe_peak to me nor look at me, through a whole hour, Ellen: he has such a_nhappy temper. And what quite confounded me, when he did open his mouth, i_as to utter the falsehood that I had occasioned the uproar, and Hareton wa_ot to blame! Unable to reply, except passionately, I got up and walked fro_he room. He sent after me a faint "Catherine!" He did not reckon on bein_nswered so: but I wouldn't turn back; and the morrow was the second day o_hich I stayed at home, nearly determined to visit him no more. But it was s_iserable going to bed and getting up, and never hearing anything about him, that my resolution melted into air before it was properly formed. It ha_ppeared wrong to take the journey once; now it seemed wrong to refrain.
  • Michael came to ask if he must saddle Minny; I said "Yes," and considere_yself doing a duty as she bore me over the hills. I was forced to pass th_ront windows to get to the court: it was no use trying to conceal m_resence.
  • '"Young master is in the house," said Zillah, as she saw me making for th_arlour. I went in; Earnshaw was there also, but he quitted the room directly.
  • Linton sat in the great arm-chair half asleep; walking up to the fire, I bega_n a serious tone, partly meaning it to be true -
  • '"As you don't like me, Linton, and as you think I come on purpose to hur_ou, and pretend that I do so every time, this is our last meeting: let us sa_ood-bye; and tell Mr. Heathcliff that you have no wish to see me, and that h_ustn't invent any more falsehoods on the subject."
  • '"Sit down and take your hat off, Catherine," he answered. "You are so muc_appier than I am, you ought to be better. Papa talks enough of my defects, and shows enough scorn of me, to make it natural I should doubt myself. _oubt whether I am not altogether as worthless as he calls me, frequently; an_hen I feel so cross and bitter, I hate everybody! I am worthless, and bad i_emper, and bad in spirit, almost always; and, if you choose, you may sa_ood-bye: you'll get rid of an annoyance. Only, Catherine, do me this justice: believe that if I might be as sweet, and as kind, and as good as you are, _ould be; as willingly, and more so, than as happy and as healthy. And believ_hat your kindness has made me love you deeper than if I deserved your love: and though I couldn't, and cannot help showing my nature to you, I regret i_nd repent it; and shall regret and repent it till I die!"
  • 'I felt he spoke the truth; and I felt I must forgive him: and, though w_hould quarrel the next moment, I must forgive him again. We were reconciled; but we cried, both of us, the whole time I stayed: not entirely for sorrow; yet I WAS sorry Linton had that distorted nature. He'll never let his friend_e at ease, and he'll never be at ease himself! I have always gone to hi_ittle parlour, since that night; because his father returned the day after.
  • 'About three times, I think, we have been merry and hopeful, as we were th_irst evening; the rest of my visits were dreary and troubled: now with hi_elfishness and spite, and now with his sufferings: but I've learned to endur_he former with nearly as little resentment as the latter. Mr. Heathclif_urposely avoids me: I have hardly seen him at all. Last Sunday, indeed, coming earlier than usual, I heard him abusing poor Linton cruelly for hi_onduct of the night before. I can't tell how he knew of it, unless h_istened. Linton had certainly behaved provokingly: however, it was th_usiness of nobody but me, and I interrupted Mr. Heathcliff's lecture b_ntering and telling him so. He burst into a laugh, and went away, saying h_as glad I took that view of the matter. Since then, I've told Linton he mus_hisper his bitter things. Now, Ellen, you have heard all. I can't b_revented from going to Wuthering Heights, except by inflicting misery on tw_eople; whereas, if you'll only not tell papa, my going need disturb th_ranquillity of none. You'll not tell, will you? It will be very heartless, i_ou do.'
  • 'I'll make up my mind on that point by to-morrow, Miss Catherine,' I replied.
  • 'It requires some study; and so I'll leave you to your rest, and go think i_ver.'
  • I thought it over aloud, in my master's presence; walking straight from he_oom to his, and relating the whole story: with the exception of he_onversations with her cousin, and any mention of Hareton. Mr. Linton wa_larmed and distressed, more than he would acknowledge to me. In the morning, Catherine learnt my betrayal of her confidence, and she learnt also that he_ecret visits were to end. In vain she wept and writhed against the interdict, and implored her father to have pity on Linton: all she got to comfort her wa_ promise that he would write and give him leave to come to the Grange when h_leased; but explaining that he must no longer expect to see Catherine a_uthering Heights. Perhaps, had he been aware of his nephew's disposition an_tate of health, he would have seen fit to withhold even that sligh_onsolation.