'THESE things happened last winter, sir,' said Mrs. Dean; 'hardly more than _ear ago. Last winter, I did not think, at another twelve months' end, _hould be amusing a stranger to the family with relating them! Yet, who know_ow long you'll be a stranger? You're too young to rest always contented,
living by yourself; and I some way fancy no one could see Catherine Linton an_ot love her. You smile; but why do you look so lively and interested when _alk about her? and why have you asked me to hang her picture over you_ireplace? and why - ?'
'Stop, my good friend!' I cried. 'It may be very possible that I should lov_er; but would she love me? I doubt it too much to venture my tranquillity b_unning into temptation: and then my home is not here. I'm of the busy world,
and to its arms I must return. Go on. Was Catherine obedient to her father'_ommands?'
'She was,' continued the housekeeper. 'Her affection for him was still th_hief sentiment in her heart; and he spoke without anger: he spoke in the dee_enderness of one about to leave his treasure amid perils and foes, where hi_emembered words would be the only aid that he could bequeath to guide her. H_aid to me, a few days afterwards, "I wish my nephew would write, Ellen, o_all. Tell me, sincerely, what you think of him: is he changed for the better,
or is there a prospect of improvement, as he grows a man?"
'"He's very delicate, sir," I replied; "and scarcely likely to reach manhood:
but this I can say, he does not resemble his father; and if Miss Catherine ha_he misfortune to marry him, he would not be beyond her control: unless sh_ere extremely and foolishly indulgent. However, master, you'll have plenty o_ime to get acquainted with him and see whether he would suit her: it want_our years and more to his being of age."'
Edgar sighed; and, walking to the window, looked out towards Gimmerton Kirk.
It was a misty afternoon, but the February sun shone dimly, and we could jus_istinguish the two fir-trees in the yard, and the sparely-scattere_ravestones.
'I've prayed often,' he half soliloquised, 'for the approach of what i_oming; and now I begin to shrink, and fear it. I thought the memory of th_our I came down that glen a bridegroom would be less sweet than th_nticipation that I was soon, in a few months, or, possibly, weeks, to b_arried up, and laid in its lonely hollow! Ellen, I've been very happy with m_ittle Cathy: through winter nights and summer days she was a living hope a_y side. But I've been as happy musing by myself among those stones, unde_hat old church: lying, through the long June evenings, on the green mound o_er mother's grave, and wishing - yearning for the time when I might li_eneath it. What can I do for Cathy? How must I quit her? I'd not care on_oment for Linton being Heathcliff's son; nor for his taking her from me, i_e could console her for my loss. I'd not care that Heathcliff gained hi_nds, and triumphed in robbing me of my last blessing! But should Linton b_nworthy - only a feeble tool to his father - I cannot abandon her to him!
And, hard though it be to crush her buoyant spirit, I must persevere in makin_er sad while I live, and leaving her solitary when I die. Darling! I'd rathe_esign her to God, and lay her in the earth before me.'
'Resign her to God as it is, sir,' I answered, 'and if we should lose you -
which may He forbid - under His providence, I'll stand her friend an_ounsellor to the last. Miss Catherine is a good girl: I don't fear that sh_ill go wilfully wrong; and people who do their duty are always finall_ewarded.'
Spring advanced; yet my master gathered no real strength, though he resume_is walks in the grounds with his daughter. To her inexperienced notions, thi_tself was a sign of convalescence; and then his cheek was often flushed, an_is eyes were bright; she felt sure of his recovering. On her seventeent_irthday, he did not visit the churchyard: it was raining, and I observed -
'You'll surely not go out to-night, sir?'
He answered, - 'No, I'll defer it this year a little longer.' He wrote agai_o Linton, expressing his great desire to see him; and, had the invalid bee_resentable, I've no doubt his father would have permitted him to come. As i_as, being instructed, he returned an answer, intimating that Mr. Heathclif_bjected to his calling at the Grange; but his uncle's kind remembranc_elighted him, and he hoped to meet him sometimes in his rambles, an_ersonally to petition that his cousin and he might not remain long so utterl_ivided.
That part of his letter was simple, and probably his own. Heathcliff knew h_ould plead eloquently for Catherine's company, then.
'I do not ask,' he said, 'that she may visit here; but am I never to see her,
because my father forbids me to go to her home, and you forbid her to come t_ine? Do, now and then, ride with her towards the Heights; and let us exchang_ few words, in your presence! We have done nothing to deserve thi_eparation; and you are not angry with me: you have no reason to dislike me,
you allow, yourself. Dear uncle! send me a kind note to-morrow, and leave t_oin you anywhere you please, except at Thrushcross Grange. I believe a_nterview would convince you that my father's character is not mine: h_ffirms I am more your nephew than his son; and though I have faults whic_ender me unworthy of Catherine, she has excused them, and for her sake, yo_hould also. You inquire after my health - it is better; but while I remai_ut off from all hope, and doomed to solitude, or the society of those wh_ever did and never will like me, how can I be cheerful and well?'
Edgar, though he felt for the boy, could not consent to grant his request;
because he could not accompany Catherine. He said, in summer, perhaps, the_ight meet: meantime, he wished him to continue writing at intervals, an_ngaged to give him what advice and comfort he was able by letter; being wel_ware of his hard position in his family. Linton complied; and had he bee_nrestrained, would probably have spoiled all by filling his epistles wit_omplaints and lamentations. but his father kept a sharp watch over him; and,
of course, insisted on every line that my master sent being shown; so, instea_f penning his peculiar personal sufferings and distresses, the theme_onstantly uppermost in his thoughts, he harped on the cruel obligation o_eing held asunder from his friend and love; and gently intimated that Mr.
Linton must allow an interview soon, or he should fear he was purposel_eceiving him with empty promises.
Cathy was a powerful ally at home; and between them they at length persuade_y master to acquiesce in their having a ride or a walk together about once _eek, under my guardianship, and on the moors nearest the Grange: for Jun_ound him still declining. Though he had set aside yearly a portion of hi_ncome for my young lady's fortune, he had a natural desire that she migh_etain - or at least return in a short time to - the house of her ancestors;
and he considered her only prospect of doing that was by a union with hi_eir; he had no idea that the latter was failing almost as fast as himself;
nor had any one, I believe: no doctor visited the Heights, and no one sa_aster Heathcliff to make report of his condition among us. I, for my part,
began to fancy my forebodings were false, and that he must be actuall_allying, when he mentioned riding and walking on the moors, and seemed s_arnest in pursuing his object. I could not picture a father treating a dyin_hild as tyrannically and wickedly as I afterwards learned Heathcliff ha_reated him, to compel this apparent eagerness: his efforts redoubling th_ore imminently his avaricious and unfeeling plans were threatened with defea_y death.