SEVEN days glided away, every one marking its course by the henceforth rapi_lteration of Edgar Linton's state. The havoc that months had previousl_rought was now emulated by the inroads of hours. Catherine we would fain hav_eluded yet; but her own quick spirit refused to delude her: it divined i_ecret, and brooded on the dreadful probability, gradually ripening int_ertainty. She had not the heart to mention her ride, when Thursday cam_ound; I mentioned it for her, and obtained permission to order her out o_oors: for the library, where her father stopped a short time daily \- th_rief period he could bear to sit up - and his chamber, had become her whol_orld. She grudged each moment that did not find her bending over his pillow, or seated by his side. Her countenance grew wan with watching and sorrow, an_y master gladly dismissed her to what he flattered himself would be a happ_hange of scene and society; drawing comfort from the hope that she would no_ow be left entirely alone after his death.
He had a fixed idea, I guessed by several observations he let fall, that, a_is nephew resembled him in person, he would resemble him in mind; fo_inton's letters bore few or no indications of his defective character. And I, through pardonable weakness, refrained from correcting the error; askin_yself what good there would be in disturbing his last moments wit_nformation that he had neither power nor opportunity to turn to account.
We deferred our excursion till the afternoon; a golden afternoon of August: every breath from the hills so full of life, that it seemed whoever respire_t, though dying, might revive. Catherine's face was just like the landscape - shadows and sunshine flitting over it in rapid succession; but the shadow_ested longer, and the sunshine was more transient; and her poor little hear_eproached itself for even that passing forgetfulness of its cares.
We discerned Linton watching at the same spot he had selected before. My youn_istress alighted, and told me that, as she was resolved to stay a very littl_hile, I had better hold the pony and remain on horseback; but I dissented: _ouldn't risk losing sight of the charge committed to me a minute; so w_limbed the slope of heath together. Master Heathcliff received us wit_reater animation on this occasion: not the animation of high spirits though, nor yet of joy; it looked more like fear.
'It is late!' he said, speaking short and with difficulty. 'Is not your fathe_ery ill? I thought you wouldn't come.'
'WHY won't you be candid?' cried Catherine, swallowing her greeting. 'Wh_annot you say at once you don't want me? It is strange, Linton, that for th_econd time you have brought me here on purpose, apparently to distress u_oth, and for no reason besides!'
Linton shivered, and glanced at her, half supplicating, half ashamed; but hi_ousin's patience was not sufficient to endure this enigmatical behaviour.
'My father IS very ill,' she said; 'and why am I called from his bedside? Wh_idn't you send to absolve me from my promise, when you wished I wouldn't kee_t? Come! I desire an explanation: playing and trifling are completel_anished out of my mind; and I can't dance attendance on your affectation_ow!'
'My affectations!' he murmured; 'what are they? For heaven's sake, Catherine, don't look so angry! Despise me as much as you please; I am a worthless, cowardly wretch: I can't be scorned enough; but I'm too mean for your anger.
Hate my father, and spare me for contempt.'
'Nonsense!' cried Catherine in a passion. 'Foolish, silly boy! And there! h_rembles: as if I were really going to touch him! You needn't bespea_ontempt, Linton: anybody will have it spontaneously at your service. Get off!
I shall return home: it is folly dragging you from the hearth-stone, an_retending - what do we pretend? Let go my frock! If I pitied you for cryin_nd looking so very frightened, you should spurn such pity. Ellen, tell hi_ow disgraceful this conduct is. Rise, and don't degrade yourself into a_bject reptile - DON'T!'
With streaming face and an expression of agony, Linton had thrown hi_erveless frame along the ground: he seemed convulsed with exquisite terror.
'Oh!' he sobbed, 'I cannot bear it! Catherine, Catherine, I'm a traitor, too, and I dare not tell you! But leave me, and I shall be killed! DEAR Catherine, my life is in your hands: and you have said you loved me, and if you did, i_ouldn't harm you. You'll not go, then? kind, sweet, good Catherine! An_erhaps you WILL consent - and he'll let me die with you!'
My young lady, on witnessing his intense anguish, stooped to raise him. Th_ld feeling of indulgent tenderness overcame her vexation, and she gre_horoughly moved and alarmed.
'Consent to what?' she asked. 'To stay! tell me the meaning of this strang_alk, and I will. You contradict your own words, and distract me! Be calm an_rank, and confess at once all that weighs on your heart. You wouldn't injur_e, Linton, would you? You wouldn't let any enemy hurt me, if you coul_revent it? I'll believe you are a coward, for yourself, but not a cowardl_etrayer of your best friend.'
'But my father threatened me,' gasped the boy, clasping his attenuate_ingers, 'and I dread him - I dread him! I DARE not tell!'
'Oh, well!' said Catherine, with scornful compassion, 'keep your secret: I'_o coward. Save yourself: I'm not afraid!'
Her magnanimity provoked his tears: he wept wildly, kissing her supportin_ands, and yet could not summon courage to speak out. I was cogitating wha_he mystery might be, and determined Catherine should never suffer to benefi_im or any one else, by my good will; when, hearing a rustle among the ling, _ooked up and saw Mr. Heathcliff almost close upon us, descending the Heights.
He didn't cast a glance towards my companions, though they were sufficientl_ear for Linton's sobs to be audible; but hailing me in the almost hearty ton_e assumed to none besides, and the sincerity of which I couldn't avoi_oubting, he said -
'It is something to see you so near to my house, Nelly. How are you at th_range? Let us hear. The rumour goes,' he added, in a lower tone, 'that Edga_inton is on his death-bed: perhaps they exaggerate his illness?'
'No; my master is dying,' I replied: 'it is true enough. A sad thing it wil_e for us all, but a blessing for him!'
'How long will he last, do you think?' he asked.
'I don't know,' I said.
'Because,' he continued, looking at the two young people, who were fixed unde_is eye - Linton appeared as if he could not venture to stir or raise hi_ead, and Catherine could not move, on his account - 'because that lad yonde_eems determined to beat me; and I'd thank his uncle to be quick, and g_efore him! Hallo! has the whelp been playing that game long? I DID give hi_ome lessons about snivelling. Is he pretty lively with Miss Linto_enerally?'
'Lively? no - he has shown the greatest distress,' I answered. 'To see him, _hould say, that instead of rambling with his sweetheart on the hills, h_ught to be in bed, under the hands of a doctor.'
'He shall be, in a day or two,' muttered Heathcliff. 'But first \- get up, Linton! Get up!' he shouted. 'Don't grovel on the ground there up, thi_oment!'
Linton had sunk prostrate again in another paroxysm of helpless fear, cause_y his father's glance towards him, I suppose: there was nothing else t_roduce such humiliation. He made several efforts to obey, but his littl_trength was annihilated for the time, and he fell back again with a moan. Mr.
Heathcliff advanced, and lifted him to lean against a ridge of turf.
'Now,' said he, with curbed ferocity, 'I'm getting angry and if you don'_ommand that paltry spirit of yours - DAMN you! get up directly!'
'I will, father,' he panted. 'Only, let me alone, or I shall faint. I've don_s you wished, I'm sure. Catherine will tell you that I - that I - have bee_heerful. Ah! keep by me, Catherine; give me your hand.'
'Take mine,' said his father; 'stand on your feet. There now - she'll lend yo_er arm: that's right, look at her. You would imagine I was the devil himself, Miss Linton, to excite such horror. Be so kind as to walk home with him, wil_ou? He shudders if I touch him.'
'Linton dear!' whispered Catherine, 'I can't go to Wuthering Heights: papa ha_orbidden me. He'll not harm you: why are you so afraid?'
'I can never re-enter that house,' he answered. 'I'm NOT to re- enter i_ithout you!'
'Stop!' cried his father. 'We'll respect Catherine's filial scruples. Nelly, take him in, and I'll follow your advice concerning the doctor, withou_elay.'
'You'll do well,' replied I. 'But I must remain with my mistress: to mind you_on is not my business.'
'You are very stiff,' said Heathcliff, 'I know that: but you'll force me t_inch the baby and make it scream before it moves your charity. Come, then, m_ero. Are you willing to return, escorted by me?'
He approached once more, and made as if he would seize the fragile being; but, shrinking back, Linton clung to his cousin, and implored her to accompany him, with a frantic importunity that admitted no denial. However I disapproved, _ouldn't hinder her: indeed, how could she have refused him herself? What wa_illing him with dread we had no means of discerning; but there he was, powerless under its gripe, and any addition seemed capable of shocking hi_nto idiotcy. We reached the threshold; Catherine walked in, and I stoo_aiting till she had conducted the invalid to a chair, expecting her ou_mmediately; when Mr. Heathcliff, pushing me forward, exclaimed - 'My house i_ot stricken with the plague, Nelly; and I have a mind to be hospitable to- day: sit down, and allow me to shut the door.'
He shut and locked it also. I started.
'You shall have tea before you go home,' he added. 'I am by myself. Hareton i_one with some cattle to the Lees, and Zillah and Joseph are off on a journe_f pleasure; and, though I'm used to being alone, I'd rather have som_nteresting company, if I can get it. Miss Linton, take your seat by HIM. _ive you what I have: the present is hardly worth accepting; but I hav_othing else to offer. It is Linton, I mean. How she does stare! It's odd wha_ savage feeling I have to anything that seems afraid of me! Had I been bor_here laws are less strict and tastes less dainty, I should treat myself to _low vivisection of those two, as an evening's amusement.'
He drew in his breath, struck the table, and swore to himself, 'By hell! _ate them.'
'I am not afraid of you!' exclaimed Catherine, who could not hear the latte_art of his speech. She stepped close up; her black eyes flashing with passio_nd resolution. 'Give me that key: I will have it!' she said. 'I wouldn't ea_r drink here, if I were starving.'
Heathcliff had the key in his hand that remained on the table. He looked up, seized with a sort of surprise at her boldness; or, possibly, reminded, by he_oice and glance, of the person from whom she inherited it. She snatched a_he instrument, and half succeeded in getting it out of his loosened fingers: but her action recalled him to the present; he recovered it speedily.
'Now, Catherine Linton,' he said, 'stand off, or I shall knock you down; and, that will make Mrs. Dean mad.'
Regardless of this warning, she captured his closed hand and its content_gain. 'We will go!' she repeated, exerting her utmost efforts to cause th_ron muscles to relax; and finding that her nails made no impression, sh_pplied her teeth pretty sharply. Heathcliff glanced at me a glance that kep_e from interfering a moment. Catherine was too intent on his fingers t_otice his face. He opened them suddenly, and resigned the object of dispute; but, ere she had well secured it, he seized her with the liberated hand, and, pulling her on his knee, administered with the other a shower of terrifi_laps on both sides of the head, each sufficient to have fulfilled his threat, had she been able to fall.'
At this diabolical violence I rushed on him furiously. 'You villain!' I bega_o cry, 'you villain!' A touch on the chest silenced me: I am stout, and soo_ut out of breath; and, what with that and the rage, I staggered dizzily bac_nd felt ready to suffocate, or to burst a blood-vessel. The scene was over i_wo minutes; Catherine, released, put her two hands to her temples, and looke_ust as if she were not sure whether her ears were off or on. She tremble_ike a reed, poor thing, and leant against the table perfectly bewildered.
'I know how to chastise children, you see,' said the scoundrel, grimly, as h_tooped to repossess himself of the key, which had dropped to the floor. 'G_o Linton now, as I told you; and cry at your ease! I shall be your father, to-morrow - all the father you'll have in a few days - and you shall hav_lenty of that. You can bear plenty; you're no weakling: you shall have _aily taste, if I catch such a devil of a temper in your eyes again!'
Cathy ran to me instead of Linton, and knelt down and put her burning cheek o_y lap, weeping aloud. Her cousin had shrunk into a corner of the settle, a_uiet as a mouse, congratulating himself, I dare say, that the correction ha_lighted on another than him. Mr. Heathcliff, perceiving us all confounded, rose, and expeditiously made the tea himself. The cups and saucers were lai_eady. He poured it out, and handed me a cup.
'Wash away your spleen,' he said. 'And help your own naughty pet and mine. I_s not poisoned, though I prepared it. I'm going out to seek your horses.'
Our first thought, on his departure, was to force an exit somewhere. We trie_he kitchen door, but that was fastened outside: we looked at the windows - they were too narrow for even Cathy's little figure.
'Master Linton,' I cried, seeing we were regularly imprisoned, 'you know wha_our diabolical father is after, and you shall tell us, or I'll box your ears, as he has done your cousin's.'
'Yes, Linton, you must tell,' said Catherine. 'It was for your sake I came; and it will be wickedly ungrateful if you refuse.'
'Give me some tea, I'm thirsty, and then I'll tell you,' he answered. 'Mrs.
Dean, go away. I don't like you standing over me. Now, Catherine, you ar_etting your tears fall into my cup. I won't drink that. Give me another.'
Catherine pushed another to him, and wiped her face. I felt disgusted at th_ittle wretch's composure, since he was no longer in terror for himself. Th_nguish he had exhibited on the moor subsided as soon as ever he entere_uthering Heights; so I guessed he had been menaced with an awful visitatio_f wrath if he failed in decoying us there; and, that accomplished, he had n_urther immediate fears.
'Papa wants us to be married,' he continued, after sipping some of the liquid.
'And he knows your papa wouldn't let us marry now; and he's afraid of my dyin_f we wait; so we are to be married in the morning, and you are to stay her_ll night; and, if you do as he wishes, you shall return home next day, an_ake me with you.'
'Take you with her, pitiful changeling!' I exclaimed. 'YOU marry? Why, the ma_s mad! or he thinks us fools, every one. And do you imagine that beautifu_oung lady, that healthy, hearty girl, will tie herself to a little perishin_onkey like you? Are you cherishing the notion that anybody, let alone Mis_atherine Linton, would have you for a husband? You want whipping for bringin_s in here at all, with your dastardly puling tricks: and \- don't look s_illy, now! I've a very good mind to shake you severely, for your contemptibl_reachery, and your imbecile conceit.'
I did give him a slight shaking; but it brought on the cough, and he took t_is ordinary resource of moaning and weeping, and Catherine rebuked me.
'Stay all night? No,' she said, looking slowly round. 'Ellen, I'll burn tha_oor down but I'll get out.'
And she would have commenced the execution of her threat directly, but Linto_as up in alarm for his dear self again. He clasped her in his two feeble arm_obbing:- 'Won't you have me, and save me? not let me come to the Grange? Oh, darling Catherine! you mustn't go and leave, after all. You MUST obey m_ather - you MUST!'
'I must obey my own,' she replied, 'and relieve him from this cruel suspense.
The whole night! What would he think? He'll be distressed already. I'll eithe_reak or burn a way out of the house. Be quiet! You're in no danger; but i_ou hinder me - Linton, I love papa better than you!' The mortal terror h_elt of Mr. Heathcliff's anger restored to the boy his coward's eloquence.
Catherine was near distraught: still, she persisted that she must go home, an_ried entreaty in her turn, persuading him to subdue his selfish agony. Whil_hey were thus occupied, our jailor re- entered.
'Your beasts have trotted off,' he said, 'and - now Linton! snivelling again?
What has she been doing to you? Come, come - have done, and get to bed. In _onth or two, my lad, you'll be able to pay her back her present tyrannie_ith a vigorous hand. You're pining for pure love, are you not? nothing els_n the world: and she shall have you! There, to bed! Zillah won't be here to- night; you must undress yourself. Hush! hold your noise! Once in your ow_oom, I'll not come near you: you needn't fear. By chance, you've manage_olerably. I'll look to the rest.'
He spoke these words, holding the door open for his son to pass, and th_atter achieved his exit exactly as a spaniel might which suspected the perso_ho attended on it of designing a spiteful squeeze. The lock was re-secured.
Heathcliff approached the fire, where my mistress and I stood silent.
Catherine looked up, and instinctively raised her hand to her cheek: hi_eighbourhood revived a painful sensation. Anybody else would have bee_ncapable of regarding the childish act with sternness, but he scowled on he_nd muttered - 'Oh! you are not afraid of me? Your courage is well disguised: you seem damnably afraid!'
'I AM afraid now,' she replied, 'because, if I stay, papa will be miserable: and how can I endure making him miserable - when he - when he - Mr.
Heathcliff, let ME go home! I promise to marry Linton: papa would like me to: and I love him. Why should you wish to force me to do what I'll willingly d_f myself?'
'Let him dare to force you,' I cried. 'There's law in the land, thank God!
there is; though we be in an out-of-the-way place. I'd inform if he were m_wn son: and it's felony without benefit of clergy!'
'Silence!' said the ruffian. 'To the devil with your clamour! I don't want YO_o speak. Miss Linton, I shall enjoy myself remarkably in thinking your fathe_ill be miserable: I shall not sleep for satisfaction. You could have hit o_o surer way of fixing your residence under my roof for the next twenty-fou_ours than informing me that such an event would follow. As to your promise t_arry Linton, I'll take care you shall keep it; for you shall not quit thi_lace till it is fulfilled.'
'Send Ellen, then, to let papa know I'm safe!' exclaimed Catherine, weepin_itterly. 'Or marry me now. Poor papa! Ellen, he'll think we're lost. Wha_hall we do?'
'Not he! He'll think you are tired of waiting on him, and run off for a littl_musement,' answered Heathcliff. 'You cannot deny that you entered my house o_our own accord, in contempt of his injunctions to the contrary. And it i_uite natural that you should desire amusement at your age; and that you woul_eary of nursing a sick man, and that man ONLY your father. Catherine, hi_appiest days were over when your days began. He cursed you, I dare say, fo_oming into the world (I did, at least); and it would just do if he cursed yo_s HE went out of it. I'd join him. I don't love you! How should I? Weep away.
As far as I can see, it will be your chief diversion hereafter; unless Linto_ake amends for other losses: and your provident parent appears to fancy h_ay. His letters of advice and consolation entertained me vastly. In his las_e recommended my jewel to be careful of his; and kind to her when he got her.
Careful and kind - that's paternal. But Linton requires his whole stock o_are and kindness for himself. Linton can play the little tyrant well. He'l_ndertake to torture any number of cats, if their teeth be drawn and thei_laws pared. You'll be able to tell his uncle fine tales of his KINDNESS, whe_ou get home again, I assure you.'
'You're right there!' I said; 'explain your son's character. Show hi_esemblance to yourself: and then, I hope, Miss Cathy will think twice befor_he takes the cockatrice!'
'I don't much mind speaking of his amiable qualities now,' he answered;
'because she must either accept him or remain a prisoner, and you along wit_er, till your master dies. I can detain you both, quite concealed, here. I_ou doubt, encourage her to retract her word, and you'll have an opportunit_f judging!'
'I'll not retract my word,' said Catherine. 'I'll marry him within this hour, if I may go to Thrushcross Grange afterwards. Mr. Heathcliff, you're a crue_an, but you're not a fiend; and you won't, from MERE malice, destro_rrevocably all my happiness. If papa thought I had left him on purpose, an_f he died before I returned, could I bear to live? I've given over crying: but I'm going to kneel here, at your knee; and I'll not get up, and I'll no_ake my eyes from your face till you look back at me! No, don't turn away! D_OOK! you'll see nothing to provoke you. I don't hate you. I'm not angry tha_ou struck me. Have you never loved ANYBODY in all your life, uncle? NEVER?
Ah! you must look once. I'm so wretched, you can't help being sorry an_itying me.'
'Keep your eft's fingers off; and move, or I'll kick you!' cried Heathcliff, brutally repulsing her. 'I'd rather be hugged by a snake. How the devil ca_ou dream of fawning on me? I DETEST you!'
He shrugged his shoulders: shook himself, indeed, as if his flesh crept wit_version; and thrust back his chair; while I got up, and opened my mouth, t_ommence a downright torrent of abuse. But I was rendered dumb in the middl_f the first sentence, by a threat that I should be shown into a room b_yself the very next syllable I uttered. It was growing dark - we heard _ound of voices at the garden-gate. Our host hurried out instantly: HE had hi_its about him; WE had not. There was a talk of two or three minutes, and h_eturned alone.
'I thought it had been your cousin Hareton,' I observed to Catherine. 'I wis_e would arrive! Who knows but he might take our part?'
'It was three servants sent to seek you from the Grange,' said Heathcliff, overhearing me. 'You should have opened a lattice and called out: but I coul_wear that chit is glad you didn't. She's glad to be obliged to stay, I'_ertain.'
At learning the chance we had missed, we both gave vent to our grief withou_ontrol; and he allowed us to wail on till nine o'clock. Then he bid us g_pstairs, through the kitchen, to Zillah's chamber; and I whispered m_ompanion to obey: perhaps we might contrive to get through the window there, or into a garret, and out by its skylight. The window, however, was narrow, like those below, and the garret trap was safe from our attempts; for we wer_astened in as before. We neither of us lay down: Catherine took her statio_y the lattice, and watched anxiously for morning; a deep sigh being the onl_nswer I could obtain to my frequent entreaties that she would try to rest. _eated myself in a chair, and rocked to and fro, passing harsh judgment on m_any derelictions of duty; from which, it struck me then, all the misfortune_f my employers sprang. It was not the case, in reality, I am aware; but i_as, in my imagination, that dismal night; and I thought Heathcliff himsel_ess guilty than I.
At seven o'clock he came, and inquired if Miss Linton had risen. She ran t_he door immediately, and answered, 'Yes.' 'Here, then,' he said, opening it, and pulling her out. I rose to follow, but he turned the lock again. _emanded my release.
'Be patient,' he replied; 'I'll send up your breakfast in a while.'
I thumped on the panels, and rattled the latch angrily and Catherine asked wh_ was still shut up? He answered, I must try to endure it another hour, an_hey went away. I endured it two or three hours; at length, I heard _ootstep: not Heathcliff's.
'I've brought you something to eat,' said a voice; 'oppen t' door!'
Complying eagerly, I beheld Hareton, laden with food enough to last me al_ay.
'Tak' it,' he added, thrusting the tray into my hand.
'Stay one minute,' I began.
'Nay,' cried he, and retired, regardless of any prayers I could pour forth t_etain him.
And there I remained enclosed the whole day, and the whole of the next night; and another, and another. Five nights and four days I remained, altogether, seeing nobody but Hareton once every morning; and he was a model of a jailor: surly, and dumb, and deaf to every attempt at moving his sense of justice o_ompassion.