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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWuthering Heights - Chapter XXIV
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Wuthering Heights - Chapter XXIV Post by :MrSonic Category :Long Stories Author :Emily Bronte Date :January 2011 Read :1998

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Wuthering Heights - Chapter XXIV

AT the close of three weeks I was able to quit my chamber and move
about the house. And on the first occasion of my sitting up in the
evening I asked Catherine 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 in the choice of
what she perused. She selected one of her own favourites, and got
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
disrelish for 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 her peevish, heavy look, and the constant rubbing
she inflicted on her eyes. The following night she seemed more
impatient still; and on the third from recovering my company she
complained of a headache, and left me. I thought her conduct odd;
and having remained alone a long while, I resolved on going and
inquiring 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, and none 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 my candle, and seated
myself in the window.

The moon shone bright; a sprinkling of snow covered the ground, and
I reflected that she might, possibly, have taken it into her head
to walk about the garden, for refreshment. I did detect a figure
creeping along the inner fence of the park; but it was not my young
mistress: on its emerging into the light, I recognised one of the
grooms. He stood a considerable period, viewing the carriage-road
through the grounds; then started off at a brisk pace, as if he had
detected something, and reappeared presently, leading Miss's pony;
and there she was, just dismounted, and walking by its side. The
man took his charge stealthily across the grass towards the stable.
Cathy entered by the casement-window of the drawing-room, and
glided noiselessly up to where I awaited her. She put the door
gently too, slipped off her snowy shoes, untied her hat, and was
proceeding, unconscious of my espionage, to lay aside her mantle,
when I suddenly rose and revealed myself. The surprise petrified
her an instant: she uttered an inarticulate exclamation, and stood
fixed.

'My dear Miss Catherine,' I began, too vividly impressed by her
recent kindness 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, or you wouldn't be driven to uttering an untruth to
me. That does grieve me. I'd rather 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 be angry, 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 her secret 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 day since 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 put her back in the stable: you mustn't
scold him either, mind. I was at the Heights by half-past six, and
generally stayed till half-past eight, and then galloped home. It
was not to amuse myself that I went: I was often wretched all the
time. Now and then I was happy: once in a week perhaps. At
first, I expected there would be sad work persuading you to let me
keep my word to Linton: for I had engaged to call again next day,
when we quitted him; but, as you stayed up-stairs on the morrow, I
escaped that trouble. While Michael was refastening the lock of
the park door in the afternoon, I got possession of the key, and
told him how my cousin wished me to visit him, because he was sick,
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 he thinks of leaving soon to get married; so he
offered, if I would lend him books out of the library, to do what I
wished: but I preferred giving him my own, and that satisfied him
better.

'On my second visit Linton seemed in lively spirits; and Zillah
(that is their housekeeper) made us a clean room and a good fire,
and told us that, as Joseph was 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 we liked. She brought me
some warm wine and gingerbread, and appeared exceedingly good-
natured, and Linton sat in the arm-chair, and I in the little
rocking chair on the hearth-stone, and we laughed and talked so
merrily, and found so much to say: we planned where we would go,
and what we would do in summer. I needn't repeat that, because you
would call it silly.

'One time, however, we were near quarrelling. He said the
pleasantest manner of spending a hot July day was lying from
morning till evening on a bank of heath in the middle of the moors,
with the bees humming dreamily about among the bloom, and the larks
singing high up overhead, and the blue sky and bright sun shining
steadily and cloudlessly. That was his most perfect idea of
heaven's happiness: mine was rocking in a rustling green tree,
with a west wind blowing, and bright white clouds flitting rapidly
above; and not only larks, but throstles, and blackbirds, and
linnets, and cuckoos pouring out music on every side, and the moors
seen at a distance, broken into cool dusky dells; but close by
great swells of long grass undulating in waves to the breeze; and
woods and sounding water, and the whole world awake and wild with
joy. He wanted all to lie in an ecstasy of peace; I wanted all to
sparkle and dance in a glorious jubilee. I said his heaven would
be only half alive; and he said mine would be drunk: I said I
should fall asleep in his; and he said he could not breathe in
mine, and began to grow very snappish. At last, we agreed to try
both, as soon as the right weather came; and then we kissed each
other and were friends.

'After sitting still an hour, I looked at the great room with its
smooth uncarpeted floor, and thought how nice it would be to play
in, if we removed the table; and I asked Linton to call Zillah in
to help us, and we'd have a game 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 to play 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 the other H.; I wished to have the C., because that stood
for Catherine, and the H. might be for Heathcliff, his name; but
the bran came out of H., and Linton didn'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 good
humour: he was charmed with two or three pretty songs - YOUR
songs, Ellen; and when I was obliged to go, he begged and entreated
me to come the following evening; and I promised. Minny and I went
flying home as light as air; and I dreamt of Wuthering Heights and
my sweet, darling cousin, till morning.

'On the morrow I was sad; partly because you were poorly, and
partly that I wished my father knew, and approved of my excursions:
but it was beautiful moonlight after tea; and, as I rode on, the
gloom cleared. I shall have another happy evening, I thought to
myself; and what delights me more, my pretty Linton will. I
trotted up their garden, and was turning round to the back, when
that fellow Earnshaw met me, took my bridle, and bid me go in by
the 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 my horse alone, or else it would kick him.
He answered in his vulgar accent, "It wouldn't do mitch hurt if it
did;" and surveyed its legs with a smile. I was half inclined to
make it try; however, he moved off to open the door, and, as he
raised the latch, he looked up to the inscription above, and said,
with a stupid 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 dead halt.

'"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
gathering over his eyes, as if uncertain whether he might not join
in my mirth: whether it were not pleasant familiarity, or what it
really was, contempt. I settled his 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 mortified
vanity. He imagined himself to be as accomplished as Linton, I
suppose, because he could spell his own name; and was marvellously
discomfited that I didn't think the same.'

'Stop, Miss Catherine, dear!' - I interrupted. 'I shall not scold,
but I don't like your conduct there. If you had remembered that
Hareton was your cousin as much as Master Heathcliff, you would
have felt how improper it was to behave in that way. At least, it
was praiseworthy ambition for him to desire to be as accomplished
as Linton; and probably he did not learn merely to show off: you
had made him ashamed of his ignorance before, I have no doubt; and
he wished to remedy it and please you. To sneer at his imperfect
attempt was very bad breeding. Had you been brought up in his
circumstances, would you be less rude? He was as quick and as
intelligent a child as ever you were; and I'm hurt that he should
be despised now, because that base Heathcliff has treated him so
unjustly.'

'Well, Ellen, you won't cry about it, will you?' she exclaimed,
surprised at my earnestness. 'But wait, and you shall hear if he
conned his A B C to please me; and if it were worth while being
civil to the brute. I entered; Linton was lying on the settle, and
half got up to welcome me.

'"I'm ill to-night, Catherine, love," he said; "and you must have
all the talk, and let me listen. Come, and sit by me. I was sure
you wouldn't break your 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 and put no questions, and avoided irritating him in any way.
I had brought some of my nicest books for him: he asked me to read
a little of one, and I was about to comply, when Earnshaw burst the
door open: having gathered venom with reflection. He advanced
direct to us, seized Linton by the arm, and swung him off 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 see thee: 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 into the kitchen; and he clenched his fist as I followed,
seemingly longing to knock me down. I was afraid for a moment, and
I let one volume fall; he kicked it 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, and quivering.

'"I wer sure he'd sarve ye out! He's a grand lad! He's getten t'
raight sperrit 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's mockery.

'Linton was white and trembling. He was not pretty then, Ellen:
oh, no! he looked frightful; for his thin face and large eyes were
wrought into an expression of frantic, powerless fury. He grasped
the handle of the door, and shook 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 kill you!" he rather shrieked than said. "Devil! devil! -
I'll kill you - I'll kill you!"

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 get at thee!"

'I took hold of Linton's hands, and tried to pull him away; but he
shrieked so shockingly that I dared not proceed. At last his cries
were choked by a dreadful fit of coughing; blood gushed from his
mouth, and he fell on the ground. I ran into the yard, sick with
terror; and called for Zillah, as loud as I could. She soon heard
me: she was milking the cows in a shed behind the barn, and
hurrying from her work, she inquired what there was to do? I
hadn't breath to explain; dragging her in, I looked about for
Linton. Earnshaw had come out to examine the mischief he had
caused, and he was then conveying the poor thing up-stairs. Zillah
and I ascended after him; but he stopped me at the top of the
steps, and said I shouldn't go in: I must go home. I exclaimed
that he had killed Linton, and I WOULD enter. Joseph locked the
door, and declared I should do "no sich stuff," and asked me
whether I were "bahn to be as mad as him." I stood crying till the
housekeeper reappeared. She affirmed he 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 my eyes were almost blind; and the ruffian you have such
sympathy with stood opposite: presuming every now and then to bid
me "wisht," and denying that it was his fault; and, finally,
frightened by my assertions that I would tell papa, and that he
should be put in prison and hanged, he commenced blubbering
himself, and hurried out to hide his cowardly agitation. Still, I
was not rid of him: when at length they compelled me to depart,
and I had got some hundred yards 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 let go, thundering one of his horrid curses, and I galloped
home more than half out of my senses.

'I didn't bid you good-night that evening, and I didn't go to
Wuthering Heights the next: I wished to go exceedingly; but I was
strangely excited, and dreaded to hear that Linton was dead,
sometimes; and sometimes shuddered at the thought of encountering
Hareton. On the third day I took courage: at least, I couldn't
bear longer suspense, and stole off once more. I went at five
o'clock, and walked; fancying I might manage to creep into the
house, and up 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 a small, tidy, carpeted apartment,
where, to my inexpressible joy, I beheld Linton laid on a little
sofa, reading one of my books. But he would neither speak to me
nor look at me, through a whole hour, Ellen: he has such an
unhappy temper. And what quite confounded me, when he did open his
mouth, it was to utter the falsehood that I had occasioned the
uproar, and Hareton was not to blame! Unable to reply, except
passionately, I got up and walked from the room. He sent after me
a faint "Catherine!" He did not reckon on being answered so: but
I wouldn't turn back; and the morrow was the second day on which I
stayed at home, nearly determined to visit him no more. But it was
so miserable going to bed and getting up, and never hearing
anything about him, that my resolution melted into air before it
was properly formed. It had appeared 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 considered myself doing a duty
as she bore me over the hills. I was forced to pass the front
windows to get to the court: it was no use trying to conceal my
presence.

'"Young master is in the house," said Zillah, as she saw me making
for the parlour. 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 began in 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 hurt you, and pretend that I do so every time, this is our last
meeting: let us say good-bye; and tell Mr. Heathcliff that you
have no wish to see me, and that he mustn't invent any more
falsehoods on the subject."

'"Sit down and take your hat off, Catherine," he answered. "You
are so much happier 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. I doubt whether I am not altogether
as worthless as he calls me, frequently; and then I feel so cross
and bitter, I hate everybody! I am worthless, and bad in temper,
and bad in spirit, almost always; and, if you choose, you may say
good-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, I would be; as willingly, and more so, than
as happy and as healthy. And believe that 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 it and
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 we should 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 friends be at ease, and
he'll never be at ease himself! I have always gone to his little
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 the first evening; the rest of my visits were dreary and
troubled: now with his selfishness and spite, and now with his
sufferings: but I've learned to endure the former with nearly as
little resentment as the latter. Mr. Heathcliff purposely avoids
me: I have hardly seen him at all. Last Sunday, indeed, coming
earlier than usual, I heard him abusing poor Linton cruelly for his
conduct of the night before. I can't tell how he knew of it,
unless he listened. Linton had certainly behaved provokingly:
however, it was the business of nobody but me, and I interrupted
Mr. Heathcliff's lecture by entering and telling him so. He burst
into a laugh, and went away, saying he was glad I took that view of
the matter. Since then, I've told Linton he must whisper his
bitter things. Now, Ellen, you have heard all. I can't be
prevented from going to Wuthering Heights, except by inflicting
misery on two people; whereas, if you'll only not tell papa, my
going need disturb the tranquillity of none. You'll not tell, will
you? It will be very heartless, if you 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 it over.'

I thought it over aloud, in my master's presence; walking straight
from her room to his, and relating the whole story: with the
exception of her conversations with her cousin, and any mention of
Hareton. Mr. Linton was alarmed and distressed, more than he would
acknowledge to me. In the morning, Catherine learnt my betrayal of
her confidence, and she learnt also that her secret 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 was a promise that he would write and give him leave to come to
the Grange when he pleased; but explaining that he must no longer
expect to see Catherine at Wuthering Heights. Perhaps, had he been
aware of his nephew's disposition and state of health, he would
have seen fit to withhold even that slight consolation.

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