Summer was already past its prime, when Edgar reluctantly yielded his
assent to their entreaties, and Catherine and I set out on our first ride
to join her cousin. It was a close, sultry day: devoid of sunshine, but
with a sky too dappled and hazy to threaten rain: and our place of
meeting had been fixed at the guide-stone, by the cross-roads. On
arriving there, however, a little herd-boy, despatched as a messenger,
told us that,--'Maister Linton wer just o' this side th' Heights: and
he'd be mitch obleeged to us to gang on a bit further.'
'Then Master Linton has forgot the first injunction of his uncle,' I
observed: 'he bid us keep on the Grange land, and here we are off at
'Well, we'll turn our horses' heads round when we reach him,' answered my
companion; 'our excursion shall lie towards home.'
But when we reached him, and that was scarcely a quarter of a mile from
his own door, we found he had no horse; and we were forced to dismount,
and leave ours to graze. He lay on the heath, awaiting our approach, and
did not rise till we came within a few yards. Then he walked so feebly,
and looked so pale, that I immediately exclaimed,--'Why, Master
Heathcliff, you are not fit for enjoying a ramble this morning. How ill
you do look!'
Catherine surveyed him with grief and astonishment: she changed the
ejaculation of joy on her lips to one of alarm; and the congratulation on
their long-postponed meeting to an anxious inquiry, whether he were worse
'No--better--better!' he panted, trembling, and retaining her hand as if
he needed its support, while his large blue eyes wandered timidly over
her; the hollowness round them transforming to haggard wildness the
languid expression they once possessed.
'But you have been worse,' persisted his cousin; 'worse than when I saw
you last; you are thinner, and--'
'I'm tired,' he interrupted, hurriedly. 'It is too hot for walking, let
us rest here. And, in the morning, I often feel sick--papa says I grow
Badly satisfied, Cathy sat down, and he reclined beside her.
'This is something like your paradise,' said she, making an effort at
cheerfulness. 'You recollect the two days we agreed to spend in the
place and way each thought pleasantest? This is nearly yours, only there
are clouds; but then they are so soft and mellow: it is nicer than
sunshine. Next week, if you can, we'll ride down to the Grange Park, and
Linton did not appear to remember what she talked of and he had evidently
great difficulty in sustaining any kind of conversation. His lack of
interest in the subjects she started, and his equal incapacity to
contribute to her entertainment, were so obvious that she could not
conceal her disappointment. An indefinite alteration had come over his
whole person and manner. The pettishness that might be caressed into
fondness, had yielded to a listless apathy; there was less of the peevish
temper of a child which frets and teases on purpose to be soothed, and
more of the self-absorbed moroseness of a confirmed invalid, repelling
consolation, and ready to regard the good-humoured mirth of others as an
insult. Catherine perceived, as well as I did, that he held it rather a
punishment, than a gratification, to endure our company; and she made no
scruple of proposing, presently, to depart. That proposal, unexpectedly,
roused Linton from his lethargy, and threw him into a strange state of
agitation. He glanced fearfully towards the Heights, begging she would
remain another half-hour, at least.
'But I think,' said Cathy, 'you'd be more comfortable at home than
sitting here; and I cannot amuse you to-day, I see, by my tales, and
songs, and chatter: you have grown wiser than I, in these six months; you
have little taste for my diversions now: or else, if I could amuse you,
I'd willingly stay.'
'Stay to rest yourself,' he replied. 'And, Catherine, don't think or say
that I'm _very_ unwell: it is the heavy weather and heat that make me
dull; and I walked about, before you came, a great deal for me. Tell
uncle I'm in tolerable health, will you?'
'I'll tell him that _you_ say so, Linton. I couldn't affirm that you
are,' observed my young lady, wondering at his pertinacious assertion of
what was evidently an untruth.
'And be here again next Thursday,' continued he, shunning her puzzled
gaze. 'And give him my thanks for permitting you to come--my best
thanks, Catherine. And--and, if you _did_ meet my father, and he asked
you about me, don't lead him to suppose that I've been extremely silent
and stupid: don't look sad and downcast, as you are doing--he'll be
'I care nothing for his anger,' exclaimed Cathy, imagining she would be
'But I do,' said her cousin, shuddering. '_Don't_ provoke him against
me, Catherine, for he is very hard.'
'Is he severe to you, Master Heathcliff?' I inquired. 'Has he grown
weary of indulgence, and passed from passive to active hatred?'
Linton looked at me, but did not answer; and, after keeping her seat by
his side another ten minutes, during which his head fell drowsily on his
breast, and he uttered nothing except suppressed moans of exhaustion or
pain, Cathy began to seek solace in looking for bilberries, and sharing
the produce of her researches with me: she did not offer them to him, for
she saw further notice would only weary and annoy.
'Is it half-an-hour now, Ellen?' she whispered in my ear, at last. 'I
can't tell why we should stay. He's asleep, and papa will be wanting us
'Well, we must not leave him asleep,' I answered; 'wait till lie wakes,
and be patient. You were mighty eager to set off, but your longing to
see poor Linton has soon evaporated!'
'Why did _he_ wish to see me?' returned Catherine. 'In his crossest
humours, formerly, I liked him better than I do in his present curious
mood. It's just as if it were a task he was compelled to perform--this
interview--for fear his father should scold him. But I'm hardly going to
come to give Mr. Heathcliff pleasure; whatever reason he may have for
ordering Linton to undergo this penance. And, though I'm glad he's
better in health, I'm sorry he's so much less pleasant, and so much less
affectionate to me.'
'You think _he is_ better in health, then?' I said.
'Yes,' she answered; 'because he always made such a great deal of his
sufferings, you know. He is not tolerably well, as he told me to tell
papa; but he's better, very likely.'
'There you differ with me, Miss Cathy,' I remarked; 'I should conjecture
him to be far worse.'
Linton here started from his slumber in bewildered terror, and asked if
any one had called his name.
'No,' said Catherine; 'unless in dreams. I cannot conceive how you
manage to doze out of doors, in the morning.'
'I thought I heard my father,' he gasped, glancing up to the frowning nab
above us. 'You are sure nobody spoke?'
'Quite sure,' replied his cousin. 'Only Ellen and I were disputing
concerning your health. Are you truly stronger, Linton, than when we
separated in winter? If you be, I'm certain one thing is not
stronger--your regard for me: speak,--are you?'
The tears gushed from Linton's eyes as he answered, 'Yes, yes, I am!'
And, still under the spell of the imaginary voice, his gaze wandered up
and down to detect its owner.
Cathy rose. 'For to-day we must part,' she said. 'And I won't conceal
that I have been sadly disappointed with our meeting; though I'll mention
it to nobody but you: not that I stand in awe of Mr. Heathcliff.'
'Hush,' murmured Linton; 'for God's sake, hush! He's coming.' And he
clung to Catherine's arm, striving to detain her; but at that
announcement she hastily disengaged herself, and whistled to Minny, who
obeyed her like a dog.
'I'll be here next Thursday,' she cried, springing to the saddle. 'Good-
bye. Quick, Ellen!'
And so we left him, scarcely conscious of our departure, so absorbed was
he in anticipating his father's approach.
Before we reached home, Catherine's displeasure softened into a perplexed
sensation of pity and regret, largely blended with vague, uneasy doubts
about Linton's actual circumstances, physical and social: in which I
partook, though I counselled her not to say much; for a second journey
would make us better judges. My master requested an account of our
ongoings. His nephew's offering of thanks was duly delivered, Miss Cathy
gently touching on the rest: I also threw little light on his inquiries,
for I hardly knew what to hide and what to reveal.