Yesterday was bright, calm, and frosty. I went to the Heights as I
proposed: my housekeeper entreated me to bear a little note from her to
her young lady, and I did not refuse, for the worthy woman was not
conscious of anything odd in her request. The front door stood open, but
the jealous gate was fastened, as at my last visit; I knocked and invoked
Earnshaw from among the garden-beds; he unchained it, and I entered. The
fellow is as handsome a rustic as need be seen. I took particular notice
of him this time; but then he does his best apparently to make the least
of his advantages.
I asked if Mr. Heathcliff were at home? He answered, No; but he would be
in at dinner-time. It was eleven o'clock, and I announced my intention
of going in and waiting for him; at which he immediately flung down his
tools and accompanied me, in the office of watchdog, not as a substitute
for the host.
We entered together; Catherine was there, making herself useful in
preparing some vegetables for the approaching meal; she looked more sulky
and less spirited than when I had seen her first. She hardly raised her
eyes to notice me, and continued her employment with the same disregard
to common forms of politeness as before; never returning my bow and good-
morning by the slightest acknowledgment.
'She does not seem so amiable,' I thought, 'as Mrs. Dean would persuade
me to believe. She's a beauty, it is true; but not an angel.'
Earnshaw surlily bid her remove her things to the kitchen. 'Remove them
yourself,' she said, pushing them from her as soon as she had done; and
retiring to a stool by the window, where she began to carve figures of
birds and beasts out of the turnip-parings in her lap. I approached her,
pretending to desire a view of the garden; and, as I fancied, adroitly
dropped Mrs. Dean's note on to her knee, unnoticed by Hareton--but she
asked aloud, 'What is that?' And chucked it off.
'A letter from your old acquaintance, the housekeeper at the Grange,' I
answered; annoyed at her exposing my kind deed, and fearful lest it
should be imagined a missive of my own. She would gladly have gathered
it up at this information, but Hareton beat her; he seized and put it in
his waistcoat, saying Mr. Heathcliff should look at it first. Thereat,
Catherine silently turned her face from us, and, very stealthily, drew
out her pocket-handkerchief and applied it to her eyes; and her cousin,
after struggling awhile to keep down his softer feelings, pulled out the
letter and flung it on the floor beside her, as ungraciously as he could.
Catherine caught and perused it eagerly; then she put a few questions to
me concerning the inmates, rational and irrational, of her former home;
and gazing towards the hills, murmured in soliloquy:
'I should like to be riding Minny down there! I should like to be
climbing up there! Oh! I'm tired--I'm _stalled_, Hareton!' And she
leant her pretty head back against the sill, with half a yawn and half a
sigh, and lapsed into an aspect of abstracted sadness: neither caring nor
knowing whether we remarked her.
'Mrs. Heathcliff,' I said, after sitting some time mute, 'you are not
aware that I am an acquaintance of yours? so intimate that I think it
strange you won't come and speak to me. My housekeeper never wearies of
talking about and praising you; and she'll be greatly disappointed if I
return with no news of or from you, except that you received her letter
and said nothing!'
She appeared to wonder at this speech, and asked,--
'Does Ellen like you?'
'Yes, very well,' I replied, hesitatingly.
'You must tell her,' she continued, 'that I would answer her letter, but
I have no materials for writing: not even a book from which I might tear
'No books!' I exclaimed. 'How do you contrive to live here without them?
if I may take the liberty to inquire. Though provided with a large
library, I'm frequently very dull at the Grange; take my books away, and
I should be desperate!'
'I was always reading, when I had them,' said Catherine; 'and Mr.
Heathcliff never reads; so he took it into his head to destroy my books.
I have not had a glimpse of one for weeks. Only once, I searched through
Joseph's store of theology, to his great irritation; and once, Hareton, I
came upon a secret stock in your room--some Latin and Greek, and some
tales and poetry: all old friends. I brought the last here--and you
gathered them, as a magpie gathers silver spoons, for the mere love of
stealing! They are of no use to you; or else you concealed them in the
bad spirit that, as you cannot enjoy them, nobody else shall. Perhaps
_your_ envy counselled Mr. Heathcliff to rob me of my treasures? But
I've most of them written on my brain and printed in my heart, and you
cannot deprive me of those!'
Earnshaw blushed crimson when his cousin made this revelation of his
private literary accumulations, and stammered an indignant denial of her
'Mr. Hareton is desirous of increasing his amount of knowledge,' I said,
coming to his rescue. 'He is not _envious_, but _emulous_ of your
attainments. He'll be a clever scholar in a few years.'
'And he wants me to sink into a dunce, meantime,' answered Catherine.
'Yes, I hear him trying to spell and read to himself, and pretty blunders
he makes! I wish you would repeat Chevy Chase as you did yesterday: it
was extremely funny. I heard you; and I heard you turning over the
dictionary to seek out the hard words, and then cursing because you
couldn't read their explanations!'
The young man evidently thought it too bad that he should be laughed at
for his ignorance, and then laughed at for trying to remove it. I had a
similar notion; and, remembering Mrs. Dean's anecdote of his first
attempt at enlightening the darkness in which he had been reared, I
observed,--'But, Mrs. Heathcliff, we have each had a commencement, and
each stumbled and tottered on the threshold; had our teachers scorned
instead of aiding us, we should stumble and totter yet.'
'Oh!' she replied, 'I don't wish to limit his acquirements: still, he has
no right to appropriate what is mine, and make it ridiculous to me with
his vile mistakes and mispronunciations! Those books, both prose and
verse, are consecrated to me by other associations; and I hate to have
them debased and profaned in his mouth! Besides, of all, he has selected
my favourite pieces that I love the most to repeat, as if out of
Hareton's chest heaved in silence a minute: he laboured under a severe
sense of mortification and wrath, which it was no easy task to suppress.
I rose, and, from a gentlemanly idea of relieving his embarrassment, took
up my station in the doorway, surveying the external prospect as I stood.
He followed my example, and left the room; but presently reappeared,
bearing half a dozen volumes in his hands, which he threw into
Catherine's lap, exclaiming,--'Take them! I never want to hear, or read,
or think of them again!'
'I won't have them now,' she answered. 'I shall connect them with you,
and hate them.'
She opened one that had obviously been often turned over, and read a
portion in the drawling tone of a beginner; then laughed, and threw it
from her. 'And listen,' she continued, provokingly, commencing a verse
of an old ballad in the same fashion.
But his self-love would endure no further torment: I heard, and not
altogether disapprovingly, a manual cheek given to her saucy tongue. The
little wretch had done her utmost to hurt her cousin's sensitive though
uncultivated feelings, and a physical argument was the only mode he had
of balancing the account, and repaying its effects on the inflictor. He
afterwards gathered the books and hurled them on the fire. I read in his
countenance what anguish it was to offer that sacrifice to spleen. I
fancied that as they consumed, he recalled the pleasure they had already
imparted, and the triumph and ever-increasing pleasure he had anticipated
from them; and I fancied I guessed the incitement to his secret studies
also. He had been content with daily labour and rough animal enjoyments,
till Catherine crossed his path. Shame at her scorn, and hope of her
approval, were his first prompters to higher pursuits; and instead of
guarding him from one and winning him to the other, his endeavours to
raise himself had produced just the contrary result.
'Yes that's all the good that such a brute as you can get from them!'
cried Catherine, sucking her damaged lip, and watching the conflagration
with indignant eyes.
'You'd _better_ hold your tongue, now,' he answered fiercely.
And his agitation precluded further speech; he advanced hastily to the
entrance, where I made way for him to pass. But ere he had crossed the
door-stones, Mr. Heathcliff, coming up the causeway, encountered him, and
laying hold of his shoulder asked,--'What's to do now, my lad?'
'Naught, naught,' he said, and broke away to enjoy his grief and anger in
Heathcliff gazed after him, and sighed.
'It will be odd if I thwart myself,' he muttered, unconscious that I was
behind him. 'But when I look for his father in his face, I find _her_
every day more! How the devil is he so like? I can hardly bear to see
He bent his eyes to the ground, and walked moodily in. There was a
restless, anxious expression in his countenance. I had never remarked
there before; and he looked sparer in person. His daughter-in-law, on
perceiving him through the window, immediately escaped to the kitchen, so
that I remained alone.
'I'm glad to see you out of doors again, Mr. Lockwood,' he said, in reply
to my greeting; 'from selfish motives partly: I don't think I could
readily supply your loss in this desolation. I've wondered more than
once what brought you here.'
'An idle whim, I fear, sir,' was my answer; 'or else an idle whim is
going to spirit me away. I shall set out for London next week; and I
must give you warning that I feel no disposition to retain Thrushcross
Grange beyond the twelve months I agreed to rent it. I believe I shall
not live there any more.'
'Oh, indeed; you're tired of being banished from the world, are you?' he
said. 'But if you be coming to plead off paying for a place you won't
occupy, your journey is useless: I never relent in exacting my due from
'I'm coming to plead off nothing about it,' I exclaimed, considerably
irritated. 'Should you wish it, I'll settle with you now,' and I drew my
note-book from my pocket.
'No, no,' he replied, coolly; 'you'll leave sufficient behind to cover
your debts, if you fail to return: I'm not in such a hurry. Sit down and
take your dinner with us; a guest that is safe from repeating his visit
can generally be made welcome. Catherine bring the things in: where are
Catherine reappeared, bearing a tray of knives and forks.
'You may get your dinner with Joseph,' muttered Heathcliff, aside, 'and
remain in the kitchen till he is gone.'
She obeyed his directions very punctually: perhaps she had no temptation
to transgress. Living among clowns and misanthropists, she probably
cannot appreciate a better class of people when she meets them.
With Mr. Heathcliff, grim and saturnine, on the one hand, and Hareton,
absolutely dumb, on the other, I made a somewhat cheerless meal, and bade
adieu early. I would have departed by the back way, to get a last
glimpse of Catherine and annoy old Joseph; but Hareton received orders to
lead up my horse, and my host himself escorted me to the door, so I could
not fulfil my wish.
'How dreary life gets over in that house!' I reflected, while riding down
the road. 'What a realisation of something more romantic than a fairy
tale it would have been for Mrs. Linton Heathcliff, had she and I struck
up an attachment, as her good nurse desired, and migrated together into
the stirring atmosphere of the town!'