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第3节 第二十七章 【
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第二十七章

七天很快地过去了,埃德加·林惇的病情每一天都在急剧发展。前几个月已经使他垮下来,如今更是一小时一小时地在恶化。我们还想瞒住凯瑟琳;但她的机灵可是骗不过她自己;她暗自揣度着,深思着那可怕的可能性,而那可能性已渐渐地成熟为必然性了。当星期四又来了的时候,她没有心情提起她骑马的事,我向她提起,并且得到了允许陪她到户外去:因为图书室(她父亲每天只能待一会,他只能坐极短的时间)和他的卧房,已经变成他的全部世界了。她愿意每时每刻都俯身在他枕旁,或是坐在他身旁。她的脸由于守护和悲哀变得苍白了,我主人希望她走开,他以为这样会使她快乐地改换一下环境和同伴,在他死后她就不至于孤苦伶仃了,他用这希望来安慰自己。

他有一个执着的想法,这是我从他好几次谈话中猜到的,就是,他的外甥既然长得像他,他的心地一定也像他,因为林惇的信很少或根本没有表示过他的缺陷。而我,由于可以原谅的软弱,克制着自己不去纠正这个错误,我自问:在他生命的最后时刻,对这种消息他既无力也无机会来扭转,反而使他心烦意乱,那让他知道又有什么好处呢。

我们把我们的出游延迟到下午;八月里一个难得的美好的下午:山上吹来的每一股气息都是如此洋溢着生命,仿佛无论谁吸进了它,即使是气息奄奄的人,也会复活起来。凯瑟琳的脸恰像那风景一样——阴影与阳光交替着飞掠而过;但阴影停留的时间长些,阳光则比较短暂,她那颗可怜的小小的心甚至为了偶然忘记忧虑还责备着自己呢。

我们看见林惇还在他上次选择的地方守着。我的小女主人下了马,告诉我,她决定只待一会工夫,我最好就骑在马上牵着她的小马,但我不同意:我不能冒险有一分钟看不见我的被监护者;所以我们一同爬下草地的斜坡。希刺克厉夫少爷这一次带着较大的兴奋接待我们:然而不是兴高采烈的兴奋,也不是欢乐的兴奋;倒更像是害怕。

“来晚了!”他说,说得短促吃力。“你父亲不是病得很重吧?我以为你不来了呢。”

“为什么你不坦白直说呢?”凯瑟琳叫着,把她的问好吞下去没说。“为什么你不能直截了当地说你不需要我呢?真特别,林惇,第二次你硬要我到这儿来,显然只是让我们彼此受罪,此外毫无理由!”

林惇颤栗着,半是乞求,半是羞愧地瞅她一眼;但是他的表姐没有这份耐心忍受这种暧昧的态度。

“我父亲是病得很重,”她说,“为什么要叫我离开他的床边呢?你既然愿意我不守诺言,为什么不派人送信叫我免了算啦?来!我要一个解释:我完全没有游戏瞎聊的心思:现在我也不能再给你的装腔作势凑趣了!”

“我的装腔作势!”他喃喃着,“那是什么呢?看在上帝面上,凯瑟琳,别这么生气!随你怎么看不起我好了;我是个没出息的怯弱的可怜虫:嘲笑我是嘲笑不够的,但是我太不配让你生气啦。恨我父亲吧,就蔑视我吧。“

“无聊!”凯瑟琳激动得大叫。“糊涂的傻瓜,瞧呀,他在哆嗦,好像我真要碰他似的!你用不着要求蔑视,林惇:你随时都可以叫任何人自然而然地瞧不起你。滚开!我要回家了:简直是滑稽,把你从壁炉边拖出来,装作——我们要装作什么呢?放掉我的衣服!如果我为了你的哭和你这非常害怕的神气来怜悯你,你也应该拒绝这怜悯。艾伦,告诉他这种行为多不体面。起来,可别把你自己贬成一个下贱的爬虫——可别!”

林惇泪下如注,带着一种痛苦的表情,将他那软弱无力的身子扑在地上:他仿佛由于一种剧烈的恐怖而惊恐万状。

“啊,”他抽泣着,“我受不了啦!凯瑟琳,凯瑟琳,而且我还是一个背信弃义的人,我不敢告诉你!可你要是离开我,我就要给杀死啦!亲爱的凯瑟琳,我的命在你手里:你说过你爱我的,你要是真爱,也不会对你不利的。那你不要走吧?仁慈的,甜蜜的好凯瑟琳!也许你会答应的——他要我死也要跟你在一起啊!”

我的小姐,眼看他苦痛很深,弯腰去扶他。旧有的宽容的温情压倒她的烦恼,她完全被感动而且吓住了。

“答应什么!”她问,“答应留下来吗?告诉我你这一番奇怪的话的意思,我就留下来。你自相矛盾,而且把我也搞糊涂了!镇静下来坦率些,立刻说出来你心上所有的重担。你不会伤害我的,林惇,你会吗?要是你能制止的话,你不会让任何敌人伤害我吧!我可以相信你自己是一个胆小的人,可总不会是一个怯懦地出卖你的最好的朋友的人吧。”

“可是我的父亲吓唬我,”那孩子喘着气,握紧他的瘦手指头,“我怕他——我怕他!我不敢说呀!”

“啊!好吧!”凯瑟琳说,带着讥讽的怜悯,“保守你的秘密吧,我可不是懦夫。拯救你自己吧;我可不怕!”

她的宽宏大量惹起他的眼泪;他发狂地哭着,吻她那扶着他的手,却还不能鼓起勇气说出来。我正在思考这个秘密将是什么,我都决定了绝不让凯瑟琳为了使他或任何别人受益而自己受罪,这是本着我的好心好意;这时我听见了在石楠林中一阵簌簌的响声,我抬起头来看,看见希刺克厉夫正在走下山庄,快要走近我们了。他瞅都不瞅我所陪着的这两个人,虽然他们离得很近,近得足以使他听见林惇的哭泣;但是他装出那种几乎是诚恳的声音,不对别人,只对我招呼着,那种诚恳使我不能不怀疑,他说:

“看到你们离我家这么近是一种安慰哩,耐莉。你们在田庄过得好吗?说给我们听听。”他放低了声音又说,“传说埃德加·林惇垂危了,或者他们把他的病情夸大了吧?”

“不,我的主人是快死了,”我回答,“是真的。这对于我们所有的人是件悲哀事情,对于他倒是福气哩!”

“他还能拖多久,你以为?”他问。

“我不知道,”我说。

“因为,”他接着说,望着那两个年轻人,他们在他的注意下都呆着了——林惇仿佛是不敢动弹,也不敢抬头,凯瑟琳为了他的缘故,也不能动——“因为那边那个孩子好像决定要使我为难;我巴不得他的舅舅快一点,在他之前死去!喂;这小畜生一直在玩把戏吗?对于他的鼻涕眼泪的把戏,我是已经给过他一点教训了。他跟林惇小姐在一起时,总还活泼吧?”

“活泼?不——他表现出极大的痛苦哩,”我回答。“瞧着他,我得说,他不该陪他的心上人在山上闲逛,他应该在医生照料下,躺在床上。”

“一两天,他就要躺下来啦,”希刺克厉夫咕噜着。“可是先要——起来,林惇!起来!”他吆喝着。“不要在那边地上趴着:起来,立刻起来!”

林惇又在一阵无能为力的恐惧中伏在地上,我想这是由于他父亲瞅了他一眼的缘故:没有别的可以产生这种屈辱。他好几次努力想服从,可是他的仅有的可怜体力暂时是消失了,他呻吟了一声又倒下去。希刺克厉夫走向前,把他提起来,靠在一个隆起的草堆上。

“现在,”他带着压制住的凶狠说,“我要生气了;如果你不能振作你那点元气——你这该死的!马上起来!”

“我就起来,父亲,”他喘息着。“只是,别管我,要不我要晕倒啦。我保证我已经照你的愿望作了。凯瑟琳会告诉你,我——我——本来很开心的。啊,在我这儿待着,凯瑟琳,把你的手给我。”

“拉住我的手,”他父亲说,“站起来。好了——她会把她的胳臂伸给你,那就对啦,望着她吧。林惇小姐,你会想象我就是激起这种恐怖的恶魔本身吧,做做好事,请陪他回家吧,可以吗?我一碰他,他就发抖。”

“林惇,亲爱的!”凯瑟琳低声说,“我不能去呼啸山庄……爸爸禁止我去……他不会伤害你的。你干吗这么害怕呢?”

“我永远不能再进那个房子啦,”他回答。“我不和你一块进去,就不能再进去啦!”

“住口!”他的父亲喊。“凯瑟琳由于出于孝心而有所顾虑,这我们应当尊重。耐莉,把他带进去吧,我要听从你的关于请医生的劝告,决不耽搁了。”

“那你可以带他去啊,”我回答。“可是我必须跟我的小姐在一起;照料你的儿子不是我的事。”

“你是很顽固的,”希刺克厉夫说:“我知道的:但这是你在逼我把这婴儿掐痛,让他尖声大叫,不让他打动了你的慈悲心。那么,来吧,我的英雄。你愿意回去吗,由我来护送?”

他再次走近,作出像要抓住那个脆弱的东西的样子;但是林惇向后缩着,粘住他的表姐不放,现出一种疯狂的死乞白赖的神气,简直不容人拒绝。无论我怎样不赞成,我却不能阻止她:实在,她自己又怎么能拒绝他呢?是什么东西使他充满了恐惧,我们没法看出来,但是他就在那儿,无力地在他掌握中,仿佛再加上任何一点威吓,就能把他吓成白痴。我们到达了门口:凯瑟琳走进去,我站在那儿等着她把病人引到椅子上,希望她马上就出来;这时希刺克厉夫先生,把我向前一推,叫道:“我的房子并没有遭瘟疫,耐莉;今天我还想款待客人哩;坐下来,让我去关门。”

他关上门,又锁上。我大吃一惊。

“在你们回家以前可以喝点茶,”他又说。“只有我自己一个人。哈里顿到里斯河边放牛去了,齐拉和约瑟夫出去玩了;虽然我习惯于一个人,我还情愿有几个有趣的同伴,要是我能得到的话。林惇小姐,坐在他旁边吧。我把我所有的送给你:这份礼物简直是不值得接受的;但是我没有别的可以献出来啦。我意思是指林惇。你瞪眼干吗!真古怪,对于任何像是怕我的东西,我就会起一种多么野蛮的感觉!如果我生在法律不怎么严格,风尚比较不大文雅的地方,我一定要把这两位来个慢慢的活体解剖,作为晚上的娱乐。”

他倒吸一口气,捶着桌子,对着自己诅咒着:“我可以对着地狱起誓,我恨他们。”

“我不怕你!”凯瑟琳大叫,她受不了他所说的后半段话。她走近他;她的黑眼睛闪烁着激情与决心。“把钥匙给我:我要!”她说。“我就是饿死,我也不会在这里吃喝。”

希刺克厉夫把摆在桌子上的钥匙拿在手里。他抬头看,她的勇敢反倒使他感到惊奇;或者,可能从她的声音和眼光使他想起把这些继承给她的那个人。她抓住钥匙,几乎从他那松开的手指中夺出来了,但是她的动作使他回到了现实;他很快地恢复过来。

“现在,凯瑟琳·林惇,”他说,“站开,不然我就把你打倒;那会使丁太太发疯的。”

不顾这个警告,她又抓住他那握紧的拳头和拳头里的东西。“我们一定要走!”她重复说,使出她最大的力量想让这钢铁般的肌肉松开;发现她的指甲没有效果,她便用她的牙齿使劲咬。希刺克厉夫望了我一眼,这一眼使我一下子不能干预。凯瑟琳太注意他的手指以至于忽视了他的脸了。他忽然张开手指,抛弃这引起争执的东西;但是,在她还没有拿到以前,他用这松开的手抓住她,把她拉到他面前跪下来,用另一只手对着她的头脸一阵暴雨似的狠打,要是她能够倒下来的话,只消打一下就足够达到他威胁的目的了。

看到这穷凶极恶的狂暴,我愤怒地冲到他跟前。“你这坏蛋!”我开始大叫,“你这坏蛋!”他当胸一拳使我住嘴了:我很胖,一下子就喘不过气来:加上那一击和愤怒,我昏沉沉地蹒跚倒退,觉得就要闷死,或者血管爆裂。

这一场大闹两分钟就完了;凯瑟琳被放开了,两只手放在她的鬓骨上,神气正像是她还不能准确知道她的耳朵还在上面没有。她像一根芦苇似地哆嗦着,可怜的东西,完全惊慌失措地靠在桌边。

“你瞧,我知道怎么惩罚孩子们,”这个无赖汉凶恶地说,这时他弯腰去拾掉在地板上的钥匙,“现在,按照我告诉过你的,到林惇那儿;哭个痛快吧!我将是你父亲了,明天——一两天之内你就将只有这一个父亲了——你还有的是罪要受呢。你能受得住,你不是个草包,如果我再在你眼睛里瞅见这样一种鬼神气,你就要每天尝一次!”

凯蒂没有到林惇那边去,却跑到我跟前,跪下来,将她滚烫的脸靠着我的膝,大声地哭起来。她的表弟缩到躺椅的一角,静得像个耗子,我敢说他是在私下庆贺这场惩罚降在别人头上而不是在他头上。希刺克厉夫看我们都吓呆了,就站起来,很利索地自己去沏茶。茶杯和碟子都摆好了。他倒了茶,给我一杯。

“把你的脾气冲洗掉,”他说。“帮帮忙,给你自己的淘气宝贝和我自己的孩子,倒杯茶吧。虽然是我预备的,可没有下毒。我要出去找你们的马去。”

他一走开,我们头一个念头就是在什么地方打出一条出路。我们试试厨房的门,但那是在外面闩起的:我们望望窗子——它们都太窄了,甚至凯蒂的小个儿也钻不过。

“林惇少爷,”我叫着,眼看我们是正式被监禁了,“你知道你的凶恶的父亲想作什么,你要告诉我们,不然我就打你的耳光,就像他打你的表姐一样。”

“是的,林惇,你一定得告诉我们,”凯瑟琳说。“为了你的缘故,我才来;如果你不肯的话,那太忘恩负义了。”

“给我点茶,我渴啦,然后我就告诉你,”他回答。“丁太太,走开,我不喜欢你站在我跟前。瞧,凯瑟琳,你把你的眼泪掉在我的茶杯里了,我不喝那杯,再给我倒一杯。”

凯瑟琳把另一杯推给他,揩揩他的脸。我对于这个小可怜虫的坦然态度极感厌恶,他已不再为他自己恐怖了。他一走进呼啸山庄,他在旷野上所表现的痛苦就全消失;所以我猜想他一定是受了一场暴怒的惩罚的威胁,要是他不能把我们诱到那里的话;那事既已成功,他眼下就没有什么恐惧了。

“爸爸要我们结婚,”他啜了一点茶后,接着说。“他知道你爸爸不会准我们现在结婚的;如果我们等着,他又怕我死掉,所以我们早上就结婚,你得在这儿住一夜,如果你照他所愿望的作了,第二天你就可以回家,还带我跟你一起去。”

“带你跟她一起去,可怜的三心二意的人!”我叫起来。

“你结婚?那么这个人是疯了!要不就是他以为我们是傻子,大家都是。你以为那个美丽的小姐,那个健康热诚的姑娘会把她自己拴在一个像你这样快死的小猴子身边吗?就不说林惇小姐吧,你居然妄想任何人会要你作丈夫么?你用你那怯懦的哭哭啼啼的把戏骗我们到这儿来,你简直该挨鞭子抽;而且——现在,别现出这样呆相啦!我倒想狠狠地摇撼你,就因为你的可鄙的奸诈,和你那低能的奇想。”

我真的轻轻摇撼了他一下,但是这就引起了咳嗽,他又来呻吟和哭泣那老一套,凯瑟琳责备了我。

“住一夜?不!”她说,慢慢地望望四周。“艾伦,我要烧掉那个门,我反正要出去。”

她马上就要开始实行她的威胁,但是林惇又为了他所珍爱的自身而惊慌了。他用他的两个瘦胳臂抱住她,抽泣着:

“你不愿意要我,救我了吗?不让我去田庄了吗?啊,亲爱的凯瑟琳!你千万别走开,别甩下我。你一定要服从我父亲,你一定要啊!”

“我必须服从我自己的父亲,”她回答,“要让他摆脱这个残酷的悬念。一整夜!他会怎么想呢?他已经要难受了。我一定要打一条路出去,或是绕一条路出去。别响!你没有危险——可要是你妨碍我——林惇,我爱爸爸胜过爱你!”

对希刺克厉夫先生的愤怒所感到的致命的恐怖使他又恢复了他那懦夫的辩才。凯瑟琳几乎是精神错乱了:但她仍然坚持着一定要回家,而且这回轮到她来恳求了,劝他克制他那自私的苦恼。

他们正在这样纠缠不清,我们的狱卒又进来了。

“你们的马都走掉了,”他说,“而且——嘿,林惇!又哭哭啼啼啦?她对你怎么啦?来,来——算啦,上床去吧。一两月之内,我的孩子,你就能够用一只强有力的手来报复她现在的暴虐了。你是为纯洁的爱情而憔悴的,不是吗?不是为世上别的东西:她会要你的!那么,上床去吧!今晚齐拉不会在这儿;你得自己脱衣服。嘘!别作声啦!你一进你自己的屋子,我也不会走近你了,你也用不着害怕啦。凑巧,你这回总算办得不错。其余的事我来办好了。”

他说了这些话,就开开门让他儿子走过去,后者出去的神气正像一只摇尾乞怜的小狗,唯恐那开门的人打算恶意挤他一下似的。门又锁上了。希刺克厉夫走近火炉前,我的女主人和我都默默地站在那里。凯瑟琳抬头望望,本能地将她的手举起放到她脸上:有他在邻近,疼痛的感觉又复苏了。任何别人都不能够以严厉来对待这孩子气的举动,可是他对她皱眉而且咕噜着:

“啊!你不怕我?你的勇敢装得不坏:不过你仿佛害怕得很呢!”

“现在我是怕了,”她回答,“因为,要是我待在这里,爸爸会难过的:让他难过我又怎么受得了呢——在他——在他——希刺克厉夫先生,让我回家吧!我答应嫁给林惇:爸爸会愿意我嫁给他的,而且我爱他。你干吗愿意强迫我作我自己本来愿意作的事呢?”

“看他怎么敢强迫你!”我叫。“国有国法,感谢上帝!有法律;虽然我们住在一个偏僻的地方。即使他是我自己的儿子,我也要告他;这是即使是连牧师也不能宽赦的重罪!”

“住口!”那恶徒说。“你嚷嚷个鬼!我不要你说话。林惇小姐,我想到你父亲会难过,我非常开心;我将满意得睡不着觉。你告诉我会出这样的事,那正是再好没有的理由让你非在我家里呆二十四个钟头不可了。至于你答应嫁给林惇,我会叫你守信用的;因为你不照办,就休想离开这儿。”

“那么叫艾伦去让爸爸知道我平安吧!”凯瑟琳叫着,苦苦地哀哭着。“或者现在就娶我。可怜的爸爸,艾伦,他会认为我们走失了。我们怎么办呢?”

“他才不会!他会以为你侍候他烦了,就跑开玩一下去啦,”希刺克厉夫回答。你不能否认你是违背了他的禁令,自动走进我的房子来的。在你这样的年纪,你热望一些娱乐也是相当自然的;自然,看护一个病人,而那个病人只不过是你父亲,你也会厌倦的。凯瑟琳,当你的生命开始的时候,他的最快乐的日子就结束了。我敢说,他诅咒你,因为你走进这个世界(至少,我诅咒);如果在他走出世界时也诅咒你,那正好。我愿和他一起诅咒。我不爱你!我怎么能呢?哭去吧。据我所料,哭将成为你今后的主要消遣了:除非林惇弥补了其他的损失:你那有远虑的家长仿佛幻想他可以弥补。他的劝告和安慰的信使我大大开心。在他最后一封上,他劝我的宝贝要关心他的宝贝;而且当他得到她时,要对她温和。关心同温和——那是父亲的慈爱。但是林惇却要把他整个的关心同温和用在自己身上哩。林惇很能扮演小暴君。他会折磨死随便多少猫,只要把它们的牙齿拔掉了,爪子削掉了。我向你担保,等你再回家的时候,你就能够编造一些关于他的温和的种种美妙故事告诉他舅舅了。”

“你说得对!”我说,“你儿子的性格你解释得对。显出了他和你本人的相像处,那么,我想,凯蒂小姐在她接受这毒蛇之前可要三思啦!”

“现在我才不大在乎说说他那可爱的品质哩,”他回答,“因为要么她必得接受他,要么就做一个囚犯,而且还有你陪着,直到你的主人死去。我能把你们都留下来,相当严密的,就在此地。如果你怀疑,鼓励她撤回她的话,你就可以有个判断的机会了!”

“我不要撤回我的话,”凯瑟琳说。“如果我结完婚可以去画眉田庄,我要在这个钟头之内就跟他结婚,希刺克厉夫先生,你是一个残忍的人,可你不是一个恶魔;你不会仅仅出于恶意,就不可挽回地毁掉我所有的幸福吧。如果爸爸以为我是故意离开他的,如果在我回去之前他死了,我怎么活得下去呢?我不再哭了:可我要跪在这儿,跪在你跟前;我不要起来,我的眼睛也要看着你的脸,直等到你也回头看我一眼!不,别转过去!看吧!你不会看见什么惹你生气的。我不恨你。你打我我也不气。姑父,你一生从来没有爱过任何人吗?从来没有吗?啊!你一定要看我一下。我是这么惨啊,你不能不难过,不能不怜悯我呀。”

“拿开你那蜥蜴般的手指;走开,不然我要踢你了!”希刺克厉夫大叫,野蛮地推开她。“我宁可被一条蛇缠紧。你怎么能梦想来谄媚我?我恨极了你!”

他耸耸肩:他自己真的哆嗦了一下,好像他憎恶得不寒而栗;并且把他的椅子向后推;这时我站起来,张开口,要来一顿大骂。但是我第一句才说了一半就被一条威吓堵回去了。他说我再说一个字就把我一个人关到一间屋里去。天快黑了——我们听到花园门口有人声。我们的主人立刻赶出去了:他还有他的机智,我们可没有了。经过两三分钟的谈话,他又一个人回来了。

“我以为是你的表哥哈里顿,”我对凯瑟琳说。“我但愿他来!他也许站在我们这边,谁知道呢?”

“是从田庄派来的三个仆人找你们的,”希刺克厉夫说,听见了我的话。“你本来应该开扇窗子向外喊叫的:但是我可以发誓那个小丫头心里挺高兴你没有叫,她高兴被留下来,我肯定。”

我们知道失掉了机会,就控制不住发泄我们的悲哀了;他就让我们哭到九点钟。然后他叫我们上楼,穿过厨房,到齐拉的卧房里去:我低声叫我的同伴服从:或者我们可以设法从那边窗子出去,或者到一间阁楼里,从天窗出去呢。但是,窗子像楼下一样的窄,而阁楼也无从到达,因为我们和以前一样被锁在里面了。我们都没有躺下来:凯瑟琳就在窗前呆着,焦急地守候着早晨到来;我不断地劝她休息一下,我所能得到的唯一的回答就是一声深沉的叹息。我自己坐在一张摇椅上,摇来摇去,心里严厉地斥责我许多次的失职;我当时想到我的主人们的所有不幸都是由这些而来。我现在明白,实际上不是这回事;但是在那个凄惨的夜里,在我的想象中,确是如此;我还以为希刺克厉夫比我的罪过还轻些。

七点钟他来了,问林惇小姐起来没有。她马上跑到门口,回答着,“起来了。”“那么,到这儿来,”他说,开开门,把她拉出去。我站起来跟着,可是他又锁上了。我要求放我。

“忍耐吧,”他回答,“我一会就派人把你的早点送来。”

我捶着门板,愤怒地摇着门闩;凯瑟琳问干么还要关我?他回说,我还得再忍一个钟头,他们走了。我忍了两三个钟头;最后,我听见脚步声:不是希刺克厉夫的。

“我给你送吃的来了,”一个声音说,“开门!”

我热心地服从,看见了哈里顿,带着够我吃一整天的食物。

“拿去,”他又说,把盘子塞到我手里。

“等一分钟,”我开始说。

“不,”他叫,退出去了,我为了要留住他而苦苦哀求他,他却不理。

我就在那里被关了一整天,又一整夜;又一天,又一夜。我一共待了五夜四天,看不见人,除了每天早上看见哈里顿一次;而他是一个狱卒的典型:乖戾,不吭一声,对于打动他的正义感或同情心的各种企图完全装聋。

 


Chapter 27

Seven days glided away, every one marking its course by the henceforth rapid alteration of Edgar Linton's state. The havoc that months had previously wrought was now emulated by the inroads of hours. Catherine, we would fain have deluded yet: but her own quick spirit refused to delude her: it divined in secret, and brooded on the dreadful probability, gradually ripening into certainty. She had not the heart to mention her ride, when Thursday came round; I mentioned it for her, and obtained permission to order her out of doors: for the library, where her father stopped a short time daily--the brief period he could bear to sit up--and his chamber, had become her whole world. 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, and my master gladly dismissed her to what he flattered himself would be a happy change of scene and society; drawing comfort from the hope that she would not now be left entirely alone after his death.

He had a fixed idea, I guessed by several observations he let fall, that, as his nephew resembled him in person, he would resemble him in mind; for Linton's letters bore few or no indications of his defective character. And I, through pardonable weakness, refrained from correcting the error; asking myself what good there would be in disturbing his last moments with information 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 respired it, though dying, might revive. Catherine's face was just like the landscape--shadows and sunshine flitting over it in rapid succession; but the shadows rested longer, and the sunshine was more transient; and her poor little heart reproached itself for even that passing forgetfulness of its cares.

We discerned Linton watching at the same spot he had selected before. My young mistress alighted, and told me that, as she was resolved to stay a very little while, I had better hold the pony and remain on horseback; but I dissented: I wouldn't risk losing sight of the charge committed to me a minute; so we climbed the slope of heath together. Master Heathcliff received us with greater 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 father very ill? I thought you wouldn't come.'

`Why won't you be candid?' cried Catherine, swallowing her greeting. `Why cannot you say at once you don't want me? It is strange, Linton, that for the second time you have brought me here on purpose, apparently, to distress us both, and for no reason besides!'

Linton shivered, and glanced at her, half supplicating, half ashamed; but his cousin'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? Why didn't you send to absolve me from my promise, when'' you wished I wouldn't keep it? Come! I desire an explanation: playing and trifling are completely banished out of my mind; and I can't dance attendance on your affectations now!'

`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! he trembles, as if I were really going to touch him! You needn't bespeak contempt, Linton: anybody will have it spontaneously at your service. Get off! I shall return home: it is folly dragging you from the hearthstone, and pretending--what do we pretend? Let go my frock! If I pitied you for crying and looking so very frightened, you should spurn such pity. Ellen, tell him how disgraceful this conduct is. Rise, and don't degrade yourself into an abject reptile--don't!'

With streaming face and an expression of agony, Linton had thrown his nerveless 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, it wouldn't harm you. You'll not go, then? kind, sweet, good Catherine! And perhaps you will consent--and he'll let me die with you!'

My young lady, on witnessing his intense anguish, stooped to raise him. The old feeling of indulgent tenderness overcame her vexation, and she grew thoroughly moved and alarmed.

`Consent to what?' she asked. `To stay? Tell me the meaning of this strange talk, and I will. You contradict your own words, and distract me! Be calm and frank, and confess at once all that weighs on your heart. You wouldn't injure me, Linton, would you? You wouldn't let any enemy hurt me, if you could prevent it? I'll believe you are a coward for yourself, but not a cowardly betrayer of your best friend.'

`But my father threatened me,' gasped the boy, clasping his attenuated fingers, `and I dread him--I dread him! I dare not tell!'

`Oh, well!' said Catherine, with scornful compassion, `keep your secret: I'm no coward. Save yourself; I'm not afraid!'

Her magnanimity provoked his tears: he wept wildly, kissing her supporting hands, and yet could not summon courage to speak out. I was cogitating what the mystery might be, and determined Catherine should never suffer, to benefit him or anyone else, by my goodwill; when hearing a rustle among the ling, I looked up and saw Mr Heathcliff almost close upon us, descending the Heights. He didn't cast a glance towards my companions, though they were sufficiently near for Linton's sobs to be audible; but hailing me in the almost hearty tone he assumed to none besides, and the sincerity of which I couldn't avoid doubting, he said:

`It is something to see you so near"to my house, Nelly. How are you at the Grange? Let us hear. The rumour goes', he added in a lower tone, `that Edgar Linton is on his deathbed: perhaps they exaggerate his illness!'

`No; my master is dying,' I replied: `it is true enough. A sad thing it will be 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 under his eye--Linton appeared as if he could not venture to stir or raise his head, and Catherine could not move, on his account--`because that lad yonder seems determined to beat me; and I'd thank his uncle to be quick, and go before him. Hallo! has the whelp been playing that game long? I did give him some lessons about snivelling. Is he pretty lively with Miss Linton generally?'

`Lively? no--he has shown the greatest distress,' I answered. `To see him, I should say, that instead of rambling with his sweetheart on the hills, he ought 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, this moment!'

Linton had sunk prostrate again in another paroxysm of helpless fear, caused by his father's glance towards him, I suppose: there was nothing else to produce such humiliation. He made several efforts to obey, but his little strength 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't command 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 done as you wished, I'm sure. Catherine will tell you that I--that I--have been cheerful. Ah! keep by me, Catherine: give me your hand.'

`Take mine,' said his father; `stand on your feet. There now--she'll lend you her 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, will you? He shudders if I touch him.'

`Linton, dear!' whispered Catherine, `I can't go to Wuthering Heights: papa has forbidden 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 it without 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, without delay.'

`You'll do well,' replied I. `But I must remain with my mistress: to mind your son is not my business.'

`You are very stiff,' said Heathcliff, `I know that: but you'll force me to pinch the baby and make it scream before it moves your charity. Come, then, my hero. 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, I couldn't hinder her: indeed, how could she have refused him herself? What was filling him with dread we had no means of discerning: but there he was, powerless under its grip, and any addition seemed capable of shocking him into idiotcy. We reached the threshold: Catherine walked in, and I stood waiting till she had conducted the invalid to a chair, expecting her out immediately; when Mr Heathcliff, pushing me forward, exclaimed:

`My house is not stricken with the plague, Nelly; and I have a mind to be hospitable today: 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 is gone with some cattle to the Lees, and Zillah and Joseph are off on a journey of pleasure; and, though I'm used to being alone, I'd rather have some interesting company, if I can get it. Miss Linton, take your seat by him. I give you what I have: the present is hardly worth accepting; but I have nothing else to offer. It is Linton, I mean. How she does stare! It's odd what a savage feeling I have to anything that seems afraid of me! Had I been born where laws are less strict and tastes less dainty, I should treat myself,to a slow vivisection of those two, as an evening's amusement.

He drew in his breath, struck the table, and swore to himself, `By hell! I hate them.'

`I'm not afraid of you!' exclaimed Catherine, who could not hear the latter part of his speech. She stepped close up; her black eyes flashing with passion and resolution. `Give me that key: I will have it!' she said. `I wouldn't eat or 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 her voice and glance, of the person from whom she inherited it. She snatched at the 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 contents again. `We will go!' she repeated, exerting her utmost efforts to cause the iron muscles to relax; and finding that her nails made no impression, she applied her teeth pretty sharply. Heathcliff glanced at me a glance that kept me from interfering a moment. Catherine was too intent on his fingers to notice 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 terrific slaps on the side 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 began to cry, `you villain!' A touch on the chest silenced me: I am stout, and soon put out of breath; and, what with that and the rage, I staggered dizzily back, and felt ready to suffocate, or to burst a blood vessel. The scene was over in two minutes; Catherine, released, put her two hands to her temples, and looked just as if she were not sure whether her ears were off or on. She trembled like a reed, poor thing, and leant against the table perfectly bewildered.

`I know how to chastise children, you see,' said the scoundrel grimly, as he stooped to repossess himself of the key, which had dropped to the floor. `Go to Linton now, as I told you; and cry at your ease! I shall be your father, tomorrow--all the father you'll have in a few days--and you shall have plenty of that. You can bear plenty; you're no weakling: you shall have a daily 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 on my lap, weeping aloud. Her cousin had shrunk into a corner of the settle, as quiet as a mouse, congratulating himself, I dare say, that the correction had lighted on another than him. Mr Heathcliff, perceiving us all confounded, rose, and expeditiously made the tea himself. The cups and saucers were laid ready. He poured it out, and handed me a cup.

`Wash away your spleen,' he said. `And help your own naughty pet and mine. It is 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 tried the kitchen door, but that was fastened outside: we looked at the windows--they were too narrow for even Cathy's little figure.

`Master into,' I cried, seeing we were regularly imprisoned: `you know what your 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 are letting 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 the little wretch's composure, since he was no longer in terror for himself. The anguish he had exhibited on the moor subsided as soon as ever he entered Wuthering Heights; so I guessed he had been menaced with an awful visitation of wrath if he failed in decoying us there; and, that accomplished, he had no further 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 dying, if we wait; so we are to be married in the morning, and you are to stay here all night; and if you do as he wishes, you shall return home next day, and take me with you.'

`Take you with her, pitiful changeling?' I exclaimed. `You marry? Why, the man is mad; or he thinks us fools, every one. And do you imagine that beautiful young lady, that healthy, hearty girl, will tie herself to a little perishing monkey like you! Are you cherishing the notion that anybody, let alone Miss Catherine Linton, would have you for a husband? You want whipping for bringing us in here at all, with your dastardly puling tricks; and--don't look so silly, now! I've a very good mind to shake you severely, for your contemptible treachery, and your imbecile conceit.'

I did give him a slight shaking; but it brought on the cough, and he took to his ordinary resource of moaning and weeping, and Catherine rebuked me.

`Stay all night? No,' she said, looking slowly round. `Ellen, I'll burn that door down, but I'll get out.'

And she would have commenced the execution of her threat directly, but Linton was up in alarm for his dear self again. He clasped her in his two feeble arms, sobbing:

`Won't you have me, and save me? not let me come to the Grange? Oh! darling Catherine! you mustn't go and leave me, after all. You must obey my father--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 either break or burn a way out of the house. Be quiet! You're in no danger; but if you hinder me--Linton, I love papa better than you!'

The mortal terror he felt 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, and tried entreaty in her turn, persuading him to subdue his selfish agony. While they were thus occupied, our gaoler 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 a month or two, my lad, you'll be able to pay her back her present tyrannies with a vigorous hand. You're pining for pure love, are you not? nothing else in the world: and she shall have you! There, to bed! Zillah won't be here tonight; you must undress yourself. Hush! hold your noise! Once in your own room, I'll not come near you: you needn't fear. By chance you've managed tolerably. I'll look to the rest.'

He spoke these words, holding the door open for his son to pass; and the latter achieved his exit exactly as a spaniel might, which suspected the person who 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: his neighbourhood revived a painful sensation. Anybody else would have been incapable of regarding the childish act with sternness, but he scowled on her, and 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 do of 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 my own son: and it's felony without benefit of clergy!'

`Silence!' said the ruffian. `To the devil with your clamour! I don't want you to speak. Miss Linton, I shall enjoy myself remarkably in thinking your father will be miserable: I shall not sleep for satisfaction. You could have hit on no surer way of fixing your residence under my roof for the next twenty-four hours, than informing me that such an event would follow. As to your promise to marry Linton, I'll take care you shall keep it; for you shall not quit this place till it is fulfilled.'

`Send Ellen, then, to let papa know I'm safe!' exclaimed Catherine, weeping bitterly. `Or marry me now. Poor papa! Ellen, he'll think we're lost. What shall we do?'

`Not he! He'll think you are tired of waiting on him, and run off for a little amusement,' answered Heathcliff. `You cannot deny that you entered my house of your own accord, in contempt of his injunctions to the contrary. And it is quite natural that you should desire amusement at your age; arid that you would weary of nursing a sick man, and that man only your father. Catherine, his happiest days were over when your days began. He cursed you, I dare say, for coming into the world (I did, at least); and it would just do if he cursed you as 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 Linton make amends for other losses: and your provident parent appears to fancy he may. His letters of advice and consolation entertained me vastly. In his last he 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 of care and kindness for himself. Linton can play the little tyrant well. He'll undertake to torture any number of cats, if their teeth be drawn and their claws pared. You'll be able to tell his uncle fine tales of his kindness, when you get home again, I assure you.'

`You're right there!' I said; `explain your son's character. Show his resemblance to yourself; and then, I hope, Miss Cathy will think twice before she 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 with her, till your master dies. I can detain you both, quite concealed, here. If you doubt, encourage her to retract her word, and you'll have an opportunity of 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 cruel man, but you're not a fiend; and you won't, from mere malice, destroy irrevocably all my happiness. If papa thought I had left him on purpose, and if 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 not take my eyes from your face till you look back at me! No, don't turn away! do look! You'll see nothing to provoke you. I don't hate you. I'm not angry that you 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 and pitying 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 can you dream of fawning on me? I detest you!'

He shrugged his shoulders: shook himself, indeed, as if his flesh crept with aversion; and thrust back his chair; while I got up, and opened my mouth, to commence a downright torrent of abuse. But I was rendered dumb in the middle of the first sentence, by a threat that I should be shown into a room by myself the very next syllable I uttered. It was growing dark--we heard a sound of voices at the garden gate. Our host hurried out instantly: he had his wits about him; we had not. There was a talk of two or three minutes, and he returned alone.

`I thought it had been your cousin Hareton,' I observed to Catherine. `I wish he 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 could swear that chit is glad you didn't. She's glad to be obliged to stay, I'm certain.'

At learning the chance we had missed, we both gave vent to our grief without control; and he allowed us to wail on till nine o'clock. Then he bid us go upstairs, through the kitchen, to Zillah's chamber; and I whispered my companion 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 were fastened in as before. We neither of us lay down: Catherine took her station by the lattice, and watched anxiously for morning; a deep sigh being the only answer I could obtain to my frequent entreaties that she would try to rest. I seated myself in a chair, and rocked to and fro, passing harsh judgment on my many derelictions of duty; from which, it struck me then, all the misfortunes of all my employers sprang. It was not the case, in reality, I am aware; but it was, in my imagination, that dismal night; and I thought Heathcliff himself less guilty than I.

At seven o'clock he came, and inquired if Miss Linton had risen.

She ran to the 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. I demanded 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 why I was still shut up? He answered, I must try to endure it another hour, and they went away. I endured it two or three hours; at length, I heard a footstep: 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 all day.

`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 to detain 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 jailer: surly, and dumb, and deaf to every attempt at moving his sense of justice or compassion.