What vain weathercocks we are! I, who had determined to hold myself independent of all social intercourse, and thanked my stars that, at length, I had lighted on a spot where it was next to impracticable—I, weak wretch, after maintaining till dusk a struggle with low spirits and solitude, was finally compelled to strike my colours; and under pretence of gaining information concerning the necessities of my establishment, I desired Mrs. Dean, when she brought in supper, to sit down while I ate it; hoping sincerely she would prove a regular gossip, and either rouse me to animation or lull me to sleep by her talk.
‘You have lived here a considerable time,’ I commenced; ‘did you not say sixteen years?’
‘Eighteen, sir: I came when the mistress was married, to wait on her; after she died, the master retained me for his housekeeper.’
There ensued a pause. She was not a gossip, I feared; unless about her own affairs, and those could hardly interest me. However, having studied for an interval, with a fist on either knee, and a cloud of meditation over her ruddy countenance, she ejaculated—‘Ah, times are greatly changed since then!’
‘Yes,’ I remarked, ‘you’ve seen a good many alterations, I suppose?’
‘I have: and troubles too,’ she said.
‘Oh, I’ll turn the talk on my landlord’s family!’ I thought to myself. ‘A good subject to start! And that pretty girl-widow, I should like to know her history: whether she be a native of the country, or, as is more probable, an exotic that the surly indigenae will not recognise for kin.’ With this intention I asked Mrs. Dean why Heathcliff let Thrushcross Grange, and preferred living in a situation and residence so much inferior. ‘Is he not rich enough to keep the estate in good order?’ I inquired.
‘Rich, sir!’ she returned. ‘He has nobody knows what money, and every year it increases. Yes, yes, he’s rich enough to live in a finer house than this: but he’s very near—close-handed; and, if he had meant to flit to Thrushcross Grange, as soon as he heard of a good tenant he could not have borne to miss the chance of getting a few hundreds more. It is strange people should be so greedy, when they are alone in the world!’
‘He had a son, it seems?’
‘Yes, he had one—he is dead.’
‘And that young lady, Mrs. Heathcliff, is his widow?’
‘Where did she come from originally?’
‘Why, sir, she is my late master’s daughter: Catherine Linton was her maiden name. I nursed her, poor thing! I did wish Mr. Heathcliff would remove here, and then we might have been together again.’
‘What! Catherine Linton?’ I exclaimed, astonished. But a minute’s reflection convinced me it was not my ghostly Catherine. Then,’ I continued, ‘my predecessor’s name was Linton?’
‘And who is that Earnshaw: Hareton Earnshaw, who lives with Mr. Heathcliff? Are they relations?’