Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights: Ch. 4

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Chapter IV

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.’

‘Indeed.’

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?’

‘Yes.’

‘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?’

‘It was.’

‘And who is that Earnshaw: Hareton Earnshaw, who lives with Mr. Heathcliff?  Are they relations?’