Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights: Ch. 16

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Chapter XVI

About twelve o’clock that night was born the Catherine you saw at Wuthering Heights: a puny, seven-months’ child; and two hours after the mother died, having never recovered sufficient consciousness to miss Heathcliff, or know Edgar.  The latter’s distraction at his bereavement is a subject too painful to be dwelt on; its after-effects showed how deep the sorrow sunk.  A great addition, in my eyes, was his being left without an heir.  I bemoaned that, as I gazed on the feeble orphan; and I mentally abused old Linton for (what was only natural partiality) the securing his estate to his own daughter, instead of his son’s.d  An unwelcomed infant it was, poor thing!  It might have wailed out of life, and nobody cared a morsel, during those first hours of existence.  We redeemed the neglect afterwards; but its beginning was as friendless as its end is likely to be.

Next morning—bright and cheerful out of doors—stole softened in through the blinds of the silent room, and suffused the couch and its occupant with a mellow, tender glow.  Edgar Linton had his head laid on the pillow, and his eyes shut.  His young and fair features were almost as deathlike as those of the form beside him, and almost as fixed: but his was the hush of exhausted anguish, and hers of perfect peace.  Her brow smooth, her lids closed, her lips wearing the expression of a smile; no angel in heaven could be more beautiful than she appeared.  And I partook of the infinite calm in which she lay: my mind was never in a holier frame than while I gazed on that untroubled image of Divine rest.  I instinctively echoed the words she had uttered a few hours before: ‘Incomparably beyond and above us all!  Whether still on earth or now in heaven, her spirit is at home with God!’d

I don’t know if it be a peculiarity in me, but I am seldom otherwise than happy while watching in the chamber of death, should no frenzied or despairing mourner share the duty with me.  I see a repose that neither earth nor hell can break, and I feel an assurance of the endless and shadowless hereafter—the Eternity they have entered—where life is boundless in its duration, and love in its sympathy, and joy in its fulness.  I noticed on that occasion how much selfishness there is even in a love like Mr. Linton’s, when he so regretted Catherine’s blessed release!  To be sure, one might have doubted, after the wayward and impatient existence she had led, whether she merited a haven of peace at last.  One might doubt in seasons of cold reflection; but not then, in the presence of her corpse.  It asserted its own tranquillity, which seemed a pledge of equal quiet to its former inhabitant.

Do you believe such people are happy in the other world, sir?  I’d give a great deal to know.

I declined answering Mrs. Dean’s question, which struck me as something heterodox.d  She proceeded:

Retracing the course of Catherine Linton, I fear we have no right to think she is; but we’ll leave her with her Maker.

The master looked asleep, and I ventured soon after sunrise to quit the room and steal out to the pure refreshing air.  The servants thought me gone to shake off the drowsiness of my protracted watch; in reality, my chief motive was seeing Mr. Heathcliff.  If he had remained among the larches all night, he would have heard nothing of the stir at the Grange; unless, perhaps, he might catch the gallop of the messenger going to Gimmerton.  If he had come nearer, he would probably be aware, from the lights flitting to and fro, and the opening and shutting of the outer doors, that all was not right within.  I wished, yet feared, to find him.  I felt the terrible news must be told, and I longed to get it over; but how to do it I did not know.d  He was there—at least, a few yards further in the park; leant against an old ash-tree, his hat off, and his hair soaked with the dew that had gathered on the budded branches, and fell pattering round him.  He had been standing a long time in that position, for I saw a pair of ouselsw passing and repassing scarcely three feet from him, busy in building their nest, and regarding his proximity no more than that of a piece of timber.  They flew off at my approach, and he raised his eyes and spoke:—‘She’s dead!’ he said; ‘I’ve not waited for you to learn that.  Put your handkerchief away—don’t snivel before me.  Damn you all! she wants none of your tears!’

I was weeping as much for him as her: we do sometimes pity creatures that have none of the feeling either for themselves or others.  When I first looked into his face, I perceived that he had got intelligence of the catastrophe; and a foolish notion struck me that his heart was quelled and he prayed, because his lips moved and his gaze was bent on the ground.

‘Yes, she’s dead!’ I answered, checking my sobs and drying my cheeks.  ‘Gone to heaven, I hope; where we may, every one, join her, if we take due warning and leave our evil ways to follow good!’

X [d] the securing his estate to his own daughter, …

Custom & Law

The elder Linton willed the estate to pass to Isabella Linton were Edgar Linton not to have a male heir. With her marriage to Heathcliff, her property, unless by prior legal arrangement kept separate, becomes her husband's. 

X [d] her spirit is at home with God!’

Religion

The entire paragraph is Nelly's Christian rendering if not fantasy of why Cathy exhibits "perfect peace...[is an] angel...[an] image of Divine rest." 

X [d] heterodox.

Deviation from orthodoxy.

Given Nelly's accounts of Cathy's behavior and her disdain for the Christian heaven, Lockwood finds Cathy's view "heterodox." 

X [d] I wished, yet feared, to find him. I felt the…

Illustration.  

X [w] ousels

Blackbirds.