The twelve years, continued Mrs. Dean, following that dismal period were the happiest of my life: my greatest troubles in their passage rose from our little lady’s trifling illnesses, which she had to experience in common with all children, rich and poor. For the rest, after the first six months, she grew like a larch, and could walk and talk too, in her own way, before the heath blossomed a second time over Mrs. Linton’s dust. She was the most winning thing that ever brought sunshine into a desolate house: a real beauty in face, with the Earnshaws’ handsome dark eyes, but the Lintons’ fair skin and small features, and yellow curling hair. Her spirit was high, though not rough, and qualified by a heart sensitive and lively to excess in its affections. That capacity for intense attachments reminded me of her mother: still she did not resemble her: for she could be soft and mild as a dove, and she had a gentle voice and pensive expression: her anger was never furious; her love never fierce: it was deep and tender. However, it must be acknowledged, she had faults to foil her gifts. A propensity to be saucy was one; and a perverse will, that indulged children invariably acquire, whether they be good tempered or cross. If a servant chanced to vex her, it was always—‘I shall tell papa!’ And if he reproved her, even by a look, you would have thought it a heart-breaking business: I don’t believe he ever did speak a harsh word to her. He took her education entirely on himself, and made it an amusement. Fortunately, curiosity and a quick intellect made her an apt scholar: she learned rapidly and eagerly, and did honour to his teaching.
Till she reached the age of thirteen she had not once been beyond the range of the park by herself. Mr. Linton would take her with him a mile or so outside, on rare occasions; but he trusted her to no one else. Gimmerton was an unsubstantial name in her ears; the chapel, the only building she had approached or entered, except her own home. Wuthering Heights and Mr. Heathcliff did not exist for her: she was a perfect recluse; and, apparently, perfectly contented. Sometimes, indeed, while surveying the country from her nursery window, she would observe—
‘Ellen, how long will it be before I can walk to the top of those hills? I wonder what lies on the other side—is it the sea?’
‘No, Miss Cathy,’ I would answer; ‘it is hills again, just like these.’
‘And what are those golden rocks like when you stand under them?’ she once asked.
The abrupt descent of Penistone Crags particularly attracted her notice; especially when the setting sun shone on it and the topmost heights, and the whole extent of landscape besides lay in shadow. I explained that they were bare masses of stone, with hardly enough earth in their clefts to nourish a stunted tree.
‘And why are they bright so long after it is evening here?’ she pursued.
‘Because they are a great deal higher up than we are,’ replied I; ‘you could not climb them, they are too high and steep. In winter the frost is always there before it comes to us; and deep into summer I have found snow under that black hollow on the north-east side!’
‘Oh, you have been on them!’ she cried gleefully. ‘Then I can go, too, when I am a woman. Has papa been, Ellen?’
‘Papa would tell you, Miss,’ I answered, hastily, ‘that they are not worth the trouble of visiting. The moors, where you ramble with him, are much nicer; and Thrushcross Park is the finest place in the world.’
‘But I know the park, and I don’t know those,’ she murmured to herself. ‘And I should delight to look round me from the brow of that tallest point: my little pony Minny shall take me some time.’
One of the maids mentioning the Fairy Cave, quite turned her head with a desire to fulfil this project: she teased Mr. Linton about it; and he promised she should have the journey when she got older. But Miss Catherine measured her age by months, and, ‘Now, am I old enough to go to Penistone Crags?’ was the constant question in her mouth. The road thither wound close by Wuthering Heights. Edgar had not the heart to pass it; so she received as constantly the answer, ‘Not yet, love: not yet.’