Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights: Ch. 23

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Chapter XXIII

The rainy night had ushered in a misty morning—half frost, half drizzle—and temporary brooks crossed our path—gurgling from the uplands.  My feet were thoroughly wetted; I was cross and low; exactly the humour suited for making the most of these disagreeable things.  We entered the farm-house by the kitchen way, to ascertain whether Mr. Heathcliff were really absent: because I put slight faith in his own affirmation.

Joseph seemed sitting in a sort of elysium alone, beside a roaring fire; a quart of ale on the table near him,d bristling with large pieces of toasted oat-cake; and his black, short pipe in his mouth.  Catherine ran to the hearth to warm herself.  I asked if the master was in?  My question remained so long unanswered, that I thought the old man had grown deaf, and repeated it louder.

‘Na—ay!’ he snarled, or rather screamed through his nose.  ‘Na—ay! yah muh goa back whear yah coom frough.’

‘Joseph!’ cried a peevish voice, simultaneously with me, from the inner room.  ‘How often am I to call you?  There are only a few red ashes now.  Joseph! come this moment.’

Vigorous puffs, and a resolute stare into the grate, declared he had no ear for this appeal.  The housekeeper and Hareton were invisible; one gone on an errand, and the other at his work, probably.  We knew Linton’s tones, and entered.

‘Oh, I hope you’ll die in a garret, starved to death!’ said the boy, mistaking our approach for that of his negligent attendant.

He stopped on observing his error: his cousin flew to him.

‘Is that you, Miss Linton?’ he said, raising his head from the arm of the great chair, in which he reclined.  ‘No—don’t kiss me: it takes my breath.  Dear me!  Papa said you would call,’ continued he, after recovering a little from Catherine’s embrace; while she stood by looking very contrite.  ‘Will you shut the door, if you please? you left it open; and those—those detestable creatures won’t bring coals to the fire.  It’s so cold!’

I stirred up the cinders, and fetched a scuttleful myself.  The invalid complained of being covered with ashes; but he had a tiresome cough, and looked feverish and ill, so I did not rebuke his temper.

‘Well, Linton,’ murmured Catherine, when his corrugated brow relaxed, ‘are you glad to see me?  Can I do you any good?’

‘Why didn’t you come before?’ he asked.  ‘You should have come, instead of writing.  It tired me dreadfully writing those long letters.  I’d far rather have talked to you.  Now, I can neither bear to talk, nor anything else.  I wonder where Zillah is!  Will you’ (looking at me) ‘step into the kitchen and see?’

I had received no thanks for my other service; and being unwilling to run to and fro at his behest, I replied—‘Nobody is out there but Joseph.’

‘I want to drink,’ he exclaimed fretfully, turning away.  ‘Zillah is constantly gadding off to Gimmerton since papa went: it’s miserable!  And I’m obliged to come down here—they resolved never to hear me up-stairs.’

‘Is your father attentive to you, Master Heathcliff?’ I asked, perceiving Catherine to be checked in her friendly advances.

‘Attentive?  He makes them a little more attentive at least,’ he cried.  ‘The wretches!  Do you know, Miss Linton, that brute Hareton laughs at me!  I hate him! indeed, I hate them all: they are odious beings.’

X [d] Joseph seemed sitting in a sort of elysium al…

Illustration.