Summer was already past its prime, when Edgar reluctantly yielded his assent to their entreaties, and Catherine and I set out on our first ride to join her cousin. It was a close, sultry day: devoid of sunshine, but with a sky too dappled and hazy to threaten rain: and our place of meeting had been fixed at the guide-stone, by the cross-roads. On arriving there, however, a little herd-boy, despatched as a messenger, told us that,—‘Maister Linton wer just o’ this side th’ Heights: and he’d be mitch obleeged to us to gang on a bit further.’
‘Then Master Linton has forgot the first injunction of his uncle,’ I observed: ‘he bid us keep on the Grange land, and here we are off at once.’
‘Well, we’ll turn our horses’ heads round when we reach him,’ answered my companion; ‘our excursion shall lie towards home.’
But when we reached him, and that was scarcely a quarter of a mile from his own door, we found he had no horse; and we were forced to dismount, and leave ours to graze. He lay on the heath, awaiting our approach, and did not rise till we came within a few yards. Then he walked so feebly, and looked so pale, that I immediately exclaimed,—‘Why, Master Heathcliff, you are not fit for enjoying a ramble this morning. How ill you do look!’
Catherine surveyed him with grief and astonishment:d she changed the ejaculation of joy on her lips to one of alarm; and the congratulation on their long-postponed meeting to an anxious inquiry, whether he were worse than usual?
‘No—better—better!’ he panted, trembling, and retaining her hand as if he needed its support, while his large blue eyes wandered timidly over her; the hollowness round them transforming to haggard wildness the languid expression they once possessed.
‘But you have been worse,’ persisted his cousin; ‘worse than when I saw you last; you are thinner, and—’
‘I’m tired,’ he interrupted, hurriedly. ‘It is too hot for walking, let us rest here. And, in the morning, I often feel sick—papa says I grow so fast.’
Badly satisfied, Cathy sat down, and he reclined beside her.
‘This is something like your paradise,’ said she, making an effort at cheerfulness. ‘You recollect the two days we agreed to spend in the place and way each thought pleasantest? This is nearly yours, only there are clouds; but then they are so soft and mellow: it is nicer than sunshine. Next week, if you can, we’ll ride down to the Grange Park, and try mine.’
Linton did not appear to remember what she talked of and he had evidently great difficulty in sustaining any kind of conversation. His lack of interest in the subjects she started, and his equal incapacity to contribute to her entertainment, were so obvious that she could not conceal her disappointment. An indefinite alteration had come over his whole person and manner. The pettishness that might be caressed into fondness, had yielded to a listless apathy;w there was less of the peevish temper of a child which frets and teases on purpose to be soothed, and more of the self-absorbed moroseness of a confirmed invalid, repelling consolation, and ready to regard the good-humoured mirth of others as an insult. Catherine perceived, as well as I did, that he held it rather a punishment, than a gratification, to endure our company; and she made no scruple of proposing, presently, to depart. That proposal, unexpectedly, roused Linton from his lethargy, and threw him into a strange state of agitation. He glanced fearfully towards the Heights, begging she would remain another half-hour, at least.
‘But I think,’ said Cathy, ‘you’d be more comfortable at home than sitting here; and I cannot amuse you to-day, I see, by my tales, and songs, and chatter: you have grown wiser than I, in these six months; you have little taste for my diversions now: or else, if I could amuse you, I’d willingly stay.’
‘Stay to rest yourself,’ he replied. ‘And, Catherine, don’t think or say that I’m very unwell: it is the heavy weather and heat that make me dull; and I walked about, before you came, a great deal for me. Tell uncle I’m in tolerable health, will you?’
‘I’ll tell him that you say so, Linton. I couldn’t affirm that you are,’ observed my young lady, wondering at his pertinacious assertion of what was evidently an untruth.
‘And be here again next Thursday,’ continued he, shunning her puzzled gaze. ‘And give him my thanks for permitting you to come—my best thanks, Catherine. And—and, if you did meet my father, and he asked you about me, don’t lead him to suppose that I’ve been extremely silent and stupid: don’t look sad and downcast, as you are doing—he’ll be angry.’