On the fifth morning, or rather afternoon, a different step approached—lighter and shorter; and, this time, the person entered the room. It was Zillah; donned in her scarlet shawl, with a black silk bonnet on her head, and a willow-basket swung to her arm.
‘Eh, dear! Mrs. Dean!’ she exclaimed. ‘Well! there is a talk about you at Gimmerton. I never thought but you were sunk in the Blackhorse marsh, and missy with you, till master told me you’d been found, and he’d lodged you here! What! and you must have got on an island, sure? And how long were you in the hole? Did master save you, Mrs. Dean? But you’re not so thin—you’ve not been so poorly, have you?’
‘Your master is a true scoundrel!’ I replied. ‘But he shall answer for it. He needn’t have raised that tale: it shall all be laid bare!’
‘What do you mean?’ asked Zillah. ‘It’s not his tale: they tell that in the village—about your being lost in the marsh; and I calls to Earnshaw, when I come in—“Eh, they’s queer things, Mr. Hareton, happened since I went off. It’s a sad pity of that likely young lass, and cant Nelly Dean.” He stared. I thought he had not heard aught, so I told him the rumour. The master listened, and he just smiled to himself, and said, “If they have been in the marsh, they are out now, Zillah. Nelly Dean is lodged, at this minute, in your room. You can tell her to flit, when you go up; here is the key. The bog-water got into her head, and she would have run home quite flighty; but I fixed her till she came round to her senses. You can bid her go to the Grange at once, if she be able, and carry a message from me, that her young lady will follow in time to attend the squire’s funeral.”’
‘Mr. Edgar is not dead?’ I gasped. ‘Oh! Zillah, Zillah!’
‘No, no; sit you down, my good mistress,’ she replied; ‘you’re right sickly yet. He’s not dead; Doctor Kenneth thinks he may last another day. I met him on the road and asked.’
Instead of sitting down, I snatched my outdoor things, and hastened below, for the way was free. On entering the house, I looked about for some one to give information of Catherine. The place was filled with sunshine, and the door stood wide open; but nobody seemed at hand. As I hesitated whether to go off at once, or return and seek my mistress, a slight cough drew my attention to the hearth. Linton lay on the settle, sole tenant, sucking a stick of sugar-candy, and pursuing my movements with apathetic eyes. ‘Where is Miss Catherine?’ I demanded sternly, supposing I could frighten him into giving intelligence, by catching him thus, alone. He sucked on like an innocent.
‘Is she gone?’ I said.
‘No,’ he replied; ‘she’s upstairs: she’s not to go; we won’t let her.’
‘You won’t let her, little idiot!’ I exclaimed. ‘Direct me to her room immediately, or I’ll make you sing out sharply.’
‘Papa would make you sing out, if you attempted to get there,’ he answered. ‘He says I’m not to be soft with Catherine: she’s my wife, and it’s shameful that she should wish to leave me. He says she hates me and wants me to die, that she may have my money; but she shan’t have it: and she shan’t go home! She never shall!—she may cry, and be sick as much as she pleases!’
He resumed his former occupation, closing his lids, as if he meant to drop asleep.