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Heathcliff s son at Wuthering Heights
Linton was very surprised to be woken so early, and told that he had another journey to make, before breakfast. As we rode the four miles to Wuthering Heights, he kept asking me questions about his new home, and the father he had never seen. When we arrived, Heathcliff, Hareton, and Joseph all came out of the house to inspect the child.
‘Master, that’s not a boy,’ said Joseph after a while. ‘Look at that white skin and fair hair! Mr Edgar’s sent you his daughter instead!’
‘God! What a beautiful creature!’ laughed Heathcliff scornfully. ‘That’s worse than I expected!’
I helped the trembling child off the horse and into the house. Heathcliff took him roughly by the arm.
‘I hope you’ll be kind to him, Mr Heathcliff,’ 1 said. ‘He’s weak, and ill. And he’s all the family you’ve got!’
‘Don’t worry, Ellen,’ replied Heathcliff with a smile. ‘As Isabella’s son he’ll inherit Thrushcross Grange one day, and I don’t want him to die before that. He’ll be educated as a gentleman. But I’m bitterly disappointed at having such a weak, crying baby for a son!’ So poor Linton was left in his father’s care. At first Cathy was miserable, because she would not now have anyone to play with, but she soon forgot him. Whenever I met Zillah, the housekeeper, in the village, I used to ask her about Linton.
‘He’s often ill,’ she told me. ‘And so selfish! He has to have a
fire even in summer! He calls for cakes and hot drinks all the time. He only ever thinks of himself. Mr Heathcliff can’t bear being in the same room as him!’
Several years passed without any more news of Linton. In 1800 Cathy reached the age of sixteen. We never celebrated her birthday, because it was also the day her mother died. On this particular day she came downstairs, dressed for going out, and suggested a walk on the moors with me. Her father gave permission.
It was a lovely spring morning, and I was very happy walking in the sunshine, watching Cathy running ahead of me. But we had walked further than I had realized, and I called to her to come back. She did not seem to hear me. We were on the moors, close to Wuthering Heights, when I caught sight of two men talking to her. I recognized Heathcliff and Hareton at once. I hurried to catch up with her.
‘Miss Cathy,’ I said breathlessly, ‘we must go home. Your father will be getting worried.’
‘No, he won’t, Ellen. This gentleman wants me to go to his house and meet his son. He says we’ve already met, but I don’t remember, do you? Let’s go, Ellen!’ Although I protested, she and Hareton were already halfway to Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff and I followed behind.
‘It’s very bad of you, Mr Heathcliff,’ I scolded him. ‘Mr Edgar will blame me for letting her go to your house.’
‘I want her to see Linton, Ellen,’ he replied. ‘Listen to my plan. It’s really a very generous one. I want the two cousins to fall in love and marry. You know Cathy won’t inherit anything from her father. My son Linton will inherit all the Linton fortune when Edgar dies. If she marries Linton, she’ll be wealthy. Of course, if Linton dies, then the money comes to me, as his only other relation.’
I was still angry with Heathcliff, but it was too late to stop Cathy entering Wuthering Heights. She was delighted to rediscover her cousin Linton, who was keeping warm by the fire.
‘If he is my cousin, and you are his father,’ she said to Heathcliff, smiling, ‘then you must be my uncle! Why don’t you ever visit us at the Grange?’
‘I visited it once or twice too often before you were born,’ he said. ‘I must tell you that I quarrelled violently with your father
once. He hates me, and if you tell him you want to come here, he’ll forbid it.’
‘Well, if I can’t come here, Linton can come to visit me at the Grange,’ suggested Cathy happily.
‘It’ll be too far for me,’ said her cousin weakly. ‘It would kill me to walk four miles.’
Heathcliff looked scornfully at his son.
‘I don’t think my plan will ever succeed, Ellen!’ he whispered to me. ‘Who would fall in love with a selfish baby like that?’ He went to the kitchen door and called, ‘Hareton! Come and take Miss Cathy round the farm.’ Cathy was eager to see the animals, and she and Hareton went out.
As we watched them through the kitchen window, Heathcliff seemed to be thinking aloud.
‘I’ve taken my revenge on his father, by making Hareton work for me. I treat him badly, as they used to do to me, and he suffers, as I used to. He’s intelligent, and strong, and handsome, but I’ve taught him to scorn those qualities. So now he’s just an uneducated farm worker, and knows nothing of the world. That’s how he’ll always be. And my son? He’s stupid, and weak, and ill. But he’s a gentleman, and he’ll marry Cathy, and he’ll be rich!’ Meanwhile Linton had got up from his armchair and gone out to join Cathy and Hareton. Through the open window I could hear the two younger ones laughing at Hareton’s coarse way of speaking. I began to dislike Linton rather than pity him.
When we arrived back at the Grange, Cathy told her father about the visit. He did not want to frighten her, and, in my opinion, did not explain clearly enough why she should never communicate with Linton again. At the time she seemed to accept her father’s wish.
During the next few weeks, however, I noticed Cathy’s behaviour change. She was always writing on little pieces of paper, which she kept in a locked drawer in her room, and every morning she got up surprisingly early to go down to the kitchen. I suspected something, and one day I decided to break open her drawer. In it I was horrified to find a whole pile of love letters from Linton. The two cousins had been writing to each other in secret for several weeks, and Cathy had used the milkman as a messenger. I told her at once that I knew her secret, and made her promise not to send or receive any more letters. We burnt Linton’s letters together.
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