فصل 15

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فصل 15

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Chapter 15

A trap

A few days after the master had forbidden Cathy to visit Linton, he asked my opinion of the boy.

‘Tell me honestly, Ellen, what do you think of his character?’

‘Well, sir, I don’t think he’s wicked, like his father. But you’ll have plenty of time to get to know him, sir. He’s too young to marry yet.’ Mr Edgar walked to the window and looked out. It was a misty February evening, but the churchyard was just visible.

‘I’ve often prayed for death, Ellen. I’ve been very happy with my little Cathy. But I’ve been just as happy lying, through the long June evenings, on her mother’s grave, and looking forward to the moment when I can join Catherine there! I haven’t got much time left, Ellen. What can I do for Cathy before I die? Should she marry Linton? I wouldn’t mind him being Heathcliff’s son, if only he loved her and could be a good husband to her.’ ‘God will show us what to do, sir,’ I replied.

In the spring Mr Edgar was still ill, and he continued to worry about Cathy’s future. One day he wrote to Linton inviting him to visit the Grange. Linton wrote a long letter back, explaining that his father would not allow him to do that. He begged his uncle to let him meet Cathy for a walk or a ride on the moors between the Grange and Wuthering Heights, as they could not meet in either house. Mr Edgar refused at first, and Linton sent him several more letters. I am sure they had all been carefully checked by Heathcliff before they were posted.

Finally Mr Edgar agreed. He hoped that, if Cathy married Linton, who would inherit the Linton fortune, she would at least be able to remain in her family home. He had no idea that Linton was seriously ill. Neither did I. I never imagined that a father could treat a dying child as cruelly and wickedly as we later discovered Heathcliff had done.

It was a hot, sunny day in summer when Cathy and I rode out to meet her cousin. We were both shocked to discover that he could neither ride nor walk, and was lying on the grass, waiting for us. He looked even paler and weaker than the last time I had seen him. During our meeting he did not seem interested in Cathy or her news. Cathy noticed this immediately.

‘Well, Linton,’ she said after a while, ‘you don’t want to talk to me, so I think I’ll go home.’

‘No, no!’ he cried, getting quite excited. ‘Not yet! Stay - at least another half-hour! My father will be angry with me if you leave early!’ ‘I suppose we can stay a few minutes longer,’ said Cathy.

We waited, talking to each other quietly while Linton slept a little. Sometimes he cried out in pain.

‘Do you think his health is better now than before?’ whispered Cathy.

‘I’m sorry, Miss Cathy, I think it’s much worse,’ I answered.

Cathy called her pony, and the sound woke Linton up.

‘If you see my father,’ he said, hesitating, ‘could you tell him I’ve been cheerful? He’ll be here soon!’ And he looked round in terror.

‘I’ll be here next Thursday!’ cried Cathy, as she jumped on her pony. ‘Come on, Ellen!’

In the week that followed, Mr Edgar’s illness grew worse

every day. Cathy could not avoid realizing how serious it was, and sat by his bedside day and night, looking sad and pale. Her father’s room had become her whole world. On Thursday I thought a ride in the fresh air would be good for her, and Mr Edgar gladly gave her permission to see Linton. He was hoping that she would not be left alone after his death. I did not want to worry him in his last moments, so I did not tell him that Linton was also dying.

We rode on to the moors and found Linton lying in the same place as before. He was looking very frightened.

‘I thought you weren’t going to come!’ he said.

‘Why won’t you be honest?’ cried Cathy at once. ‘Why have you brought me here again, if you don’t want to see me? My father’s very ill and I should be with him.’ Tears rolled down Linton’s face. He seemed terrified.

‘Oh, I can’t bear it!’ he sobbed. ‘Cathy, I daren’t explain! But if you leave me, he’ll kill me! Dear Cathy, my life is in your hands! Kind, sweet Cathy, perhaps you will agree, and then he won’t hurt me!’ Cathy was no longer impatient. ‘Agree to what, Linton?’ she asked gently. ‘Tell me everything! You wouldn’t do anything to hurt me, would you, Linton? I’m your best friend.’ ‘I daren’t tell you! My father — ’ the boy gasped. Just then Heathcliff appeared. He did not look at Cathy and Linton, who continued talking to each other, but he spoke quietly to me.

‘Ellen, how is Edgar? Is he dying, as the villagers say?’

‘It’s true, the master is dying,’ I answered.

‘That boy over there is dying too. I only hope Edgar dies before him. If Linton dies first, my plan will fail.’ He shouted angrily to his son, ‘Get up, Linton!’ and then said politely to Cathy, ‘Miss Cathy, would you help him back to the house.

He can’t walk far alone.’

‘Father has forbidden me to enter your house,’ said Cathy.

‘Well, come along, Linton. I’ll have to take you home then,’ said Heathcliff.

‘No! No! No! Please, Cathy! You must come with me!’ screamed Linton wildly. He held desperately on to her arm.

Cathy could not refuse the boy, who seemed almost mad with fear. So we all walked the few steps to Wuthering Heights. When we had entered the house, however, I was horrified to see Heathcliff lock the front door. The key was in his hand.

‘Hareton, Joseph and Zillah are all out of the house,’ he said calmly, ‘so we are quite alone.’

‘Give me that key!’ cried Cathy angrily. ‘I’m not afraid of you!’ She took hold of his closed hand and bit it. He hit her violently several times, on both sides of the head, and she fell into a chair, trembling. I rushed at him, but he pushed me away.

‘Cry as much as you like, Miss Cathy,’ he said. ‘In a few days I’ll be your father, and I’ll punish you just like that, as often as necessary!’ When Heathcliff went out to look for our horses, Cathy and I hurried round the kitchen looking for a way to escape. But all the doors and windows were locked. Linton was sitting calmly in a chair near the fire, happy that he was not being punished this time. We persuaded him to explain his father’s plan to us.

‘Father is afraid I’ll die soon, you see, so he wants us to be married tomorrow morning. You’ll have to stay here all night, Cathy. Then perhaps he’ll let you go home in the morning.’ ‘You marry this beautiful, healthy young lady?’ I cried. ‘You must be mad! And wicked too! You and your father have tricked us into coming here!’ And I shook him until he started coughing.

‘I must go home now. Father will be worried already,’ said Cathy. ‘I love Father better than you, Linton!’

Heathdiff returned and sent his son upstairs to bed.

‘Mr Heathcliff,’ begged Cathy, ‘Father will be miserable if I don’t go home. Please let me go. I promise to marry Linton. Father would like it, and I love him. Why do you force me to do something I want to do?’ ‘He can’t force you!’ I cried. ‘I’ll go to the police!’

‘To the devil with you, Ellen! Miss Cathy, I’m delighted that your father will be miserable. In that case you will certainly stay here for twenty-four hours. You won’t leave here until you’ve kept your promise to marry Linton.’ ‘Please send Ellen to let Father know I’m safe!’ sobbed Cathy bitterly. ‘Poor Father! He’ll think we’re lost!’

‘Your father must have hated you when you came into the world (I did, at least), and he’ll hate you as he leaves it. Go on crying. That’s what you’ll be doing when you’re Linton’s wife. He’ll make a cruel, selfish husband, I think.’ Heathcliff took us upstairs to Zillah’s room, where we spent the night, locked in. Neither of us could sleep. At seven the following morning he came to fetch Cathy, and took her away. From that moment I saw nobody except Hareton, who brought me food, for four whole days and nights.

On the fifth morning Zillah came into the room. She was surprised and pleased to see me, and told me the villagers all thought Cathy and I had got lost on the moors, and died, four days ago. I ran out of the room to look for Cathy.

The big kitchen was full of sunshine, and the door was open, but the only person there was Linton.

‘Where is she? Where is Miss Cathy?’ 1 cried wildly. ‘Upstairs, in a locked room,’ he replied calmly, eating a piece

of sugar. ‘We won’t let her go yet. Father says I shouldn’t be soft with Cathy. We’ve had the wedding ceremony, so she’s my wife now, and must stay with me. I don’t care if she cries, or is ill!’ ‘Have you forgotten her kindness to you last winter, when you wrote that you loved her, and she used to come through wind and snow to see you? Now you believe your father’s lies about her! And you leave her alone, ill and crying in a strange house! You pity yourself, but you won’t pity her! What a heartless, selfish boy you are!’ ‘I can’t stay with her! She cries so much 1 can’t bear it! I can’t sleep with all that noise. She promised that if I gave her the key to our room, she’d give me all her nice books, and her pony, but I told her she had nothing to give. They’re all mine, or they’ll belong to me very soon. And then she cried, and took a little gold case from around her neck. Inside were two pictures, one of her mother and one of her father. I wanted to take them both from her, but she wouldn’t let me, so I screamed for help. My father came, and ordered her to give him the pictures and the case. When she refused, he - he hit her on the face and knocked her down, and broke the gold case under his foot. He took away the picture of her mother.’ ‘And were you pleased to see Miss Cathy hurt?’ I asked.

‘My father was right to punish her. But I didn’t like seeing her mouth full of blood. She can’t speak because of the pain. Now you’ve made me tired with all this talking! You won’t find the key to the room! Go away!’ As there seemed to be no chance of persuading him to help her escape, I decided to go back to the Grange as quickly as possible, and rescue her later.

What a welcome I received from the servants at the Grange, who thought I was dead! But I did not have time to tell them my

story. I went straight to my master’s room. He was lying in bed, very weak and close to death. I told him how Heathcliff had trapped us, and that Cathy was probably married to Linton by now. Mr Edgar realized that his enemy wanted to get hold of the Linton fortune, through his son. He asked me to send for his lawyer, to make arrangements so that Cathy would not lose all her inheritance.

I did as he asked, but the lawyer sent a message, saying that he could not come until the next day. I also sent four strong men with weapons to Wuthering Heights, to demand my young lady’s freedom. I was very angry when they returned without her, because Heathcliff had sent them away.

But I needn’t have worried. In the middle of the night, as I was taking some water to the master, I heard a knock on the front door, and went to open it. It was my little mistress!

‘Ellen, Ellen!’ she sobbed, is Father still alive?’

‘Yes,’ I cried, ‘and thank God you’re safe with us again!’

‘I managed to make Linton help me escape from the room! Now I must see Father!’

I could not bear to be present at their meeting. I waited outside the bedroom door. But they were both calm. Cathy’s despair was as silent as her father’s happiness. He died in perfect peace, Mr Lockwood. Kissing her, he whispered, ‘I’m going to join her, and you, dear child, will join us!’ He did not move or speak again.

Cathy did not cry, but sat silently by his dead body all morning. At lunch-time the lawyer arrived, too late to help Cathy. Heathcliff had bribed him to stay away. He gave us Heathcliffs orders. All the servants except me had to leave. Cathy, Mrs Heathcliff now, was only allowed to stay at the Grange until her father was buried.

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