فصل 06

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فصل 06

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CHAPTER 6

Heathcliff disappears

Hindley came into the kitchen, swearing terribly, just as I was about to hide little Hareton in a cupboard. I was always afraid that Hindley would hurt his small son, either by accident or on purpose, when he was drunk, so I tried to keep Hareton out of the way. But this time Hindley discovered my plan.

‘Ah, you keep my son in a cupboard, do you!’ he cried angrily, picking up a sharp kitchen knife. ‘With the devil’s help I’ll make you swallow this, Ellen!’ And he pushed the knife between my teeth.

I was never afraid he would hurt me, and calmly took the knife out of my mouth.

‘But that can’t be my son, can it?’ he continued aggressively, staring at the frightened little boy. ‘If it is, he should be punished for not running to greet his father. Perhaps I’ll cut his ears off!’ And then suddenly his manner changed. ‘No, Hareton, darling, don’t cry! Kiss me, kiss your father! What? You won’t? Then I’ll break your neck!’ Poor Hareton, screaming wildly, was carried upstairs by his father. Suddenly Hindley stopped on the stairs to listen, almost forgetting what he was holding. Heathcliff had come into the house and stood at the bottom of the stairs, looking up. Just then the child jumped out of Hindley’s arms and fell. I only had time to gasp in horror, before I saw that Heathcliff had caught him.

Heathcliff stared down at the child he was holding. He must have felt sorry he had saved the life of his enemy’s son. I rushed to take the poor little boy in my arms, and Hindley came slowly downstairs.

‘Look what you’ve done, Mr Hindley!’ I cried. ‘You nearly killed your own son! What would his mother say if she were alive?’

‘Take him away, Ellen. And you, Heathcliff, go away too. I won’t murder you tonight, unless perhaps I set the house on fire.

But that depends how I feel.’ And he poured himself a drink.

‘Don’t drink any more, Mr Hindley!’ I begged.

‘What difference does it make?’ he growled. ‘Get out, both of you! To the devil with you!’

We left him swearing at us, and went back into the kitchen.

‘It’s a pity he can’t kill himself with drink,’ muttered Heathcliff. ‘Dr Kenneth says he’ll live longer than any of us, he’s so strong.’ He walked out of the door and, I thought, into the fields. In fact I discovered later that he was sitting just under the window, and could hear everything that was said in the kitchen.

I was singing little Hareton to sleep when Catherine came in.

‘Are you alone, Ellen?’ she whispered. ‘Where’s Heathcliff?’

‘He’s out on the farm,’ I answered.

She looked sad and worried, and I even saw a tear or two on her face. But I had not forgotten how she had lied, and behaved so badly to me as well as to Edgar Linton, so I did not feel sorry for her, or encourage her to talk.

‘Ellen, will you keep a secret for me?’ she asked in the end, giving me her sweetest smile. ‘I must tell you! I need your advice. Today Edgar Linton has asked me to marry him, and I gave him an answer. Now, before I tell you if it was yes or no, you tell me which I should have said.’ ‘Really, Miss Catherine, how can I know? Perhaps you should have refused him. He must be a fool to ask you, after you were so rude and violent this afternoon.’ ‘Well, I accepted him, Ellen!’ she said crossly. ‘But should I have done so? Should I? What do you think?’

‘First, do you love him?’ I asked.

‘Of course I do,’ she replied.

‘Why do you love him, Miss Catherine?’

‘Well, I do, that’s enough. Well, because he’s handsome, and a pleasant companion.’

‘Oh, that’s bad,’ I said, shaking my head.

‘And because he loves me.’

‘That’s worse.’

‘And because he’ll be rich, and I shall be the most important woman for miles around.’

‘Worst of all. But there are several other handsome, rich young men in the world. Why don’t you marry one of them?’

‘I don’t know any of them. I only know Edgar.’

‘Well, I don’t know why you’re unhappy, Miss Catherine. Your brother will be pleased, and Mr Edgar’s parents will, too. You love Edgar, and Edgar loves you. What’s the problem?’ ‘Here! And here!’ replied Catherine, beating her head and her chest, in my heart and soul I know I’m wrong! Ellen, I can’t live apart from Heathcliff! He is more myself than I am. Our souls are the same! I have nothing in common with Edgar. But I can’t marry Heathcliff now! Hindley has made him become a poor, dull farm worker. He’ll never know how I love him.’ I suddenly heard a movement outside the window, and saw Heathcliff stand up and walk away. I realized he had been listening until he heard Catherine say she could not marry him. Then he stayed to hear no more.

‘Quiet, Miss Catherine!’ I said. ‘Just imagine how hard it will be for Heathcliff when you marry Mr Edgar! He’ll have no friends at all when you leave him.’ ‘Leave him? Why should we be separated?’ she asked angrily. ‘Who will separate us? Nobody will dare! Edgar must learn to accept him as my friend. Didn’t you ever think, Ellen, that if Heathcliff and I married, we would be very poor? But if I marry Edgar, I can help Heathcliff with my husband’s money.’ ‘That’s the worst reason you’ve given so far for marrying Mr Edgar,’ I replied, shocked.

‘It isn’t! Heathcliff is more important to me than myself. My love for Edgar is like the leaves on the trees - I’m sure time will change it. But my love for Heathcliff is like the rocks in the ground - not beautiful, but necessary and unchanging. He’s always, always in my heart — ’ Just then Joseph entered the kitchen. I whispered to Catherine that I was sure Heathcliff had heard some of what she said. She jumped up, frightened, and rushed outside. But although we all looked everywhere for Heathcliff, there was no sign of him that night, or for many nights in the future.

At about midnight, while we were still waiting for him to come home, we noticed the wind was getting stronger. We could hear it whistling down the chimney, and howling all around the house. Suddenly there was a terrible crash of thunder, and the branch of a tree fell on to the roof. We were not hurt, but Joseph immediately dropped on to his knees to pray. The rain was beating down on the windows, but Catherine stayed outside, although by now her hair and clothes were completely wet.

In the end we all went to bed. I managed to persuade Catherine to come in, but she insisted on sleeping in the kitchen, in case Heathcliff returned during the night. In the morning we discovered that she had caught a fever, as a result of getting wet. She became seriously ill, and it was several weeks before Dr Kenneth would allow her out of bed.

When she recovered, she was invited to stay for a while at Thrushcross Grange. Unfortunately old Mr and Mrs Linton caught the fever too, and died within a few days of each other. Catherine returned to us, prouder and quicker-tempered than ever, but not as strong as before.

‘If she gets ill again, it could be fatal,’ Dr Kenneth warned us. ‘My advice to you is to do whatever she wants, and don’t make her angry!’ So we had to obey all her orders, and Joseph and I were not allowed to scold her any more.

Edgar Linton was still in love with her, and thought himself the happiest man on earth when he married her three years after his parents’ death. She insisted on having me with her, so we moved together to Thrushcross Grange, although I was very sad to leave little Hareton with his father.

It’s very late, Mr Lockwood. I think you should go to bed, or you’ll be ill tomorrow. I can tell you the rest of the story another time.

Four weeks later In fact I was ill the next day, and have been ill since then. The terrible night I spent at Wuthering Heights was the cause of my illness, and I blame Mr Heathcliff for it. Dr Kenneth has warned me I won’t be able to go out until the spring. All I can do is lie in bed, listening to the howling wind and staring at the grey northern sky.

So I’ve decided to ask Mrs Dean to come upstairs and finish telling me her story. She tells me she’s happy to continue.

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