Chapter 4

What vain weather-cocks we are! I, who had determined to hold myself independent of all social intercourse, and thanked my stars that, at length, I had lighted on a spot where it was next to impracticable--I, weak wretch, after maintaining till dusk a struggle with low spirits and solitude, was finally compelled to strike my colours; and, under pretence of gaining information concerning the necessities of my establishment, I desired Mrs Dean, when she brought in supper, to sit down while I ate it; hoping sincerely she would prove a regular gossip, and either rouse me to animation or lull me to sleep by her talk.

`You have lived here a considerable time,' I commenced; `did you not say sixteen years?'

`Eighteen, sir: I came, when the mistress was married, to wait on her; after she died, the master retained me for his housekeeper.'


There ensued a pause. She was not a gossip, I feared; unless about her own affairs, and those could hardly interest me. However, having studied for an interval, with a fist on either knee, and a cloud of meditation over her ruddy countenance, she ejaculated:

`Ah, times are greatly changed since then!'

`Yes,' I remarked, `you've seen a good many alterations, I suppose?'

`I have: and troubles too,' she said.

`Oh, I'll turn the talk on my landlord's family!' I thought to myself. `A good subject to start--and that pretty girl-widow, I should like to know her history: whether she be a native of the country, or, as is more probable, an exotic that the surly indigenae will not recognize for kin.' With this intention I asked Mrs Dean why Heathcliff let Thrushcross Grange, and preferred living in a situation and residence so much inferior. `Is he not rich enough to keep the estate in good order?' I inquired.

`Rich, sir!' she returned. `He has, nobody knows what money, and every year it increases. Yes, yes, he's rich enough to live in a finer house than this: but he's very near--close-handed; and, if he had meant to flit to Thrushcross Grange, as soon as he heard of a good tenant he could not have borne to miss the chance of getting a few hundreds more. It is strange people should be so greedy, when they are alone in the world!'

`He had a son, it seems?'

`Yes, he had one--he is dead.'

`And, that young lady, Mrs Heathcliff, is his widow?'


`Where did she come from originally?'

`Why, sir, she is my late master's daughter: Catherine Linton was her maiden name. I nursed her, poor thing! I did wish Mr Heathcliff would remove here, and then we might have been together again.'

`What! Catherine Linton?' I exclaimed, astonished. But a minute's reflection convinced me it was not my ghostly Catherine.

`Then,' I continued, `my predecessor's name was Linton?'

`It was.

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