Chapter 23

The rainy night had ushered in a misty morning--half frost, half drizzle and temporary brooks crossed our path--gurgling from the uplands. My feet were thoroughly wetted; I was cross and low; exactly the humour suited for making the most of these disagreeable things. We entered the farmhouse by the kitchen way, to ascertain whether Mr Heathcliff were really absent; because I put slight faith in his own affirmation.

Joseph seemed sitting in a sort of elysium alone, beside a roaring fire; a quart of ale on the table near him, bristling with large pieces of toasted oatcake; and his black, short pipe in his mouth. Catherine ran to the hearth to warm herself. I asked if the master was in? My question remained so long unanswered, that I thought the old man had grown deaf, and repeated it louder.

`Na-ay!' he snarled, or rather screamed through his nose. `Na-ay! yah muh goa back whear yah coom frough.'

`Joseph!' cried a peevish voice, simultaneously with me, from the inner room. `How often am I to call you? There are only a few red ashes now. Joseph! come this moment.

Vigorous puffs, and a resolute stare into the grate declared he had no ear for this appeal. The housekeeper and Hareton were invisible; one gone on an errand, and the other at his work, probably. We knew Linton's tones, and entered.

`Oh, I hope you'll die in a garret! starved to death,' said the boy, mistaking our approach for that of his negligent attendant.

He stopped, on observing his error; his cousin flew to him.

`Is that you, Miss Linton?' he said, raising his head from the arm of the great chair, in which he reclined. `No--don't kiss me: it takes my breath. Dear me! Papa said you would call,' continued he, after recovering a little from Catherine's embrace; while she stood by liking very contrite. `Will you shut the door, if you please? you left it open; and those--those detestable creatures won't bring coals to the fire. It's so cold!'

I stirred up the cinders, and fetched a scuttleful myself. The invalid complained of being covered with ashes; but he had a tiresome cough, and looked feverish and ill, so I did not rebuke his temper.

`Well, Linton,' murmured Catherine, when his corrugated brow relaxed. `Are you glad to see me? Can I do you any good?'

`Why didn't you come before?' he asked. `You should have come, instead of writing. It tired me dreadfully, writing those long letters. I'd far rather have talked to you. Now, I can neither bear to talk, nor anything else. I wonder where Zillah is! Will you (looking at me) step into the kitchen and see?'

I had received no thanks for my other service; and being unwilling to run out to and fro at his behest, I replied:

`Nobody is out there but Joseph.'

`I want to drink,' he exclaimed fretfully, turning away. `Zillah is constantly gadding off to Gimmerton since papa went: it's miserable! And I'm obliged to come down here--they resolved never to hear me upstairs.'

`Is your father attentive to you, Master Heathcliff?' I asked, perceiving Catherine to be checked in her friendly advances.

`Attentive? He makes them a little more attentive at least,' he cried. `The wretches! Do you know, Miss Linton, that brute Hareton laughs at me! I hate him! indeed, I hate them all: they are odious beings.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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