`It isn't: you hold your tongue!' he answered. `She did, she did, Catherine! she did, she did!'
Cathy, beside herself, gave the chair a violent push, and caused him to fall against one arm. He was immediately seized by a suffocating cough that soon ended his triumph. It lasted so long that it frightened even me. As to his cousin, she wept, with all her might; aghast at the mischief she had done: though she said nothing. I held him till the fit exhausted itself. Then he thrust me away, and leant his head down silently. Catherine quelled her lamentations also, took a seat opposite, and looked solemnly into the fire.
`How do you feel now, Master Heathcliff?' I inquired, after waiting ten minutes.
`I wish she felt as I do,' he replied: `spiteful, cruel thing! Hareton never touches me: he never struck me in his life. And I was better today: and there--` his voice died in a whimper.
`I didn't strike you!' muttered Cathy, chewing her lip to prevent another burst of emotion.
He sighed and moaned like one under great suffering, and kept it up for a quarter of an hour; on purpose to distress his cousin apparently, for whenever he caught a stifled sob from her he put renewed pain and pathos into the inflections of his voice.
`I'm sorry I hurt you, Linton,' she said at length, racked beyond endurance. `But I couldn't have been hurt by that little push, and I had no idea that you could, either: you're not much, are you, Linton? Don't let me go home thinking I've done you harm. Answer! speak to me.'
`I can't speak to you,' he murmured; `you've hurt me so, that I shall lie awake all night choking with this cough. If you had it you'd know what it was; but you'll be comfortably asleep while I'm in agony, and nobody near me. I wonder how you would like to pass those fearful nights!' And he began to wail aloud, for very pity of himself.
`Since you are in the habit of passing dreadful nights,' I said, `it won't be miss who spoils your ease: you'd be the same had she never come. However, she shall not disturb you again; and perhaps you'll get quieter when we leave you.
`Must I go?' asked Catherine dolefully, bending over him. `Do you want me to go, Linton?'
`You can't alter what you've done,' he replied pettishly, shrinking from her, `unless you alter it for the worse by teasing me into a fever.'
`Well, then, I must go?' she repeated.
`Let me alone, at least,' said he; `I can't bear your talking.'
She lingered, and resisted my persuasions to departure a tiresome while; but as he neither looked up nor spoke, she finally made a movement to the door and I followed. We were recalled by a scream. Linton had slid from his seat on to the hearthstone, and lay writhing in the mere perverseness of an indulged plague of a child, determined to be as grievous and harassing as it can. I thoroughly gauged his disposition from his behaviour, and saw at once it would be folly to attempt humouring him. Not so my companion: she ran back in terror, knelt down, and cried, and soothed, and entreated, till he grew quiet from lack of breath: by no means from compunction at distressing her.
`I shall lift him on the settle,' I said, `and he may roll about as he pleases: we can't stop to watch him. I hope you are satisfied, Miss Cathy, that you are not the person to benefit him; and that his condition of health is not occasioned by attachment to you. Now, then, there he is! Come away: as soon as he knows there is nobody by to care for his nonsense, he'll be glad to lie still.'
She placed a cushion under his head, and offered him some water; he rejected the latter, and tossed uneasily on the former, as if it were a stone or a block of wood. She tried to put it more comfortably.
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