Last Updated on June 27, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1701
Later that autumn, Edgar falls ill and becomes bedridden. Nelly tries to keep Cathy company in his stead, and one day, the two of them venture out to the wall at the end of the park. Cathy appears very melancholy, and when Nelly asks why she’s crying, Cathy admits that she often thinks about what will happen to her once Edgar and Nelly are gone. Attempting to reassure her, Nelly says that Edgar is only suffering from a cold. Somewhat mollified, Cathy climbs up on the wall of the park. As she is reaching for some fruit on a nearby tree, her hat falls off on the other side of the wall. Cathy clambers down to retrieve it but finds that she cannot climb back up. Though she and Nelly are near the entrance to the property, the gate is locked. Nelly is trying to find the key to unlock the gate and let Cathy back in when Heathcliff suddenly appears on horseback. Cathy tells him that she knows he hates her and her father and vows not to speak to him. Heathcliff tells her that Linton is very ill and possibly dying. He blames Linton’s sickness on Cathy, telling her that she broke Linton’s heart by dropping their correspondence. Nelly yells that he is lying and says she will break the lock with a stone rather than allow Cathy to listen to such “vile nonsense.” Heathcliff tells Cathy that he will be away for the next week and urges her to visit during his absence, vowing once more that Linton is truly dying. When they return to the house, Cathy says that she will never feel at ease until she knows whether Heathcliff was telling the truth. The next day, Nelly reluctantly agrees to accompany Cathy to Wuthering Heights in the hope that what they find there will prove Heathcliff to be a liar.
When Nelly and Cathy arrive at Wuthering Heights, they encounter a sickly Linton whining about the servants. He complains that Cathy has not visited or corresponded with him, and she replies that she would love to spend more time with him if she had her father’s consent. Linton says that he wishes Cathy were his wife so she would love him more than anyone. Cathy quickly tells him that she will love no one more than she loves her father. She says she would rather be Linton’s sister since people sometimes come to hate their wives, and she thoughtlessly cites his own mother and Heathcliff as an example. Linton angrily denies her claim, and the two argue about their parents until Linton provokes Cathy into giving his chair a small shove. Linton goes into a coughing fit, and Cathy is instantly filled with remorse and apologizes. Linton accuses her of worsening his health, and when Cathy and Nelly attempt to leave, he makes himself fall to the floor and begins screaming petulantly. Nelly tries to convince Cathy to ignore Linton’s antics, but he successfully guilts Cathy into promising to return. After they leave, Nelly warns Cathy that she will tell Edgar if Cathy attempts to return to Wuthering Heights. Shortly afterward, Nelly falls ill with a cold, and Cathy nurses both Nelly and Edgar diligently. During this time, Cathy is left unattended in the evenings, and neither Nelly nor Edgar suspects that she uses this time to secretly travel out on the moors.
After a few weeks, Nelly is well enough to leave her bed. She quickly becomes suspicious of Cathy’s behavior and finally catches Cathy in the act of sneaking back into Thrushcross Grange one night. Cathy admits that she has been traveling to see Linton at Wuthering Heights nearly every day. She recounts her second visit, during which she and Linton quarreled once again before making up and playing a game. When she came back the next day, Hareton met her outside and demonstrated his improving literacy by reading the inscription above the door. When he admitted that he could not read the date in the inscription, Cathy laughed and called him a dunce. At this point, Nelly interrupts Cathy’s story to scold her for her uncharitable behavior toward Hareton. Cathy justifies her conduct by telling Nelly how, shortly after her interaction with Hareton, he stormed back in the house and forced her and Linton out of the room, locking them outside. Outraged, Linton threw a fit and began to cough until he bled from the mouth. Feeling bad, Hareton carried Linton upstairs. Later, Hareton attempted to apologize to Cathy, but she hit him with her whip before angrily riding home. When she returned three days later, she was dismayed to find that Linton blamed her for the whole incident. Indignant, she left, ignoring his pleas for her to return. After two days, she returned to inform Linton that she would no longer visit. Linton apologized, and Cathy forgave him after hearing how much he loved her. Finally finishing her story, Cathy begs Nelly not to tell her father. Ignoring her pleas, Nelly immediately informs Edgar, who is very distressed by Cathy’s secret excursions. Edgar promises to allow Linton to visit Thrushcross Grange but forbids Cathy from returning to Wuthering Heights.
Nelly explains to Lockwood that her narrative has now nearly caught up with the present; the events she is describing happened only last winter. Nelly then suggests that Lockwood himself might be falling in love with Cathy. Lockwood does not deny it but claims that he will not act on his feelings, as he must soon return to London. Nelly resumes her story. Cathy listens to Edgar about not returning to Wuthering Heights. As his health continues to deteriorate, Edgar begins to worry about what will happen to Cathy when he is gone. He admits to Nelly that he would not care one bit if Cathy fulfilled Heathcliff’s plan and married Linton so long as Linton was worthy of her. Edgar writes again to Linton, inviting him to visit, but Linton replies that Heathcliff will not allow him to travel to Thrushcross Grange. Instead, Linton suggests that they meet somewhere between the two houses. Edgar, who is not well enough to accompany Cathy, says that such a visit must wait until the summer, though he keeps up a steady correspondence with Linton. Nelly suspects that Linton’s letters to Edgar must have been supervised by Heathcliff, as they lack Linton’s usual complaints. Eventually, Edgar is persuaded to allow Linton and Cathy to walk together on the moors under Nelly’s supervision. As Linton will inherit Thrushcross Grange, Edgar knows that Cathy’s only hope of keeping her childhood home will be to marry Linton. However, unbeknownst to Edgar and Nelly, Linton’s health is deteriorating almost as fast as Edgar’s—a fact that Heathcliff has been deliberately hiding.
These chapters further illuminate young Cathy’s personality. We see that, like her mother, she can be very stubborn and mischievous. However, unlike the elder Catherine, Cathy is usually driven by good intentions rather than selfishness. She breaks her promise to Nelly and returns to Wuthering Heights, but only because Linton is able to arouse her pity. Indeed, it appears that Cathy’s pity for Linton may be her undoing as Heathcliff’s plot to pair them off rapidly progresses. Interestingly, Edgar does not stand in the way of Heathcliff’s marriage plan, though he is well aware of it. Edgar truly cares for his child and is willing to allow his rival to end up with everything so long as Cathy is happy: “I'd not care that Heathcliff gained his ends, and triumphed in robbing me of my last blessing!” In contrast, Heathcliff obviously detests Linton, seeing him only as a tool in his larger quest for revenge. Indeed, Nelly notes that no doctors are ever called for Linton, meaning that Heathcliff would rather let his son suffer and die than spoil the illusion that he is getting better. It would be easy to sympathize with Linton’s situation, as he is clearly ill and at the mercy of his father. However, these chapters only reinforce our first impressions of Linton’s personality: he is petulant, whiny, and self-centered. Linton is obviously disagreeable, and he and Cathy frequently quarrel during her visits. At several points, Cathy seems ready to give up on the friendship, but Linton skillfully manipulates her guilt and pity: “ ‘You must come, to cure me,’ he answered. ‘You ought to come, because you have hurt me: you know you have extremely! I was not as ill when you entered as I am at present—was I?’ ”
While Cathy has seemingly endless patience for Linton’s antics, she shows little compassion toward her other cousin. Hareton’s attempt to begin reading suggests that he cares very much about what Cathy thinks, though she cruelly laughs at his attempt at improvement. Cathy’s sheltered upper-class upbringing at Thrushcross Grange makes it difficult for her to see past Hareton’s coarse exterior. Unlike Linton, who only reconciles with Cathy because he wants a caretaker, Hareton appears to be sincere in his attempt to apologize for his behavior. Though readers can clearly see that Hareton is a better match for Cathy than Linton, she is still too immature to realize this for herself. Indeed, even after Nelly scolds Cathy for her treatment of Hareton, Cathy still does not acknowledge that her actions may have been wrong.
Readers may be surprised to learn that the events being described are, in fact, very recent. The inhospitable and angry Cathy Heathcliff that Lockwood meets at the beginning of the novel hardly resembles the kind, gentle girl that Nelly is describing, though only about a year has passed since the events in Nelly’s story. In fact, we have known from the very beginning that Cathy ends up marrying Linton, thus making her Heathcliff’s daughter-in-law. Lockwood’s encounter with Cathy at the beginning of the novel suggests that Edgar’s hopes for his daughter remain unfulfilled: Cathy does not appear happy, nor does she reside in her childhood home.
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