"Joseph has gone to bed an hour ago. The master finally collapsed in his bed little less than half an hour ago," Nelly said as she walked into her mistress's bedroom.
Nelly took one look around the room and was shocked beyond belief. Every article of Catherine's closet was on her bed. Shoes were scattered about. The vanity was cluttered with necklaces, earbobs and hairpins. It looked as though a thief had gone through it all. Nelly placed the tray of food she carried on the table. Every book Catherine owned was sprawled open on the desk or the floor. The girl herself was sitting in the middle of the floor, wearing the same green dress Nelly had left her only this morning and staring at one of the old books.
"Jesus and Mary, what happened in here?" Nelly asked as she started to clean.
"I couldn't decide what to wear. I was too excited. I think I tried on every piece of clothing I own. I was even thinking of wearing my wedding dress. Then I started looking for jewels to pair with each dress. Then I looked for shoes. Then I tried every piece of jewelry with every dress and every shoe. And I had found only an hour had passed! Oh how slow time moves when one is desperate. I took to reading my old diaries and journals. I drew a picture of Heathcliff in one of them when I was eleven and I was trying to find it. How I've fretted this whole afternoon, Nelly!"
Catherine reached for the food, ravenous after a whole day of fasting. Nelly cleared the room as Catherine ate.
"What did they say at the wedding?" Catherine asked. Nelly could tell the girl was feverishly excited. Her cheeks were bright red and her eyes glowing.
"Mr. Linton almost ran over here to check on you. He insisted on the doctor being called from London. I told him that the doctor was no use against a fever and a cold. I told him all you needed was bed rest and some pampering. I also gave him your message. He told me to tell you not to worry about a thing. He will take care of everything and you must only focus on getting better. You are truly a vixen, for lying to such a good man. He loves you so much that he doesn't even care that you refuse to marry him. He even asked to send his cook over to make you some special porridge. Any woman would be truly lucky to have a man like that, and yet you are throwing him away," Nelly criticized. But even the nagging could not affect Catherine's bright mood. She only ate with that same dreamy look on her face.
"Joseph, of course, called you a liar. He said you were fine just yesterday."
Catherine rolled here eyes at that, though the smile did not leave her face. "Of course Joseph would."
Nelly took a look at the young mistress and wondered, not for the first time, if this is the right course of action. What would young Heathcliff do? He had left with such a deep misunderstanding, and Nelly had no doubt that the young man was back for vengeance. Why else would he write such a note? So many people at Wuthering Heights and the Grange had wronged him. Hindley had abused the child. Edgar Linton had taken his love. And what of Catherine? Was Heathcliff angry with Catherine as well?
"Now, shouldn't I come with you when you go to the Inn?" offered Nelly, though she knew the answer to that question as well.
"And what would you do if you come with me? Nelly, that is out of the question entirely. You must stay here and make sure no one knows that I am missing. I can handle myself on the moors."
"It is not the moors I'm worried about, but rather Heathcliff himself. What will you do with him?"
Catherine laughed at this. "Do? What are you talking about Nelly? I shall do nothing. You make it sound as if I'll throw myself at Heathcliff the moment I see him and we shall run away together. Do I look like a fool to you? I'm not as daft as that."
"Then why do you want to go see him? What of Mr. Linton? Are you going through with this marriage?"
Catherine paused, as she pushed the food aside and sat on the chair. She looked indecisive, unsure of her actions and of her person. Nelly walked away from the vanity towards her mistress, and took the girl's face in her hands. Catherine was still so young, still a girl.
"I do not know, Nelly," said the girl truthfully, and Nelly did not see the same glimmer of hope and joy in her eyes. The dark Earnshaw eyes were clouded over now, her mind and heart at turmoil.
"I know you're confused, love," Nelly said as she embraced the girl in a comforting hug.
Catherine settled into the arms of Nelly like a little girl, but a moment later a determined woman's voice spoke. "The one thing I do know is that I must see him."
"How much does the brute own you?"
"Nearly 50 lbs. He's been gambling and drinking up a debt since his wife passed nearly three years ago," the barkeeper told the tall, dark gentleman who stood before him. At least the man looked like a gentleman, with a fine tailored navy blue suit and a silk vest. The man's hair was kept in perfect order, and his shoes were real leather. Yet there was a dark look to the man, something different that separated him from the gentry. It must be those wild, dark eyes. They looked almost savage, ready to kill at any given second. The barkeeper knew that he had never seen the man in his life, yet there was something about the man that was familiar.
"Does he come in often?" the man asked.
"Yes, most nights. Not tonight though. It's his sister's wedding," the barkeeper was sure now, that there must be something to this man. That voice seemed distantly familiar, and the barkeeper had a good memory.
"What happened to that?"
"You didn't hear?" the barkeeper said in surprise as he moved to clean another set of glasses with his dirty, never-been-washed rag. The glass looked dirtier than when he had started. "His sister fell sick this morning, before the wedding. Most of the town think poor Linton's been stood up. Mighty mysterious for that girl to fall deathly ill at a moment's notice. She's a wild one."
If the man was surprised, he didn't show it.
The barkeeper continued the onside conversation. Though the tavern was filled with noise and people, everyone was sitting at a table, eating supper. Most were guests for the wedding staying at the Gimmerton Inn just upstairs. It was a little late for supper, but it was a tavern and supper here lasted til well after midnight. The only one who sat at the bar was this gentleman, who the barkeeper had thought to be mute until he asked about Mr. Earnshaw up at Wuthering Heights.
"Though, now that I think about it, she did have a mighty fever around three years ago."
"Three years ago?" the silent and dark man offered. It wasn't much, but it kept the barkeeper talking.
"Yep. She became deathly ill. Doctor didn't think she would last those few days. I heard it was because she went outside during the rain, looking for some help that ran away. Isn't that just the stupidest thing you've ever heard?"
The man shrugged and took a sip of the ale.
"The girl didn't die, but those Lintons did. Old Mr. and Mrs. Linton gave her a couple of visits and died of the fever a couple of days within each other."
"I see," said the man again.
"So you here for the wedding?" the tavern keeper asked.
"Somewhat," was the mysterious reply.
"You from the groom's or bride's side?"
The man paused.
"Neither," the gentleman finally said with a sardonic smile. It was a smile that belonged to the devil.
Before the barkeeper could respond to that strange comment, the man had already dropped down coins and was halfway up the stairs.
"Edgar, go to bed," Isabella told her brother as she ran her fingers through the rose petals scattered around the empty marriage chamber.
Her brother sat hunched in the big stuffed armchair, looking as though he's aged five years in just this one day.
"I'm worried Isabella. I think I should call the doctor from London. After what happened to father and mother, I'm deathly worried for Miss Earnshaw."
"Miss Earnshaw? You still call her Miss Earnshaw? Aren't you supposed to be married today? Were you going to call her Miss Earnshaw when you take her to bed?" Isabella teased her brother.
"Isabella!" Edgar warned.
"Sorry, but you are engaged. You should be calling her Catherine, or is it Cathy?" Isabella asked with a smirk as she sat on the bed, inhaling the nauseating scent of roses.
"Catherine. She prefers Catherine. No one calls her Cathy anymore. She says it's too childish, though her brother refers to her as Cathy whenever he's dead drunk."
"Is it really wise for us to have such a connection?" Isabella asked as she watched her brother study the portrait of Catherine that had been recently painted.
"You mean Hindley Earnshaw? Well, they are the second richest family in the neighborhood. It would be a good connection, on paper at least. Her brother cannot be blamed for his fall into sin. He has suffered a hard life, losing his wife at such a young age. But all of this is insignificant. I love Catherine Earnshaw with all my heart and there's nothing that can deter our marriage."
Isabella didn't want to say the obvious, which was that everyone in the village and in Thrushcross Grange believed Catherine did not want to marry Edgar. Isabella had seen Catherine herself just two days ago. She was lively, spirited and in fine health. However, Isabella supposed that illness could come along suddenly.
"Should I send for the doctor?" Edgar asked again.
"I do not know. Didn't Ellen say that it was a mere cold and no doctor can help with that?" she asked.
"I know, but it would make me feel better if there was a doctor around just in case. I think I shall send one. First thing tomorrow morning, I shall send for a doctor."
"Alright, but go to bed now. You look tired and it has been a very long day," Isabella said as she stood up and made her way out of the room.
Suddenly, Edgar spoke in such a low voice that Isabella almost missed the muttered question. "Do you think she didn't want to marry me?"
Isabella stood at the doorway, unable to turn back and look at her brother. She knew that if she did, the answer would be written on her face. Isabella checked her voice and said with as much reassurance as she could muster, "Of course she wanted to marry you, Edgar. Why else would Ellen say that she was willing to walk down the altar with you as soon as she could get out of her room?"
"Thanks Isabella. I don't know why I'm doubting her. It's wrong of me to do so, but everyone is talking..."
"You're just overtired. Don't think about it. Go to sleep," Isabella said as she walked out of the room, feeling just a little sorry about the lie. Isabella Linton knew that Catherine Earnshaw had Edgar under her thumb and she did not love him.
A/N: Hey, thanks for all the reviews. Sorry if Isabella is a little out of character, but I really find it hard to write about someone who talks for only 5 pages out of a 400 page book. She's going to be a little more willful and sarcastic in this story, and therefore, provide a better opponent for Cathy. The Heathcliff and Cathy reunion scene will come next. Yay, can't wait to write it.