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“You said I killed you — haunt me, then!” An extract from Wuthering Heights

Are you part of the Oxford World’s Classics Reading Group? The following is an extract from the current selection, Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë, taken from volume II, chapter II, pages 147-148 in the Oxford World’s Classics edition.

“Yes, she’s dead!” I answered, checking my sobs, and drying my cheeks. “Gone to heaven, I hope, where we may, everyone, join her, if we take due warning, and leave our evil ways to follow good!”

“Did she take due warning, then?” asked Heathcliff, attempting a sneer. “Did she die like a saint? Come, give me a true history of the event. How did — ”

He endeavoured to pronounce the name, but could not manage it; and compressing his mouth he held a silent combat with his inward agony, defying, meanwhile, my sympathy with an unflinching, ferocious stare.

“How did she die?” he resumed, at last — fain, notwithstanding his hardihod, to have a support behind him, for, after the struggle, he trembled, in spite of himself, to his very finger-ends.

“Poor wretch!” I thought; “you have a heart and nerves the same as your brother men! Why should you be so anxious to conceal them? Your pride cannot blind God! You tempt Him to wring them, till He forces a cry of humiliation!”

“Quietly as a lamb!” I answered, aloud. “She drew a sigh, and stretched herself, like a child reviving, and sinking again to sleep; and five minutes after I felt one little pulse at her heart, and nothing more!”

“And — and did she ever mention me?” he asked, hesitating, as if he dreaded the answer to his question would introduce details that he could not bear to hear.

“Her senses never returned — she recognised nobody from the time you left her,” I said. “She lies with a sweet smile on her face; and her latest ideas wandered back to pleasant early days. Her life closed in a gentle dream — may she wake as kindly in the other world!”

“May she wake in torment!” he cried, with frightful vehemence, stamping his foot, and groaning in a sudden paroxysm of ungovernable passion. “Why, she’s a liar to the end! Where is she? Not there — not in heaven — not perished — where? Oh! you said you cared nothing for my sufferings! And I pray one prayer — I repeat it till my tongue stiffens — Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest, as long as I am living! You said I killed you — haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe — I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always — take any form — drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”

He dashed his head against the knotted trunk; and, lifting up his eyes, howled, not like a man, but like a savage beast getting goaded to death with knives and spears.

I observed several splashes of blood about the bark of the tree, and his hand and forehead were both stained; probably the scene I witnessed was a repetition of others acted during the night. It hardly moved my compassion — it appalled me; still I felt reluctant to quit him so. But the moment he recollected himself enough to notice me watching, he thundered a command for me to go, and I obeyed. He was beyond my skill to quiet or console!

Heading image: Dancing Fairies by August Malmström. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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