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After Catherine's arrival at Thrushcross Grange, everything runs smoothly for awhile; however, the young couple's conjugal bliss soon ends. One autumn night, six months after the marriage, Heathcliff visits Thrushcross Grange. He asks Nelly to fetch her mistress immediately. She merely informs Cathy that a visitor from Gimmerton wishes to see her. Catherine greets Heathcliff with intense delight. They are so completely absorbed in their mutual joy that they ignore Edgar, who becomes furious. Heathcliff, who now looks and acts more like a member of her class, tells Catherine that he has made these changes for her. He has come back with the intention of avenging himself on Hindley, but now that he has seen her, he has abandoned his idea of revenge. After about an hour, Heathcliff departs to Wuthering Heights, after telling Nelly that he has been invited to stay there by Hindley. Nelly is suspicious.
From that point on, either Heathcliff calls on them at the Grange, or Catherine and Isabella visit Wuthering Heights. Edgar worries that his eighteen-year-old sister is attracted to Heathcliff, and both Catherine and Nelly warn Isabella against him; however, Isabella is not convinced.
One day in Edgar's absence, Heathcliff visits Catherine. In the presence of Isabella, Catherine reveals the girl's affection for the unsuspecting Heathcliff. He asks Catherine if Isabella is her brother's heir. Catherine accuses him of being too prone to covet his neighbor's goods, and the subject is dropped. Nelly wishes that Heathcliff would disappear again.
There are two startling developments in the plot in this chapter. The first is the sudden return, after an absence of about three years, of Heathcliff. Cathy is overjoyed that he is back. Heathcliff is now a changed man. He has learned better manners, and there is a certain dignity about him. He has also amassed a considerable amount of wealth although it is not explained how he has managed to become rich.
Edgar, who does not want to receive Heathcliff as a social equal, reacts angrily to his appearance at the Grange. The result is that Cathy sarcastically instructs Nelly to set two separate tables in the parlor. Edgar and Isabella will share one, as they belong to the gentry. Catherine and Heathcliff will sit at the other table. Although there is much unpleasantness between Cathy and her husband over Heathcliff, she is delighted to have her old friend back. This chapter reveals for the first time that Cathy has been inwardly miserable because of Heathcliff's absence.
The second important revelation in the chapter is Isabella's infatuation for Heathcliff. Cathy jealously discourages her sister-in-law from her attraction, explaining to her that Heathcliff is a fierce, selfish, pitiless man without refinement or cultivation. Nelly expresses a similar opinion about Heathcliff to discourage Isabella. Additionally, she reveals that Heathcliff and Hindley play cards all night and that Hindley has been borrowing money from Heathcliff, using the Heights as security; it is obvious that Heathcliff is beginning to exact his revenge. In spite of all the criticism she hears, Isabella boldly defends Heathcliff. Heathcliff outwardly shows interest in Isabella; in truth, he is more interested in her wealth. Edgar disapproves of his sister's attraction to Heathcliff and fears that the Grange may fall into his hands.