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of this strange talk, and I will. You contradict your own words, and
distract me! Be calm and frank, and confess at once all that weighs
on your heart. You wouldn’t injure me, Linton, would you? You
wouldn’t let any enemy hurt me, if you could prevent it? I’ll
believe you are a coward for yourself, but not a cowardly betrayer
of your best friend.”

“But my father threatened me,” gasped the boy, clasping his
attenuated fingers, “and I dread him--I dread him! I dare not

“Oh well!” said Catherine, with scornful compassion, “keep
your secret, I’m no coward--save yourself; I’m not afraid!”

Her magnanimity provoked his tears: he wept wildly, kissing
her supporting hands, and yet could not summon courage to speak

I was cogitating what the mystery might be, and determined
Catherine should never suffer to benefit him or any one else, by
my good will, when hearing a rustle among the ling, I looked up
and saw Mr. Heathcliff almost close upon us, descending the
Heights. He didn’t cast a glance towards my companions, though
they were sufficiently near for Linton’s sobs to be audible; but
hailing me in the almost hearty tone he assumed to none besides,
and the sincerity of which I couldn’t avoid doubting, he said--

“It is something to see you so near to my house, Nelly! How are
you at the Grange? Let us hear! The rumour goes,” he added in a
lower tone, “that Edgar Linton is on his deathbed--perhaps they
exaggerated his illness?”

“No; my master is dying,” I replied; “it is true enough. A sad
thing it will be for us all, but a blessing for him!”

“How long will he last, do you think?” he asked.

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