Lockwood is now the chief narrator once again for this chapter. He calls on the Heights to try to get to know Catherine better, as he is still interested in her. He passes a note from Nell.
Catherine teases Hareton over his inability to read.
Lockwood has been roaming about for sometime, and returns unannounced. On a visit to the Heights he spies Hareton and Catherine reading together, much changed.
Finding Nell, he learns of Heathcliff’s death. Nell becomes narrator:
She recounts the tale of how Catherine apologizes for calling Hareton dunce, and contrives to get him interested in reading once again: ” I overheard no further distinguishable talk; but in looking around again I perceived two such radiant countenances bent over the page of the accepted book that I did not doubt the treaty had been ratified on both sides, and the enemies were thenceforth sworn allies… The intimacy, thus commenced rapidly, though it didn’t counter temporary interruptions. Earnshaw was not to be civilized with a wish; and my young lady was no philosopher, and no paragon of patience; but both their minds tending to the same point – one loving and desiring to esteem, and the other loving and desiring to be esteemed – they contrived in the end to reach it.” (249)
Nell realizes that the union of the two will be excellent. When you consider it, it is a better version of Heathcliff and Catherine, hey?
The youngsters begin to stand up to Heathcliff and…
…he softens. “You must learn to avoid putting me in a passion, I really shall murder you, sometime!” (256). Well, this is a change.
“An absurd termination to my violent exertions?” (254) begins a sort of confessional to Ellen Dean.
He speaks of a “change” to Nell. She asks if he is ill and if he suspects he is dying, and he thinks not, but admits feeling as if he has to force himself to breathe and his heart to beat. And he admits at the point of being able to demolish physically both houses, no longer the will to do so.
The other characters sense their impending death with sadness and melancholy; not so with Heathcliff: he seems “very much excited, and wild and glad!” (257)
Is he consorting with Catherine’s ghost? (Be careful on this: if you are essaying for the AP test, stay to interpreting the prompt by referring to the author’s text. Do not stray far into your own conjecture.)
Nell muses on whether Heathcliff is a vampire or ghoul, and thinks back on his upbringing and her part in it and comparing that to what she remembers having read on such hideous creatures. “But where did he come from, the little dark thing, harboured by a good man to his bane?” muttered superstition (260). Here we return solidly to the gothic.
Heathcliff’s death, rain soaked, reaching toward lintel: compare to Lockwood’s night at the Heights. The eyes won’t be closed, and the corpse grins like the devil. Compare to Catherine looking angelic in death. (Well ain’t that bloody sexist, seeing as they shared the same soul…)
And the locals say “he walks.” The scared shepherd and frightened sheep: “They’s Heathcliff and a woman yonder, under t’ Nab,” he blubbered, “un’ Aw darnut pass ’em” (265). Of course: Heathcliff throughout confesses “a strong conviction” in the existence of ghosts, invites being haunted by Cathy, and intimates that he’ll be back.
“I believe the dead are at peace, but it is not right to speak of them with levity.”