“I’m very far from jesting, Miss Catherine,” I replied. “You love Mr. Edgar because he is handsome, and young, and cheerful, and rich, and loves you. The last, however, goes for nothing: you would love him without that, probably; and with it you wouldn’t, unless he possessed the four former attractions.”
“No, to be sure not: I should only pity him—hate him, perhaps, if he were ugly, and a clown.”
“But there are several other handsome, rich young men in the world: handsomer, possibly, and richer than he is. What should hinder you from loving them?”
“If there be any, they are out of my way: I’ve seen none like Edgar.”
“You may see some; and he won’t always be handsome, and young, and may not always be rich.”
“He is now; and I have only to do with the present. I wish you would speak rationally.”
“Well, that settles it: if you have only to do with the present, marry Mr. Linton.”
“I don’t want your permission for that—I shall marry him: and yet you have not told me whether I’m right.”
“Perfectly right; if people be right to marry only for the present. And now, let us hear what you are unhappy about. Your brother will be pleased; the old lady and gentleman will not object, I think; you will escape from a disorderly, comfortless home into a wealthy, respectable one; and you love Edgar, and Edgar loves you. All seems smooth and easy: where is the obstacle?”
“Here! and here!” replied Catherine, striking one hand on her forehead, and the other on her breast: “in whichever place the soul lives. In my soul and in my heart, I’m convinced I’m wrong!”
“That’s very strange! I cannot make it out.”
“It’s my secret. But if you will not mock at me, I’ll explain it: I can’t do it distinctly; but I’ll give you a feeling of how I feel.”
She seated herself by me again: her countenance grew sadder and graver, and her clasped hands trembled.
“Nelly, do you never dream queer dreams?” she said, suddenly, after some minutes’ reflection.
“Yes, now and then,” I answered.
“And so do I. I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind. And this is one: I’m going to tell it—but take care not to smile at any part of it.”
“Oh! don’t, Miss Catherine!” I cried. “We’re dismal enough without conjuring up ghosts and visions to perplex us. Come, come, be merry and like yourself! Look at little Hareton! he’s dreaming nothing dreary. How sweetly he smiles in his sleep!”
“Yes; and how sweetly his father curses in his solitude! You remember him, I daresay, when he was just such another as that chubby thing: nearly as young and innocent. However, Nelly, I shall oblige you to listen: it’s not long; and I’ve no power to be merry to-night.”
“I won’t hear it, I won’t hear it!” I repeated, hastily.
I was superstitious about dreams then, and am still; and Catherine had an unusual gloom in her aspect, that made me dread something from which I might shape a prophecy, and foresee a fearful catastrophe. She was vexed, but she did not proceed. Apparently taking up another subject, she recommenced in a short time.