Wuthering Heights Chapter 4
Despite his determination, after his unhappy visit at the Heights, to avoid all human contact, Mr. Lockwood found himself asking his maid, Mrs. Nelly Dean, to sit and talk while he ate. His walk in the snow made him ill, and in his incapacitated state, he desired company. Mrs. Dean tells him she has lived at the Grange for eighteen years, since her mistress married and moved into the house. When her mistress died, she remained as housekeeper. Mr. Lockwood thinks he would like to hear some stories about his landlord, and the beautiful Mrs. Heathcliff, so he asks Mrs. Dean why Mr. Heathcliff chooses to rent out the Grange, which is a nicer property than Wuthering Heights. It is because he is cheap, she tells him, and greedy. With his only son dead, he has no family with whom he can share his wealth.
Mrs. Dean tells him that Mrs. Heathcliff's maiden name was Catherine Linton, and her father was Mrs. Dean's late master. The Linton family once owned the Grange, and the Earnshaws owned the Heights. Hareton Earnshaw, the coarse youth at the Heights, is the nephew of the late Mrs. Linton. Mrs. Heathcliff married her cousin, the child of Heathcliff and Mr. Linton's sister. The Earnshaw family is very old and only Hareton remains of it. Mrs. Dean asks Mr. Lockwood how Catherine looked, and about the behavior of Mr. Heathcliff. He is sorry to tell her that the first is unhappy, the second is rough and mean. Mr. Lockwood asks Mrs. Dean about Mr. Heathcliff's past, and she agrees to tell it. She knows everything except where he came from, or who his parents were. Mrs. Dean grabs some sewing, then starts her story.
Before she was moved to the Grange, Mrs. Dean lived and worked at Wuthering Heights. Her mother cared for Hindley Earnshaw, Hareton's father, and young Nelly Dean worked around the house and played with the children. One morning the father left for business in Liverpool, and asked his children, Hindley and Catherine, what he should bring back for them. They each named something, and then he left. Late on the third day he returned, with a small dark child. It was dirty and no one could understand its talk. Mrs. Earnshaw was very angry, and she and the children wanted him to get rid of it. He found the child wandering alone in Liverpool, and when he could not find its family, he took it home with him. The presents father had promised were broken or lost in his bringing the child home, and this made the children dislike the little orphan even more. The children wouldn't sleep with it, and Nelly left him to sleep on the stair landing, which got her in trouble.
They gave him one name, Heathcliff, and he soon made good friends with Catherine, but Hindley hated him. Only Catherine and her father treated Heathcliff well; the rest of the house made no efforts for him. Protective, Mr. Earnshaw made Heathcliff his favorite over all his children, which made Hindley hate him even more. Even Nelly grew to like Heathcliff more, though she could not understand why father loved such a sullen child. Knowing he was the favorite, Heathcliff soon took advantage of his position. When Heathcliff demanded he and Hindley exchange horses when his own became lame, the two had a terrible fight. Hindley was forced to give in, and Nelly convinced Heathcliff to keep quiet about the bruises he had received. Having gotten what he wanted, Heathcliff agreed. Nelly thought his silence was a sign of character, but soon found out how wrong this idea was.