Three years later, with the memory of Linton erased from her mind, Cathy and Nelly are both bird hunting and exploring on the moors. Cathy moves more quickly than Nelly does, and before Nelly can stop them, Cathy is speaking with Heathcliff. While speaking with Heathcliff, Cathy notices Hareton and remarks that she has met him before. Heathcliff cannot respond to that, but he does mention that she has met his son before and encourages Cathy and Nelly to visit his house.
Nelly knows that this is not a good idea but is unable to convince Cathy not to go because Cathy is eager to determine who Heathcliff's son is. Heathcliff mentions to Nelly his desire to have the cousins fall in love and get married. When Cathy and Linton do meet, they do not recognize each other at first. Although Linton is now taller than Cathy is, he is still quite sickly. Unwilling to show Cathy around the farmhouse at first, Linton stays inside while Hareton leaves to show his cousin Wuthering Heights.
Heathcliff sends Linton after his cousins, and as he leaves, Nelly hears Cathy mock Hareton's inability to read.
The next day, Cathy reveals everything about her visit to her father. Edgar tries to explain to Cathy why he kept her from her cousins and her uncle, but she does not understand his reasoning. Edgar also commands his daughter not to have any contact with Linton. This upsets Cathy greatly, and she begins to have a secret, letter-writing relationship with Linton. Nelly discovers what Cathy has been doing and destroys Linton's letters to Cathy, but Nelly does not tell Edgar.
Heathcliff reveals his plan to Nelly and the readers, along with his rationale that he is doing this, only as a safeguard against legal disputes. It is interesting that he still considers Nelly a confidant. Often, in the past, she took his side, and he clearly still thinks he can manipulate her. He is correct in his assumptions, for as he convinces Cathy to seek out his son, Nelly's chief concern is that Edgar will find out of the visit, and she laments "and I shall have the blame."
After Heathcliff reveals his plan and Nelly counters that Cathy would be Edgar's heir, Heathcliff's response foreshadows the fact that Edgar's lawyer is now on Heathcliff's payroll, for Heathcliff knows that "there is no clause in the will to secure it so." The only way he could know what Edgar's will stated is by being privy to it. And there is no way that Edgar would have allowed Heathcliff to know the contents of his will; therefore, Edgar's lawyer must have shown Heathcliff, or at least shared the contents.
When Nelly and Cathy arrive at Wuthering Heights, Linton has grown but is still as disagreeable as ever. He joins Cathy in making fun of Hareton's lack of a formal education and whines about not being able to travel the four miles to Thrushcross Grange. Logically, he argues, he is too sick to travel; therefore, Cathy must visit him.
Once again, Nelly's priorities seem to be skewed. Instead of telling Edgar about Cathy's letter writing, she takes it upon herself to burn them all, only threatening to tell Edgar. Nelly keeps Cathy's secret the same way that Cathy kept Nelly's secret (in Chapter 18); thus acting as Cathy's friend. Nelly will not always keep Cathy's secrets, as readers soon find out.
hillock a small hill.
nab an abrupt termination of a range of uplands.
chit an immature or childish girl.
salubrious promoting health or welfare; wholesome.
paltry practically worthless.
vapid uninteresting or lifeless.
bathos descent from the lofty to the commonplace; here, Heathcliff remarks on how he has lessened Hareton's place in society.