Recuperating from his wanderings, Lockwood asks Nelly about Heathcliff and his daughter-in-law. Nelly informs him that the widow's maiden name was Catherine Linton, the daughter of Nelly's late master, and that Hareton Earnshaw is the nephew of her late master's wife. Cathy is the last of the Lintons, and Hareton is the last of the Earnshaws. Nelly also reveals that Heathcliff had married Mr. Linton's sister.
This bit of information piques Lockwood's curiosity, so he encourages Nelly to tell him the history of the people and places he has encountered. Her story begins with her life at Wuthering Heights; she grew up with Catherine and Hindley Earnshaw. Mr. Earnshaw brought an orphan home from Liverpool, named him Heathcliff (after a son who died in childbirth), and grew to love the boy more than his own son.
Catherine and Hindley both initially disliked Heathcliff, but Catherine soon grew to love him. Hindley resented Heathcliff, especially for displacing him from his father. After Mrs. Earnshaw died, within two years of Heathcliff's arrival, Hindley was separated from everyone in his family.
Lockwood's involvement with Catherine's spirit, as well as his interest in the Heathcliff, prompts him to ask Nelly Dean about the history of Wuthering Heights. At this point, Nelly assumes the role of primary narrator of the novel. During her narration, however, she often quotes other characters, so some of her information is not first-hand but rather second- and third-hand knowledge.
Her explanation about Heathcliff's introduction into the Earnshaw household provides sympathy for both Heathcliff and Hindley. From Hindley's perspective, Heathcliff has usurped the love of both his father and his sister. Heathcliff is an orphan who is ready to accept the members of a family that is not fully ready to accept him.
The childhood of both Catherine and Heathcliff provides the development of their characters and foreshadows their futures. When crossed, Catherine, the warm and loving daughter, can be defiant, headstrong, and cruel. Heathcliff can be brooding, sullen, and capable of vindictiveness. Their relationship begins to explore one of the primary themes of Wuthering Heights, namely that love can be capricious and its consequences, devastating.
weather-cock here, a person who changes easily.
strike my colours here, surrender or give in.
indigenae native to a particular area.
churl rude, ill-bred person.
hob shelf in the side of a fireplace where an item can be kept warm.
usurper a person who wrongfully takes a possession or position.
interloper an intruder.
qualm faintness or nausea.
vindictive seeking revenge.