Cathy missed her cousin when she woke up that morning, but time made her forget him. Linton grew up to be a selfish and disagreeable boy, continually complaining about his health. On Cathy's sixteenth birthday she and Ellen went out on the moors, and strayed onto Heathcliff's land, where he found them. He invited them to come to Wuthering Heights, telling Ellen that he wanted Linton and Cathy to marry so he would be doubly sure of inheriting the Grange. Cathy was glad to see her cousin, though she was somewhat taken back by his invalidish behavior. Hareton, at Heathcliff's request, showed Cathy around the farm, though he was shy of her and she teased him unkindly. Linton mocked Hareton’s lack of education in front of Cathy, showing himself to be mean-spirited.
Later, Cathy told her father where she had been, and asked him why he had not allowed the cousins to see each other. Heathcliff had told her that Edgar was still angry at him because he thought Heathcliff too poor to marry Isabella. Edgar told her of Heathcliff's wickedness, and forbade her to return to Wuthering Heights. Cathy was unhappy, and began a secret correspondence with Linton. By the time Ellen discovered it, they were writing love letters––affected ones on Linton's part, that Ellen suspected had been partially dictated by Heathcliff. Ellen confronted Cathy and burned the letters, threatening to tell her father if Cathy continued to write to Linton.
Trespassing becomes an important issue in this chapter, which recalls the scene in Chapter 6 when Cathy Earnshaw and Heathcliff are caught on the Lintons' land. This chapter is almost an inversion of the earlier one, especially considering that this Cathy will marry Linton, just as the earlier Cathy married Edgar. The fact that people frequently leave their property and marriages often result from trespassing speaks to the wild, dynamic quality of the moors. The emphasis on land and privacy might be taken for a metaphor for more emotional intimacy: in order for two people to become close, one must in some way trespass. On the other hand, the marriages that result from trespassing are unhappy, while those that result from exploration, such as Cathy Linton’s first meeting with Hareton in Chapter 18, are happy. Of course, the difference between trespassing and innocent exploration depends entirely on the attitude taken by the people whose lands are being entered.
Often in literature, land and women are identified with one another, so that trespassing could be taken for a metaphor for sex. This hardly seems to be the case in Wuthering Heights: Linton and Edgar remain passively in their places while their future wives come to see them. This is consistent with the way the male Lintons are frequently given female characteristics. Isabella, both biologically female and Lintonishly feminine, meets Heathcliff when he intrudes at the Grange.
That fall, Edgar caught a cold that confined him to the house all winter. Cathy grew sadder after the end of her little romance, and told Ellen that she was afraid of being alone after Ellen and her father die. Taking a walk, Cathy ended up briefly stranded outside of the wall of the park, when Heathcliff rode by. He told her that Linton was dying of a broken heart, and that if she were kind, she would visit him. Ellen told her that Heathcliff was probably lying and couldn't be trusted, but the next day Cathy persuaded her to accompany her on a visit to Wuthering Heights.
See the analysis of Chapter 20 for a discussion of children left alone in the world––Cathy Linton is not the only character to fear a parent's death, nor is her fear unjustified. Cathy is particularly vulnerable because, as a girl, she will not inherit her father's estate: her father's nephew Linton will. This is a result of legal conventions, and has nothing to do with Edgar’s relationshipwith his daughter.
Emily Brontë was especially conscious of the position of orphaned children: although her father outlived her, her mother, like Cathy’s mother, died when she was very young, and Emily’s older sister Maria, who took a mothering role with her younger siblings, died in childhood of tuberculosis. See Chapter 12 for further evidence of the importance of abandoned children: in her delirium Catherine Earnshaw remembers a nest of baby birds that died of starvation ("little skeletons") after Heathcliff caught their mother. She had been deeply upset by the sight and made Heathcliff promise never to kill a mother bird again. This may be the key to Brontë's continual emphasis on that theme: she was deeply familiar with the natural world, in which orphaned baby animals stand little chance of survival.
At Wuthering Heights, Cathy and Ellen heard "a peevish voice" (236) calling Joseph for more hot coals for the fire. Following the sound of the voice, they discovered Linton, who greeted them rather ungraciously: "No don't kiss me. It takes my breath dear me!" (237) He complained that writing to Cathy had been very tiring, and that the servants didn't take care of him as they ought, and that he hated them. He said that he wished Cathy would marry him, because wives always loved their husbands, upon which Cathy answered that this was not always so. Her father had told her that Isabella had not loved Heathcliff. Upon hearing this, Linton became angry and answered that Catherine's mother had loved Heathcliff and not Edgar. Cathy pushed his chair and he coughed for a long time, for which she was very sorry. Linton took advantage of her regret and bullied her like a true hypochondriac, making her promise to return the next day to nurse him.
When Cathy and Ellen were on their way home, Ellen expressed her disapproval of Linton and said he would die young––a “small loss” (242). She added that Cathy should on no account marry him. Cathy was not so sure he would die, and was much more friendly toward him.
Ellen caught a cold and was confined to her room. Cathy spent almost all her time taking care of her and Edgar, but she was free in the evenings. As Ellen later found out, she used this time to visit Linton.
In this chapter, Brontë explores the intersections between love and power: to what extent does Linton want Cathy to love him freely, and to what extent does he want to have husbandly control over her? It would appear that for him, love is just another form of control: he uses Cathy's love for him to make her do whatever he likes, without any consideration for her own happiness. Is this form of controlling love essentially linked to marriage? That might well be the case: see how the relationship between the older Catherine and her husband Edgar breaks down when he tries to control her friendships. However, Edgar unmistakably loved Catherine, whereas Linton seems to care for no one but himself. Marriage in Wuthering Heights is not an unqualified good: it must be accompanied by unselfish love on both sides in order to be successful.
Three weeks later, Ellen was much better, and discovered Cathy's evening visits to Wuthering Heights. Cathy told her what had happened:
Cathy bribed a servant with her books to take care of saddling her pony and keep her escapades secret. On her second visit, she and Linton had an argument about the best way of spending a summer afternoon: Linton wanted to lie in the heather and dream it away, and she wanted to rock in a treetop among the birds. "He wanted to lie in an ecstasy of peace;” Cathy explained “I wanted all to sparkle, and dance in a glorious jubilee" (248). They made up and played ball until Linton became unhappy because he always lost, but as usual, Cathy consoled him for that.
Cathy looked forward to her next visit, but when she arrived, she met Hareton, who showed her how he had learned to read his name. She mocked him for it. (Here Ellen rebuked Cathy for having been so rude to her cousin. Cathy was surprised by Ellen’s reaction, but went on.) When she was reading to Linton, Hareton came in angrily and ordered them into the kitchen. Shut out of his favorite room, Linton staged a frightening temper tantrum, wearing an expression of "frantic, powerless fury" (251) and shrieking that he would kill Hareton. Joseph pointed out that he was showing his father's character. Linton coughed blood and fainted; Cathy fetched Zillah. Hareton carried the boy upstairs but wouldn't let Cathy follow. When she cried, Hareton began to regret his behavior. Cathy struck him with her whip and rode home.
On the third day, Linton refused to speak to her except to blame her for the events of the preceding day, and she left resolving not to return. However, she did eventually, and took Linton to task for being so rude. He admitted that he was worthless, but said that she was much happier than he and should make allowances. Heathcliff hated him, and he was very unhappy at Wuthering Heights. However, he loved Cathy.
Cathy was sorry Linton had such a distorted nature, and felt she had an obligation to be his friend. She had noticed that Heathcliff avoided her, and reprimanded Linton when he did not behave well to her.
Ellen told Edgar about the visits, and he forbade Cathy to return to Wuthering Heights, but wrote to Linton that he could come to the Grange if he liked.
The contrast between Linton and Cathy's ideas of how to spend an afternoon sums up the differences in their characters. However, the juxtaposition of Linton's peaceful ideal afternoon with his furious temper tantrum is somewhat disconcerting. Are passivity and laziness essentially related to hatred and fury in the novel? This hardly seems possible, considering Edgar's peaceful and generally loving character. However, the juxtaposition serves to remind us that weakness and goodness are not to be carelessly equated.
Ellen points out to Lockwood that these events only happened the year before, and she hints that Lockwood might become interested in Cathy, who is not happy at Wuthering Heights. Then she continues with the narrative.
Edgar asked Ellen what Linton was like, and she told him that he was delicate and had little of his father in him––Cathy would probably be able to control him if they married. Edgar admitted that he was worried about what would happen to Cathy if he were to die. As spring advanced Edgar resumed his walks, but although Cathy took his flushed cheeks and bright eyes for health, Ellen was not so sure. He wrote again to Linton, asking to see him. Linton answered that his father refused to let him visit the Grange, but that he hoped to meet Edgar outside sometime. He also wrote that he would like to see Cathy again, and that his health was improved.
Edgar could not consent, because he could not walk very far, but the two began a correspondence. Linton wrote well, without complaining about his health (since Heathcliff carefully edited his letters) and eventually Edgar agreed to Cathy's going to meet Linton on the moors, with Ellen's supervision. Edgar wished Cathy to marry Linton so she would not have to leave the Grange when he died––but he would not have wished it if he knew that Linton was dying as fast as he was.
The prominent presence of tuberculosis in this novel is disturbingly prescient, considering that the illness was soon to be the cause of Brontë’s own death. Cathy fools herself into thinking that Edgar is getting better, just as Hindley’s wife Frances (and Brontë herself) tried hard to pretend that she was not sick.
In Wuthering Heights, death is a mysterious and yet unavoidable presence: the characters cannot simply expect each other to live until they are old. A cold can turn into a fever, which can turn into consumption, ending in the grave. In this chapter, Brontë lays the groundwork for the sudden deaths from illness that will occur in the final third of the novel.