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Catherine finally ends her seclusion on the third day. Thinking she is dying, she asks for water and gruel. She also inquires about her husband. When Nelly tells her that he is in the library, she loses all self-control and behaves like a mad woman. In her delirium, Catherine speaks of Wuthering Heights and of Heathcliff. When Nelly leaves to fetch Edgar, Catherine throws open the window of her room and imagines she is addressing her true love. She swears that when she dies, she is not going to rest in peace until Heathcliff joins her. At the end of the novel, there is a picture of their two restless spirits together.
When Edgar comes into her room, Catherine tells him that before spring she will be in her grave. Edgar is horrified at what he hears and sees. Her words, her haggard appearance, and her state of delirium are shocking. He scolds Nelly for keeping him in ignorance about his wife's condition. Because her master is so upset, Nelly decides she should not tell him the latest news. Isabella has eloped with Heathcliff.
One of the maids breaks the news of the elopement to Edgar the next morning. He remains calm and does not want the couple to be followed. He does, however, declare that from now on Isabella will be his sister in name only, "not because (he) disowns her, but because she has disowned (him)."
In Chapter 12, Catherine's illness becomes more serious, and the description of her state of delirium is masterful. As she rambles on about her life at Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff, it is obvious that her mind is in a state of complete disorder. She tells Edgar that she is certain she will die before the spring and requests to be buried in the open air, not among the Lintons or under the chapel roof. Mr. Kenneth, the doctor, says the danger that threatens Cathy at this time is not death, but permanent insanity. Edgar is beside himself over his wife's condition. He berates Nelly for having hidden from him the seriousness of Cathy's illness.
The turmoil surrounding Catherine's illness gives Isabella an opportunity to elope with Heathcliff. It is another step in Heathcliff's plan for revenge. He has successfully degraded Hindley and Hareton. Now Edgar is made to suffer by the marriage of his sister to a man whom he despises. Furthermore, Heathcliff is a step closer to obtaining Thrushcross Grange for his own.