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Nelly informs her master of Isabella's letter, and Edgar grants permission for her to visit the Heights. When Nelly calls on Isabella, she finds her pale and listless. Isabella is extremely disappointed that Nelly brings no word from her brother. During Nelly's visit, Heathcliff insults and humiliates Isabella, bragging about his cruelty. He even admits that it was he who hanged her pet dog before their elopement.
Heathcliff demands that Nelly arrange a meeting between Catherine and himself. Nelly tells him that such an encounter would surely kill her mistress. Heathcliff threatens Nelly, saying he will detain her at Wuthering Heights and go to the Grange himself. Fearing the consequences of such a drastic action, Nelly yields and agrees to carry Heathcliff's letter to Catherine and to arrange a meeting between them if her mistress consents. At this point, Nelly's story is interrupted by the arrival of the doctor.
This chapter presents the pathetic spectacle of the altered Isabella in her miserable life at the Heights. Heathcliff's cruelty and abuse are monstrous. He frankly confesses in Nelly's presence that he never cared for the foolish and infatuated Isabella. He also seems to delight in her misery. He openly admits that "I have no pity! The more the worms writhe, the more I yearn to crush out their entrails! It is a moral teething, and I grind with greater energy, in proportion to the increase of pain." Nelly believes that Heathcliff truly has something diabolical and savage in his nature. Isabella agrees when she tells her visitor, "He's a lying fiend, a monster, and not a human being."
In spite of his cruelty to Isabella, it is evident that Heathcliff still loves Cathy deeply. He demands that Nelly arrange a meeting for him with her. He is greatly concerned about her health and resentful of Edgar, "that insipid, paltry creature attending her." He says that if she were to die, he would deem himself dead as well, tortured in hell. His images of death echo those of Cathy; both the lovers recognize that their bond of love will not be limited to this lifetime.
The reader is given a moment's relief from the tension of the plot with the arrival of the doctor, who has come to attend to Lockwood, causing a break in Nelly's tale. It also reinforces that this entire part of the novel is a flashback to previous events.