He bid me be silent; and then, for the first time, allowed himself a glance round the room and a look at the pictures. Having studied Mrs. Linton’s, he said—‘I shall have that home. Not because I need it, but—’ He turned abruptly to the fire, and continued, with what, for lack of a better word, I must call a smile—‘I’ll tell you what I did yesterday! I got the sexton, who was digging Linton’s grave, to remove the earth off her coffin lid, and I opened it. I thought, once, I would have stayed there : when I saw her face again—it is hers yet!—he had hard work to stir me; but he said it would change if the air blew on it, and so I struck one side of the coffin loose, and covered it up: not Linton’s side, damn him! I wish he’d been soldered in lead. And I bribed the sexton to pull it away when I’m laid there, and slide mine out too; I’ll have it made so: and then by the time Linton gets to us he’ll not know which is which!’
from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Background Information: Mr.Linton died recently and is soon to be buried beside his wife who died 18 years ago.
When did Heathcliff think of that? The moment when he was with the sexton or further past? At what point of time the possible 'staying' was meant? Did he express past possibility or past wish?
What is the meaning of once? Was it just a fleeting idea? Is it in connection with thought or the following part?
I'm so confused about this sentence and the use of would have past participle. Help me, please!