“Yes, indeed was he; and he went up to the attics when all was burning above and below, and got the servants out of their beds and helped them down himself, and went back to get his mad wife out of her cell. And then they called out to him that she was on the roof, where she was standing, waving her arms, above the battlements, and shouting out till they could hear her a mile off: I saw her and heard her with my own eyes. She was a big woman, and had long black hair: we could see it streaming against the flames as she stood. I witnessed, and several more witnessed, Mr. Rochester ascend through the sky-light on to the roof; we heard him call ‘Bertha!’ We saw him approach her; and then, ma’am, she yelled and gave a spring, and the next minute she lay smashed on the pavement.”
“Dead! Ay, dead as the stones on which her brains and blood were scattered.”
“You may well say so, ma’am: it was frightful!”
“And afterwards?” I urged.
“Well, ma’am, afterwards the house was burnt to the ground: there are only some bits of walls standing now.”
“Were any other lives lost?”
“No — perhaps it would have been better if there had.”
“What do you mean?”
“Poor Mr. Edward!” he ejaculated, “I little thought ever to have seen it! Some say it was a just judgment on him for keeping his first marriage secret, and wanting to take another wife while he had one living: but I pity him, for my part.”
“You said he was alive?” I exclaimed.
“Yes, yes: he is alive; but many think he had better he dead.”
“Why? How?” My blood was again running cold. “Where is he?” I demanded. “Is he in England?”
“Ay — ay — he’s in England; he can’t get out of England, I fancy — he’s a fixture now.”
What agony was this! And the man seemed resolved to protract it.
“He is stone-blind,” he said at last. “Yes, he is stone-blind, is Mr. Edward.”
I had dreaded worse. I had dreaded he was mad. I summoned strength to ask what had caused this calamity.
“It was all his own courage, and a body may say, his kindness, in a way, ma’am: he wouldn’t leave the house till every one else was out before him. As he came down the great staircase at last, after Mrs. Rochester had flung herself from the battlements, there was a great crash — all fell. He was taken out from under the ruins, alive, but sadly hurt: a beam had fallen in such a way as to protect him partly; but one eye was knocked out, and one hand so crushed that Mr. Carter, the surgeon, had to amputate it directly. The other eye inflamed: he lost the sight of that also. He is now helpless, indeed — blind and a cripple.”
“Where is he? Where does he now live?”
“At Ferndean, a manor-house on a farm he has, about thirty miles off: quite a desolate spot.”