I don’t know how I got up them stairs, for they were beginning to burn too. I opened her door—all red and glowing it was inside! like an oven when you open it to rake out the ashes on a baking-day. And I tried to get in, because all I wanted then was to save her—to get her out safe and sound, if I had to roast myself for it, because we had been brought up together from little things, and I loved her like a sister. And while I was trying to get my jacket off and round my head, something gave way right under my feet, and I seemed to fall straight into hell!
I was badly burnt, and what handsomeness there was about my face was pretty well scorched out of it by that night’s work; and I didn’t know anything for a bit.
When I come to myself, they had got me into bed bound up with cotton-wool and oil and things. And the first thing I did was to sit up and try to tear them off.
‘You’ll kill yourself,’ says the nurse.
‘Thank you,’ says I, ’that’s the best thing I can do, now Lilian is dead.’
And with that the nurse gives a laugh. ’Oh, that’s what’s on your mind, is it?’ says she. ’Doctor said there was something. Miss Lilian had run away that night to her young man. Lucky for her! She’s luckier than you, poor thing! And they’re married and living in lodgings at Brighton, and she’s been over to see you every day.’
That day she came again. I lay still and let her thank me for having tried to save her; for the farm men had seen the fire, and had come up in time to see me go up the staircase to her room, and they had pulled me out. She believes to this day the fire was an accident, and that I would have sacrificed my life for her. And so I would; she’s right there.
I wasn’t going to make her unhappy by telling her the real truth, because she was as fond of me as I was of her; and she has been as happy as the day is long, all her life long, and so she deserves.
And as for me, I stayed on with uncle at the farm until he died of that bronchitis I told you of, and the little wing was built up again, and the lichen has grown on it, so that now you could hardly tell it is only forty years old; and he left me all his money, and when he died, and Whitecroft went to a distant relation, I came here to do what bits of good I could.
And I have never told the truth about this to any one but you. I couldn’t have told it to any one as cared, but I know you don’t. So that makes it easy.