Death of Bertha Rochester
"Then Mr. Rochester was home when the fire broke
"Yes, indeed he was; and he went up to the attics
when all was burning above and below, and got the servants out of
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 skylight on 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 be better if there had."
"What do you mean?"
"Poor Mr. Edward!" he ejaculated, " I thought ever
to have seen it! Some say it was a just judgement 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 say he was alive?" I exclaimed.
"Yes, yes: he is alive; but many think he had better
"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
"He is stone-blind," he said at last. "Yes, he is
stone-blind, is Mr. Edward.
I dreaded the worst. 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."