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well as property? If so, whose? Dreadful question: there was no
one here to answer it-not even dumb sign, mute token.

In wandering round the shattered walls and through the
devastated interior, I gathered evidence that the calamity was not
of late occurrence. Winter snows, I thought, had drifted through
that void arch, winter rains beaten in at those hollow casements;
for, amidst the drenched piles of rubbish, spring had cherished
vegetation: grass and weed grew here and there between the stones
and fallen rafters.

And oh! where meantime was the hapless owner of this wreck? In
what land? Under what auspices? My eye involuntarily wandered
to the grey church tower near the gates, and I asked, ‘Is he with
Damer de Rochester, sharing the shelter of his narrow marble
house?’ Some answer must be had to these questions. I could find it
nowhere but at the inn, and thither, ere long, I returned. The host
himself brought my breakfast into the parlour. I requested him to
shut the door and sit down: I had some questions to ask him. But
when he complied, I scarcely knew how to begin; such horror had I
of the possible answers. And yet the spectacle of desolation I had
just left prepared me in a measure for a tale of misery. The host
was a respectablelooking, middle-aged man.

‘You know Thornfield Hall, of course?’ I managed to say at last.
‘Yes, ma’am; I lived there once.’ ‘Did you?’ Not in my time, I
thought: you are a stranger to me.

‘I was the late Mr. Rochester’s butler,’ he added.
The late! I seem to have received, with full force, the blow I had
been trying to evade.

‘The late!’ I gasped. ‘Is he dead?’
‘I mean the present gentleman, Mr. Edward’s father,’ he explained.
I breathed again: my blood resumed its flow. Fully assured by
these words that Mr. Edwardmy Mr. Rochester (God bless him,
wherever he was!)- was at least alive: was, in short, ‘the present
gentleman.’ Gladdening words! It seemed I could hear all that was
to come-whatever the disclosures might be-with comparative

Since he was not in the grave, I could bear, I thought, to learn that
he was at the Antipodes.

‘Is Mr. Rochester living at Thornfield Hall now?’ I asked, knowing,
of course, what the answer would be, but yet desirous of deferring
the direct question as to where he really was.

‘No, ma’am-oh, no! No one is living there. I suppose you are a
stranger in these parts, or you would have heard what happened
last autumn,- Thornfield Hall is quite a ruin: it was burnt down
just about harvest-time. A dreadful calamity! such an immense
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