"Consent, then, to his demand is possible: but for one item - one dreadful item. It is - that he asks me to be his wife, and has no more of a husband's heart for me than that frowning giant of a rock, down which the stream is foaming in yonder gorge. He prizes me as a soldier would a good weapon; and that is all. Unmarried to him, this would never grieve me; but can I let him complete his calculations - coolly put into practice his plans - go through the wedding ceremony? Can I receive from him the bridal ring, endure all the forms of love (which I doubt not he would scrupulously observe) and know that the spirit was quite absent? Can I bear the consciousness that every endearment he bestows is a sacrifice made on principle? No: such a martyrdom would be monstrous. I will never undergo it. As his sister, I might accompany him - not as his wife: I will tell him so."
I looked towards the knoll: there he lay, still as a prostrate column; his face turned to me: his eye beaming watchful and keen. He started to his feet and approached me.
"I am ready to go to India, if I may go free."
"Your answer requires a commentary," he said; "it is not clear."
"You have hitherto been my adopted brother - I, your adopted sister: let us continue as such: you and I had better not marry."
He shook his head. "Adopted fraternity will not do in this case. If you were my real sister it would be different: I should take you, and seek no wife. But as it is, either our union must be consecrated and sealed by marriage, or it cannot exist: practical obstacles oppose themselves to any other plan. Do you not see it, Jane? Consider a moment - your strong sense will guide you."
I did consider; and still my sense, such as it was, directed me only to the fact that we did not love each other as man and wife should: and therefore it inferred we ought not to marry. I said so. "St. John," I returned, "I regard you as a brother - you, me as a sister: so let us continue."
"Well - well. To the main point - the departure with me from England, the co-operation with me in my future labours - you do not object. You have already as good as put your hand to the plough: you are too consistent to withdraw it. You have but one end to keep in view - how the work you have undertaken can best be done. Simplify your complicated interests, feelings, thoughts, wishes, aims; merge all considerations in one purpose: that of fulfilling with effect - with power - the mission of your great Master. To do so, you must have a coadjutor: not a brother - that is a loose tie - but a husband. I, too, do not want a sister: a sister might any day be taken from me. I want a wife: the sole helpmeet I can influence efficiently in life, and retain absolutely till death."
I shuddered as he spoke: I felt his influence in my marrow - his hold on my limbs.
"Seek one elsewhere than in me, St. John: seek one fitted to you."
"One fitted to my purpose, you mean - fitted to my vocation. Again I tell you it is not the insignificant private individual - the mere man, with the man's selfish senses - I wish to mate: it is the missionary."
"And I will give the missionary my energies - it is all he wants - but not myself: that would be only adding the husk and shell to the kernel. For them he has no use: I retain them."
"You cannot - you ought not. Do you think God will be satisfied with half an oblation? Will He accept a mutilated sacrifice? It is the cause of God I advocate: it is under His standard I enlist you. I cannot accept on His behalf a divided allegiance: it must be entire."
"Oh! I will give my heart to God," I said. "Youdo not want it."
I will not swear, reader, that there was not something of repressed sarcasm both in the tone in which I uttered this sentence, and in the feeling that accompanied it. I had silently feared St. John till now, because I had not understood him. He had held me in awe, because he had held me in doubt. How much of him was saint, how much mortal, I could not heretofore tell: but revelations were being made in this conference: the analysis of his nature was proceeding before my eyes. I saw his fallibilities: I comprehended them. I understood that, sitting there where I did, on the bank of heath, and with that handsome form before me, I sat at the feet of a man, caring as I. The veil fell from his hardness and despotism. Having felt in him the presence of these qualities, I felt his imperfection and took courage. I was with an equal - one with whom I might argue - one whom, if I saw good, I might resist.
He was silent after I had uttered the last sentence, and I presently risked an upward glance at his countenance.
His eye, bent on me, expressed at once stern surprise and keen inquiry. "Is she sarcastic, and sarcastic tome!" it seemed to say. "What does this signify?"
"Do not let us forget that this is a solemn matter," he said ere long; "one of which we may neither think nor talk lightly without sin. I trust, Jane, you are in earnest when you say you will serve your heart to God: it is all I want. Once wrench your heart from man, and fix it on your Maker, the advancement of that Maker's spiritual kingdom on earth will be your chief delight and endeavour; you will be ready to do at once whatever furthers that end. You will see what impetus would be given to your efforts and mine by our physical and mental union in marriage: the only union that gives a character of permanent conformity to the destinies and designs of human beings; and, passing over all minor caprices - all trivial difficulties and delicacies of feeling - all scruple about the degree, kind, strength or tenderness of mere personal inclination - you will hasten to enter into that union at once."