‘I can’t do it, St John, I’m not strong enough!’ I cried. The iron bars of a cage seemed to be closing in around me.
‘I’ve seen how hard you can work, Jane. You will be a great help to me with Indian women, and in Indian schools.’
I thought, ‘Yes, I could do that. But I know that he doesn’t love me, and despite that, he asks me to marry him!’ So I said,
‘I’m ready to go with you to India, but as a sister, not as a wife.’
He shook his head. ‘You must see that’s impossible. No, a sister could marry at any time, and leave me. I need a wife, who will obey me in life, and who will stay with me until death.’
I trembled as I felt his power over me already. ‘I’ll give my heart to God,’ I said. ‘You don’t want it.’ As I looked at his stern face, I knew I could go anywhere in the world with him as a colleague, but I could never lose my freedom by marrying him.
‘I’ll ask you again in a few days’ time,’ he said, ‘and remember, it isn’t me you’re refusing, but God!’
From then on his manner towards me was as cold as ice, which caused me great pain. I began to understand how, if I were his wife, this good, religious man could soon kill me, without feeling any guilt at all.
When he asked me again, we were alone in the sitting-room. He put his hand on my head and spoke quietly in his deep, sincere voice. ‘Remember, Jane, God calls us to work for Him, and will reward us for it. Say you will marry me, and earn your place in heaven!’ I admired and respected him, and under his touch my mind was changing. I was tempted to stop struggling against him, as I had been tempted before, in a different way, by Mr. Rochester. The missionary gently held my hand. I could resist his anger, but not his gentleness. I desperately wanted to do what was right.
‘If I felt certain,’ I answered finally, ‘that God really wanted me to marry you, I would agree!’
‘My prayers are heard!’ cried St John. Close together we stood, waiting for a sign from heaven. I was more excited than I had ever been before. There was a total silence in the house, and the room was full of moonlight. Suddenly my heart stopped beating, and I heard a distant voice cry, ‘Jane! Jane! Jane!’ — nothing more. Where did it come from? It was the voice of Edward Rochester, and it spoke in sadness and in pain.
‘I’m coming!’ I cried. ‘Wait for me!’ I ran into the garden calling, ‘Where are you?’ Only the hills sent a faint echo back.
I broke away from St John, who had followed, asking me questions. It was my time to give orders now. I told him to leave me, and he obeyed. In my room I fell to my knees to thank God for the sign he had sent me, and waited eagerly for daylight.