It has been several weeks since undertaking the labors of a village school teacher. With your efforts, you inspire your students to acquire quiet and orderly manners and to learn their tasks regularly. The rapidity of some in their progress even surprises you and you begin to personally like some of the best girls, and they like you.
One evening, St. John makes his customary unannounced visit to your cottage. He interrupts you as you are working on a portrait of Miss Oliver. Something you take pleasure in, as she provides such a radiant and perfect model.
St. John’s eyes determinedly slide away from your sketch, and with a pang you feel a little of what Miss Oliver must feel. Clearly, she prefers St. John to any other in the village, and yet St. John is determined to ignore her attention. Such disregard of her affection reminds you of your time at Thornfield, when you thought that Mr. Rochester could not care for someone like you. Hastily you put those feelings aside. It does not do to remember.
“Mr. Rivers! I hope the weather has not made the walk here too frightful.” The rain and sleet outside made your choice of occupation this evening even more of a comfort.
“I do not remark it. I have decided to tell you of some plans I have. You see, I plan to leave Morton soon to become a missionary.”
His revelation quite takes your breath away. St. John’s manner has always been abrupt, yet he has never spoken of his plans before. It almost seems like he needed a confidant at this moment to share his thoughts, and you are his elected recipient.
“I am sure you will follow God’s will,” is your hasty reply.
“Yes, God has an errand for me; to bear His message afar and deliver it well. I will tell you that my nature is one that demands an active life, and ministry in a small village bears uniform duties that weary me to death. I long for an existence where my powers can gather their full strength and spread their wings. I have only a few more of my affairs to set right and I hope to leave for India within a few weeks.”
“So soon? What do your sisters say?”
“They know of my plans of course and understand why I must leave. It is a vocation dearer than the blood in my veins. I wonder that all do not burn to join my cause. Do you, for instance, sometimes feel that your powers may be better utilized elsewhere?”
“I? I am content with the opportunities I have.” Such a feeling is not completely true, yet how could St. John understand the regrets you have for the future you once envisioned.
“Perhaps you will find this unusual, but I have watched your career with interest because I consider you a specimen of a diligent, orderly, and energetic woman; I see you still suffer from what you have gone through, and I feel your energy might yet be put to a higher purpose than the one you currently serve.”
“You honor me with your words but think too much of my ambition.”
“Perhaps. Well, I have only stopped to alert you to my plans. Unfortunately, just this morning, I received news that my successor’s arrival has been delayed yet again, but once that is settled, I will be on my way.”
Having said this, he stands and takes his hat, glancing at your portrait of Miss Oliver. You imagine he is suppressing some soft emotion but instead he starts and seems to notice something on a scratch sheet of yours. Suddenly he tears off a piece at the bottom.
“May I have this?” he says before you can react, the torn slip disappearing into his glove.
“Of course,” you say in confusion.
“Thank you. Good evening.” And with a hasty nod he vanishes.
Go to FORTY-SIX