Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
A Call Unanswered
By Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855)
From Jane Eyre

THE BREEZE was from the west: it came over the hills, sweet with scents of heath and rush; the sky was of stainless blue; the stream descending the ravine, swelled with past spring rains, poured along plentiful and clear, catching golden gleams from the sun, and sapphire tints from the firmament. As we advanced and left the track, we trod a soft turf, mossy fine and emerald green, minutely enamelled with a tiny white flower, and spangled with a star-like yellow blossom: the hills, meantime, shut us quite in; for the glen, towards its head, wound to their very core.
  “Let us rest here,” said St. John, as we reached the first stragglers of a battalion of rocks, guarding a sort of pass, beyond which the beck rushed down a waterfall; and where, still a little further, the mountain shook off turf and flower, had only heath for raiment, and crag for gem—where it exaggerated the wild to the savage, and exchanged the fresh for the frowning—where it guarded the forlorn hope of solitude, and a last refuge for silence.  2
  I took a seat: St. John stood near me. He looked up the pass and down the hollow; his glance wandered away with the stream, and returned to traverse the unclouded heaven which coloured it: he removed his hat, let the breeze stir his hair and kiss his brow. He seemed in communion with the genius of the haunt: with his eye he bade farewell to something.  3
  “And I shall see it again,” he said aloud, “in dreams, when I sleep by the Ganges: and again, in a more remote hour—when another slumber overcomes me—on the shore of a darker stream.”  4
  Strange words of a strange love! An austere patriot’s passion for his fatherland! He sat down; for half an hour we never spoke; neither he to me nor I to him: that interval passed, he recommenced:—  5
  “Jane, I go in six weeks; I have taken my berth in an East Indiaman which sails on the twentieth of June.”  6
  “God will protect you; for you have undertaken His work,” I answered.  7
  “Yes,” said he, “there is my glory and joy. I am the servant of an infallible master. I am not going out under human guidance, subject to the defective laws and erring control of my feeble fellow-worms: my king, my lawgiver, my captain, is the All-perfect. It seems strange to me that all round me do not burn to enlist under the same banner,—to join in the same enterprise.”  8
  “All have not your powers: and it would be folly for the feeble to wish to march with the strong.”  9
  “I do not speak to the feeble, or think of them: I address only such as are worthy of the work, and competent to accomplish it.”  10
  “Those are few in number, and difficult to discover.”  11
  “You say truly: but when found, it is right to stir them up—to urge and exhort them to the effort—to show them what their gifts are, and why they were given—to speak heaven’s message in their ear,—to offer them, direct from God, a place in the ranks of His chosen.”  12
  “If they are really qualified for the task, will not their own hearts be the first to inform them of it?”  13
  I felt as if an awful charm was framing round and gathering over me: I trembled to hear some fatal word spoken which would at once declare and rivet the spell.  14
  “And what does your heart say?” demanded St. John.  15
  “My heart is mute,—my heart is mute,” I answered, struck and thrilled.  16
  “Then I must speak for it,” continued the deep, relentless voice. “Jane, come with me to India: come as my helpmeet and fellow-labourer.”  17
  The glen and sky spun round: the hills heaved! It was as if I had heard a summons from heaven—as if a visionary messenger, like him of Macedonia, had enounced, “Come over and help us!” But I was no apostle—I could not behold the herald,—I could not receive his call.  18

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