Infomotions, Inc.Silas Marner / Eliot, George



Author: Eliot, George
Title: Silas Marner
Publisher: Eris Etext Project
Tag(s): marner; silas; eppie; godfrey; raveloe; master marner; nancy; macey; dunstan; cass; silas marner; dolly; godfrey cass; squire; aaron; miss nancy; nancy lammeter; english literature
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Size: 71,169 words (short) Grade range: 12-14 (college) Readability score: 58 (average)
Identifier: eliot-silas-242
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                                      1861

                                  SILAS MARNER

                                by George Eliot

                         PART ONE

                       CHAPTER ONE

IN the days when the spinning-wheels hummed busily in the
farmhouses- and even great ladies, clothed in silk and thread-lace,
had their toy spinning-wheels of polished oak- there might be seen, in
districts far away among the lanes, or deep in the bosom of the hills,
certain pallid undersized men, who, by the side of the brawny
country-folk, looked like the remnants of a disinherited race. The
shepherd's dog barked fiercely when one of these alien-looking men
appeared on the upland, dark against the early winter sunset; for what
dog likes a figure bent under a heavy bag?- and these pale men
rarely stirred abroad without that mysterious burden. The shepherd
himself, though he had good reason to believe that the bag held
nothing but flaxen thread, or else the long rolls of strong linen spun
from that thread, was not quite sure that this trade of weaving,
indispensable though it was, could be carried on entirely without
the help of the Evil One. In that far-off time superstition clung
easily round every person or thing that was at all unwonted, or even
intermittent and occasional merely, like the visits of the pedlar or
the knife-grinder. No one knew where wandering men had their homes
or their origin; and how was a man to be explained unless you at least
knew somebody who knew his father and mother? To the peasants of old
times, the world outside their own direct experience was a region of
vagueness and mystery: to their untravelled thought a state of
wandering was a conception as dim as the winter life of the swallows
that came back with the spring; and even a settler, if he came from
distant parts, hardly ever ceased to be viewed with a remnant of
distrust, which would have prevented any surprise if a long course
of inoffensive conduct on his part had ended in the commission of a
crime; especially if he had any reputation for knowledge, or showed
any skill in handicraft. All cleverness, whether in the rapid use of
that difficult instrument the tongue, or in some other art
unfamiliar to villagers, was in itself suspicious: honest folks,
born and bred in a visible manner, were mostly not overwise or clever-
at least, not beyond such a matter as knowing the signs of the
weather; and the process by which rapidity and dexterity of any kind
were acquired was so wholly hidden, that they partook of the nature of
conjuring. In this way it came to pass that those scattered
linen-weavers- emigrants from the town into the country- were to the
last regarded as aliens by their rustic neighbours, and usually
contracted the eccentric habits which belong to a state of loneliness.

   In the early years of this century, such a linen-weaver, named
Silas Marner, worked at his vocation in a stone cottage that stood
among the nutty hedgerows near the village of Raveloe, and not far
from the edge of a deserted stone-pit. The questionable sound of
Silas's loom, so unlike the natural cheerful trotting of the winnowing
machine, or the simple rhythm of the flail, had a half-fearful
fascination for the Raveloe boys, who would often leave off their
nutting or birds'-nesting to peep in at the window of the stone
cottage, counter-balancing a certain awe at the mysterious action of
the loom, by a pleasant sense of scornful superiority, drawn from
the mockery of its alternating noises, along with the bent,
treadmill attitude of the weaver. But sometimes it happened that
Marner, pausing to adjust an irregularity in his thread, became
aware of the small scoundrels, and, though chary of his time, he liked
their intrusion so ill that he would descend from his loom, and,
opening the door, would fix on them a gaze that was always enough to
make them take to their legs in terror. For how was it possible to
believe that those large brown protuberant eyes in Silas Marner's pale
face really saw nothing very distinctly that was not close to them,
and not rather that their dreadful stare could dart cramp, or rickets,
or a wry mouth at any boy who happened to be in the rear? They had,
perhaps, heard their fathers and mothers hint that Silas Marner
could cure folks' rheumatism if he had a mind, and add, still more
darkly, that if you could only speak the devil fair enough, he might
save you the cost of the doctor. Such strange lingering echoes of
the old demon-worship might perhaps even now be caught by the diligent
listener among the grey-haired peasantry; for the rude mind with
difficulty associates the idea of power and benignity. A shadowy
conception of power that by much persuasion can be induced to
refrain from inflicting harm, is the shape most easily taken by the
sense of the Invisible in the minds of men who have always been
pressed close by primitive wants, and to whom a life of hard toil
has never been illuminated by any enthusiastic religious faith. To
them pain and mishap present a far wider range of possibilities than
gladness and enjoyment: their imagination is almost barren of the
images that feed desire and hope, but is all overgrown by
recollections that are a perpetual pasture to fear. 'Is there anything
you can fancy that you would like to eat?' I once said to an old
labouring man, who was in his last illness, and who had refused all
the food his wife had offered him. 'No,' he answered, 'I've never been
used to nothing but common victual, and I can't eat that.'
Experience had bred no fancies in him that could raise the phantasm of
appetite.

   And Raveloe was a village where many of the old echoes lingered,
undrowned by new voices. Not that it was one of those barren
parishes lying on the outskirts of civilization- inhabited by meagre
sheep and thinly-scattered shepherds: on the contrary, it lay in the
rich central plain of what we are pleased to call Merry England, and
held farms which, speaking from a spiritual point of view, paid
highly-desirable tithes. But it was nestled in a snug well-wooded
hollow, quite an hour's journey on horseback from any turnpike,
where it was never reached by the vibrations of the coach-horn, or
of public opinion. It was an important-looking village, with a fine
old church and large churchyard in the heart of it, and two or three
large brick-and-stone homesteads, with well-walled orchards and
ornamental weathercocks, standing close upon the road, and lifting
more imposing fronts than the rectory, which peeped from among the
trees on the other side of the churchyard; a village which showed at
once the summits of its social life, and told the practised eye that
there was no great park and manor house in the vicinity, but that
there were several chiefs in Raveloe who could farm badly quite at
their ease, drawing enough money from their bad farming, in those
war times, to live in a rollicking fashion, and keep a jolly
Christmas, Whitsun, and Easter tide.

   It was fifteen years since Silas Marner had first come to
Raveloe; he was then simply a pallid young man, with prominent,
short-sighted brown eyes, whose appearance would have had nothing
strange for people of average culture and experience, but for the
villagers near whom he had come to settle it had mysterious
peculiarities which corresponded with the exceptional nature of his
occupation, and his advent from an unknown region called
'North'ard'. So had his way of life: he invited no comer to step
across his door-sill, and he never strolled into the village to
drink a pint at the Rainbow, or to gossip at the wheel-wright's: he
sought no man or woman, save for the purposes of his calling, or in
order to supply himself with necessaries; and it was soon clear to the
Raveloe lasses that he would never urge one of them to accept him
against her will- quite as if he had heard them declare that they
would never marry a dead man come to life again. This view of Marner's
personality was not without another ground than his pale face and
unexampled eyes; for Jem Rodney, the mole-catcher, averred that, one
evening as he was returning homeward, he saw Silas Marner leaning
against a stile with a heavy bag on his back, instead of resting the
bag on the stile as a man in his senses would have done; and that,
on coming up to him, he saw that Marner's eyes were set like a dead
man's, and he spoke to him, and shook him, and his limbs were stiff,
and his hands clutched the bag as if they'd been made of iron; but
just as he had made up his mind that the weaver was dead, he came
all right again, like, as you might say, in the winking of an eye, and
said 'Good-night', and walked off. All this Jem swore he had seen,
more by token, that it was the very day he had been mole-catching on
Squire Cass's land, down by the old saw-pit. Some said Marner must
have been in a 'fit', a word which seemed to explain things
otherwise incredible; but the argumentative Mr Macey, clerk of the
parish, shook his head, and asked if anybody was ever known to go
off in a fit and not fall down. A fit was a stroke, wasn't it? and
it was in the nature of a stroke to partly take away the use of a
man's limbs and throw him on the parish, if he'd got no children to
look to. No, no; it was no stroke that would let a man stand on his
legs, like a horse between the shafts, and then walk off as soon as
you can say 'Gee!' But there might be such a thing as a man's soul
being loose from his body, and going out and in, like a bird out of
its nest and back; and that was how folks got overwise, for they
went to school in this shell-less state to those who could teach
them more than their neighbours could learn with their five senses and
the parson. And where did Master Marner get his knowledge of herbs
from- and charms, too, if he liked to give them away? Jem Rodney's
story was no more than what might have been expected by anybody who
had seen how Marner had cured Sally Oates, and made her sleep like a
baby, when her heart had been beating enough to burst her body, for
two months and more, while she had been under the doctor's care. He
might cure more folks if he would; but he was worth speaking fair,
if it was only to keep him from doing you a mischief.

   It was partly to this vague fear that Marner was indebted for
protecting him from the persecution that his singularities might
have drawn upon him, but still more to the fact that, the old
linen-weaver in the neighbouring parish of Tarley being dead, his
handicraft made him a highly welcome settler to the richer
housewives of the district, and even to the more provident
cottagers, who had their little stock of yarn at the year's end; and
their sense of his usefulness would have counteracted any repugnance
or suspicion which was not confirmed by a deficiency in the quality or
the tale of the cloth he wove for them. And the years had rolled on
without producing any change in the impressions of the neighbours
concerning Marner, except the change from novelty to habit. At the end
of fifteen years the Raveloe men said just the same things about Silas
Marner as at the beginning: they did not say them quite so often,
but they believed them much more strongly when they did say them.
There was only one important addition which the years had brought:
it was, that Master Marner had laid by a fine sight of money
somewhere, and that he could buy up 'bigger men' than himself.

   But while opinion concerning him had remained nearly stationary,
and his daily habits had presented scarcely any visible change,
Marner's inward life had been a history and a metamorphosis, as that
of every fervid nature must be when it has fled, or been condemned, to
solitude. His life, before he came to Raveloe, had been filled with
the movement, the mental activity, and the close fellowship, which, in
that day as in this, marked the life of an artisan early
incorporated in a narrow religious sect, where the poorest layman
has the chance of distinguishing himself by gifts of speech, and
has, at the very least, the weight of a silent voter in the government
of his community. Marner was highly thought of in that little hidden
world, known to itself as the church assembling in Lantern Yard; he
was believed to be a young man of exemplary life and ardent faith; and
a peculiar interest had been centred in him ever since he had
fallen, at a prayer-meeting, into a mysterious rigidity and suspension
of consciousness, which, lasting for an hour or more, had been
mistaken for death. To have sought a medical explanation for this
phenomenon would have been held by Silas himself, as well as by his
minister and fellow-members, a wilful self-exclusion from the
spiritual significance that might lie therein. Silas was evidently a
brother selected for a peculiar discipline, and though the effort to
interpret this discipline was discouraged by the absence, on his part,
of any spiritual vision during his outward trance, yet it was believed
by himself and others that its effect was seen in an accession of
light and fervour. A less truthful man than he might have been tempted
into the subsequent creation of a vision in the form of resurgent
memory; a less sane man might have believed in such a creation; but
Silas was both sane and honest, though, as with many honest and
fervent men, culture had not defined any channels for his sense of
mystery, and so it spread itself over the proper pathway of inquiry
and knowledge. He had inherited from his mother some acquaintance with
medicinal herbs and their preparation- a little store of wisdom
which she had imparted to him as a solemn bequest- but of late years
he had had doubts about the lawfulness of applying this knowledge,
believing that herbs could have no efficacy without prayer, and that
prayer might suffice without herbs; so that the inherited delight he
had in wandering in the fields in search of foxglove and dandelion and
coltsfoot, began to wear to him the character of a temptation.

   Among the members of his church there was one young man, a little
older than himself, with whom he had long lived in such close
friendship that it was the custom of their Lantern Yard brethren to
call them David and Jonathan. The real name of the friend was
William Dane, and he, too, was regarded as a shining instance of
youthful piety, though somewhat given to over-severity towards
weaker brethren, and to be so dazzled by his own light as to hold
himself wiser than his teachers. But whatever blemishes others might
discern in William, to his friend's mind he was faultless; for
Marner had one of those impressible self-doubting natures, which, at
an inexperienced age, admire imperativeness and lean on contradiction.
The expression of trusting simplicity in Marner's face, heightened
by that absence of special observation, that defenceless, deer-like
gaze which belongs to large prominent eyes, was strongly contrasted by
the self-complacent suppression of inward triumph that lurked in the
narrow slanting eyes and compressed lips of William Dane. One of the
most frequent topics of conversation between the two friends was
Assurance of salvation: Silas confessed that he could never arrive
at anything higher than hope mingled with fear, and listened with
longing wonder when William declared that he had possessed unshaken
assurance ever since, in the period of his conversion, he had
dreamed that he saw the words 'calling and election sure' standing
by themselves on a white page in the open Bible. Such colloquies
have occupied many a pair of pale-faced weavers, whose unnurtured
souls have been like young winged things, fluttering forsaken in the
twilight.

   It had seemed to the unsuspecting Silas that the friendship had
suffered no chill even from his formation of another attachment of a
closer kind. For some months he had been engaged to a young
servant-woman, waiting only for a little increase to their mutual
savings in order to their marriage; and it was a great delight to
him that Sarah did not object to William's occasional presence in
their Sunday interviews. It was at this point in their history that
Silas's cataleptic fit occurred during the prayer-meeting; and
amidst the various queries and expressions of interest addressed to
him by his fellow-members, William's suggestion alone jarred with
the general sympathy towards a brother thus singled out for special
dealings. He observed that, to him, this trance looked more like a
visitation of Satan than a proof of divine favour, and exhorted his
friend to see that he hid no accursed thing within his soul. Silas,
feeling bound to accept rebuke and admonition as a brotherly office,
felt no resentment, but only pain, at his friend's doubts concerning
him; and to this was soon added some anxiety at the perception that
Sarah's manner towards him began to exhibit a strange fluctuation
between an effort at an increased manifestation of regard and
involuntary signs of shrinking and dislike. He asked her if she wished
to break off their engagement; but she denied this: their engagement
was known to the church, and had been recognized in the
prayer-meetings; it could not be broken off without strict
investigation, and Sarah could render no reason that would be
sanctioned by the feeling of the community. At this time the senior
deacon was taken dangerously ill, and, being a childless widower, he
was tended night and day by some of the younger brethren or sisters.
Silas frequently took his turn in the night-watching with William, the
one relieving the other at two in the morning. The old man, contrary
to expectation, seemed to be on the way to recovery, when one night
Silas, sitting up by his bedside, observed that his usually audible
breathing had ceased. The candle was burning low, and he had to lift
it to see the patient's face distinctly. Examination convinced him
that the deacon was dead- had been dead some time, for the limbs
were rigid. Silas asked himself if he had been asleep, and looked at
the clock: it was already four in the morning. How was it that William
had not come? In much anxiety he went to seek for help, and soon there
were several friends assembled in the house, the minister among
them, while Silas went away to his work, wishing he could have met
William to know the reason of his non-appearance. But at six
o'clock, as he was thinking of going to seek his friend, William came,
and with him the minister. They came to summon him to Lantern Yard, to
meet the church members there; and to his inquiry concerning the cause
of the summons the only reply was, 'You will hear.' Nothing further
was said until Silas was seated in the vestry, in front of the
minister, with the eyes of those who to him represented God's people
fixed solemnly upon him. Then the minister, taking out a pocket-knife,
showed it to Silas, and asked him if he knew where he had left that
knife? Silas said, he did not know that he had left it anywhere out of
his own pocket- but he was trembling at this strange interrogation. He
was then exhorted not to hide his sin, but to confess and repent.
The knife had been found in the bureau by the departed deacon's
bedside- found in the place where the little bag of church money had
lain, which the minister himself had seen the day before. Some hand
had removed that bag; and whose hand could it be, if not that of the
man to whom the knife belonged? For some time Silas was mute with
astonishment: then he said, 'God will clear me: I know nothing about
the knife being there, or the money being gone. Search me and my
dwelling: you will find nothing but three pound five of my own
savings, which William Dane knows I have had these six months.' At
this William groaned, but the minister said, 'The proof is heavy
against you, brother Marner. The money was taken in the night last
past, and no man was with our departed brother but you, for William
Dane declares to us that he was hindered by sudden sickness from going
to take his place as usual, and you yourself said that he had not
come; and, moreover, you neglected the dead body.'

   'I must have slept,' said Silas. Then, after a pause, he added, 'Or
I must have had another visitation like that which you have all seen
me under, so that the thief must have come and gone while I was not in
the body, but out of the body. But, I say again, search me and my
dwelling, for I have been nowhere else.'

   The search was made, and it ended- in William Dane's finding the
well-known bag, empty, tucked behind the chest of drawers in Silas's
chamber! On this William exhorted his friend to confess, and not to
hide his sin any longer. Silas turned a look of keen reproach on
him, and said, 'William, for nine years that we have gone in and out
together, have you ever known me tell a lie? But God will clear me.'

   'Brother,' said William, 'how do I know what you may have done in
the secret chambers of your heart, to give Satan an advantage over
you?'

   Silas was still looking at his friend. Suddenly a deep flush came
over his face, and he was about to speak impetuously, when he seemed
checked again by some inward shock, that sent the flush back and
made him tremble. But at last he spoke feebly, looking at William.

   'I remember now- the knife wasn't in my pocket.'

   William said, 'I know nothing of what you mean.' The other
persons present, however, began to inquire where Silas meant to say
that the knife was, but he would give no further explanation: he
only said, 'I am sore stricken; I can say nothing. God will clear me.'

   On their return to the vestry there was further deliberation. Any
resort to legal measures for ascertaining the culprit was contrary
to the principles of the Church: prosecution was held by them to be
forbidden to Christians, even if it had been a case in which there was
no scandal to the community. But they were bound to take other
measures for finding out the truth, and they resolved on praying and
drawing lots. This resolution can be a ground of surprise only to
those who are unacquainted with that obscure religious life which
has gone on in the alleys of our towns. Silas knelt with his brethren,
relying on his own innocence being certified by immediate divine
interference, but feeling that there was sorrow and mourning behind
for him even then- that his trust in man had been cruelly bruised. The
lots declared that Silas Marner was guilty. He was solemnly
suspended from church-membership, and called upon to render up the
stolen money: only on confession, as the sign of repentance, could
he be received once more within the fold of the church. Marner
listened in silence. At last, when everyone rose to depart, he went
towards William Dane and said, in a voice shaken by agitation-

   'The last time I remember using my knife, was when I took it out to
cut a strap for you. I don't remember putting it in my pocket again.
You stole the money, and you have woven a plot to lay the sin at my
door. But you may prosper, for all that: there is no just God that
governs the earth righteously, but a God of lies, that bears witness
against the innocent.'

   There was a general shudder at this blasphemy.

   William said meekly, 'I leave our brethren to judge whether this is
the voice of Satan or not. I can do nothing but pray for you, Silas.'

   Poor Marner went out with that despair in his soul- that shaken
trust in God and man, which is little short of madness to a loving
nature. In the bitterness of his wounded spirit, he said to himself,
'She will cast me off too.' And he reflected that, if she did not
believe the testimony against him, her whole faith must be upset, as
his was. To people accustomed to reason about the forms in which their
religious feeling has incorporated itself, it is difficult to enter
into that simple, untaught state of mind in which the form and the
feeling have never been severed by an act of reflection. We are apt to
think it inevitable that a man in Marner's position should have
begun to question the validity of an appeal to the divine judgment
by drawing lots; but to him this would have been an effort of
independent thought such as he had never known; and he must have
made the effort at a moment when all his energies were turned into the
anguish of disappointed faith. If there is an angel who records the
sorrows of men as well as their sins, he knows how many and deep are
the sorrows that spring from false ideas for which no man is culpable.

   Marner went home, and for a whole day sat alone, stunned by
despair, without any impulse to go to Sarah and attempt to win her
belief in his innocence. The second day he took refuge from
benumbing unbelief, by getting into his loom and working away as
usual; and before many hours were past, the minister and one of the
deacons came to him with the message from Sarah, that she held her
engagement to him at an end. Silas received the message mutely, and
then turned away from the messengers to work at his loom again. In
little more than a month from that time, Sarah was married to
William Dane; and not long afterwards it was known to the brethren
in Lantern Yard that Silas Marner had departed from the town.

                       CHAPTER TWO

EVEN people whose lives have been made various by learning,
sometimes find it hard to keep a fast hold on their habitual views
of life, on their faith in the Invisible- nay, on the sense that their
past joys and sorrows are a real experience, when they are suddenly
transported to a new land, where the beings around them know nothing
of their history, and share none of their ideas- where their mother
earth shows another lap, and human life has other forms than those
on which their souls have been nourished. Minds that have been
unhinged from their old faith and love, have perhaps sought this
Lethean influence of exile, in which the past becomes dreamy because
its symbols have all vanished, and the present too is dreamy because
it is linked with no memories. But even their experience may hardly
enable them thoroughly to imagine what was the effect on a simple
weaver like Silas Marner, when he left his own country and people
and came to settle in Raveloe. Nothing could be more unlike his native
town, set within sight of the widespread hill-sides, than this low,
wooded region, where he felt hidden even from the heavens by the
screening trees and hedgerows. There was nothing here, when he rose in
the deep morning quiet and looked out on the dewy brambles and rank
tufted grass, that seemed to have any relation with that life centring
in Lantern Yard, which had once been to him the altar-place of high
dispensations. The white-washed walls; the little pews where
well-known figures entered with a subdued rustling, and where first
one well-known voice and then another, pitched in a peculiar key of
petition, uttered phrases at once occult and familiar, like the amulet
worn on the heart; the pulpit where the minister delivered
unquestioned doctrine, and swayed to and fro, and handled the book
in a long accustomed manner; the very pauses between the couplets of
the hymn, as it was given out, and the recurrent swell of voices in
song: these things had been the channel of divine influences to
Marner- they were the fostering home of his religious emotions- they
were Christianity and God's kingdom upon earth. A weaver who finds
hard words in his hymn-book knows nothing of abstractions; as the
little child knows nothing of parental love, but only knows one face
and one lap towards which it stretches its arms for refuge and
nurture.

   And what could be more unlike that Lantern Yard world than the
world in Raveloe?- orchards looking lazy with neglected plenty; the
large church in the wide churchyard, which men gazed at lounging at
their own doors in service-time; the purple-faced farmers jogging
along the lanes or turning in at the Rainbow; homesteads, where men
supped heavily and slept in the light of the evening hearth, and where
women seemed to be laying up a stock of linen for the life to come.
There were no lips in Raveloe from which a word could fall that
would stir Silas Marner's benumbed faith to a sense of pain. In the
early ages of the world, we know, it was believed that each
territory was inhabited and ruled by its own divinities, so that a man
could cross the bordering heights and be out of the reach of his
native gods, whose presence was confined to the streams and the groves
and the hills among which he had lived from his birth. And poor
Silas was vaguely conscious of something not unlike the feeling of
primitive men, when they fled thus, in fear or in sullenness, from the
face of an unpropitious deity. It seemed to him that the Power in
which he had vainly trusted among the streets and in the
prayer-meetings, was very far away from this land in which he had
taken refuge, where men lived in careless abundance, knowing and
needing nothing of that trust, which, for him, had been turned to
bitterness. The little light he possessed spread its beams so
narrowly, that frustrated belief was a curtain broad enough to
create for him the blackness of night.

   His first movement after the shock had been to work in his loom;
and he went on with this unremittingly, never asking himself why,
now he was come to Raveloe, he worked far on into the night to
finish the tale of Mrs Osgood's table-linen sooner than she
expected- without contemplating beforehand the money she would put
into his hand for the work. He seemed to weave, like the spider,
from pure impulse, without reflection. Every man's work, pursued
steadily, tends in this way to become an end in itself, and so to
bridge over the loveless chasms of his life. Silas's hand satisfied
itself with throwing the shuttle, and his eye with seeing the little
squares in the cloth complete themselves under his effort. Then
there were the calls of hunger; and Silas, in his solitude, had to
provide his own breakfast, dinner and supper, to fetch his own water
from the well, and put his own kettle on the fire; and all these
immediate promptings helped, along with the weaving, to reduce his
life to the unquestioning activity of a spinning insect. He hated
the thought of the past; there was nothing that called out his love
and fellowship toward the strangers he had come amongst; and the
future was all dark, for there was no Unseen Love that cared for
him. Thought was arrested by utter bewilderment, now its old narrow
pathway was closed, and affection seemed to have died under the bruise
that had fallen on its keenest nerves.

   But at last Mrs Osgood's table-linen was finished, and Silas was
paid in gold. His earnings in his native town, where he worked for a
wholesale dealer, had been after a lower rate; he had been paid
weekly, and of his weekly earnings a large proportion had gone to
objects of piety and charity. Now, for the first time in his life,
he had five bright guineas put into his hand; no man expected a
share of them, and he loved no man that he should offer him a share.
But what were the guineas to him who saw no vista beyond countless
days of weaving? It was needless for him to ask that, for it was
pleasant to him to feel them in his palm, and look at their bright
faces, which were all his own: it was another element of life, like
the weaving and the satisfaction of hunger, subsisting quite aloof
from the life of belief and love from which he had been cut off. The
weaver's hand had known the touch of hard-won money even before the
palm had grown to its full breadth; for twenty years, mysterious money
had stood to him as the symbol of earthly good, and the immediate
object of toil. He had seemed to love it little in the years when
every penny had its purpose for him; for he loved the purpose then.
But now, when all purpose was gone, that habit of looking towards
the money and grasping it with a sense of fulfilled effort made a loam
that was deep enough for the seeds of desire; and as Silas walked
homeward across the fields in the twilight, he drew out the money, and
thought it was brighter in the gathering gloom.

   About this time an incident happened which seemed to open a
possibility of some fellowship with his neighbours. One day, taking
a pair of shoes to be mended, he saw the cobbler's wife seated by
the fire, suffering from the terrible symptoms of heart-disease and
dropsy, which he had witnessed as the precursors of his mother's
death. He felt a rush of pity at the mingled sight and remembrance,
and, recalling the relief his mother had found from a simple
preparation of foxglove, he promised Sally Oates to bring her
something that would ease her, since the doctor did her no good. In
this office of charity, Silas felt, for the first time since he had
come to Raveloe, a sense of unity between his past and present life,
which might have been the beginning of his rescue from the insect-like
existence into which his nature had shrunk. But Sally Oates's
disease had raised her into a personage of much interest and
importance among the neighbours, and the fact of her having found
relief from drinking Silas Marner's 'stuff' became a matter of general
discourse. When Doctor Kimble gave physic, it was natural that it
should have an effect; but when a weaver, who came from nobody knew
where, worked wonders with a bottle of brown waters, the occult
character of the process was evident. Such a sort of thing had not
been known since the Wise Woman at Tarley died; and she had charms
as well as 'stuff': everybody went to her when their children had
fits. Silas Marner must be a person of the same sort, for how did he
know what would bring back Sally Oates's breath, if he didn't know a
fine sight more than that? The Wise Woman had words that she
muttered to herself, so that you couldn't hear what they were, and
if she tied a bit of red thread round the child's toe the while, it
would keep off the water in the head. There were women in Raveloe,
at that present time, who had worn one of the Wise Woman's little bags
round their necks, and, in consequence, had never had an idiot
child, as Ann Coulter had. Silas Marner could very likely do as
much, and more; and now it was all clear how he should have come
from unknown parts, and be so 'comical-looking'. But Sally Oates
must mind and not tell the doctor, for he would be sure to set his
face against Marner: he was always angry about the Wise Woman, and
used to threaten those who went to her that they should have none of
his help any more.

   Silas now found himself and his cottage suddenly beset by mothers
who wanted him to charm away the whooping-cough, or bring back the
milk, and by men who wanted stuff against the rheumatics or the
knots in the hands; and, to secure themselves against a refusal, the
applicants brought silver in their palms. Silas might have driven a
profitable trade in charms as well as in his small list of drugs;
but money on this condition was no temptation to him: he had never
known an impulse towards falsity, and he drove one after another
away with growing irritation, for the news of him as a wise man had
spread even to Tarley, and it was long before people ceased to take
long walks for the sake of asking his aid. But the hope in his
wisdom was at length changed into dread, for no one believed him
when he said he knew no charms and could work no cures, and every
man and woman who had an accident or a new attack after applying to
him, set the misfortune down to Master Marner's ill-will and irritated
glances. Thus it came to pass that his movement of pity towards
Sally Oates, which had given him a transient sense of brotherhood,
heightened the repulsion between him and his neighbours, and made
his isolation more complete.

   Gradually the guineas, the crowns and the half-crowns grew to a
heap, and Marner drew less and less for his own wants, trying to solve
the problem of keeping himself strong enough to work sixteen hours
a-day on as small an outlay as possible. Have not men, shut up in
solitary imprisonment, found an interest in marking the moments by
straight strokes of a certain length on the wall, until the growth
of the sum of straight strokes, arranged in triangles, has become a
mastering purpose? Do we not wile away moments of inanity or
fatigued waiting by repeating some trivial movement or sound, until
the repetition has bred a want, which is incipient habit? That will
help us to understand how the love of accumulating money grows an
absorbing passion in men whose imaginations, even in the very
beginning of their hoard, showed them no purpose beyond it. Marner
wanted the heaps of ten to grow into a square, and then into a
larger square; and every added guinea, while it was itself a
satisfaction, bred a new desire. In this strange world, made a
hopeless riddle to him, he might, if he had had a less intense nature,
have sat weaving, weaving- looking towards the end of his pattern,
or towards the end of his web, till he forgot the riddle, and
everything else but his immediate sensations; but the money had come
to mark off his weaving into periods, and the money not only grew, but
it remained with him. He began to think it was conscious of him, as
his loom was, and he would on no account have exchanged those coins,
which had become his familiars, for other coins with unknown faces. He
handled them, he counted them, till their form and colour were like
the satisfaction of a thirst to him; but it was only in the night,
when his work was done, that he drew them out to enjoy their
companionship. He had taken up some bricks in his floor underneath his
loom, and here he had made a hole in which he set the iron pot that
contained his guineas and silver coins, covering the bricks with
sand whenever he replaced them. Not that the idea of being robbed
presented itself often or strongly to his mind: hoarding was common in
country districts in those days; there were old labourers in the
parish of Raveloe who were known to have their savings by them,
probably inside their flock beds; but their rustic neighbours,
though not all of them as honest as their ancestors in the days of
King Alfred, had not imaginations bold enough to lay a plan of
burglary. How could they have spent the money in their own village
without betraying themselves? They would be obliged to 'run away'- a
course as dark and dubious as a balloon journey.

   So, year after year, Silas Marner had lived in this solitude, his
guineas rising in the iron pot, and his life narrowing and hardening
itself more and more into a mere pulsation of desire and
satisfaction that had no relation to any other being. His life had
reduced itself to the mere functions of weaving and hoarding,
without any contemplation of an end towards which the functions
tended. The same sort of process has perhaps been undergone by wiser
men, when they have been cut off from faith and love- only, instead of
a loom and a heap of guineas, they have had some erudite research,
some ingenious project, or some well-knit theory. Strangely Marner's
face and figure shrank and bent themselves into a constant
mechanical relation to the objects of his life, so that he produced
the same sort of impression as a handle or a crooked tube, which has
no meaning standing apart. The prominent eyes that used to look
trusting and dreamy, now looked as if they had been made to see only
one kind of thing that was very small, like tiny grain, for which they
hunted everywhere: and he was so withered and yellow, that, though
he was not yet forty, the children always called him 'Old Master
Marner'.

   Yet even in this stage of withering a little incident happened,
which showed that the sap of affection was not all gone. It was one of
his daily tasks to fetch his water from a well a couple of fields off,
and for this purpose, ever since he came to Raveloe, he had had a
brown earthenware pot, which he held as his most precious utensil,
among the very few conveniences he had granted himself. It had been
his companion for twelve years, always standing on the same spot,
always lending its handle to him in the early morning, so that its
form had an expression for him of willing helpfulness, and the impress
of its handle on his palm gave a satisfaction mingled with that of
having the fresh clear water. One day as he was returning from the
well, he stumbled against the step of the stile, and his brown pot,
falling with force against the stones that overarched the ditch
below him, was broken in three pieces. Silas picked up the pieces
and carried them home with grief in his heart. The brown pot could
never be of use to him any more, but he stuck the bits together and
propped the ruin in its old place for a memorial.

   This is the history of Silas Marner until the fifteenth year
after he came to Raveloe. The livelong day he sat in his loom, his ear
filled with its monotony, his eyes bent close down on the slow
growth of sameness in the brownish web, his muscles moving with such
even repetition that their pause seemed almost as much a constraint as
the holding of his breath. But at night came his revelry: at night
he closed his shutters, and made fast his doors, and drew out his
gold. Long ago the heap of coins had become too large for the iron pot
to hold them, and he had made for them two thick leather bags, which
wasted no room in their resting-place, but lent themselves flexibly to
every corner. How the guineas shone as they came pouring out of the
dark leather mouths! The silver bore no large proportion in amount
to the gold, because the long pieces of linen which formed his chief
work were always partly paid for in gold, and out of the silver he
supplied his own bodily wants, choosing always the shillings and
sixpences to spend in this way. He loved the guineas best, but he
would not change the silver- the crowns and half-crowns that were
his own earnings, begotten by his labour; he loved them all. He spread
them out in heaps and bathed his hands in them; then he counted them
and set them up in regular piles, and felt their rounded outline
between his thumb and fingers, and thought fondly of the guineas
that were only half-earned by the work in his loom, as if they had
been unborn children- thought of the guineas that were coming slowly
through the coming years, through all his life, which spread far
away before him, the end quite hidden by countless days of weaving. No
wonder his thoughts were still with his loom and his money when he
made his journeys through the fields and the lanes to fetch and
carry home his work, so that his steps never wandered to the
hedge-banks and the lane-side in search of the once familiar herbs:
these too belonged to the past, from which his life had shrunk away,
like a rivulet that has sunk far down from the grassy fringe of its
old breadth into a little shivering thread, that cuts a groove for
itself in the barren sand.

   But about the Christmas of that fifteenth year, a second great
change came over Marner's life, and his history became blent in a
singular manner with the life of his neighbours.

                       CHAPTER THREE

THE greatest man in Raveloe was Squire Cass, who lived in the large
red house, with the handsome flight of stone steps in front and the
high stables behind it, nearly opposite the church. He was only one
among several landed parishioners, but he alone was honoured with
the title of squire; for though Mr Osgood's family was also understood
to be of timeless origin- the Raveloe imagination having never
ventured back to that fearful blank when there were no Osgoods- still,
he merely owned the farm he occupied; whereas Squire Cass had a tenant
or two, who complained of the game to him quite as if he had been a
lord.

   It was still that glorious war-time which was felt to be a peculiar
favour of Providence towards the landed interest, and the fall of
prices had not yet come to carry the race of small squires and
yeomen down that road to ruin for which extravagant habits and bad
husbandry were plentifully anointing their wheels. I am speaking now
in relation to Raveloe and the parishes that resembled it; for our
old-fashioned country life had many different aspects, as all life
must have when it is spread over a various surface, and breathed on
variously by multitudinous currents, from the winds of heaven to the
thoughts of men, which are for ever moving and crossing each other,
with incalculable results. Raveloe lay low among the bushy trees and
the rutted lanes, aloof from the currents of industrial energy and
Puritan earnestness: the rich ate and drank freely, and accepted
gout and apoplexy as things that ran mysteriously in respectable
families, and the poor thought that the rich were entirely in the
right of it to lead a jolly life; besides, their feasting caused a
multiplication of orts, which were the heirlooms of the poor. Betty
Jay scented the boiling of Squire Cass's hams, but her longing was
arrested by the unctuous liquor in which they were boiled; and when
the seasons brought round the great merrymakings, they were regarded
on all hands as a fine thing for the poor. For the Raveloe feasts were
like the rounds of beef- and the barrels of ale- they were on a
large scale, and lasted a good while, especially in the winter-time.
When ladies had packed up their best gowns and top-knots in bandboxes,
and had incurred the risk of fording streams on pillions with the
precious burden in rainy or snowy weather, when there was no knowing
how high the water would rise, it was not to be supposed that they
looked forward to a brief pleasure. On this ground it was always
contrived in the dark seasons, when there was little work to be
done, and the hours were long, that several neighbours should keep
open house in succession. When Squire Cass's standing dishes
diminished in plenty and freshness, his guests had nothing to do but
to walk a little higher up the village to Mr Osgood's at the Orchards,
and they found hams and chines uncut, pork-pies with the scent of
the fire in them, spun butter in all its freshness- everything, in
fact, that appetites at leisure could desire, in perhaps greater
perfection, though not in greater abundance, than at Squire Cass's.

   For the Squire's wife had died long ago, and the Red House was
without that presence of the wife and mother which is the fountain
of wholesome love and fear in parlour and kitchen; and this helped
to account not only for there being more profusion than finished
excellence in the holiday provisions, but also for the frequency
with which the proud Squire condescended to preside in the parlour
of the Rainbow rather than under the shadow of his own dark
wainscot; perhaps, also, for the fact that his sons had turned out
rather ill. Raveloe was not a place where moral censure was severe,
but it was thought a weakness in the Squire that he had kept all his
sons at home in idleness; and though some licence was to be allowed to
young men whose fathers could afford it, people shook their heads at
the courses of the second son, Dunstan, commonly called Dunsey Cass,
whose taste for swopping and betting might turn out to be a sowing
of something worse than wild oats. To be sure, the neighbours said, it
was no matter what became of Dunsey- a spiteful jeering fellow, who
seemed to enjoy his drink the more when other people went dry-
always provided that his doings did not bring trouble on a family like
Squire Cass's, with a monument in the church, and tankards older
than King George. But it would be a thousand pities if Mr Godfrey, the
eldest, a fine, open-faced, good-natured young man, who was to come
into the land some day, should take to going along the same road as
his brother, as he had seemed to do of late. If he went on in that
way, he would lose Miss Nancy Lammeter; for it was well known that she
had looked very shyly on him ever since last Whitsuntide twelve-month,
when there was so much talk about his being away from home days and
days together. There was something wrong, more than common-- that was
quite clear; for Mr Godfrey didn't look half so fresh-coloured and
open as he used to do. At one time everybody was saying, what a
handsome couple he and Miss Nancy Lammeter would make! and if she
could come to be mistress at the Red House there would be a fine
change, for the Lammeters had been brought up in that way, that they
never suffered a pinch of salt to be wasted, and yet everybody in
their household had of the best, according to his place. Such a
daughter-in-law would be a saving to the old Squire, if she never
brought a penny to her fortune, for it was to be feared that,
notwithstanding his incomings, there were more holes in his pocket
than the one where he put his own hand in. But if Mr Godfrey didn't
turn over a new leaf, he might say 'Good-bye' to Miss Nancy Lammeter.

   It was the once hopeful Godfrey who was standing, with his hands in
his side-pockets and his back to the fire, in the dark wainscoted
parlour, one late November afternoon, in that fifteenth year of
Silas Marner's life at Raveloe. The fading grey light fell dimly on
the walls decorated with guns, whips and foxes' brushes, on coats
and hats flung on the chairs, on tankards sending forth a scent of
flat ale, and on a half-choked fire, with pipes propped up in the
chimney-corners: signs of a domestic life destitute of any hallowing
charm, with which the look of gloomy vexation on Godfrey's blond
face was in sad accordance. He seemed to be waiting and listening
for someone's approach, and presently the sound of a heavy step,
with an accompanying whistle, was heard across the large empty
entrance-hall.

   The door opened, and a thick-set, heavy-looking young man
entered, with the flushed face and the gratuitously elated bearing
which mark the first stage of intoxication. It was Dunsey, and at
the sight of him Godfrey's face parted with some of the gloom to
take on the more active expression of hatred. The handsome brown
spaniel that lay on the hearth retreated under the chair in the
chimney-corner.

   'Well, Master Godfrey, what do you want with me?' said Dunsey, in a
mocking tone. 'You're my elders and betters, you know; I was obliged
to come when you sent for me.'

   'Why, this is what I want- and just shake yourself sober and
listen, will you?' said Godfrey, savagely. He had himself been
drinking more than was good for him, trying to turn his gloom into
uncalculating anger. 'I want to tell you, I must hand over that rent
of Fowler's to the Squire, or else tell him I gave it you; for he's
threatening to distrain for it, and it'll all be out soon, whether I
tell him or not. He said, just now, before he went out, he should send
word to Cox to distrain, if Fowler didn't come and pay up his
arrears this week. The Squire's short o' cash, and in no humour to
stand any nonsense; and you know what he threatened, if ever he
found you making away with his money again. So, see and get the money,
and pretty quickly, will you?'

   'Oh!' said Dunsey, sneeringly, coming nearer to his brother and
looking into his face. 'Suppose, now, you get the money yourself,
and save me the trouble, eh? Since you was so kind as to hand it
over to me, you'll not refuse me the kindness to pay it back for me:
it was your brotherly love made you do it, you know.'

   Godfrey bit his lips and clenched his fist. 'Don't come near me
with that look, else I'll knock you down.'

   'Oh, no, you won't,' said Dunsey, turning away on his heel,
however. 'Because I'm such a good-natured brother, you know. I might
get you turned out of house and home, and cut off with a shilling
any day. I might tell the Squire how his handsome son was married to
that nice young woman, Molly Farren, and was very unhappy because he
couldn't live with his drunken wife, and I should slip into your place
as comfortable as could be. But, you see, I don't do it- I'm so easy
and good-natured. You'll take any trouble for me. You'll get the
hundred pounds for me- I know you will.'

   'How can I get the money?' said Godfrey, quivering. 'I haven't a
shilling to bless myself with. And it's a lie that you'd slip into
my place: you'd get yourself turned out too, that's all. For if you
begin telling tales, I'll follow. Bob's my father's favourite- you
know that very well. He'd only think himself well rid of you.'

   'Never mind,' said Dunsey, nodding his head sideways as he looked
out of the window. 'It 'ud be very pleasant to me to go in your
company- you're such a handsome brother, and we've always been so fond
of quarrelling with one another, I shouldn't know what to do without
you. But you'd like better for us both to stay at home together; I
know you would. So you'll manage to get that little sum o' money,
and I'll bid you good-bye, though I'm sorry to part.'

   Dunstan was moving off, but Godfrey rushed after him and seized him
by the arm, saying, with an oath:

   'I tell you, I have no money: I can get no money.'

   'Borrow of old Kimble.'

   'I tell you, he won't lend me any more, and I shan't ask him.'

   'Well then, sell Wildfire.'

   'Yes, that's easy talking. I must have the money directly.'

   'Well, you've only got to ride him to the hunt tomorrow. There'll
be Bryce and Keating there, for sure. You'll get more bids than one.'

   'I daresay, and get back home at eight o'clock, splashed up to
the chin. I'm going to Mrs Osgood's birthday dance.'

   'Oho!' said Dunsey, turning his head on one side, and trying to
speak in a small mincing treble. 'And there's sweet Miss Nancy coming;
and we shall dance with her, and promise never to be naughty again,
and be taken into favour, and--'

   'Hold your tongue about Miss Nancy, you fool,' said Godfrey,
turning red, 'else I'll throttle you.'

   'What for?' said Dunsey, still in an artificial tone, but taking
a whip from the table and beating the butt-end of it on his palm.
'You've a very good chance. I'd advise you to creep up her sleeve
again: it 'ud be saving time if Molly should happen to take a drop too
much laudanum some day, and make a widower of you. Miss Nancy wouldn't
mind being a second, if she didn't know it. And you've got a
good-natured brother, who'll keep your secret well, because you'll
be so very obliging to him.'

   'I'll tell you what it is,' said Godfrey, quivering, and pale
again. 'My patience is pretty near at an end. If you'd a little more
sharpness in you, you might know that you may urge a man a bit too
far, and make one leap as easy as another. I don't know but what it is
so now: I may as well tell the Squire everything myself- I should
get you off my back, if I got nothing else. And, after all, he'll know
some time. She's been threatening to come herself and tell him. So,
don't flatter yourself that your secrecy's worth any price you
choose to ask. You drain me of money till I've got nothing to pacify
her with, and she'll do as she threatens some day. It's all one.
I'll tell my father everything myself, and you may go to the devil.'

   Dunsey perceived that he had overshot his mark, and that there
was a point at which even the hesitating Godfrey might be driven
into decision. But he said, with an air of unconcern: 'As you
please; but I'll have a draught of ale first.' And ringing the bell,
he threw himself across two chairs, and began to rap the window-seat
with the handle of his whip.

   Godfrey stood, still with his back to the fire, uneasily moving his
fingers among the contents of his side-pockets, and looking at the
floor. That big muscular frame of his held plenty of animal courage,
but helped him to no decision when the dangers to be braved were
such as could neither be knocked down nor throttled. His natural
irresolution and moral cowardice were exaggerated by a position in
which dreaded consequences seemed to press equally on all sides, and
his irritation had no sooner provoked him to defy Dunstan and
anticipate all possible betrayals, than the miseries he must bring
on himself by such a step seemed more unendurable to him than the
present evil. The results of confession were not contingent, they were
certain; whereas betrayal was not certain. From the near vision of
that certainty he fell back on suspense and vacillation with a sense
of repose. The disinherited son of a small squire, equally disinclined
to dig and to beg, was almost as helpless as an uprooted tree,
which, by the favour of earth and sky, has grown to a handsome bulk on
the spot where it first shot upward. Perhaps it would have been
possible to think of digging with some cheerfulness if Nancy
Lammeter were to be won on those terms; but, since he must irrevocably
lose her as well as the inheritance, and must break every tie but
the one that degraded him and left him without motive for trying to
recover his better self, he could imagine no future for himself on the
other side of confession but that of 'listing for a soldier'- the most
desperate step, short of suicide, in the eyes of respectable families.
No! he would rather trust to casualties than to his own resolve-
rather go on sitting at the feast and sipping the wine he loved,
though with the sword hanging over him and terror in his heart, than
rush away into the cold darkness where there was no pleasure left. The
utmost concession to Dunstan about the horse began to seem easy,
compared with the fulfilment of his own threat. But his pride would
not let him recommence the conversation otherwise than by continuing
the quarrel. Dunstan was waiting for this, and took his ale in shorter
draughts than usual.

   'It's just like you,' Godfrey burst out, in a bitter tone, 'to talk
about my selling Wildfire in that cool way- the last thing I've got to
call my own, and the best bit of horse-flesh I ever had in my life.
And if you'd got a spark of pride in you, you'd be ashamed to see
the stables emptied, and everybody sneering about it. But it's my
belief you'd sell yourself, if it was only for the pleasure of
making somebody feel he'd got a bad bargain.'

   'Aye, aye,' said Dunstan, very placably, 'you do me justice, I see.
You know I'm a jewel for 'ticing people into bargains. For which
reason I advise you to let me sell Wildfire. I'd ride him to the
hunt tomorrow for you, with pleasure. I shouldn't look so handsome
as you in the saddle, but it's the horse they'll bid for, and not
the rider.'

   'Yes, I daresay- trust my horse to you!'

   'As you please,' said Dunstan, rapping the window-seat again with
an air of great unconcern. 'It's you have got to pay Fowler's money;
it's none of my business. You received the money from him when you
went to Bramcote, and you told the Squire it wasn't paid. I'd
nothing to do with that; you chose to be so obliging as give it me,
that was all. If you don't want to pay the money, let it alone; it's
all one to me. But I was willing to accommodate you by undertaking
to sell the horse, seeing it's not convenient to you to go so far
tomorrow.'

   Godfrey was silent for some moments. He would have liked to
spring on Dunstan, wrench the whip from his hand, and flog him to
within an inch of his life; and no bodily fear could have deterred
him; but he was mastered by another sort of fear, which was fed by
feelings stronger even than his resentment. When he spoke again, it
was in a half-conciliatory tone.

   'Well, you mean no nonsense about the horse, eh? You'll sell him
all fair, and hand over the money? If you don't, you know,
everything'll go to smash, for I've got nothing else to trust to.
And you'll have less pleasure in pulling the house over my head,
when your own skull's to be broken too.'

   'Aye, aye,' said Dunstan, rising, 'all right. I thought you'd
come round. I'm the fellow to bring old Bryce up to the scratch.
I'll get you a hundred and twenty for him, if I get you a penny.'

   'But it'll perhaps rain cats and dogs tomorrow, as it did
yesterday, and then you can't go,' said Godfrey, hardly knowing
whether he wished for that obstacle or not.

   'Not it,' said Dunstan. 'I'm always lucky in my weather. It might
rain if you wanted to go yourself. You never hold trumps, you know-
I always do. You've got the beauty, you see, and I've got the luck, so
you must keep me by you for your crooked sixpence; you'll ne-ver get
along without me.'

   'Confound you, hold your tongue,' said Godfrey, impetuously. 'And
take care to keep sober tomorrow, else you'll get pitched on your head
coming home, and Wildfire might be the worse for it.'

   'Make your tender heart easy,' said Dunstan, opening the door. 'You
never knew me see double when I'd got a bargain to make; it 'ud
spoil the fun. Besides, whenever I fall, I'm warranted to fall on my
legs.'

   With that, Dunstan slammed the door behind him, and left Godfrey to
that bitter rumination on his personal circumstances which was now
unbroken from day to day save by the excitement of sporting, drinking,
card-playing, or the rarer and less oblivious pleasure of seeing
Miss Nancy Lammeter. The subtle and varied pains springing from the
higher sensibility that accompanies higher culture, are perhaps less
pitiable than that dreary absence of impersonal enjoyment and
consolation which leaves ruder minds to the perpetual urgent
companionship of their own griefs and discontents. The lives of
those rural forefathers, whom we are apt to think very prosaic
figures- men whose only work was to ride round their land, getting
heavier and heavier in their saddles, and who passed the rest of their
days in the half-listless gratification of senses dulled by
monotony- had a certain pathos in them nevertheless. Calamities came
to them too, and their early errors carried hard consequences: perhaps
the love of some sweet maiden, the image of purity, order, and calm,
had opened their eyes to the vision of a life in which the days
would not seem too long, even without rioting; but the maiden was
lost, and the vision passed away, and then what was left to them,
especially when they had become too heavy for the hunt, or for
carrying a gun over the furrows, but to drink and get merry, or to
drink and get angry, so that they might be independent of variety, and
say over again with eager emphasis the things they had said already
any time that twelvemonth? Assuredly, among these flushed and
dull-eyed men there were some whom- thanks to their native
human-kindness- even riot could never drive into brutality; men who,
when their cheeks were fresh, had felt the keen point of sorrow or
remorse, had been pierced by the reeds they leaned on, or had
lightly put their limbs in fetters from which no struggle could
loose them; and under these sad circumstances, common to us all, their
thoughts could find no resting-place outside the ever-trodden round of
their own petty history.

   That, at least, was the condition of Godfrey Cass in this
six-and-twentieth year of his life. A movement of compunction,
helped by those small indefinable influences which every personal
relation exerts on a pliant nature, had urged him into a secret
marriage, which was a blight on his life. It was an ugly story of
low passion, delusion, and waking from delusion, which needs not to be
dragged from the privacy of Godfrey's bitter memory. He had long known
that the delusion was partly due to a trap laid for him by Dunstan,
who saw in his brother's degrading marriage the means of gratifying at
once his jealous hate and his cupidity. And if Godfrey could have felt
himself simply a victim, the iron bit that destiny had put into his
mouth would have chafed him less intolerably. If the curses he
muttered half aloud when he was alone had had no other object than
Dunstan's diabolical cunning, he might have shrunk less from the
consequences of avowal. But he had something else to curse- his own
vicious folly, which now seemed as mad and unaccountable to him as
almost all our follies and vices do when their promptings have long
passed away. For four years he had thought of Nancy Lammeter, and
wooed her with tacit patient worship, as the woman who made him
think of the future with joy: she would be his wife, and would make
home lovely to him, as his father's home had never been; and it
would be easy, when she was always near, to shake off those foolish
habits that were no pleasures, but only a feverish way of annulling
vacancy. Godfrey's was an essentially domestic nature, bred up in a
home where the hearth had no smiles, and where the daily habits were
not chastised by the presence of household order; his easy disposition
made him fall in unresistingly with the family courses, but the need
of some tender permanent affection, the longing for some influence
that would make the good he preferred easy to pursue, caused the
neatness, purity, and liberal orderliness of the Lammeter household,
sunned by the smile of Nancy, to seem like those fresh bright hours of
the morning, when temptations go to sleep, and leave the ear open to
the voice of the good angel, inviting to industry, sobriety, and
peace. And yet the hope of this paradise had not been enough to save
him from a course which shut him out of it for ever. Instead of
keeping fast hold of the strong silken rope by which Nancy would
have drawn him safe to the green banks, where it was easy to step
firmly, he had let himself be dragged back into mud and slime, in
which it was useless to struggle. He had made ties for himself which
robbed him of all wholesome motive, and were a constant exasperation.

   Still, there was one position worse than the present: it was the
position he would be in when the ugly secret was disclosed; and the
desire that continually triumphed over every other was that of warding
off the evil day, when he would have to bear the consequences of his
father's violent resentment for the wound inflicted on his family
pride- would have, perhaps, to turn his back on that hereditary ease
and dignity which, after all, was a sort of reason for living, and
would carry with him the certainty that he was banished for ever
from the sight and esteem of Nancy Lammeter. The longer the
interval, the more chance there was of deliverance from some, at
least, of the hateful consequences to which he had sold himself- the
more opportunities remained for him to snatch the strange
gratification of seeing Nancy, and gathering some faint indications of
her lingering regard. Towards this gratification he was impelled,
fitfully, every now and then, after having passed weeks in which he
had avoided her as the far-off, bright-winged prize, that only made
him spring forward, and find his chain all the more galling. One of
those fits of yearning was on him now, and it would have been strong
enough to have persuaded him to trust Wildfire to Dunstan rather
than disappoint the yearning, even if he had not had another reason
for his disinclination towards the morrow's hunt. That other reason
was the fact that the morning's meet was near Batherley, the
market-town where the unhappy woman lived, whose image became more
odious to him every day; and to his thoughts the whole vicinage was
haunted by her. The yoke a man creates for himself by wrong-doing will
breed hate in the kindliest nature; and the good-humoured,
affectionate-hearted Godfrey Cass, was fast becoming a bitter man,
visited by cruel wishes, that seemed to enter, and depart, and enter
again, like demons who had found in him a ready-garnished home.

   What was he to do this evening to pass the time? He might as well
go to the Rainbow, and hear the talk about the cock-fighting:
everybody was there, and what else was there to be done? Though, for
his own part, he did not care a button for cock-fighting. Snuff, the
brown spaniel, who had placed herself in front of him, and had been
watching him for some time, now jumped up in impatience for the
expected caress. But Godfrey thrust her away without looking at her,
and left the room, followed humbly by the unresenting Snuff- perhaps
because she saw no other career open to her.

                       CHAPTER FOUR

DUNSTAN CASS, setting off in the raw morning, at the judiciously quiet
pace of a man who is obliged to ride to cover on his hunter, had to
take his way along the lane, which, at its farther extremity, passed
by the piece of unenclosed ground called the Stone-pit, where stood
the cottage, once a stone-cutter's shed, now for fifteen years
inhabited by Silas Marner. The spot looked very dreary at this season,
with the moist trodden clay about it, and the red, muddy water high up
in the deserted quarry. That was Dunstan's first thought as he
approached it; the second was, that the old fool of a weaver, whose
loom he heard rattling already, had a great deal of money hidden
somewhere. How was it that he, Dunstan Cass, who had often heard
talk of Marner's miserliness, had never thought of suggesting to
Godfrey that he should frighten or persuade the old fellow into
lending the money on the excellent security of the young Squire's
prospects? The resource occurred to him now as so easy and
agreeable, especially as Marner's hoard was likely to be large
enough to leave Godfrey a handsome surplus beyond his immediate needs,
and enable him to accommodate his faithful brother, that he had almost
turned the horse's head towards home again. Godfrey would be ready
enough to accept the suggestion: he would snatch eagerly at a plan
that might save him from parting with Wildfire. But when Dunstan's
meditation reached this point, the inclination to go on grew strong
and prevailed. He didn't want to give Godfrey that pleasure: he
preferred that Master Godfrey should be vexed. Moreover, Dunstan
enjoyed the self-important consciousness of having a horse to sell,
and the opportunity of driving a bargain, swaggering, and, possibly,
taking somebody in. He might have all the satisfaction attendant on
selling his brother's horse, and not the less have the further
satisfaction of setting Godfrey to borrow Marner's money. So he rode
on to cover.

   Bryce and Keating were there, as Dunstan was quite sure they
would be- he was such a lucky fellow.

   'Hey-day,' said Bryce, who had long had his eye on Wildfire,
'you're on your brother's horse today: how's that?'

   'Oh, I've swopped with him,' said Dunstan, whose delight in
lying, grandly independent of utility, was not to be diminished by the
likelihood that his hearer would not believe him- 'Wildfire's mine
now.'

   'What! has he swopped with you for that big-boned hack of yours?'
said Bryce, quite aware that he should get another lie in answer.

   'Oh, there was a little account between us,' said Dunsey,
carelessly, 'and Wildfire made it even. I accommodated him by taking
the horse, though it was against my will, for I'd got an itch for a
mare o' Jortin's- as rare a bit o' blood as ever you threw your leg
across. But I shall keep Wildfire, now I've got him; though I'd a
bid of a hundred and fifty for him the other day, from a man over at
Flitton- he's buying for Lord Cromleck- a fellow with a cast in his
eye, and a green waistcoat. But I mean to stick to Wildfire: I
shan't get a better at a fence in a hurry. The mare's got more
blood, but she's a bit too weak in the hindquarters.'

   Bryce of course divined that Dunstan wanted to sell the horse,
and Dunstan knew that he divined it (horse-dealing is only one of many
human transactions carried on in this ingenious manner); and they both
considered that the bargain was in its first stage, when Bryce replied
ironically:

   'I wonder at that now; I wonder you mean to keep him; for I never
heard of a man who didn't want to sell his horse getting a bid of half
as much again as the horse was worth. You'll be lucky if you get a
hundred.'

   Keating rode up now, and the transaction became more complicated.
It ended in the purchase of the horse by Bryce for a hundred and
twenty, to be paid on the delivery of Wildfire, safe and sound, at the
Batherley stables. It did occur to Dunsey that it might be wise for
him to give up the day's hunting, proceed at once to Batherley, and,
having waited for Bryce's return, hire a horse to carry him home
with the money in his pocket. But the inclination for a run,
encouraged by confidence in his luck, and by a draught of brandy
from his pocket-pistol at the conclusion of the bargain, was not
easy to overcome, especially with a horse under him that would take
the fences to the admiration of the field. Dunstan, however, took
one fence too many, and 'staked' his horse. His own ill-favoured
person, which was quite unmarketable, escaped without injury, but poor
Wildfire, unconscious of his price, turned on his flank, and painfully
panted his last. It happened that Dunstan, a short time before, having
had to get down to arrange his stirrup, had muttered a good many
curses at this interruption, which had thrown him in the rear of the
hunt near the moment of glory, and under this exasperation had taken
the fences more blindly. He would soon have been up with the hounds
again, when the fatal accident happened; and hence he was between
eager riders in advance, not troubling themselves about what
happened behind them, and far-off stragglers, who were as likely as
not to pass quite aloof from the line of road in which Wildfire had
fallen. Dunstan, whose nature it was to care more for immediate
annoyances than for remote consequences, no sooner recovered his legs,
and saw that it was all over with Wildfire, than he felt a
satisfaction at the absence of witnesses to a position which no
swaggering could make enviable. Reinforcing himself, after his
shake, with a little brandy and much swearing, he walked as fast as he
could to a coppice on his right hand, through which it occurred to him
that he could make his way to Batherley without danger of encountering
any member of the hunt. His first intention was to hire a horse
there and ride home forthwith, for to walk many miles without a gun in
his hand, and along an ordinary road, was as much out of the
question to him as to other spirited young men of his kind. He did not
much mind about taking the bad news to Godfrey, for he had to offer
him at the same time the resource of Marner's money; and if Godfrey
kicked, as he always did, at the notion of making a fresh debt, from
which he himself got the smallest share of advantage, why, he wouldn't
kick long: Dunstan felt sure he could worry Godfrey into anything. The
idea of Marner's money kept growing in vividness now the want of it
had become immediate; the prospect of having to make his appearance
with the muddy boots of a pedestrian at Batherley, and encounter the
grinning queries of stablemen, stood unpleasantly in the way of his
impatience to be back at Raveloe and carry out his felicitous plan;
and a casual visitation of his waistcoat pocket, as he was ruminating,
awakened his memory to the fact that the two or three small coins
his fore-finger encountered there were of too pale a colour to cover
that small debt, without payment of which Jennings had declared he
would never do any more business with Dunsey Cass. After all,
according to the direction in which the run had brought him, he was
not so very much farther from home than he was from Batherley; but
Dunsey, not being remarkable for clearness of head, was only led to
this conclusion by the gradual perception that there were other
reasons for choosing the unprecedented course of walking home. It
was now nearly four o'clock, and a mist was gathering: the sooner he
got into the road the better. He remembered having crossed the road
and seen the finger-post only a little while before Wildfire broke
down; so, buttoning his coat, twisting the lash of his hunting whip
compactly round the handle, and rapping the tops of his boots with a
self-possessed air, as if to assure himself that he was not at all
taken by surprise, he set off with the sense that he was undertaking a
remarkable feat of bodily exertion, which somehow, and at some time,
he should be able to dress up and magnify to the admiration of a
select circle at the Rainbow. When a young gentleman like Dunsey is
reduced to so exceptional a mode of locomotion as walking, a whip in
his hand is a desirable corrective to a too bewildering dreamy sense
of unwontedness in his position; and Dunstan, as he went along through
the gathering mist, was always rapping his whip somewhere. It was
Godfrey's whip, which he had chosen to take without leave because it
had a gold handle; of course no one could see, when Dunstan held it,
that the name Godfrey Cass was cut in deep letters on that gold
handle- they could only see that it was a very handsome whip. Dunsey
was not without fear that he might meet some acquaintance in whose
eyes he would cut a pitiable figure, for mist is no screen when people
get close to each other; but when he at last found himself in the
well-known Raveloe lanes without having met a soul, he silently
remarked that that was part of his usual good luck. But now the
mist, helped by the evening darkness, was more of a screen than he
desired, for it hid the ruts into which his feet were liable to
slip- hid everything, so that he had to guide his steps by dragging
his whip along the low bushes in advance of the hedgerow. He must
soon, he thought, be getting near the opening at the Stone-pits: he
should find it out by the break in the hedgerow. He found it out,
however, by another circumstance which he had not expected- namely, by
certain gleams of light, which he presently guessed to proceed from
Silas Marner's cottage. That cottage and the money hidden within it
had been in his mind continually, during his walk, and he had been
imagining ways of cajoling and tempting the weaver to part with the
immediate possession of his money for the sake of receiving
interest. Dunstan felt as if there must be a little frightening
added to the cajolery, for his own arithmetical convictions were not
clear enough to afford him any forcible demonstration as to the
advantages of interest; and as for security, he regarded it vaguely as
a means of cheating a man, by making him believe that he would be
paid. Altogether, the operation on the miser's mind was a task that
Godfrey would be sure to hand over to his more daring and cunning
brother: Dunstan had made up his mind to that; and by the time he
saw the light gleaming through the chinks of Marner's shutters, the
idea of a dialogue with the weaver had become so familiar to him, that
it occurred to him as quite a natural thing to make the acquaintance
forthwith. There might be several conveniences attending this
course: the weaver had possibly got a lantern, and Dunstan was tired
of feeling his way. He was still nearly three-quarters of a mile
from home, and the lane was becoming unpleasantly slippery, for the
mist was passing into rain. He turned up the bank, not without some
fear lest he might miss the right way, since he was not certain
whether the light were in front or on the side of the cottage. But
he felt the ground before him cautiously with his whip-handle, and
at last arrived safely at the door. He knocked loudly, rather enjoying
the idea that the old fellow would be frightened at the sudden
noise. He heard no movement in reply: all was silence in the
cottage. Was the weaver gone to bed, then? If so, why had he left a
light? That was a strange forgetfulness in a miser. Dunstan knocked
still more loudly, and, without pausing for a reply, pushed his
fingers through the latch-hole, intending to shake the door and pull
the latch-string up and down, not doubting that the door was fastened.
But, to his surprise, at this double motion the door opened, and he
found himself in front of a bright fire, which lit up every corner
of the cottage- the bed, the loom, the three chairs, and the table-
and showed him that Marner was not there.

   Nothing at that moment could be much more inviting to Dunsey than
the bright fire on the brick hearth: he walked in and seated himself
by it at once. There was something in front of the fire, too, that
would have been inviting to a hungry man, if it had been in a
different stage of cooking. It was a small bit of pork suspended
from the kettle-hanger by a string passed through a large door-key, in
a way known to primitive house-keepers unpossessed of jacks. But the
pork had been hung at the farthest extremity of the hanger, apparently
to prevent the roasting from proceeding too rapidly during the owner's
absence. The old staring simpleton had hot meat for his supper,
then? thought Dunstan. People had always said he lived on mouldy
bread, on purpose to check his appetite. But where could he be at this
time, and on such an evening, leaving his supper in this stage of
preparation, and his door unfastened? Dunstan's own recent
difficulty in making his way suggested to him that the weaver had
perhaps gone outside his cottage to fetch in fuel, or for some such
brief purpose, and had slipped into the Stone-pit. That was an
interesting idea to Dunstan, carrying consequences of entire
novelty. If the weaver was dead, who had a right to his money? Who
would know where his money was hidden? Who would know that anybody had
come to take it away? He went no farther into the subtleties of
evidence: the pressing question, 'Where is the money?' now took such
entire possession of him as to make him quite forget that the weaver's
death was not a certainty. A dull mind, once arriving at an
inference that flatters a desire, is rarely able to retain the
impression that the notion from which the inference started was purely
problematic. And Dunstan's mind was as dull as the mind of a
possible felon usually is. There were only three hiding-places where
he had ever heard of cottagers' hoards being found: the thatch, the
bed, and a hole in the floor. Marner's cottage had no thatch; and
Dunstan's first act, after a train of thought made rapid by the
stimulus of cupidity, was to go up to the bed; but while he did so,
his eyes travelled eagerly over the floor, where the bricks,
distinct in the fire-light, were discernible under the sprinkling of
sand. But not everywhere; for there was one spot, and one only,
which was quite covered with sand, and sand showing the marks of
fingers which had apparently been careful to spread it over a given
space. It was near the treddles of the loom. In an instant Dunstan
darted to that spot, swept away the sand with his whip, and, inserting
the thin end of the hook between the bricks, found that they were
loose. In haste he lifted up two bricks, and saw what he had no
doubt was the object of his search; for what could there be but
money in those two leathern bags? And, from their weight, they must be
filled with guineas. Dunstan felt round the hole, to be certain that
it held no more; then hastily replaced the bricks, and spread the sand
over them. Hardly more than five minutes had passed since he entered
the cottage, but it seemed to Dunstan like a long while; and though he
was without any distinct recognition of the possibility that Marner
might be alive, and might re-enter the cottage at any moment, he
felt an undefinable dread laying hold on him, as he rose to his feet
with the bags in his hand. He would hasten out into the darkness,
and then consider what he should do with the bags. He closed the
door behind him immediately, that he might shut in the stream of
light: a few steps would be enough to carry him beyond betrayal by the
gleams from the shutter-chinks and the latch-hole. The rain and
darkness had got thicker, and he was glad of it; though it was awkward
walking with both hands filled, so that it was as much as he could
do to grasp his whip along with one of the bags. But when he had
gone a yard or two, he might take his time. So he stepped forward into
the darkness.

                       CHAPTER FIVE

WHEN Dunstan Cass turned his back on the cottage, Silas Marner was not
more than a hundred yards away from it, plodding along from the
village with a sack thrown round his shoulders as an overcoat, and
with a horn lantern in his hand. His legs were weary, but his mind was
at ease, free from the presentiment of change. The sense of security
more frequently springs from habit than from conviction, and for
this reason it often subsists after such a change in the conditions as
might have been expected to suggest alarm. The lapse of time during
which a given event has not happened, is, in this logic of habit,
constantly alleged as a reason why the event should never happen, even
when the lapse of time is precisely the added condition which makes
the event imminent. A man will tell you that he has worked in a mine
for forty years unhurt by an accident, as a reason why he should
apprehend no danger, though the roof is beginning to sink; and it is
often observable, that the older a man gets, the more difficult it
is to him to retain a believing conception of his own death. This
influence of habit was necessarily strong in a man whose life was so
monotonous as Marner's- who saw no new people and heard of no new
events to keep alive in him the idea of the unexpected and the
changeful; and it explains, simply enough, why his mind could be at
ease, though he had left his house and his treasure more defenceless
than usual. Silas was thinking with double complacency of his
supper: first, because it would be hot and savoury; and, secondly,
because it would cost him nothing. For the little bit of pork was a
present from that excellent housewife, Miss Priscilla Lammeter, to
whom he had this day carried home a handsome piece of linen; and it
was only on occasion of a present like this, that Silas indulged
himself with roast meat. Supper was his favourite meal, because it
came at his time of revelry, when his heart warmed over his gold;
whenever he had roast-meat, he always chose to have it for supper. But
this evening, he had no sooner ingeniously knotted his string fast
round his bit of pork, twisted the string according to rule over his
door-key, passed it through the handle, and made it fast on the
hanger, than he remembered that a piece of very fine twine was
indispensable to his 'setting up' a new piece of work in his loom
early in the morning. It had slipped his memory, because, in coming
from Mr Lammeter's, he had not had to pass through the village; but to
lose time by going on errands in the morning was out of the
question. It was a nasty fog to turn out into, but there were things
Silas loved better than his own comfort; so, drawing his pork to the
extremity of the hanger, and arming himself with his lantern and his
old sack, he set out on what, in ordinary weather, would have been a
twenty minutes' errand. He could not have locked his door without
undoing his well-knotted string and retarding his supper; it was not
worth his while to make that sacrifice. What thief would find his
way to the Stone-pits on such a night as this? and why should he
come on this particular night, when he had never come through all
the fifteen years before? These questions were not distinctly
present in Silas's mind; they merely serve to represent the
vaguely-felt foundation of his freedom from anxiety.

   He reached his door in much satisfaction that his errand was
done: he opened it, and to his short-sighted eyes everything
remained as he had left it, except that the fire sent out a welcome
increase of heat. He trod about the floor while putting by his lantern
and throwing aside his hat and sack, so as to merge the marks of
Dunstan's feet on the sand in the marks of his own nailed boots.
Then he moved his pork nearer to the fire, and sat down to the
agreeable business of tending the meat and warming himself at the same
time.

   Any one who had looked at him as the red light shone upon his
pale face, strange straining eyes, and meagre form, would perhaps have
understood the mixture of contemptuous pity, dread, and suspicion with
which he was regarded by his neighbours in Raveloe. Yet few men
could be more harmless than poor Marner. In his truthful simple
soul, not even the growing greed and worship of gold could beget any
vice directly injurious to others. The light of his faith quite put
out, and his affections made desolate, he had clung with all the force
of his nature to his work and his money; and like all objects to which
a man devotes himself, they had fashioned him into correspondence with
themselves. His loom, as he wrought in it without ceasing, had in
its turn wrought on him, and confirmed more and more the monotonous
craving for its monotonous response. His gold, as he hung over it
and saw it grow, gathered his power of loving together into a hard
isolation like its own.

   As soon as he was warm he began to think it would be a long while
to wait till after supper before he drew out his guineas, and it would
be pleasant to see them on the table before him as he ate his unwonted
feast. For joy is the best of wine, and Silas's guineas were a
golden wine of that sort.

   He rose and placed his candle unsuspectingly on the floor near
his loom, swept away the sand without noticing any change, and removed
the bricks. The sight of the empty hole made his heart leap violently,
but the belief that his gold was gone could not come at once- only
terror, and the eager effort to put an end to the terror. He passed
his trembling hand all about the hole, trying to think it possible
that his eyes had deceived him; then he held the candle in the hole
and examined it curiously, trembling more and more. At last he shook
so violently that he let fall the candle, and lifted his hands to
his head, trying to steady himself, that he might think. Had he put
his gold somewhere else, by a sudden resolution last night, and then
forgotten it? A man falling into dark waters seeks a momentary footing
even on sliding stones; and Silas, by acting as if he believed in
false hopes, warded off the moment of despair. He searched in every
corner, he turned his bed over, and shook it, and kneaded it; he
looked in his brick oven where he laid his sticks. When there was no
other place to be searched, he kneeled down again and felt once more
all round the hole. There was no untried refuge left for a moment's
shelter from the terrible truth.

   Yes, there was a sort of refuge which always come with the
prostration of thought under an overpowering passion: it was that
expectation of impossibilities, that belief in contradictory images,
which is still distinct from madness, because it is capable of being
dissipated by the external fact. Silas got up from his knees
trembling, and looked round at the table: didn't the gold lie there
after all? The table was bare. Then he turned and looked behind him-
looked all round his dwelling, seeming to strain his brown eyes
after some possible appearance of the bags, where he had already
sought them in vain. He could see every object in his cottage- and his
gold was not there.

   Again he put his trembling hands to his head, and gave a wild
ringing scream, the cry of desolation. For a few moments after, he
stood motionless; but the cry had relieved him from the first
maddening pressure of the truth. He turned and tottered towards his
loom, and got into the seat where he worked, instinctively seeking
this as the strongest assurance of reality.

   And now that all the false hopes had vanished, and the first
shock of certainty was past, the idea of a thief began to present
itself, and he entertained it eagerly, because a thief might be caught
and made to restore the gold. The thought brought some new strength
with it, and he started from his loom to the door. As he opened it the
rain beat in upon him, for it was falling more and more heavily. There
were no footsteps to be tracked on such a night- footsteps? When had
the thief come? During Silas's absence in the daytime the door had
been locked, and there had been no marks of any inroad on his return
by daylight. And in the evening, too, he said to himself, everything
was the same as when he had left it. The sand and bricks looked as
if they had not been moved. Was it a thief who had taken the bags?
or was it a cruel power that no hands could reach, which had delighted
in making him a second time desolate? He shrank from this vaguer
dread, and fixed his mind with struggling effort on the robber with
hands, who could be reached by hands. His thoughts glanced at all
the neighbours who had made any remarks, or asked any questions
which he might now regard as a ground of suspicion. There was Jem
Rodney, a known poacher, and otherwise disreputable: he had often
met Marner in his journeys across the fields, and had said something
jestingly about the weaver's money; nay, he had once irritated Marner,
by lingering at the fire when he called to light his pipe, instead
of going about his business. Jem Rodney was the man- there was ease in
the thought. Jem could be found and made to restore the money:
Marner did not want to punish him, but only to get back his gold which
had gone from him, and left his soul like a forlorn traveller on an
unknown desert. The robber must be laid hold of. Marner's ideas of
legal authority were confused, but he felt that he must go and
proclaim his loss; and the great people in the village- the clergyman,
the constable, and Squire Cass- would make Jem Rodney, or somebody
else, deliver up the stolen money. He rushed out in the rain, under
the stimulus of this hope, forgetting to cover his head, not caring to
fasten his door; for he felt as if he had nothing left to lose. He ran
swiftly till want of breath compelled him to slacken his pace as he
was entering the village at the turning close to the Rainbow.

   The Rainbow, in Marner's view, was a place of luxurious resort
for rich and stout husbands, whose wives had superfluous stores of
linen; it was the place where he was likely to find the powers and
dignities of Raveloe, and where he could most speedily make his loss
public. He lifted the latch, and turned into the bright bar or kitchen
on the right hand, where the less lofty customers of the house were in
the habit of assembling, the parlour on the left being reserved for
the more select society in which Squire Cass frequently enjoyed the
double pleasure of conviviality and condescension. But the parlour was
dark tonight, the chief personages who ornamented its circle being all
at Mrs Osgood's birthday dance, as Godfrey Cass was. And in
consequence of this, the party on the high-screened seats in the
kitchen was more numerous than usual; several personages, who would
otherwise have been admitted into the parlour and enlarged the
opportunity of hectoring and condescension for their betters, being
content this evening to vary their enjoyment by taking their
spirits-and-water where they could themselves hector and condescend in
company that called for beer.

                       CHAPTER SIX

THE conversation, which was at a high pitch of animation when Silas
approached the door of the Rainbow, had, as usual, been slow and
intermittent when the company first assembled. The pipes began to be
puffed in a silence which had an air of severity; the more important
customers, who drank spirits and sat nearest the fire, staring at each
other as if a bet were depending on the first man who winked; while
the beer-drinkers, chiefly men in fustian jackets and smock-frocks,
kept their eyelids down and rubbed their hands across their mouths, as
if their draughts of beer were a funereal duty attended with
embarrassing sadness. At last Mr Snell, the landlord, a man of a
neutral disposition, accustomed to stand aloof from human
differences as those of beings who were all alike in need of liquor,
broke silence, by saying in a doubtful tone to his cousin the butcher:

   'Some folks 'ud say that was a fine beast you druv in yesterday,
Bob?'

   The butcher, a jolly, smiling, red-haired man, was not disposed
to answer rashly. He gave a few puffs before he spat and replied, 'And
they wouldn't be fur wrong, John.'

   After this feeble delusive thaw, the silence set in as severely
as before.

   'Was it a red Durham?' said the farrier, taking up the thread of
discourse after the lapse of a few minutes.

   The farrier looked at the landlord, and the landlord looked at
the butcher, as the person who must take the responsibility of
answering.

   'Red it was,' said the butcher, in his good-humoured husky
treble- 'and a Durham it was.'

   'Then you needn't tell me who you bought it of,' said the
farrier, looking round with some triumph; 'I know who it is has got
the red Durhams o' this country-side. And she'd a white star on her
brow, I'll bet a penny?' The farrier leaned forward with his hands
on his knees as he put this question, and his eyes twinkled knowingly.

   'Well; yes- she might,' said the butcher, slowly, considering
that he was giving a decided affirmative. 'I don't say contrairy.'

   'I knew that very well,' said the farrier, throwing himself
backward again, and speaking defiantly; 'if I don't know Mr Lammeter's
cows, I should like to know who does- that's all. And as for the cow
you've bought, bargain or no bargain, I've been at the drenching of
her- contradick me who will.'

   The farrier looked fierce, and the mild butcher's conversational
spirit was roused a little.

   'I'm not for contradicking no man,' he said; 'I'm for peace and
quietness. Some are for cutting long ribs- I'm for cutting 'em
short, myself; but I don't quarrel with 'em. All I say is, it's a
lovely carkiss- and anybody as was reasonable, it 'ud bring tears into
their eyes to look at it.'

   'Well, it's the cow as I drenched, whatever it is,' pursued the
farrier, angrily; 'and it was Mr Lammeter's cow, else you told a lie
when you said it was a red Durham.'

   'I tell no lies,' said the butcher, with the same mild huskiness as
before; 'and I contradick none- not if a man was to swear himself
black: he's no meat o' mine nor none o' my bargains. All I say is,
it's a lovely carkiss. And what I say, I'll stick to; but I'll quarrel
wi' no man.'

   'No,' said the farrier, with bitter sarcasm, looking at the company
generally; 'and p'rhaps you aren't pig-headed; and p'rhaps you
didn't say the cow was a red Durham; and p'rhaps you didn't say
she'd got a star on her brow- stick to that, now you're at it.'

   'Come, come,' said the landlord; 'let the cow alone. The truth lies
atween you: you're both right and both wrong, as I allays says. And as
for the cow's being Mr Lammeter's, I say nothing to that; but this I
say, as the Rainbow's the Rainbow. And for the matter o' that, if
the talk is to be o' the Lammeters, you know the most upo' that
head, eh, Mr Macey? You remember when first Mr Lammeter's father
come into these parts, and took the Warrens?'

   Mr Macey, tailor and parish-clerk, the latter of which functions
rheumatism had of late obliged him to share with a small-featured
young man who sat opposite him, held his white head on one side, and
twirled his thumbs with an air of complacency, slightly seasoned
with criticism. He smiled pityingly, in answer to the landlord's
appeal, and said-

   'Aye, aye; I know, I know; but I let other folks talk. I've laid by
now, and gev up to the young uns. Ask them as have been to school at
Tarley: they've learnt pernouncing; that's come up since my day.'

   'If you're pointing at me, Mr Macey,' said the deputy clerk, with
an air of anxious propriety, 'I'm nowise a man to speak out of my
place. As the psalm says-

                  I know what's right, nor only so,

                  But also practise what I know.'

   'Well, then, I wish you'd keep hold o' the tune when it's set for
you; if you're for practising, I wish you'd practise that,' said a
large jocose-looking man, an excellent wheelwright in his week-day
capacity, but on Sundays leader of the choir. He winked, as he
spoke, at two of the company, who were known officially as 'the
bassoon' and 'the key-bugle', in the confidence that he was expressing
the sense of the musical profession in Raveloe.

   Mr Tookey, the deputy-clerk, who shared the unpopularity common
to deputies, turned very red, but replied, with careful moderation-
'Mr Winthrop, if you'll bring me any proof as I'm in the wrong, I'm
not the man to say I won't alter. But there's people set up their
own ears for a standard, and expect the whole choir to follow 'em.
There may be two opinions, I hope.'

   'Aye, aye,' said Mr Macey, who felt very well satisfied with this
attack on youthful presumption: 'you're right there, Tookey: there's
allays two 'pinions; there's the 'pinion a man has of himsen, and
there's the 'pinion other folks have on him. There'd be two 'pinions
about a cracked bell, if the bell could hear itself.'

   'Well, Mr Macey,' said poor Tookey, serious amidst the general
laughter, 'I undertook to partially fill up the office of parish-clerk
by Mr Crackenthorp's desire, whenever your infirmities should make you
unfitting; and it's one of the rights thereof to sing in the choir-
else why have you done the same yourself?

   'Ah! but the old gentleman and you are two folks,' said Ben
Winthrop. 'The old gentleman's got a gift. Why, the Squire used to
invite him to take a glass, only to hear him sing the "Red Rovier";
didn't he, Mr Macey? It's a nat'ral gift. There's my little lad Aaron,
he's got a gift- he can sing a tune off straight, like a throstle. But
as for you, Master Tookey, you'd better stick to your "Amens": your
voice is well enough when you keep it up in your nose. It's your
inside as isn't right made for music: it's no better nor a hollow
stalk.'

   This kind of unflinching frankness was the most piquant form of
joke to the company at the Rainbow, and Ben Winthrop's insult was felt
by everybody to have capped Mr Macey's epigram.

   'I see what it is plain enough,' said Mr Tookey, unable to keep
cool any longer. 'There's a consperacy to turn me out o' the choir, as
I shouldn't share the Christmas money- that's where it is. But I shall
speak to Mr Crackenthorp; I'll not be put upon by no man.'

   'Nay, nay, Tookey,' said Ben Winthrop. 'We'll pay you your share to
keep out of it- that's what we'll do. There's things folks 'ud pay
to be rid on, besides varmin.'

   'Come, come,' said the landlord, who felt that paying people for
their absence was a principle dangerous to society; 'a joke's a
joke. We're all good friends here, I hope. We must give and take.
You're both right and you're both wrong, as I say. I agree wi' Mr
Macey here, as there's two opinions; and if mine was asked, I should
say they're both right. Tookey's right and Winthrop's right, and
they've only got to split the difference and make themselves even.'

   The farrier was puffing his pipe rather fiercely, in some
contempt at this trivial discussion. He had no ear for music
himself, and never went to church, as being of the medical profession,
and likely to be in requisition for delicate cows. But the butcher,
having music in his soul, had listened with a divided desire for
Tookey's defeat, and for the preservation of the peace.

   'To be sure,' he said, following up the landlord's conciliatory
view, 'we're fond of our old clerk; it's nat'ral, and him used to be
such a singer, and got a brother as is known for the first fiddler
in this countryside. Eh, it's a pity but what Solomon lived in our
village, and could give us a tune when we liked; eh, Mr Macey? I'd
keep him in liver and lights for nothing- that I would.'

   'Aye, aye,' said Mr Macey, in the height of complacency, 'our
family's been known for musicianers as far back as anybody can tell.
But them things are dying out, as I tell Solomon every time he comes
round; there's no voices like what there used to be, and there's
nobody remembers what we remember, if it isn't the old crows.'

   'Aye, you remember when first Mr Lammeter's father came into
these parts, don't you, Mr Macey?' said the landlord.

   'I should think I did,' said the old man, who had now gone
through that complimentary process necessary to bring him up to the
point of narration, 'and a fine old gentleman he was- as fine, and
finer nor the Mr Lammeter as now is. He came from a bit north'ard,
so far as I could ever make out. But there's nobody rightly knows
about those parts: only it couldn't be far north'ard, nor much
different from this country, for he brought a fine breed o' sheep with
him, so there must be pastures there, and everything reasonable. We
heared tell as he'd sold his own land to come and take the Warrens,
and that seemed odd for a man as had land of his own, to come and rent
a farm in a strange place. But they say it was along of his wife's
dying; though there's reasons in things as nobody knows on- that's
pretty much what I've made out; though some folks are so wise, they'll
find you fifty reasons straight off, and all the while the real
reason's winking at 'em in the corner, and they niver see't.
Howsomever, it was soon seen as we'd got a new parish'ner as know'd
the rights and customs o' things, and kep a good house, and was well
looked on by everybody. And the young man- that's the Mr Lammeter as
now is, for he'd niver a sister- soon begun to court Miss Osgood,
that's the sister o' the Mr Osgood as now is, and a fine handsome lass
she was- eh, you can't think- they pretend this young lass is like
her, but that's the way wi' people as don't know what come before 'em.
I should know, for I helped the old rector, Mr Drumlow as was, I
helped him marry 'em.'

   Here Mr Macey paused; he always gave his narrative in
instalments, expecting to be questioned according to precedent.

   'Aye, and a partic'lar thing happened, didn't it, Mr Macey, so as
you were likely to remember that marriage?' said the landlord, in a
congratulatory tone.

   'I should think there did- a very partic'lar thing,' said Mr Macey,
nodding sideways. 'For Mr Drumlow- poor old gentleman, I was fond on
him, though he'd got a bit confused in his head, what wi' age and
wi' taking a drop o' summat warm when the service come of a cold
morning. And young Mr Lammeter, he'd have no way but he must be
married in janiwary, which, to be sure, 's a unreasonable time to be
married in, for it isn't like a christening or a burying, as you can't
help; and so Mr Drumlow- poor old gentleman, I was fond on him- but
when he come to put the questions, he put 'em by the rule o'
contrairy, like, and he says, "Wilt thou have this man to thy wedded
wife?" says he, and then he says, "Wilt thou have this woman to thy
wedded husband?" says he. But the partic'larest thing of all is, as
nobody took any notice on it but me, and they answered straight off
"yes", like as if it had been me saying "Amen" i' the right place,
without listening to what went before.'

   'But you knew what was going on well enough, didn't you, Mr
Macey? You were live enough, eh?' said the butcher.

   'Lor bless you!' said Mr Macey, pausing, and smiling in pity at the
impotence of his hearers' imagination- 'why, I was all of a tremble:
it was as if I'd been a coat pulled by the two tails, like; for I
couldn't stop the parson, I couldn't take upon me to do that; and
yet I said to myself, I says, "Suppose they shouldn't be fast married,
'cause the words are contrairy?" and my head went working like a mill,
for I was allays uncommon for turning things over and seeing all round
'em; and I says to myself, "Is't the meanin' or the words as makes
folks fast i' wedlock?" For the parson meant right, and the bride
and bridegroom meant right. But then, when I come to think on it,
meanin' goes but a little way i' most things, for you may mean to
stick things together and your glue may be bad, and then where are
you? And so I says to mysen, "It isn't the meanin', it's the glue."
And I was worreted as if I'd got three bells to pull at once, when
we got into the vestry, and they begun to sign their names. But
where's the use o' talking?- you can't think what goes on in a 'cute
man's inside.'

   'But you held in for all that, didn't you, Mr Macey?' said the
landlord.

   'Aye, I held in tight till I was by mysen wi' Mr Drumlow, and
then I out wi' everything, but respectful, as I allays did. And he
made light on it, and he says, "Pooh, pooh, Macey, make yourself
easy," he says, "it's neither the meaning nor the words- it's the
regester does it- that's the glue." So you see he settled it easy; for
parsons and doctors know everything by heart, like, so as they
aren't worreted wi' thinking what's the rights and wrongs o' things,
as I'n been many and many's the time. And sure enough the wedding
turned out all right, on'y poor Mrs Lammeter- that's Miss Osgood as
was- died afore the lasses were growed up; but for prosperity and
everything respectable, there's no family more looked on.'

   Every one of Mr Macey's audience had heard this story many times,
but it was listened to as if it had been a favourite tune, and at
certain points the puffing of the pipes was momentarily suspended,
that the listeners might give their whole minds to the expected words.
But there was more to come; and Mr Snell, the landlord, duly put the
leading question.

   'Why, old Mr Lammeter had a pretty fortin, didn't they say, when he
come into these parts?'

   'Well, yes,' said Mr Macey; 'but I daresay it's as much as this
Mr Lammeter's done to keep it whole. For there was allays a talk as
nobody could get rich on the Warrens: though he holds it cheap, for
it's what they call Charity Land.'

   'Aye, and there's few folks know so well as you how it come to be
Charity Land, eh, Mr Macey?' said the butcher.

   'How should they?' said the old clerk, with some contempt. 'Why, my
grandfather made the grooms' livery for that Mr Cliff as came and
built the big stables at the Warrens. Why, they're stables four
times as big as Squire Cass's, for he thought o' nothing but hosses
and hunting, Cliff didn't- a Lunnon tailor, some folks said, as had
gone mad wi' cheating. For he couldn't ride; lor bless you! they
said he'd got no more grip o' the hoss than if his legs had been cross
sticks: my grandfather heared old Squire Cass say so many and many a
time. But ride he would, as if old Harry had been a-driving him; and
he'd a son, a lad o' sixteen; and nothing would his father have him
do, but he must ride and ride- though the lad was frighted, they said.
And it was a common saying as the father wanted to ride the tailor out
o' the lad, and make a gentleman on him- not but what I'm a tailor
myself, but in respect as God made me such, I'm proud on it, for
"Macey tailor", 's been wrote up over our door since afore the Queen's
heads went out on the shillings. But Cliff, he was ashamed o' being
called a tailor, and he was sore vexed as his riding was laughed at,
and nobody o' the gentlefolks hereabout could abide him. Howsomever,
the poor lad got sickly and died, and the father didn't live long
after him, for he got queerer nor ever, and they said he used to go
out i' the dead o' the night, wi' a lantern in his hand, to the
stables, and set a lot o' lights burning, for he got as he couldn't
sleep; and there he'd stand, cracking his whip and looking at his
hosses; and they said it was a mercy as the stables didn't get burnt
down wi' the poor dumb creaturs in 'em. But at last he died raving,
and they found as he'd left all his property, Warrens and all, to a
Lunnon Charity, and that's how the Warrens came to be Charity land;
though, as for the stables, Mr Lammeter never uses 'em- they're out o'
all charicter- lor bless you! if you was to set the doors a-banging in
'em, it 'ud sound like thunder half o'er the parish.'

   'Aye, but there's more going on in the stables than what folks
see by daylight, eh, Mr Macey?' said the landlord.

   'Aye, aye; go that way of a dark night, that's all,' said Mr
Macey winking mysteriously, 'and then make believe, if you like, as
you didn't see lights i' the stables, nor hear the stamping o' the
hosses, nor the cracking o' the whips, and howling, too, if it's
tow'rt daybreak. "Cliff's Holiday" has been the name of it ever sin' I
were a boy; that's to say, some said as it was the holiday Old Harry
gev him from roasting, like. That's what my father told me, and he was
a reasonable man, though there's folks nowadays know what happened
afore they were born better nor they know their own business.'

   'What do you say to that, eh, Dowlas?' said the landlord, turning
to the farrier, who was swelling with impatience for his cue. 'There's
a nut for you to crack.'

   Mr Dowlas was the negative spirit in the company, and was proud
of his position.

   'Say? I say what a man should say as doesn't shut his eyes to
look at a finger-post. I say, as I'm ready to wager any man ten pound,
if he'll stand out wi' me any dry night in the pasture before the
Warren stables, as we shall neither see lights nor hear noises, if
it isn't the blowing of our own noses. That's what I say, and I've
said it many a time; but there's nobody'ull ventur a ten-pun' note
on their ghos'es as they make so sure of.'

   'Why, Dowlas, that's easy betting, that is,' said Ben Winthrop.
'You might as well bet a man as he wouldn't catch the rheumatise if he
stood up to 's neck in the pool of a frosty night. It 'ud be fine
fun for a man to win his bet as he'd catch the rheumatise. Folks as
believe in Cliff's Holiday aren't agoing to ventur near it for a
matter o' ten pound.'

   'If Master Dowlas wants to know the truth on it,' said Mr Macey,
with a sarcastic smile, tapping his thumbs together, 'he's no call
to lay any bet- let him go and stan' by himself- there's nobody 'ull
hinder him; and then he can let the parish'ners know if they're
wrong.'

   'Thank you! I'm obliged to you,' said the farrier, with a snort
of scorn. 'If folks are fools, it's no business o' mine. I don't
want to make out the truth about ghos'es: I know it a'ready. But I'm
not against a bet- everything fair and open. Let any man bet me ten
pound as I shall see Cliff's Holiday, and I'll go and stand by myself.
I want no company. I'd as lief do it as I'd fill this pipe.'

   'Ah, but who's to watch you, Dowlas, and see you do it? That's no
fair bet,' said the butcher.

   'No fair bet?' replied Mr Dowlas, angrily. 'I should like to hear
any man stand up and say I want to be unfair. Come now, Master
Lundy, I should like to hear you say it.'

   'Very like you would,' said the butcher. 'But it's no business o'
mine. You're none o' my bargains, and I aren't a-going to try and
'bate your price. If anybody'll bid for you at your own vallying,
let him. I'm for peace and quietness, I am.'

   'Yes, that's what every yapping cur is, when you hold a stick up at
him,' said the farrier. 'But I'm afraid o' neither man nor ghost,
and I'm ready to lay a fair bet- I aren't a turn-tail cur.'

   'Aye, but there's this in it, Dowlas,' said the landlord,
speaking in a tone of much candour and tolerance. 'There's folks, i'
my opinion, they can't see ghos'es, not if they stood as plain as a
pike-staff before 'em. And there's reason i' that. For there's my
wife, now, can't smell, not if she'd the strongest of cheese under her
nose. I never see'd a ghost myself, but then I says to myself, "Very
like I haven't got the smell for 'em." I mean, putting a ghost for a
smell, or else contrairi-ways. And so, I'm for holding with both
sides; for, as I say, the truth lies between 'em. And if Dowlas was to
go and stand, and say he'd never seen a wink o' Cliff's Holiday all
the night through, I'd back him; and if anybody said as Cliff's
Holiday was certain sure, for all that, I'd back him too. For the
smell's what I go by.'

   The landlord's analogical argument was not well received by the
farrier- a man intensely opposed to compromise.

   'Tut, tut,' he said, setting down his glass with refreshed
irritation; 'what's the smell got to do with it? Did ever a ghost give
a man a black eye? That's what I should like to know. If ghos'es
want me to believe in 'em, let 'em leave off skulking i' the dark
and i' lone places- let 'em come where there's company and candles.'

   'As if ghos'es 'ud want to be believed in by anybody so
ignirant!' said Mr Macey, in deep disgust at the farrier's crass
incompetence to apprehend the conditions of ghostly phenomena.

                       CHAPTER SEVEN

YET the next moment there seemed to be some evidence that ghosts had a
more condescending disposition than Mr Macey attributed to them; for
the pale thin figure of Silas Marner was suddenly seen standing in the
warm light, uttering no word, but looking round at the company with
his strange unearthly eyes. The long pipes gave a simultaneous
movement, like the antennae of startled insects, and every man
present, not excepting even the sceptical farrier, had an impression
that he saw, not Silas Marner in the flesh, but an apparition; for the
door by which Silas had entered was hidden by the high-screened seats,
and no one had noticed his approach. Mr Macey, sitting a long way
off the ghost, might be supposed to have felt an argumentative
triumph, which would tend to neutralize his share of the general
alarm. Had he not always said that when Silas Marner was in that
strange trance of his, his soul went loose from his body? Here was the
demonstration: nevertheless, on the whole, he would have been as
well contented without it. For a few moments there was a dead silence,
Marner's want of breath and agitation not allowing him to speak. The
landlord, under the habitual sense that he was bound to keep his house
open to all company, and confident in the protection of his unbroken
neutrality, at last took on himself the task of adjuring the ghost.

   'Master Marner,' he said, in a conciliatory tone, 'what's lacking
to you? What's your business here?'

   'Robbed!' said Silas, gaspingly. 'I've been robbed! I want the
constable- and the Justice- and Squire Cass- and Mr Crackenthorp.'

   'Lay hold on him, Jem Rodney,' said the landlord, the idea of a
ghost subsiding; 'he's off his head, I doubt. He's wet through.'

   Jem Rodney was the outermost man, and sat conveniently near
Marner's standing-place; but he declined to give his services.

   'Come and lay hold on him yourself, Mr Snell, if you've a mind,'
said Jem, rather sullenly. 'He's been robbed, and murdered too, for
what I know,' he added, in a muttering tone.

   'Jem Rodney!' said Silas, turning and fixing his strange eyes on
the suspected man.

   'Aye, Master Marner, what do you want wi' me?' said Jem,
trembling a little, and seizing his drinking-can as a defensive
weapon.

   'If it was you stole my money,' said Silas, clasping his hands
entreatingly, and raising his voice to a cry, 'give it me back- and
I won't meddle with you. I won't set the constable on you. Give it
me back, and I'll let you- I'll let you have a guinea.'

   'Me stole your money!' said Jem, angrily. 'I'll pitch this can at
your eye if you talk o' my stealing your money.'

   'Come, come, Master Marner,' said the landlord, now rising
resolutely, and seizing Marner by the shoulder, 'if you've got any
information to lay, speak it out sensible, and show as you're in
your right mind, if you expect anybody to listen to you. You're as wet
as a drownded rat. Sit down and dry yourself, and speak straight
forrard.'

   'Ah, to be sure, man,' said the farrier, who began to feel that
he had not been quite on a par with himself and the occasion. 'Let's
have no more staring and screaming, else we'll have you strapped for a
madman. That was why I didn't speak at the first- thinks I, the
man's run mad.'

   'Aye, aye, make him sit down,' said several voices at once, well
pleased that the reality of ghosts remained still an open question.

   The landlord forced Marner to take off his coat, and then to sit
down on a chair aloof from everyone else, in the centre of the circle,
and in the direct rays of the fire. The weaver, too feeble to have any
distinct purpose beyond that of getting help to recover his money,
submitted unresistingly. The transient fears of the company were now
forgotten in their strong curiosity, and all faces were turned towards
Silas, when the landlord, having seated himself again, said:

   'Now then, Master Marner, what's this you've got to say, as
you've been robbed? speak out.'

   'He'd better not say again as it was me robbed him,' cried Jem
Rodney, hastily. 'What could I ha' done with his money? I could as
easy steal the parson's surplice, and wear it.'

   'Hold your tongue, Jem, and let's hear what he's got to say,'
said the landlord. 'Now then, Master Marner.'

   Silas now told his story under frequent questioning, as the
mysterious character of the robbery became evident.

   This strangely novel situation of opening his trouble to his
Raveloe neighbours, of sitting in the warmth of a hearth not his
own, and feeling the presence of faces and voices which were his
nearest promise of help, had doubtless its influence on Marner, in
spite of his passionate preoccupation with his loss. Our consciousness
rarely registers the beginning of a growth within us any more than
without us: there have been many circulations of the sap before we
detect the smallest sign of the bud.

   The slight suspicion with which his hearers at first listened to
him, gradually melted away before the convincing simplicity of his
distress: it was impossible for the neighbours to doubt that Marner
was telling the truth, not because they were capable of arguing at
once from the nature of his statements to the absence of any motive
for making them falsely, but because, as Mr Macey observed, 'Folks
as had the devil to back 'em were not likely to be so mushed' as
poor Silas was. Rather, from the strange fact that the robber had left
no traces, and had happened to know the nick of time, utterly
incalculable by mortal agents, when Silas would go away from home
without locking his door, the more probable conclusion seemed to be,
that his disreputable intimacy in that quarter, if it ever existed,
had been broken up, and that, in consequence, this ill turn had been
done to Marner by somebody it was quite in vain to set the constable
after. Why this preternatural felon should be obliged to wait till the
door was left unlocked, was a question which did not present itself.

   'It isn't Jem Rodney as has done this work, Master Marner,' said
the landlord. 'You musn't be a-casting your eye at poor Jem. There may
be a bit of a reckoning against Jem for the matter of a hare or so, if
anybody was bound to keep their eyes staring open, and niver to
wink- but Jem's been a-sitting here drinking his can, like the
decentest man i' the parish, since before you left your house,
Master Marner, by your own account.'

   'Aye, aye,' said Mr Macey; 'let's have no accusing o' the innicent.
That isn't the law. There must be folks to swear again' a man before
he can be ta'en up. Let's have no accusing o' the innicent, Master
Marner.'

   Memory was not so utterly torpid in Silas that it could not be
awakened by these words. With a movement of compunction, as new and
strange to him as everything else within the last hour, he started
from his chair, and went close up to Jem, looking at him as if he
wanted to assure himself of the expression in his face.

   'I was wrong,' he said- 'yes, yes- I ought to have thought. There's
nothing to witness against you, Jem. Only you'd been into my house
oftener than anybody else, and so you came into my head. I don't
accuse you- I won't accuse anybody- only,' he added, lifting up his
hands to his head, and turning away with bewildered misery, 'I try-
I try to think where my money can be.'

   'Aye, aye, they're gone where it's hot enough to melt 'em, I
doubt,' said Mr Macey.

   'Tchuh!' said the farrier. And then he asked, with a
cross-examining air, 'How much money might there be in the bags,
Master Marner?'

   'Two hundred and seventy-two pounds, twelve and sixpence, last
night when I counted it,' said Silas, seating himself again, with a
groan.

   'Pooh! why, they'd be none so heavy to carry. Some tramp's been in,
that's all; and as for the no footmarks, and the bricks and the sand
being all right- why, your eyes are pretty much like a insect's,
Master Marner; they're obliged to look so close, you can't see much at
a time. It's my opinion as, if I'd been you, or you'd been me- for
it comes to the same thing- you wouldn't have thought you'd found
everything as you left it. But what I vote is, as two of the
sensiblest o' the company should go with you to Master Kench, the
constable's- he's ill i' bed, I know that much- and get him to appoint
one of us his deppity; for that's the law, and I don't think anybody
'ull take upon him to contradick me there. it isn't much of a walk
to Kench's; and then, if it's me as is deppity, I'll go back with you,
Master Marner, and examine your primises; and if anybody's got any
fault to find with that, I'll thank him to stand up and say it out
like a man.'

   By this pregnant speech the farrier had re-established his
self-complacency, and waited with confidence to hear himself named
as one of the superlatively sensible men.

   'Let us see how the night is, though,' said the landlord, who
also considered himself personally concerned in this proposition.
'Why, it rains heavy still,' he said, returning from the door.

   'Well, I'm not the man to be afraid o' the rain,' said the farrier.
'For it'll look bad when Justice Malam hears as respectable men like
us had a information laid before 'em and took no steps.'

   The landlord agreed with this view, and after taking the sense of
the company, and duly rehearsing a small ceremony known in high
ecclesiastical life as the nolo episcopari, he consented to take on
himself the chill dignity of going to Kench's. But to the farrier's
strong disgust, Mr Macey now started an objection to his proposing
himself as a deputy-constable; for that oracular old gentleman,
claiming to know the law, stated, as a fact delivered to him by his
father, that no doctor could be a constable.

   'And you're a doctor, I reckon, though you're only a cow-doctor-
for a fly's a fly, though it may be a hoss-fly,' concluded Mr Macey,
wondering a little at his own ''cuteness'.

   There was a hot debate upon this, the farrier being of course
indisposed to renounce the quality of doctor, but contending that a
doctor could be a constable if he liked- the law meant, he needn't
be one if he didn't like. Mr Macey thought this was nonsense, since
the law was not likely to be fonder of doctors than of other folks.
Moreover, if it was in the nature of doctors more than of other men
not to like being constables, how came Mr Dowlas to be so eager to act
in that capacity?

   'I don't want to act the constable,' said the farrier, driven
into a corner by this merciless reasoning; 'and there's no man can say
it of me, if he'd tell the truth. But if there's to be any jealousy
and envying about going to Kench's in the rain, let them go as like
it- you won't get me to go, I can tell you.'

   By the landlord's intervention, however, the dispute was
accommodated. Mr Dowlas consented to go as a second person disinclined
to act officially; and so poor Silas, furnished with some old
coverings, turned out with his two companions into the rain again,
thinking of the long night-hours before him, not as those do who
long to rest, but as those who expect to 'watch for the morning'.

                       CHAPTER EIGHT

WHEN Godfrey Cass returned from Mrs Osgood's party at midnight, he was
not much surprised to learn that Dunsey had not come home. Perhaps
he had not sold Wildfire, and was waiting for another chance- perhaps,
on that foggy afternoon, he had preferred housing himself at the Red
Lion at Batherley for the night, if the run had kept him in that
neighbourhood; for he was not likely to feel much concern about
leaving his brother in suspense. Godfrey's mind was too full of
Nancy Lammeter's looks and behaviour, too full of the exasperation
against himself and his lot, which the sight of her always produced in
him, for him to give much thought to Wildfire or to the
probabilities of Dunstan's conduct.

   The next morning the whole village was excited by the story of
the robbery, and Godfrey, like everyone else, was occupied in
gathering and discussing news about it, and in visiting the
Stone-pits. The rain had washed away all possibility of distinguishing
footmarks, but a close investigation of the spot had disclosed, in the
direction opposite to the village, a tinder-box, with a flint and
steel, half sunk in the mud. It was not Silas's tinder-box, for the
only one he had ever had was still standing on his shelf; and the
inference generally accepted was, that the tinder-box in the ditch was
somehow connected with the robbery. A small minority shook their
heads, and intimated their opinion that it was not a robbery to have
much light thrown on it by tinder-boxes, that Master Marner's tale had
a queer look with it, and that such things had been known as a man's
doing himself a mischief, and then setting the justice to look for the
doer. But when questioned closely as to their grounds for this
opinion, and what Master Marner had to gain by such false pretences,
they only shook their heads as before, and observed that there was
no knowing what some folks counted gain; moreover, that everybody
had a right to their own opinions, grounds or no grounds, and that the
weaver, as everybody knew, partly crazy. Mr Macey, though he joined in
the defence of Marner against all suspicions of deceit, also
pooh-poohed the tinder-box; indeed, repudiated it as a rather
impious suggestion, tending to imply that everything must be done by
human hands, and that there was no power which could make away with
the guineas without moving the bricks. Nevertheless, he turned round
rather sharply on Mr Tookey, when the zealous deputy, feeling that
this was a view of the case peculiarly suited to a parish-clerk,
carried it still farther, and doubted whether it was right to
inquire into a robbery at all when the circumstances were so
mysterious.

   'As if,' concluded Mr Tookey- 'as if there was nothing but what
could be made out by justices and constables.'

   'Now, don't you be for overshooting the mark, Tookey,' said Mr
Macey, nodding his head aside, admonishingly. 'That's what you're
allays at; if I throw a stone and hit, you think there's summat better
than hitting, and you try to throw a stone beyond. What I said was
against the tinder-box: I said nothing against justices and
constables, for they're o' King George's making, and it 'ud be
ill-becoming a man in a parish office to fly out again' King George.'

   While these discussions were going on amongst the group outside the
Rainbow, a higher consultation was being carried on within, under
the presidency of Mr Crackenthorp, the rector, assisted by Squire Cass
and other substantial parishioners. It had just occurred to Mr
Snell, the landlord- he being, as he observed, a man accustomed to put
two and two together- to connect with the tinder-box which, as
deputy-constable, he himself had had the honourable distinction of
finding, certain recollections of a pedlar who had called to drink
at the house about a month before, and had actually stated that he
carried a tinder-box about with him to light his pipe. Here, surely,
was a clue to be followed out. And as memory, when duly impregnated
with ascertained facts, is sometimes surprisingly fertile, Mr Snell
gradually recovered a vivid impression of the effect produced on him
by the pedlar's countenance and conversation. He had a 'look with
his eye' which fell unpleasantly on Mr Snell's sensitive organism.
To be sure, he didn't say anything particular- no, except that about
the tinder-box- but it isn't what a man says, it's the way he says it.
Moreover, he had a swarthy foreignness of complexion which boded
little honesty.

   'Did he wear ear-rings?' Mr Crackenthorp wished to know, having
some acquaintance with foreign customs.

   'Well- stay- let me see,' said Mr Snell, like a docile
clairvoyante, who would really not make a mistake if she could help
it. After stretching the corners of his mouth and contracting his
eyes, as if he were trying to see the ear-rings, he appeared to give
up the effort, and said, 'Well, he'd got ear-rings in his box to sell,
so it's nat'ral to suppose he might wear 'em. But he called at every
house, a'most, in the village: there's somebody else, mayhap, saw
'em in his ears, though I can't take upon me rightly to say.'

   Mr Snell was correct in his surmise, that somebody else would
remember the pedlar's ear-rings. For, on the spread of inquiry among
the villagers, it was stated with gathering emphasis, that the
parson had wanted to know whether the pedlar wore ear-rings in his
ears, and an impression was created that a great deal depended on
the eliciting of this fact. Of course everyone who heard the question,
not having any distinct image of the pedlar as without ear-rings,
immediately had an image of him with ear-rings, larger or smaller,
as the case might be; and the image was presently taken for a vivid
recollection, so that the glazier's wife, a well-intentioned woman,
not given to lying, and whose house was among the cleanest in the
village, was ready to declare, as sure as ever she meant to take the
sacrament, the very next Christmas that was ever coming, that she
had seen big ear-rings, in the shape of the young moon, in the
pedlar's two ears; while Jinny Oates, the cobbler's daughter, being
a more imaginative person, stated not only that she had seen them too,
but that they had made her blood creep, as it did at that very
moment while there she stood.

   Also, by way of throwing further light on this clue of the
tinder-box, a collection was made of all the articles purchased from
the pedlar at various houses and carried to the Rainbow to be
exhibited there. In fact, there was a general feeling in the
village, that for the clearing-up of this robbery there must be a
great deal done at the Rainbow, and that no man need offer his wife an
excuse for going there while it was the scene of severe public duties.

   Some disappointment was felt, and perhaps a little indignation
also, when it became known that Silas Marner, on being questioned by
the Squire and the parson, had retained no other recollection of the
pedlar than that he had called at his door, but had not entered his
house, having turned away at once when Silas, holding the door ajar,
had said that he wanted nothing. This had been Silas's testimony,
though he clutched strongly at the idea of the pedlar's being the
culprit, if only because it gave him a definite image of a
whereabout for his gold, after it had been taken away from its
hiding-place: he could see it now in the pedlar's box. But it was
observed with some irritation in the village, that anybody but a
'blind creatur' like Marner would have seen the man prowling about,
for how came he to leave his tinder-box in the ditch close by, if he
hadn't been lingering there? Doubtless, he had made his observations
when he saw Marner at the door. Anybody might know- and only look at
him- that the weaver was a half-crazy miser. It was a wonder the
pedlar hadn't murdered him; men of that sort, with rings in their
ears, had been known for murderers often and often; there had been one
tried at the 'sizes, not so long ago but what there were people living
who remembered it.

   Godfrey Cass, indeed, entering the Rainbow during one of Mr Snell's
frequently repeated recitals of his testimony, had treated it lightly,
stating that he himself had bought a pen-knife of the pedlar, and
thought him a merry grinning fellow enough; it was all nonsense, he
said, about the man's evil looks. But this was spoken of in the
village as the random talk of youth, 'as if it was only Mr Snell who
had seen something odd about the pedlar!' On the contrary, there
were at least half-a-dozen who were ready to go before Justice
Malam, and give in much more striking testimony than any the
landlord could furnish. It was to be hoped Mr Godfrey would not go
to Tarley and throw cold water on what Mr Snell said there, and so
prevent the justice from drawing up a warrant. He was suspected of
intending this, when, after mid-day, he was seen setting off on
horseback in the direction of Tarley.

   But by this time Godfrey's interest in the robbery had faded before
his growing anxiety about Dunstan and Wildfire, and he was going,
not to Tarley, but to Batherley, unable to rest in uncertainty about
them any longer. The possibility that Dunstan had played him the
ugly trick of riding away with Wildfire, to return at the end of a
month, when he had gambled away or otherwise squandered the price of
the horse, was a fear that urged itself upon him more, even, than
the thought of an accidental injury; and now that the dance at Mrs
Osgood's was past, he was irritated with himself that he had trusted
his horse to Dunstan. Instead of trying to still his fears, he
encouraged them, with that superstitious impression which clings to us
all, that if we expect evil very strongly it is the less likely to
come; and when he heard a horse approaching at a trot, and saw a hat
rising above a hedge beyond an angle of the lane, he felt as if his
conjuration had succeeded. But no sooner did the horse come within
sight, than his heart sank again. It was not Wildfire; and in a few
moments more he discerned that the rider was not Dunstan, but Bryce,
who pulled up to speak, with a face that implied something
disagreeable.

   'Well, Mr Godfrey, that's a lucky brother of yours, that Master
Dunsey, isn't he?'

   'What do you mean?' said Godfrey, hastily.

   'Why, hasn't he been home yet?' said Bryce.

   'Home? no. What has happened? Be quick. What has he done with my
horse?'

   'Ah, I thought it was yours, though he pretended you had parted
with it to him.'

   'Has he thrown him down and broken his knees?' said Godfrey,
flushed with exasperation.

   'Worse than that,' said Bryce. 'You see, I'd made a bargain with
him to buy the horse for a hundred and twenty- a swinging price, but I
always liked the horse. And what does he do but go and stake him-
fly at a hedge with stakes in it, atop of a bank with a ditch before
it. The horse had been dead a pretty good while when he was found.
So he hasn't been home since, has he?'

   'Home? no,' said Godfrey, 'and he'd better keep away. Confound me
for a fool! I might have known this would be the end of it.'

   'Well, to tell you the truth,' said Bryce, 'after I'd bargained for
the horse, it did come into my head that he might be riding and
selling the horse without your knowledge, for I didn't believe it
was his own. I knew Master Dunsey was up to his tricks sometimes.
But where can he be gone? He's never been seen at Batherley. He
couldn't have been hurt, for he must have walked off.'

   'Hurt?' said Godfrey, bitterly. 'He'll never be hurt- he's made
to hurt other people.'

   'And so you did give him leave to sell the horse, eh?' said Bryce.

   'Yes; I wanted to part with the horse- he was always a little too
hard in the mouth for me,' said Godfrey; his pride making him wince
under the idea that Bryce guessed the sale to be a matter of
necessity. 'I was going to see after him- I thought some mischief
had happened. I'll go back now,' he added, turning the horse's head,
and wishing he could get rid of Bryce; for he felt that the
long-dreaded crisis in his life was close upon him. 'You're coming
on to Raveloe, aren't you?'

   'Well, no, not now,' said Bryce. 'I was coming round there, for I
had to go to Flitton, and I thought I might as well take you in my
way, and just let you know all I knew myself about the horse. I
suppose Master Dunsey didn't like to show himself till the ill news
had blown over a bit. He's perhaps gone to pay a visit at the Three
Crowns, by Whitbridge- I know he's fond of the house.'

   'Perhaps he is,' said Godfrey, rather absently. Then rousing
himself, he said, with an effort at carelessness, 'We shall hear of
him soon enough, I'll be bound.'

   'Well, here's my turning,' said Bryce, not surprised to perceive
that Godfrey was rather 'down'; 'so I'll bid you good day, and wish
I may bring you better news another time.'

   Godfrey rode along slowly, representing to himself the scene of
confession to his father from which he felt that there was now no
longer any escape. The revelation about the money must be made the
very next morning; and if he withheld the rest, Dunstan would be
sure to come back shortly, and finding that he must bear the brunt
of his father's anger, would tell the whole story out of spite, even
though he had nothing to gain by it. There was one step, perhaps, by
which he might still win Dunstan's silence and put off the evil day:
he might tell his father that he had himself spent the money paid to
him by Fowler; and as he had never been guilty of such an offence
before, the affair would blow over after a little storming. But
Godfrey could not bend himself to this. He felt that in letting
Dunstan have the money, he had already been guilty of a breach of
trust hardly less culpable than that of spending the money directly
for his own behoof; and yet there was a distinction between the two
acts which made him feel that the one was so much more blackening than
the other as to be intolerable to him.

   'I don't pretend to be a good fellow,' he said to himself; 'but I'm
not a scoundrel- at least, I'll stop short somewhere. I'll bear the
consequences of what I have done sooner than make believe I've done
what I never would have done. I'd never have spent the money for my
own pleasure- I was tortured into it.'

   Through the remainder of this day Godfrey, with only occasional
fluctuations, kept his will bent in the direction of a complete avowal
to his father, and he withheld the story of Wildfire's loss till the
next morning, that it might serve him as an introduction to heavier
matter. The old Squire was accustomed to his son's frequent absence
from home, and thought neither Dunstan's nor Wildfire's non-appearance
a matter calling for remark. Godfrey said to himself again and
again, that if he let slip this one opportunity of confession, he
might never have another; the revelation might be made even in a
more odious way than by Dunstan's malignity: she might come, as she
had threatened to do. And then he tried to make the scene easier to
himself by rehearsal: he made up his mind how he would pass from the
admission of his weakness in letting Dunstan have the money to the
fact that Dunstan had a hold on him which he had been unable to
shake off, and how he would work up his father to expect something
very bad before he told him the fact. The old Squire was an implacable
man: he made resolutions in violent anger, but he was not to be
moved from them after his anger had subsided- as fiery volcanic
matters cool and harden into rock. Like many violent and implacable
men, he allowed evils to grow under favour of his own heedlessness,
till they pressed upon him with exasperating force, and then he turned
round with fierce severity and became unrelentingly hard. This was his
system with his tenants: he allowed them to get into arrears,
neglect their fences, reduce their stock, sell their straw, and
otherwise go the wrong way,- and then, when he became short of money
in consequence of this indulgence, he took the hardest measures and
would listen to no appeal. Godfrey knew all this, and felt it with the
greater force because he had constantly suffered annoyance from
witnessing his father's sudden fits of unrelentingness, for which
his own habitual irresolution deprived him of all sympathy. (He was
not critical on the faulty indulgence which preceded these fits;
that seemed to him natural enough.) Still there was just the chance,
Godfrey thought, that his father's pride might see this marriage in
a light that would induce him to hush it up, rather than turn his
son out and make the family the talk of the country for ten miles
round.

   This was the view of the case that Godfrey managed to keep before
him pretty closely till midnight, and he went to sleep thinking that
he had done with inward debating. But when he awoke in the still
morning darkness he found it impossible to reawaken his evening
thoughts; it was as if they had been tired out and were not to be
roused to further work. Instead of arguments for confession, he
could now feel the presence of nothing but its evil consequences:
the old dread of disgrace came back- the old shrinking from the
thought of raising a hopeless barrier between himself and Nancy- the
old disposition to rely on chances which might be favourable to him,
and save him from betrayal. Why, after all, should he cut off the hope
of them by his own act? He had seen the matter in a wrong light
yesterday. He had been in a rage with Dunstan, and had thought of
nothing but a thorough break-up of their mutual understanding; but
what it would be really wisest for him to do, was to try and soften
his father's anger against Dunsey, and keep things as nearly as
possible in their old condition. If Dunsey did not come back for a few
days (and Godfrey did not know but that the rascal had enough money in
his pocket to enable him to keep away still longer), everything
might blow over.

                       CHAPTER NINE

GODFREY rose and took his own breakfast earlier than usual, but
lingered in the wainscoted parlour till his younger brothers had
finished their meal and gone out, awaiting his father, who always went
out and had a walk with his managing-man before breakfast. Everyone
breakfasted at a different hour in the Red House, and the Squire was
always the latest, giving a long chance to a rather feeble morning
appetite before he tried it. The table had been spread with
substantial eatables nearly two hours before he presented himself- a
tall, stout man of sixty, with a face in which the knit brow and
rather hard glance seemed contradicted by the slack and feeble
mouth. His person showed marks of habitual neglect, his dress was
slovenly; and yet there was something in the presence of the old
Squire distinguishable from that of the ordinary farmers in the
parish, who were perhaps every whit as refined as he, but, having
slouched their way through life with a consciousness of being in the
vicinity of their 'betters', wanted that self-possession and
authoritativeness of voice and carriage which belonged to a man who
thought of superiors as remote existences, with whom he had personally
little more to do than with America or the stars. The Squire had
been used to parish homage all his life, used to the pre-supposition
that his family, his tankards, and everything that was his, were the
oldest and best; and as he never associated with any gentry higher
than himself, his opinion was not disturbed by comparison.

   He glanced at his son as he entered the room, and said, 'What, sir!
haven't you had your breakfast yet?' but there was no pleasant morning
greeting between them; not because of any unfriendliness, but
because the sweet flower of courtesy is not a growth of such homes
as the Red House.

   'Yes, sir,' said Godfrey, 'I've had my breakfast, but I was waiting
to speak to you.'

   'Ah! well,' said the Squire, throwing himself indifferently into
his chair, and speaking in a ponderous coughing fashion, which was
felt in Raveloe to be a sort of privilege of his rank, while he cut
a piece of beef, and held it up before the deer-hound that had come in
with him, 'Ring the bell for my ale, will you? You youngsters'
business is your own pleasure, mostly. There's no hurry about it for
anybody but yourselves.'

   The Squire's life was quite as idle as his sons', but it was a
fiction kept up by himself and his contemporaries in Raveloe that
youth was exclusively the period of folly, and that their aged
wisdom was constantly in a state of endurance mitigated by sarcasm.
Godfrey waited, before he spoke again, until the ale had been
brought and the door closed- an interval during which Fleet, the
deer-hound, had consumed enough bits of beef to make a poor man's
holiday dinner.

   'There's been a cursed piece of ill-luck with Wildfire,' he
began; 'happened the day before yesterday.'

   'What! broke his knees?' said the Squire, after taking a draught of
ale. 'I thought you knew how to ride better than that, sir. I never
threw a horse down in my life. If I had, I might ha' whistled for
another, for my father wasn't quite so ready to unstring as some other
fathers I know of. But they must turn over a new leaf- they must. What
with mortgages and arrears, I'm as short o' cash as a roadside pauper.
And that fool Kimble says the newspaper's talking about peace. Why,
the country wouldn't have a leg to stand on. Prices 'ud run down
like a jack, and I should never get my arrears, not if I sold all
the fellows up. And there's that damned Fowler, I won't put up with
him any longer; I've told Winthrop to go to Cox this very day. The
lying scoundrel told me he'd be sure to pay me a hundred last month.
He takes advantage because he's on that outlying farm, and thinks I
shall forget him.'

   The Squire had delivered this speech in a coughing and
interrupted manner, but with no pause long enough for Godfrey to
make it a pretext for taking up the word again. He felt that his
father meant to ward off any request for money on the ground of the
misfortune with Wildfire, and that the emphasis he had thus been led
to lay on his shortness of cash and his arrears was likely to
produce an attitude of mind the most unfavourable for his own
disclosure. But he must go on, now he had begun.

   'It's worse than breaking the horse's knees- he's been staked and
killed,' lie said, as soon as his father was silent, and had begun
to cut his meat. 'But I wasn't thinking of asking you to buy me
another horse; I was only thinking I had lost the means of paying
you with the price of Wildfire, as I'd meant to do. Dunsey took him to
the hunt to sell him for me the other day, and after he'd made a
bargain for a hundred and twenty with Bryce, he went after the hounds,
and took some fool's leap or other, that did for the horse at once. If
it hadn't been for that, I should have paid you a hundred pounds
this morning.'

   The Squire had laid down his knife and fork, and was staring at his
son in amazement, not being sufficiently quick of brain to form a
probable guess as to what could have caused so strange an inversion of
the paternal and filial relations as this proposition of his son to
pay him a hundred pounds.

   'The truth is, sir- I'm very sorry- I was quite to blame,' said
Godfrey. 'Fowler did pay that hundred pounds. He paid it to me, when I
was over there one day last month. And Dunsey bothered me for the
money, and I let him have it, because I hoped I should be able to
pay it you before this.'

   The Squire was purple with anger before his son had done
speaking, and found utterance difficult. 'You let Dunsey have it, sir?
And how long have you been so thick with Dunsey that you must collogue
with him to embezzle my money? Are you turning out a scamp? I tell
you, I won't have it. I'll turn the whole pack of you out of the house
together, and marry again. I'd have you to remember, sir, my
property's got no entail on it; since my grandfather's time the Casses
can do as they like with their land. Remember that, sir. Let Dunsey
have the money! Why should you let Dunsey have the money? There's some
lie at the bottom of it.'

   'There's no lie, sir,' said Godfrey. 'I wouldn't have spent the
money myself, but Dunsey bothered me, and I was a fool and let him
have it. But I meant to pay it, whether he did or not. That's the
whole story. I never meant to embezzle money, and I'm not the man to
do it. You never knew me do a dishonest trick, sir.'

   'Where's Dunsey, then? What do you stand talking there for? Go
and fetch Dunsey, as I tell you, and let him give account of what he
wanted the money for, and what's he's done with it. He shall repent
it. I'll turn him out. I said I would, and I'll do it. He shan't brave
me. Go and fetch him.'

   'Dunsey isn't come back, sir.'

   'What! did he break his own neck then?' said the Squire, with
some disgust at the idea that, in that case, he could not fulfil his
threat.

   'No, he wasn't hurt, I believe, for the horse was found dead, and
Dunsey must have walked off. I daresay we shall see him again by and
by. I don't know where he is.'

   'And what must you be letting him have my money for? Answer me
that,' said the Squire, attacking Godfrey again, since Dunsey was
not within reach.

   'Well, sir, I don't know,' said Godfrey, hesitatingly. That was a
feeble evasion, but Godfrey was not fond of lying, and, not being
sufficiently aware that no sort of duplicity can long flourish without
the help of vocal falsehoods, he was quite unprepared with invented
motives.

   'You don't know? I tell you what it is, sir. You've been up to some
trick, and you've been bribing him not to tell,' said the Squire, with
a sudden acuteness which startled Godfrey, who felt his heart beat
violently at the nearness of his father's guess. The sudden alarm
pushed him on to take the next step- a very slight impulse suffices
for that on a downward road.

   'Why, sir,' he said, trying to speak with careless ease, 'it was
a little affair between me and Dunsey; it's no matter to anybody else.
it's hardly worth while to pry into young men's fooleries: it wouldn't
have made any difference to you, sir, if I'd not had the bad luck to
lose Wildfire. I should have paid you the money.'

   'Fooleries! Pshaw! it's time you'd done with fooleries. And I'd
have you know, sir, you must ha' done with 'em,' said the Squire,
frowning and casting an angry glance at his son. 'Your goings-on are
not what I shall find money for any longer. There's my grandfather had
his stables full o' horses, and kept a good house too, and in worse
times, by what I can make out; and so might I, if I hadn't four
good-for-nothing fellows to hang on me like horse-leeches. I've been
too good a father to you all- that's what it is. But I shall pull
up, sir.'

   Godfrey was silent. He was not likely to be very penetrating in his
judgments, but he had always had a sense that his father's
indulgence had not been kindness, and had had a vague longing for some
discipline that would have checked his own errant weakness, and helped
his better will. The Squire ate his bread and meat hastily, took a
deep draught of ale, then turned his chair from the table, and began
to speak again.

   'It'll be all the worse for you, you know- you'd need try and
help me keep things together.'

   'Well, sir, I've often offered to take the management of things,
but you know you've taken it ill always, and seemed to think I
wanted to push you out of your place.'

   'I know nothing o' your offering or o' my taking it ill,' said
the Squire, whose memory consisted in certain strong impressions
unmodified by detail; 'but I know, one while you seemed to be thinking
o' marrying, and I didn't offer to put any obstacles in your way, as
some fathers would. I'd as lieve you married Lammeter's daughter as
anybody. I suppose, if I'd said you nay, you'd ha' kept on with it;
but, for want o' contradiction you've changed your mind. You're a
shilly-shally fellow: you take after your poor mother. She never had a
will of her own; a woman has no call for one, if she's got a proper
man for her husband. But your wife had need have one, for you hardly
know your own mind enough to make both your legs walk one way. The
lass hasn't said downright she won't have you, has she?'

   'No,' said Godfrey, feeling very hot and uncomfortable; 'but I
don't think she will.'

   'Think! why, haven't you the courage to ask her? Do you stick to
it, you want to have her- that's the thing?'

   'There's no other woman I want to marry,' said Godfrey, evasively.

   'Well, then, let me make the offer for you, that's all, if you
haven't the pluck to do it yourself. Lammeter isn't likely to be loath
for his daughter to marry into my family, I should think. And as for
the pretty lass, she wouldn't have her cousin- and there's nobody
else, as I see, could ha' stood in your way.'

   'I'd rather let it be, please sir, at present,' said Godfrey, in
alarm. 'I think she's a little offended with me just now, and I should
like to speak for myself. A man must manage these things for himself.'

   'Well, speak then and manage it, and see if you can't turn over a
new leaf. That's what a man must do when he thinks o' marrying.'

   'I don't see how I can think of it at present, sir. You wouldn't
like to settle me on one of the farms, I suppose, and I don't think
she'd come to live in this house with all my brothers. It's a
different sort of life to what she's been used to.'

   'Not come to live in this house? Don't tell me. You ask her, that's
all,' said the Squire, with a short, scornful laugh.

   'I'd rather let the thing be, at present, sir,' said Godfrey. 'I
hope you won't try to hurry it on by saying anything.'

   'I shall do what I choose,' said the Squire, 'and I shall let you
know I'm master; else you may turn out and find an estate to drop into
somewhere else. Go out and tell Winthrop not to go to Cox's, but
wait for me. And tell 'em to get my horse saddled. And stop: look
out and get that hack o' Dunsey's sold, and hand me the money, will
you? He'll keep no more hacks at my expense. And if you know where
he's sneaking- I daresay you do- you may tell him to spare himself the
journey o' coming back home. Let him turn ostler, and keep himself. He
shan't hang on me any more.'

   'I don't know where he is, sir; and if I did, it isn't my place
to tell him to keep away,' said Godfrey, moving towards the door.

   'Confound it, sir, don't stay arguing, but go and order my
horse,' said the Squire, taking up a pipe.

   Godfrey left the room, hardly knowing whether he were more relieved
by the sense that the interview was ended without having made any
change in his position, or more uneasy that he had entangled himself
still further in prevarication and deceit. What had passed about his
proposing to Nancy had raised a new alarm, lest by some after-dinner
words of his father's to Mr Lammeter he should be thrown into the
embarrassment of being obliged to absolutely decline her when she
seemed to be within his reach. He fled to his usual refuge, that of
hoping for some unforeseen turn of fortune, some favourable chance
which would save him from unpleasant consequences- perhaps even
"justify his insincerity by manifesting its prudence. And in this
point of trusting to some throw of fortune's dice, Godfrey can
hardly be called specially old-fashioned. Favourable Chance, I
fancy, is the god of all men who follow their own devices instead of
obeying a law they believe in. Let even a polished man of these days
get into a position he is ashamed to avow, and his mind will be bent
on all the possible issues that may deliver him from the calculable
results of that position. Let him live outside his income, or shirk
the resolute honest work that brings wages, and he will presently find
himself dreaming of a possible benefactor, a possible simpleton who
may be cajoled into using his interest, a possible state of mind in
some possible person not yet forthcoming. Let him neglect the
responsibilities of his office, and he will inevitably anchor
himself on the chance, that the thing left undone may turn out not
to be of the supposed importance. Let him betray his friend's
confidence, and he will adore that same cunning complexity called
Chance, which gives him the hope that his friend will never know;
let him forsake a decent craft that he may pursue the gentilities of a
profession to which nature never called him, and his religion will
infallibly be the worship of blessed Chance, which he will believe
in as the mighty creator of success. The evil principle deprecated
in that religion, is the orderly sequence by which the seed brings
forth a crop after its kind.

                       CHAPTER TEN

JUSTICE MALAM was naturally regarded in Tarley and Raveloe as a man of
capacious mind, seeing that he could draw much wider conclusions
without evidence than could be expected of his neighbours who were not
on the Commission of the Peace. Such a man was not likely to neglect
the clue of the tinder-box, and an inquiry was set on foot
concerning a pedlar, name unknown, with curly black hair and a foreign
complexion, carrying a box of cutlery and jewellery, and wearing large
rings in his ears. But either because inquiry was too slow-footed to
overtake him, or because the description applied to so many pedlars
that inquiry did not know how to choose among them, weeks passed away,
and there was no other result concerning the robbery than a gradual
cessation of the excitement it had caused in Raveloe. Dunstan Cass's
absence was hardly a subject of remark: he had once before had a
quarrel with his father, and had gone off, nobody knew whither, to
return at the end of six weeks, take up his old quarters
unforbidden, and swagger as usual. His own family, who equally
expected this issue, with the sole difference that the Squire was
determined this time to forbid him the old quarters, never mentioned
his absence; and when his uncle Kimble or Mr Osgood noticed it, the
story of his having killed Wildfire, and committed some offence
against his father, was enough to prevent surprise. To connect the
fact of Dunsey's disappearance with that of the robbery occurring on
the same day, lay quite away from the track of everyone's thought-
even Godfrey's, who had better reason than anyone else to know what
his brother was capable of. He remembered no mention of the weaver
between them since the time, twelve years ago, when it was their
boyish sport to deride him; and, besides, his imagination constantly
created an alibi for Dunstan: he saw him continually in some congenial
haunt, to which he had walked off on leaving Wildfire- saw him
sponging on chance acquaintances, and meditating a return home to
the old amusement of tormenting his elder brother. Even if any brain
in Raveloe had put the said two facts together, I doubt whether a
combination so injurious to the prescriptive respectability of a
family with a mural monument and venerable tankards, would not have
been suppressed as of unsound tendency. But Christmas puddings, brawn,
and abundance of spirituous liquors, throwing the mental originality
into the channel of nightmare, are great preservatives against a
dangerous spontaneity of waking thought.

   When the robbery was talked of at the Rainbow and elsewhere, in
good company, the balance continued to waver between the rational
explanation founded on the tinder-box, and the theory of an
impenetrable mystery that mocked investigation. The advocates of the
tinder-box-and-pedlar view considered the other side a muddle-headed
and credulous set, who, because they themselves were wall-eyed,
supposed everybody else to have the same blank outlook; and the
adherents of the inexplicable, more than hinted that their antagonists
were animals inclined to crow before they had found any corn- mere
skimming-dishes in point of depth- whose clear-sightedness consisted
in supposing there was nothing behind a barn-door because they
couldn't see through it; so that, though their controversy did not
serve to elicit the fact concerning the robbery, it elicited some true
opinions of collateral importance.

   But while poor Silas's loss served thus to brush the slow current
of Raveloe conversation, Silas himself was feeling the withering
desolation of that bereavement, about which his neighbours were
arguing at their ease. To anyone who had observed him before he lost
his gold, it might have seemed that so withered and shrunken a life as
his could hardly be susceptible of a bruise, could hardly endure any
subtraction but such as would put an end to it altogether. But in
reality it had been an eager life, filled with immediate purpose,
which fenced him in from the wide, cheerless unknown. It had been a
clinging life; and though the object round which its fibres had
clung was a dead disrupted thing, it satisfied the need for
clinging. But now the fence was broken down- the support was
snatched away. Marner's thoughts could no longer move in their old
round, and were baffled by a blank like that which meets a plodding
ant when the earth has broken away on its homeward path. The loom
was there, and the weaving, and the growing pattern in the cloth;
but the bright treasure in the hole under his feet was gone; the
prospect of handling and counting it was gone: the evening had no
phantasm of delight to still the poor soul's craving. The thought of
the money he would get by his actual work could bring no joy, for
its meagre image was only a fresh reminder of his loss; and hope was
too heavily crushed by the sudden blow for his imagination to dwell on
the growth of a new hoard from that small beginning.

   He filled up the blank with grief. As he sat weaving, he every
now and then moaned low, like one in pain: it was the sign that his
thoughts had come round again to the sudden chasm- to the empty
evening-time. And all the evening, as he sat in his loneliness by
his dull fire, he leaned his elbows on his knees, and clasped his head
with his hands, and moaned very low- not as one who seeks to be heard.

   And yet he was not utterly forsaken in his trouble. The repulsion
Marner had always created in his neighbours was partly dissipated by
the new light in which this misfortune had shown him. Instead of a man
who had more cunning than honest folks could come by, and, what was
worse, had not the inclination to use that cunning in a neighbourly
way, it was now apparent that Silas had not cunning enough to keep his
own. He was generally spoken of as a 'poor mushed creatur'; and that
avoidance of his neighbours, which had before been referred to his
ill-will, and to a probable addiction to worse company, was now
considered mere craziness.

   This change to a kindlier feeling was shown in various ways. The
odour of Christmas cooking being on the wind, it was the season when
superfluous pork and black puddings are suggestive of charity in
well-to-do families; and Silas's misfortune had brought him
uppermost in the memory of housekeepers like Mrs Osgood. Mr
Crackenthorp, too, while he admonished Silas that his money had
probably been taken from him because he thought too much of it, and
never came to church, enforced the doctrine by a present of pigs'
pettitoes, well calculated to dissipate unfounded prejudices against
the clerical character. Neighbours, who had nothing but verbal
consolation to give, showed a disposition not only to greet Silas, and
discuss his misfortune at some length when they encountered him in the
village, but also to take the trouble of calling at his cottage, and
getting him to repeat all the details on the very spot; and then
they would try to cheer him by saying: 'Well, Master Marner, you're no
worse off nor other poor folks, after all; and if you was to be
crippled, the parish 'ud give you a 'lowance.'

   I suppose one reason why we are seldom able to comfort our
neighbours with our words is, that our goodwill gets adulterated, in
spite of ourselves, before it can pass our lips. We can send black
puddings and pettitoes without giving them a flavour of our egoism;
but language is a stream that is almost sure to smack of a mingled
soil. There was a fair proportion of kindness in Raveloe; but it was
often of a beery and bungling sort, and took the shape least allied to
the complimentary and hypocritical.

   Mr Macey, for example, coming one evening expressly to let Silas
know that recent events had given him the advantage of standing more
favourably in the opinion of a man whose judgment was not formed
lightly, opened the conversation by saying, as soon as he had seated
himself and adjusted his thumbs:

   'Come, Master Marner, why, you've no call to sit a-moaning.
You're a deal better off to ha' lost your money, nor to ha' kep it
by foul means. I used to think, when you first come into these
parts, as you were no better nor you should be; you were younger a
deal than what you are now; but you were allays a staring, white-faced
creatur, partly like a bald-faced calf, as I may say. But there's no
knowing: it isn't every queer-looksed thing as Old Harry's had the
making of- I mean, speaking o' toads and such; for they're often
harmless, like, and useful against varmin. And it's pretty much the
same wi' you, as fur as I can see. Though as to the yarbs and stuff to
cure the breathing, if you brought that sort o' knowledge from distant
parts, you might ha' been a bit freer of it. And if the knowledge
wasn't well come by, why, you might ha' made up for it by coming to
church reg'lar; for, as for the children as the Wise Woman charmed,
I've been at the christening of 'em again and again, and they took the
water just as well. And that's reasonable; for if Old Harry's a mind
to do a bit o' kindness for a holiday, like, who's got anything
against it? That's my thinking; and I've been clerk of this parish
forty year, and I know, when the parson and me does the cussing of a
Ash-Wednesday, there's no cussing o' folks as have a mind to be
cured without a doctor, let Kimble say what he will. And so, Master
Marner, as I was saying- for there's windings i' things as they may
carry you to the fur end o' the prayer-book afore you get back to 'em-
my advice is, as you keep up your sperrits; for as for thinking you're
a deep 'un, and ha' got more inside you nor 'ull bear daylight, I'm
not o' that opinion at all, and so I tell the neighbours. For, says I,
you talk o' Master Marner making out a tale- why, it's nonsense,
that is: it 'ud take a 'cute man to make a tale like that; and, says
I, he looked as scared as a rabbit.'

   During this discursive address Silas had continued motionless in
his previous attitude, leaning his elbows on his knees, and pressing
his hands against his head. Mr Macey, not doubting that he had been
listened to, paused, in the expectation of some appreciatory reply,
but Marner remained silent. He had a sense that the old man meant to
be good-natured and neighbourly; but the kindness fell on him as
sunshine falls on the wretched- he had no heart to taste it, and
felt that it was very far off him.

   'Come, Master Marner, have you got nothing to say to that?' said Mr
Macey at last, with a slight accent of impatience.

   'Oh,' said Marner, slowly, shaking his head between his hands, 'I
thank you- thank you- kindly.'

   'Aye, aye, to be sure: I thought you would,' said Mr Macey; 'and my
advice is- have you got a Sunday suit?'

   'No,' said Marner.

   'I doubted it was so,' said Mr Macey. 'Now, let me advise you to
get a Sunday suit: there's Tookey, he's a poor creatur, but he's got
my tailoring business, and some o' my money in it, and he shall make a
suit at a low price, and give you trust, and then you can come to
church, and be a bit neighbourly. Why you've never heared me say
"Amen" since you come into these parts, and I recommend you to lose no
time, for it'll be poor work when Tookey has it all to himself, for
I mayn't be equil to stand i' the desk at all, come another winter.'
Here Mr Macey paused, perhaps expecting some sign of emotion in his
hearer; but not observing any, he went on. 'And as for the money for
the suit o' clothes, why, you get a matter of a pound a-week at your
weaving, Master Marner, and you're a young man, eh, for all you look
so mushed. Why, you couldn't ha' been five-and-twenty when you come
into these parts, eh?'

   Silas started a little at the change to a questioning tone, and
answered mildly, 'I don't know; I can't rightly say- it's a long while
since.'

   After receiving such an answer as this, it is not surprising that
Mr Macey observed, later on in the evening at the Rainbow, that
Marner's head was 'all of a muddle', and that it was to be doubted
if he ever knew when Sunday came round, which showed him a worse
heathen than many a dog.

   Another of Silas's comforters, besides Mr Macey, came to him with a
mind highly charged on the same topic. This was Mrs Winthrop, the
wheelwright's wife. The inhabitants of Raveloe were not severely
regular in their churchgoing, and perhaps there was hardly a person in
the parish who would not have held that to go to church every Sunday
in the calendar would have shown a greedy desire to stand well with
Heaven, and get an undue advantage over their neighbours- a wish to be
better than the 'common run', that would have implied a reflection
on those who had had godfathers and godmothers as well as
themselves, and had an equal right to the burying-service. At the same
time, it was understood to be requisite for all who were not household
servants, or young men, to take the sacrament at one of the great
festivals: Squire Cass himself took it on Christmas-day; while those
who were held to be 'good livers' went to church with a greater,
though still with moderate frequency.

   Mrs Winthrop was one of these: she was in all respects a woman of
scrupulous conscience, so eager for duties, that life seemed to
offer them too scantily unless she rose at half-past four, though this
threw a scarcity of work over the more advanced hours of the
morning, which it was a constant problem with her to remove. Yet she
had not the vixenish temper which is sometimes supposed to be a
necessary condition of such habits: she was a very mild, patient
woman, whose nature it was to seek out all the sadder and more serious
elements of life, and pasture her mind upon them. She was the person
always first thought of in Raveloe when there was illness or death
in a family, when leeches were to be applied, or there was a sudden
disappointment in a monthly nurse. She was a 'comfortable woman'-
good-looking, fresh-complexioned, having her lips always slightly
screwed, as if she felt herself in a sick-room with the doctor or
the clergyman present. But she was never whimpering; no one had seen
her shed tears; she was simply grave and inclined to shake her head
and sigh, almost imperceptibly, like a funereal mourner who is not a
relation. It seemed surprising that Ben Winthrop, who loved his
quart-pot and his joke, got along so well with Dolly; but she took her
husband's jokes and joviality as patiently as everything else,
considering that 'men would be so', and viewing the stronger sex in
the light of animals whom it had pleased Heaven to make naturally
troublesome, like bulls and turkey-cocks.

   This good wholesome woman could hardly fail to have her mind
drawn strongly towards Silas Marner, now that he appeared in the light
of a sufferer; and one Sunday afternoon she took her little boy
Aaron with her, and went to call on Silas, carrying in her hand some
small lard-cakes, flat paste-like articles, much esteemed in
Raveloe. Aaron, an apple-cheeked youngster of seven, with a clean
starched frill, which looked like a plate for the apples, needed all
his adventurous curiosity to embolden him against the possibility that
the big-eyed weaver might do him some bodily injury; and his dubiety
was much increased when, on arriving at the Stone-pits, they heard the
mysterious sound of the loom.

   'Ah, it is as I thought,' said Mrs Winthrop, sadly.

   They had to knock loudly before Silas heard them; but when he did
come to the door, he showed no impatience, as he would once have done,
at a visit that had been unasked for and unexpected. Formerly, his
heart had been as a locked casket with its treasure inside; but now
the casket was empty, and the lock was broken. Left groping in
darkness, with his prop utterly gone, Silas had inevitably a sense,
though a dull and half-despairing one, that if any help came to him it
must come from without; and there was a slight stirring of expectation
at the sight of his fellow-men, a faint consciousness of dependence on
their goodwill. He opened the door wide to admit Dolly, but without
otherwise returning her greeting than by moving the armchair a few
inches as a sign that she was to sit down in it. Dolly, as soon as she
was seated, removed the white cloth that covered her lard-cakes, and
said in her gravest way:

   'I'd a baking yisterday, Master Marner, and the lard-cakes turned
out better nor common, and I'd ha' asked you to accept some, if
you'd thought well. I don't eat such things myself, for a bit o'
bread's what I like from one year's end to the other; but men's
stomichs are made so comical, they want a change- they do, I know, God
help 'em.'

   Dolly sighed gently as she held out the cakes to Silas, who thanked
her kindly, and looked very close at them, absently, being
accustomed to look so at everything he took into his hand- eyed all
the while by the wondering bright orbs of the small Aaron, who had
made an outwork of his mother's chair, and was peeping round from
behind it.

   'There's letters pricked on 'em,' said Dolly. 'I can't read 'em
myself, and there's nobody, not Mr Macey himself, rightly knows what
they mean; but they've a good meaning, for they're the same as is on
the pulpit-cloth at church. What are they, Aaron, my dear?'

   Aaron retreated completely behind his outwork.

   'Oh, go, that's naughty,' said his mother, mildly. 'Well,
whativer the letters are, they've a good meaning; and it's a stamp
as has been in our house, Ben says, ever since he was a little un, and
his mother used to put it on the cakes, and I've allays put it on too;
for if there's any good, we've need of it i' this world.'

   'It's I.H.S.' said Silas, at which proof of learning Aaron peeped
round the chair again.

   'Well, to be sure, you can read 'em off,' said Dolly. 'Ben's read
'em to me many and many a time, but they slip out o' my mind again;
the more's the pity, for they're good letters, else they wouldn't be
in the church; and so I prick 'em on all the loaves and all the cakes,
though sometimes they won't hold, because o' the rising- for, as I
said, if there's any good to be got, we've need on it i' this world-
that we have; and I hope they'll bring good to you, Master Marner, for
it's wi' that will I brought you the cakes; and you see the letters
have held better nor common.'

   Silas was as unable to interpret the letters as Dolly, but there
was no possibility of misunderstanding the desire to give comfort that
made itself heard in her quiet tones. He said, with more feeling
than before- 'Thank you- thank you kindly.' But he laid down the
cake and seated himself absently- drearily unconscious of any distinct
benefit towards which the cake and the letters, or even Dolly's
kindness, could tend for him.

   'Ah, if there's good anywhere, we've need of it,' repeated Dolly,
who did not lightly forsake a serviceable phrase. She looked at
Silas pityingly as she went on. 'But you didn't hear the
church-bells this morning, Master Marner. I doubt you didn't know it
was Sunday. Living so lone here, you lose your count, I daresay; and
then, when your loom makes a noise, you can't hear the bells, more
partic'lar now the frost kills the sound.'

   'Yes, I did; I heard 'em,' said Silas, to whom Sunday bells were
a mere accident of the day, and not part of its sacredness. There
had been no bells in Lantern Yard.

   'Dear heart!' said Dolly, pausing before she spoke again. 'But what
a pity it is you should work of a Sunday, and not clean yourself- if
you didn't go to church; for if you'd a roasting bit, it might be as
you couldn't leave it, being a lone man. But there's the bakehus, if
you could make up your mind to spend a twopence on the oven now and
then,- not every week, in course- I shouldn't like to do that myself,-
you might carry your bit o' dinner there, for it's nothing but right
to have a bit o' summat hot of a Sunday, and not to make it as you
can't know your dinner from Saturday. But now, upo' Christmas-day,
this blessed Christmas as is ever coming, if you was to take your
dinner to the bakehus, and go to church, and see the holly and the
yew, and hear the anthim, and then take the sacramen', you'd be a deal
the better, and you'd know which end you stood on, and you could put
your trust i' Them as knows better nor we do, seein' you'd ha' done
what it lies on us all to do.'

   Dolly's exhortation, which was an unusually long effort of speech
for her, was uttered in the soothing persuasive tone with which she
would have tried to prevail on a sick man to take his medicine, or a
basin of gruel for which he had no appetite. Silas had never before
been closely urged on the point of his absence from church, which
had only been thought of as a part of his general queerness; and he
was too direct and simple to evade Dolly's appeal.

   'Nay, nay,' he said, 'I know nothing o' church. I've never been
to church.'

   'No!' said Dolly, in a low tone of wonderment. Then bethinking
herself of Silas's advent from an unknown country, she said, 'Could it
ha' been as they'd no church where you was born?'

   'Oh, yes,' said Silas, meditatively, sitting in his usual posture
of leaning on his knees, and supporting his head. 'There was churches-
a many- it was a big town. But I knew nothing of 'em- I went to
chapel.'

   Dolly was much puzzled at this new word, but she was rather
afraid of inquiring further, lest 'chapel' might mean some haunt of
wickedness. After a little thought, she said:

   'Well, Master Marner, it's niver too late to turn over a new
leaf, and if you've niver had no church, there's no telling the good
it'll do you. For I feel so set up and comfortable as niver was,
when I've been and heard the prayers, and the singing to the praise
and glory o' God, as Mr Macey gives out- and Mr Crackenthorp saying
good words, and more particular on Sacramen' Day; and if a bit o'
trouble comes, I feel as I can put up wi' it, for I've looked for help
i' the right quarter, and gev myself up to Them as we must all give
ourselves up to at the last; and if we'n done our part, it isn't to be
believed as Them as are above us 'ull be worse nor we are, and come
short o' Theirn.'

   Poor Dolly's exposition of her simple Raveloe theology fell
rather unmeaningly on Silas's ears, for there was no word in it that
could rouse a memory of what he had known as religion, and his
comprehension was quite baffled by the plural pronoun, which was no
heresy of Dolly's, but only her way of avoiding a presumptuous
familiarity. He remained silent, not feeling inclined to assent to the
part of Dolly's speech which he fully understood- her recommendation
that he should go to church. Indeed, Silas was so unaccustomed to talk
beyond the brief questions and answers necessary for the transaction
of his simple business, that words did not easily come to him
without the urgency of a distinct purpose.

   But now, little Aaron, having become used to the weaver's awful
presence, had advanced to his mother's side, and Silas, seeming to
notice him for the first time, tried to return Dolly's signs of
goodwill by offering the lad a bit of lard-cake. Aaron shrank back a
little, and rubbed his head against his mother's shoulder, but still
thought the piece of cake worth the risk of putting his hand out for
it.

   'Oh, for shame, Aaron,' said his mother, taking him on her lap,
however; 'why, you don't want cake again yet awhile. He's wonderful
hearty,' she went on, with a little sigh- 'that he is, God knows. He's
my youngest, and we spoil him sadly, for either me or the father
must allays hev him in our sight- that we must.'

   She stroked Aaron's brown head, and thought it must do Master
Marner good to see such a 'pictur of a child'. But Marner, on the
other side of the hearth, saw the neat-featured rosy face as a mere
dim round, with two dark spots in it.

   'And he's got a voice like a bird- you wouldn't think,' Dolly
went on; 'he can sing a Christmas carril as his father's taught him;
and I take it for a token as he'll come to good, as he can learn the
good tunes so quick. Come, Aaron, stan' up and sing the carril to
Master Marner, come.'

   Aaron replied by rubbing his forehead against his mother's
shoulder.

   'Oh, that's naughty,' said Dolly, gently. 'Stan' up, when mother
tells you, and let me hold the cake till you've done.'

   Aaron was not indisposed to display his talents, even to an ogre,
under protecting circumstances; and after a few more signs of coyness,
consisting chiefly in rubbing the backs of his hands over his eyes,
and then peeping between them at Master Marner, to see if he looked
anxious for the 'carril', he at length allowed his head to be duly
adjusted, and standing behind the table, which let him appear above it
only as far as his broad frill, so that he looked like a cherubic head
untroubled with a body, he began with a clear chirp, and in a melody
that had the rhythm of an industrious hammer,

                  'God rest you, merry gentlemen,

                    Let nothing you dismay,

                   For Jesus Christ our Savior

                    Was born on Christmas-day.'

   Dolly listened with a devout look, glancing at Marner in some
confidence that this strain would help to allure him to church.

   'That's Christmas music,' she said, when Aaron had ended, and had
secured his piece of cake again. 'There's no other music equil to
the Christmas music- "Hark the erol angils sing." And you may judge
what it is at church, Master Marner, with the bassoon and the
voices, as you can't help thinking you've got to a better place
a'ready- for I wouldn't speak ill o' this world, seeing as Them put us
in it as knows best; but what wi' the drink, and the quarrelling,
and the bad illnesses, and the hard dying, as I've seen times and
times, one's thankful to hear of a better. The boy sings pretty, don't
he, Master Marner?'

   'Yes,' said Silas, absently, 'very pretty.'

   The Christmas carol, with its hammer-like rhythm, had fallen on his
ears as strange music, quite unlike a hymn, and could have none of the
effect Dolly contemplated. But he wanted to show her that he was
grateful, and the only mode that occurred to him was to offer Aaron
a bit more cake.

   'Oh, no, thank you, Master Marner,' said Dolly, holding down
Aaron's willing hands. 'We must be going home now. And so I wish you
good-bye, Master Marner; and if you ever feel anyways bad in your
inside, as you can't fend for yourself, I'll come and clean up for
you, and get you a bit o' victual, and willing. But I beg and pray
of you to leave off weaving of a Sunday, for it's bad for soul and
body- and the money as comes i' that way 'ull be a bad bed to lie down
on at the last, if it doesn't fly away, nobody knows where, like the
white frost. And you'll excuse me being that free with you, Master
Marner, for I wish you well- I do. Make your bow, Aaron.'

   Silas said 'Good-bye, and thank you, kindly', as he opened the door
for Dolly, but he couldn't help feeling relieved when she was gone-
relieved that he might weave again and moan at his ease. Her simple
view of life and its comforts, by which she had tried to cheer him,
was only like a report of unknown objects, which his imagination could
not fashion. The fountains of human love and divine faith had not
yet been unlocked and his soul was still the shrunken rivulet, with
only this difference, that its little groove of sand was blocked up,
and it wandered confusedly against dark obstruction.

   And so, notwithstanding the honest persuasions of Mr Macey and
Dolly Winthrop, Silas spent his Christmas-day in loneliness, eating
his meat in sadness of heart, though the meat had come to him as a
neighbourly present. In the morning he looked out on the black frost
that seemed to press cruelly on every blade of grass, while the
half-icy red pool shivered under the bitter wind; but towards
evening the snow began to fall, and curtained from him even that
dreary outlook, shutting him close up with his narrow grief. And he
sat in his robbed home through the livelong evening, not caring to
close his shutters or lock his door, pressing his head between his
hands and moaning, till the cold grasped him and told him that his
fire was grey.

   Nobody in this world but himself knew that he was the same Silas
Marner who had once loved his fellow with tender love, and trusted
in an unseen goodness. Even to himself that past experience had become
dim. But in Raveloe village the bells rang merrily, and the church was
fuller than all through the rest of the year, with red faces among the
abundant dark-green boughs- faces prepared for a longer service than
usual by an odorous breakfast of toast and ale. Those green boughs,
the hymn and anthem never heard but at Christmas- even the
Athanasian Creed, which was discriminated from the others only as
being longer and of exceptional virtue, since it was only read on rare
occasions- brought a vague exulting sense, for which the grown men
could as little have found words as the children, that something great
and mysterious had been done for them in heaven above, and in earth
below, which they were appropriating by their presence. And then the
red faces made their way through the black biting frost to their own
homes, feeling themselves free for the rest of the day to eat,
drink, and be merry, and using that Christian freedom without
diffidence.

   At Squire Cass's family party that day nobody mentioned Dunstan-
nobody was sorry for his absence, or feared it would be too long.
The doctor and his wife, uncle and aunt Kimble, were there, and the
annual Christmas talk was carried through without any omissions,
rising to the climax of Mr Kimble's experience when he walked the
London hospitals thirty years back, together with striking
professional anecdotes then gathered. Whereupon cards followed, with
aunt Kimble's annual failure to follow suit, and uncle Kimble's
irascibility concerning the odd trick which was rarely explicable to
him, when it was not on his side, without a general visitation of
tricks to see that they were formed on sound principles: the whole
being accompanied by a strong steaming odour of spirits-and-water.

   But the party on Christmas-day, being a strictly family party,
was not the pre-eminently brilliant celebration of the season at the
Red House. It was the great dance on New Year's Eve that made the
glory of Squire Cass's hospitality, as of his forefathers', time out
of mind. This was the occasion when all the society of Raveloe and
Tarley, whether old acquaintances separated by long rutty distances,
or cooled acquaintances separated by misunderstandings concerning
runaway calves, or acquaintances founded on intermittent
condescension, counted on meeting and on comporting themselves with
mutual appropriateness. This was the occasion on which fair dames
who came on pillions sent their bandboxes before them, supplied with
more than their evening costume; for the feast was not to end with a
single evening, like a paltry entertainment, where the whole supply of
eatables is put on the table at once, and bedding is scanty. The Red
House was provisioned as if for a siege; and as for the spare
feather-beds ready to be laid on floors, they were as plentiful as
might naturally be expected in a family that had killed its own
geese for many generations.

   Godfrey Cass was looking forward to this New Year's Eve with a
foolish reckless longing, that made him half deaf to his importunate
companion, Anxiety.

   'Dunsey will becoming home soon: there will be a great blow-up, and
how will you bribe his spite to silence?' said Anxiety.

   'Oh, he won't come home before New Year's Eve, perhaps,' said
Godfrey; 'and I shall sit by Nancy then, and dance with her, and get a
kind look from her in spite of herself.'

   'But money is wanted in another quarter,' said Anxiety, in a louder
voice, 'and how will you get it without selling your mother's
diamond pin? And if you don't get it...?'

   'Well, but something may happen to make things easier. At any rate,
there's one pleasure for me close at hand: Nancy is coming.'

   'Yes, and suppose your father should bring matters to a pass that
will oblige you to decline marrying her- and to give your reasons?'

   'Hold your tongue, and don't worry me. I can see Nancy's eyes, just
as they will look at me, and feel her hand in mine already?'

   But Anxiety went on, though in noisy Christmas company; refusing to
be utterly quieted even by much drinking.

                       CHAPTER ELEVEN

SOME women, I grant, would not appear to advantage seated on a
pillion, and attired in a drab joseph and a drab beaver-bonnet, with a
crown resembling a small stew-pan; for a garment suggesting a
coachman's greatcoat, cut out under an exiguity of cloth that would
only allow of miniature capes, is not well adapted to conceal
deficiencies of contour, nor is drab a colour that will throw sallow
cheeks into lively contrast. It was all the greater triumph to Miss
Nancy Lammeter's beauty that she looked thoroughly bewitching in
that costume, as, seated on a pillion behind her tall, erect father,
she held one arm round him, and looked down, with open-eyed anxiety,
at the treacherous snow-covered pools and puddles, which sent up
formidable splashings of mud under the stamp of Dobbin's foot. A
painter would, perhaps, have preferred her in those moments when she
was free from self-consciousness; but certainly the bloom on her
cheeks was at its highest point of contrast with the surrounding
drab when she arrived at the door of the Red House, and saw Mr Godfrey
Cass ready to lift her from the pillion. She wished her sister
Priscilla had come up at the same time with the servant, for then
she would have contrived that Mr Godfrey should have lifted off
Priscilla first, and, in the meantime, she would have persuaded her
father to go round to the horseblock instead of alighting at the
doorsteps. It was very painful, when you had made it quite dear to a
young man that you were determined not to marry him, however much he
might wish it, that he would still continue to pay you marked
attentions; besides, why didn't he always show the same attentions, if
he meant them sincerely, instead of being so strange as Mr Godfrey
Cass was, sometimes behaving as if he didn't want to speak to her, and
taking no notice of her for weeks and weeks, and then, all of a
sudden, almost making love again? Moreover, it was quite plain he
had no real love for her, else he would not let people have that to
say of him which they did say. Did he suppose that Miss Nancy Lammeter
was to be won by any man, squire or no squire, who led a bad life?
That was not what she had been used to see in her own father, who
was the soberest and best man in that country-side, only a little
hot and hasty now and then, if things were not done to the minute.

   All these thoughts rushed through Miss Nancy's mind, in their
habitual succession, in the moments between her first sight of Mr
Godfrey Cass standing at the door and her own arrival there.
Happily, the Squire came out too, and gave a loud greeting to the
father, so that, somehow, under cover of this noise, she seemed to
find concealment for her confusion and neglect of any suitably
formal behaviour, while she was being lifted from the pillion by
strong arms, which seemed to find her ridiculously small and light.
And there was the best reason for hastening into the house at once,
since the snow was beginning to fall again, and threatening an
unpleasant journey for such guests as were still on the road. These
were a small minority; for already the afternoon was beginning to
decline, and there would not be too much time for the ladies who
came from a distance to attire themselves in readiness for the early
tea which was to inspirit them for the dance.

   There was a buzz of voices through the house, as Miss Nancy
entered, mingled with the scrape of a fiddle preluding in the kitchen;
but the Lammeters were guests whose arrival had evidently been thought
of so much that it had been watched for from the windows, for Mrs
Kimble, who did the honours at the Red House on these great occasions,
came forward to meet Miss Nancy in the hall, and conduct her upstairs.
Mrs Kimble was the Squire's sister, as well as the doctor's wife- a
double dignity, with which her diameter was in direct proportion; so
that, a journey upstairs being rather fatiguing to her, she did not
oppose Miss Nancy's request to be allowed to find her way alone to the
Blue Room, where the Miss Lammeters' bandboxes had been deposited on
their arrival in the morning.

   There was hardly a bedroom in the house where feminine
compliments were not passing and feminine toilettes going forward,
in various stages, in space made scanty by extra beds spread upon
the floor; and Miss Nancy, as she entered the Blue Room, had to make
her little formal curtsy to a group of six. On the one hand, there
were ladies no less important than the two Miss Gunns, the wine
merchant's daughters from Lytherly, dressed in the height of
fashion, with the tightest skirts and the shortest waists, and gazed
at by Miss Ladbrook (of the Old Pastures) with a shyness not
unsustained by inward criticism. Partly, Miss Ladbrook felt that her
own skirt must be regarded as unduly lax by the Miss Gunns, and
partly, that it was a pity the Miss Gunns did not show that judgment
which she herself would show if she were in their place, by stopping a
little on this side of the fashion. On the other hand, Mrs Ladbrook
was standing in skullcap and front, with her turban in her hand,
curtsying and smiling blandly and saying 'After you, ma'am' to another
lady in similar circumstances, who had politely offered the precedence
at the looking-glass.

   But Miss Nancy had no sooner made her curtsy than an elderly lady
came forward, whose full white muslin kerchief, and mob-cap round
her curls of smooth grey hair, were in daring contrast with the puffed
yellow satins and top-knotted caps of her neighbours. She approached
Miss Nancy with much primness, and said, with a slow, treble suavity:

   'Niece, I hope I see you well in health.' Miss Nancy kissed her
aunt's cheek dutifully, and answered, with the same sort of amiable
primness, 'Quite well, I thank you, aunt, and I hope I see you the
same.'

   'Thank you, niece, I keep my health for the present. And how is
my brother-in-law?'

   These dutiful questions and answers were continued until it was
ascertained in detail that the Lammeters were all as well as usual,
and the Osgoods likewise, also that niece Priscilla must certainly
arrive shortly, and that travelling on pillions in snowy weather was
unpleasant, though a joseph was a great protection. Then Nancy was
formally introduced to her aunt's visitors, the Miss Gunns, as being
the daughters of a mother known to their mother, though now for the
first time induced to make a journey into these parts; and these
ladies were so taken by surprise at finding such a lovely face and
figure in an out-of-the-way country place, that they began to feel
some curiosity about the dress she would put on when she took off
her joseph. Miss Nancy, whose thoughts were always conducted with
the propriety and moderation conspicuous in her manners, remarked to
herself that the Miss Gunns were rather hard-featured than
otherwise, and that such very low dresses as they wore might have been
attributed to vanity if their shoulders had been pretty, but that,
being as they were, it was not reasonable to suppose that they
showed their necks from a love of display, but rather from some
obligation not inconsistent with sense and modesty. She felt
convinced, as she opened her box, that this must be her aunt
Osgood's opinion, for Miss Nancy's mind resembled her aunt's to a
degree that everybody said was surprising, considering the kinship was
on Mr Osgood's side; and though you might not have supposed it from
the formality of their greeting, there was a devoted attachment and
mutual admiration between aunt and niece. Even Miss Nancy's refusal of
her cousin Gilbert Osgood (on the ground solely that he was her
cousin), though it had grieved her aunt greatly, had not in the
least cooled the preference which had determined her to leave Nancy
several of her hereditary ornaments, let Gilbert's future wife be whom
she might.

   Three of the ladies quickly retired, but the Miss Gunns were
quite content that Mrs Osgood's inclination to remain with her niece
gave them also a reason for staying to see the rustic beauty's
toilette. And it was really a pleasure- from the first opening of
the bandbox, where everything smelt of lavender and rose leaves, to
the clasping of the small coral necklace that fitted closely round her
little white neck. Everything belonging to Miss Nancy was of
delicate purity and nattiness: not a crease was where it had no
business to be, not a bit of her linen professed whiteness without
fulfilling its profession; the very pins on her pincushion were
stuck in after a pattern from which she was careful to allow no
aberration; and as for her own person, it gave the same idea of
perfect unvarying neatness as the body of a little bird. It is true
that her light-brown hair was cropped behind like a boy's, and was
dressed in front in a number of flat rings, that lay quite away from
her face; but there was no sort of coiffure that could make Miss
Nancy's cheek and neck look otherwise than pretty; and when at last
she stood complete in her silvery twilled silk, her lace tucker, her
coral necklace, and coral ear-drops, the Miss Gunns could see
nothing to criticize except her hands, which bore the traces of
butter-making, cheese-crushing, and even still coarser work. But
Miss Nancy was not ashamed of that, for even while she was dressing
she narrated to her aunt how she and Priscilla had packed their
boxes yesterday, because this morning was baking morning, and since
they were leaving home, it was desirable to make a good supply of meat
pies for the kitchen; and as she concluded this judicious remark,
she turned to the Miss Gunns that she might not commit the rudeness of
including them in the conversation. The Miss Gunns smiled stiffly, and
thought what a pity it was that these rich country people, who could
afford to buy such good clothes (really Miss Nancy's lace and silk
were very costly), should be brought up in utter ignorance and
vulgarity. She actually said 'mate' for 'meat', ''appen' for
'perhaps', and 'oss' for 'horse', which, to young ladies living in
good Lytherly society, who habitually said 'orse, even in domestic
privacy and only said 'appen on the right occasions, was necessarily
shocking. Miss Nancy, indeed, had never been to any school higher than
Dame Tedman's: her acquaintance with profane literature hardly went
beyond the rhymes she had worked in her large sampler under the lamb
and the shepherdess; and in order to balance an account, she was
obliged to effect her subtraction by removing visible metallic
shillings and sixpences from a visible metallic total. There is hardly
a servant-maid in these days who is not better informed than Miss
Nancy; yet she had the essential attributes of a lady- high
veracity, delicate honour in her dealings, deference to others, and
refined personal habits- and lest these should not suffice to convince
grammatical fair ones that her feelings can at all resemble theirs,
I will add that she was slightly proud and exacting, and as constant
in her affection towards a baseless opinion as towards an erring
lover.

   The anxiety about sister Priscilla, which had grown rather active
by the time the coral necklace was clasped, was happily ended by the
entrance of that cheerful-looking lady herself, with a face made
blowsy by cold and damp. After the first questions and greetings,
she turned to Nancy, and surveyed her from head to foot- then
wheeled her round, to ascertain that the back view was equally
faultless.

   'What do you think o' these gowns, aunt Osgood?' said Priscilla,
while Nancy helped her to unrobe.

   'Very handsome indeed, niece,' said Mrs Osgood, with a slight
increase of formality. She always thought niece Priscilla too rough.

   'I'm obliged to have the same as Nancy, you know, for all I'm
five years older and it makes me look yallow; for she never will
have anything without I have mine just like it, because she wants us
to look like sisters. And I tell her folks 'ull think it's my weakness
makes me fancy as I shall look pretty in what she looks pretty in. For
I am ugly- there's no denying that: I feature my father's family. But,
law! I don't mind, do you?' Priscilla here turned to the Miss Gunns,
rattling on in too much preoccupation with the delight of talking,
to notice that her candour was not appreciated. 'The pretty uns do for
flycatchers- they keep the men off us. I've no opinion o' the men,
Miss Gunn- I don't know what you have. And as for fretting and stewing
about what they'll think of you from morning till night, and making
your life uneasy about what they're doing when they're out o' your
sight- as I tell Nancy, it's a folly no woman need be guilty of, if
she's got a good father and a good home: let her leave it to them as
have got no fortin, and can't help themselves. As I say, Mr
Have-your-own-way is the best husband, and the only one I'd ever
promise to obey. I know it isn't pleasant, when you've been used to
living in a big way, and managing hogsheads and all that to go and put
your nose in by somebody else's fireside, or to sit down by yourself
to a scrag or a knuckle; but, thank God! my father's a sober man and
likely to live; and if you've got a man by the chimney-corner, it
doesn't matter if he's childish- the business needn't be broke up.'

   The delicate process of getting her narrow gown over her head
without injury to her smooth curls, obliged Miss Priscilla to pause in
this rapid survey of life, and Mrs Osgood seized the opportunity of
rising and saying:

   'Well, niece, you'll follow us. The Miss Gunns will like to go
down.'

   'Sister,' said Nancy, when they were alone, 'you've offended the
Miss Gunns, I'm sure.'

   'What have I done, child?' said Priscilla, in some alarm.

   'Why, you asked them if they minded about being ugly- you're so
very blunt.'

   'Law, did I? Well, it popped out: it's a mercy I said no more,
for I'm a bad un to live with folks when they don't like the truth.
But as for being ugly, look at me, child, in this silver-coloured
silk- I told you how it 'ud be- I look as yallow as a daffadil.
Anybody 'ud say you wanted to make a mawkin of me.'

   'No, Priscy, don't say so. I begged and prayed of you not to let us
have this silk if you'd like another better. I was willing to have
your choice, you know I was,' said Nancy, in anxious self-vindication.

   'Nonsense, child, you know you'd set your heart on this; and reason
good, for you're the colour o' cream. It 'ud be fine doings for you to
dress yourself to suit my skin. What I find fault with, is that notion
o' yours as I must dress myself just like you. But you do as you
like with me- you always did, from when first you begun to walk. If
you wanted to go the field's length, the field's length you'd go;
and there was no whipping you, for you looked as prim and innicent
as a daisy all the while.'

   'Priscy,' said Nancy, gently, as she fastened a coral necklace,
exactly like her own, round Priscilla's neck, which was very far
from being like her own, 'I'm sure I'm willing to give way as far as
is right, but who shouldn't dress alike if it isn't sisters? Would you
have us go about looking as if we were no kin to one another- us
that have got no mother and not another sister in the world? I'd do
what was right, if I dressed in a gown dyed with cheese-colouring; and
I'd rather you'd choose, and let me wear what pleases you.'

   'There you go again! You'd come round to the same thing if one
talked to you from Saturday night till Saturday morning. It'll be fine
fun to see how you'll master your husband and never raise your voice
above the singing o' the kettle all the while. I like to see the men
mastered!'

   'Don't talk so, Priscy,' said Nancy, blushing. 'You know I don't
mean ever to be married.'

   'Oh, you never mean a fiddlestick's end!' said Priscilla, as she
arranged her discarded dress, and closed her bandbox. 'Who shall I
have to work for when father's gone, if you are to go and take notions
in your head and be an old maid, because some folks are no better than
they should be? I haven't a bit o' patience with you- sitting on an
addled egg for ever, as if there was never a fresh un in the world.
One old maid's enough out o' two sisters; and I shall do credit to a
single life, for God A'mighty meant me for it. Come, we can go down
now. I'm as ready as a mawkin can be- there's nothing awanting to
frighten the crows, now I've got my ear-droppers in.'

   As the two Miss Lammeters walked into the large parlour together,
anyone who did not know the character of both, might certainly have
supposed that the reason why the square-shouldered, clumsy,
high-featured Priscilla wore a dress the facsimile of her pretty
sister's, was either the mistaken vanity of the one, or the
malicious contrivance of the other in order to set off her own rare
beauty. But the good-natured self-forgetful cheeriness and
common-sense of Priscilla would soon have dissipated the one
suspicion; and the modest calm of Nancy's speech and manners told
clearly of a mind free from all disavowed devices.

   Places of honour had been kept for the Miss Lammeters near the head
of the principal tea-table in the wainscoted parlour, now looking
fresh and pleasant with handsome branches of holly, yew, and laurel,
from the abundant growths of the old garden; and Nancy felt an
inward flutter, that no firmness of purpose could prevent, when she
saw Mr Godfrey Cass advancing to lead her to a seat between himself
and Mr Crackenthorp, while Priscilla was called to the opposite side
between her father and the Squire. It certainly did make some
difference to Nancy that the lover she had given up was the young
man of quite the highest consequence in the parish- at home in a
venerable and unique parlour, which was the extremity of grandeur in
her experience, a parlour where she might one day have been
mistress, with the consciousness that she was spoken of as 'Madam
Cass', the Squire's wife. These circumstances exalted her inward drama
in her own eyes, and deepened the emphasis with which she declared
to herself that not the most dazzling rank should induce her to
marry a man whose conduct showed him careless of his character, but
that, 'love once, love always', was the motto of a true and pure
woman, and no man should ever have any right over her which would be a
call on her to destroy the dried flowers that she treasured, and
always would treasure, for Godfrey Cass's sake. And Nancy was
capable of keeping her word to herself under very trying conditions.
Nothing but a becoming blush betrayed the moving thoughts that urged
themselves upon her as she accepted the seat next to Mr
Crackenthorp; for she was so instinctively neat and adroit in all
her actions, and her pretty lips met each other with such quiet
firmness, that it would have been difficult for her to appear
agitated.

   It was not the rector's practice to let a charming blush pass
without an appropriate compliment. He was not in the least lofty or
aristocratic, but simply a merry-eyed, small-featured, grey-haired
man, with his chin propped by an ample, many-creased white
neckcloth, which seemed to predominate over every other point in his
person, and somehow to impress its peculiar character on his
remarks; so that to have considered his amenities apart from his
cravat, would have been a severe, and perhaps a dangerous, effort of
abstraction.

   'Ha, Miss Nancy,' he said, turning his head within his cravat,
and smiling down pleasantly upon her, 'when anybody pretends this
has been a severe winter, I shall tell them I saw the roses blooming
on New Year's Eve- eh, Godfrey, what do you say?'

   Godfrey made no reply, and avoided looking at Nancy very
markedly; for though these complimentary personalities were held to be
in excellent taste in old-fashioned Raveloe society, reverent love has
a politeness of its own which it teaches to men otherwise of small
schooling. But the Squire was rather impatient at Godfrey's showing
himself a dull spark in this way. By this advanced hour of the day,
the Squire was always in higher spirits than we have seen him in at
the breakfast-table, and felt it quite pleasant to fulfil the
hereditary duty of being noisily jovial and patronizing: the large
silver snuff-box was in active service, and was offered without fail
to all neighbours from time to time, however often they might have
declined the favour. At present, the Squire had only given an
express welcome to the heads of families as they appeared; but
always as the evening deepened, his hospitality rayed out more widely,
till he had tapped the youngest guests on the back and shown a
peculiar fondness for their presence, in the full belief that they
must feel their lives made happy by their belonging to a parish
where there was such a hearty man as Squire Cass to invite them and
wish them well. Even in this early stage of the jovial mood, it was
natural that he should wish to supply his son's deficiencies by
looking and speaking for him.

   'Aye, aye,' he began, offering his snuff-box to Mr Lammeter, who
for the second time bowed his head and waved his hand in stiff
rejection of the offer, 'us old fellows may wish ourselves young
tonight, when we see the mistletoe-bough in the White Parlour. It's
true, most things are gone back'ard in these last thirty years- the
country's going down since the old king fell ill. But when I look at
Miss Nancy here, I begin to think the lasses keep up their quality;
ding me if I remember a sample to match her, not when I was a fine
young fellow, and thought a deal about my pigtail. No offence to
you, madam,' he added, bending to Mrs Crackenthorp, who sat by him, 'I
didn't know you when you were as young as Miss Nancy here.'

   Mrs Crackenthorp- a small blinking woman, who fidgeted
incessantly with her lace, ribbons, and gold chain, turning her head
about and making subdued noises, very much like a guinea-pig, that
twitches its nose and soliloquizes in all company indiscriminately-
now blinked and fidgeted towards the Squire, and said, 'Oh, no- no
offence.'

   This emphatic compliment of the Squire's to Nancy was felt by
others besides Godfrey to have a diplomatic significance; and her
father gave a slight additional erectness to his back, as he looked
across the table at her with complacent gravity. That grave and
orderly senior was not going to bate a jot of his dignity by seeming
elated at the notion of a match between his family and the Squire's:
he was gratified by any honour paid to his daughter; but he must see
an alteration in several ways before his consent would be
vouchsafed. His spare but healthy person, and high-featured firm face,
that looked as if it had never been flushed by excess, was in strong
contrast, not only with the Squire's, but with the appearance of the
Raveloe farmers generally- in accordance with a favourite saying of
his own that 'breed was stronger than pasture'.

   'Miss Nancy's wonderful like what her mother was, though; isn't
she, Kimble?' said the stout lady of that name, looking round for
her husband.

   But Doctor Kimble (county apothecaries in old days enjoyed that
title without authority of diploma), being a thin and agile man, was
flitting about the room with his hands in his pockets, making
himself agreeable to his feminine patients, with medical impartiality,
and being welcomed everywhere as a doctor by hereditary right- not one
of those miserable apothecaries who canvass for practice in strange
neighbourhoods, and spend all their income in starving their one
horse, but a man of substance, able to keep an extravagant table
like the best of his patients. Time out of mind the Raveloe doctor had
been a Kimble; Kimble was inherently a doctor's name; and it was
difficult to contemplate firmly the melancholy fact that the actual
Kimble had no son, so that his practice might one day be handed over
to a successor, with the incongruous name of Taylor or Johnson. But in
that case the wiser people in Raveloe would employ Dr Blick of
Flitton- as less unnatural.

   'Did you speak to me, my dear?' said the authentic doctor, coming
quickly to his wife's side; but, as if foreseeing that she would be
too much out of breath to repeat her remark, he went on immediately-
'Ha, Miss Priscilla, the sight of you revives the taste of that
super-excellent pork-pie. I hope the batch isn't near an end.'

   'Yes, indeed, it is, doctor,' said Priscilla; 'but I'll answer
for it the next shall be as good. My pork-pies don't turn out well
by chance.'

   'Not as your doctoring does, eh, Kimble?- because folks forget to
take your physic, eh?' said the Squire, who regarded physic and
doctors as many loyal churchmen regard the church and the clergy-
tasting a joke against them when he was in health, but impatiently
eager for their aid when anything was the matter with him. He tapped
his box, and looked round with a triumphant laugh.

   'Ah, she has a quick wit, my friend Priscilla has,' said the
doctor, choosing to attribute the epigram to the lady rather than
allow a brother-in-law that advantage over him. 'She saves a little
pepper to sprinkle over her talk- that's the reason why she never puts
too much into her pies. There's my wife now, she never has an answer
at her tongue's end; but if I offend her, she's sure to scarify my
throat with black pepper the next day, or else give me the colic
with watery greens. That's an awful tit-for-tat.' Here the vivacious
doctor made a pathetic grimace.

   'Did you ever hear the like?' said Mrs Kimble, laughing above her
double chin with much good-humour, aside to Mrs Crackenthorp, who
blinked and nodded, and seemed to intend a smile, which, by the
correlation of forces, went off in small twitchings and noises.

   'I suppose that's the sort of tit-for-tat adopted in your
profession, Kimble, if you've a grudge against a patient,' said the
rector.

   'Never do have a grudge against our patients,' said Mr Kimble,
'except when they leave us: and then, you see, we haven't the chance
of prescribing for 'em. Ha, Miss Nancy,' he continued, suddenly
skipping to Nancy's side, 'you won't forget your promise? You're to
save a dance for me, you know.'

   'Come, come, Kimble, don't you be too for'ard,' said the Squire.
'Give the young uns fair-play. There's my son Godfrey'll be wanting to
have a round with you if you run off with Miss Nancy. He's bespoke her
for the first dance, I'll be bound. Eh, sir! what do you say?' he
continued, throwing himself backward, and looking at Godfrey. 'Haven't
you asked Miss Nancy to open the dance with you?'

   Godfrey, sorely uncomfortable under this significant insistence
about Nancy, and afraid to think where it would end by the time his
father had set his usual hospitable example of drinking before and
after supper, saw no course open but to turn to Nancy and say, with as
little awkwardness as possible:

   'No; I've not asked her yet, but I hope she'll consent- if somebody
else hasn't been before me.'

   'No, I've not engaged myself,' said Nancy, quietly, though
blushingly. (If Mr Godfrey founded any hopes on her consenting to
dance with him, he would soon be undeceived; but there was no need for
her to be uncivil.)

   'Then I hope you've no objections to dancing with me,' said
Godfrey, beginning to lose the sense that there was anything
uncomfortable in this arrangement.

   'No, no objections,' said Nancy, in a cold tone.

   'Ah, well, you're a lucky fellow, Godfrey,' said uncle Kimble; 'but
you're my godson, so I won't stand in your way. Else I'm not so very
old, eh, my dear?' he went on, skipping to his wife's side again. 'You
wouldn't mind my having a second after you were gone- not if I cried a
good deal first?'

   'Come, come, take a cup o' tea and stop your tongue, do,' said
good-humoured Mrs Kimble, feeling some pride in a husband who must
be regarded as so clever and amusing by the company generally. If he
had only not been irritable at cards!

   While safe, well-tested personalities were enlivening the tea in
this way, the sound of the fiddle approaching within a distance at
which it could be heard distinctly, made the young people look at each
other with sympathetic impatience for the end of the meal.

   'Why, there's Solomon in the hall,' said the Squire, 'and playing
my fav'rite tune, I believe- "The flaxen-headed ploughboy"- he's for
giving us a hint as we aren't enough in a hurry to hear him play.
Bob,' he called out to this third long-legged son, who was at the
other end of the room, 'open the door, and tell Solomon to come in. He
shall give us a tune here.'

   Bob obeyed, and Solomon walked in, fiddling as he walked, for he
would on no account break off in the middle of a tune.

   'Here, Solomon,' said the Squire, with loud patronage. 'Round here,
my man. Ah, I knew it was "The flaxen-headed ploughboy": there's no
finer tune.'

   Solomon Macey, a small hale old man with an abundant crop of long
white hair reaching nearly to his shoulders, advanced to the indicated
spot, bowing reverently while he fiddled, as much as to say that he
respected the company, though he respected the keynote more. As soon
as he had repeated the tune and lowered his fiddle, he bowed again
to the Squire and the rector, and said, 'I hope I see your honour
and your reverence well, and wishing you health and long life and a
happy New Year. And wishing the same to you, Mr Lammeter, sir; and
to the other gentlemen, and the madams, and the young lasses.'

   As Solomon uttered the last words, he bowed in all directions
solicitously, lest he should be wanting in due respect. But
thereupon he immediately began to prelude, and fell into the tune
which he knew would be taken as a special compliment by Mr Lammeter.

   'Thank ye, Solomon, thank ye,' said Mr Lammeter, when the fiddle
paused again. 'That's "Over the hills and far away", that is. My
father used to say to me, whenever we heard that tune, "Ah, lad, I
come from over the hills and far away." There's a many tunes I don't
make head or tail of; but that speaks to me like the blackbird's
whistle. I suppose it's the name: there's a deal in the name of a
tune.'

   But Solomon was already impatient to prelude again, and presently
broke with much spirit into 'Sir Roger de Coverley', at which there
was a sound of chairs pushed back, and laughing voices.

   'Aye, aye, Solomon, we know what that means,' said the Squire,
rising. 'It's time to begin the dance, eh? Lead the way, then, and
we'll all follow you.'

   So Solomon, holding his white head on one side, and playing
vigorously, marched forward at the head of the gay procession into the
White Parlour, where the mistletoe-bough was hung, and multitudinous
tallow candles made rather a brilliant effect, gleaming from among the
berried holly-boughs, and reflected in the old-fashioned oval
mirrors fastened in the panels of the white wainscot. A quaint
procession! Old Solomon, in his seedy clothes and long white locks,
seemed to be luring that decent company by the magic scream of his
fiddle- luring discreet matrons in turban-shaped caps, nay, Mrs
Crackenthorp herself, the summit of whose perpendicular feather was on
a level with the Squire's shoulder- luring fair lasses complacently
conscious of very short waists and skirts blameless of front-folds-
burly fathers, in large variegated waistcoats, and ruddy sons, for the
most part shy and sheepish, in short nether garments and very long
coat-tails.

   Already, Mr Macey and a few other privileged villagers, who were
allowed to be spectators on these great occasions, were seated on
benches placed for them near the door; and great was the admiration
and satisfaction in that quarter when the couples had formed
themselves for the dance, and the Squire led off with Mrs
Crackenthorp, joining hands with the rector and Mrs Osgood. That was
as it should be- that was what everybody had been used to- and the
charter of Raveloe seemed to be renewed by the ceremony. It was not
thought of as an unbecoming levity for the old and middle-aged
people to dance a little before sitting down to cards, but rather as
part of their social duties. For what were these if not to be merry at
appropriate times, interchanging visits and poultry with due
frequency, paying each other old-established compliments in sound
traditional phrases, passing well-tried personal jokes, urging your
guests to eat and drink too much out of hospitality, and eating and
drinking too much in your neighbour's house to show that you liked
your cheer? And the parson naturally set an example in these social
duties. For it would not have been possible for the Raveloe mind,
without a peculiar revelation, to know that a clergyman should be a
pale-faced memento of solemnities, instead of a reasonably faulty man,
whose exclusive authority to read prayers and preach, to christen,
marry, and bury you, necessarily co-existed with the right to sell you
the ground to be buried in, and to take tithe in kind; on which last
point, of course, there was a little grumbling, but not to the
extent of irreligion- not beyond the grumbling at the rain, which
was by no means accompanied with a spirit of impious defiance, but
with a desire that the prayer for fine weather might be read
forthwith.

   There was no reason, then, why the rector's dancing should not be
received as part of the fitness of things quite as much as the
Squire's, or why, on the other hand, Mr Macey's official respect
should restrain him from subjecting the parson's performance to that
criticism with which minds of extraordinary acuteness must necessarily
contemplate the doings of their fallible fellow-men.

   'The Squire's pretty springe, considering his weight,' said Mr
Macey, 'and he stamps uncommon well. But Mr Lammeter beats 'em all for
shapes: you see, he holds his head like a sodger, and he isn't so
cushiony as most o' the oldish gentle-folks- they run fat in
general; but he's got a fine leg. The parson's nimble enough, but he
hasn't got much of a leg: it's a bit too thick down'ard, and his knees
might be a bit nearer wi'out damage; but he might do worse, he might
do worse. Though he hasn't that grand way o' waving his hand as the
Squire has.'

   'Talk o' nimbleness, look at Mrs Osgood,' said Ben Winthrop, who
was holding his son Aaron between his knees. 'She trips along with her
little steps, so as nobody can see how she goes- it's like as if she
had little wheels to her feet. She doesn't look a day older nor last
year: she's the finest-made woman as is, let the next be where she
will.'

   'I don't heed how the women are made,' said Mr Macey, with some
contempt. 'They wear nayther coat nor breeches: you can't make much
out o' their shapes.'

   'Fayder,' said Aaron, whose feet were busy beating out the tune,
'how does that big cock's-feather stick in Mrs Crackenthorp's yead? Is
there a little hole for it, like in my shuttle-cock?'

   'Hush, lad, hush; that's the way the ladies dress theirselves, that
is,' said the father, adding, however, in an undertone to Mr Macey,
'It does make her look funny, though- partly like a short-necked
bottle wi' a long quill in it. Hey, by jingo, there's the young Squire
leading off now, wi' Miss Nancy for partners. There's a lass for you!-
like a pink-and-white posy- there's nobody 'ud think as anybody
could be so pritty. I shouldn't wonder if she's Madam Cass some day,
arter all- and nobody more rightfuller, for they'd make a fine
match. You can find nothing against Master Godfrey's shapes, Macey,
I'll bet a penny.'

   Mr Macey screwed up his mouth, leaned his head further on one side,
and twirled his thumbs with a presto movement as his eyes followed
Godfrey up the dance. At last he summed up his opinion.

   'Pretty well down'ard, but a bit too round i' the
shoulder-blades. And as for them coats as he gets from the Flitton
tailor, they're a poor cut to pay double money for.'

   'Ah, Mr Macey, you and me are two folks,' said Ben, slightly
indignant at this carping. 'When I've got a pot o' good ale, I like to
swaller it, and do my inside good i'stead o' smelling and staring at
it to see if I can't find faut wi' the brewing. I should like you to
pick me out a finer-limbed young fellow nor Master Godfrey- one as 'ud
knock you down easier, or's more pleasanter-looksed when he's piert
and merry.'

   'Tchuh!' said Mr Macey, provoked to increased severity, 'he isn't
come to his right colour yet: he's partly like a slack-baked pie.
And I doubt he's got a soft place in his head, else why should he be
turned round the finger by that offal Dunsey as nobody's seen o' late,
and let him kill that fine hunting hoss as was the talk o' the
country? And one while he was allays after Miss Nancy, and then it all
went off again, like a smell o' hot porridge, as I may say. That
wasn't my way, when I went a-coorting.'

   'Ah, but mayhap Miss Nancy hung off, like, and your lass didn't,'
said Ben.

   'I should say she didn't,' said Mr Macey, significantly. 'Before
I said "sniff", I took care to know as she'd say "snaff", and pretty
quick too. I wasn't a-going to open my mouth, like a dog at a fly, and
snap it to again, wi' nothing to swaller.'

   'Well, I think Miss Nancy's a-coming round again,' said Ben, 'for
Master Godfrey doesn't look so down-hearted tonight. And I see he's
for taking her away to sit down, now they're at the end o' the
dance: that looks like sweet-hearting that does.'

   The reason why Godfrey and Nancy had left the dance was not so
tender as Ben imagined. In the close press of couples a slight
accident had happened to Nancy's dress, which, while it was short
enough to show her neat ankle in front, was long enough behind to be
caught under the stately stamp of the Squire's foot, so as to rend
certain stitches at the waist, and cause much sisterly agitation in
Priscilla's mind, as well as serious concern in Nancy's. One's
thoughts may be much occupied with love-struggles, but hardly so as to
be insensible to a disorder in the general framework of things.
Nancy had no sooner completed her duty in the figure they were dancing
than she said to Godfrey, with a deep blush, that she must go and
sit down till Priscilla could come to her; for the sisters had already
exchanged a short whisper and an open-eyed glance full of meaning.
No reason less urgent than this could have prevailed on Nancy to
give Godfrey this opportunity of sitting apart with her. As for
Godfrey, he was feeling so happy and oblivious under the long charm of
the country-dance with Nancy, that he got rather bold on the
strength of her confusion, and was capable of leading her straight
away, without leave asked, into the adjoining small parlour, where the
card-tables were set.

   'Oh no, thank you,' said Nancy, coldly, as soon as she perceived
where he was going, 'not in there. I'll wait here till Priscilla's
ready to come to me. I'm sorry to bring you out of the dance and
make myself troublesome.'

   'Why, you'll be more comfortable here by yourself,' said the artful
Godfrey; 'I'll leave you here till your sister can come.' He spoke
in an indifferent tone.

   That was an agreeable proposition, and just what Nancy desired;
why, then, was she a little hurt that Mr Godfrey should make it?
They entered, and she seated herself on a chair against one of the
card-tables, as the stiffest and most unapproachable position she
could choose.

   'Thank you, sir,' she said immediately. 'I needn't give you any
more trouble. I'm sorry you've had such an unlucky partner.'

   'That's very ill-natured of you,' said Godfrey, standing by her
without any sign of intended departure, 'to be sorry you've danced
with me.'

   'Oh, no, sir, I don't mean to say what's ill-natured at all,'
said Nancy, looking distractingly prim and pretty. 'When gentlemen
have so many pleasures, one dance can make but very little.'

   'You know that isn't true. You know one dance with you matters more
to me than all the other pleasures in the world.'

   It was a long, long while since Godfrey had said anything so direct
as that, and Nancy was startled. But her instinctive dignity and
repugnance to any show of emotion made her sit perfectly still, and
only throw a little more decision into her voice as she said:

   'No, indeed, Mr Godfrey, that's not known to me, and I have very
good reasons for thinking different. But if it's true, I don't wish to
hear it.'

   'Would you never forgive me, then, Nancy- never think well of me,
let what would happen- would you never think the present made amends
for the past? Not if I turned a good fellow, and gave up everything
you didn't like?'

   Godfrey was half conscious that this sudden opportunity of speaking
to Nancy alone had driven him beside himself; but blind feeling had
got the mastery of his tongue. Nancy really felt much agitated by
the possibility Godfrey's words suggested, but this very pressure of
emotion that she was in danger of finding too strong for her, roused
all her power of self-command.

   'I should be glad to see a good change in anybody, Mr Godfrey,' she
answered, with the slightest discernible difference of tone, 'but it
'ud be better if no change was wanted.'

   'You're very hard-hearted, Nancy,' said Godfrey, pettishly. 'You
might encourage me to be a better fellow. I'm very miserable- but
you've no feeling.'

   'I think those have the least feeling that act wrong to begin
with,' said Nancy, sending out a flash in spite of herself. Godfrey
was delighted with that little flash, and would have liked to go on
and make her quarrel with him; Nancy was so exasperatingly quiet and
firm. She was not indifferent to him yet, though--

   The entrance of Priscilla, bustling forward and saying, 'Dear heart
alive, child, let us look at this gown,' cut off Godfrey's hopes of
a quarrel.

   'I suppose I must go now,' he said to Priscilla.

   'It's no matter to me whether you go or stay,' said that frank
lady, searching for something in her pocket, with a preoccupied brow.

   'Do you want me to go?' said Godfrey, looking at Nancy, who was now
standing up by Priscilla's order.

   'As you like,' said Nancy, trying to recover all her former
coldness, and looking down carefully at the hem of her gown.

   'Then I like to stay,' said Godfrey, with a reckless
determination to get as much of this joy as he could tonight, and
think nothing of the morrow.

                       CHAPTER TWELVE

WHILE Godfrey Cass was taking draughts of forgetfulness from the sweet
presence of Nancy, willingly losing all sense of that hidden bond
which at other moments galled and fretted him so as to mingle
irritation with the very sunshine, Godfrey's wife was walking with
slow uncertain steps through the snow-covered Raveloe lanes,
carrying her child in her arms.

   This journey on New Year's Eve was a premeditated act of
vengeance which she had kept in her heart ever since Godfrey, in a fit
of passion, had told her he would sooner die than acknowledge her as
his wife. There would be a great party at the Red House on New
Year's Eve, she knew: her husband would be smiling and smiled upon,
hiding her existence in the darkest corner of his heart. But she would
mar his pleasure: she would go in her dingy rags, with her faded face,
once as handsome as the best, with her little child that had its
father's hair and eyes, and disclose herself to the Squire as his
eldest son's wife. It is seldom that the miserable can help
regarding their misery as a wrong inflicted by those who are less
miserable. Molly knew that the cause of her dingy rags was not her
husband's neglect, but the demon Opium to whom she was enslaved,
body and soul, except in the lingering mother's tenderness that
refused to give him her hungry child. She knew this well; and yet,
in the moments of wretched unbenumbed consciousness, the sense of
her want and degradation transformed itself continually into
bitterness towards Godfrey. He was well off; and if she had her rights
she would be well off too. The belief that he repented his marriage,
and suffered from it, only aggravated her vindictiveness. Just and
self-reproving thoughts do not come to us too thickly, even in the
purest air, and with the best lessons of heaven and earth; how
should those white-winged delicate messengers make their way to
Molly's poisoned chamber, inhabited by no higher memories than those
of a bar-maid's paradise of pink ribbons and gentlemen's jokes?

   She had set out at an early hour, but had lingered on the road,
inclined by her indolence to believe that if she waited under a warm
shed the snow would cease to fall. She had waited longer than she
knew, and now that she found herself belated in the snow-hidden
ruggedness of the long lanes, even the animation of a vindictive
purpose could not keep her spirit from failing. It was seven
o'clock, and by this time she was not very far from Raveloe, but she
was not familiar enough with those monotonous lanes to know how near
she was to her journey's end. She needed comfort, and she knew but one
comforter- the familiar demon in her bosom; but she hesitated a
moment, after drawing out the black remnant, before she raised it to
her lips. In that moment the mother's love pleaded for painful
consciousness rather than oblivion- pleaded to be left in aching
weariness, rather than to have the encircling arms benumbed so that
they could not feel the dear burden. In another moment Molly had flung
something away, but it was not the black remnant- it was an empty
phial. And she walked on again under the breaking cloud, from which
there came now and then the light of a quickly-veiled star, for a
freezing wind had sprung up since the snowing had ceased. But she
walked always more and more drowsily, and clutched more and more
automatically the sleeping child at her bosom.

   Slowly the demon was working his will, and cold and weariness
were his helpers. Soon she felt nothing but a supreme immediate
longing that curtained off all futurity- the longing to lie down and
sleep. She had arrived at a spot where her footsteps were no longer
checked by a hedgerow, and she had wandered vaguely, unable to
distinguish any objects, notwithstanding the wide whiteness around
her, and the growing starlight. She sank down against a straggling
furze bush, an easy pillow enough; and the bed of snow, too, was soft.
She did not feel that the bed was cold, and did not heed whether the
child would wake and cry for her. But her arms did not yet relax their
instinctive clutch; and the little one slumbered on as gently as if it
had been rocked in a lace-trimmed cradle.

   But the complete torpor came at last: the fingers lost their
tension, the arms unbent; then the little head fell away from the
bosom, and the blue eyes opened wide on the cold starlight. At first
there was a little peevish cry of 'mammy', and an effort to regain the
pillowing arm and bosom; but mammy's ear was deaf, and the pillow
seemed to be slipping away backward. Suddenly, as the child rolled
downward on its mother's knees, all wet with snow, its eyes were
caught by a bright glancing light on the white ground, and, with the
ready transition of infancy, it was immediately absorbed in watching
the bright living thing running towards it, yet never arriving. That
bright living thing must be caught; and in an instant the child had
slipped on all-fours, and held out one little hand to catch the gleam.
But the gleam would not be caught in that way, and now the head was
held up to see where the cunning gleam came from. It came from a
very bright place; and the little one, rising on its legs, toddled
through the snow, the old grimy shawl in which it was wrapped trailing
behind it, and the queer little bonnet dangling at its back- toddled
on to the open door of Silas Marner's cottage, and right up to the
warm hearth, where there was a bright fire of logs and sticks, which
had thoroughly warmed the old sack (Silas's greatcoat) spread out on
the bricks to dry. The little one, accustomed to be left to itself for
long hours without notice from its mother, squatted down on the
sack, and spread its tiny hands towards the blaze, in perfect
contentment, gurgling and making inarticulate communications to the
cheerful fire, like a new-hatched gosling beginning to find itself
comfortable. But presently the warmth had a lulling effect, and the
little golden head sank down on the old sack, and the blue eyes were
veiled by their delicate half-transparent lids.

   But where was Silas Marner while this stranger-visitor had come
to his hearth? He was in the cottage, but he did not see the child.
During the last few weeks, since he had lost his money, he had
contracted the habit of opening his door, and looking out from time to
time, as if he thought that his money might be somehow coming back
to him, or that some trace, some news of it, might be mysteriously
on the road, and be caught by the listening ear or the straining
eye. It was chiefly at night, when he was not occupied in his loom,
that he fell into this repetition of an act for which he could have
assigned no definite purpose, and which can hardly be understood
except by those who have undergone a bewildering separation from a
supremely loved object. In the evening twilight, and later whenever
the night was not dark, Silas looked out on that narrow prospect round
the Stone-pits, listening and gazing, not with hope, but with mere
yearning and unrest.

   This morning he had been told by some of his neighbours that it was
New Year's Eve, and that he must sit up and hear the old year rung out
and the new rung in, because that was good luck, and might bring his
money back again. This was only a friendly Raveloe-way of jesting with
the half-crazy oddities of a miser, but it had perhaps helped to throw
Silas into a more than usually excited state. Since the on-coming of
twilight he had opened his door again and again, though only to shut
it immediately at seeing all distance veiled by the falling snow.
But the last time he opened it the snow had ceased, and the clouds
were parting here and there. He stood and listened, and gazed for a
long while- there was really something on the road coming towards
him then, but he caught no sign of it; and the stillness and the
wide trackless snow seemed to narrow his solitude, and touched his
yearning with the chill of despair. He went in again, and put his
right hand on the latch of the door to close it- but he did not
close it: he was arrested, as he had been already since his loss, by
the invisible wand of catalepsy, and stood like a graven image, with
wide but sightless eyes, holding open his door, powerless to resist
either the good or evil that might enter there.

   When Marner's sensibility returned, he continued the action which
had been arrested, and closed his door, unaware of the chasm in his
consciousness, unaware of any intermediate change, except that the
light had grown dim, and that he was chilled and faint. He thought
he had been too long standing at the door and looking out. Turning
towards the hearth, where the two logs had fallen apart, and sent
forth only a red uncertain glimmer, he seated himself on his
fireside chair, and was stooping to push his logs together, when, to
his blurred vision, it seemed as if there were gold on the floor in
front of the hearth. Gold!- his own gold- brought back to him as
mysteriously as it had been taken away! He felt his heart begin to
beat violently, and for a few moments he was unable to stretch out his
hand and grasp the restored treasure. The heap of gold seemed to
glow and get larger beneath his agitated gaze. He leaned forward at
last, and stretched forth his hand; but instead of the hard coin
with the familiar resisting outline, his fingers encountered soft warm
curls. In utter amazement, Silas fell on his knees and bent his head
low to examine the marvel: it was a sleeping child- a round, fair
thing, with soft yellow rings all over its head. Could this be his
little sister come back to him in a dream- his little sister whom he
had carried about in his arms for a year before she died, when he
was a small boy without shoes or stockings? That was the first thought
that darted across Silas's blank wonderment. Was it a dream? He rose
to his feet again, pushed his logs together, and, throwing on some
dried leaves and sticks, raised a flame; but the flame did not
disperse the vision- it only lit up more distinctly the little round
form of the child and its shabby clothing. It was very much like his
little sister. Silas sank into his chair powerless, under the double
presence of an inexplicable surprise and a hurrying influx of
memories. How and when had the child come in without his knowledge? He
had never been beyond the door. But along with that question, and
almost thrusting it away, there was a vision of the old home and the
old streets leading to Lantern Yard- and within that vision another,
of the thoughts which had been present with him in those far-off
scenes. The thoughts were strange to him now, like old friendships
impossible to revive; and yet he had a dreamy feeling that this
child was somehow a message come to him from that far-off life: it
stirred fibres that had never been moved in Raveloe- old quiverings of
tenderness- old impressions of awe at the presentiment of some Power
presiding over his life; for his imagination had not yet extricated
itself from the sense of mystery in the child's sudden presence, and
had formed no conjectures of ordinary natural means by which the event
could have been brought about.

   But there was a cry on the hearth: the child had awakened, and
Marner stooped to lift it on his knee. It clung round his neck, and
burst louder and louder into that mingling of inarticulate cries
with 'mammy' by which little children express the bewilderment of
waking. Silas pressed it to him, and almost unconsciously uttered
sounds of hushing tenderness, while he bethought himself that some
of his porridge, which had got cool by the dying fire, would do to
feed the child with if it were only warmed up a little.

   He had plenty to do through the next hour. The porridge,
sweetened with some dry brown sugar from an old store which he had
refrained from using for himself, stopped the cries of the little one,
and made her lift her blue eyes with a wide gaze at Silas, as he put
the spoon into her mouth. Presently she slipped from his knee and
began to toddle about, but with a pretty stagger that made Silas
jump up and follow her lest she should fall against anything that
would hurt her. But she only fell in a sitting posture on the
ground, and began to pull at her boots, looking up at him with a
crying face as if the boots hurt her. He took her on his knee again,
but it was some time before it occurred to Silas's dull bachelor
mind that the wet boots were the grievance, pressing on her warm
ankles. He got them off with difficulty, and baby was at once
happily occupied with the primary mystery of her own toes, inviting
Silas, with much chuckling, to consider the mystery too. But the wet
boots had at last suggested to Silas that the child had been walking
on the snow, and this roused him from his entire oblivion of any
ordinary means by which it could have entered or been brought into his
house. Under the prompting of this new idea, and without waiting to
form conjectures, he raised the child in his arms, and went to the
door. As soon as he had opened it, there was the cry of 'mammy' again,
which Silas had not heard since the child's first hungry waking.
Bending forward, he could just discern the marks made by the little
feet on the virgin snow, and he followed their track to the furze
bushes. 'Mammy!' the little one cried again and again, stretching
itself forward so as almost to escape from Silas's arms, before he
himself was aware that there was something more than the bush before
him- that there was a human body, with the head sunk low in the furze,
and half-covered with the shaken snow.

                       CHAPTER THIRTEEN

IT was after the early supper-time at the Red House, and the
entertainment was in that stage when bashfulness itself had passed
into easy jollity, when gentlemen, conscious of unusual
accomplishments, could at length be prevailed on to dance a
hornpipe, and when the Squire preferred talking loudly, scattering
snuff, and patting his visitors' backs, to sitting longer at the
whist-table- a choice exasperating to uncle Kimble, who, being
always volatile in sober business hours, became intense and bitter
over cards and brandy, shuffled before his adversary's deal with a
glare of suspicion, and turned up a mean trump-card with an air of
inexpressible disgust, as if in a world where such things could happen
one might as well enter on a course of reckless profligacy. When the
evening had advanced to this pitch of freedom and enjoyment, it was
usual for the servants, the heavy duties of supper being well over, to
get their share of amusement by coming to look on at the dancing; so
that the back regions of the house were left in solitude.

   There were two doors by which the White Parlour was entered from
the hall, and they were both standing open for the sake of air; but
the lower one was crowded with the servants and villagers, and only
the upper doorway was left free. Bob Cass was figuring in a
hornpipe, and his father, very proud of this lithe son, whom he
repeatedly declared to be just like himself in his young days, in a
tone that implied this to be the very highest stamp of juvenile merit,
was the centre of a group who had placed themselves opposite the
performer, not far from the upper door. Godfrey was standing a
little way off, not to admire his brother's dancing, but to keep sight
of Nancy, who was seated in the group, near her father. He stood
aloof, because he wished to avoid suggesting himself as a subject
for the Squire's fatherly jokes in connection with matrimony and
Miss Nancy Lammeter's beauty, which were likely to become more and
more explicit. But he had the prospect of dancing with her again
when the hornpipe was concluded, and in the meantime it was very
pleasant to get long glances at her quite unobserved.

   But when Godfrey was lifting his eyes from one of those long
glances, they encountered an object as startling to him at that moment
as if it had been an apparition from the dead. It was an apparition
from that hidden life which lies, like a dark by-street, behind the
goodly ornamented facade that meets the sunlight and the gaze of
respectable admirers. It was his own child, carried in Silas
Marner's arms. That was his instantaneous impression, unaccompanied by
doubt, though he had not seen the child for months past; and when
the hope was rising that he might possibly be mistaken, Mr
Crackenthorp and Mr Lammeter had already advanced to Silas, in
astonishment at this strange advent. Godfrey joined them
immediately, unable to rest without hearing every word- trying to
control himself, but conscious that if anyone noticed him, they must
see that he was white-lipped and trembling.

   But now all eyes at that end of the room were bent on Silas Marner;
the Squire himself had risen, and asked angrily, 'How's this?-
what's this?- what do you do coming in here in this way?'

   'I'm come for the doctor- I want the doctor,' Silas had said, in
the first moment, to Mr Crackenthorp.

   'Why, what's the matter, Marner?' said the rector. 'The doctor's
here; but say quietly what you want him for.'

   'It's a woman,' said Silas, speaking low, and half-breathlessly,
just as Godfrey came up. 'She's dead, I think- dead in the snow at the
Stone-pits- not far from my door.'

   Godfrey felt a great throb: there was one terror in his mind at
that moment: it was, that the woman might not be dead. That was an
evil terror- an ugly inmate to have found a nestling-place in
Godfrey's kindly disposition; but no disposition is a security from
evil wishes to a man whose happiness hangs on duplicity.

   'Hush, hush!' said Mr Crackenthorp. 'Go out into the hall there.
I'll fetch the doctor to you. Found a woman in the snow- and thinks
she's dead,' he added, speaking low to the Squire. 'Better say as
little about it as possible: it will shock the ladies. Just tell
them a poor woman is ill from cold and hunger. I'll go and fetch
Kimble.'

   By this time, however, the ladies had pressed forward, curious to
know what could have brought the solitary linen-weaver there under
such strange circumstances, and interested in the pretty child, who,
half alarmed and half attracted by the brightness and the numerous
company, now frowned and hid her face, now lifted up her head again
and looked round placably, until a touch or a coaxing word brought
back the frown, and made her bury her face with new determination.

   'What child is it?' said several ladies at once, and, among the
rest, Nancy Lammeter, addressing Godfrey.

   'I don't know- some poor woman's who has been found in the snow,
I believe,' was the answer Godfrey wrung from himself with a
terrible effort. ('After all, am I certain?' he hastened to add,
silently, in anticipation of his own conscience.)

   'Why, you'd better leave the child here, then, Master Marner,' said
good-natured Mrs Kimble, hesitating, however, to take those dingy
clothes into contact with her own ornamented satin bodice. 'I'll
tell one o' the girls to fetch it.'

   'No- no- I can't part with it, I can't let it go,' said Silas,
abruptly. 'It's come to me- I've a right to keep it.'

   The proposition to take the child from him had come to Silas
quite unexpectedly, and his speech, uttered under a strong sudden
impulse, was almost like a revelation to himself: a minute before,
he had no distinct intention about the child.

   'Did you ever hear the like?' said Mrs Kimble, in mild surprise, to
her neighbour.

   'Now, ladies, I must trouble you to stand aside,' said Mr Kimble,
coming from the card-room, in some bitterness at the interruption, but
drilled by the long habit of his profession into obedience to
unpleasant calls, even when he was hardly sober.

   'It's a nasty business turning out now, eh, Kimble?' said the
Squire. 'He might ha' gone for your young fellow- the 'prentice,
there- what's his name?'

   'Might? aye- what's the use of talking about might?' growled
uncle Kimble, hastening out with Marner, and followed by Mr
Crackenthorp and Godfrey. 'Get me a pair of thick boots, Godfrey, will
you? And stay, let somebody run to Winthrop's and fetch Dolly- she's
the best woman to get. Ben was here himself before supper; is he
gone?'

   'Yes, sir, I met him,' said Marner; 'but I couldn't stop to tell
him anything, only I said I was going for the doctor, and he said
the doctor was at the Squire's. And I made haste and ran, and there
was nobody to be seen at the back o' the house, and so I went in to
where the company was.'

   The child, no longer distracted by the bright light and the smiling
women's faces, began to cry and call for 'mammy', though always
clinging to Marner, who had apparently won her thorough confidence.
Godfrey had come back with the boots, and felt the cry as if some
fibre were drawn tight within him.

   'I'll go,' he said, hastily, eager for some movement; 'I'll go
and fetch the woman- Mrs Winthrop.'

   'Oh, pooh- send somebody else,' said uncle Kimble, hurrying away
with Marner.

   'You'll let me know if I can be of any use, Kimble,' said Mr
Crackenthorp. But the doctor was out of hearing.

   Godfrey, too, had disappeared: he was gone to snatch his hat and
coat, having just reflection enough to remember that he must not
look like a madman; but he rushed out of the house into the snow
without heeding his thin shoes.

   In a few minutes he was on his rapid way to the Stone-pits by the
side of Dolly, who, though feeling that she was entirely in her
place in encountering cold and snow on an errand of mercy, was much
concerned at a young gentleman's getting his feet wet under a like
impulse.

   'You'd a deal better go back, sir,' said Dolly, with respectful
compassion. 'You've no call to catch cold; and I'd ask you if you'd be
so good as tell my husband to come, on your way back- he's at the
Rainbow, I doubt- if you found him anyway sober enough to be o' use.
Or else, there's Mrs Snell 'ud happen send the boy up to fetch and
carry, for there may be things wanted from the doctor's.'

   'No, I'll stay, now I'm once out- I'll stay outside here,' said
Godfrey, when they came opposite Marner's cottage. 'You can come and
tell me if I can do anything.'

   'Well, sir, you're very good: you've a tender heart,' said Dolly,
going to the door.

   Godfrey was too painfully preoccupied to feel a twinge of
self-reproach at his undeserved praise. He walked up and down,
unconscious that he was plunging ankle-deep in snow, unconscious of
everything but trembling suspense about what was going on in the
cottage, and the effect of each alternative on his future lot. No, not
quite unconscious of everything else. Deeper down, and
half-smothered by passionate desire and dread, there was the sense
that he ought not to be waiting on these alternatives; that he ought
to accept the consequences of his deeds, own the miserable wife, and
fulfil the claims of the helpless child. But he had not moral
courage enough to contemplate that active renunciation of Nancy as
possible for him; he had only conscience and heart enough to make
him for ever uneasy under the weakness that forbade the
renunciation. And at this moment his mind leaped away from all
restraint toward the sudden prospect of deliverance from his long
bondage.

   'Is she dead?' said the voice that predominated over every other
within him. 'If she is, I may marry Nancy; and then I shall be a
good fellow in future, and have no secrets, and the child- shall be
taken care of somehow.' But across that vision came the other
possibility- 'She may live, and then it's all up with me.'

   Godfrey never knew how long it was before the door of the cottage
opened and Mr Kimble came out. He went forward to meet his uncle,
prepared to suppress the agitation he must feel, whatever news he
was to hear.

   'I waited for you, as I'd come so far,' he said, speaking first.

   'Pooh, it was nonsense for you to come out: why didn't you send one
of the men? There's nothing to be done. She's dead- has been dead
for hours, I should say.'

   'What sort of woman is she?' said Godfrey, feeling the blood rush
to his face.

   'A young woman, but emaciated, with long black hair. Some
vagrant- quite in rags. She's got a wedding-ring on, however. They
must fetch her away to the workhouse tomorrow. Come, come along.'

   'I want to look at her,' said Godfrey. 'I think I saw such a
woman yesterday. I'll overtake you in a minute or two.'

   Mr Kimble went on, and Godfrey turned back to the cottage. He
cast only one glance at the dead face on the pillow, which Dolly had
smoothed with decent care; but he remembered that last look at his
unhappy hated wife so well, that at the end of sixteen years every
line in the worn face was present to him when he told the full story
of this night.

   He turned immediately towards the hearth where Silas Marner sat
lulling the child. She was perfectly quiet now, but not asleep- only
soothed by sweet porridge and warmth into that wide gazing calm
which makes us older human beings, with our inward turmoil, feel a
certain awe in the presence of a little child, such as we feel
before some quiet majesty or beauty in the earth or sky- before a
steady-glowing planet, or a full-flowered eglantine, or the bending
trees over a silent pathway. The wide-open blue eyes looked up at
Godfrey's without any uneasiness or sign of recognition: the child
could make no visible audible claim on its father; and the father felt
a strange mixture of feelings, a conflict of regret and joy, that
the pulse of that little heart had no response for the half jealous
yearning in his own, when the blue eyes turned away from him slowly,
and fixed themselves on the weaver's queer face, which was bent low
down to look at them, while the small hand began to pull Marner's
withered cheek with loving disfiguration.

   'You'll take the child to the parish tomorrow?' asked Godfrey,
speaking as indifferently as he could.

   'Who says so?' said Marner, sharply. 'Will they make me take her?'

   'Why, you wouldn't like to keep her, should you- an old bachelor
like you?'

   'Till anybody shows they've a right to take her away from me,' said
Marner. 'The mother's dead, and I reckon it's got no father: it's a
lone thing- and I'm a lone thing. My money's gone, I don't know where-
and this is come from I don't know where. I know nothing- I'm partly
mazed.'

   'Poor little thing!' said Godfrey. 'Let me give something towards
finding it clothes.'

   He had put his hand in his pocket and found half-a-guinea, and,
thrusting it into Silas's hand, he hurried out of the cottage to
overtake Mr Kimble.

   'Ah, I see it's not the same woman I saw,' he said, as he came
up. 'It's a pretty little child: the old fellow seems to want to
keep it; that's strange for a miser like him. But I gave him a
trifle to help him out: the parish isn't likely to quarrel with him
for the right to keep the child.'

   'No; but I've seen the time when I might have quarrelled with him
for it myself. It's too late now, though. If the child ran into the
fire, your aunt's too fat to overtake it: she could only sit and grunt
like an alarmed sow. But what a fool you are, Godfrey, to come out
in your dancing shoes and stockings in this way- and you one of the
beaux of the evening, and at your own house! What do you mean by
such freaks, young fellow? Has Miss Nancy been cruel, and do you
want to spite her by spoiling your pumps?'

   'Oh, everything has been disagreeable tonight. I was tired to death
of jigging and gallanting, and that bother about the hornpipes. And
I'd got to dance with the other Miss Gunn,' said Godfrey, glad of
the subterfuge his uncle had suggested to him.

   The prevarication and white lies which a mind that keeps itself
ambitiously pure is as uneasy under as a great artist under the
false touches that no eye detects but his own, are worn as lightly
as mere trimmings when once the actions have become a lie.

   Godfrey reappeared in the White Parlour with dry feet, and, since
the truth must be told, with a sense of relief and gladness that was
too strong for painful thoughts to struggle with. For could he not
venture now, whenever opportunity offered, to say the tenderest things
to Nancy Lammeter- to promise her and himself that he would always
be just what she would desire to see him? There was no danger that his
dead wife would be recognized: those were not days of active inquiry
and wide report; and as for the registry of their marriage, that was a
long way off, buried in unturned pages, away from everyone's
interest but his own. Dunsey might betray him if he came back; but
Dunsey might be won to silence.

   And when events turn out so much better for a man than he has had
reason to dread, is it not a proof that his conduct has been less
foolish and blameworthy than it might otherwise have appeared? When we
are treated well, we naturally begin to think that we are not
altogether unmeritorious, and that it is only just we should treat
ourselves well, and not mar our own good fortune. Where, after all,
would be the use of his confessing the past to Nancy Lammeter, and
throwing away his happiness?- nay, hers? for he felt some confidence
that she loved him. As for the child, he would see that it was cared
for: he would never forsake it; he would do everything but own it.
Perhaps it would be just as happy in life without being owned by its
father, seeing that nobody could tell how things would turn out, and
that- is there any other reason wanted?- well, then, that the father
would be much happier without owning the child.

                       CHAPTER FOURTEEN

THERE was a pauper's burial that week in Raveloe, and up Kench Yard at
Batherley it was known that the dark-haired woman with the fair child,
who had lately come to lodge there, was gone away again. That was
all the express note taken that Molly had disappeared from the eyes of
men. But the unwept death which, to the general lot, seemed as trivial
as the summer-shed leaf, was charged with the force of destiny to
certain human lives that we know of, shaping their joys and sorrows
even to the end.

   Silas Marner's determination to keep the 'tramp's child' was matter
of hardly less surprising and iterated talk in the village than the
robbery of his money. That softening of feeling towards him which
dated from his misfortune, that merging of suspicion and dislike in
a rather contemptuous pity for him as lone and crazy, was now
accompanied with a more active sympathy, especially amongst the women.
Notable mothers, who knew what it was to keep children 'whole and
sweet'; lazy mothers, who knew what it was to be interrupted in
folding their arms and scratching their elbows by the mischievous
propensities of children just firm on their legs, were equally
interested in conjecturing how a lone man would manage with a
two-year-old child on his hands, and were equally ready with their
suggestions: the notable chiefly telling him what he had better do,
and the lazy ones being emphatic in telling him what he would never be
able to do.

   Among the notable mothers, Dolly Winthrop was the one whose
neighbourly offices were the most acceptable to Marner, for they
were rendered without any show of bustling instruction. Silas had
shown her the half-guinea given to him by Godfrey, and had asked her
what he should do about getting some clothes for the child.

   'Eh, Master Marner,' said Dolly, 'there's no call to buy, no more
nor a pair o' shoes; for I've got the little petticoats as Aaron
wore five years ago, and it's ill spending the money on them
baby-clothes, for the child 'ull grow like grass i' May, bless it-
that it will.'

   And the same day Dolly brought her bundle, and displayed to Marner,
one by one, the tiny garments in their due order of succession, most
of them patched and darned, but clean and neat as fresh-sprung
herbs. This was the introduction to a great ceremony with soap and
water, from which Baby came out in new beauty, and sat on Dolly's
knee, handling her toes and chuckling and patting her palms together
with an air of having made several discoveries about herself, which
she communicated by alternate sounds of 'gug-gug-gug', and 'mammy'.
The 'mammy' was not a cry of need or uneasiness: Baby had been used to
utter it without expecting either sound or touch to follow.

   'Anybody 'ud think the angils in heaven couldn't be prettier,' said
Dolly, rubbing the golden curls and kissing them. 'And to think of its
being covered wi' them dirty rags- and the poor mother- froze to
death; but there's Them as took care of it, and brought it to your
door, Master Marner. The door was open, and it walked in over the
snow, like as if it had been a little starved robin. Didn't you say
the door was open?'

   'Yes,' said Silas, meditatively. 'Yes- the door was open. The
money's gone I don't know where, and this is come from I don't know
where.'

   He had not mentioned to anyone his unconsciousness of the child's
entrance, shrinking from questions which might lead to the fact he
himself suspected- namely, that he had been in one of his trances.

   'Ah,' said Dolly, with soothing gravity, 'it's like the night and
the morning, and the sleeping and the waking, and the rain and the
harvest- one goes and the other comes, and we know nothing how nor
where. We may strive and scrat and fend, but it's little we can do
arter all- the big things come and go wi' no striving o' our'n- they
do, that they do; and I think you're in the right on it to keep the
little un' Master Marner, seeing as it's been sent to you, though
there's folks as thinks different. You'll happen be a bit moithered
with it while it's so little; but I'll come, and welcome, and see to
it for you: I've a bit o' time to spare most days, for when one gets
up betimes i' the morning, the clock seems to stan' still tow'rt
ten, afore it's time to go about the victual. So, as I say, I'll
come to see to the child for you, and welcome.'

   'Thank you... kindly,' said Silas, hesitating a little, 'I'll be
glad if you'll tell me things. But,' he added, uneasily, leaning
forward to look at Baby with some jealousy, as she was resting her
head backward against Dolly's arm, and eyeing him contentedly from a
distance- 'But I want to do things for it myself, else it may get fond
o' somebody else, and not fond o' me. I've been used to fending for
myself in the house- I can learn, I can learn.'

   'Eh, to be sure,' said Dolly, gently. 'I've seen men as are
wonderful handy wi' children. The men are awk'ard and contrairy
mostly, God help 'em- but when the drink's out of 'em, they aren't
unsensible, though they're bad for leeching and bandaging- so fiery
and unpatient. You see this goes first, next the skin,' proceeded
Dolly, taking up the little shirt, and putting it on.

   'Yes,' said Marner, docilely, bringing his eyes very close, that
they might be initiated in the mysteries; whereupon Baby seized his
head with both her small arms, and put her lips against his face
with purring noises.

   'See there,' said Dolly, with a woman's tender tact, 'she's fondest
o' you. She wants to go o' your lap, I'll be bound. Go, then: take
her, Master Marner; you can put the things on, and then you can say as
you've done for her from the first of her coming to you.'

   Marner took her on his lap, trembling with an emotion mysterious to
himself, at something unknown dawning on his life. Thought and feeling
were so confused within him, that if he had tried to give them
utterance, he could only have said that the child was come instead
of the gold- that the gold had turned into the child. He took the
garments from Dolly, and put them on under her teaching;
interrupted, of course, by Baby's gymnastics.

   'There, then! why, you take to it quite easy, Master Marner,'
said Dolly; 'but what shall you do when you're forced to sit in your
loom? For she'll get busier and mischievouser every day- she will,
bless her. It's lucky as you've got that high hearth i'stead of a
grate, for that keeps the fire more out of her reach; but if you've
got anything as can be spilt or broke, or as is fit to cut her fingers
off, she'll be at it- and it is but right you should know.'

   Silas meditated a little while in some perplexity. 'I'll tie her to
the leg o' the loom,' he said at last- 'tie her with a good long strip
o' something.'

   'Well, mayhap that'll do, as it's a little gell, for they're easier
persuaded to sit i' one place nor the lads. I know what the lads
are; for I've had four- four I've had, God knows- and if you was to
take and tie 'em up, they'd make a fighting and a crying as if you was
ringing pigs. But I'll bring you my little chair, and some bits o' red
rag and things for her to play wi'; an' she'll sit and chatter to
'em as if they was alive. Eh, if it wasn't a sin to the lads to wish
'em made different, bless 'em, I should ha' been glad for one of 'em
to be a little gell; and to think as I could ha' taught her to
scour, and mend, and the knitting, and everything. But I can teach 'em
this little un, Master Marner, when she gets old enough.'

   'But she'll be my little un,' said Marner, rather hastily.
'She'll be nobody else's.'

   'No, to be sure; you'll have a right to her if you're a father to
her, and bring her up according. But,' added Dolly, coming to a
point which she had determined beforehand to touch upon, 'you must
bring her up like christened folks's children, and take her to church,
and let her learn her catechize, as my little Aaron can say off- the
"I believe", and everything, and "hurt nobody by word or deed",- as
well as if he was the clerk. That's what you must do, Master Marner,
if you'd do the right thing by the orphin child.'

   Marner's pale face flushed suddenly under a new anxiety. His mind
was too busy trying to give some definite bearing to Dolly's words for
him to think of answering her.

   'And it's my belief,' she went on, 'as the poor little creatur
has never been christened, and it's nothing but right as the parson
should be spoke to; and if you was noways unwilling, I'd talk to Mr
Macey about it this very day. For if the child ever went anyways
wrong, and you hadn't done your part by it, Master Marner-
'noculation, and everything to save it from harm- it 'ud be a thorn i'
your bed for ever o' this side the grave; and I can't think as it
'ud be easy lying down for anybody when they'd got to another world,
if they hadn't done their part by the helpless children as come wi'out
their own asking.'

   Dolly herself was disposed to be silent for some time now, for
she had spoken from the depths of her own simple belief, and was
much concerned to know whether her words would produce the desired
effect on Silas. He was puzzled and anxious, for Dolly's word
'christened' conveyed no distinct meaning to him. He had only heard of
baptism, and had only seen the baptism of grown-up men and women.

   'What is it as you mean by "christened"?' he said at last, timidly.
'Won't folks be good to her without it?'

   'Dear, dear! Master Marner,' said Dolly, with gentle distress and
compassion. 'Had you never no father nor mother as taught you to say
your prayers, and as there's good words and good things to keep us
from harm?'

   'Yes,' said Silas, in a low voice; 'I know a deal about that-
used to, used to. But your ways are different: my country was a good
way off.' He paused a few moments, and then added, more decidedly,
'But I want to do everything as can be done for the child. And
whatever's right for it i' this country, and you think 'ull do it
good, I'll act according, if you'll tell me.'

   'Well, then, Master Marner,' said Dolly, inwardly rejoiced, 'I'll
ask Mr Macey to speak to the parson about it; and you must fix on a
name for it, because it must have a name giv' it when it's
christened.'

   'My mother's name was Hephzibah,' said Silas, 'and my little sister
was named after her.'

   'Eh, that's a hard name,' said Dolly. 'I partly think it isn't a
christened name.'

   'It's a Bible name,' said Silas, old ideas recurring.

   'Then I've no call to speak again' it,' said Dolly, rather startled
by Silas's knowledge on this head; 'but you see I'm no scholard, and
I'm slow at catching the words. My husband says I'm allays like as
if I was putting the haft for the handle- that's what he says- for
he's very sharp, God help him. But it was awk'ard calling your
little sister by such a hard name, when you'd got nothing big to
say, like- wasn't it, Master Marner?'

   'We called her Eppie,' said Silas.

   'Well, if it was noways wrong to shorten the name, it 'ud be a deal
handier. And so I'll go now, Master Marner, and I'll speak about the
christening afore dark; and I wish you the best o' luck, and it's my
belief as it'll come to you, if you do what's right by the orphin
child;- and there's the 'noculation to be seen to; and as to washing
its bits o' things, you need look to nobody but me, for I can do 'em
wi' one hand when I've got my suds about. Eh, the blessed angil!
You'll let me bring my Aaron one o' these days, and he'll show her his
little cart as his father's made for him, and the black-and-white
pup as he's got a-rearing.'

   Baby was christened, the rector deciding that a double baptism
was the lesser risk to incur; and on this occasion Silas, making
himself as clean and tidy as he could, appeared for the first time
within the church, and shared in the observances held sacred by his
neighbours. He was quite unable, by means of anything he heard or saw,
to identify the Raveloe religion with his old faith: if he could at
any time in his previous life have done so, it must have been by the
aid of a strong feeling ready to vibrate with sympathy, rather than by
a comparison of phrases and ideas; and now for long years that feeling
had been dormant. He had no distinct idea about the baptism and the
church-going, except that Dolly had said it was for the good of the
child; and in this way, as the weeks grew to months, the child created
fresh and fresh links between his life and the lives from which he had
hitherto shrunk continually into narrower isolation. Unlike the gold
which needed nothing, and must be worshipped in close-locked solitude-
which was hidden away from the daylight, was deaf to the song of
birds, and started to no human tones- Eppie was a creature of
endless claims and ever-growing desires, seeking and loving
sunshine, and living sounds, and living movements; making trial of
everything, with trust in new joy, and stirring the human kindness
in all eyes that looked on her. The gold had kept his thoughts in an
ever-repeated circle, leading to nothing beyond itself; but Eppie
was an object compacted of changes and hopes that forced his
thoughts onward, and carried them far away from their old eager pacing
towards the same blank limit- carried them away to the new things that
would come with the coming years, when Eppie would have learned to
understand how her father Silas cared for her; and made him look for
images of that time in the ties and charities that bound together
the families of the neighbours. The gold had asked that he should
sit weaving longer and longer, deafened and blinded more and more to
all things except the monotony of his loom and the repetition of his
web; but Eppie called him away from his weaving, and made him think
all its pauses a holiday, reawakening his senses with her fresh
life, even to the old winter-flies that came crawling forth in the
early spring sunshine, and warming him into joy because she had joy.

   And when the sunshine grew strong and lasting, so that the
buttercups were thick in the meadows, Silas might be seen in the sunny
midday, or in the late afternoon when the shadows were lengthening
under the hedgerows, strolling out with uncovered head to carry
Eppie beyond the Stone-pits to where the flowers grew, till they
reached some favourite bank where he could sit down, while Eppie
toddled to pluck the flowers, and make remarks to the winged things
that murmured happily above the bright petals, calling 'Dad-dad's'
attention continually by bringing him the flowers. Then she would turn
her ear to some sudden bird-note, and Silas learned to please her by
making signs of hushed stillness, that they might listen for the
note to come again: so that when it came, she set up her small back
and laughed with gurgling triumph. Sitting on the banks in this way,
Silas began to look for the once familiar herbs again; and as the
leaves, with their unchanged outline and markings, lay on his palm,
there was a sense of crowding remembrances from which he turned away
timidly, taking refuge in Eppie's little world, that lay lightly on
his enfeebled spirit.

   As the child's mind was growing into knowledge, his mind was
growing into memory: as her life unfolded, his soul, long stupefied in
a cold narrow prison, was unfolding too, and trembling gradually
into full consciousness.

   It was an influence which must gather force with every new year:
the tones that stirred Silas's heart grew articulate, and called for
more distinct answers; shapes and sounds grew clearer for Eppie's eyes
and ears, and there was more that 'Dad-dad' was imperatively
required to notice and account for. Also, by the time Eppie was
three years old, she developed a fine capacity for mischief, and for
devising ingenious ways of being troublesome, which found much
exercise, not only for Silas's patience, but for his watchfulness
and penetration. Sorely was poor Silas puzzled on such occasions by
the incompatible demands of love. Dolly Winthrop told him punishment
was good for Eppie, and that, as for rearing a child without making it
tingle a little in soft and safe places now and then, it was not to be
done.

   'To be sure, there's another thing you might do, Master Marner,'
added Dolly, meditatively: 'you might shut her up once i' the
coal-hole. That was what I did wi' Aaron; for I was that silly wi' the
youngest lad, as I could never bear to smack him. Not as I could
find i' my heart to let him stay i' the coal-hole more nor a minute,
but it was enough to colly him all over, so as he must be new washed
and dressed, and it was as good as a rod to him- that was. But I put
it upon your conscience, Master Marner, as there's one of 'em you must
choose- ayther smacking or the coal-hole- else she'll get so
masterful, there'll be no holding her.'

   Silas was impressed with the melancholy truth of this last
remark; but his force of mind failed before the only two penal methods
open to him, not only because it was painful to him to hurt Eppie, but
because he trembled at a moment's contention with her, lest she should
love him the less for it. Let even an affectionate Goliath get himself
tied to a small tender thing, dreading to hurt it by pulling, and
dreading still more to snap the cord, and which of the two, pray, will
be master? It was clear that Eppie, with her short toddling steps,
must lead father Silas a pretty dance on any fine morning when
circumstances favoured mischief.

   For example. He had wisely chosen a broad strip of linen as a means
of fastening her to his loom when he was busy: it made a broad belt
round her waist, and was long enough to allow of her reaching the
truckle-bed and sitting down on it, but not long enough for her to
attempt any dangerous climbing. One bright summer's morning Silas
had been more engrossed than usual in 'setting up' a new piece of
work, an occasion on which his scissors were in requisition. These
scissors, owing to an especial warning of Dolly's, had been kept
carefully out of Eppie's reach; but the click of them had had a
peculiar attraction for her ear, and, watching the results of that
click, she had derived the philosophic lesson that the same cause
would produce the same effect. Silas had seated himself in his loom,
and the noise of weaving had begun; but he had left his scissors on
a ledge which Eppie's arm was long enough to reach; and now, like a
small mouse, watching her opportunity, she stole quietly from her
corner, secured the scissors, and toddled to the bed again, setting up
her back as a mode of concealing the fact. She had a distinct
intention as to the use of the scissors; and having cut the linen
strip in a jagged but effectual manner, in two moments she had run out
at the open door where the sunshine was inviting her, while poor Silas
believed her to be a better child than usual. It was not until he
happened to need his scissors that the terrible fact burst upon him:
Eppie had run out by herself- had perhaps fallen into the Stone-pit.
Silas, shaken by the worst fear that could have befallen him, rushed
out, calling 'Eppie!' and ran eagerly about the unenclosed space,
exploring the dry cavities into which she might have fallen, and
then gazing with questioning dread at the smooth red surface of the
water. The cold drops stood on his brow. How long had she been out?
There was one hope- that she had crept through the stile and got
into the fields where he habitually took her to stroll. But the
grass was high in the meadow, and there was no descrying her, if she
were there, except by a close search that would be a trespass on Mr
Osgood's crop. Still, that misdemeanour must be committed; and poor
Silas, after peering all round the hedgerows, traversed the grass,
beginning with perturbed vision to see Eppie behind every group of red
sorrel, and to see her moving always farther off as he approached. The
meadow was searched in vain; and he got over the stile into the next
field, looking with dying hope towards a small pond which was now
reduced to its summer shallowness, so as to leave a wide margin of
good adhesive mud. Here, however, sat Eppie, discoursing cheerfully to
her own small boot, which she was using as a bucket to convey the
water into a deep mark, while her little naked foot was planted
comfortably on a cushion of olive-green mud. A red-headed calf was
observing her with alarmed doubt through the opposite hedge.

   Here was clearly a case of aberration in a christened child which
demanded severe treatment; but Silas, overcome with convulsive joy
at finding his treasure again, could do nothing but snatch her up, and
cover her with half-sobbing kisses. It was not until he had carried
her home, and had begun to think of the necessary washing, that he
recollected the need that he should punish Eppie, and 'make her
remember'. The idea that she might run away again and come to harm,
gave him unusual resolution, and for the first time he determined to
try the coal-hole- a small closet near the hearth.

   'Naughty, naughty Eppie,' he suddenly began, holding her on his
knee, and pointing to her muddy feet and clothes- 'naughty to cut
with the scissors, and run away. Eppie must go into the coal-hole
for being naughty. Daddy must put her in the coal-hole.'

   He half expected that this would be shock enough, and that Eppie
would begin to cry. But instead of that, she began to shake herself on
his knee, as if the proposition opened a pleasing novelty. Seeing that
he must proceed to extremities, he put her into the coal-hole, and
held the door closed, with a trembling sense that he was using a
strong measure. For a moment there was silence, but then came a little
cry, 'Opy, opy!' and Silas let her out again, saying, 'Now Eppie
'ull never be naughty again, else she must go into the coal-hole- a
black naughty place.'

   The weaving must stand still a long while this morning, for now
Eppie must be washed and have clean clothes on; but it was to be hoped
that this punishment would have a lasting effect, and save time in
future- though, perhaps, it would have been better if Eppie had
cried more.

   In half an hour she was clean again, and Silas having turned his
back to see what he could do with the linen band, threw it down again,
with the reflection that Eppie would be good without fastening for the
rest of the morning. He turned round again, and was going to place her
in her little chair near the loom, when she peeped out at him with
black face and hands again, and said, 'Eppie in de toal-hole!'

   This total failure of the coal-hole discipline shook Silas's belief
in the efficacy of punishment. 'She'd take it all for fun,' he
observed to Dolly, 'if I didn't hurt her, and that I can't do, Mrs
Winthrop. If she makes me a bit o' trouble, I can bear it. And she's
got no tricks but what she'll grow out of.'

   'Well, that's partly true, Master Marner,' said Dolly,
sympathetically; 'and if you can't bring your mind to frighten her off
touching things, you must do what you can to keep 'em out of her
way. That's what I do wi' the pups as the lads are allays a-rearing.
They will worry and gnaw- worry and gnaw they will, if it was one's
Sunday cap as hung anywhere so as they could drag it. They know no
difference, God help 'em: it's the pushing o' the teeth as sets them
on, that's what it is.'

   So Eppie was reared without punishment, the burden of her
misdeeds being borne vicariously by father Silas. The stone hut was
made a soft nest for her, lined with downy patience: and also in the
world that lay beyond the stone hut for her, she knew nothing of
frowns and denials.

   Notwithstanding the difficulty of carrying her and his yarn or
linen at the same time, Silas took her with him in most of his
journeys to the farmhouses, unwilling to leave her behind at Dolly
Winthrop's, who was always ready to take care of her; and little
curly-headed Eppie, the weaver's child, became an object of interest
at several out-lying homesteads, as well as in the village. Hitherto
he had been treated very much as if he had been a useful gnome or
brownie- a queer and unaccountable creature, who must necessarily be
looked at with wondering curiosity and repulsion, and with whom one
would be glad to make all greetings and bargains as brief as possible,
but who must be dealt with in a propitiatory way, and occasionally
have a present of pork or garden-stuff to carry home with him,
seeing that without him there was no getting the yarn woven. But now
Silas met with open smiling faces and cheerful questioning, as a
person whose satisfactions and difficulties could be understood.
Everywhere he must sit a little and talk about the child, and words of
interest were always ready for him: 'Ah, Master Marner, you'll be
lucky if she takes the measles soon and easy!'- or, 'Why, there
isn't many lone men 'ud ha' been wishing to take up with a little un
like that: but I reckon the weaving makes you handier than men as do
out-door work- you're partly as handy as a woman, for weaving comes
next to spinning.' Elderly masters and mistresses, seated
observantly in large kitchen arm-chairs, shook their heads over the
difficulties attendant on rearing children, felt Eppie's round arms
and legs, and pronounced them remarkably firm, and told Silas that, if
she turned out well (which, however, there was no telling), it would
be a fine thing for him to have a steady lass to do for him when he
got helpless. Servant maidens were fond of carrying her out to look at
the hens and chickens, or to see if any cherries could be shaken
down in the orchard; and the small boys and girls approached her
slowly, with cautious movement and steady gaze, like little dogs
face to face with one of their own kind, till attraction had reached
the point at which the soft lips were put out for a kiss. No child was
afraid of approaching Silas when Eppie was near him: there was no
repulsion around him now, either for young or old; for the little
child had come to link him once more with the whole world. There was
love between him and the child that blent them into one, and there was
love between the child and the world- from men and women with parental
looks and tones, to the red lady-birds and the round pebbles.

   Silas began now to think of Raveloe life entirely in relation to
Eppie: she must have everything that was a good in Raveloe; and he
listened docilely, that he might come to understand better what this
life was, from which, for fifteen years, he had stood aloof as from
a strange thing, with which he could have no communion: as some man
who has a precious plant to which he would give a nurturing home in
a new soil, thinks of the rain and sunshine, and all influences, in
relation to his nursling, and asks industriously for all knowledge
that will help him to satisfy the wants of the searching roots, or
to guard leaf and bud from invading harm. The disposition to hoard had
been utterly crushed at the very first by the loss of his
long-stored gold: the coins he earned afterwards seemed as
irrelevant as stones brought to complete a house suddenly buried by an
earthquake; the sense of bereavement was too heavy upon him for the
old thrill of satisfaction to arise again at the touch of the
newly-earned coin. And now something had come to replace his hoard
which gave a growing purpose to the earnings, drawing his hope and joy
continually onward beyond the money.

   In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and
led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged
angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a
hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a
calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand
may be a little child's.

                       CHAPTER FIFTEEN

THERE was one person, as you will believe, who watched with keener
though more hidden interest than any other the prosperous growth of
Eppie under the weaver's care. He dared not do anything that would
imply a stronger interest in a poor man's adopted child than could
be expected from the kindliness of the young Squire, when a chance
meeting suggested a little present to a simple old fellow whom
others noticed with goodwill; but he told himself that the time
would come when he might do something towards furthering the welfare
of his daughter without incurring suspicions. Was he very uneasy in
the meantime at his inability to give his daughter her birthright? I
cannot say that he was. The child was being taken care of, and would
very likely be happy, as people in humble stations often were-
happier, perhaps, than those who are brought up in luxury.

   That famous ring that pricked its owner when he forgot duty and
followed desire- I wonder if it pricked very hard when he set out on
the chase, or whether it pricked but lightly then, and only pierced to
the quick when the chase had long been ended, and hope, folding her
wings, looked backward and became regret?

   Godfrey Cass's cheek and eye were brighter than ever now. He was so
undivided in his aims, that he seemed like a man of firmness. No
Dunsey had come back: people had made up their minds that he was
gone for a soldier, or gone 'out of the country', and no one cared
to be specific in their inquiries on a subject delicate to a
respectable family. Godfrey had ceased to see the shadow of Dunsey
across his path; and the path now lay straight forward to the
accomplishment of his best, longest-cherished wishes. Everybody said
Mr Godfrey had taken the right turn; and it was pretty clear what
would be the end of things, for there were not many days in the week
that he was not seen riding to the Warrens. Godfrey himself, when he
was asked jocosely if the day had been fixed, smiled with the pleasant
consciousness of a lover who could say 'yes', if he liked. He felt a
reformed man, delivered from temptation; and the vision of his
future life seemed to him as a promised land for which he had no cause
to fight. He saw himself with all his happiness centred on his own
hearth, where Nancy would smile on him as he played with the children.

   And that other child- not on the hearth- he would not forget it; he
would see that it was well provided for. That was a father's duty.

                             PART TWO

                          CHAPTER SIXTEEN

IT was a bright autumn Sunday, sixteen years after Silas Marner had
found his new treasure on the hearth. The bells of the old Raveloe
church were ringing the cheerful peal which told that the morning
service was ended; and out of the arched doorway in the tower came
slowly, retarded by friendly greetings and questions, the richer
parishioners who had chosen this bright Sunday morning as eligible for
church-going. It was the rural fashion of that time for the more
important members of the congregation to depart first, while their
humbler neighbours waited and looked on, stroking their bent heads
or dropping their curtsies to any large ratepayer who turned to notice
them.

   Foremost among these advancing groups of well-clad people, there
are some whom we shall recognize, in spite of Time, who has laid his
hand on them all. The tall blond man of forty is not much changed in
feature from the Godfrey Cass of six-and-twenty: he is only fuller
in flesh, and has only lost the indefinable look of youth- a loss
which is marked even when the eye is undulled and the wrinkles are not
yet come. Perhaps the pretty woman, not much younger than he, who is
leaning on his arm, is more changed than her husband: the lovely bloom
that used to be always on her cheek now comes but fitfully, with the
fresh morning air or with some strong surprise; yet to all who love
human faces best for what they tell of human experience, Nancy's
beauty has a heightened interest. Often the soul is ripened into
fuller goodness while age has spread an ugly film, so that mere
glances can never divine the preciousness of the fruit. But the
years have not been so cruel to Nancy. The firm yet placid mouth,
the clear veracious glance of the brown eyes, speak now of a nature
that has been tested and has kept its highest qualities; and even
the costume, with its dainty neatness and purity, has more
significance now the coquetries of youth can have nothing to do with
it.

   Mr and Mrs Godfrey Cass (any higher title has died away from
Raveloe lips since the old Squire was gathered to his fathers, and his
inheritance was divided) have turned round to look for the tall aged
man and the plainly-dressed woman who are a little behind- Nancy
having observed that they must wait for 'father and Priscilla'- and
now they all turn into a narrower path leading across the churchyard
to a small gate opposite the Red House. We will not follow them now;
for may there not be some others in this departing congregation whom
we should like to see again- some of those who are not likely to be
handsomely clad, and whom we may not recognize so easily as the master
and mistress of the Red House?

   But it is impossible to mistake Silas Marner. His large brown
eyes seem to have gathered a longer vision, as is the way with eyes
that have been short-sighted in early life, and they have a less
vague, a more answering look; but in everything else one sees signs of
a frame much enfeebled by the lapse of the sixteen years. The weaver's
bent shoulders and white hair give him almost the look of advanced
age, though he is not more than five-and-fifty; but there is the
freshest blossom of youth close by his side- a blonde dimpled girl
of eighteen, who has vainly tried to chastise her curly auburn hair
into smoothness under her brown bonnet: the hair ripples as
obstinately as a brooklet under the March breeze, and the little
ringlets burst away from the restraining comb behind and show
themselves below the bonnet-crown. Eppie cannot help being rather
vexed about her hair, for there is no other girl in Raveloe who has
hair at all like it, and she thinks hair ought to be smooth. She
does not like to be blameworthy even in small things: you see how
neatly her prayer-book is folded in her spotted handkerchief.

   That good-looking young fellow, in a new fustian suit, who walks
behind her, is not quite sure upon the question of hair in the
abstract, when Eppie puts it to him, and thinks that perhaps
straight hair is the best in general, but he doesn't want Eppie's hair
to be different. She surely divines that there is someone behind her
who is thinking about her very particularly, and mustering courage
to come to her side as soon as they are out in the lane, else why
should she look rather shy, and take care not to turn away her head
from her father Silas, to whom she keeps murmuring little sentences as
to who was at church and who was not at church, and how pretty the red
mountain-ash is over the Rectory wall?

   'I wish we had a little garden, father, with double daisies in,
like Mrs Winthrop's,' said Eppie, when they were out in the lane;
'only they say it 'ud take a deal of digging and bringing fresh
soil- and you couldn't do that, could you, father? Anyhow, I shouldn't
like you to do it, for it 'ud be too hard work for you.'

   'Yes, I could do it, child, if you want a bit o' garden: these long
evenings, I could work at taking in a little bit o' the waste, just
enough for a root or two o' flowers for you; and again, i' the
morning, I could have a turn wi' the spade before I sat down to the
loom. Why didn't you tell me before as you wanted a bit o' garden?'

   'I can dig it for you, Master Marner,' said the young man in
fustian, who was now by Eppie's side, entering into the conversation
without the trouble of formalities. 'It'll be play to me after I've
done my day's work, or any odd bits o' time when the work's slack. And
I'll bring you some soil from Mr Cass's garden- he'll let me, and
willing.'

   'Eh, Aaron, my lad, are you there?' said Silas; 'I wasn't aware
of you; for when Eppie's talking o' things, I see nothing but what
she's a-saying. Well, if you could help me with the digging, we
might get her a bit o' garden all the sooner.'

   'Then, if you'll think well and good,' said Aaron, 'I'll come to
the Stone-pits this afternoon, and we'll settle what land's to be
taken in, and I'll get up an hour earlier i' the morning, and begin on
it.'

   'But not if you don't promise me not to work at the hard digging,
father,' said Eppie. 'For I shouldn't ha' said anything about it,' she
added, half-bashfully, half-roguishly, 'only Mrs Winthrop said as
Aaron 'ud be so good, and--'

   'And you might ha' known it without mother telling you,' said
Aaron. 'And Master Marner knows too, I hope, as I'm able and willing
to do a turn o' work for him, and he won't do me the unkindness to
anyways take it out o' my hands.'

   'There, now, father, you won't work in it till it's all easy,' said
Eppie, 'and you and me can mark out the beds, and make holes and plant
the roots. It'll be a deal livelier at the Stone-pits when we've got
some flowers, for I always think the flowers can see us and know
what we're talking about. And I'll have a bit o' rosemary, and
bergamot, and thyme, because they're so sweet-smelling; but there's no
lavender only in the gentlefolks' gardens, I think.'

   'That's no reason why you shouldn't have some,' said Aaron, 'for
I can bring you slips of anything; I'm forced to cut no end of 'em
when I'm gardening, and throw 'em away mostly. There's a big bed o'
lavender at the Red House: the missis is very fond of it.'

   'Well,' said Silas, gravely, 'so as you don't make free for us,
or ask anything as is worth much at the Red House: for Mr Cass's
been so good to us, and built us up the new end o' the cottage, and
given us beds and things, as I couldn't abide to be imposin' for
garden-stuff or anything else.'

   'No, no, there's no imposin',' said Aaron; 'there's never a
garden in all the parish but what there's endless waste in it for want
o' somebody as could use everything up. It's what I think to myself
sometimes, as there need nobody run short o' victuals if the land
was made the most on, and there was never a morsel but what could find
its way to a mouth. It sets one thinking o' that- gardening does.
But I must go back now, else mother 'ull be in trouble as I aren't
there.'

   'Bring her with you this afternoon, Aaron,' said Eppie; 'I
shouldn't like to fix about the garden, and her not know everything
from the first- should you, father?'

   'Aye, bring her if you can, Aaron,' said Silas; 'she's sure to have
a word to say as'll help us to set things on their right end.'

   Aaron turned back up the village, while Silas and Eppie went on
up the lonely sheltered lane.

   'Oh, daddy!' she began, when they were in privacy, clasping and
squeezing Silas's arm, and skipping round to give him an energetic
kiss. 'My little old daddy! I'm so glad. I don't think I shall want
anything else when we've got a little garden; and I knew Aaron would
dig it for us,' she went on with roguish triumph- 'I knew that very
well.'

   'You're a deep little puss, you are,' said Silas, with the mild
passive happiness of love-crowned age in his face; 'but you'll make
yourself fine and beholden to Aaron.'

   'Oh, no, I shan't,' said Eppie, laughing and frisking; 'he likes
it.'

   'Come, come, let me carry your prayer-book, else you'll be dropping
it, jumping i' that way.'

   Eppie was now aware that her behaviour was under observation, but
it was only the observation of a friendly donkey, browsing with a
log fastened to his foot- a meek donkey, not scornfully critical of
human trivialities, but thankful to share in them, if possible, by
getting his nose scratched; and Eppie did not fail to gratify him with
her usual notice, though it was attended with the inconvenience of his
following them, painfully, up to the very door of their home.

   But the sound of a sharp bark inside, as Eppie put the key in the
door, modified the donkey's views, and he limped away again without
bidding. The sharp bark was the sign of an excited welcome that was
awaiting them from a knowing brown terrier, who, after dancing at
their legs in a hysterical manner, rushed with a worrying noise at a
tortoise-shell kitten under the loom, and then rushed back with a
sharp bark again, as much as to say, 'I have done my duty by this
feeble creature, you perceive'; while the lady-mother of the kitten
sat sunning her white bosom in the window, and looked round with a
sleepy air of expecting caresses, though she was not going to take any
trouble for them.

   The presence of this happy animal life was not the only change
which had come over this interior of the stone cottage. There was no
bed now in the living-room, and the small space was well filled with
decent furniture, all bright and clean enough to satisfy Dolly
Winthrop's eye. The oaken table and three-cornered oaken chair were
hardly what was likely to be seen in so poor a cottage: they had come,
with the beds and other things, from the Red House; for Mr Godfrey
Cass, as everyone said in the village, did very kindly by the
weaver; and it was nothing but right a man should be looked on and
helped by those who could afford it, when he had brought up an
orphan child, and been father and mother to her- and had lost his
money too, so as he had nothing but what he worked for week by week,
and when the weaving was going down too- for there was less and less
flax spun- and Master Marner was none so young. Nobody was jealous
of the weaver, for he was regarded as an exceptional person, whose
claims on neighbourly help were not to be matched in Raveloe. Any
superstition that remained concerning him had taken an entirely new
colour; and Mr Macey, now a very feeble old man of fourscore and
six, never seen except in his chimney corner or sitting in the
sunshine at his door-sill, was of opinion that when a man had done
what Silas had done by an orphan child, it was a sign that his money
would come to light again, or leastwise that the robber would be
made to answer for it- for, as Mr Macey observed of himself, his
faculties were as strong as ever.

   Silas sat down now and watched Eppie with a satisfied gaze as she
spread the clean cloth, and set on it the potato-pie, warmed up slowly
in a safe Sunday fashion, by being put into a dry pot over a
slowly-dying fire, as the best substitute for an oven. For Silas would
not consent to have a grate and oven added to his conveniences: he
loved the old brick hearth as he had loved his brown pot- and was it
not there when he had found Eppie? The gods of the hearth exist for us
still; and let all new faith be tolerant of that fetishism, lest it
bruise its own roots.

   Silas ate his dinner more silently than usual, soon laying down his
knife and fork, and watching half-abstractedly Eppie's play with
Snap and the cat, by which her own dining was made rather a lengthy
business. Yet it was a sight that might well arrest wandering
thoughts: Eppie, with the rippling radiance of her hair and the
whiteness of her rounded chin and throat set off by the dark-blue
cotton gown, laughing merrily as the kitten held on with her four
claws to one shoulder, like a design for a jug-handle, while Snap on
the right hand and puss on the other put up their paws towards a
morsel which she held out of the reach of both- Snap occasionally
desisting in order to remonstrate with the cat by a cogent worrying
growl on the greediness and futility of her conduct; till Eppie
relented, caressed them both, and divided the morsel between them.

   But at last Eppie, glancing at the clock, checked the play, and
said, 'Oh, daddy, you're wanting to go into the sunshine to smoke your
pipe. But I must clear away first, so as the house may be tidy when
godmother comes. I'll make haste- I won't be long.'

   Silas had taken to smoking a pipe daily during the last two
years, having been strongly urged to it by the sages of Raveloe, as
a practice 'good for the fits'; and this advice was sanctioned by Dr
Kimble, on the ground that it was as well to try what could do no
harm- a principle which was made to answer for a great deal of work in
that gentleman's medical practice. Silas did not highly enjoy smoking,
and often wondered how his neighbours could be so fond of it; but a
humble sort of acquiescence in what was held to be good, had become
a strong habit of that new self which had been developed in him
since he had found Eppie on his hearth: it had been the only clue
his bewildered mind could hold by in cherishing this young life that
had been sent to him out of the darkness into which his gold had
departed. By seeking what was needful for Eppie, by sharing the effect
that everything produced on her, he had himself come to appropriate
the forms of custom and belief which were the mould of Raveloe life;
and as, with reawakening sensibilities, memory also reawakened, he had
begun to ponder over the elements of his old faith, and blend them
with his new impressions, till he recovered a consciousness of unity
between his past and present. The sense of presiding goodness and
the human trust which come with all pure peace and joy, had given
him a dim impression that there had been some error, some mistake,
which had thrown that dark shadow over the days of his best years; and
as it grew more and more easy to him to open his mind to Dolly
Winthrop, he gradually communicated to her all he could describe of
his early life. The communication was necessarily a slow and difficult
process, for Silas's meagre power of explanation was not aided by
any readiness of interpretation in Dolly, whose narrow outward
experience gave her no key to strange customs, and made every
novelty a source of wonder that arrested them at every step of the
narrative. It was only by fragments, and at intervals which left Dolly
time to revolve what she had heard till it acquired some familiarity
for her, that Silas at last arrived at the climax of the sad story-
the drawing of lots, and its false testimony concerning him; and
this had to be repeated in several interviews, under new questions
on her part as to the nature of this plan for detecting the guilty and
clearing the innocent.

   'And yourn's the same Bible, you're sure o' that, Master Marner-
the Bible as you brought wi' you from that country- it's the same as
what they've got at church, and what Eppie's a-learning to read in?'

   'Yes,' said Silas, 'every bit the same; and there's drawing o' lots
in the Bible, mind you,' he added, in a lower tone.

   'Oh, dear, dear,' said Dolly, in a grieved voice, as if she were
hearing an unfavourable report of a sick man's case. She was silent
for some minutes; at last she said:

   'There's wise folks, happen, as know how it all is; the parson
knows, I'll be bound; but it takes big words to tell them things,
and such as poor folks can't make much out on. I can never rightly
know the meaning o' what I hear at church, only a bit here and
there, but I know it's good words- I do. But what lies upo' your mind-
it's this, Master Marner: as, if Them above had done the right thing
by you, They'd never ha' let you be turned out for a wicked thief when
you was innicent.'

   'Ah!' said Silas, who had now come to understand Dolly's
phraseology, 'that was what fell on me like as if it had been
red-hot iron; because, you see, there was nobody as cared for me or
clave to me above nor below. And him as I'd gone out and in wi' for
ten years and more, since when we was lads and went halves- mine own
famil'ar friend, in whom I trusted, had lifted up his heel again'
me, and worked to ruin me.'

   'Eh, but he was a bad un- I can't think as there's another such,'
said Dolly. 'But I'm o'ercome, Master Marner; I'm like as if I'd waked
and didn't know whether it was night or morning. I feel somehow as
sure as I do when I've laid something up though I can't justly put
my hand on it, as there was a right in what happened to you, if one
could but make it out; and you'd no call to lose heart as you did. But
we'll talk on it again; for sometimes things come into my head when
I'm leeching or poulticing, or such, as I could never think on when
I was sitting still.'

   Dolly was too useful a woman not to have many opportunities of
illumination of the kind she alluded to, and she was not long before
she recurred to the subject.

   'Master Marner,' she said, one day that she came to bring home
Eppie's washing, 'I've been sore puzzled for a good bit wi' that
trouble o' yourn and the drawing o' lots; and it got twisted back'ards
and for'ards, as I didn't know which end to lay hold on. But it come
to me all clear like, that night when I was sitting up wi' poor
Bessy Fawkes, as is dead and left her children behind, God help 'em-
it come to me as clear as daylight; but whether I've got hold on it
now, or can anyways bring it to my tongue's end, that I don't know.
For I've often a deal inside me as'll niver come out; and for what you
talk o' your folks in your old country niver saying prayers by heart
nor saying 'em out of a book, they must be wonderful cliver; for if
I didn't know "Our Father", and little bits o' good words as I can
carry out o' church wi' me, I might down o' my knees every night,
but nothing could I say.'

   'But you can mostly say something as I can make sense on, Mrs
Winthrop,' said Silas.

   'Well, then, Master Marner, it come to me summat like this: I can
make nothing o' the drawing o' lots and the answer coming wrong; it
'ud mayhap take the parson to tell that, and he could only tell us
i' big words. But what come to me as clear as the daylight, it was
when I was troubling overpoor Bessy Fawkes, and it allays comes into
my head when I'm sorry for folks, and feel as I can't do a power to
help 'em, not if I was to get up i' the middle o' the night- it
comes into my head as Them above has got a deal tenderer heart nor
what I've got- for I can't be anyways better nor Them as made me,
and if anything looks hard to me, it's because there's things I
don't know on; and for the matter o' that, there may be plenty o'
things I don't know on, for it's little as I know- that it is. And so,
while I was thinking o' that, you come into my mind, Master Marner,
and it all come pouring in:-- if I felt i' my inside what was the
right and just thing by you, and them as prayed and drawed the lots,
all but that wicked un, if they'd ha' done the right thing by you if
they could, isn't there Them as was at the making on us, and knows
better and has a better will? And that's all as ever I can be sure on,
and everything else is a big puzzle to me when I think on it. For
there was the fever come and took off them as were full-growed, and
left the helpless children; and there's the breaking o' limbs; and
them as 'ud do right and be sober have to suffer by them as are
contrairy- eh, there's trouble i' this world, and there's things as we
can niver make out the rights on. And all as we've got to do is to
trusten, Master Marner- to do the right thing as fur as we know, and
to trusten. For if us as knows so little can see a bit o' good and
rights, we may be sure as there's a good and a rights bigger nor
what we can know- I feel it i' my own inside as it must be so. And
if you could but ha' gone on trustening, Master Marner, you wouldn't
ha' run away from your fellow-creaturs and been so lone.'

   'Ah, but that 'ud ha' been hard,' said Silas, in an undertone;
'it 'ud ha' been hard to trusten then.'

   'And so it would,' said Dolly, almost with compunction; 'them
things are easier said nor done; and I'm partly ashamed o' talking.'

   'Nay, nay,' said Silas, 'you're i' the right, Mrs Winthrop-
you're i' the right. There's good i' this world- I've a feeling o'
that now; and it makes a man feel as there's a good more nor he can
see, i' spite o' the trouble and the wickedness. That drawing o' the
lots is dark; but the child was sent to me: there's dealings with
us- there's dealings.'

   This dialogue took place in Eppie's earlier years, when Silas had
to part with her for two hours every day, that she might learn to read
at the dame school, after he had vainly tried himself to guide her
in that first step to learning. Now that she was grown up, Silas had
often been led, in those moments of quiet outpouring which come to
people who live together in perfect love, to talk with her too of
the past, and how and why he had lived a lonely man until she had been
sent to him. For it would have been impossible for him to hide from
Eppie that she was not his own child: even if the most delicate
reticence on the point could have been expected from Raveloe gossips
in her presence, her own questions about her mother could not have
been parried, as she grew up, without that complete shrouding of the
past which would have made a painful barrier between their minds. So
Eppie had long known how her mother had died on the snowy ground,
and how she herself had been found on the hearth by father Silas,
who had taken her golden curls for his lost guineas brought back to
him. The tender and peculiar love with which Silas had reared her in
almost inseparable companionship with himself, aided by the
seclusion of their dwelling, had preserved her from the lowering
influences of the village talk and habits, and had kept her mind in
that freshness which is sometimes falsely supposed to be an invariable
attribute of rusticity. Perfect love has a breath of poetry which
can exalt the relations of the least instructed human beings; and this
breath of poetry had surrounded Eppie from the time when she had
followed the bright gleam that beckoned her to Silas's hearth; so that
it is not surprising if, in other things besides her delicate
prettiness, she was not quite a common village maiden, but had a touch
of refinement and fervour which came from no other teaching than
that of tenderly nurtured and unvitiated feeling. She was too childish
and simple for her imagination to rove into questions about her
unknown father; for a long while it did not even occur to her that she
must have had a father; and the first time that the idea of her mother
having had a husband presented itself to her, was when Silas showed
her the wedding-ring which had been taken from the wasted finger,
and had been carefully preserved by him in a little lacquered box
shaped like a shoe. He delivered this box into Eppie's charge when she
had grown up, and she often opened it to look at the ring; but still
she thought hardly at all about the father to whom it was the
symbol. Had she not a father very close to her, who loved her better
than any real fathers in the village seemed to love their daughters?
On the contrary, who her mother was, and how she came to die in that
forlornness, were questions that often pressed on Eppie's mind. Her
knowledge of Mrs Winthrop, who was her nearest friend next to Silas,
made her feel that a mother must be very precious; and she had again
and again asked Silas to tell her how her mother looked, whom she
was like, and how he had found her against the furze bush, led towards
it by the little footsteps and the outstretched arms. The furze bush
was there still; and this afternoon, when Eppie came out with Silas
into the sunshine, it was the first object that arrested her eyes
and thoughts.

   'Father,' she said, in a tone of gentle gravity, which sometimes
came like a sadder, slower cadence across her playfulness, 'we shall
take the furze bush into the garden; it'll come into the corner, and
just against it I'll put snowdrops and crocuses, 'cause Aaron says
they won't die out, but'll always get more and more.'

   'Ah, child,' said Silas, always ready to talk when he had his
pipe in his hand, apparently enjoying the pauses more than the
puffs, 'it wouldn't do to leave out the furze bush; and there's
nothing prettier, to my thinking, when it's yallow with flowers. But
it's just come into my head what we're to do for a fence- mayhap Aaron
can help us to a thought; but a fence we must have, else the donkeys
and things 'ull come and trample everything down. And fencing's hard
to be got at, by what I can make out.'

   'Oh, I'll tell you, daddy,' said Eppie, clasping her hands
suddenly, after a minute's thought. 'There's lots o' loose stones
about, some of 'em not big, and we might lay 'em atop of one another
and make a wall. You and me could carry the smallest, and Aaron 'ud
carry the rest- I know he would.'

   'Eh, my precious un,' said Silas, 'there isn't enough stones to
go all round; and as for you carrying, why wi' your little arms you
couldn't carry a stone no bigger than a turnip. You're dillicate made,
my dear,' he added, with a tender intonation- 'that's what Mrs
Winthrop says.'

   'Oh, I'm stronger than you think, daddy,' said Eppie; 'and if there
wasn't stones enough to go all round, why they'll go part o' the
way, and then it'll be easier to get sticks and things for the rest.
See here, round the big pit, what a many stones!'

   She skipped forward to the pit, meaning to lift one of the stones
and exhibit her strength, but she started back in surprise.

   'Oh, father, just come and look here,' she exclaimed- 'come and see
how the water's gone down since yesterday. Why, yesterday the pit
was ever so full!'

   'Well, to be sure,' said Silas, coming to her side. 'Why, that's
the draining they've begun on, since harvest, i' Mr Osgood's fields, I
reckon. The foreman said to me the other day, when I passed by 'em,
"Master Marner," he said, "I shouldn't wonder if we lay your bit o'
waste as dry as a bone." It was Mr Godfrey Cass, he said, had gone
into the draining: he'd been taking these fields o' Mr Osgood.'

   'How odd it'll seem to have the old pit dried up,' said Eppie,
turning away, and stooping to lift rather a large stone. 'See,
daddy, I can carry this quite well,' she said, going along with much
energy for a few steps, but presently letting it fall.

   'Ah, you're fine and strong, arn't you?' said Silas, while Eppie
shook her aching arms and laughed. 'Come, come, let us go and sit down
on the bank against the stile there, and have no more lifting. You
might hurt yourself, child. You'd need have somebody to work for
you- and my arm isn't over strong.'

   Silas uttered the last sentence slowly, as if it implied more
than met the ear; and Eppie, when they sat down on the bank, nestled
close to his side, and, taking hold caressingly of the arm that was
not over strong, held it on her lap, while Silas puffed again
dutifully at the pipe, which occupied his other arm. An ash in the
hedgerow behind made a fretted screen from the sun, and threw happy
playful shadows all about them.

   'Father,' said Eppie, very gently, after they had been sitting in
silence a little while, 'if I was to be married, ought I to be married
with my mother's ring?'

   Silas gave an almost imperceptible start, though the question
fell in with the undercurrent of thought in his own mind, and then
said, in a subdued tone, 'Why, Eppie, have you been a-thinking on it?'

   'Only this last week, father,' said Eppie, ingenuously, 'since
Aaron talked to me about it.'

   'And what did he say?' said Silas, still in the same subdued way,
as if he were anxious lest he should fall into the slightest tone that
was not for Eppie's good.

   'He said he should like to be married, because he was a-going in
four-and-twenty, and had got a deal of gardening work, now Mr Mott's
given up; and he goes twice a-week regular to Mr Cass's, and once to
Mr Osgood's, and they're going to take him on at the Rectory.'

   'And who is it as he's wanting to marry?' said Silas, with rather a
sad smile.

   'Why, me, to be sure, daddy,' said Eppie, with dimpling laughter,
kissing her father's cheek; 'as if he'd want to marry anybody else!'

   'And you mean to have him, do you?' said Silas.

   'Yes, some time,' said Eppie, 'I don't know when. Everybody's
married some time, Aaron says. But I told him that wasn't true; for, I
said, look at father- he's never been married.'

   'No, child,' said Silas, 'your father was a lone man till you was
sent to him.'

   'But you'll never be lone again, father,' said Eppie, tenderly.
'That was what Aaron said- "I could never think o' taking you away
from Master Marner, Eppie." And I said, "It 'ud be no use if you
did, Aaron." And he wants us all to live together, so as you needn't
work a bit, father, only what's for your own pleasure; and he'd be
as good as a son to you- that was what he said.'

   'And should you like that, Eppie?' said Silas, looking at her.

   'I shouldn't mind it, father,' said Eppie, quite simply. 'And I
should like things to be so as you needn't work much. But if it wasn't
for that, I'd sooner things didn't change. I'm very happy: I like
Aaron to be fond of me, and come and see us often, and behave pretty
to you- he always does behave pretty to you, doesn't he, father?'

   'Yes, child, nobody could behave better,' said Silas, emphatically.
'He's his mother's lad.'

   'But I don't want any change,' said Eppie. 'I should like to go
on a long, long while, just as we are. Only Aaron does want a
change; and he made me cry a bit- only a bit- because he said I didn't
care for him, for if I cared for him I should want us to be married,
as he did.'

   'Eh, my blessed child,' said Silas, laying down his pipe as if it
were useless to pretend to smoke any longer, 'you're o'er young to
be married. We'll ask Mrs Winthrop- we'll ask Aaron's mother what
she thinks: if there's a right thing to do, she'll come at it. But
there's this to be thought on, Eppie: things will change, whether we
like it or not; things won't go on for a long while just as they are
and no difference. I shall get older and helplesser, and be a burden
on you, belike, if I don't go away from you altogether. Not as I
mean you'd think me a burden- I know you wouldn't- but it 'ud be
hard upon you; and when I look for'ard to that, I like to think as
you'd have somebody else besides me- somebody young and strong,
as'll outlast your own life, and take care on you to the end.' Silas
paused, and, resting his wrists on his knees, lifted his hands up
and down meditatively as he looked on the ground.

   'Then, would you like me to be married, father?' said Eppie, with a
little trembling in her voice.

   'I'll not be the man to say no, Eppie,' said Silas, emphatically;
'but we'll ask your godmother. She'll wish the right thing by you
and her son too.'

   'There they come, then,' said Eppie. 'Let us go and meet 'em. Oh,
the pipe! won't you have it lit again, father?' said Eppie, lifting
that medicinal appliance from the ground.

   'Nay, child,' said Silas, 'I've done enough for today. I think,
mayhap, a little of it does me more good than so much at once.'

                       CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

WHILE Silas and Eppie were seated on the bank discoursing in the
fleckered shade of the ash tree, Miss Priscilla Lammeter was resisting
her sister's arguments, that it would be better to stay tea at the Red
House, and let her father have a long nap, than drive home to the
Warrens so soon after dinner. The family party (of four only) were
seated round the table in the dark wainscoted parlour, with the Sunday
dessert before them, of fresh filberts, apples, and pears, duly
ornamented with leaves by Nancy's own hand before the bells had rung
for church.

   A great change has come over the dark wainscoted parlour since we
saw it in Godfrey's bachelor days, and under the wifeless reign of the
old Squire. Now all is polish, on which no yesterday's dust is ever
allowed to settle, from the yard's width of oaken boards round the
carpet, to the old Squire's gun and whips and walking-sticks, ranged
on the stag's antlers above the mantelpiece. All other signs of
sporting and outdoor occupation Nancy has removed to another room; but
she has brought into the Red House the habit of filial reverence,
and preserves sacredly in a place of honour these relics of her
husband's departed father. The tankards are on the side table still,
but the bossed silver is undimmed by handling, and there are no
dregs to send forth unpleasant suggestions: the only prevailing
scent is of the lavender and rose-leaves that fill the vases of
Derbyshire spar. All is purity and order in this once dreary room,
for, fifteen years ago, it was entered by a new presiding spirit.

   'Now, father,' said Nancy, 'is there any call for you to go home to
tea? Mayn't you just as well stay with us?- such a beautiful evening
as it's likely to be.'

   The old gentleman had been talking with Godfrey about the
increasing poor-rate and the ruinous times, and had not heard the
dialogue between his daughters.

   'My dear, you must ask Priscilla,' he said, in the once firm voice,
now become rather broken. 'She manages me and the farm too.'

   'And reason good as I should manage you, father,' said Priscilla,
'else you'd be giving yourself your death with rheumatism. And as
for the farm, if anything turns out wrong, as it can't but do in these
times, there's nothing kills a man so soon as having nobody to find
fault with but himself. It's a deal the best way o' being master, to
let somebody else do the ordering, and keep the blaming in your own
hands. It 'ud save many a man a stroke, I believe.'

   'Well, well, my dear,' said her father, with a quiet laugh, 'I
didn't say you don't manage for everybody's good.'

   'Then manage so as you may stay tea, Priscilla,' said Nancy,
putting her hand on her sister's arm affectionately. 'Come, now; and
we'll go round the garden while father has his nap.'

   'My dear child, he'll have a beautiful nap in the gig, for I
shall drive. And as for staying tea, I can't hear of it; for there's
this dairymaid, now she knows she's to be married, turned
Michaelmas, she'd as lieve pour the new milk into the pig-trough as
into the pans. That's the way with 'em all: it's as if they thought
the world 'ud be new-made because they're to be married. So come and
let me put my bonnet on, and there'll be time for us to walk round the
garden while the horse is being put in.'

   When the sisters were treading the neatly-swept garden-walks,
between the bright turf that contrasted pleasantly with the dark cones
and arches and wall-like hedges of yew, Priscilla said:

   'I'm as glad as anything at your husband's making that exchange
o' land with cousin Osgood, and beginning the dairying. It's a
thousand pities you didn't do it before; for it'll give you
something to fill your mind. There's nothing like a dairy if folks
want a bit o' worrit to make the days pass. For as for rubbing
furniture, when you can once see your face in a table there's
nothing else to look for; but there's always something fresh with
the dairy; for even in the depths o' winter there's some pleasure in
conquering the butter, and making it come whether or no. My dear,'
added Priscilla, pressing her sister's hand affectionately as they
walked side by side, 'you'll never be low when you've got a dairy.'

   'Ah, Priscilla,' said Nancy, returning the pressure with a grateful
glance of her clear eyes, 'but it won't make up to Godfrey: a
dairy's not so much to a man. And it's only what he cares for that
ever makes me low. I'm contented with the blessings we have, if he
could be contented.'

   'It drives me past patience,' said Priscilla, impetuously, 'that
way o' the men- always wanting and wanting, and never easy with what
they've got: they can't sit comfortable in their chairs when they've
neither ache nor pain, but either they must stick a pipe in their
mouths, to make 'em better than well, or else they must be
swallowing something strong, though they're forced to make haste
before the next meal comes in. But, joyful be it spoken, our father
was never that sort o' man. And if it had pleased God to make you
ugly, like me, so as the men wouldn't ha' run after you, we might have
kept to our own family, and had nothing to do with folks as have got
uneasy blood in their veins.'

   'Oh, don't say so, Priscilla,' said Nancy, repenting that she had
called forth this outburst; 'nobody has any occasion to find fault
with Godfrey. It's natural he should be disappointed at not having any
children: every man likes to have somebody to work for and lay by for,
and he always counted so on making a fuss with 'em when they were
little. There's many another man 'ud hanker more than he does. He's
the best of husbands.'

   'Oh, I know,' said Priscilla, smiling sarcastically, 'I know the
way o' wives; they set one on to abuse their husbands, and then they
turn round on one and praise 'em as if they wanted to sell 'em. But
father'll be waiting for me; we must turn now.'

   The large gig with the steady old grey was at the front door, and
Mr Lammeter was already on the stone steps, passing the time in
recalling to Godfrey what very fine points Speckle had when his master
used to ride him.

   'I always would have a good horse, you know,' said the old
gentleman, not liking that spirited time to be quite effaced from
the memory of his juniors.

   'Mind you bring Nancy to the Warrens before the week's out, Mr
Cass,' was Priscilla's parting injunction, as she took the reins,
and shook them gently, by way of friendly incitement to Speckle.

   'I shall just take a turn to the fields against the Stone-pits,
Nancy, and look at the draining,' said Godfrey.

   'You'll be in again by tea-time, dear?'

   'Oh, yes, I shall be back in an hour.'

   It was Godfrey's custom on a Sunday afternoon to do a little
contemplative farming in a leisurely walk. Nancy seldom accompanied
him; for the women of her generation- unless like Priscilla, they took
to outdoor management- were not given to much walking beyond their own
house and garden, finding sufficient exercise in domestic duties.
So, when Priscilla was not with her, she usually sat with Mant's Bible
before her, and after following the text with her eyes for a little
while, she would gradually permit them to wander as her thoughts had
already insisted on wandering.

   But Nancy's Sunday thoughts were rarely quite out of keeping with
the devout and reverential intention implied by the book spread open
before her. She was not theologically instructed enough to discern
very clearly the relation between the sacred documents of the past
which she opened without method, and her own obscure, simple life; but
the spirit of rectitude, and the sense of responsibility for the
effect of her conduct on others, which were strong elements in Nancy's
character, had made it a habit with her to scrutinize her past
feelings and actions with self-questioning solicitude. Her mind not
being courted by a great variety of subjects, she filled the vacant
moments by living inwardly, again and again, through all her
remembered experience, especially through the fifteen years of her
married time, in which her life and its significance had been doubled.
She recalled the small details, the words, tones, and looks, in the
critical scenes which had opened a new epoch for her, by giving her
a deeper insight into the relations and trials of life, or which had
called on her for some little effort of forbearance, or of painful
adherence to an imagined or real duty- asking herself continually
whether she had been in any respect blameable. This excessive
rumination and self-questioning is perhaps a morbid habit inevitable
to a mind of much moral sensibility when shut out from its due share
of outward activity and of practical claims on its affections-
inevitable to a noble-hearted, childless woman, when her lot is
narrow. 'I can do so little- have I done it all well?' is the
perpetually recurring thought; and there are no voices calling her
away from that soliloquy, no peremptory demands to divert energy
from vain regret or superfluous scruple.

   There was one main thread of painful experience in Nancy's
married life, and on it hung certain deeply-felt scenes, which were
the oftenest revived in retrospect. The short dialogue with
Priscilla in the garden had determined the current of retrospect in
that frequent direction this particular Sunday afternoon. The first
wandering of her thought from the text, which she still attempted
dutifully to follow with her eyes and silent lips, was into an
imaginary enlargement of the defence she had set up for her husband
against Priscilla's implied blame. The vindication of the loved object
is the best balm affection can find for its wounds: 'A man must have
so much on his mind,' is the belief by which a wife often supports a
cheerful face under rough answers and unfeeling words. And Nancy's
deepest wounds had all come from the perception that the absence of
children from their hearth was dwelt on in her husband's mind as a
privation to which he could not reconcile himself.

   Yet sweet Nancy might have been expected to feel still more
keenly the denial of a blessing to which she had looked forward with
all the varied expectations and preparations, solemn and prettily
trivial, which fill the mind of a loving woman when she expects to
become a mother. Was there not a drawer filled with the neat work of
her hands, all unworn and untouched, just as she had arranged it there
fourteen years ago- just, but for one little dress, which had been
made the burial-dress? But under this immediate personal trial Nancy
was so firmly unmurmuring, that years ago she had suddenly renounced
the habit of visiting this drawer, lest she should in this way be
cherishing a longing for what was not given.

   Perhaps it was this very severity towards any indulgence of what
she held to be sinful regret in herself, that made her shrink from
applying her own standard to her husband. 'It was very different- it
was much worse for a man to be disappointed in that way: a woman could
always be satisfied with devoting herself to her husband, but a man
wanted something that would make him look forward more- and sitting by
the fire was so much duller to him than to a woman.' And always,
when Nancy reached this point in her meditations- trying, with
predetermined sympathy, to see everything as Godfrey saw it- there
came a renewal of self-questioning. Had she done everything in her
power to lighten Godfrey's privation? Had she really been right in the
resistance which had caused her so much pain six years ago, and
again four years ago- the resistance to her husband's wish that they
should adopt a child? Adoption was more remote from the ideas and
habits of that time than of our own; still Nancy had her opinion on
it. It was as necessary to her mind to have an opinion on all
topics, not exclusively masculine, that had come under her notice,
as for her to have a precisely marked place for every article of her
personal property: and her opinions were always principles, to be
unwaveringly acted on. They were firm, not because of their basis, but
because she held them with a tenacity inseparable from her mental
action. On all the duties and proprieties of life, from filial
behaviour to the arrangement of the evening toilette, pretty Nancy
Lammeter, by the time she was three-and-twenty, had her unalterable
little code, and had formed every one of her habits in strict
accordance with that code. She carried these decided judgments
within her in the most unobtrusive way: they rooted themselves in
her mind, and grew there as quietly as grass. Years ago, we know,
she insisted on dressing like Priscilla, because 'it was right for
sisters to dress alike', and because 'she would do what was right if
she wore a gown dyed with cheese-colouring'. That was a trivial but
typical instance of the mode in which Nancy's life was regulated.

   It was one of those rigid principles, and no petty egoistic
feeling, which had been the ground of Nancy's difficult resistance
to her husband's wish. To adopt a child, because children of your
own had been denied you, was to try and choose your lot in spite of
Providence: the adopted child, she was convinced, would never turn out
well, and would be a curse to those who had wilfully and
rebelliously sought what it was clear that, for some high reason, they
were better without. When you saw a thing was not meant to be, said
Nancy, it was a bounden duty to leave off so much as wishing for it.
And so far, perhaps, the wisest of men could scarcely make more than a
verbal improvement in her principle. But the conditions under which
she held it apparent that a thing was not meant to be, depended on a
more peculiar mode of thinking. She would have given up making a
purchase at a particular place if, on three successive times, rain, or
some other cause of Heaven's sending, had formed an obstacle; and
she would have anticipated a broken limb or other heavy misfortune
to anyone who persisted in spite of such indications.

   'But why should you think the child would turn out ill?' said
Godfrey, in his remonstrances. 'She has thriven as well as child can
do with the weaver; and he adopted her. There isn't such a pretty
little girl anywhere else in the parish, or one fitter for the station
we could give her. Where can be the likelihood of her being a curse to
anybody?'

   'Yes, my dear Godfrey,' said Nancy, who was sitting with her
hands tightly clasped together, with yearning, regretful affection
in her eyes. 'The child may not turn out ill with the weaver. But,
then, he didn't go to seek her, as we should be doing. It will be
wrong: I feel sure it will. Don't you remember what that lady we met
at the Royston Baths told us about the child her sister adopted?
That was the only adopting I ever heard of: and the child was
transported when it was twenty-three. Dear Godfrey, don't ask me to do
what I know is wrong: I should never be happy again. I know it's
very hard for you- it's easier for me- but it's the will of
Providence.'

   It might seem singular that Nancy- with her religious theory pieced
together out of narrow social traditions, fragments of church doctrine
imperfectly understood, and girlish reasonings on her small
experience- should have arrived by herself at a way of thinking so
nearly akin to that of many devout people, whose beliefs are held in
the shape of a system quite remote from her knowledge- singular, if we
did not know that human beliefs, like all other natural growths, elude
the barriers of system.

   Godfrey had from the first specified Eppie, then about twelve years
old, as a child suitable for them to adopt. It had never occurred to
him that Silas would rather part with his life than with Eppie. Surely
the weaver would wish the best to the child he had taken so much
trouble with, and would be glad that such good fortune should happen
to her: she would always be very grateful to him, and he would be well
provided for to the end of his life- provided for as the excellent
part he had done by the child deserved. Was it not an appropriate
thing for people in a higher station to take a charge off the hands of
a man in a lower? It seemed an eminently appropriate thing to Godfrey,
for reasons that were known only to himself; and by a common
fallacy, he imagined the measure would be easy because he had
private motives for desiring it. This was rather a coarse mode of
estimating Silas's relation to Eppie; but we must remember that many
of the impressions which Godfrey was likely to gather concerning the
labouring people around him would favour the idea that deep affections
can hardly go along with callous palms and scant means; and he had not
had the opportunity, even if he had had the power, of entering
intimately into all that was exceptional in the weaver's experience.
It was only the want of adequate knowledge that could have made it
possible for Godfrey deliberately to entertain an unfeeling project:
his natural kindness had outlived that blighting time of cruel wishes,
and Nancy's praise of him as a husband was not founded entirely on a
wilful illusion.

   'I was right,' she said to herself, when she had recalled all their
scenes of discussion- 'I feel I was right to say him nay, though it
hurt me more than anything; but how good Godfrey has been about it!
Many men would have been very angry with me for standing out again
their wishes; and they might have thrown out that they'd had
ill-luck in marrying me; but Godfrey has never been the man to say
me an unkind word. It's only what he can't hide: everything seems so
blank to him, I know; and the land- what a difference it 'ud make to
him, when he goes to see after things, if he'd children growing up
that he was doing it all for! But I won't murmur; and perhaps if
he'd married a woman who'd have had children, she'd have vexed him
in other ways.'

   This possibility was Nancy's chief comfort; and to give it
greater strength, she laboured to make it impossible that any other
wife should have had more perfect tenderness. She had been forced to
vex him by that one denial. Godfrey was not insensible to her loving
effort, and did Nancy no injustice as to the motives of her obstinacy.
It was impossible to have lived with her fifteen years and not be
aware that an unselfish clinging to the right, and a sincerity clear
as the flower-born dew, were her main characteristics; indeed, Godfrey
felt this so strongly, that his own more wavering nature, too averse
to facing difficulty to be unvaryingly simple and truthful, was kept
in a certain awe of this gentle wife who watched his looks with a
yearning to obey them. It seemed to him impossible that he should ever
confess to her the truth about Eppie: she would never recover from the
repulsion the story of his earlier marriage would create, told to
her now, after that long concealment. And the child, too, he
thought, must become an object of repulsion: the very sight of her
would be painful. The shock to Nancy's mingled pride and ignorance
of the world's evil might even be too much for her delicate frame.
Since he had married her with that secret on his heart he must keep it
there to the last. Whatever else he did, he could not make an
irreparable breach between himself and this long-loved wife.

   Meanwhile, why could he not make up his mind to the absence of
children from a hearth brightened by such a wife? Why did his mind fly
uneasily to that void, as if it were the sole reason why life was
not thoroughly joyous to him? I suppose it is the way with all men and
women who reach middle age without the clear perception that life
never can be thoroughly joyous: under the vague dullness of the grey
hours, dissatisfaction seeks a definite object, and finds it in the
privation of an untried good. Dissatisfaction, seated musingly on a
childless hearth, thinks with envy of the father whose return is
greeted by young voices- seated at the meal where the little heads
rise one above another like nursery plants, it sees a black care
hovering behind every one of them, and thinks the impulses by which
men abandon freedom, and seek for ties, are surely nothing but a brief
madness. In Godfrey's case there were further reasons why his thoughts
should be continually solicited by this one point in his lot: his
conscience, never thoroughly easy about Eppie, now gave his
childless home the aspect of a retribution; and as the time passed on,
under Nancy's refusal to adopt her, any retrieval of his error
became more and more difficult.

   On this Sunday afternoon it was already four years since there
had been any allusion to the subject between them, and Nancy
supposed that it was for ever buried.

   'I wonder if he'll mind it less or more as he gets older,' she
thought; 'I'm afraid more. Aged people feel the miss of children: what
would father do without Priscilla? And if I die, Godfrey will be
very lonely- not holding together with his brothers much. But I
won't be over-anxious, and trying to make things out beforehand: I
must do my best for the present.'

   With that last thought Nancy roused herself from her reverie, and
turned her eyes again towards the forsaken page. It had been
forsaken longer than she imagined, for she was presently surprised
by the appearance of the servant with the tea-things. It was, in fact,
a little before the usual time for tea; but Jane had her reasons.

   'Is your master come into the yard, Jane?'

   'No 'm, he isn't,' said Jane, with a slight emphasis, of which,
however, her mistress took no notice.

   'I don't know whether you've seen 'em, 'm,' continued Jane, after a
pause, 'but there's folks making haste all one way, afore the front
window. I doubt something's happened. There's niver a man to be seen
i' the yard, else I'd send and see. I've been up into the top attic,
but there's no seeing anything for trees. I hope nobody's hurt, that's
all.'

   'Oh, no, I daresay there's nothing much the matter,' said Nancy.
'It's perhaps Mr Snell's bull got out again, as he did before.'

   'I wish he mayn't gore anybody, then, that's all,' said Jane, not
altogether despising a hypothesis which covered a few imaginary
calamities.

   'That girl is always terrifying me,' thought Nancy; 'I wish Godfrey
would come in.'

   She went to the front window and looked as far as she could see
along the road, with an uneasiness which she felt to be childish, for
there were now no such signs of excitement as Jane had spoken of, and
Godfrey would not be likely to return by the village road, but by the
fields. She continued to stand, however, looking at the placid
churchyard with the long shadows of the gravestones across the bright
green hillocks, and at the glowing autumn colours of the Rectory trees
beyond. Before such calm external beauty the presence of a vague fear
is more distinctly felt- like a raven flapping its slow wing across
the sunny air. Nancy wished more and more that Godfrey would come in.

                          CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

SOME one opened the door at the other end of the room, and Nancy
felt that it was her husband. She turned from the window with gladness
in her eyes, for the wife's chief dread was stilled.

   'Dear, I'm so thankful you're come,' she said, going towards him.
'I began to get--'

   She paused abruptly, for Godfrey was laying down his hat with
trembling hands, and turned towards her with a pale face and a strange
unanswering glance, as if he saw her indeed, but saw her as part of
a scene invisible to herself. She laid her hand on his arm, not daring
to speak again; but he left the touch unnoticed, and threw himself
into his chair.

   Jane was already at the door with the hissing urn. 'Tell her to
keep away, will you?' said Godfrey; and when the door was closed again
he exerted himself to speak more distinctly.

   'Sit down, Nancy- there,' he said, pointing to a chair opposite
him. 'I came back as soon as I could, to hinder anybody's telling
you but me. I've had a great shock- but I care most about the shock
it'll be to you.'

   'It isn't father and Priscilla?' said Nancy, with quivering lips,
clasping her hands together tightly on her lap.

   'No, it's nobody living,' said Godfrey, unequal to the
considerate skill with which he would have wished to make his
revelation. 'It's Dunstan- my brother Dunstan, that we lost sight of
sixteen years ago. We've found him- found his body- his skeleton.'

   The deep dread Godfrey's look had created in Nancy made her feel
these words a relief. She sat in comparative calmness to hear what
else he had to tell. He went on:

   'The Stone-pit has gone dry suddenly- from the draining, I suppose;
and there he lies- has lain for sixteen years, wedged between two
great stones. There's his watch and seals, and there's my gold-handled
hunting whip, with my name on: he took it away, without my knowing,
the day he went hunting on Wildfire, the last time he was seen.'

   Godfrey paused: it was not so easy to say what came next. 'Do you
think he drowned himself?' said Nancy, almost wondering that her
husband should be so deeply shaken by what had happened all those
years ago to an unloved brother, of whom worse things had been
augured.

   'No, he fell in,' said Godfrey, in a low but distinct voice, as
if he felt some deep meaning in the fact. Presently he added: 'Dunstan
was the man that robbed Silas Marner.'

   The blood rushed to Nancy's face and neck at this surprise and
shame, for she had been bred up to regard even a distant kinship
with crime as a dishonour.

   'Oh, Godfrey!' she said, with compassion in her tone, for she had
immediately reflected that the dishonour must be felt still more
keenly by her husband.

   'There was the money in the pit,' he continued- 'all the weaver's
money. Everything's being gathered up, and they're taking the skeleton
to the Rainbow. But I came back to tell you: there was no hindering
it; you must know.'

   He was silent, looking on the ground for two long minutes. Nancy
would have said some words of comfort under this disgrace, but she
refrained, from an instinctive sense that there was something
behind- that Godfrey had something else to tell her. Presently he
lifted his eyes to her face, and kept them fixed on her, as he said:

   'Everything comes to light, Nancy, sooner or later. When God
Almighty wills it, our secrets are found out. I've lived with a secret
on my mind, but I'll keep it from you no longer. I wouldn't have you
know it by somebody else, and not by me- I wouldn't have you find it
out after I'm dead. I'll tell you now. It's been "I will" and "I
won't" with me all my life- I'll make sure of myself now.'

   Nancy's utmost dread had returned. The eyes of the husband and wife
met with awe in them, as at a crisis which suspended affection.

   'Nancy,' said Godfrey, slowly, 'when I married you, I hid something
from you- something I ought to have told you. That woman Marner
found dead in the snow- Eppie's mother- that wretched woman- was my
wife: Eppie is my child.'

   He paused, dreading the effect of his confession. But Nancy sat
quite still, only that her eyes dropped and ceased to meet his. She
was pale and quiet as a meditative statue, clasping her hands on her
lap.

   'You'll never think the same of me again,' said Godfrey, after a
little while, with some tremor in his voice.

   She was silent.

   'I oughtn't to have left the child unowned: I oughtn't to have kept
it from you. But I couldn't bear to give you up, Nancy. I was led away
into marrying her- I suffered for it.'

   Still Nancy was silent, looking down; and he almost expected that
she would presently get up and say she would go to her father's. How
could she have any mercy for faults that must seem so black to her,
with her simple, severe notions?

   But at last she lifted up her eyes to his again and spoke. There
was no indignation in her voice- only deep regret.

   'Godfrey, if you had but told me this six years ago, we could
have done some of our duty by the child. Do you think I'd have refused
to take her in, if I'd known she was yours?'

   At that moment Godfrey felt all the bitterness of an error that was
not simply futile, but had defeated its own end. He had not measured
this wife with whom he had lived so long. But she spoke again, with
more agitation.

   'And- Oh, Godfrey- if we'd had her from the first, if you'd taken
to her as you ought, she'd have loved me for her mother- and you'd
have been happier with me: I could better have bore my little baby
dying, and our life might have been more like what we used to think it
'ud be.'

   The tears fell, and Nancy ceased to speak.

   'But you wouldn't have married me then, Nancy, if I'd told you,'
said Godfrey, urged, in the bitterness of his self-reproach, to
prove to himself that his conduct had not been utter folly. 'You may
think you would now, but you wouldn't then. With your pride and your
father's, you'd have hated having anything to do with me after the
talk there'd have been.'

   'I can't say what I should have done about that, Godfrey. I
should never have married anybody else. But I wasn't worth doing wrong
for- nothing is in this world. Nothing is so good as it seems
beforehand- not even our marrying wasn't, you see.' There was a
faint sad smile on Nancy's face as she said the last words.

   'I'm a worse man than you thought I was, Nancy,' said Godfrey,
rather tremulously. 'Can you forgive me ever?'

   'The wrong to me is but little, Godfrey: you've made it up to me-
you've been good to me for fifteen years. It's another you did the
wrong to; and I doubt it can never be all made up for.'

   'But we can take Eppie now,' said Godfrey. 'I won't mind the
world knowing at last. I'll be plain and open for the rest o' my
life.'

   'It'll be different coming to us, now she's grown up,' said
Nancy, shaking her head sadly. 'But it's your duty to acknowledge
her and provide for her; and I'll do my part by her, and pray to God
Almighty to make her love me.'

   'Then we'll go together to Silas Marner's this very night, as
soon as everything's quiet at the Stone-pits.'

                       CHAPTER NINETEEN

BETWEEN eight and nine o'clock that evening, Eppie and Silas were
seated alone in the cottage. After the great excitement the weaver had
undergone from the events of the afternoon, he had felt a longing
for this quietude, and had even begged Mrs Winthrop and Aaron, who had
naturally lingered behind everyone else, to leave him alone with his
child. The excitement had not passed away: it had only reached that
stage when the keenness of the susceptibility makes external
stimulus intolerable- when there is no sense of weariness, but
rather an intensity of inward life, under which sleep is an
impossibility. Anyone who has watched such moments in other men
remembers the brightness of the eyes and the strange definiteness that
comes over coarse features from that transient influence. It is as
if a new fineness of ear for all spiritual voices had sent
wonder-working vibrations through the heavy mortal frame- as if
'beauty born of murmuring sound' had passed into the face of the
listener.

   Silas's face showed that sort of transfiguration, as he sat in
his arm-chair and looked at Eppie. She had drawn her own chair towards
his knees, and leaned forward, holding both his hands, while she
looked up at him. On the table near them, lit by a candle, lay the
recovered gold- the old long-loved gold, ranged in orderly heaps, as
Silas used to range it in the days when it was his only joy. He had
been telling her how he used to count it every night, and how his soul
was utterly desolate till she was sent to him.

   'At first, I'd a sort o' feeling come across me now and then,' he
was saying in a subdued tone, 'as if you might be changed into the
gold again; for sometimes, turn my head which way I would, I seemed to
see the gold; and I thought I should be glad if I could feel it, and
find it was come back. But that didn't last long. After a bit, I
should have thought it was a curse come again, if it had drove you
from me, for I'd got to feel the need o' your looks and your voice and
the touch o' your little fingers. You didn't know then, Eppie, when
you were such a little un- you didn't know what your old father
Silas felt for you.'

   'But I know now, father,' said Eppie. 'If it hadn't been for you,
they'd have taken me to the workhouse, and there'd have been nobody to
love me.'

   'Eh, my precious child, the blessing was mine. If you hadn't been
sent to save me, I should ha' gone to the grave in my misery. The
money was taken away from me in time; and you see it's been kept- kept
till it was wanted for you. It's wonderful- our life is wonderful.'

   Silas sat in silence a few minutes, looking at the money. 'It takes
no hold of me now,' he said, ponderingly- 'the money doesn't. I wonder
if it ever could again- I doubt it might, if I lost you, Eppie. I
might come to think I was forsaken again, and lose the feeling that
God was good to me.'

   At that moment there was a knocking at the door; and Eppie was
obliged to rise without answering Silas. Beautiful she looked, with
the tenderness of gathering tears in her eyes and a slight flush on
her cheeks, as she stepped to open the door. The flush deepened when
she saw Mr and Mrs Godfrey Cass. She made her little rustic curtsy,
and held the door wide for them to enter.

   'We're disturbing you very late, my dear,' said Mrs Cass, taking
Eppie's hand, and looking in her face with an expression of anxious
interest and admiration. Nancy herself was pale and tremulous.
Eppie, after placing chairs for Mr and Mrs Cass, went to stand against
Silas, opposite to them.

   'Well, Marner,' said Godfrey, trying to speak with perfect
firmness, 'it's a great comfort to me to see you with your money
again, that you've been deprived of so many years. It was one of my
family did you the wrong- the more grief to me- and I feel bound to
make up to you for it in every way. Whatever I can do for you will
be nothing but paying a debt, even if I looked no farther than the
robbery. But there are other things I'm beholden- shall be beholden to
you for, Marner.'

   Godfrey checked himself. It had been agreed between him and his
wife that the subject of his fatherhood should be approached very
carefully, and that, if possible, the disclosure should be reserved
for the future, so that it might be made to Eppie gradually. Nancy had
urged this, because she felt strongly the painful light in which Eppie
must inevitably see the relation between her father and mother.

   Silas, always ill at ease when he was being spoken to by 'betters',
such as Mr Cass- tall, powerful, florid men, seen chiefly on
horseback- answered with some constraint:

   'Sir, I've a deal to thank you for a'ready. As for the robbery, I
count it no loss to me. And if I did, you couldn't help it: you aren't
answerable for it.'

   'You may look at it in that way, Marner, but I never can; and I hope
you'll let me act according to my own feeling of what's just. I know
you're easily contented: you've been a hard-working man all your
life.'

   'Yes, sir, yes,' said Marner, meditatively. 'I should ha' been
bad off without my work: it was what I held by when everything else
was gone from me.'

   'Ah,' said Godfrey, applying Marner's words simply to his bodily
wants, 'it was a good trade for you in this country, because there's
been a great deal of linen-weaving to be done. But you're getting
rather past such close work, Marner: it's time you laid by and had
some rest. You look a good deal pulled down, though you're not an
old man, are you?'

   'Fifty-five, as near as I can say, sir,' said Silas.

   'Oh, why, you may live thirty years longer- look at old Macey!
And that money on the table, after all, is but little. It won't go far
either way- whether it's put out to interest, or you were to live on
it as long as it would last: it wouldn't go far if you'd nobody to
keep but yourself, and you've had two to keep for a good many years
now.'

   'Eh, sir,' said Silas, unaffected by anything Godfrey was saying,
'I'm in no fear o' want. We shall do very well- Eppie and me 'ull do
well enough. There's few working-folks have got so much laid by as
that. I don't know what it is to gentlefolks, but I look upon it as
a deal- almost too much. And as for us, it's little we want.'

   'Only the garden, father,' said Eppie, blushing up to the ears
the moment after.

   'You love a garden, do you, my dear?' said Nancy, thinking that
this turn in the point of view might help her husband. 'We should
agree in that: I give a deal of time to the garden.'

   'Ah, there's plenty of gardening at the Red House,' said Godfrey,
surprised at the difficulty he found in approaching a proposition
which had seemed so easy to him in the distance. 'You've done a good
part by Eppie, Marner, for sixteen years. It 'ud be a great comfort to
you to see her well provided for, wouldn't it? She looks blooming
and healthy, but not fit for any hardships: she doesn't look like a
strapping girl come of working parents. You'd like to see her taken
care of by those who can leave her well off, and make a lady of her;
she's more fit for it than for a rough life, such as she might come to
have in a few years' time.'

   A slight flush came over Marner's face, and disappeared, like a
passing gleam. Eppie was simply wondering Mr Cass should talk so about
things that seemed to have nothing to do with reality; but Silas was
hurt and uneasy.

   'I don't take your meaning, sir,' he answered, not having words
at command to express the mingled feelings with which he had heard
Mr Cass's words.

   'Well, my meaning is this, Marner,' said Godfrey, determined to
come to the point. 'Mrs Cass and I, you know, have no children- nobody
to benefit by our good home and everything else we have- more than
enough for ourselves. And we should like to have somebody in the place
of a daughter to us- we should like to have Eppie, and treat her in
every way as our own child. It would be a great comfort to you in your
old age, I hope, to see her fortune made in that way, after you have
been at the trouble of bringing her up so well. And it's right you
should have every reward for that. And Eppie, I'm sure, will always
love you and be grateful to you: she'd come and see you very often,
and we should all be on the look-out to do everything as we could
towards making you comfortable.'

   A plain man like Godfrey Cass, speaking under some embarrassment,
necessarily blunders on words that are coarser than his intentions,
and that are likely to fall gratingly on susceptible feelings. While
he had been speaking, Eppie had quietly passed her arm behind
Silas's head, and let her hand rest against it caressingly: she felt
him trembling violently. He was silent for some moments when Mr Cass
had ended- powerless under the conflict of emotions, all alike
painful. Eppie's heart was swelling at the sense that her father was
in distress; and she was just going to lean down and speak to him,
when one struggling dread at last gained the mastery over every
other in Silas, and he said, faintly:

   'Eppie, my child, speak. I won't stand in your way. Thank Mr and
Mrs Cass.'

   Eppie took her hand from her father's head, and came forward a
step. Her cheeks were flushed, but not with shyness this time: the
sense that her father was in doubt and suffering banished that sort of
self-consciousness. She dropped a low curtsy, first to Mrs Cass and
then to Mr Cass, and said:

   'Thank you, ma'am- thank you, sir. But I can't leave my father, nor
own anybody nearer than him. And I don't want to be a lady- thank
you all the same' (here Eppie dropped another curtsy). 'I couldn't
give up the folks I've been used to.'

   Eppie's lips began to tremble a little at the last words. She
retreated to her father's chair again, and held him round the neck;
while Silas, with a subdued sob, put up his hand to grasp hers.

   The tears were in Nancy's eyes, but her sympathy with Eppie was,
naturally, divided with distress on her husband's account. She dared
not speak, wondering what was going on in her husband's mind.

   Godfrey felt an irritation inevitable to almost all of us when we
encounter an unexpected obstacle. He had been full of his own
penitence and resolution to retrieve his error as far as the time
was left to him; he was possessed with all-important feelings, that
were to lead to a predetermined course of action which he had fixed on
as the right, and he was not prepared to enter with lively
appreciation into other people's feelings counteracting his virtuous
resolves. The agitation with which he spoke again was not quite
unmixed with anger.

   'But I have a claim on you, Eppie- the strongest of all claims.
It is my duty, Marner, to own Eppie as my child, and provide for
her. She is my own child- her mother was my wife. I have a natural
claim on her that must stand before every other.'

   Eppie had given a violent start, and turned quite pale. Silas, on
the contrary, who had been relieved, by Eppie's answer, from the dread
lest his mind should be in opposition to hers, felt the spirit of
resistance in him set free, not without a touch of parental
fierceness. 'Then, sir,' he answered, with an accent of bitterness
that had been silent in him since the memorable day when his
youthful hope had perished- 'then, sir, why didn't you say so
sixteen years ago, and claim her before I'd come to love her,
i'stead o' coming to take her from me now, when you might as well take
the heart out o' my body? God gave her to me because you turned your
back upon her, and He looks upon her as mine: you've no right to
her! When a man turns a blessing from his door, it falls to them as
take it in.'

   'I know that, Marner. I was wrong. I've repented of my conduct in
that matter,' said Godfrey, who could not help feeling the edge of
Silas's words.

   'I'm glad to hear it, sir,' said Marner, with gathering excitement;
'but repentance doesn't alter what's been going on for sixteen year.
Your coming now and saying "I'm her father" doesn't alter the feelings
inside us. It's me she's been calling her father ever since she
could say the word.'

   'But I think you might look at the thing more reasonably,
Marner,' said Godfrey, unexpectedly awed by the weaver's direct
truth-speaking. 'It isn't as if she was to be taken quite away from
you, so that you'd never see her again. She'll be very near you, and
come to see you very often. She'll feel just the same towards you.'

   'Just the same?' said Marner, more bitterly than ever. 'How'll
she feel just the same for me as she does now, when we eat o' the same
bit, and drink o' the same cup, and think of the same things from
one day's end to another? Just the same? that's idle talk. You'd cut
us i' two.'

   Godfrey, unqualified by experience to discern the pregnancy of
Marner's simple words, felt rather angry again. It seemed to him
that the weaver was very selfish (a judgment readily passed by those
who have never tested their own power of sacrifice) to oppose what was
undoubtedly for Eppie's welfare; and he felt himself called upon,
for her sake, to assert his authority.

   'I should have thought, Marner,' he said, severely- 'I should
have thought your affection for Eppie would have made you rejoice in
what was for her good, even if it did call upon you to give up
something. You ought to remember that your own life is uncertain,
and that she's at an age now when her lot may soon be fixed in a way
very different from what it would be in her father's home: she may
marry some low working-man, and then, whatever I might do for her, I
couldn't make her well-off. You're putting yourself in the way of
her welfare; and though I'm sorry to hurt you after what you've
done, and what I've left undone, I feel now it's my duty to insist
on taking care of my own daughter. I want to do my duty.'

   It would be difficult to say whether it were Silas or Eppie that
was most deeply stirred by this last speech of Godfrey's. Thought
had been very busy in Eppie as she listened to the contest between her
old long-loved father and this new unfamiliar father who had
suddenly come to fill the place of that black featureless shadow which
had held the ring and placed it on her mother's finger. Her
imagination had darted backward in conjectures, and forward in
previsions, of what this revealed fatherhood implied; and there were
words in Godfrey's last speech which helped to make the previsions
especially definite. Not that these thoughts, either of past or
future, determined her resolution- that was determined by the feelings
which vibrated to every word Silas had uttered; but they raised,
even apart from these feelings, a repulsion towards the offered lot
and the newly-revealed father.

   Silas, on the other hand, was again stricken in conscience, and
alarmed lest Godfrey's accusation should be true- lest he should be
raising his own will as an obstacle to Eppie's good. For many
moments he was mute, struggling for the self-conquest necessary to the
uttering of the difficult words. They came out tremulously.

   'I'll say no more. Let it be as you will. Speak to the child.
I'll hinder nothing.'

   Even Nancy, with all the acute sensibility of her own affections,
shared her husband's view, that Marner was not justifiable in his wish
to retain Eppie, after her real father had avowed himself. She felt
that it was a very hard trial for the poor weaver, but her code
allowed no question that a father by blood must have a claim above
that of any foster-father. Besides, Nancy, used all her life to
plenteous circumstances and the privileges of 'respectability',
could not enter into the pleasures which early nurture and habit
connect with all the little aims and efforts of the poor who are
born poor: to her mind, Eppie, in being restored to her birthright,
was entering on a too long withheld but unquestionable good. Hence she
heard Silas's last words with relief, and thought, as Godfrey did,
that their wish was achieved.

   'Eppie, my dear,' said Godfrey, looking at his daughter, not
without some embarrassment, under the sense that she was old enough to
judge him, 'it'll always be our wish that you should show your love
and gratitude to one who's been a father to you so many years, and
we shall want to help you to make him comfortable in every way. But we
hope you'll come to love us as well; and though I haven't been what
a father should have been to you all these years, I wish to do the
utmost in my power for you for the rest of my life, and provide for
you as my only child. And you'll have the best of mothers in my
wife- that'll be a blessing you haven't known since you were old
enough to know it.'

   'My dear, you'll be a treasure to me,' said Nancy, in her gentle
voice. 'We shall want for nothing when we have our daughter.'

   Eppie did not come forward and curtsy, as she had done before.
She held Silas's hand in hers, and grasped it firmly- it was a
weaver's hand, with a palm and finger-tips that were sensitive to such
pressure- while she spoke with colder decision than before.

   'Thank you, ma'am- thank you, sir, for your offers- they're very
great, and far above my wish. For I should have no delight in life any
more if I was forced to go away from my father, and knew he was
sitting at home, a-thinking of me and feeling lone. We've been used to
be happy together every day, and I can't think o' no happiness without
him. And he says he'd nobody i' the world till I was sent to him,
and he'd have nothing when I was gone. And he's took care of me and
loved me from the first, and I'll cleave to him as long as he lives,
and nobody shall ever come between him and me.'

   'But you must make sure, Eppie,' said Silas, in a low voice- 'you
must make sure as you won't ever be sorry, because you've made your
choice to stay among poor folks, and with poor clothes and things,
when you might ha' had everything o' the best.'

   His sensitiveness on this point had increased as he listened to
Eppie's words of faithful affection.

   'I can never be sorry, father,' said Eppie. 'I shouldn't know
what to think on or to wish for with fine things about me, as I
haven't been used to. And it 'ud be poor work for me to put on things,
and ride in a gig, and sit in a place at church, as 'ud make them as
I'm fond of think me unfitting company for 'em. What could I care
for then?'

   Nancy looked at Godfrey with a pained questioning glance. But his
eyes were fixed on the floor, where he was moving the end of his
stick, as if he were pondering on something absently. She thought
there was a word which might perhaps come better from her lips than
from his.

   'What you say is natural, my dear child- it's natural you should
cling to those who've brought you up,' she said, mildly; 'but
there's a duty you owe to your lawful father. There's perhaps
something to be given up on more sides than one. When your father
opens his home to you, I think it's right you shouldn't turn your back
on it.'

   'I can't feel as I've got any father but one,' said Eppie,
impetuously, while the tears gathered. 'I've always thought of a
little home where he'd sit i' the corner, and I should fend and do
everything for him: I can't think o' no other home. I wasn't brought
up to be a lady, and I can't turn my mind to it. I like the working
folks, and their houses, and their ways. And,' she ended passionately,
while the tears fell, 'I'm promised to marry a working man, as'll live
with father, and help me to take care of him.'

   Godfrey looked up at Nancy with a flushed face and a smarting
dilation of the eyes. This frustration of a purpose towards which he
had set out under the exalted consciousness that he was about to
compensate in some degree for the greatest demerit of his life, made
him feel the air of the room stifling.

   'Let us go,' he said, in an undertone.

   'We won't talk of this any longer now,' said Nancy, rising.
'We're your well-wishers, my dear- and yours too, Marner. We shall
come and see you again. It's getting late now.'

   In this way she covered her husband's abrupt departure, for Godfrey
had gone straight to the door, unable to say more.

                       CHAPTER TWENTY

NANCY and Godfrey walked home under the starlight in silence. When
they entered the oaken parlour, Godfrey threw himself into his
chair, while Nancy laid down her bonnet and shawl, and stood on the
hearth near her husband, unwilling to leave him even for a few
minutes, and yet fearing to utter any word lest it might jar on his
feeling. At last Godfrey turned his head towards her, and their eyes
met, dwelling in that meeting without any movement on either side.
That quiet mutual gaze of a trusting husband and wife is like the
first moment of rest or refuge from a great weariness or a great
danger- not to be interfered with by speech or action which would
distract the sensations from the fresh enjoyment of repose.

   But presently he put out his hand, and as Nancy placed hers
within it, he drew her towards him, and said:

   'That's ended!'

   She bent to kiss him, and then said, as she stood by his side,
'Yes, I'm afraid we must give up the hope of having her for a
daughter. It wouldn't be right to want to force her to come to us
against her will. We can't alter her bringing up and what's come of
it.'

   'No,' said Godfrey, with a keen decisiveness of tone, in contrast
with his usually careless and unemphatic speech- 'there's debts we
can't pay like money debts, by paying extra for the years that have
slipped by. While I've been putting off, and putting off, the trees
have been growing- it's too late now. Marner was in the right in
what he said about a man's turning away a blessing from his door: it
falls to somebody else. I wanted to pass for childless once, Nancy-
I shall pass for childless now against my wish.'

   Nancy did not speak immediately, but after a little while she
asked- 'You won't make it known, then, about Eppie's being your
daughter?'

   'No- where would be the good to anybody?- only harm. I must do what
I can for her in the state of life she chooses. I must see who it is
she's thinking of marrying.'

   'If it won't do any good to make the thing known,' said Nancy,
who thought she might now allow herself the relief of entertaining a
feeling which she had tried to silence before, 'I should be very
thankful for father and Priscilla never to be troubled with knowing
what was done in the past, more than about Dunsey: it can't be helped,
their knowing that.'

   'I shall put it in my will- I think I shall put it in my will. I
shouldn't like to leave anything to be found out, like this of
Dunsey,' said Godfrey, meditatively. 'But I can't see anything but
difficulties that 'ud come from telling it now. I must do what I can
to make her happy in her own way. I've a notion,' he added after a
moment's pause, 'it's Aaron Winthrop she meant she was engaged to. I
remember seeing him with her and Marner going away from church.'

   'Well, he's very sober and industrious,' said Nancy, trying to view
the matter as cheerfully as possible.

   Godfrey fell into thoughtfulness again. Presently he looked up at
Nancy sorrowfully, and said:

   'She's a very pretty, nice girl, isn't she, Nancy?'

   'Yes, dear; and with just your hair and eyes: I wondered it had
never struck me before.'

   'I think she took a dislike to me at the thought of my being her
father: I could see a change in her manner after that.'

   'She couldn't bear to think of not looking on Marner as her
father,' said Nancy, not wishing to confirm her husband's painful
impression.

   'She thinks I did wrong by her mother as well as by her. She thinks
me worse than I am. But she must think it: she can never know all.
It's part of my punishment, Nancy, for my daughter to dislike me. I
should never have got into that trouble if I'd been true to you- if
I hadn't been a fool. I'd no right to expect anything but evil could
come of that marriage- and when I shirked doing a father's part too.'

   Nancy was silent: her spirit of rectitude would not let her try
to soften the edge of what she felt to be a just compunction. He spoke
again after a little while, but the tone was rather changed: there was
tenderness mingled with the previous self-reproach.

   'And I got you, Nancy, in spite of all; and yet I've been grumbling
and uneasy because I hadn't something else- as if I deserved it.'

   'You've never been wanting to me, Godfrey,' said Nancy, with
quiet sincerity. 'My only trouble would be gone if you resigned
yourself to the lot that's been given us.'

   'Well, perhaps, it isn't too late to mend a bit there. Though it is
too late to mend some things, say what they will.'

                       CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

THE next morning, when Silas and Eppie were seated at their breakfast,
he said to her:

   'Eppie, there's a thing I've had on my mind to do this two year,
and now the money's been brought back to us, we can do it. I've been
turning it over and over in the night, and I think we'll set out
tomorrow, while the fine days last. We'll leave the house and
everything for your godmother to take care on, and we'll make a little
bundle o' things and set out.'

   'Where to go, daddy?' said Eppie, in much surprise.

   'To my old country- to the town where I was born- up Lantern
Yard. I want to see Mr Paston, the minister: something may ha' come
out to make 'em know I was innicent o' the robbery. And Mr Paston
was a man with a deal o' light- I want to speak to him about the
drawing o' the lots. And I should like to talk to him about the
religion o' this country-side, for I partly think he doesn't know on
it.'

   Eppie was very joyful, for there was the prospect not only of
wonder and delight at seeing a strange country, but also of coming
back to tell Aaron all about it. Aaron was so much wiser than she
was about most things- it would be rather pleasant to have this little
advantage over him. Mrs Winthrop, though possessed with a dim fear
of dangers attendant on so long a journey, and requiring many
assurances that it would not take them out of the region of
carrier's carts and slow waggons, was nevertheless well pleased that
Silas should revisit his own country, and find out if he had been
cleared from that false accusation.

   'You'd be easier in your mind for the rest o' your life, Master
Marner,' said Dolly- 'that you would. And if there's any light to be
got up the yard as you talk on, we've need of it i' this world, and
I'd be glad on it myself, if you could bring it back.'

   So, on the fourth day from that time, Silas and Eppie, in their
Sunday clothes, with a small bundle tied in a blue linen handkerchief,
were making their way through the streets of a great manufacturing
town. Silas, bewildered by the changes thirty years had brought over
his native place, had stopped several persons in succession to ask
them the name of this town, that he might be sure he was not under a
mistake about it.

   'Ask for Lantern Yard, father- ask this gentleman with the
tassels on his shoulders a-standing at the shop-door; he isn't in a
hurry like the rest,' said Eppie, in some distress at her father's
bewilderment, and ill at ease, besides, amidst the noise, the
movement, and the multitude of strange indifferent faces.

   'Eh, my child, he won't know anything about it,' said Silas;
'gentlefolks didn't ever go up the Yard. But happen somebody can
tell me which is the way to Prison Street, where the jail is. I know
the way out o' that as if I'd seen it yesterday.'

   With some difficulty, after many turnings and new inquiries, they
reached Prison Street: and the grim walls of the jail, the first
object that answered to any image in Silas's memory, cheered him
with the certitude, which no assurance of the town's name had hitherto
given him, that he was in his native place.

   'Ah,' he said, drawing a long breath, 'there's the jail, Eppie;
that's just the same: I arn't afraid now. It's the third turning on
the left hand from the jail doors, that's the way we must go.'

   'Oh, what a dark ugly place!' said Eppie. 'How it hides the sky!
It's worse than the Workhouse. I'm glad you don't live in this town
now, father. Is Lantern Yard like this street?'

   'My precious child,' said Silas, smiling, 'it isn't a big street
like this. I never was easy i' this street myself, but I was fond o'
Lantern Yard. The shops here are all altered, I think- I can't make
'em out; but I shall know the turning, because it's the third.'

   'Here it is,' he said, in a tone of satisfaction, as they came to a
narrow alley. 'And then we must go to the left again, and then
straight for'ard for a bit, up Shoe Lane; and then we shall be at
the entry next to the o'erhanging window, where there's the nick in
the road for the water to run. Eh, I can see it all.'

   'Oh, father, I'm like as if I was stifled,' said Eppie. 'I couldn't
have thought as any folks lived i' this way, so close together. How
pretty the Stone-pits 'ull look when we get back!

   'It looks comical to me, child, now- and smells bad. I can't
think as it usened to smell so.'

   Here and there a sallow, begrimed face looked out from a gloomy
doorway at the strangers, and increased Eppie's uneasiness, so that it
was a longed-for relief when they issued from the alleys into Shoe
Lane, where there was a broader strip of sky.

   'Dear heart!' said Silas, 'why, there's people coming out o' the
Yard as if they'd been to chapel at this time o' day- a weekday noon!'

   Suddenly he started and stood still with a look of distressed
amazement, that alarmed Eppie. They were before an opening in front of
a large factory, from which men and women were streaming for their
midday meal.

   'Father,' said Eppie, clasping his arm, 'what's the matter?'

   But she had to speak again and again before Silas could answer her.

   'It's gone, child,' he said, at last, in strong agitation- 'Lantern
Yard's gone. It must ha' been here, because here's the house with
the o'erhanging window- I know that- it's just the same; but they've
made this new opening; and see that big factory! It's all gone- chapel
and all.'

   'Come into that little brush-shop and sit down, father- they'll let
you sit down,' said Eppie, always on the watch lest one of her
father's strange attacks should come on. 'Perhaps the people can
tell you all about it.'

   But neither from the brush-maker, who had come to Shoe Lane only
ten years ago, when the factory was already built, nor from any
other source within his reach, could Silas learn anything of the old
Lantern Yard friends, or of Mr Paston, the minister.

   'The old place is all swep' away,' Silas said to Dolly Winthrop
on the night of his return- 'the little graveyard and everything.
The old home's gone; I've no home but this now. I shall never know
whether they got at the truth o' the robbery, nor whether Mr Paston
could ha' given me any light about the drawing o' the lots. It's
dark to me, Mrs Winthrop, that is; I doubt it'll be dark to the last.'

   'Well, yes, Master Marner,' said Dolly, who sat with a placid
listening face, now bordered by grey hairs; 'I doubt it may. It's
the will o' Them above as a many things should be dark to us; but
there's some things as I've never felt i' the dark about, and
they're mostly what comes i' the day's work. You were hard done by
that once, Master Marner, and it seems as you'll never know the rights
of it; but that doesn't hinder there being a rights, Master Marner,
for all it's dark to you and me.'

   'No,' said Silas, 'no; that doesn't hinder. Since the time the
child was sent to me and I've come to love her as myself, I've had
light enough to trusten by; and, now she says she'll never leave me, I
think I shall trusten till I die.'
CONCLUSION

                       CONCLUSION

THERE was one time of the year which was held in Raveloe to be
especially suitable for a wedding. It was when the great lilacs and
laburnums in the old-fashioned gardens showed their purple and
golden wealth above the lichen-tinted walls, and when there were
calves still young enough to want bucketfuls of fragrant milk.
People were not so busy then as they must become when the full
cheese-making and the mowing had set in; and besides, it was a time
when a light bridal dress could be worn with comfort and seen to
advantage.

   Happily the sunshine fell more warmly than usual on the lilac tufts
the morning that Eppie was married, for her dress was a very light
one. She had often thought, though with a feeling of renunciation,
that the perfection of a wedding-dress would be a white cotton, with
the tiniest pink sprig at wide intervals; so that when Mrs Godfrey
Cass begged to provide one, and asked Eppie to choose what it should
be, previous meditation had enabled her to give a decided answer at
once.

   Seen at a little distance as she walked across the churchyard and
down the village, she seemed to be attired in pure white, and her hair
looked like the dash of gold on a lily. One hand was on her
husband's arm, and with the other she clasped the hand of her father
Silas.

   'You won't be giving me away, father,' she had said before they
went to church; 'you'll only be taking Aaron to be a son to you.'

   Dolly Winthrop walked behind with her husband; and there ended
the little bridal procession.

   There were many eyes to look at it, and Miss Priscilla Lammeter was
glad that she and her father had happened to drive up to the door of
the Red House just in time to see this pretty sight. They had come
to keep Nancy company today, because Mr Cass had had to go away to
Lytherly, for special reasons. That seemed to be a pity, for otherwise
he might have gone, as Mr Crackenthorp and Mr Osgood certainly
would, to look on at the wedding-feast which he had ordered at the
Rainbow, naturally feeling a great interest in the weaver who had been
wronged by one of his own family.

   'I could ha' wished Nancy had had the luck to find a child like
that and bring her up,' said Priscilla to her father, as they sat in
the gig; 'I should ha' had something young to think of then, besides
the lambs and the calves.'

   'Yes, my dear, yes,' said Mr Lammeter; 'one feels that as one
gets older. Things look dim to old folks: they'd need have some
young eyes about 'em, to let 'em know the world's the same as it
used to be.'

   Nancy came out now to welcome her father and sister; and the
wedding group had passed on beyond the Red House to the humbler part
of the village.

   Dolly Winthrop was the first to divine that old Mr Macey, who had
been set in his arm-chair outside his own door, would expect some
special notice as they passed, since he was too old to be at the
wedding-feast.

   'Mr Macey's looking for a word from us,' said Dolly; 'he'll be hurt
if we pass him and say nothing- and him so racked with rheumatiz.'

   So they turned aside to shake hands with the old man. He had looked
forward to the occasion, and had his premeditated speech.

   'Well, Master Marner,' he said, in a voice that quavered a good
deal, 'I've lived to see my words come true. I was the first to say
there was no harm in you, though your looks might be again' you; and I
was the first to say you'd get your money back. And it's nothing but
rightful as you should. And I'd ha' said the "Amens", and willing,
at the holy matrimony; but Tookey's done it a good while now, and I
hope you'll have none the worse luck.'

   In the open yard before the Rainbow, the party of guests were
already assembled, though it was still nearly an hour before the
appointed feast-time. But by this means they could not only enjoy
the slow advent of their pleasure; they had also ample leisure to talk
of Silas Marner's strange history, and arrive by due degrees at the
conclusion that he had brought a blessing on himself by acting like
a father to a lone motherless child. Even the farrier did not negative
this sentiment: on the contrary, he took it up as peculiarly his
own, and invited any hardy person present to contradict him. But he
met with no contradiction; and all differences among the company
were merged in a general agreement with Mr Snell's sentiment, that
when a man had deserved his good luck, it was the part of his
neighbours to wish him joy.

   As the bridal group approached, a hearty cheer was raised in the
Rainbow yard; and Ben Winthrop, whose jokes had retained their
acceptable flavour, found it agreeable to turn in there and receive
congratulations; not requiring the proposed interval of quiet at the
Stone-pits before joining the company.

   Eppie had a larger garden than she had ever expected there now; and
in other ways there had been alterations at the expense of Mr Cass,
the landlord, to suit Silas's larger family. For he and Eppie had
declared that they would rather stay at the Stone-pits than go to
any new home. The garden was fenced with stones on two sides, but in
front there was an open fence, through which the flowers shone with
answering gladness, as the four united people came within sight of
them.

   'Oh, father,' said Eppie, 'what a pretty home ours is! I think
nobody could be happier than we are.'

                             THE END
.

Colophon

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