The Weaver of Raveloe
(Mary Anne Evans)
more than all other gifts That earth can offer to declining man,
Brings hope with it,
and forward-looking thoughts."
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,
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.
whether in the rapid use of that difficult instrument the tongue,
or in some other art unfamiliar to villagers,
was in itself suspicious: honest folk,
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 simpler 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,
counterbalancing 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,
tread-mill attitude of the weaver.
But sometimes it happened that Marner,
pausing to adjust an irregularity in his thread,
became aware of the small scoundrels,
though chary of his time,
he liked their intrusion so ill that he would descend from his loom,
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 a wry mouth at any boy who happened to be in the rear?
heard their fathers and mothers hint that Silas Marner could cure folks' rheumatism if he had a mind,
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 ideas 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.
"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,
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 wheelwright'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,
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;
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,
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,
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.
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 over-wise,
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.
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,
before he came to Raveloe,
had been filled with the movement,
the mental activity,
and the close fellowship,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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.
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,
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 usual 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,
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?
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,
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;
you neglected the dead body."
"I must have slept,"
after a pause,
"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.
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,
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,
for nine years that we have gone in and out together,
have you ever known me tell a lie?
But God will clear me."
"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."
"I know nothing of what you mean."
The other persons present,
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 in Lantern Yard,
according to which prosecution was forbidden to Christians,
even had the case held less scandal to the community.
But the members 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 folds of the church.
Marner listened in silence.
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,
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.
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,
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 hillsides,
than this low,
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 whitewashed 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;
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,
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 he had vainly trusted in among the streets and at 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,
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,
Every man's work,
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;
in his solitude,
had to provide his own breakfast,
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.
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.
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.
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,
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,
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,
had never had an idiot child,
as Ann Coulter had.
Silas Marner could very likely do as much,
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;
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,
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,
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.
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 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,
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 forth 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.
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,
accepting 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;
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 merry-makings,
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.
After 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.
So soon as 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,
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;
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,
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,
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 with 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 twelvemonth,
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,
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 some one'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 its 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.
what do you want with me?"
in a mocking tone.
"You're my elders and betters,
I was obliged to come when you sent for me."
this is what I want --and just shake yourself sober and listen,
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.
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.
see and get the money,
and pretty quickly,
coming nearer to his brother and looking in his face.
you get the money yourself,
and save me the trouble,
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,
Godfrey bit his lips and clenched his fist.
"Don't come near me with that look,
else I'll knock you down."
turning away on his heel,
"Because I'm such a good-natured brother,
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,
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?"
"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,
For if you begin telling tales,
Bob's my father's favourite --you know that very well.
He'd only think himself well rid of you."
nodding his head sideways as he looked out of the window.
'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,
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."
that's easy talking.
I must have the money directly."
you've only got to ride him to the hunt to-morrow.
There'll be Bryce and Keating there,
You'll get more bids than one."
and get back home at eight o'clock,
splashed up to the chin.
I'm going to Mrs. Osgood's birthday dance."
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,
"Hold your tongue about Miss Nancy,
"else I'll throttle you."
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,"
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.
he'll know some time.
She's been threatening to come herself and tell him.
don't flatter yourself that your secrecy's worth any price you choose to ask.
You drain me of money till I have 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.
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,
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;
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.
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."
"you do me justice,
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 to-morrow for you,
I shouldn't look so handsome as you in the saddle,
but it's the horse they'll bid for,
and not the rider."
I daresay --trust my horse to you!"
"As you please,"
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 to 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 to-morrow."
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.
you mean no nonsense about the horse,
You'll sell him all fair,
and hand over the money?
If you don't,
'ull 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."
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 to-morrow,
as it did yesterday,
and then you can't go,"
hardly knowing whether he wished for that obstacle or not.
"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,
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."
hold your tongue!"
"And take care to keep sober to-morrow,
else you'll get pitched on your head coming home,
and Wildfire might be the worse for it."
"Make your tender heart easy,"
opening the door.
"You never knew me see double when I'd got a bargain to make;
'ud spoil the fun.
whenever I fall,
I'm warranted to fall on my legs."
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,
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,
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?
among these flushed and dull-eyed men there were some whom --thanks to their native human-kindness --even riot could never drive into brutality;
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.
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,
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,
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,
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.
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,
to turn his back on that hereditary ease and dignity which,
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,
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,
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 thought 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 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?
for his own part,
he did not care a button for cock-fighting.
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.
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,
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.
Dunstan enjoyed the self-important consciousness of having a horse to sell,
and the opportunity of driving a bargain,
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.
who had long had his eye on Wildfire,
"you're on your brother's horse to-day: how's that?"
I've swopped with him,"
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."
has he swopped with you for that big-boned hack of yours?"
quite aware that he should get another lie in answer.
there was a little account between us,"
"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 hind-quarters."
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,
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.
took one fence too many,
and got his horse pierced with a hedge-stake.
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.
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.
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,
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 to 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 forefinger encountered there were of too pale a colour to cover that small debt,
without payment of which the stable-keeper had declared he would never do any more business with Dunsey Cass.
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;
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;
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;
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,
be getting near the opening at the Stone-pits: he should find it out by the break in the hedgerow.
He found it out,
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.
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,
why had he left a light?
That was a strange forgetfulness in a miser.
Dunstan knocked still more loudly,
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.
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 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,
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 housekeepers 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,
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,
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,
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?
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.
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,
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;
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,
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;
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,
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.
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.
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;
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.
there was a sort of refuge which always comes 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.
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,
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;
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,
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.
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 to-night,
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;
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.
which was at a high pitch of animation when Silas approached the door of the Rainbow,
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,
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,
by saying in a doubtful tone to his cousin the butcher --
'ud say that was a fine beast you druv in yesterday,
was not disposed to answer rashly.
He gave a few puffs before he spat and replied,
"And they wouldn't be fur wrong,
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.
yes --she might,"
said the butcher,
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,"
"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
All I say is,
it's a lovely carkiss --and anybody as was reasonable,
'ud bring tears into their eyes to look at it."
it's the cow as I drenched,
whatever it is,"
pursued the farrier,
"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."
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."
said the landlord;
"let the cow alone.
The truth lies atween you: you're both right and both wrong,
as I allays say.
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,
You remember when first Mr. Lammeter's father come into these parts,
and took the Warrens?"
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 --
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,
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."
I wish you'd keep hold o' the tune,
when it's set for you;
if you're for prac-tis-ing,
I wish you'd prac-tise- that,"
said a large jocose-looking man,
an excellent wheelwright in his week-day capacity,
but on Sundays leader of the choir.
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.
who shared the unpopularity common to deputies,
turned very red,
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
There may be two opinions,
said Mr. Macey,
who felt very well satisfied with this attack on youthful presumption;
"you're right there,
Tookey: there's allays two
'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."
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?"
but the old gentleman and you are two folks,"
said Ben Winthrop.
"The old gentleman's got a gift.
the Squire used to invite him to take a glass,
only to hear him sing the "Red Rovier";
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,
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."
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,
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,
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,"
following up the landlord's conciliatory view,
"we're fond of our old clerk;
and him used to be such a singer,
and got a brother as is known for the first fiddler in this country-side.
it's a pity but what Solomon lived in our village,
and could give us a tune when we liked;
I'd keep him in liver and lights for nothing --that I would."
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."
you remember when first Mr. Lammeter's father come into these parts,
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 said 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;
yet 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.
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
-I- should know,
for I helped the old rector,
Mr. Drumlow as was,
I helped him marry
Here Mr. Macey paused;
he always gave his narrative in instalments,
expecting to be questioned according to precedent.
and a partic'lar thing happened,
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,
"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,
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,
'em by the rule o' contrairy,
and he says,
"Wilt thou have this man to thy wedded wife?"
and then he says,
"Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded husband?"
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,
You were live enough,
said the butcher.
"Lor bless you!"
said Mr. Macey,
and smiling in pity at the impotence of his hearer's imagination --"why,
I was all of a tremble: it was as if I'd been a coat pulled by the two tails,
for I couldn't stop the parson,
I couldn't take upon me to do that;
and yet I said to myself,
"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
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.
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 went 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,
said the landlord.
I held in tight till I was by mysen wi' Mr. Drumlow,
and then I out wi' everything,
as I allays did.
And he made light on it,
and he says,
make yourself easy,"
"it's neither the meaning nor the words --it's the re-ges-ter does it --that's the glue."
So you see he settled it easy;
for parsons and doctors know everything by heart,
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 was 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,
duly put the leading question.
old Mr. Lammeter had a pretty fortin,
didn't they say,
when he come into these parts?"
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."
and there's few folks know so well as you how it come to be Charity Land,
said the butcher.
"How should they?"
said the old clerk,
with some contempt.
my grandfather made the grooms' livery for that Mr. Cliff as came and built the big stables at the Warrens.
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,
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,
's been wrote up over our door since afore the Queen's heads went out on the shillings.
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.
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
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 come to be Charity Land;
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
'ud sound like thunder half o'er the parish."
but there's more going on in the stables than what folks see by daylight,
said the landlord.
go that way of a dark night,
said Mr. Macey,
"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,
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,
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,
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.
I say what a man -should- say as doesn't shut his eyes to look at a finger-post.
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."
that's easy betting,
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.
'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."
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."
but who's to watch you,
and see you do it?
That's no fair bet,"
said the butcher.
"No fair bet?"
replied Mr. Dowlas,
"I should like to hear any man stand up and say I want to bet unfair.
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.
'll bid for you at your own vallying,
I'm for peace and quietness,
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."
but there's this in it,
said the landlord,
speaking in a tone of much candour and tolerance.
i' my opinion,
they can't see ghos'es,
not if they stood as plain as a pike-staff before
And there's reason i' that.
For there's my wife,
not if she'd the strongest o' 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
putting a ghost for a smell,
or else contrairiways.
I'm for holding with both sides;
as I say,
the truth lies between
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
in a conciliatory tone,
"what's lacking to you?
What's your business here?"
"I've been robbed!
I want the constable --and the Justice --and Squire Cass --and Mr. Crackenthorp."
"Lay hold on him,
said the landlord,
the idea of a ghost subsiding;
"he's off his head,
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,
if you've a mind,"
"He's been robbed,
and murdered too,
for what I know,"
in a muttering tone.
turning and fixing his strange eyes on the suspected man.
what do you want wi' me?"
trembling a little,
and seizing his drinking-can as a defensive weapon.
"If it was you stole my money,"
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!"
"I'll pitch this can at your eye if you talk o' -my- stealing your money."
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."
to be sure,
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."
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 every one else,
in the centre of the circle and in the direct rays of the fire.
too feeble to have any distinct purpose beyond that of getting help to recover his money,
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,
what's this you've got to say --as you've been robbed?
"He'd better not say again as it was me robbed him,"
cried Jem Rodney,
"What could I ha' done with his money?
I could as easy steal the parson's surplice,
and wear it."
"Hold your tongue,
and let's hear what he's got to say,"
said the landlord.
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,
as Mr. Macey observed,
"Folks as had the devil to back
'em were not likely to be so mushed" as poor Silas was.
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,
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,
said the landlord.
"You mustn'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,
by your own account."
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,
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,
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,"
lifting up his hands to his head,
and turning away with bewildered misery,
"I try --I try to think where my guineas can be."
they're gone where it's hot enough to melt
said Mr. Macey.
said the farrier.
And then he asked,
with a cross-examining air,
"How much money might there be in the bags,
"Two hundred and seventy-two pounds,
twelve and sixpence,
last night when I counted it,"
seating himself again,
with a groan.
they'd be none so heavy to carry.
Some tramp's been in,
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,
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;
if it's me as is deppity,
I'll go back with you,
and examine your premises;
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,
said the landlord,
who also considered himself personally concerned in this proposition.
it rains heavy still,"
returning from the door.
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,
as a fact delivered to him by his father,
that no doctor could be a constable.
"And you're a doctor,
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.
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 en-vy-ing 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,
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".
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,
like every one 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 foot-marks,
but a close investigation of the spot had disclosed,
in the direction opposite to the village,
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;
that everybody had a right to their own opinions,
grounds or no grounds,
and that the weaver,
as everybody knew,
was partly crazy.
though he joined in the defence of Marner against all suspicions of deceit,
also pooh-poohed the tinder-box;
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.
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.
concluded Mr. Tookey --"as if there was nothing but what could be made out by justices and constables."
don't you be for overshooting the mark,
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,
'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,
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,
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.
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.
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,
he'd got ear-rings in his box to sell,
so it's nat'ral to suppose he might wear
But he called at every house,
in the village;
there's somebody else,
'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.
every one 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.
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.
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?
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
not so long ago but what there were people living who remembered it.
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,
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,
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,
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,
who pulled up to speak,
with a face that implied something disagreeable.
that's a lucky brother of yours,
that Master Dunsey,
"What do you mean?"
hasn't he been home yet?"
What has happened?
What has he done with my horse?"
I thought it was yours,
though he pretended you had parted with it to him."
"Has he thrown him down and broken his knees?"
flushed with exasperation.
"Worse than that,"
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,
"and he'd better keep away.
Confound me for a fool!
I might have known this would be the end of it."
to tell you the truth,"
"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."
"He'll never be hurt --he's made to hurt other people."
"And so you -did- give him leave to sell the horse,
I wanted to part with the horse --he was always a little too hard in the mouth for me,"
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,"
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,
"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,"
Then rousing himself,
with an effort at carelessness,
"We shall hear of him soon enough,
I'll be bound."
here's my turning,"
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,
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,
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,
and 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,
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,
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.
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.
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 took a walk with his managing-man before breakfast.
Every one 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,
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 presupposition that his family,
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,
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.
"I've had my breakfast,
but I was waiting to speak to you."
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,
You youngsters' business is your own pleasure,
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.
before he spoke again,
until the ale had been brought and the door closed --an interval during which Fleet,
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,"
"happened the day before yesterday."
broke his knees?"
said the Squire,
after taking a draught of ale.
"I thought you knew how to ride better than that,
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.
the country wouldn't have a leg to stand on.
'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 utmost 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,"
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'd 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,"
"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,
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,
my property's got no entail on it;
--since my grandfather's time the Casses can do as they like with their land.
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,
"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,
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 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,
did he break his own neck,
said the Squire,
with some disgust at the idea that,
in that case,
he could not fulfil his threat.
he wasn't hurt,
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.
I don't know,"
That was a feeble evasion,
but Godfrey was not fond of lying,
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,
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.
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,
if I'd not had the bad luck to lose Wildfire.
I should have paid you the money."
it's time you'd done with fooleries.
And I'd have you know,
you -must- ha' done with
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,
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,
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."
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.
if I'd said you nay,
you'd ha' kept on with it;
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,
feeling very hot and uncomfortable;
"but I don't think she will."
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,"
let me make the offer for you,
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,
"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."
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,
You wouldn't like to settle me on one of the farms,
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,
said the Squire,
with a short,
"I'd rather let the thing be,
"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.
'em to get my horse saddled.
And stop: look out and get that hack o' Dunsey's sold,
and hand me the money,
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,
and if I did,
it isn't my place to tell him to keep away,"
moving towards the door.
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 absolutely to 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.
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.
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,
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 every one's thought --even Godfrey's,
who had better reason than any one 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;
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,
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,
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;
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 any one 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,
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,
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.
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,
you're no worse off nor other poor folks,
and if you was to be crippled,
'ud give you a
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 own 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.
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 --
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,
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,
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,
you might ha' made up for it by coming to church reg'lar;
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,
who's got anything against it?
That's my thinking;
and I've been clerk o' 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.
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.
you talk o' Master Marner making out a tale --why,
that is: it
'ud take a
'cute man to make a tale like that;
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.
not doubting that he had been listened to,
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.
have you got nothing to say to that?"
said Mr. Macey at last,
with a slight accent of impatience.
shaking his head between his hands,
"I thank you --thank you --kindly."
to be sure: I thought you would,"
said Mr. Macey;
"and my advice is --have you got a Sunday suit?"
"I doubted it was so,"
said Mr. Macey.
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.
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,
you get a matter of a pound a-week at your weaving,
and you're a young man,
for all you look so mushed.
you couldn't ha' been five-and-twenty when you come into these parts,
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 church-going,
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 greater,
though still with moderate,
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,
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,
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,
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.
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.
it is as I thought,"
said Mrs. Winthrop,
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.
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.
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,
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,
Dolly sighed gently as she held out the cakes to Silas,
who thanked her kindly and looked very close at them,
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
"I can't read
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 retreated completely behind his outwork.
said his mother,
whativer the letters are,
they've a good meaning;
and it's a stamp as has been in our house,
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."
at which proof of learning Aaron peeped round the chair again.
to be sure,
you can 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 of it i' this world --that we have;
and I hope they'll bring good to you,
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.
with more feeling than before --"Thank you --thank you kindly."
But he laid down the cakes and seated himself absently --drearily unconscious of any distinct benefit towards which the cakes and the letters,
or even Dolly's kindness,
could tend for him.
if there's good anywhere,
we've need of it,"
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,
I doubt you didn't know it was Sunday.
Living so lone here,
you lose your count,
when your loom makes a noise,
you can't hear the bells,
more partic'lar now the frost kills the sound."
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.
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.
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."
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.
"I know nothing o' church.
I've never been to church."
in a low tone of wonderment.
Then bethinking herself of Silas's advent from an unknown country,
"Could it ha' been as they'd no church where you was born?"
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 --
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 partic'lar 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' Their'n."
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.
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.
having become used to the weaver's awful presence,
had advanced to his mother's side,
seeming to notice him for the first time,
tried to return Dolly's signs of good-will 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.
said his mother,
taking him on her lap,
you don't want cake again yet awhile.
He's wonderful hearty,"
she went on,
with a little sigh --"that he is,
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".
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.
stan' up and sing the carril to Master Marner,
Aaron replied by rubbing his forehead against his mother's shoulder.
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,
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,"
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,
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,
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.
holding down Aaron's willing hands.
"We must be going home now.
And so I wish you good-bye,
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,
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,
for I wish you well --I do.
Make your bow,
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 of faith in a divine love 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.
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,
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,
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 town 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,
"Dunsey will be coming home soon: there will be a great blow-up,
and how will you bribe his spite to silence?"
he won't come home before New Year's Eve,
"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,"
in a louder voice,
"and how will you get it without selling your mother's diamond pin?
And if you don't get it ...?"
but something may happen to make things easier.
At any rate,
there's one pleasure for me close at hand: Nancy is coming."
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.