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Silas Marner by George Eliot

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The Weaver of Raveloe

by George Eliot
(Mary Anne Evans)


"A child, 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, who, by the side of the brawny
country-folk, looked like the remnants of a disinherited race. The
shepherd's dog barked fiercely when one of these alien-looking men
appeared on the upland, dark against the early winter sunset; for
what dog likes a figure bent under a heavy bag?--and these pale
men rarely stirred abroad without that mysterious burden. The
shepherd himself, though he had good reason to believe that the bag
held nothing but flaxen thread, or else the long rolls of strong
linen spun from that thread, was not quite sure that this trade of
weaving, indispensable though it was, could be carried on entirely
without the help of the Evil One. In that far-off time superstition
clung easily round every person or thing that was at all unwonted,
or even intermittent and occasional merely, like the visits of the
pedlar or the knife-grinder. No one knew where wandering men had
their homes or their origin; and how was a man to be explained
unless you at least knew somebody who knew his father and mother?
To the peasants of old times, the world outside their own direct
experience was a region of vagueness and mystery: to their
untravelled thought a state of wandering was a conception as dim as
the winter life of the swallows that came back with the spring; and
even a settler, if he came from distant parts, hardly ever ceased to
be viewed with a remnant of distrust, which would have prevented any
surprise if a long course of inoffensive conduct on his part had
ended in the commission of a crime; especially if he had any
reputation for knowledge, or showed any skill in handicraft. All
cleverness, whether in the rapid use of that difficult instrument
the tongue, or in some other art unfamiliar to villagers, was in
itself suspicious: honest 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, and, though chary of his time, he
liked their intrusion so ill that he would descend from his loom,
and, opening the door, would fix on them a gaze that was always
enough to make them take to their legs in terror. For how was it
possible to believe that those large brown protuberant eyes in Silas
Marner's pale face really saw nothing very distinctly that was not
close to them, and not rather that their dreadful stare could dart
cramp, or rickets, or a wry mouth at any boy who happened to be in
the rear? They had, perhaps, heard their fathers and mothers hint
that Silas Marner could cure folks' rheumatism if he had a mind, and
add, still more darkly, that if you could only speak the devil fair
enough, he might save you the cost of the doctor. Such strange
lingering echoes of the old demon-worship might perhaps even now be
caught by the diligent listener among the grey-haired peasantry; for
the rude mind with difficulty associates the 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. "No," he
answered, "I've never been used to nothing but common victual, and
I can't eat that." Experience had bred no fancies in him that
could raise the phantasm of appetite.

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

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, the mole-catcher, averred that one evening as he was
returning homeward, he saw Silas Marner leaning against a stile with
a heavy bag on his back, instead of resting the bag on the stile as
a man in his senses would have done; and that, on coming up to him,
he saw that Marner's eyes were set like a dead man's, and he spoke
to him, and shook him, and his limbs were stiff, and his hands
clutched the bag as if they'd been made of iron; but just as he had
made up his mind that the weaver was dead, he came all right again,
like, as you might say, in the winking of an eye, and said
"Good-night", and walked off. All this Jem swore he had seen,
more by token that it was the very day he had been mole-catching on
Squire Cass's land, down by the old saw-pit. Some said Marner must
have been in a "fit", a word which seemed to explain things
otherwise incredible; but the argumentative Mr. Macey, clerk of the
parish, shook his head, and asked if anybody was ever known to go
off in a fit and not fall down. A fit was a stroke, wasn't it? and
it was in the nature of a stroke to partly take away the use of a
man's limbs and throw him on the parish, if he'd got no children to
look to. No, no; it was no stroke that would let a man stand on his
legs, like a horse between the shafts, and then walk off as soon as
you can say "Gee!" But there might be such a thing as a man's
soul being loose from his body, and going out and in, like a bird
out of its nest and back; and that was how folks got 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. At last, when everyone rose to depart,
he went towards William Dane and said, in a voice shaken by agitation--

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

There was a general shudder at this blasphemy.

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

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

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


Even people whose lives have been made various by learning,
sometimes find it hard to keep a fast hold on their habitual views
of life, on their faith in the Invisible, nay, on the sense that
their past joys and sorrows are a real experience, when they are
suddenly transported to a new land, where the beings around them
know nothing of their history, and share none of their ideas--
where their mother earth shows another lap, and human life has other
forms than those on which their souls have been nourished. Minds
that have been unhinged from their old faith and love, have perhaps
sought this Lethean influence of exile, in which the past becomes
dreamy because its symbols have all vanished, and the present too is
dreamy because it is linked with no memories. But even _their_
experience may hardly enable them thoroughly to imagine what was the
effect on a simple weaver like Silas Marner, when he left his own
country and people and came to settle in Raveloe. Nothing could be
more unlike his native town, set within sight of the widespread
hillsides, than this low, wooded region, where he felt hidden even
from the heavens by the screening trees and hedgerows. There was
nothing here, when he rose in the deep morning quiet and looked out
on the dewy brambles and rank tufted grass, that seemed to have any
relation with that life centring in Lantern Yard, which had once
been to him the altar-place of high dispensations. The 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; homesteads, where men
supped heavily and slept in the light of the evening hearth, and
where women seemed to be laying up a stock of linen for the life to
come. There were no lips in Raveloe from which a word could fall
that would stir Silas Marner's benumbed faith to a sense of pain.
In the early ages of the world, we know, it was believed that each
territory was inhabited and ruled by its own divinities, so that a
man could cross the bordering heights and be out of the reach of his
native gods, whose presence was confined to the streams and the
groves and the hills among which he had lived from his birth. And
poor Silas was vaguely conscious of something not unlike the feeling
of primitive men, when they fled thus, in fear or in sullenness,
from the face of an unpropitious deity. It seemed to him that the
Power 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, which, for him, had been turned to
bitterness. The little light he possessed spread its beams so
narrowly, that frustrated belief was a curtain broad enough to
create for him the blackness of night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the history of Silas Marner, until the fifteenth year after
he came to Raveloe. The livelong day he sat in his loom, his ear
filled with its monotony, his eyes bent close down on the slow
growth of sameness in the brownish web, his muscles moving with such
even repetition that their pause seemed almost as much a constraint
as the holding of his breath. But at night came his revelry: at
night he closed his shutters, and made fast his doors, and drew
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; besides, their
feasting caused a multiplication of orts, which were the heirlooms
of the poor. Betty Jay scented the boiling of Squire Cass's hams,
but her longing was arrested by the unctuous liquor in which they
were boiled; and when the seasons brought round the great
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, in fact, that appetites
at leisure could desire, in perhaps greater perfection, though not
in greater abundance, than at Squire Cass's.

For the Squire's wife had died long ago, and the Red House was
without that presence of the wife and mother which is the fountain
of wholesome love and fear in parlour and kitchen; and this helped
to account not only for there being more profusion than finished
excellence in the holiday provisions, but also for the frequency
with which the proud Squire condescended to preside in the parlour
of the Rainbow rather than under the shadow of his own dark
wainscot; perhaps, also, for the fact that his sons had turned out
rather ill. Raveloe was not a place where moral censure was severe,
but it was thought a weakness in the Squire that he had kept all his
sons at home in idleness; and though some licence was to be allowed
to young men whose fathers could afford it, people shook their heads
at the courses of the second son, Dunstan, commonly called Dunsey
Cass, whose taste for swopping and betting might turn out to be a
sowing of something worse than wild oats. To be sure, the
neighbours said, it was no matter what became of Dunsey--a
spiteful jeering fellow, who seemed to enjoy his drink the more when
other people went dry--always provided that his doings did not
bring trouble on a family like Squire Cass's, with a monument in the
church, and tankards older than King George. But it would be a
thousand pities if Mr. Godfrey, the eldest, a fine open-faced
good-natured young man who was to come into the land some day,
should take to going along the same road 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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Borrow of old Kimble."

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

"Well, then, sell Wildfire."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"As you please," said Dunstan, rapping the window-seat again with
an air of great unconcern. "It's _you_ have got to pay Fowler's
money; it's none of my business. You received the money from him
when you went to Bramcote, and _you_ told the Squire it wasn't paid.
I'd nothing to do with that; you chose to be so obliging as 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.

"Well, you mean no nonsense about the horse, eh? You'll sell him
all fair, and hand over the money? If you don't, you know,
everything '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."

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

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

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

"Confound you, hold your tongue!" said Godfrey, impetuously.
"And take care to keep sober 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," said Dunstan, opening the door.
"You never knew me see double when I'd got a bargain to make; it
'ud spoil the fun. Besides, whenever I fall, I'm warranted to fall
on my legs."

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

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

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

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


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

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

"Heyday!" said Bryce, who had long had his eye on Wildfire,
"you're on your brother's horse to-day: how's that?"

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

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

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

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

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

Keating rode up now, and the transaction became more complicated.
It ended in the purchase of the horse by Bryce for a hundred and
twenty, to be paid on the delivery of Wildfire, safe and sound, at
the Batherley stables. It did occur to Dunsey that it might be wise
for him to give up the day's hunting, proceed at once to Batherley,
and, having waited for Bryce's return, hire a horse to carry him
home with the money in his pocket. But the inclination for a run,
encouraged by confidence in his luck, and by a draught of brandy
from his pocket-pistol at the conclusion of the bargain, was not
easy to overcome, especially with a horse under him that would take
the fences to the admiration of the field. Dunstan, however, took
one fence too many, and 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. Dunstan, whose nature it
was to care more for immediate annoyances than for remote
consequences, no sooner recovered his legs, and saw that it was all
over with Wildfire, than he felt a satisfaction at the absence of
witnesses to a position which no swaggering could make enviable.
Reinforcing himself, after his shake, with a little brandy and much
swearing, he walked as fast as he could to a coppice on his right
hand, through which it occurred to him that he could make his way to
Batherley without danger of encountering any member of the hunt.
His first intention was to hire a horse there and ride home
forthwith, for to walk many miles without a gun in his hand, and
along an ordinary road, was as much out of the question to him as to
other spirited young men of his kind. He did not much mind about
taking the bad news to Godfrey, for he had to offer him at the same
time the resource of Marner's money; and if Godfrey kicked, as he
always did, at the notion of making a fresh debt from which he
himself got the smallest share of advantage, why, he wouldn't kick
long: Dunstan felt sure he could worry Godfrey into anything. The
idea of Marner's money kept growing in vividness, now the want of it
had become immediate; the prospect of having to make his appearance
with the muddy boots of a pedestrian at Batherley, and 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. After all, according to the direction in which the run
had brought him, he was not so very much farther from home than he
was from Batherley; but Dunsey, not being remarkable for clearness
of head, was only led to this conclusion by the gradual perception
that there were other reasons for choosing the unprecedented course
of walking home. It was now nearly four o'clock, and a mist was
gathering: the sooner he got into the road the better. He
remembered having crossed the road and seen the finger-post only a
little while before Wildfire broke down; so, buttoning his coat,
twisting the lash of his hunting-whip compactly round the handle,
and rapping the tops of his boots with a self-possessed air, as if
to assure himself that he was not at all taken by surprise, he set
off with the sense that he was undertaking a remarkable feat of
bodily exertion, which somehow and at some time he should be able to
dress up and magnify to the admiration of a select circle at the
Rainbow. When a young gentleman like Dunsey is reduced to so
exceptional a mode of locomotion as walking, a whip in his hand is a
desirable corrective to a too bewildering dreamy sense of
unwontedness in his position; and Dunstan, as he went along through
the gathering mist, was always rapping his whip somewhere. It was
Godfrey's whip, which he had chosen to take without leave because it
had a gold handle; of course no one could see, when Dunstan held it,
that the name _Godfrey Cass_ was cut in deep letters on that gold
handle--they could only see that it was a very handsome whip.
Dunsey was not without fear that he might meet some acquaintance in
whose eyes he would cut a pitiable figure, for mist is no screen
when people get close to each other; but when he at last found
himself in the well-known Raveloe lanes without having met a soul,
he silently remarked that that was part of his usual good luck. But
now the mist, helped by the evening darkness, was more of a screen
than he desired, for it hid the ruts into which his feet were liable
to slip--hid everything, so that he had to guide his steps by
dragging his whip along the low bushes in advance of the hedgerow.
He must soon, he thought, be getting near the opening at the
Stone-pits: he should find it out by the break in the hedgerow. He
found it out, however, by another circumstance which he had not
expected--namely, by certain gleams of light, which he presently
guessed to proceed from Silas Marner's cottage. That cottage and
the money hidden within it had been in his mind continually during
his walk, and he had been imagining ways of cajoling and tempting
the weaver to part with the immediate possession of his money for
the sake of receiving interest. Dunstan felt as if there must be a
little frightening added to the cajolery, for his own arithmetical
convictions were not clear enough to afford him any forcible
demonstration as to the advantages of interest; and as for security,
he regarded it vaguely as a means of cheating a man by making him
believe that he would be paid. Altogether, the operation on the
miser's mind was a task that Godfrey would be sure to hand over to
his more daring and cunning brother: Dunstan had made up his mind to
that; and by the time he saw the light gleaming through the chinks
of Marner's shutters, the idea of a dialogue with the weaver had
become so familiar to him, that it occurred to him as quite a
natural thing to make the acquaintance forthwith. There might be
several conveniences attending this course: the weaver had possibly
got a lantern, and Dunstan was tired of feeling his way. He was
still nearly three-quarters of a mile from home, and the lane was
becoming unpleasantly slippery, for the mist was passing into rain.
He turned up the bank, not without some fear lest he might miss the
right way, since he was not certain whether the light were in front
or on the side of the cottage. But he felt the ground before him
cautiously with his whip-handle, and at last arrived safely at the
door. He knocked loudly, rather enjoying the idea that the old
fellow would be frightened at the sudden noise. He heard no
movement in reply: all was silence in the cottage. Was the weaver
gone to bed, then? If so, why had he left a light? That was a
strange forgetfulness in a miser. Dunstan knocked still more
loudly, and, without pausing for a reply, pushed his fingers through
the latch-hole, intending to shake the door and pull the
latch-string up and down, not doubting that the door was fastened.
But, to his surprise, at this double motion the door opened, and he
found himself in front of a bright fire which lit up every corner of
the cottage--the bed, the loom, the three chairs, and the table--
and showed him that Marner was not there.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Yes, there was a sort of refuge which always 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. He turned, and tottered towards
his loom, and got into the seat where he worked, instinctively
seeking this as the strongest assurance of reality.

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

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


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

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

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

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

"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

"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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Come, come," said the landlord; "let the cow alone. The truth
lies atween you: you're both right and both wrong, as I allays 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, eh, Mr. Macey? You remember when first
Mr. Lammeter's father come into these parts, and took the Warrens?"

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

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

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

"I know what's right, nor only so,
But also practise what I know.""

"Well, then, I wish you'd keep hold o' the tune, when it's set for
you; if you're for 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. He winked,
as he spoke, at two of the company, who were known officially as the
"bassoon" and the "key-bugle", in the confidence that he was
expressing the sense of the musical profession in Raveloe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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