Between eight and nine o'clock that evening, Eppie and Silas were seated alone
in the cottage. After the great excitement the weaver had undergone from the
events of the afternoon, he had felt a longing for this quietude, and had even
begged Mrs. Winthrop and Aaron, who had naturally lingered behind every one
else, to leave him alone with his child. The excitement had not passed away: it
had only reached that stage when the keenness of the susceptibility makes
external stimulus intolerable--when there is no sense of weariness, but rather an
intensity of inward life, under which sleep is an impossibility. Any one who has
watched such moments in other men remembers the brightness of the eyes and
the strange definiteness that comes over coarse features from that transient
influence. It is as if a new fineness of ear for all spiritual voices had sent wonder-
working vibrations through the heavy mortal frame--as if "beauty born of
murmuring sound" had passed into the face of the listener.
Silas's face showed that sort of transfiguration, as he sat in his arm-chair and
looked at Eppie. She had drawn her own chair towards his knees, and leaned
forward, holding both his hands, while she looked up at him. On the table near
them, lit by a candle, lay the recovered gold--the old long-loved gold, ranged in
orderly heaps, as Silas used to range it in the days when it was his only joy. He
had been telling her how he used to count it every night, and how his soul was
utterly desolate till she was sent to him.
"At first, I'd a sort o' feeling come across me now and then," he was saying in a
subdued tone, "as if you might be changed into the gold again; for sometimes,
turn my head which way I would, I seemed to see the gold; and I thought I should
be glad if I could feel it, and find it was come back. But that didn't last long. After
a bit, I should have thought it was a curse come again, if it had drove you from
me, for I'd got to feel the need o' your looks and your voice and the touch o' your
little fingers. You didn't know then, Eppie, when you were such a little un--you
didn't know what your old father Silas felt for you."
"But I know now, father," said Eppie. "If it hadn't been for you, they'd have taken
me to the workhouse, and there'd have been nobody to love me."
"Eh, my precious child, the blessing was mine. If you hadn't been sent to save
me, I should ha' gone to the grave in my misery. The money was taken away
from me in time; and you see it's been kept-- kept till it was wanted for you. It's
wonderful--our life is wonderful."
Silas sat in silence a few minutes, looking at the money. "It takes no hold of me
now," he said, ponderingly--"the money doesn't. I wonder if it ever could again--I
doubt it might, if I lost you, Eppie. I might come to think I was forsaken again, and
lose the feeling that God was good to me."
At that moment there was a knocking at the door; and Eppie was obliged to rise
without answering Silas. Beautiful she looked, with the tenderness of gathering
tears in her eyes and a slight flush on her cheeks, as she stepped to open the
door. The flush deepened when she saw Mr. and Mrs. Godfrey Cass. She made
her little rustic curtsy, and held the door wide for them to enter.