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Silas Marner

Chapter 3
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
 
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