Silas Marner HTML version

Chapter 17
While Silas and Eppie were seated on the bank discoursing in the fleckered
shade of the ash tree, Miss Priscilla Lammeter was resisting her sister's
arguments, that it would be better to take tea at the Red House, and let her father
have a long nap, than drive home to the Warrens so soon after dinner. The family
party (of four only) were seated round the table in the dark wainscoted parlour,
with the Sunday dessert before them, of fresh filberts, apples, and pears, duly
ornamented with leaves by Nancy's own hand before the bells had rung for
A great change has come over the dark wainscoted parlour since we saw it in
Godfrey's bachelor days, and under the wifeless reign of the old Squire. Now all
is polish, on which no yesterday's dust is ever allowed to rest, from the yard's
width of oaken boards round the carpet, to the old Squire's gun and whips and
walking-sticks, ranged on the stag's antlers above the mantelpiece. All other
signs of sporting and outdoor occupation Nancy has removed to another room;
but she has brought into the Red House the habit of filial reverence, and
preserves sacredly in a place of honour these relics of her husband's departed
father. The tankards are on the side-table still, but the bossed silver is undimmed
by handling, and there are no dregs to send forth unpleasant suggestions: the
only prevailing scent is of the lavender and rose-leaves that fill the vases of
Derbyshire spar. All is purity and order in this once dreary room, for, fifteen years
ago, it was entered by a new presiding spirit.
"Now, father," said Nancy, "is there any call for you to go home to tea? Mayn't
you just as well stay with us?--such a beautiful evening as it's likely to be."
The old gentleman had been talking with Godfrey about the increasing poor-rate
and the ruinous times, and had not heard the dialogue between his daughters.
"My dear, you must ask Priscilla," he said, in the once firm voice, now become
rather broken. "She manages me and the farm too."
"And reason good as I should manage you, father," said Priscilla, "else you'd be
giving yourself your death with rheumatism. And as for the farm, if anything turns
out wrong, as it can't but do in these times, there's nothing kills a man so soon as
having nobody to find fault with but himself. It's a deal the best way o' being
master, to let somebody else do the ordering, and keep the blaming in your own
hands. It 'ud save many a man a stroke, I believe."
"Well, well, my dear," said her father, with a quiet laugh, "I didn't say you don't
manage for everybody's good."
"Then manage so as you may stay tea, Priscilla," said Nancy, putting her hand
on her sister's arm affectionately. "Come now; and we'll go round the garden
while father has his nap."
"My dear child, he'll have a beautiful nap in the gig, for I shall drive. And as for
staying tea, I can't hear of it; for there's this dairymaid, now she knows she's to
be married, turned Michaelmas, she'd as lief pour the new milk into the pig-
trough as into the pans. That's the way with 'em all: it's as if they thought the
world 'ud be new-made because they're to be married. So come and let me put