Silas Marner HTML version

Chapter 20
Nancy and Godfrey walked home under the starlight in silence. When they
entered the oaken parlour, Godfrey threw himself into his chair, while Nancy laid
down her bonnet and shawl, and stood on the hearth near her husband, unwilling
to leave him even for a few minutes, and yet fearing to utter any word lest it might
jar on his feeling. At last Godfrey turned his head towards her, and their eyes
met, dwelling in that meeting without any movement on either side. That quiet
mutual gaze of a trusting husband and wife is like the first moment of rest or
refuge from a great weariness or a great danger--not to be interfered with by
speech or action which would distract the sensations from the fresh enjoyment of
But presently he put out his hand, and as Nancy placed hers within it, he drew
her towards him, and said--
"That's ended!"
She bent to kiss him, and then said, as she stood by his side, "Yes, I'm afraid we
must give up the hope of having her for a daughter. It wouldn't be right to want to
force her to come to us against her will. We can't alter her bringing up and what's
come of it."
"No," said Godfrey, with a keen decisiveness of tone, in contrast with his usually
careless and unemphatic speech--"there's debts we can't pay like money debts,
by paying extra for the years that have slipped by. While I've been putting off and
putting off, the trees have been growing--it's too late now. Marner was in the right
in what he said about a man's turning away a blessing from his door: it falls to
somebody else. I wanted to pass for childless once, Nancy--I shall pass for
childless now against my wish."
Nancy did not speak immediately, but after a little while she asked-- "You won't
make it known, then, about Eppie's being your daughter?"
"No: where would be the good to anybody?--only harm. I must do what I can for
her in the state of life she chooses. I must see who it is she's thinking of
"If it won't do any good to make the thing known," said Nancy, who thought she
might now allow herself the relief of entertaining a feeling which she had tried to
silence before, "I should be very thankful for father and Priscilla never to be
troubled with knowing what was done in the past, more than about Dunsey: it
can't be helped, their knowing that."
"I shall put it in my will--I think I shall put it in my will. I shouldn't like to leave
anything to be found out, like this of Dunsey," said Godfrey, meditatively. "But I
can't see anything but difficulties that 'ud come from telling it now. I must do what
I can to make her happy in her own way. I've a notion," he added, after a
moment's pause, "it's Aaron Winthrop she meant she was engaged to. I
remember seeing him with her and Marner going away from church."
"Well, he's very sober and industrious," said Nancy, trying to view the matter as
cheerfully as possible.