Silas Marner HTML version

Chapter 5
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.