Silas Marner HTML version
The conversation, which was at a high pitch of animation when Silas approached
the door of the Rainbow, had, as usual, been slow and intermittent when the
company first assembled. The pipes began to be puffed in a silence which had
an air of severity; the more important customers, who drank spirits and sat
nearest the fire, staring at each other as if a bet were depending on the first man
who winked; while the beer-drinkers, chiefly men in fustian jackets and smock-
frocks, kept their eyelids down and rubbed their hands across their mouths, as if
their draughts of beer were a funereal duty attended with embarrassing sadness.
At last Mr. Snell, the landlord, a man of a neutral disposition, accustomed to
stand aloof from human differences as those of beings who were all alike in need
of liquor, broke silence, by saying in a doubtful tone to his cousin the butcher--
"Some folks 'ud say that was a fine beast you druv in yesterday, Bob?"
The butcher, a jolly, smiling, red-haired man, was not disposed to answer rashly.
He gave a few puffs before he spat and replied, "And they wouldn't be fur wrong,
After this feeble delusive thaw, the silence set in as severely as before.
"Was it a red Durham?" said the farrier, taking up the thread of discourse after
the lapse of a few minutes.
The farrier looked at the landlord, and the landlord looked at the butcher, as the
person who must take the responsibility of answering.
"Red it was," said the butcher, in his good-humoured husky treble-- "and a
Durham it was."
"Then you needn't tell me who you bought it of," said the farrier, looking round
with some triumph; "I know who it is has got the red Durhams o' this country-side.
And she'd a white star on her brow, I'll bet a penny?" The farrier leaned forward
with his hands on his knees as he put this question, and his eyes twinkled
"Well; yes--she might," said the butcher, slowly, considering that he was giving a
decided affirmative. "I don't say contrairy."
"I knew that very well," said the farrier, throwing himself backward again, and
speaking defiantly; "if I don't know Mr. Lammeter's cows, I should like to know
who does--that's all. And as for the cow you've bought, bargain or no bargain,
I've been at the drenching of her--contradick me who will."
The farrier looked fierce, and the mild butcher's conversational spirit was roused
"I'm not for contradicking no man," he said; "I'm for peace and quietness. Some
are for cutting long ribs--I'm for cutting 'em short myself; but I don't quarrel with
'em. All I say is, it's a lovely carkiss--and anybody as was reasonable, it 'ud bring
tears into their eyes to look at it."
"Well, it's the cow as I drenched, whatever it is," pursued the farrier, angrily; "and
it was Mr. Lammeter's cow, else you told a lie when you said it was a red