Silas Marner HTML version

Chapter 9
Godfrey rose and took his own breakfast earlier than usual, but lingered in the
wainscoted parlour till his younger brothers had finished their meal and gone out;
awaiting his father, who always took a walk with his managing-man before
breakfast. Every one breakfasted at a different hour in the Red House, and the
Squire was always the latest, giving a long chance to a rather feeble morning
appetite before he tried it. The table had been spread with substantial eatables
nearly two hours before he presented himself-- a tall, stout man of sixty, with a
face in which the knit brow and rather hard glance seemed contradicted by the
slack and feeble mouth. His person showed marks of habitual neglect, his dress
was slovenly; and yet there was something in the presence of the old Squire
distinguishable from that of the ordinary farmers in the parish, who were perhaps
every whit as refined as he, but, having slouched their way through life with a
consciousness of being in the vicinity of their "betters", wanted that self-
possession and authoritativeness of voice and carriage which belonged to a man
who thought of superiors as remote existences with whom he had personally little
more to do than with America or the stars. The Squire had been used to parish
homage all his life, used to the presupposition that his family, his tankards, and
everything that was his, were the oldest and best; and as he never associated
with any gentry higher than himself, his opinion was not disturbed by comparison.
He glanced at his son as he entered the room, and said, "What, sir! haven't you
had your breakfast yet?" but there was no pleasant morning greeting between
them; not because of any unfriendliness, but because the sweet flower of
courtesy is not a growth of such homes as the Red House.
"Yes, sir," said Godfrey, "I've had my breakfast, but I was waiting to speak to
"Ah! well," said the Squire, throwing himself indifferently into his chair, and
speaking in a ponderous coughing fashion, which was felt in Raveloe to be a sort
of privilege of his rank, while he cut a piece of beef, and held it up before the
deer-hound that had come in with him. "Ring the bell for my ale, will you? You
youngsters' business is your own pleasure, mostly. There's no hurry about it for
anybody but yourselves."
The Squire's life was quite as idle as his sons', but it was a fiction kept up by
himself and his contemporaries in Raveloe that youth was exclusively the period
of folly, and that their aged wisdom was constantly in a state of endurance
mitigated by sarcasm. Godfrey waited, before he spoke again, until the ale had
been brought and the door closed--an interval during which Fleet, the deer-
hound, had consumed enough bits of beef to make a poor man's holiday dinner.
"There's been a cursed piece of ill-luck with Wildfire," he began; "happened the
day before yesterday."
"What! broke his knees?" said the Squire, after taking a draught of ale. "I thought
you knew how to ride better than that, sir. I never threw a horse down in my life. If
I had, I might ha' whistled for another, for my father wasn't quite so ready to
unstring as some other fathers I know of. But they must turn over a new leaf--