Silas Marner HTML version

Chapter 11
Some women, I grant, would not appear to advantage seated on a pillion, and
attired in a drab joseph and a drab beaver-bonnet, with a crown resembling a
small stew-pan; for a garment suggesting a coachman's greatcoat, cut out under
an exiguity of cloth that would only allow of miniature capes, is not well adapted
to conceal deficiencies of contour, nor is drab a colour that will throw sallow
cheeks into lively contrast. It was all the greater triumph to Miss Nancy
Lammeter's beauty that she looked thoroughly bewitching in that costume, as,
seated on the pillion behind her tall, erect father, she held one arm round him,
and looked down, with open-eyed anxiety, at the treacherous snow-covered
pools and puddles, which sent up formidable splashings of mud under the stamp
of Dobbin's foot. A painter would, perhaps, have preferred her in those moments
when she was free from self-consciousness; but certainly the bloom on her
cheeks was at its highest point of contrast with the surrounding drab when she
arrived at the door of the Red House, and saw Mr. Godfrey Cass ready to lift her
from the pillion. She wished her sister Priscilla had come up at the same time
behind the servant, for then she would have contrived that Mr. Godfrey should
have lifted off Priscilla first, and, in the meantime, she would have persuaded her
father to go round to the horse-block instead of alighting at the door-steps. It was
very painful, when you had made it quite clear to a young man that you were
determined not to marry him, however much he might wish it, that he would still
continue to pay you marked attentions; besides, why didn't he always show the
same attentions, if he meant them sincerely, instead of being so strange as Mr.
Godfrey Cass was, sometimes behaving as if he didn't want to speak to her, and
taking no notice of her for weeks and weeks, and then, all on a sudden, almost
making love again? Moreover, it was quite plain he had no real love for her, else
he would not let people have that to say of him which they did say. Did he
suppose that Miss Nancy Lammeter was to be won by any man, squire or no
squire, who led a bad life? That was not what she had been used to see in her
own father, who was the soberest and best man in that country-side, only a little
hot and hasty now and then, if things were not done to the minute.
All these thoughts rushed through Miss Nancy's mind, in their habitual
succession, in the moments between her first sight of Mr. Godfrey Cass standing
at the door and her own arrival there. Happily, the Squire came out too and gave
a loud greeting to her father, so that, somehow, under cover of this noise she
seemed to find concealment for her confusion and neglect of any suitably formal
behaviour, while she was being lifted from the pillion by strong arms which
seemed to find her ridiculously small and light. And there was the best reason for
hastening into the house at once, since the snow was beginning to fall again,
threatening an unpleasant journey for such guests as were still on the road.
These were a small minority; for already the afternoon was beginning to decline,
and there would not be too much time for the ladies who came from a distance to
attire themselves in readiness for the early tea which was to inspirit them for the