Silas Marner HTML version

Chapter 12
While Godfrey Cass was taking draughts of forgetfulness from the sweet
presence of Nancy, willingly losing all sense of that hidden bond which at other
moments galled and fretted him so as to mingle irritation with the very sunshine,
Godfrey's wife was walking with slow uncertain steps through the snow-covered
Raveloe lanes, carrying her child in her arms.
This journey on New Year's Eve was a premeditated act of vengeance which she
had kept in her heart ever since Godfrey, in a fit of passion, had told her he
would sooner die than acknowledge her as his wife. There would be a great party
at the Red House on New Year's Eve, she knew: her husband would be smiling
and smiled upon, hiding her existence in the darkest corner of his heart. But she
would mar his pleasure: she would go in her dingy rags, with her faded face,
once as handsome as the best, with her little child that had its father's hair and
eyes, and disclose herself to the Squire as his eldest son's wife. It is seldom that
the miserable can help regarding their misery as a wrong inflicted by those who
are less miserable. Molly knew that the cause of her dingy rags was not her
husband's neglect, but the demon Opium to whom she was enslaved, body and
soul, except in the lingering mother's tenderness that refused to give him her
hungry child. She knew this well; and yet, in the moments of wretched
unbenumbed consciousness, the sense of her want and degradation transformed
itself continually into bitterness towards Godfrey. He was well off; and if she had
her rights she would be well off too. The belief that he repented his marriage, and
suffered from it, only aggravated her vindictiveness. Just and self-reproving
thoughts do not come to us too thickly, even in the purest air, and with the best
lessons of heaven and earth; how should those white-winged delicate
messengers make their way to Molly's poisoned chamber, inhabited by no higher
memories than those of a barmaid's paradise of pink ribbons and gentlemen's
She had set out at an early hour, but had lingered on the road, inclined by her
indolence to believe that if she waited under a warm shed the snow would cease
to fall. She had waited longer than she knew, and now that she found herself
belated in the snow-hidden ruggedness of the long lanes, even the animation of
a vindictive purpose could not keep her spirit from failing. It was seven o'clock,
and by this time she was not very far from Raveloe, but she was not familiar
enough with those monotonous lanes to know how near she was to her journey's
end. She needed comfort, and she knew but one comforter--the familiar demon
in her bosom; but she hesitated a moment, after drawing out the black remnant,
before she raised it to her lips. In that moment the mother's love pleaded for
painful consciousness rather than oblivion--pleaded to be left in aching
weariness, rather than to have the encircling arms benumbed so that they could
not feel the dear burden. In another moment Molly had flung something away,
but it was not the black remnant--it was an empty phial. And she walked on again
under the breaking cloud, from which there came now and then the light of a
quickly veiled star, for a freezing wind had sprung up since the snowing had