Silas Marner HTML version

Chapter 13
It was after the early supper-time at the Red House, and the entertainment was
in that stage when bashfulness itself had passed into easy jollity, when
gentlemen, conscious of unusual accomplishments, could at length be prevailed
on to dance a hornpipe, and when the Squire preferred talking loudly, scattering
snuff, and patting his visitors' backs, to sitting longer at the whist-table--a choice
exasperating to uncle Kimble, who, being always volatile in sober business
hours, became intense and bitter over cards and brandy, shuffled before his
adversary's deal with a glare of suspicion, and turned up a mean trump-card with
an air of inexpressible disgust, as if in a world where such things could happen
one might as well enter on a course of reckless profligacy. When the evening had
advanced to this pitch of freedom and enjoyment, it was usual for the servants,
the heavy duties of supper being well over, to get their share of amusement by
coming to look on at the dancing; so that the back regions of the house were left
in solitude.
There were two doors by which the White Parlour was entered from the hall, and
they were both standing open for the sake of air; but the lower one was crowded
with the servants and villagers, and only the upper doorway was left free. Bob
Cass was figuring in a hornpipe, and his father, very proud of this lithe son,
whom he repeatedly declared to be just like himself in his young days in a tone
that implied this to be the very highest stamp of juvenile merit, was the centre of
a group who had placed themselves opposite the performer, not far from the
upper door. Godfrey was standing a little way off, not to admire his brother's
dancing, but to keep sight of Nancy, who was seated in the group, near her
father. He stood aloof, because he wished to avoid suggesting himself as a
subject for the Squire's fatherly jokes in connection with matrimony and Miss
Nancy Lammeter's beauty, which were likely to become more and more explicit.
But he had the prospect of dancing with her again when the hornpipe was
concluded, and in the meanwhile it was very pleasant to get long glances at her
quite unobserved.
But when Godfrey was lifting his eyes from one of those long glances, they
encountered an object as startling to him at that moment as if it had been an
apparition from the dead. It was an apparition from that hidden life which lies, like
a dark by-street, behind the goodly ornamented facade that meets the sunlight
and the gaze of respectable admirers. It was his own child, carried in Silas
Marner's arms. That was his instantaneous impression, unaccompanied by
doubt, though he had not seen the child for months past; and when the hope was
rising that he might possibly be mistaken, Mr. Crackenthorp and Mr. Lammeter
had already advanced to Silas, in astonishment at this strange advent. Godfrey
joined them immediately, unable to rest without hearing every word--trying to
control himself, but conscious that if any one noticed him, they must see that he
was white-lipped and trembling.