Silas Marner HTML version

Chapter 14
There was a pauper's burial that week in Raveloe, and up Kench Yard at
Batherley it was known that the dark-haired woman with the fair child, who had
lately come to lodge there, was gone away again. That was all the express note
taken that Molly had disappeared from the eyes of men. But the unwept death
which, to the general lot, seemed as trivial as the summer-shed leaf, was
charged with the force of destiny to certain human lives that we know of, shaping
their joys and sorrows even to the end.
Silas Marner's determination to keep the "tramp's child" was matter of hardly less
surprise and iterated talk in the village than the robbery of his money. That
softening of feeling towards him which dated from his misfortune, that merging of
suspicion and dislike in a rather contemptuous pity for him as lone and crazy,
was now accompanied with a more active sympathy, especially amongst the
women. Notable mothers, who knew what it was to keep children "whole and
sweet"; lazy mothers, who knew what it was to be interrupted in folding their arms
and scratching their elbows by the mischievous propensities of children just firm
on their legs, were equally interested in conjecturing how a lone man would
manage with a two-year-old child on his hands, and were equally ready with their
suggestions: the notable chiefly telling him what he had better do, and the lazy
ones being emphatic in telling him what he would never be able to do.
Among the notable mothers, Dolly Winthrop was the one whose neighbourly
offices were the most acceptable to Marner, for they were rendered without any
show of bustling instruction. Silas had shown her the half-guinea given to him by
Godfrey, and had asked her what he should do about getting some clothes for
the child.
"Eh, Master Marner," said Dolly, "there's no call to buy, no more nor a pair o'
shoes; for I've got the little petticoats as Aaron wore five years ago, and it's ill
spending the money on them baby-clothes, for the child 'ull grow like grass i'
May, bless it-- that it will."
And the same day Dolly brought her bundle, and displayed to Marner, one by
one, the tiny garments in their due order of succession, most of them patched
and darned, but clean and neat as fresh-sprung herbs. This was the introduction
to a great ceremony with soap and water, from which Baby came out in new
beauty, and sat on Dolly's knee, handling her toes and chuckling and patting her
palms together with an air of having made several discoveries about herself,
which she communicated by alternate sounds of "gug-gug-gug", and "mammy".
The "mammy" was not a cry of need or uneasiness: Baby had been used to utter
it without expecting either tender sound or touch to follow.
"Anybody 'ud think the angils in heaven couldn't be prettier," said Dolly, rubbing
the golden curls and kissing them. "And to think of its being covered wi' them
dirty rags--and the poor mother--froze to death; but there's Them as took care of
it, and brought it to your door, Master Marner. The door was open, and it walked
in over the snow, like as if it had been a little starved robin. Didn't you say the
door was open?"