Silas Marner HTML version

Chapter 16
It was a bright autumn Sunday, sixteen years after Silas Marner had found his
new treasure on the hearth. The bells of the old Raveloe church were ringing the
cheerful peal which told that the morning service was ended; and out of the
arched doorway in the tower came slowly, retarded by friendly greetings and
questions, the richer parishioners who had chosen this bright Sunday morning as
eligible for church-going. It was the rural fashion of that time for the more
important members of the congregation to depart first, while their humbler
neighbours waited and looked on, stroking their bent heads or dropping their
curtsies to any large ratepayer who turned to notice them.
Foremost among these advancing groups of well-clad people, there are some
whom we shall recognize, in spite of Time, who has laid his hand on them all.
The tall blond man of forty is not much changed in feature from the Godfrey Cass
of six-and-twenty: he is only fuller in flesh, and has only lost the indefinable look
of youth-- a loss which is marked even when the eye is undulled and the wrinkles
are not yet come. Perhaps the pretty woman, not much younger than he, who is
leaning on his arm, is more changed than her husband: the lovely bloom that
used to be always on her cheek now comes but fitfully, with the fresh morning air
or with some strong surprise; yet to all who love human faces best for what they
tell of human experience, Nancy's beauty has a heightened interest. Often the
soul is ripened into fuller goodness while age has spread an ugly film, so that
mere glances can never divine the preciousness of the fruit. But the years have
not been so cruel to Nancy. The firm yet placid mouth, the clear veracious glance
of the brown eyes, speak now of a nature that has been tested and has kept its
highest qualities; and even the costume, with its dainty neatness and purity, has
more significance now the coquetries of youth can have nothing to do with it.
Mr. and Mrs. Godfrey Cass (any higher title has died away from Raveloe lips
since the old Squire was gathered to his fathers and his inheritance was divided)
have turned round to look for the tall aged man and the plainly dressed woman
who are a little behind-- Nancy having observed that they must wait for "father
and Priscilla"--and now they all turn into a narrower path leading across the
churchyard to a small gate opposite the Red House. We will not follow them now;
for may there not be some others in this departing congregation whom we should
like to see again--some of those who are not likely to be handsomely clad, and
whom we may not recognize so easily as the master and mistress of the Red
But it is impossible to mistake Silas Marner. His large brown eyes seem to have
gathered a longer vision, as is the way with eyes that have been short-sighted in
early life, and they have a less vague, a more answering gaze; but in everything
else one sees signs of a frame much enfeebled by the lapse of the sixteen years.
The weaver's bent shoulders and white hair give him almost the look of advanced
age, though he is not more than five-and-fifty; but there is the freshest blossom of
youth close by his side--a blonde dimpled girl of eighteen, who has vainly tried to
chastise her curly auburn hair into smoothness under her brown bonnet: the hair