Part 2, Chapters 16 and 17
Part Two, Chapter Sixteen
It is sixteen years after Silas and Eppie have found each other. The church bells are ringing, and the villagers are leaving the church. Out comes Godfrey -- now 40 years old -- with Nancy on his arm. Then Silas comes out. He's around 55 now, and Eppie is 18. She has flowing brown ringlets of hair that she tries to corral into behaving docilely, but we can tell there's always a struggle. There's a young man by Eppie's side -- Aaron Winthrop. It's clear that he's quite taken with her. Eppie suggests somewhat offhandedly that she'd like a garden, and Aaron offers to dig one for her. Silas consents, and then Aaron leaves Silas and Eppie to walk home. Eppie is very excited about the garden, but Silas says that if she allows Aaron to dig it for her, she'll be indebted to him. Oh no, says Eppie, Aaron wants to do her this favor. And she jumps along down the lane.
They arrive home to their dog -- a brown terrier -- who rushes up to them when they enter. There's a cat too, who hides under the loom. The cottage is clearly so different from when Silas lived there alone. It is bursting with joyous animals and people. Furthermore, the furniture is quite nice, and the place is clean and lovely. Apparently Godfrey donated a table, chairs, beds, and other things to Silas and Eppie. The furniture came directly from the Red House.
Silas is weaving less as he gets older, too, and makes less money. But the two seem happy and quite content as they sit down to dinner. Silas is coming to have an understanding, we're told, of the connection between his past and his present. We get a kind of flashback of he and Dolly having conversations about the kind of faith that Silas used to have and the differences between their respective religions. He tells Dolly about William's betrayal of him, and she diagnoses him with a lack of trust for his fellow human beings -- something that descended upon him after the incident in Lantern Yard. It's been hard to trust people, though, says Silas. But he knows now that there is good to be found in the world, and he feels more open to trusting again.
Silas also told Eppie at a young age about how she was found, and about the specifics of her mother's death. He's kept Molly's wedding ring, too. Eppie has, since then, been very preoccupied with the bush under which Molly died, and it still stands, catching her attention when she leaves the house. Eppie and Silas take a walk and sit down together. She asks if she's to get married, will she wear her mother's ring? Silas is surprised, and asks Eppie why this is coming up. She says that Aaron brought up the topic the previous week. He's asked her to marry him. She says that Aaron wants them all to live together -- Silas, Eppie and himself. He'd never take Eppie away from Silas, he's said.
Eppie is hesitant to marry Aaron, though. She doesn't want change, she says. But Aaron does want things to change, and the conversation made Eppie cry, she reports. Aaron told her that if she loved him she'd marry him and accept change. She doesn't know what to do. Silas comforts her, telling her that they'll speak with Dolly about it, and ask her what she thinks.
Part Two, Chapter Seventeen
We're back at the Lammeters with Priscilla, Nancy and their father. Godfrey comes by and announces that he's going to go for a Sunday stroll. Nancy does not accompany him, preferring instead the company of her Bible and her thoughts. She's a quite introspective person, we can see, who has spent much of her time ruminating on the past. The narrator suggests that perhaps Nancy's excessive dwelling might be due to her childlessness, which allows her to turn inward when her thoughts might otherwise be occupied with managing a child. She worries that their childlessness weighs on Godfrey. Six years ago, and again four years ago, we learn, Godfrey had suggested that they adopt a child, and she had resisted.
In the early 19th century, the narrator tells us, adoption was an uncommon thing, and Nancy is opposed to it somewhat on principle. It's not, the narrator says, that she is so "egoistic" as to resist her husband's wishes. It is rather that Nancy believes that to adopt a child is to go against the will of Providence. If she is barren, that is, then she believes that she has been chosen to be childless. Nancy, the narrator says, is excessively superstitious.
Nancy feels convinced that if God has chosen her not to have children, if she were to adopt one, it would not turn out well. Godfrey uses the example of Eppie, saying that she's turned out quite well with Silas. Yes, says Nancy, but Silas did not go out to seek Eppie; she came to him.
But Godfrey is preoccupied with the lack of children in his life. He wonders why he feels such a void, since his home is so brightened by Nancy. But he thinks jealously of other fathers greeted by tiny voices when they arrive home. He's also, of course, haunted by thoughts of Eppie. But this Sunday afternoon is four years since he and Nancy have last discussed adoption. For some vague reason, she begins to worry about Godfrey on his walk. He's not home yet, and she's anxious for his return.
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Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Part 1, Chapter 1
Part 1, Chapters 2 and 3
Part 1, Chapters 4, 5 and 6
Part 1, Chapters 7,8, and 9
Part 1, Chapters 10, 11, and 12
Part 1, Chapters 13, 14, and 15
Part 2, Chapters 16 and 17
Part 2, Chapters 18, 19, and 20
Part 2, Chapters 20 and 21
Part 2, Conclusion