As Silas walks back inside, his eyes nearsighted and weak from his years of close work at the loom, he sees what he thinks is his gold on the floor. He leans forward to touch the gold, but finds that the object under his fingers is soft—the blonde hair of the sleeping child. Silas kneels down to examine the child, thinking for a moment that his little sister, who died in childhood, has been brought back to him. This memory of his sister triggers a flood of other memories of Lantern Yard, the first he has had in many years. These memories occupy Silas until the child wakes up, calling for her mother. Silas reheats some of his porridge, sweetening it with the brown sugar he has always denied himself, and feeds it to the child, which quiets her. Finally, seeing the child’s wet boots, it occurs to Silas to wonder where she came from, and he follows her tracks along the road until he finds her mother’s body lying in the snow.

Analysis: Part I, Chapters 11–12

The appearance of the little girl on Silas’s hearth is the second of the three intersections between the parallel narratives of Silas and the Cass family. Like the first intersection, the theft of Silas’s gold, it is one of the novel’s two major turning points. Her appearance will at once fill Silas’s sense of loss and resume his process of reentering the community. The fact that Silas first mistakes the little girl for his gold—previously the central driving force of his life—foreshadows the strength of the bond that Silas will soon forge with the girl.

Several details of the girl’s arrival link the event to the two earlier turning points in Silas’s life—his expulsion from his religious sect and the theft of his gold. Like Dunsey, the little girl passes by Silas’s cottage in inclement weather, feels drawn to the cottage by the light of the fire, and enters without Silas’s knowledge. In addition, just as Silas’s fit rendered him unaware that William Dane had framed him for theft in Lantern Yard, another fit renders him unaware of the little girl’s arrival. Significantly, in all three of these key events, Silas is passive, not active—he is framed, he is robbed, he is standing with the door open when a child toddles in from a snowstorm.

A key symbolic difference between Dunsey’s visit and the little girl’s, however, is that Silas opens the door himself this time. Even though he opens the door only to peer out into the darkness after his lost gold, and though he is unaware that the girl actually enters, Silas’s act of standing at his open door contrasts markedly with his previous habits. Silas was once a man obsessed with isolation—closing his shutters, locking his doors, and viewing his customers as nothing more than a means to acquire more money. In opening his door, Silas symbolically opens himself up to the outside world from which he has lived apart for so long. As Silas realizes, if only vaguely, in Chapter 10, “if any help came to him it must come from without.”

It is not until this point, halfway through the novel, that we meet the last two of the major characters: Nancy Lammeter and the little girl who will become known as Eppie. Eppie does not develop as a true character until she grows up a bit. However, we learn much about Nancy’s character in the first scene in which she appears, the Squire’s New Year’s dance. We have already heard much about Nancy, especially her beauty. Thus, not surprisingly, Nancy’s introduction focuses on her appearance, specifically on how her beauty is still evident despite her muddy raincoat and the frightened expression on her face. This opening image is fitting for Nancy, who is called a “rustic beauty.” Though blessed with natural grace and poise, Nancy is unpolished—her speech is somewhat vulgar, her hands are calloused, and she has had little formal schooling. Thus, though Nancy is separated from Silas and his neighbors by degrees of wealth and privilege, she is no less a product of Raveloe’s sleepy isolation. Like the poorer townspeople, she has created her own code of conduct and beliefs from a mix of religion and superstition. However, like her upstanding, almost priggish father, Nancy displays a Calvinist severity in her judgments, frowning on Godfrey’s weakness of character and attempting to curb her feelings for him. Nancy stubbornly holds to these beliefs, with one exception—we see her conspicuously waver in her attitude toward Godfrey.