When Justice Malam is notified of Silas Marner’s robbery and the tinderbox, an inquiry is sent out about the peddler in question. But as no news arrives over the next few weeks, the villagers of Raveloe slowly lose interest in Silas Marner’s robbery. Dunstan’s disappearance on the same day as the robbery is not seen as remarkable. Even if any villager were able to connect these two events, he or she would not be likely to share a theory that would cast an unfavorable light on the Squire’s family. Furthermore, the upcoming Christmas season, complete with festivities, food, and drink, is likely to discourage any thoughts on the subject.
Silas Marner’s robbery loses the interest of the villagers when it is no longer new and exciting news. Even after Dunstan’s disappearance, the villagers would be unlikely to attribute any true evil to a member of Squire Cass’s family because they are so used to seeing the Cass's as their superiors. The author emphasizes the power of holiday celebration to turn these villagers’ minds away from any real analysis of either event. The people are distracted by the pleasures of the season.
When the villagers speak of the robbery, disagreements continue as to whether the robber was a man or a supernatural force. As interest in the case falls away, Silas Marner’s grief continues. The basis for his continued work and existence has been removed, and often, as he sits weaving, he moans aloud, in pain and loneliness. Yet, his misfortune has changed his reputation in Raveloe and his neighbors become more likely to help him than to avoid him.
Silas Marner has lost his direction and purpose in life with the loss of his gold. His misfortune, however, has improved his relationship with his neighbors. Because he is no longer self-sufficient and independent, he must reach out to the villagers and the villagers, for their part, do not suspect him of any evil powers. He is pitied, rather than feared.
Neighbors share gifts of pork and black puddings with Silas Marner, as well as kind words. Mr. Macey encourages Marner to get a Sunday suit and to start attending church. Mrs. Dolly Winthrop also visits Marner with the purpose of asking him to come to church. While the villagers of Raveloe are not religious churchgoers, it is still expected that one attend church occasionally. Mrs. Winthrop is a patient and kind woman, who also loves to be working and taking on new tasks, and such a woman is naturally drawn to Silas Marner and his troubles.
In addition to gifts, Marner receives advice from his neighbors, and this advice is most often encouragement to attend church. Dolly Winthrop’s interest in Marner and her advice that he comes to Sunday service depends on her belief in the goodness of the world and the church.
One Sunday afternoon, Mrs. Winthrop brings cakes and her little son Aaron along with her as she goes to visit Silas Marner. Marner receives them without impatience. Before the loss of his gold, any interruption would cause him to lose work time and profit, but after his loss he is left groping in the darkness of loneliness, with the vague sense that any help he might receive could come from other human beings.
Mrs. Winthrop gives Silas Marner the cakes, which she has inscribed with letters she’s seen in church: I.H.S. Neither of them can understand the meaning of the letters, but Mrs. Winthrop says they must be good letters to appear in church. Marner is struck by her kindness and thanks her with genuine feeling. Mrs. Winthrop encourages Marner to attend church on the upcoming Christmas day. Marner says he’s never been to church, only to the chapel in Lantern Yard.
Mrs. Winthrop’s inscribed cakes demonstrate that faith and belief need not be grounded in knowledge. Dolly believes in the goodness of anything associated with church or religion even if she cannot understand it. Marner is used to a different religious community and practices than those of Raveloe.
Mrs. Winthrop tells him that it’s never too late to turn over a new leaf by coming to church. Her simple Raveloe theology, in which she refers to the divine “They” or “Them,” has little impact on Silas Marner because it does not resemble the faith he had known in Lantern Yard. Flustered by her discussion, Marner attempts to return her good will by offering Aaron a bit of the cakes. At his mother’s bidding, Aaron sings, “God rest you merry, gentlemen” for Marner. Mrs. Winthrop hopes that hearing the Christmas music will help entice Marner to come to church.
Mrs. Winthrop’s use of the plural pronoun to refer to God or the divine reflects the difference between her faith and the faith Marner held in Lantern Yard. “They” implies a divine that does not need to fit the exact description of the traditional Christian God. Dolly Winthrop’s God is ambiguous, not benevolent or perfect, but all knowing. Aaron’s childish innocence shines through in his song.
Silas Marner tries again to respond to her kindness in the only way he knows, by offering Aaron more cake. Dolly Winthrop urges him again to stop working on Sundays and then the pair takes their leave. Marner is somewhat relieved to be alone to weave and mourn in peace. Marner spends his Christmas day alone, a very different person from the Silas Marner who had once loved and trusted other men and in an unseen goodness.
Marner’s confused attempt to respond to Mrs. Winthrop’s kindness by offering Aaron a cake demonstrates how unfamiliar he has become with adult interactions. He is relieved to be alone and to spend Christmas in isolation. He has grown disused to human society and what it can offer him.
In Raveloe, the bells ring merrily on Christmas and the villagers celebrate. At Squire Cass’s family party, no one remarks on Dunstan’s absence. The affair is quiet with only the doctor and his wife, uncle and aunt Kimble, visiting the Red House. On New Year’s Eve, however, Squire Cass always hosts a large party where all the society of Raveloe and the neighboring village of Tarley gather. Godfrey is looking forward to this party, half anxious that Dunstan will return and reveal his secret and half eager to see Nancy Lammeter and to dance with her.
Squire Cass’s humble Christmas gathering sparks enthusiasm for the upcoming extravagant New Year’s party. Godfrey’s anticipation of seeing Nancy is only heightened by Dunstan’s prolonged absence, which is mixed with his fear that his brother may return. Godfrey fears Dunstan’s power, even in his absence.