Sixteen years have passed since Silas Marner discovered Eppie asleep on his hearth. The villagers of Raveloe are leaving their Sunday morning church service. Godfrey Cass and his wife Nancy depart first, as their humbler neighbors watch them pass. The pair turns to wait for Mr. Lammeter and Priscilla to accompany them as they walk toward the Red House. Silas Marner is impossible to mistake in the church congregation, although his posture, white hair, and near-sightedness are marks of age beyond his actual years. Close by his side is Eppie, now a blond, polite girl of eighteen.
Part Two opens with a reintroduction of the major characters as they leave the church. The visual scene functions like a stage on which each character is presented by the author. The author speaks of the characters as if they are familiar to her readers as old friends might be. For example, Silas Marner is “impossible to mistake” for readers who have “seen” him before.
Aaron Winthrop, now a good-looking young fellow, follows Marner and Eppie from the church. Eppie expresses to her father how much she wishes they had a garden like Mrs. Winthrop’s. Aaron quickly volunteers to dig the garden and to bring some soil and plants from his employer, Godfrey Cass’s, garden. Eppie makes her father promise he won’t work too hard when he and Aaron start the garden that very afternoon.
Aaron’s enthusiasm to help Eppie create her garden shows his love for her. The author does not state that Aaron loves Eppie, however the reader can infer so through his actions and conversation. This indirect characterization brings Aaron and his earnest personality to life.
Once Aaron turns back to the village, Eppie skips in happy triumph, declaring that she knew Aaron would volunteer to help. At the cottage, their new brown terrier and tortoise shell kitten greet them, while a mother cat looks on. The cottage has been transformed in many ways, from the presence of these lively pets to the new furniture given by Godfrey Cass. No one in the village is jealous of Mr. Cass’s generosity to the poor weaver, for he is regarded as an exceptional, generous person worthy of neighborly help.
Marner and Eppie’s new pets are physical indications of the happiness and life in the small cottage. The transformation of the space from a room including only the bare necessities to the home where Marner and Eppie live together is evidence of the change Eppie has brought about in Marner’s life. Godfrey Cass’s generosity has been unquestioned.
Marner watches Eppie as she prepares their Sunday meal at the hearth. He has kept the hearth and never added a grate or oven because it is the precious spot where he found Eppie. After their meal, Marner goes outside in the sunshine to smoke his pipe, a new daily habit of his. He was encouraged to smoke by Dr. Kimble, and he has acquired many such habits and beliefs which are held to be good by Raveloe society. By seeking out everything that could help Eppie and add to her happiness, Marner has adapted to Raveloe life.
The hearth is the center of Eppie and Marner’s home. It remains unchanged, which shows that Eppie and Marner’s familial love for each other remains unchanged. Marner’s smoking habit indicates that he will pick up any practices, even personal habits, which he thinks will benefit Eppie’s happiness and relationship with Raveloe society.
Marner has opened up his heart so fully that he has even been able to share the story of his early life with Dolly Winthrop. She is confused and grieved by his account of the drawing of lots that falsely demonstrated Marner’s guilt. Dolly recognizes that Marner must be troubled most by the betrayal of a divine power that should have caused the lots to show his innocence. Dolly is sure that the powers that be cannot be bad, but she is puzzled by Marner’s tale.
Marner’s ability to tell Dolly about his past misfortunes allows Dolly to pinpoint the most significant and painful problem: Marner’s loss of faith. Dolly’s belief will not let her accept that the powers that be could intend Marner any ill will.
One day, Dolly arrives at Marner’s with the pronouncement that she has had a sudden realization about his story. She says that there are things in the world that she can’t understand, but the power that created all humans knows what’s best and understands all things. One must trust that there’s a good and right plan bigger than what any individual can understand. Marner says that he finally believes there is good in the world, and that he again feels there’s more goodness than he can understand, despite the evils and troubles that also exist.
Dolly is able to reconcile Marner’s tale with her own belief system by accepting the fact that there are things she will never understand. She trusts that there was some greater purpose to Marner’s false accusation, even if she can’t see it. Marner’s own faith has been restored, though it is not the same faith. Eppie’s love and trust, and his neighbors’ friendship, are the new sources of his faith
Marner has been able to talk of his past with Eppie too as she has grown older. He’s always been honest with her about her past, and her unknown parentage. Eppie wonders and asks about her mother as she grows up because her interactions with Mrs. Winthrop make her believe having a mother must be very wonderful. With Marner as her father, however, she rarely wonders about her unknown biological father.
Despite Eppie’s awareness of her past, it is clear neither she nor Marner ever worry about who her biological father may be. Her mother is of more interest to Eppie. The wedding ring found on her mother’s finger indicates that, at some point, everyone will have to face the truth of Molly’s marriage.
Eppie and Marner sit outside discussing their garden and the stones they could gather to build a wall that keeps out their donkey. As Eppie points out all the stones they could gather, she skips to edge of the Stone Pit only to notice the low water level. Marner says this must be because of the draining in Mr. Osgood’s fields that Godfrey Cass has directed.
The Stone Pit is mentioned throughout the novel, as a recurring image. The attention given to the pit, even in a brief passage, prepares the reader for the key role the location will play in the plot of the novel.
After the pair has been sitting a while in silence, Eppie asks her father whether, if she were to be married, she should be married with her mother’s ring. She confesses that Aaron Winthrop has asked her to marry him now that he has a lot of gardening work and a steady career. Aaron told Eppie that he’d never take her away from her father, but that they could all live together, so Marner wouldn’t need to work at all. Eppie intends to marry Aaron, someday. But at the moment she doesn’t want anything to change. Marner reminds her that someday things will change and that he’ll keep growing old, and that he’d like to know Eppie would be cared for her whole life.
Eppie refers to her mother’s ring, reminding the reader that Godfrey’s secret marriage has never been revealed. Eppie and Aaron’s plan to marry and move in with Marner is fitting considering the old man’s attachment to Eppie. Marner’s existence and faith depend on not just Eppie’s happiness and time spent with her, but on never separating from her. Marner wants to secure Eppie’s future happiness, however, despite his own attachment to her.