The conversation is lively when Silas Marner enters, having reached a pitch after a slow and quiet start to the evening. Earlier in the evening, Mr. Snell, the landlord, had started conversation by asking the butcher about the fine animal he’d bought the previous day. The farrier asks if the animal was a red Durham, a type of cow, and says he knows the only red Durhams in the area come from Mr. Lammeter. Quickly the discussion between butcher and farrier becomes heated.
A heated discussion between the butcher and the farrier on the subject of a cow brings to life the world of Raveloe. The simplicity and passion of the villagers is apparent. Mr. Snell, as the landlord, is also the instigator of conversation, community, and agreement. The richness of these secondary characters adds depth to the novel.
To dispel the argument between the butcher and the farrier, Mr. Snell appeals to the elderly Mr. Macey who remembers when Mr. Lammeter’s father moved to Raveloe. Mr. Macey, tailor and parish clerk, says he prefers to let the young ones talk, and the young deputy, Mr. Tookey, taking offence, says he’s not one to speak out of his place. Mr. Winthrop and Mr. Macey tease Mr. Tookey about his poor singing in the choir, and receive laughs from the whole group.
Mr. Macey, as an elderly figure, brings a sense of tradition and history to the Raveloe villagers gathered at the pub. The generational gap between Mr. Macey and Mr. Tookey results in several comical struggles in which both the old and the young are convinced they are each right.
The landlord settles the disagreement among the group, as Mr. Macey bemoans the absence of great musicians in Raveloe, when there used to be some in the village. Mr. Macey speaks warmly of Mr. Lammeter’s father. He reports that the man sold his own land to move to the village and rent land after his wife died. While such a choice may seem odd to the villagers, Mr. Macey notes that there are reasons for certain things that no one knows.
Mr. Macey’s account of Raveloe’s past adds more depth and richness to the portrait of this quiet little village. His story of Mr. Lammeter includes the Raveloe philosophy that there are events and reasons beyond human understanding, a viewpoint also expressed by Dolly Winthrop.
Mr. Macey recounts the locally famous tale of Mr. Lammeter the younger’s marriage to Miss Osgood. The elderly pastor, Mr. Drumlow, misspoke during the marriage vows, asking whether the bride would take this woman for her wedded husband, and the groom would take this man for his wedded wife. No one else seemed to notice the error except for Mr. Macey, the parish clerk. Mr. Macey wondered if the words themselves or the meaning behind them had more weight in securing Mr. Lammeter and Miss Osgood in marriage.
The anecdote of Mr. Lammeter and Miss Osgood’s wedding ceremony serves both as a humorous story and as a portrait of the small and insular Raveloe society. A story like this one has been preserved and retold. Little of note or excitement must happen in Raveloe to give this small dramatic tale the interest and humor that it has.
In confusion, Mr. Macey later, respectfully, pointed out the problem to Mr. Drumlow, only to be reassured that the register, and not the words or the meaning, secures a marriage officially. Mr. Macey’s audience in the Rainbow has listened to this familiar tale with the air of hearing a favorite tune, and, upon its conclusion, question him further about Mr. Lammeter’s land and stables.
Raveloe villagers mean well and yet they often choose the ideas or opinions they find least troublesome. Mr. Macey is happy to accept Mr. Drumlow’s reply and does not question its truth. The listeners in the Rainbow treat the tale as a local favorite.
Mr. Macey says that if you go to Mr. Lammeter’s deserted stables at night you’ll see lights and hear horses inside. The farrier, Mr. Dowlas, is skeptical and dares anyone else to visit the stables with him at night. Ben Winthrop points out that anyone else believing the ghost story would be unlikely to risk such a thing. Mr. Snell attempts to settle this new disagreement by pointing out that some people can probably see ghosts, while others cannot. Such ability is like the sense of smell, which his wife has lost. She cannot smell what is right in front of her, and the landlord says he’s never seen a ghost because he doesn’t have the smell for them.
The pub conversation moves to the topic of ghosts, further evidence of the backwardness of thought in the village. Superstition and fear of the unknown holds significant sway over the uneducated villagers. And while some scoff at the idea of ghosts, others attempt to explain their presence and who can see them. The discussion of ghosts also sets the tone for Marner’s sudden and startling arrival.