Godfrey Cass returns home from Mrs. Osgood’s party to find Dunstan has not returned. His thoughts are too occupied with having seen Miss Nancy Lammeter, and despair that he cannot free himself from his secret wife, in order to dwell on Dunstan’s absence. The next day, the whole of Raveloe is fascinated by the story of Silas Marner’s robbery. A close examination of the area near Marner’s cottage produces a tinderbox found in the mud. Many of the villagers are convinced that the tinderbox is connected with the robbery, while others maintain that Marner is fabricating his story or partly crazy. Mr. Macey is convinced of supernatural intervention in Silas Marner’s robbery.
Dunstan’s absence indicates that something above and beyond the robbery of Marner may have occurred. The village unites around the story of Marner’s loss. In a village where everyone knows each other the idea of a thief is shocking and the villagers conclude that it must be an outsider, and one who owned the found tinderbox. The villagers, like Dunstan, are not afraid to build ideas and actions upon poorly grounded assumptions.
At the Rainbow, Mr. Crackenthorp (the rector). Squire Cass, and several others carry out an investigation of the tinderbox. The landlord Mr. Snell, now appointed deputy constable, recalls a peddler who stopped in for a drink a month earlier and who stated that he carried a tinderbox to light his pipe. Upon further reflection, Mr. Snell recalls his foreignness and a certain look in his eye, which he had disliked.
The peddler who is connected with the robbery exemplifies the Raveloe community’s fear of the outsider. The most incriminating detail that Mr. Snell can recall about the peddler is his “foreignness.” To be foreign is nearly the same as being a criminal, in the minds of the villagers.
Mr. Crackenthorp asks if the peddler wore earrings. Mr. Snell can’t recall, but as the peddler stopped at nearly every house in town, the question is posed to the villagers of Raveloe. Through the power of this suggestive question being passed among the villagers, there are at least two who are quickly able to declare, with certainty, that they noticed earrings in the peddler’s ears.
The question over whether or not the peddler wore earrings demonstrates the impressionable nature of the uneducated villagers. The villagers are always well intentioned, however, they are strongly influenced by superstition, fear, and prejudice.
Silas Marner’s memory of the peddler is generally disappointing: he recalls the man turning away at once and not entering his house when Marner wasn’t interested in buying anything. The villagers wondered that the peddler didn’t murder Marner because earring-wearing individuals have been known to resort to murder. Godfrey Cass treats the matter lightly. He recalls that the peddler was rather a merry fellow, but his opinion is dismissed as the talk of youth.
Despite Marner’s innocuous memory of the peddler, fear of the individual has escalated from his foreignness to the likelihood of him being a murderer. Godfrey Cass’s lighthearted response sets him apart from the superstition and gossip of the villagers.
By afternoon, Godfrey’s concern about Dunstan’s absence has grown and he leaves for Batherley. He worries that perhaps Dunstan has vanished with the money from selling Wildfire, only to return at the end of the month having gambled away everything. On the road, he runs into Bryce. Bryce reports that he’d been planning to purchase Wildfire only to have learned that he was found dead after Dunstan rode him on the hunt. Godfrey and Bryce suppose that Dunstan is unlikely to return home immediately with such a bad piece of news.
Godfrey’s anxiety directs him to seek out what happened to Dunstan and Wildfire. He learns the truth from Bryce. Bryce and Godfrey’s assumption that Dunstan is unlikely to return home immediately with such news indicates that Dunstan may have behaved badly before, but returned home later to escape the Squire’s passionate, but fleeting, wrath.
Godfrey is convinced that he must now tell his father the whole story of loaning Dunstan the money and why he did so, or else face Dunstan’s anger if he returns to find himself blamed by their father. Godfrey thinks that he could take the blame for spending the money himself, and so secure Dunstan’s continued silence, but he feels he cannot lie this much. Godfrey is familiar with the Squire’s unforgiving nature, but he hopes that his confession will cause the Squire to want to hide his secret marriage rather than turn Godfrey out of his house and expose him.
Godfrey becomes briefly convinced that he must now admit the truth of the matter to his father. He imagines the outcome of his confession in the best possible light. Godfrey can only convince himself to follow the right course of action by working himself into a state of determination and agitation. Telling the truth is more difficult for Godfrey than keeping the secret.
Despite Godfrey’s conviction, he awakes the next morning unable to persuade himself that he should tell the Squire everything. He feels again the inclination to rely on the chance of not being betrayed rather than to betray the secret fully himself. What would be wisest, he decides, would to be try and soften his father’s anger at Dunstan and to try to keep everything as it had been before the loss of Wildfire and the money.
When Godfrey changes his mind the next day and decides to appease his father and keep the secret, the reader fully feels the futility of Godfrey’s attempts to convince himself and his weakness of character. The reader has experienced, in detail, the internal battle of the previous day.