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"Silas the Good."
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Comic Fiction
First-Person Narratives
Uncle Silas Stories

Uncle Silas, working as a grave-digger, drinks a mix of tea and whiskey out of a beer bottle while lying down in the grave for a nap; discovered by an incensed "female," who castigates him for "indolence and irreverence, blasphemy and ignorance," he proceeds to win her over with his "tea" and with reports of his virtuous life. She departs to her train and "in the warm , crowded carriage there was a smell of something stronger than cold tea, and it was clear to everyone that one of her garments was not in its proper place. She appeared to be a little excited, and to everybody's embarrassment she talked a great deal. Her subject was someone she had met that afternoon. 'A good man' she told them. 'A good man.'" In the preface to My Uncle Silas, Bates says that this tale is "almost as he himself related it to me" (referring to Bates's great-uncle Joseph Betts, the model for Silas). In My Uncle Silas (1939). Reprinted in British and American Short Stories (1962), Short Stories Two (1977), The Penguin Book of British Comic Stories (1990).