Summary and Analysis
Silas makes a last-ditch attempt to unite with the West Virginia paint company. They are friendly and willing to join with Silas if he can back them with enough capital to develop their enterprise. Silas cannot raise enough money, however, until Rogers presents the English agents, who offer Silas a sufficient sum for the mills even after he tells them of the situation; they are merely representatives for a group of wealthy English people and do not care how they spend the settlers' money.
Not giving the agents an answer, Silas returns home and finds Rogers there trying to convince Persis that the mills must be sold to save his family from poverty; if the mills are sold at the price the English offer, Rogers will be able to completely repay Silas and have enough money to take care of his family. Rogers has muddled Persis' mind to the point that she cannot help Silas make a decision when Rogers offers to buy the mills from Silas to relieve him of the responsibility of selling to the English.
Lapham paces the floor all night trying to decide what to do. Going to his office the next morning, he finds that the railroad's offer has come through. When Rogers arrives, he shows the letter to him, indicating that he will not sell to the English.
"You've ruined me!" Rogers cries. "I haven't a cent left in the world! God help my poor wife!"
This was Silas' reward for standing firm for right and justice to his own destruction; to feel like a thief and murderer, Howells comments.
Silas has his most decisive battle with his conscience as he paces the floor all night trying to decide whether to sell to Rogers. As his wife listens to him walk the floor, this Biblical quotation comes to her mind: "And there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And he said, Let me go for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." Silas wrestles with his conscience, which will not let go until he decides to make the right moral decision that indicates his self-sacrifice for others.