Authors: George Eliot
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Classics, #Literary, #Literary Fiction, #Unread
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot
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Title: The Mill on the Floss
Author: George Eliot
Release Date: October, 2004 [EBook #6688]
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*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE MILL ON THE FLOSS ***
Produced by Curtis Weyant and David Maddock
The Mill on the
Valley of Humiliation
Boy and Girl
Outside Dorlcote Mill
A wide plain, where the broadening Floss hurries on between its
green banks to the sea, and the loving tide, rushing to meet it,
checks its passage with an impetuous embrace. On this mighty tide
the black ships–laden with the fresh-scented fir-planks, with
rounded sacks of oil-bearing seed, or with the dark glitter of
coal–are borne along to the town of St. Ogg's, which shows its
aged, fluted red roofs and the broad gables of its wharves between
the low wooded hill and the river-brink, tingeing the water with a
soft purple hue under the transient glance of this February sun.
Far away on each hand stretch the rich pastures, and the patches of
dark earth made ready for the seed of broad-leaved green crops, or
touched already with the tint of the tender-bladed autumn-sown
corn. There is a remnant still of last year's golden clusters of
beehive-ricks rising at intervals beyond the hedgerows; and
everywhere the hedgerows are studded with trees; the distant ships
seem to be lifting their masts and stretching their red-brown sails
close among the branches of the spreading ash. Just by the
red-roofed town the tributary Ripple flows with a lively current
into the Floss. How lovely the little river is, with its dark
changing wavelets! It seems to me like a living companion while I
wander along the bank, and listen to its low, placid voice, as to
the voice of one who is deaf and loving. I remember those large
dipping willows. I remember the stone bridge.
And this is Dorlcote Mill. I must stand a minute or two here on
the bridge and look at it, though the clouds are threatening, and
it is far on in the afternoon. Even in this leafless time of
departing February it is pleasant to look at,–perhaps the chill,
damp season adds a charm to the trimly kept, comfortable
dwelling-house, as old as the elms and chestnuts that shelter it
from the northern blast. The stream is brimful now, and lies high
in this little withy plantation, and half drowns the grassy fringe
of the croft in front of the house. As I look at the full stream,
the vivid grass, the delicate bright-green powder softening the
outline of the great trunks and branches that gleam from under the
bare purple boughs, I am in love with moistness, and envy the white
ducks that are dipping their heads far into the water here among
the withes, unmindful of the awkward appearance they make in the
drier world above.
The rush of the water and the booming of the mill bring a dreamy
deafness, which seems to heighten the peacefulness of the scene.
They are like a great curtain of sound, shutting one out from the
world beyond. And now there is the thunder of the huge covered
wagon coming home with sacks of grain. That honest wagoner is
thinking of his dinner, getting sadly dry in the oven at this late
hour; but he will not touch it till he has fed his horses,–the
strong, submissive, meek-eyed beasts, who, I fancy, are looking
mild reproach at him from between their blinkers, that he should
crack his whip at them in that awful manner as if they needed that
hint! See how they stretch their shoulders up the slope toward the
bridge, with all the more energy because they are so near home.
Look at their grand shaggy feet that seem to grasp the firm earth,
at the patient strength of their necks, bowed under the heavy
collar, at the mighty muscles of their struggling haunches! I
should like well to hear them neigh over their hardly earned feed
of corn, and see them, with their moist necks freed from the
harness, dipping their eager nostrils into the muddy pond. Now they
are on the bridge, and down they go again at a swifter pace, and
the arch of the covered wagon disappears at the turning behind the
Now I can turn my eyes toward the mill again, and watch the
unresting wheel sending out its diamond jets of water. That little
girl is watching it too; she has been standing on just the same
spot at the edge of the water ever since I paused on the bridge.
And that queer white cur with the brown ear seems to be leaping and
barking in ineffectual remonstrance with the wheel; perhaps he is
jealous because his playfellow in the beaver bonnet is so rapt in
its movement. It is time the little playfellow went in, I think;
and there is a very bright fire to tempt her: the red light shines
out under the deepening gray of the sky. It is time, too, for me to
leave off resting my arms on the cold stone of this bridge….
Ah, my arms are really benumbed. I have been pressing my elbows
on the arms of my chair, and dreaming that I was standing on the
bridge in front of Dorlcote Mill, as it looked one February
afternoon many years ago. Before I dozed off, I was going to tell
you what Mr. and Mrs. Tulliver were talking about, as they sat by
the bright fire in the left-hand parlor, on that very afternoon I
have been dreaming of.
Mr. Tulliver, of Dorlcote Mill, Declares His Resolution about
"What I want, you know," said Mr. Tulliver,–"what I want is to
give Tom a good eddication; an eddication as'll be a bread to him.
That was what I was thinking of when I gave notice for him to leave
the academy at Lady-day. I mean to put him to a downright good
school at Midsummer. The two years at th' academy 'ud ha' done well
enough, if I'd meant to make a miller and farmer of him, for he's
had a fine sight more schoolin' nor
ever got. All the
father ever paid for was a bit o' birch at one
end and the alphabet at th' other. But I should like Tom to be a
bit of a scholard, so as he might be up to the tricks o' these
fellows as talk fine and write with a flourish. It 'ud be a help to
me wi' these lawsuits, and arbitrations, and things. I wouldn't
make a downright lawyer o' the lad,–I should be sorry for him to be
a raskill,–but a sort o' engineer, or a surveyor, or an auctioneer
and vallyer, like Riley, or one o' them smartish businesses as are
all profits and no outlay, only for a big watch-chain and a high
stool. They're pretty nigh all one, and they're not far off being
even wi' the law,
believe; for Riley looks Lawyer Wakem
i' the face as hard as one cat looks another.
frightened at him."
Mr. Tulliver was speaking to his wife, a blond comely woman in a
fan-shaped cap (I am afraid to think how long it is since
fan-shaped caps were worn, they must be so near coming in again. At
that time, when Mrs. Tulliver was nearly forty, they were new at
St. Ogg's, and considered sweet things).
"Well, Mr. Tulliver, you know best:
But hadn't I better kill a couple o' fowl, and have th' aunts and
uncles to dinner next week, so as you may hear what sister Glegg
and sister Pullet have got to say about it? There's a couple o'
"You may kill every fowl i' the yard if you like, Bessy; but I
shall ask neither aunt nor uncle what I'm to do wi' my own lad,"
said Mr. Tulliver, defiantly.
"Dear heart!" said Mrs. Tulliver, shocked at this sanguinary
rhetoric, "how can you talk so, Mr. Tulliver? But it's your way to
speak disrespectful o' my family; and sister Glegg throws all the
blame upo'me, though I'm sure I'm as innocent as the babe unborn.
For nobody's ever heard me say as it wasn't lucky for my children
to have aunts and uncles as can live independent. Howiver, if Tom's
to go to a new school, I should like him to go where I can wash him
and mend him; else he might as well have calico as linen, for
they'd be one as yallow as th' other before they'd been washed
half-a-dozen times. And then, when the box is goin' back'ard and
forrard, I could send the lad a cake, or a pork-pie, or an apple;
for he can do with an extry bit, bless him! whether they stint him
at the meals or no. My children can eat as much victuals as most,
"Well, well, we won't send him out o' reach o' the carrier's
cart, if other things fit in," said Mr. Tulliver. "But you mustn't
put a spoke i' the wheel about the washin,' if we can't get a
school near enough. That's the fault I have to find wi' you, Bessy;
if you see a stick i' the road, you're allays thinkin' you can't
step over it. You'd want me not to hire a good wagoner, 'cause he'd
got a mole on his face."