The Mill on the Floss Book V-VII
George Eliot
10:51 h
Level 9
The Mill on the Floss is a novel by George Eliot, first published in 1860 by William Blackwood. Spanning a period of 10 to 15 years, the novel details the lives of Tom and Maggie Tulliver, siblings who grow up at Dorlcote Mill on the River Floss. The mill is situated at the junction of the River Floss and the more minor River Ripple, near the village of St Ogg's in Lincolnshire, England. Both the rivers and the village are fictional. Maggie Tulliver is the protagonist and the story begins when she is 9 years old, 13 years into her parents' marriage. Her relationship with her older brother Tom, and her romantic relationships with Philip Wakem (a hunchbacked, sensitive and intellectual friend) and with Stephen Guest (a vivacious young socialite in St Ogg's and assumed fiancé of Maggie's cousin Lucy Deane) constitute the most significant narrative threads.

The Mill on the Floss

George Eliot

Volume II

Tom and Maggie Tulliver

“In their death they were not divided.”

Book Fifth
Wheat and Tares

Chapter I
In the Red Deeps

The family sitting-room was a long room with a window at each end; onelooking toward the croft and along the Ripple to the banks of theFloss, the other into the mill-yard. Maggie was sitting with her workagainst the latter window when she saw Mr Wakem entering the yard, asusual, on his fine black horse; but not alone, as usual. Some one waswith him,—a figure in a cloak, on a handsome pony. Maggie had hardlytime to feel that it was Philip come back, before they were in front ofthe window, and he was raising his hat to her; while his father,catching the movement by a side-glance, looked sharply round at themboth.

Maggie hurried away from the window and carried her work upstairs; forMr Wakem sometimes came in and inspected the books, and Maggie feltthat the meeting with Philip would be robbed of all pleasure in thepresence of the two fathers. Some day, perhaps, she could see him whenthey could just shake hands, and she could tell him that she rememberedhis goodness to Tom, and the things he had said to her in the old days,though they could never be friends any more. It was not at allagitating to Maggie to see Philip again; she retained her childishgratitude and pity toward him, and remembered his cleverness; and inthe early weeks of her loneliness she had continually recalled theimage of him among the people who had been kind to her in life, oftenwishing she had him for a brother and a teacher, as they had fancied itmight have been, in their talk together. But that sort of wishing hadbeen banished along with other dreams that savored of seeking her ownwill; and she thought, besides, that Philip might be altered by hislife abroad,—he might have become worldly, and really not care abouther saying anything to him now. And yet his face was wonderfully littlealtered,—it was only a larger, more manly copy of the pale,small-featured boy’s face, with the gray eyes, and the boyish wavingbrown hair; there was the old deformity to awaken the old pity; andafter all her meditations, Maggie felt that she really should like tosay a few words to him. He might still be melancholy, as he always usedto be, and like her to look at him kindly. She wondered if heremembered how he used to like her eyes; with that thought Maggieglanced toward the square looking-glass which was condemned to hangwith its face toward the wall, and she half started from her seat toreach it down; but she checked herself and snatched up her work, tryingto repress the rising wishes by forcing her memory to recall snatchesof hymns, until she saw Philip and his father returning along the road,and she could go down again.

It was far on in June now, and Maggie was inclined to lengthen thedaily walk which was her one indulgence; but this day and the followingshe was so busy with work which must be finished that she never wentbeyond the gate, and satisfied her need of the open air by sitting outof doors. One of her frequent walks, when she was not obliged to go toSt Ogg’s, was to a spot that lay beyond what was called the “Hill,”—aninsignificant rise of ground crowned by trees, lying along the side ofthe road which ran by the gates of Dorlcote Mill. Insignificant I callit, because in height it was hardly more than a bank; but there maycome moments when Nature makes a mere bank a means toward a fatefulresult; and that is why I ask you to imagine this high bank crownedwith trees, making an uneven wall for some quarter of a mile along theleft side of Dorlcote Mill and the pleasant fields behind it, boundedby the murmuring Ripple. Just where this line of bank sloped down againto the level, a by-road turned off and led to the other side of therise, where it was broken into very capricious hollows and mounds bythe working of an exhausted stone-quarry, so long exhausted that bothmounds and hollows were now clothed with brambles and trees, and hereand there by a stretch of grass which a few sheep kept close-nibbled.In her childish days Maggie held this place, called the Red Deeps, invery great awe, and needed all her confidence in Tom’s bravery toreconcile her to an excursion thither,—visions of robbers and fierceanimals haunting every hollow. But now it had the charm for her whichany broken ground, any mimic rock and ravine, have for the eyes thatrest habitually on the level; especially in summer, when she could siton a grassy hollow under the shadow of a branching ash, stooping aslantfrom the steep above her, and listen to the hum of insects, liketiniest bells on the garment of Silence, or see the sunlight piercingthe distant boughs, as if to chase and drive home the truant heavenlyblue of the wild hyacinths. In this June time, too, the dog-roses werein their glory, and that was an additional reason why Maggie shoulddirect her walk to the Red Deeps, rather than to any other spot, on thefirst day she was free to wander at her will,—a pleasure she loved sowell, that sometimes, in her ardors of renunciation, she thought sheought to deny herself the frequent indulgence in it.

You may see her now, as she walks down the favourite turning and entersthe Deeps by a narrow path through a group of Scotch firs, her tallfigure and old lavender gown visible through an hereditary black silkshawl of some wide-meshed net-like material; and now she is sure ofbeing unseen she takes off her bonnet and ties it over her arm. Onewould certainly suppose her to be farther on in life than herseventeenth year—perhaps because of the slow resigned sadness of theglance from which all search and unrest seem to have departed; perhapsbecause her broad-chested figure has the mould of early womanhood.Youth and health have withstood well the involuntary and voluntaryhardships of her lot, and the nights in which she has lain on the hardfloor for a penance have left no obvious trace; the eyes are liquid,the brown cheek is firm and round, the full lips are red. With her darkcolouring and jet crown surmounting her tall figure, she seems to havea sort of kinship with the grand Scotch firs, at which she is lookingup as if she loved them well. Yet one has a sense of uneasiness inlooking at her,—a sense of opposing elements, of which a fiercecollision is imminent; surely there is a hushed expression, such as oneoften sees in older faces under borderless caps, out of keeping withthe resistant youth, which one expects to flash out in a sudden,passionate glance, that will dissipate all the quietude, like a dampfire leaping out again when all seemed safe.

But Maggie herself was not uneasy at this moment. She was calmlyenjoying the free air, while she looked up at the old fir-trees, andthought that those broken ends of branches were the records of paststorms, which had only made the red stems soar higher. But while hereyes were still turned upward, she became conscious of a moving shadowcast by the evening sun on the grassy path before her, and looked downwith a startled gesture to see Philip Wakem, who first raised his hat,and then, blushing deeply, came forward to her and put out his hand.Maggie, too, coloured with surprise, which soon gave way to pleasure.She put out her hand and looked down at the deformed figure before herwith frank eyes, filled for the moment with nothing but the memory ofher child’s feelings,—a memory that was always strong in her. She wasthe first to speak.

“You startled me,” she said, smiling faintly; “I never meet any onehere. How came you to be walking here? Did you come to meet me?

It was impossible not to perceive that Maggie felt herself a childagain.

“Yes, I did,” said Philip, still embarrassed; “I wished to see you verymuch. I watched a long while yesterday on the bank near your house tosee if you would come out, but you never came. Then I watched againto-day, and when I saw the way you took, I kept you in sight and camedown the bank, behind there. I hope you will not be displeased withme.”

“No,” said Maggie, with simple seriousness, walking on as if she meantPhilip to accompany her, “I’m very glad you came, for I wished verymuch to have an opportunity of speaking to you. I’ve never forgottenhow good you were long ago to Tom, and me too; but I was not sure thatyou would remember us so well. Tom and I have had a great deal oftrouble since then, and I think that makes one think more of whathappened before the trouble came.”

“I can’t believe that you have thought of me so much as I have thoughtof you,” said Philip, timidly. “Do you know, when I was away, I made apicture of you as you looked that morning in the study when you saidyou would not forget me.”

Philip drew a large miniature-case from his pocket, and opened it.Maggie saw her old self leaning on a table, with her black lockshanging down behind her ears, looking into space, with strange, dreamyeyes. It was a water-colour sketch, of real merit as a portrait.

“Oh dear,” said Maggie, smiling, and flushed with pleasure, “what aqueer little girl I was! I remember myself with my hair in that way, inthat pink frock. I really was like a gypsy. I dare say I am now,” sheadded, after a little pause; “am I like what you expected me to be?”