The Mill on the Floss HTML version

III.7. How a Hen Takes to Stratagem
The days passed, and Mr. Tulliver showed, at least to the eyes of the medical
man, stronger and stronger symptoms of a gradual return to his normal condition;
the paralytic obstruction was, little by little, losing its tenacity, and the mind was
rising from under it with fitful struggles, like a living creature making its way from
under a great snowdrift, that slides and slides again, and shuts up the newly
made opening.
Time would have seemed to creep to the watchers by the bed, if it had only been
measured by the doubtful, distant hope which kept count of the moments within
the chamber; but it was measured for them by a fast-approaching dread which
made the nights come too quickly. While Mr. Tulliver was slowly becoming
himself again, his lot was hastening toward its moment of most palpable change.
The taxing-masters had done their work like any respectable gunsmith
conscientiously preparing the musket, that, duly pointed by a brave arm, will spoil
a life or two. Allocaturs, filing of bills in Chancery, decrees of sale, are legal
chain-shot or bomb-shells that can never hit a solitary mark, but must fall with
widespread shattering. So deeply inherent is it in this life of ours that men have to
suffer for each other's sins, so inevitably diffusive is human suffering, that even
justice makes its victims, and we can conceive no retribution that does not
spread beyond its mark in pulsations of unmerited pain.
By the beginning of the second week in January, the bills were out advertising
the sale, under a decree of Chancery, of Mr. Tulliver's farming and other stock, to
be followed by a sale of the mill and land, held in the proper after-dinner hour at
the Golden Lion. The miller himself, unaware of the lapse of time, fancied himself
still in that first stage of his misfortunes when expedients might be thought of;
and often in his conscious hours talked in a feeble, disjointed manner of plans he
would carry out when he "got well." The wife and children were not without hope
of an issue that would at least save Mr. Tulliver from leaving the old spot, and
seeking an entirely strange life. For uncle Deane had been induced to interest
himself in this stage of the business. It would not, he acknowledged, be a bad
speculation for Guest & Co. to buy Dorlcote Mill, and carry on the business,
which was a good one, and might be increased by the addition of steam power;
in which case Tulliver might be retained as manager. Still, Mr. Deane would say
nothing decided about the matter; the fact that Wakem held the mortgage on the
land might put it into his head to bid for the whole estate, and further, to outbid
the cautious firm of Guest &Co., who did not carry on business on sentimental
grounds. Mr. Deane was obliged to tell Mrs. Tulliver something to that effect,
when he rode over to the mill to inspect the books in company with Mrs. Glegg;
for she had observed that "if Guest &Co. would only think about it, Mr. Tulliver's
father and grandfather had been carrying on Dorlcote Mill long before the oil-mill
of that firm had been so much as thought of."