The Mill on the Floss HTML version

III.9. An Item Added to the Family Register
That first moment of renunciation and submission was followed by days of violent
struggle in the miller's mind, as the gradual access of bodily strength brought with
it increasing ability to embrace in one view all the conflicting conditions under
which he found himself. Feeble limbs easily resign themselves to be tethered,
and when we are subdued by sickness it seems possible to us to fulfil pledges
which the old vigor comes back and breaks. There were times when poor Tulliver
thought the fulfilment of his promise to Bessy was something quite too hard for
human nature; he had promised her without knowing what she was going to say,-
-she might as well have asked him to carry a ton weight on his back. But again,
there were many feelings arguing on her side, besides the sense that life had
been made hard to her by having married him. He saw a possibility, by much
pinching, of saving money out of his salary toward paying a second dividend to
his creditors, and it would not be easy elsewhere to get a situation such as he
could fill.
He had led an easy life, ordering much and working little, and had no aptitude for
any new business. He must perhaps take to day-labor, and his wife must have
help from her sisters,--a prospect doubly bitter to him, now they had let all
Bessy's precious things be sold, probably because they liked to set her against
him, by making her feel that he had brought her to that pass. He listened to their
admonitory talk, when they came to urge on him what he was bound to do for
poor Bessy's sake, with averted eyes, that every now and then flashed on them
furtively when their backs were turned. Nothing but the dread of needing their
help could have made it an easier alternative to take their advice.
But the strongest influence of all was the love of the old premises where he had
run about when he was a boy, just as Tom had done after him. The Tullivers had
lived on this spot for generations, and he had sat listening on a low stool on
winter evenings while his father talked of the old half-timbered mill that had been
there before the last great floods which damaged it so that his grandfather pulled
it down and built the new one. It was when he got able to walk about and look at
all the old objects that he felt the strain of his clinging affection for the old home
as part of his life, part of himself. He couldn't bear to think of himself living on any
other spot than this, where he knew the sound of every gate door, and felt that
the shape and color of every roof and weather-stain and broken hillock was
good, because his growing senses had been fed on them. Our instructed
vagrancy, which was hardly time to linger by the hedgerows, but runs away early
to the tropics, and is at home with palms and banyans,--which is nourished on
books of travel and stretches the theatre of its imagination to the Zambesi,--can
hardly get a dim notion of what an old-fashioned man like Tulliver felt for this
spot, where all his memories centred, and where life seemed like a familiar
smooth-handled tool that the fingers clutch with loving ease. And just now he was