The Mill on the Floss HTML version

Book I: Boy and Girl
I.1. 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,