The Mill on the Floss HTML version

I.11. Maggie Tries to Run away from Her Shadow
Maggie'S intentions, as usual, were on a larger scale than Tom imagined. The
resolution that gathered in her mind, after Tom and Lucy had walked away, was
not so simple as that of going home. No! she would run away and go to the
gypsies, and Tom should never see her any more. That was by no means a new
idea to Maggie; she had been so often told she was like a gypsy, and "half wild,"
that when she was miserable it seemed to her the only way of escaping
opprobrium, and being entirely in harmony with circumstances, would be to live in
a little brown tent on the commons; the gypsies, she considered, would gladly
receive her and pay her much respect on account of her superior knowledge.
She had once mentioned her views on this point to Tom and suggested that he
should stain his face brown, and they should run away together; but Tom
rejected the scheme with contempt, observing that gypsies were thieves, and
hardly got anything to eat and had nothing to drive but a donkey. To-day
however, Maggie thought her misery had reached a pitch at which gypsydom
was her refuge, and she rose from her seat on the roots of the tree with the
sense that this was a great crisis in her life; she would run straight away till she
came to Dunlow Common, where there would certainly be gypsies; and cruel
Tom, and the rest of her relations who found fault with her, should never see her
any more. She thought of her father as she ran along, but she reconciled herself
to the idea of parting with him, by determining that she would secretly send him a
letter by a small gypsy, who would run away without telling where she was, and
just let him know that she was well and happy, and always loved him very much.
Maggie soon got out of breath with running, but by the time Tom got to the pond
again she was at the distance of three long fields, and was on the edge of the
lane leading to the highroad. She stopped to pant a little, reflecting that running
away was not a pleasant thing until one had got quite to the common where the
gypsies were, but her resolution had not abated; she presently passed through
the gate into the lane, not knowing where it would lead her, for it was not this way
that they came from Dorlcote Mill to Garum Firs, and she felt all the safer for that,
because there was no chance of her being overtaken. But she was soon aware,
not without trembling, that there were two men coming along the lane in front of
her; she had not thought of meeting strangers, she had been too much occupied
with the idea of her friends coming after her. The formidable strangers were two
shabby-looking men with flushed faces, one of them carrying a bundle on a stick
over his shoulder; but to her surprise, while she was dreading their
disapprobation as a runaway, the man with the bundle stopped, and in a half-
whining, half-coaxing tone asked her if she had a copper to give a poor man.
Maggie had a sixpence in her pocket,--her uncle Glegg's present,--which she
immediately drew out and gave this poor man with a polite smile, hoping he
would feel very kindly toward her as a generous person. "That's the only money
I've got," she said apologetically. "Thank you, little miss," said the man, in a less