The Mill on the Floss HTML version

I.12. Mr. and Mrs. Glegg at Home
In order to see Mr. and Mrs. Glegg at home, we must enter the town of St.
Ogg's,--that venerable town with the red fluted roofs and the broad warehouse
gables, where the black ships unlade themselves of their burthens from the far
north, and carry away, in exchange, the precious inland products, the well-
crushed cheese and the soft fleeces which my refined readers have doubtless
become acquainted with through the medium of the best classic pastorals.
It is one of those old, old towns which impress one as a continuation and
outgrowth of nature, as much as the nests of the bower-birds or the winding
galleries of the white ants; a town which carries the traces of its long growth and
history like a millennial tree, and has sprung up and developed in the same spot
between the river and the low hill from the time when the Roman legions turned
their backs on it from the camp on the hillside, and the long-haired sea-kings
came up the river and looked with fierce, eager eyes at the fatness of the land. It
is a town "familiar with forgotten years." The shadow of the Saxon hero-king still
walks there fitfully, reviewing the scenes of his youth and love-time, and is met by
the gloomier shadow of the dreadful heathen Dane, who was stabbed in the
midst of his warriors by the sword of an invisible avenger, and who rises on
autumn evenings like a white mist from his tumulus on the hill, and hovers in the
court of the old hall by the river-side, the spot where he was thus miraculously
slain in the days before the old hall was built. It was the Normans who began to
build that fine old hall, which is, like the town, telling of the thoughts and hands of
widely sundered generations; but it is all so old that we look with loving pardon at
its inconsistencies, and are well content that they who built the stone oriel, and
they who built the Gothic facade and towers of finest small brickwork with the
trefoil ornament, and the windows and battlements defined with stone, did not
sacreligiously pull down the ancient half-timbered body with its oak-roofed
But older even than this old hall is perhaps the bit of wall now built into the belfry
of the parish church, and said to be a remnant of the original chapel dedicated to
St. Ogg, the patron saint of this ancient town, of whose history I possess several
manuscript versions. I incline to the briefest, since, if it should not be wholly true,
it is at least likely to contain the least falsehood. "Ogg the son of Beorl," says my
private hagiographer, "was a boatman who gained a scanty living by ferrying
passengers across the river Floss. And it came to pass, one evening when the
winds were high, that there sat moaning by the brink of the river a woman with a
child in her arms; and she was clad in rags, and had a worn and withered look,
and she craved to be rowed across the river. And the men thereabout questioned
her, and said, 'Wherefore dost thou desire to cross the river? Tarry till the
morning, and take shelter here for the night; so shalt thou be wise and not
foolish.' Still she went on to mourn and crave. But Ogg the son of Beorl came up
and said, 'I will ferry thee across; it is enough that thy heart needs it.' And he