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    Book 1 - Chapter 1

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    Chapter 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,
    meek-eyed beasts, who, I fancy, are looking mild reproach at him from
    between their blinkers, that he should crack his whip at them in that
    awful manner as if they needed that hint! See how they stretch their
    shoulders up the slope toward the bridge, with all the more energy
    because they are so near home. Look at their grand shaggy feet that
    seem to grasp the firm earth, at the patient strength of their necks,
    bowed under the heavy collar, at the mighty muscles of their
    struggling haunches! I should like well to hear them neigh over their
    hardly earned feed of corn, and see them, with their moist necks freed
    from the harness, dipping their eager nostrils into the muddy pond.
    Now they are on the bridge, and down they go again at a swifter pace,
    and the arch of the covered wagon disappears at the turning behind the
    trees.

    Now I can turn my eyes toward the mill again, and watch the unresting
    wheel sending out its diamond jets of water. That little girl is
    watching it too; she has been standing on just the same spot at the
    edge of the water ever since I paused on the bridge. And that queer
    white cur with the brown ear seems to be leaping and barking in
    ineffectual remonstrance with the wheel; perhaps he is jealous because
    his playfellow in the beaver bonnet is so rapt in its movement. It is
    time the little playfellow went in, I think; and there is a very
    bright fire to tempt her: the red light shines out under the deepening
    gray of the sky. It is time, too, for me to leave off resting my arms
    on the cold stone of this bridge....

    Ah, my arms are really benumbed. I have been pressing my elbows on the
    arms of my chair, and dreaming that I was standing on the bridge in
    front of Dorlcote Mill, as it looked one February afternoon many years
    ago. Before I dozed off, I was going to tell you what Mr. and Mrs.
    Tulliver were talking about, as they sat by the bright fire in the
    left-hand parlor, on that very afternoon I have been dreaming of.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 1
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