Flood on the Floss

August 28th, 2011

With hurricane Irene dominating every local media outlet, flooding is very much on our minds here in Greenwich Village. Which reminds me of my favorite (so far) literary flood, from the dramatic final volume of George Elliot’s The Mill on the Floss.

The Mill on the Floss

“At that moment Maggie felt a startling sensation of sudden cold about her knees and feet: it was water flowing under her. She started up: the stream was flowing under the door that led into the passage. She was not bewildered for an instant— she knew it was the flood! . . .

“And without a moment’s shudder of fear, she plunged through the water, which was rising fast to her knees, and by the glimmering light of the candle she had left on the stairs, she mounted on to the window-sill, and crept into the boat, which was left with the prow lodging and protruding through the window. Bob was not long after her, hurrying without shoes or stockings, but with the lanthorn in his hand. . .

“She was floating in smooth water now—perhaps far on the over-flooded fields. There was no sense of present danger to check the outgoing of her mind to the old home; and she strained her eyes against the curtain of gloom that she might seize the first sight of her whereabout—that she might catch some faint suggestion of the spot towards which all her anxieties tended. . .

“For the first time Maggie’s heart began to beat in an agony of dread. She sat helpless—dimly conscious that she was being floated along—more intensely conscious of the anticipated clash. But the horror was transient: it passed away before the oncoming warehouses of St Ogg’s: she had passed the mouth of the Ripple, then: now, she must use all her skill and power to manage the boat and get it if possible out of the current.”

What? You’re frustrated because I’ve left so much out — including the startling conclusion to Maggie’s boat ride? Well I guess you’ll just have to get a copy of the book and read it for yourself!

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