The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 1 Summary

George Eliot

Book 6, Chapter 1 Summary

The scene changes to the Deanes’ home, where cousin Lucy is sitting with Stephan Guest. It is not official, but Lucy and Stephan are very near to being engaged. Lucy is dressed in black because the family is still in mourning for Mr. Tulliver, Lucy’s uncle. Stephan appears bored; he is teasing Lucy’s dog with a pair of scissors. Lucy tells Stephan to stop making her dog angry so she can tell Stephan some news. Then she tells him to guess what the news might be.

After Stephan makes several ridiculous guesses, Lucy claims that he must think she is silly. She then adds that Philip Wakem told her that Stephan said he likes women to be “insipid.” Stephan responds that Philip’s remark does not surprise him. Stephan thinks Philip must be secretly in love with some very serious-minded young woman.

With her thoughts turned to Philip, Lucy wonders if Maggie dislikes Philip as much as Tom does. Lucy and Philip are friends, and Philip often visits her. Lucy worries that Maggie might object to Philip’s coming to the house while Maggie is staying there with her. Stephan feels annoyed when he hears this. He asks if this is Lucy’s news—that Maggie will be visiting. He also questions if Lucy thought this news would make him happy. Lucy replies that it is she who will be made happy when Maggie is there. She adds that there is no other girl in the world whom she loves more than she does Maggie.

It is obvious that Stephan is not looking forward to this event. He supposes that Maggie will take up all of Lucy’s time, leaving nothing left for him. He says that maybe they could engage Philip to distract Maggie so he and Lucy can have some privacy. Then he wants to know why Maggie might not want Philip around.

Lucy says the feud between the Tullivers and the Wakems is a family affair about which she has very few details. She ends her commentary about the family by stating that Maggie has been suffering from a lot of calamities over the past few years, and that is why Lucy wants Maggie to come visit her. Lucy feels it is time Maggie had some pleasures to enjoy. Stephan wants to know if Maggie is anything like her mother; Bessy Tulliver has been working as a housekeeper for the Deanes since Mr. Tulliver died. Stephan ridicules Mrs. Tulliver mercilessly. Then he attempts to imagine what Maggie might be like. He pictures her as “a fat, blond girl, with round blue eyes, who will stare at us silently.” Lucy teases Stephan, saying that his image of Maggie is perfectly descriptive of her cousin.