The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 14 Summary

George Eliot

Book 6, Chapter 14 Summary

After spending the night on the deck of the boat, Maggie awakens from a dream in a dreadful mood. When Stephan opens his eyes, he can feel that something is wrong. He knows Maggie has changed her mind, and this alarms him. He realizes that he had not allowed her to make a decision the day before. He had, instead, forced her into a situation he had contrived. Because of this, he would not blame her for hating him.

Maggie does not feel anger toward Stephan. She is angry with herself for yet another example of her weaknesses. They sit in silence, holding hands, waiting for the fateful moment when the ship lands and they must choose which direction they will take. When Stephan does talk, his words express his hope. He implies that nothing has changed; the two of them will travel together and eventually get married. Maggie has decided against this plan but is not yet ready to tell Stephan. She is using all her energy to keep her resolve to not go forward with the fantasy of their being happy together in spite of all the pain their actions would cause for others.

When the port comes into view, Stephan attempts to reassure himself that all is right. He talks of the carriage he will lease. He thinks of how he will explain his marriage to his father. However, Maggie finally speaks the fateful words Stephan does not want to hear. She tells him that they shall not go on together. Stephan utters that he would die before he left her. If she does not come with him now, Stephan says, he will surely die. He continues to plead, telling Maggie that the worst of it is already done. They have been gone too long from home. Everyone will know what they had planned even if they do not go through with it. He apologizes for forcing her into the situation and adds that he will listen to her now. He will do whatever she wants him to do. Maggie reiterates that what is done is done. However, she will go no further. She must return home.

Stephan continues to implore Maggie to stay with him. He attempts to convince her that what they are doing is the most natural and best thing for everyone concerned. Maggie disagrees, saying that they have only rationalized their treachery. Stephan counters by reminding her that Philip and Lucy will now know that he and Maggie are in love. To marry Lucy or Philip now would be a lie. Maggie almost gives in to Stephan. However, she cannot ignore the knowledge of the negative feelings that their marriage would cause others. She cannot be happy at such a great expense. With this last pronouncement, Maggie leaves to return to the mill.