Maggie runs off from the Pullets' with the idea of reaching Dunlow common and joining the band of gypsies that must be there. Maggie meets two beggars in the road and gives them the six pence in her pocket when they ask her for it ungraciously. Maggie travels inside the hedgerow to avoid further meetings. When she reaches a bend in the road she sees a gypsy camp and a tall gypsy woman walking towards her. Maggie tells the woman her wish to live with them and to teach them many things. The woman brings Maggie to sit near the fire, where other gypsy women remove her bonnet and the contents of her pocket. Maggie continues to explain her plans to live with them and perhaps become the queen of the gypsies.

Soon Maggie becomes hungry but refuses to eat the strange food she is offered. Disenchanted by the rude manners of some of the women, and feeling hungry and confused by their strange language, Maggie wishes to be taken home. When the men gypsies return to camp, one of them puts her on his donkey to take her home. Maggie is convinced he wants to kill her and is wary even after she recognizes the road to St. Ogg's. Maggie spots her father riding down the same road on his way home from the Mosses, and the gypsy man returns her to a confused Mr. Tulliver, who rewards the gypsy with five shillings. At home, Mr. Tulliver speaks harsh words to Mrs. Tulliver and Tom on Maggie's behalf, and she never hears of the incident again.

Analysis

The remaining chapters of Book First feature, in part, Mr. and Mrs. Tulliver's separate and opposite reactions to Mrs. Glegg's argument with Mr. Tulliver and the prospect of her recalling the five hundred pounds lent to the Tulliver's. There is a comic element to Mr. and Mrs. Tulliver's incompatible world views, which has been sustained over many years of marriage and strengthened by contrariness, but it is precisely this dynamic of cross purposes between them that will recur throughout the novel and exacerbate Mr. Tulliver's economic downfall.

These chapters continue on in an examination of the characteristics of the Dodson sisters. They functioned in Chapter VII as a group, as they do often in the novel, but Eliot also draws carefully detailed distinctions between them. Mrs. Pullet, like Mrs. Tulliver, enjoys a love of handsome goods. One of the socio-historical concerns of the setting of The Mill on the Floss is the growing materialism of the middle classes in England in the 1830s and 40s. Material goods, in these chapters, afford women like Mrs. Tulliver and Mrs. Pullet a way of looking at and valuing the world. Details like Mrs. Tulliver's protection of her visiting clothing and Mrs. Pullet's series of shoe scrapers are comic, but they also produce an adult background that increases our sense of Maggie's alienation and also contrasts with the financial position and emotional priorities of Mr. Tulliver's sister and her husband.

The combination of her own insensitivity, bad humor, and bad luck that has plagued Maggie's relations with Tom for the opening chapters of Book First continues to plague her in these chapters, with a new element added—the presence of Lucy Deane, of whom Maggie is jealous. Lucy Deane is everything that Maggie is not—demure, pretty, blond, light-skinned, and doted on by Mrs. Tulliver. Maggie's malicious behavior toward Lucy, especially given Lucy's good humor and love of Maggie, is another instance in which Eliot creates distance, rather than sympathy, between Maggie and the reader. Additionally, if we have been sympathetic to Maggie's tendency toward imagination and invention, her foolish and gross misestimation of gypsy life, while comic, also puts her in danger. Maggie's miserable loneliness after the scene with Lucy and her escape to the gypsies is alleviated only by the unconditionally loving presence of Mr. Tulliver. Mr. Tulliver is aligned with Maggie in the prevalence of emotion over justice in his decision-making, as seen in his relenting treatment of the Mosses in Chapter VIII.

The first several chapters of Book First all took place at Dorlcote Mill. In these chapters, the landscape of the novel is widened—both in geographical and socio-economic terms—as we move both through the parish of Basset and to the gypsy camp. The natural description of the unfertile land in Basset offers reasoning for the impoverished cultural atmosphere of the parish and a subtly rational explanation for the poverty of the Mosses. This variety of detailed settings also serve to develop our understanding of the relative privilege enjoyed by the Tulliver children in their household.