The woman’s eloquent gesture appeared to include the blue-bottle fly buzzing noisily on the window-pane:
“Goodness gracious! if these flies ain’t enough to drive a body crazy—what with the new paint and all....”
Lydia laid the picture carefully away in a pigeonhole of her desk. She was still thinking soberly of the subtle web of prejudices, feelings and conditions into which she had obtruded her one fixed purpose in life. But if Mr. Elliot had been as good as engaged to Fanny Dodge, as Mrs. Solomon Black had been at some pains to imply, in what way had she (Lydia) interfered with the denouement?
She shook her head at last over the intricacies of the imperfectly stated problem. The idea of coquetting with a man had never entered Lydia’s fancy. Long since, in the chill spring of her girlhood, she had understood her position in life as compared with that of other girls. She must never marry. She must never fall in love, even. The inflexible Puritan code of her uncle’s wife had found ready acceptance in Lydia’s nature. If not an active participant in her father’s crime, she still felt herself in a measure responsible for it. He had determined to grow rich and powerful for her sake. More than once, in the empty rambling talk which he poured forth in a turgid stream during their infrequent meetings, he had told her so, with extravagant phrase and gesture. And so, at last, she had come to share his punishment in a hundred secret, unconfessed ways. She ate scant food, slept on the hardest of beds, labored unceasingly, with the great, impossible purpose of some day making things right: of restoring the money they—she no longer said he—had stolen; of building again the waste places desolated by the fire of his ambition for her. There had followed that other purpose, growing ever stronger with the years, and deepening with the deepening stream of her womanhood: her love, her vast, unavailing pity for the broken and aging man, who would some day be free. She came at length to the time when she saw clearly that he would never leave the prison alive, unless in some way she could contrive to keep open the clogging springs of hope and desire. She began deliberately and with purpose to call back memories of the past: the house in which he had lived, the gardens and orchards in which he once had taken pride, his ambitious projects for village improvement.
“You shall have it all back, father!” she promised him, with passionate resolve. “And it will only be a little while to wait, now.”
Thus encouraged, the prisoner’s horizon widened, day by day. He appeared, indeed, to almost forget the prison, so busy was he in recalling trivial details and unimportant memories of events long since past. He babbled incessantly of his old neighbors, calling them by name, and chuckling feebly as he told her of their foibles and peculiarities.