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<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton



THE VILLAGE lay under two feet of snow, with drifts at the
windy corners.

In a sky of iron the points of the Dipper hung like icicles and Orion
flashed his cold fires. The moon had set, but the night was so
transparent that the white house-fronts between the elms looked
gray against the snow, clumps of bushes made black stains on it,
and the basement windows of the church sent shafts of yellow light
far across the endless undulations.

Young Ethan Frome walked at a quick pace along the deserted
street, past the bank and Michael Eadyís new brick store and
Lawyer Varnumís house with the two black Norway spruces at the
gate. Opposite the Varnum gate, where the road fell away toward
the Corbury valley, the church reared its slim white steeple and
narrow peristyle. As the young man walked toward it the upper
windows drew a black arcade along the side wall of the building,
but from the lower openings, on the side where the ground sloped
steeply down to the Corbury road, the light shot its long bars,
illuminating many fresh furrows in the track leading to the
basement door, and showing, under an adjoining shed, a line of
sleighs with heavily blanketed horses.

The night was perfectly still, and the air so dry and pure that it
gave little sensation of cold. The effect produced on Frome was
rather of a complete absence of atmosphere, as though nothing less
tenuous than ether intervened between the white earth under his
feet and the metallic dome overhead. ďItís like being in an
exhausted receiver,Ē he thought. Four or five years earlier he had
taken a yearís course at a technological college at Worcester, and
dabbled in the laboratory with a friendly professor of physics; and
the images supplied by that experience still cropped up, at
unexpected moments, through the totally different associations of
thought in which he had since been living. His fatherís death, and
the misfortunes following it, had put a premature end to Ethanís
studies; but though they had not gone far enough to be of much
practical use they had fed his fancy and made him aware of huge
cloudy meanings behind the daily face of things.

As he strode along through the snow the sense of such meanings
glowed in his brain and mingled with the bodily flush produced
by his sharp tramp. At the end of the village he paused before the
darkened front of the church. He stood there a moment, breathing
quickly, and looking up and down the street, in which not another
figure moved. The pitch of the Corbury road, below lawyer
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