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


her light figure swinging from hand to hand in circles of increasing
swiftness, the scarf flew off her head and stood out behind her
shoulders, and Frome, at each turn, caught sight of her laughing
panting lips, the cloud of dark hair about her forehead, and the
dark eyes which seemed the only fixed points in a maze of flying

The dancers were going faster and faster, and the musicians, to
keep up with them, belaboured their instruments like jockeys
lashing their mounts on the homestretch; yet it seemed to the
young man at the window that the reel would never end. Now and
then he turned his eyes from the girl’s face to that of her partner,
which, in the exhilaration of the dance, had taken on a look of
almost impudent ownership. Denis Eady was the son of Michael
Eady, the ambitious Irish grocer, whose suppleness and effrontery
had given Starkfield its first notion of “smart” business methods,
and whose new brick store testified to the success of the attempt.
His son seemed likely to follow in his steps, and was meanwhile
applying the same arts to the conquest of the Starkfield
maidenhood. Hitherto Ethan Frome had been content to think him
a mean fellow; but now he positively invited a horse-whipping. It
was strange that the girl did not seem aware of it: that
she could lift her rapt face to her dancer’s, and drop her hands into
his, without appearing to feel the offence of his look and touch.
Frome was in the habit of walking into Starkfield to fetch home his
wife’s cousin, Mattie Silver, on the rare evenings when some
chance of amusement drew her to the village. It was his wife who
had suggested, when the girl came to live with them, that such
opportunities should be put in her way. Mattie Silver came from
Stamford, and when she entered the Fromes’ household to act as
her cousin Zeena’s aid it was thought best, as she came without
pay, not to let her feel too sharp a contrast between the life she had
left and the isolation of a Starkfield farm. But for this-as Frome
sardonically reflected-it would hardly have occurred to Zeena to
take any thought for the girl’s amusement.

When his wife first proposed that they should give Mattie an
occasional evening out he had inwardly demurred at having to do
the extra two miles to the village and back after his hard day on the
farm; but not long afterward he had reached the point of wishing
that Starkfield might give all its nights to revelry.

Mattie Silver had lived under his roof for a year, and from early
morning till they met at supper he had frequent chances of seeing
her; but no moments in her company were comparable to those
when, her arm in his, and her light step flying to keep time with
his long stride, they walked back through the night to the farm.
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