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


saw you!” Her wonder and his laughter ran together like spring
rills in a thaw. Ethan had the sense of having done something arch
and ingenious. To prolong the effect he groped for a dazzling
phrase, and brought out, in a growl of rapture: “Come along.” He
slipped an arm through hers, as Eady had done, and fancied it was
faintly pressed against her side. but neither of them moved. It was
so dark under the spruces that he could barely see the shape of her
head beside his shoulder. He longed to stoop his cheek and rub it
against her scarf. He would have liked to stand there with her all
night in the blackness. She moved forward a step or two and then
paused again above the dip of the Corbury road. Its icy slope,
scored by innumerable runners, looked like a mirror scratched by
travellers at an inn.

“There was a whole lot of them coasting before the moon set,” she

“Would you like to come in and coast with them some night?” he

“Oh, would you, Ethan? It would be lovely!” “We’ll come to-
morrow if there’s a moon.” She lingered, pressing closer to his side.
“Ned Hale and Ruth Varnum came just as near running into the
big elm at the bottom. We were all sure they were killed.” Her
shiver ran down his arm. “Wouldn’t it have been too awful?
They’re so happy!” “Oh, Ned ain’t much at steering. I guess I can
take you down all right!” he said disdainfully.

He was aware that he was “talking big,” like Denis Eady; but his
reaction of joy had unsteadied him, and the inflection with which
she had said of the engaged couple “They’re so happy!” made the
words sound as if she had been thinking of herself and him.

“The elm is dangerous, though. It ought to be cut down,” she

“Would you be afraid of it, with me?” “I told you I ain’t the kind to
be afraid” she tossed back, almost indifferently; and suddenly she
began to walk on with a rapid step.

These alterations of mood were the despair and joy of Ethan
Frome. The motions of her mind were as incalculable as the flit of a
bird in the branches. The fact that he had no right to show his
feelings, and thus provoke the expression of hers, made him attach
a fantastic importance to every change in her look and tone. Now
he thought she understood him, and feared; now he was sure she
did not, and despaired. To-night the pressure of accumulated
misgivings sent the scale drooping toward despair, and her
indifference was the more chilling after the flush of joy into which
she had plunged him by dismissing Denis Eady. He mounted
School House Hill at her side and walked on in silence till they
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