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reached the lane leading to the saw-mill; then the need of some
definite assurance grew too strong for him.

“You’d have found me right off if you hadn’t gone back to have
that last reel with Denis,” he brought out awkwardly. He could not
pronounce the name without a stiffening of the muscles of his

“Why, Ethan, how could I tell you were there?” “I suppose what
folks say is true,” he jerked out at her, instead of answering.

She stopped short, and he felt, in the darkness, that her face was
lifted quickly to his. “Why, what do folks say?” “It’s natural
enough you should be leaving us” he floundered on, following his

“Is that what they say?” she mocked back at him; then, with a
sudden drop of her sweet treble: “You mean that Zeena-ain’t
suited with me any more?” she faltered.

Their arms had slipped apart and they stood motionless, each
seeking to distinguish the other’s face.

“I know I ain’t anything like as smart as I ought to be,” she went
on, while he vainly struggled for expression. “There’s lots of things
a hired girl could do that come awkward to me still-and I haven’t
got much strength in my arms. But if she’d only tell me I’d try. You
know she hardly ever says anything, and sometimes I can see she
ain’t suited, and yet I don’t know why.” She turned on him with a
sudden flash of indignation. “You’d ought to tell me, Ethan Frome-
you’d ought to! Unless you want me to go too-” Unless he wanted
her to go too! The cry was balm to his raw wound. The iron
heavens seemed to melt and rain down sweetness. Again he
struggled for the allexpressive word, and again, his arm in hers,
found only a deep “Come along.” They walked on in silence
through the blackness of the hemlock-shaded lane, where Ethan’s
sawmill gloomed through the night, and out again into the
comparative clearness of the fields. On the farther side of the
hemlock belt the open country rolled away before them grey and
lonely under the stars. Sometimes their way led them under the
shade of an overhanging bank or through the thin obscurity of a
clump of leafless trees. Here and there a farmhouse stood far back
among the fields, mute and cold as a grave-stone. The night was so
still that they heard the frozen snow crackle under their feet. The
crash of a loaded branch falling far off in the woods reverberated
like a musket-shot, and once a fox barked, and Mattie shrank closer
to Ethan, and quickened her steps.

At length they sighted the group of larches at Ethan’s gate, and as
they drew near it the sense that the walk was over brought back his
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