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“Then you don’t want to leave us, Matt?” He had to stoop his head
to catch her stifled whisper: “Where’d I go, if I did?” The answer
sent a pang through him but the tone suffused him with joy. He
forgot what else he had meant to say and pressed her against him
so closely that he seemed to feel her warmth in his veins.
“You ain’t crying are you, Matt?” “No, of course I’m not,” she
They turned in at the gate and passed under the shaded knoll
where, enclosed in a low fence, the Frome grave-stones slanted at
crazy angles through the snow.
Ethan looked at them curiously. For years that quiet company had
mocked his restlessness, his desire for change and freedom. “We
never got away-how should you?” seemed to be written on every
headstone; and whenever he went in or out of his gate he thought
with a shiver: “I shall just go on living here till I join them.” But
now all desire for change had vanished, and the sight of the little
enclosure gave him a warm sense of continuance and stability.
“I guess we’ll never let you go, Matt,” he whispered, as though
even the dead, lovers once, must conspire with him to keep her;
and brushing by the graves, he thought: “We’ll always go on living
here together, and some day she’ll lie there beside me.” He let the
vision possess him as they climbed the hill to the house. He was
never so happy with her as when he abandoned himself to these
dreams. Halfway up the slope Mattie stumbled against some
unseen obstruction and clutched his sleeve to steady herself. The
wave of warmth that went through him was like the prolongation
of his vision. For the first time he stole his arm about her, and she
did not resist. They walked on as if they were floating on a
Zeena always went to bed as soon as she had had her supper, and
the shutterless windows of the house were dark. A dead
cucumber-vine dangled from the porch like the crape streamer tied
to the door for a death, and the thought flashed through Ethan’s
brain: “If it was there for Zeena-” Then he had a distinct sight of
his wife lying in their bedroom asleep, her mouth slightly open,
her false teeth in a tumbler by the bed...
They walked around to the back of the house, between the rigid
gooseberry bushes. It was Zeena’s habit, when they came back late
from the village, to leave the key of the kitchen door under the mat.
Ethan stood before the door, his head heavy with dreams, his arm
still about Mattie. “Matt-” he began, not knowing what he meant to
She slipped out of his hold without speaking, and he stooped
down and felt for the key.