Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers

Help / FAQ

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


though she had not lost the power of speech. Sometimes, in the
long winter evenings, when in desperation her son asked her why
she didn’t “say something,” she would lift a finger and answer:
“Because I’m listening”; and on stormy nights, when the loud wind
was about the house, she would complain, if he spoke to her:
“They’re talking so out there that I can’t hear you.” It was only
when she drew toward her last illness, and his cousin Zenobia
Pierce came over from the next valley to help him nurse her, that
human speech was heard again in the house. After the mortal
silence of his long imprisonment Zeena’s volubility was music in
his ears. He felt that he might have “gone like his mother” if the
sound of a new voice had not come to steady him. Zeena seemed to
understand his case at a glance. She laughed at him for not
knowing the simplest sick-bed duties and told him to “go right
along out” and leave her to see to things. The mere fact of obeying
her orders, of feeling free to go about his business again and talk
with other men, restored his shaken balance and magnified his
sense of what he owed her. Her efficiency shamed and dazzled
him. She seemed to possess by instinct all the household wisdom
that his long apprenticeship had not instilled in him. When the end
came it was she who had to tell him to hitch up and go for the
undertaker, and she thought it “funny” that he had not settled
beforehand who was to have his mother’s clothes and the sewing-
machine. After the funeral, when he saw her preparing to go away,
he was seized with an unreasoning dread of being left alone on the
farm; and before he knew what he was doing he had asked her to
stay there with him. He had often thought since that it would not
have happened if his mother had died in spring instead of winter...
When they married it was agreed that, as soon as he could
straighten out the difficulties resulting from Mrs. Frome’s long
illness, they would sell the farm and saw-mill and try their luck in
a large town. Ethan’s love of nature did not take the form of a taste
for agriculture. He had always wanted to be an engineer, and to
live in towns, where there were lectures and big libraries and
“fellows doing things.” A slight engineering job in Florida, put in
his way during his period of study at Worcester, increased his faith
in his ability as well as his eagerness to see the world; and he felt
sure that, with a “smart” wife like Zeena, it would not be long
before he had made himself a place in it.

Zeena’s native village was slightly larger and nearer to the railway
than Starkfield, and she had let her husband see from the first that
life on an isolated farm was not what she had expected when she
married. But purchasers were slow in coming, and while he waited
for them Ethan learned the impossibility of transplanting her. She
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

All Contents Copyright © All rights reserved.
Further Distribution Is Strictly Prohibited.

About Us | Advertising | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Home Page

In Association with