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


She stood just as Zeena had stood, a lifted lamp in her hand,
against the black background of the kitchen. She held the light at
the same level, and it drew out with the same distinctness her slim
young throat and the brown wrist no bigger than a child’s. Then,
striking upward, it threw a lustrous fleck on her lips, edged her
eyes with velvet shade, and laid a milky whiteness above the black
curve of her brows.

She wore her usual dress of darkish stuff, and there was no bow at
her neck; but through her hair she had run a streak of crimson
ribbon. This tribute to the unusual transformed and glorified her.
She seemed to Ethan taller, fuller, more womanly in shape and
motion. She stood aside, smiling silently, while he entered, and
then moved away from him with something soft and flowing in
her gait. She set the lamp on the table, and he saw that it was
carefully laid for supper, with fresh doughnuts, stewed blueberries
and his favourite pickles in a dish of gay red glass.

A bright fire glowed in the stove and the cat lay stretched before it,
watching the table with a drowsy eye.

Ethan was suffocated with the sense of well-being. He went out
into the passage to hang up his coat and pull off his wet boots.
When he came back Mattie had set the teapot on the table and the
cat was rubbing itself persuasively against her ankles.

“Why, Puss! I nearly tripped over you,” she cried, the laughter
sparkling through her lashes.

Again Ethan felt a sudden twinge of jealousy. Could it be his
coming that gave her such a kindled face? “Well, Matt, any
visitors?” he threw off, stooping down carelessly to examine the
fastening of the stove.

She nodded and laughed “Yes, one,” and he felt a blackness
settling on his brows.

“Who was that?” he questioned, raising himself up to slant a
glance at her beneath his scowl.

Her eyes danced with malice. “Why, Jotham Powell. He came in
after he got back, and asked for a drop of coffee before he went
down home.” The blackness lifted and light flooded Ethan’s brain.
“That all? Well, I hope you made out to let him have it.” And after
a pause he felt it right to add: “I suppose he got Zeena over to the
Flats all right?” “Oh, yes; in plenty of time.”

The name threw a chill between them, and they stood a moment
looking sideways at each other before Mattie said with a shy laugh.
“I guess it’s about time for supper.” They drew their seats up to the
table, and the cat, unbidden, jumped between them into Zeena’s
empty chair. “Oh, Puss!” said Mattie, and they laughed again.
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