Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers
THEY FINISHED supper, and while Mattie cleared the table Ethan
went to look at the cows and then took a last turn about the house.
The earth lay dark under a muffled sky and the air was so still that
now and then he heard a lump of snow come thumping down
from a tree far off on the edge of the wood-lot.
When he returned to the kitchen Mattie had pushed up his chair to
the stove and seated herself near the lamp with a bit of sewing. The
scene was just as he had dreamed of it that morning. He sat down,
drew his pipe from his pocket and stretched his feet to the glow.
His hard day’s work in the keen air made him feel at once lazy and
light of mood, and he had a confused sense of being in another
world, where all was warmth and harmony and time could bring
no change. The only drawback to his complete well-being was the
fact that he could not see Mattie from where he sat; but he was too
indolent to move and after a moment he said: “Come over here and
sit by the stove.” Zeena’s empty rocking-chair stood facing him.
Mattie rose obediently, and seated herself in it. As her young
brown head detached itself against the patchwork cushion that
habitually framed his wife’s gaunt countenance, Ethan had a
momentary shock. It was almost as if the other face, the face of the
superseded woman, had obliterated that of the intruder. After a
moment Mattie seemed to be affected by the same sense of
constraint. She changed her position, leaning forward to bend her
head above her work, so that he saw only the foreshortened tip of
her nose and the streak of red in her hair; then she slipped to her
feet, saying “I can’t see to sew,” and went back to her chair by the
Ethan made a pretext of getting up to replenish the stove, and
when he returned to his seat he pushed it sideways that he might
get a view of her profile and of the lamplight falling on her hands.
The cat, who had been a puzzled observer of these unusual
movements, jumped up into Zeena’s chair, rolled itself into a ball,
and lay watching them with narrowed eyes.
Deep quiet sank on the room. The clock ticked above the dresser, a
piece of charred wood fell now and then in the stove, and the faint
sharp scent of the geraniums mingled with the odour of Ethan’s
smoke, which began to throw a blue haze about the lamp and to
hang its greyish cobwebs in the shadowy corners of the room.
All constraint had vanished between the two, and they began to
talk easily and simply. They spoke of every-day things, of the
prospect of snow, of the next church sociable, of the loves and