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


current back to her; and she let her hands lie motionless on the
other end of the strip.

As they sat thus he heard a sound behind him and turned his head.
The cat had jumped from Zeena’s chair to dart at a mouse in the
wainscot, and as a result of the sudden movement the empty chair
had set up a spectral rocking.

“She’ll be rocking in it herself this time to-morrow,” Ethan thought.
“I’ve been in a dream, and this is the only evening we’ll ever have
together.” The return to reality was as painful as the return to
consciousness after taking an anaesthetic. His body and brain
ached with indescribable weariness, and he could think of nothing
to say or to do that should arrest the mad flight of the moments.
His alteration of mood seemed to have communicated itself to
Mattie. She looked up at him languidly, as though her lids were
weighted with sleep and it cost her an effort to raise them. Her
glance fell on his hand, which now completely covered the end of
her work and grasped it as if it were a part of herself.

He saw a scarcely perceptible tremor cross her face, and without
knowing what he did he stooped his head and kissed the bit of
stuff in his hold. As his lips rested on it he felt it glide slowly from
beneath them, and saw that Mattie had risen and was silently
rolling up her work. She fastened it with a pin, and then, finding
her thimble and scissors, put them with the roll of stuff into the box
covered with fancy paper which he had once brought to her from

He stood up also, looking vaguely about the room. The clock above
the dresser struck eleven.

“Is the fire all right?” she asked in a low voice.
He opened the door of the stove and poked aimlessly at the
embers. When he raised himself again he saw that she was
dragging toward the stove the old soapbox lined with carpet in
which the cat made its bed. Then she recrossed the floor and lifted
two of the geranium pots in her arms, moving them away from the
cold window. He followed her and brought the other geraniums,
the hyacinth bulbs in a cracked custard bowl and the German ivy
trained over an old croquet hoop.

When these nightly duties were performed there was nothing left
to do but to bring in the tin candlestick from the passage, light the
candle and blow out the lamp. Ethan put the candlestick in Mattie’s
hand and she went out of the kitchen ahead of him, the light that
she carried before her making her dark hair look like a drift of mist
on the moon.

“Good night, Matt,” he said as she put her foot on the first step of
the stairs.
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