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



THE NEXT MORNING at breakfast Jotham Powell was between
them, and Ethan tried to hide his joy under an air of exaggerated
indifference, lounging back in his chair to throw scraps to the cat,
growling at the weather, and not so much as offering to help Mattie
when she rose to clear away the dishes.

He did not know why he was so irrationally happy, for nothing
was changed in his life or hers. He had not even touched the tip of
her fingers or looked her full in the eyes. But their evening together
had given him a vision of what life at her side might be, and he
was glad now that he had done nothing to trouble the sweetness of
the picture. He had a fancy that she knew what had restrained

There was a last load of lumber to be hauled to the village, and
Jotham Powell-who did not work regularly for Ethan in winter-
had “come round” to help with the job. But a wet snow, melting to
sleet, had fallen in the night and turned the roads to glass. There
was more wet in the air and it seemed likely to both men that the
weather would “milden” toward afternoon and make the going

Ethan therefore proposed to his assistant that they should load the
sledge at the wood-lot, as they had done on the previous morning,
and put off the “teaming” to Starkfield till later in the day. This
plan had the advantage of enabling him to send Jotham to the Flats
after dinner to meet Zenobia, while he himself took the lumber
down to the village.

He told Jotham to go out and harness up the greys, and for a
moment he and Mattie had the kitchen to themselves. She had
plunged the breakfast dishes into a tin dish-pan and was bending
above it with her slim arms bared to the elbow, the steam from the
hot water beading her forehead and tightening her rough hair into
little brown rings like the tendrils on the traveller’s joy.

Ethan stood looking at her, his heart in his throat. He wanted to
say: “We shall never be alone again like this.” Instead, he reached
down his tobacco-pouch from a shelf of the dresser, put it into his
pocket and said: “I guess I can make out to be home for dinner.”
She answered “All right, Ethan,” and he heard her singing over the
dishes as he went.

As soon as the sledge was loaded he meant to send Jotham back to
the farm and hurry on foot into the village to buy the glue for the
pickle-dish. With ordinary luck he should have had time to carry
out this plan; but everything went wrong from the start. On the
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