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Zeena was always “nervous” after a journey. But the hired man,
though seldom loth to accept a meal not included in his wages,
opened his stiff jaws to answer slowly: “I’m obliged to you, but I
guess I’ll go along back.” Ethan looked at him in surprise. “Better
come up and dry off. Looks as if there’d be something hot for
supper.” Jotham’s facial muscles were unmoved by this appeal
and, his vocabulary being limited, he merely repeated: “I guess I’ll
go along back.” To Ethan there was something vaguely ominous in
this stolid rejection of free food and warmth, and he wondered
what had happened on the drive to nerve Jotham to such stoicism.
Perhaps Zeena had failed to see the new doctor or had not liked his
counsels: Ethan knew that in such cases the first person she met
was likely to be held responsible for her grievance.
When he re-entered the kitchen the lamp lit up the same scene of
shining comfort as on the previous evening. The table had been as
carefully laid, a clear fire glowed in the stove, the cat dozed in its
warmth, and Mattie came forward carrying a plate of doughnuts.
She and Ethan looked at each other in silence; then she said, as she
had said the night before: “I guess it’s about time for supper.”