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


In the agitation caused by the gravity of her announcement he
sought a consolatory short cut. “What do you know about this
doctor anyway? Nobody ever told you that before.” He saw his
blunder before she could take it up: she wanted sympathy, not

“I didn’t need to have anybody tell me I was losing ground every
day. Everybody but you could see it. And everybody in
Bettsbridge knows about Dr. Buck.

He has his office in Worcester, and comes over once a fortnight to
Shadd’s Falls and Bettsbridge for consultations. Eliza Spears was
wasting away with kidney trouble before she went to him, and
now she’s up and around, and singing in the choir.” “Well, I’m
glad of that. You must do just what he tells you,” Ethan answered

She was still looking at him. “I mean to,” she said. He was struck
by a new note in her voice. It was neither whining nor reproachful,
but drily resolute.

“What does he want you should do?” he asked, with a mounting
vision of fresh expenses.

“He wants I should have a hired girl. He says I oughtn’t to have to
do a single thing around the house.” “A hired girl?” Ethan stood

“Yes. And Aunt Martha found me one right off. Everybody said I
was lucky to get a girl to come away out here, and I agreed to give
her a dollar extry to make sure. She’ll be over to-morrow
afternoon.” Wrath and dismay contended in Ethan. He had
foreseen an immediate demand for money, but not a permanent
drain on his scant resources. He no longer believed what Zeena
had told him of the supposed seriousness of her state: he saw in
her expedition to Bettsbridge only a plot hatched between herself
and her Pierce relations to foist on him the cost of a servant; and for
the moment wrath predominated.

“If you meant to engage a girl you ought to have told me before
you started,” he said.

“How could I tell you before I started? How did I know what Dr.
Buck would say?” “Oh, Dr. Buck-” Ethan’s incredulity escaped in a
short laugh. “Did Dr. Buck tell you how I was to pay her wages?”
Her voice rose furiously with his. “No, he didn’t. For I’d ‘a’ been
ashamed to tell him that you grudged me the money to get back
my health, when I lost it nursing your own mother!” “You lost
your health nursing mother?” “Yes; and my folks all told me at the
time you couldn’t do no less than marry me after-” “Zeena!”
Through the obscurity which hid their faces their thoughts seemed
to dart at each other like serpents shooting venom. Ethan was
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