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


The change in her tone reassured him. “Of course we will! There’s
a whole lot more I can do for you, and Mattie-” Zeena, while he
spoke, seemed to be following out some elaborate mental
calculation. She emerged from it to say: “There’ll be Mattie’s board
less, any how-” Ethan, supposing the discussion to be over, had
turned to go down to supper.

He stopped short, not grasping what he heard. “Mattie’s board
less-?” he began.

Zeena laughed. It was on odd unfamiliar sound-he did not
remember ever having heard her laugh before. “You didn’t
suppose I was going to keep two girls, did you? No wonder you
were scared at the expense!” He still had but a confused sense of
what she was saying. From the beginning of the discussion he had
instinctively avoided the mention of Mattie’s name, fearing he
hardly knew what: criticism, complaints, or vague allusions to the
imminent probability of her marrying. But the thought of a definite
rupture had never come to him, and even now could not lodge
itself in his mind.

“I don’t know what you mean,” he said. “Mattie Silver’s not a
hired girl.

She’s your relation.” “She’s a pauper that’s hung onto us all after
her father’d done his best to ruin us. I’ve kep’ her here a whole
year: it’s somebody else’s turn now.” As the shrill words shot out
Ethan heard a tap on the door, which he had drawn shut when he
turned back from the threshold.

“Ethan-Zeena!” Mattie’s voice sounded gaily from the landing, “do
you know what time it is? Supper’s been ready half an hour.”
Inside the room there was a moment’s silence; then Zeena called
out from her seat: “I’m not coming down to supper.” “Oh, I’m
sorry! Aren’t you well? Sha’n’t I bring you up a bite of something?”
Ethan roused himself with an effort and opened the door. “Go
along down, Matt. Zeena’s just a little tired. I’m coming.” He heard
her “All right!” and her quick step on the stairs; then he shut the
door and turned back into the room. His wife’s attitude was
unchanged, her face inexorable, and he was seized with the
despairing sense of his helplessness.

“You ain’t going to do it, Zeena?” “Do what?” she emitted between
flattened lips.

“Send Mattie away-like this?” “I never bargained to take her for

He continued with rising vehemence: “You can’t put her out of the
house like a thief-a poor girl without friends or money. She’s done
her best for you and she’s got no place to go to. You may forget
she’s your kin but everybody else’ll remember it. If you do a thing
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