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


There was a long silence between them; then Mattie said in a low
“Don’t be too sorry, Ethan.” “Oh, God-oh, God,” he groaned. The
glow of passion he had felt for her had melted to an aching
tenderness. He saw her quick lids beating back the tears, and
longed to take her in his arms and soothe her.

“You’re letting your supper get cold,” she admonished him with a
pale gleam of gaiety.

“Oh, Matt-Matt-where’ll you go to?” Her lids sank and a tremor
crossed her face. He saw that for the first time the thought of the
future came to her distinctly. “I might get something to do over at
Stamford,” she faltered, as if knowing that he knew she had no

He dropped back into his seat and hid his face in his hands.
Despair seized him at the thought of her setting out alone to renew
the weary quest for work. In the only place where she was known
she was surrounded by indifference or animosity; and what chance
had she, inexperienced and untrained, among the million bread-
seekers of the cities? There came back to him miserable tales he had
heard at Worcester, and the faces of girls whose lives had begun as
hopefully as Mattie’s.... It was not possible to think of such things
without a revolt of his whole being. He sprang up suddenly.

“You can’t go, Matt! I won’t let you! She’s always had her way, but
I mean to have mine now-”

Mattie lifted her hand with a quick gesture, and he heard his wife’s
step behind him.

Zeena came into the room with her dragging down-at-the-heel
step, and quietly took her accustomed seat between them.

“I felt a little mite better, and Dr. Buck says I ought to eat all I can
to keep my strength up, even if I ain’t got any appetite,” she said in
her flat whine, reaching across Mattie for the teapot. Her “good”
dress had been replaced by the black calico and brown knitted
shawl which formed her daily wear, and with them she had put on
her usual face and manner. She poured out her tea, added a great
deal of milk to it, helped herself largely to pie and pickles, and
made the familiar gesture of adjusting her false teeth before she
began to eat. The cat rubbed itself ingratiatingly against her, and
she said “Good Pussy,” stooped to stroke it and gave it a scrap of
meat from her plate.

Ethan sat speechless, not pretending to eat, but Mattie nibbled
valiantly at her food and asked Zeena one or two questions about
her visit to Bettsbridge. Zeena answered in her every-day tone and,
warming to the theme, regaled them with several vivid
descriptions of intestinal disturbances among her friends and
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