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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library-Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton


62

healthy instincts of self-defence rose up in him against such
waste...

He bundled himself into his old coon-skin coat and lay down on
the box-sofa to think. Under his cheek he felt a hard object with
strange protuberances. It was a cushion which Zeena had made for
him when they were engaged-the only piece of needlework he had
ever seen her do. He flung it across the floor and propped his head
against the wall...

He knew a case of a man over the mountain-a young fellow of
about his own age-who had escaped from just such a life of misery
by going West with the girl he cared for. His wife had divorced
him, and he had married the girl and prospered. Ethan had seen
the couple the summer before at Shaddís Falls, where they had
come to visit relatives. They had a little girl with fair curls, who
wore a gold locket and was dressed like a princess. The deserted
wife had not done badly either. Her husband had given her the
farm and she had managed to sell it, and with that and the alimony
she had started a lunch-room at Bettsbridge and bloomed into
activity and importance. Ethan was fired by the thought. Why
should he not leave with Mattie the next day, instead of letting her
go alone? He would hide his valise under the seat of the sleigh,
and Zeena would suspect nothing till she went upstairs for her
afternoon nap and found a letter on the bed...

His impulses were still near the surface, and he sprang up, re-lit
the lantern, and sat down at the table. He rummaged in the drawer
for a sheet of paper, found one, and began to write.

ďZeena, Iíve done all I could for you, and I donít see as itís been
any use. I donít blame you, nor I donít blame myself. Maybe both
of us will do better separate. Iím going to try my luck West, and
you can sell the farm and mill, and keep the money-Ē His pen
paused on the word, which brought home to him the relentless
conditions of his lot. If he gave the farm and mill to Zeena what
would be left him to start his own life with? Once in the West he
was sure of picking up work-he would not have feared to try his
chance alone. But with Mattie depending on him the case was
different. And what of Zeenaís fate? Farm and mill were
mortgaged to the limit of their value, and even if she found a
purchaser-in itself an unlikely chance-it was doubtful if she could
clear a thousand dollars on the sale. Meanwhile, how could she
keep the farm going? It was only by incessant labour and personal
supervision that Ethan drew a meagre living from his land, and his
wife, even if she were in better health than she imagined, could
never carry such a burden alone.
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