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



AT THE KITCHEN DOOR Daniel Byrne sat in his sleigh behind a
big-boned grey who pawed the snow and swung his long head
restlessly from side to side.

Ethan went into the kitchen and found his wife by the stove. Her
head was wrapped in her shawl, and she was reading a book
called “Kidney Troubles and Their Cure” on which he had had to
pay extra postage only a few days before.

Zeena did not move or look up when he entered, and after a
moment he asked: “Where’s Mattie?” Without lifting her eyes from
the page she replied: “I presume she’s getting down her trunk.”
The blood rushed to his face. “Getting down her trunk-alone?”
“Jotham Powell’s down in the wood-lot, and Dan’l Byrne says he
darsn’t leave that horse,” she returned.

Her husband, without stopping to hear the end of the phrase, had
left the kitchen and sprung up the stairs. The door of Mattie’s room
was shut, and he wavered a moment on the landing. “Matt,” he
said in a low voice; but there was no answer, and he put his hand
on the door-knob.

He had never been in her room except once, in the early summer,
when he had gone there to plaster up a leak in the eaves, but he
remembered exactly how everything had looked: the red-and-
white quilt on her narrow bed, the pretty pincushion on the chest
of drawers, and over it the enlarged photograph of her mother, in
an oxydized frame, with a bunch of dyed grasses at the back. Now
these and all other tokens of her presence had vanished and the
room looked as bare and comfortless as when Zeena had shown
her into it on the day of her arrival. In the middle of the floor stood
her trunk, and on the trunk she sat in her Sunday dress, her back
turned to the door and her face in her hands. She had not heard
Ethan’s call because she was sobbing and she did not hear his step
till he stood close behind her and laid his hands on her shoulders.
“Matt-oh, don’t-oh, Matt!” She started up, lifting her wet face to
his. “Ethan-I thought I wasn’t ever going to see you again!” He
took her in his arms, pressing her close, and with a trembling hand
smoothed away the hair from her forehead.

“Not see me again? What do you mean?” She sobbed out: “Jotham
said you told him we wasn’t to wait dinner for you, and I thought-
” “You thought I meant to cut it?” he finished for her grimly.

She clung to him without answering, and he laid his lips on her
hair, which was soft yet springy, like certain mosses on warm
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