Ethan Frome HTML version

Chapter IX
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 pin-
cushion 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
"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 slopes, and had the faint woody
fragrance of fresh sawdust in the sun.
Through the door they heard Zeena's voice calling out from below: "Dan'l Byrne
says you better hurry up if you want him to take that trunk."