Ethan Frome eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 104 pages of information about Ethan Frome.

When his wife first proposed that they should give Mattie an occasional evening out he had inwardly demurred at having to do the extra two miles to the village and back after his hard day on the farm; but not long afterward he had reached the point of wishing that Starkfield might give all its nights to revelry.

Mattie Silver had lived under his roof for a year, and from early morning till they met at supper he had frequent chances of seeing her; but no moments in her company were comparable to those when, her arm in his, and her light step flying to keep time with his long stride, they walked back through the night to the farm.  He had taken to the girl from the first day, when he had driven over to the Flats to meet her, and she had smiled and waved to him from the train, crying out, “You must be Ethan!” as she jumped down with her bundles, while he reflected, looking over her slight person:  “She don’t look much on housework, but she ain’t a fretter, anyhow.”  But it was not only that the coming to his house of a bit of hopeful young life was like the lighting of a fire on a cold hearth.  The girl was more than the bright serviceable creature he had thought her.  She had an eye to see and an ear to hear:  he could show her things and tell her things, and taste the bliss of feeling that all he imparted left long reverberations and echoes he could wake at will.

It was during their night walks back to the farm that he felt most intensely the sweetness of this communion.  He had always been more sensitive than the people about him to the appeal of natural beauty.  His unfinished studies had given form to this sensibility and even in his unhappiest moments field and sky spoke to him with a deep and powerful persuasion.  But hitherto the emotion had remained in him as a silent ache, veiling with sadness the beauty that evoked it.  He did not even know whether any one else in the world felt as he did, or whether he was the sole victim of this mournful privilege.  Then he learned that one other spirit had trembled with the same touch of wonder:  that at his side, living under his roof and eating his bread, was a creature to whom he could say:  “That’s Orion down yonder; the big fellow to the right is Aldebaran, and the bunch of little ones-like bees swarming-they’re the Pleiades...” or whom he could hold entranced before a ledge of granite thrusting up through the fern while he unrolled the huge panorama of the ice age, and the long dim stretches of succeeding time.  The fact that admiration for his learning mingled with Mattie’s wonder at what he taught was not the least part of his pleasure.  And there were other sensations, less definable but more exquisite, which drew them together with a shock of silent joy:  the cold red of sunset behind winter hills, the flight of cloud-flocks over slopes of golden stubble, or the intensely blue shadows of hemlocks on sunlit snow.  When she said to him once:  “It looks just as if it was painted!” it seemed to Ethan that the art of definition could go no farther, and that words had at last been found to utter his secret soul....

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Ethan Frome from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.