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

It was only when she drew toward her last illness, and his cousin Zenobia Pierce came over from the next valley to help him nurse her, that human speech was heard again in the house.  After the mortal silence of his long imprisonment Zeena’s volubility was music in his ears.  He felt that he might have “gone like his mother” if the sound of a new voice had not come to steady him.  Zeena seemed to understand his case at a glance.  She laughed at him for not knowing the simplest sick-bed duties and told him to “go right along out” and leave her to see to things.  The mere fact of obeying her orders, of feeling free to go about his business again and talk with other men, restored his shaken balance and magnified his sense of what he owed her.  Her efficiency shamed and dazzled him.  She seemed to possess by instinct all the household wisdom that his long apprenticeship had not instilled in him.  When the end came it was she who had to tell him to hitch up and go for the undertaker, and she thought it “funny” that he had not settled beforehand who was to have his mother’s clothes and the sewing-machine.  After the funeral, when he saw her preparing to go away, he was seized with an unreasoning dread of being left alone on the farm; and before he knew what he was doing he had asked her to stay there with him.  He had often thought since that it would not have happened if his mother had died in spring instead of winter...

When they married it was agreed that, as soon as he could straighten out the difficulties resulting from Mrs. Frome’s long illness, they would sell the farm and saw-mill and try their luck in a large town.  Ethan’s love of nature did not take the form of a taste for agriculture.  He had always wanted to be an engineer, and to live in towns, where there were lectures and big libraries and “fellows doing things.”  A slight engineering job in Florida, put in his way during his period of study at Worcester, increased his faith in his ability as well as his eagerness to see the world; and he felt sure that, with a “smart” wife like Zeena, it would not be long before he had made himself a place in it.

Zeena’s native village was slightly larger and nearer to the railway than Starkfield, and she had let her husband see from the first that life on an isolated farm was not what she had expected when she married.  But purchasers were slow in coming, and while he waited for them Ethan learned the impossibility of transplanting her.  She chose to look down on Starkfield, but she could not have lived in a place which looked down on her.  Even Bettsbridge or Shadd’s Falls would not have been sufficiently aware of her, and in the greater cities which attracted Ethan she would have suffered a complete loss of identity.  And within a year of their marriage she developed the “sickliness” which had since made her notable even in a community rich in pathological instances.  When she came to take care of his mother she had seemed to Ethan like the very genius of health, but he soon saw that her skill as a nurse had been acquired by the absorbed observation of her own symptoms.

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