Ethan Frome eBook

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

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 Shadd’s 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.

“Zeena, I’ve done all I could for you, and I don’t see as it’s been any use.  I don’t blame you, nor I don’t blame myself.  Maybe both of us will do better separate.  I’m going to try my luck West, and you can sell the farm and mill, and keep the money-”

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 Zeena’s 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.

Well, she could go back to her people, then, and see what they would do for her.  It was the fate she was forcing on Mattie-why not let her try it herself?  By the time she had discovered his whereabouts, and brought suit for divorce, he would probably-wherever he was-be earning enough to pay her a sufficient alimony.  And the alternative was to let Mattie go forth alone, with far less hope of ultimate provision...

He had scattered the contents of the table-drawer in his search for a sheet of paper, and as he took up his pen his eye fell on an old copy of the Bettsbridge Eagle.  The advertising sheet was folded uppermost, and he read the seductive words:  “Trips to the West:  Reduced Rates.”

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Project Gutenberg
Ethan Frome from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.