She went out, followed by Mattie, and when the men were alone Jotham said to his employer: “I guess I better let Dan’l come round, then.”
Ethan finished his usual morning tasks about the house and barn; then he said to Jotham: “I’m going down to Starkfield. Tell them not to wait dinner.”
The passion of rebellion had broken out in him again. That which had seemed incredible in the sober light of day had really come to pass, and he was to assist as a helpless spectator at Mattie’s banishment. His manhood was humbled by the part he was compelled to play and by the thought of what Mattie must think of him. Confused impulses struggled in him as he strode along to the village. He had made up his mind to do something, but he did not know what it would be.
The early mist had vanished and the fields lay like a silver shield under the sun. It was one of the days when the glitter of winter shines through a pale haze of spring. Every yard of the road was alive with Mattie’s presence, and there was hardly a branch against the sky or a tangle of brambles on the bank in which some bright shred of memory was not caught. Once, in the stillness, the call of a bird in a mountain ash was so like her laughter that his heart tightened and then grew large; and all these things made him see that something must be done at once.
Suddenly it occurred to him that Andrew Hale, who was a kind-hearted man, might be induced to reconsider his refusal and advance a small sum on the lumber if he were told that Zeena’s ill-health made it necessary to hire a servant. Hale, after all, knew enough of Ethan’s situation to make it possible for the latter to renew his appeal without too much loss of pride; and, moreover, how much did pride count in the ebullition of passions in his breast?
The more he considered his plan the more hopeful it seemed. If he could get Mrs. Hale’s ear he felt certain of success, and with fifty dollars in his pocket nothing could keep him from Mattie...
His first object was to reach Starkfield before Hale had started for his work; he knew the carpenter had a job down the Corbury road and was likely to leave his house early. Ethan’s long strides grew more rapid with the accelerated beat of his thoughts, and as he reached the foot of School House Hill he caught sight of Hale’s sleigh in the distance. He hurried forward to meet it, but as it drew nearer he saw that it was driven by the carpenter’s youngest boy and that the figure at his side, looking like a large upright cocoon in spectacles, was that of Mrs. Hale. Ethan signed to them to stop, and Mrs. Hale leaned forward, her pink wrinkles twinkling with benevolence.
“Mr. Hale? Why, yes, you’ll find him down home now. He ain’t going to his work this forenoon. He woke up with a touch o’ lumbago, and I just made him put on one of old Dr. Kidder’s plasters and set right up into the fire.”