Ethan Frome Chapter 9
Zeena makes Mattie carry her large trunk downstairs by herself, until Ethan steps in and carries it for her. While Mattie is upset at leaving, Ethan is angered at Zeena for putting Mattie in this position. Zeena does not care at all for Mattie's welfare and safety. He informs Zeena that he will take Mattie to the station, not their hired hand. Before they leave, he later finds Mattie in his study, looking around. As they drive pass the familiar countryside, they decide to stop at a clearing. They recall their memories of the church picnic, where they had talked by themselves for the first time. Ethan recalls how pretty Mattie had looked in her pink hat.
To Ethan, every place in the country has a special significance. Maybe it was a spot where they had once talked or laughed - every part of the landscape represents his connection to Mattie.
After Mattie confesses that she found Ethan's unfinished letter to Zeena, she rips it up into shreds, exclaiming that it would have been no use. An equally miserable Ethan tells her, "I want to put my hand out and touch you. I want to do for you and care for you. I want to be there when you're sick and when you're lonesome" Chapter 9, pg. 158 - 159 and wishes that he would rather have her die than marry another. Mattie admits that she has wished the same thing as well. In an act of rebellion, they decide to take a ride on a sled. Their ride brings them inexpressible glee and joy. They both feel too carefree and happy to worry about crashing into the big elm tree. The two of them share a deep kiss in the very spot Ethan spotted Ned Hale and Ruth Varnum kissing, and they break apart, crying that they cannot be separated from one another.
Mattie asks Ethan to take them down again for another ride - only this time right into the big elm tree. Ethan thinks about how intolerable life on the farm would be without Mattie. Hiding in the shade of the spruces, Ethan imagines that death would feel like that, as he thinks, "[We've] might have been in [our] coffins underground." Chapter 9, pg. 167.
Ethan suddenly decides to steer from the front, not the back. As they make their way down the hill toward the tree, at the last possible moment, Ethan has a vision of monstrous-looking Zeena blocking him from the tree. The next thing Ethan knows, he is lying on the ground, his body aching painfully. He hears an animal moaning pitifully in pain, until he realizes that the moaning sound does not come from an animal - it is coming from Mattie.