ETHAN FROME

ETHAN FROME

3.7 87
by Edith Wharton
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally
happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.

If you know Starkfield, Massachusetts, you know the post-office. If you
know the post-office you must have seen Ethan Frome drive up to it, drop
the reins on his hollow-backed bay and drag himself across the… See more details below

Overview

I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally
happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.

If you know Starkfield, Massachusetts, you know the post-office. If you
know the post-office you must have seen Ethan Frome drive up to it, drop
the reins on his hollow-backed bay and drag himself across the brick
pavement to the white colonnade: and you must have asked who he was.

It was there that, several years ago, I saw him for the first time; and
the sight pulled me up sharp. Even then he was the most striking figure
in Starkfield, though he was but the ruin of a man. It was not so much
his great height that marked him, for the "natives" were easily singled
out by their lank longitude from the stockier foreign breed: it was the
careless powerful look he had, in spite of a lameness checking each step
like the jerk of a chain. There was something bleak and unapproachable
in his face, and he was so stiffened and grizzled that I took him for an
old man and was surprised to hear that he was not more than fifty-two.
I had this from Harmon Gow, who had driven the stage from Bettsbridge
to Starkfield in pre-trolley days and knew the chronicle of all the
families on his line.

"He's looked that way ever since he had his smash-up; and that's
twenty-four years ago come next February," Harmon threw out between
reminiscent pauses.

The "smash-up" it was--I gathered from the same informant--which, besides
drawing the red gash across Ethan Frome's forehead, had so shortened and
warped his right side that it cost him a visible effort to take the few
steps from his buggy to the post-office window. He used to drive in
from his farm every day at about noon, and as that was my own hour for
fetching my mail I often passed him in the porch or stood beside him
while we waited on the motions of the distributing hand behind the
grating. I noticed that, though he came so punctually, he seldom
received anything but a copy of the Bettsbridge Eagle, which he put
without a glance into his sagging pocket. At intervals, however, the
post-master would hand him an envelope addressed to Mrs. Zenobia--or Mrs.
Zeena-Frome, and usually bearing conspicuously in the upper left-hand
corner the address of some manufacturer of patent medicine and the name
of his specific. These documents my neighbour would also pocket without
a glance, as if too much used to them to wonder at their number and
variety, and would then turn away with a silent nod to the post-master.

Every one in Starkfield knew him and gave him a greeting tempered to
his own grave mien; but his taciturnity was respected and it was only on
rare occasions that one of the older men of the place detained him for
a word. When this happened he would listen quietly, his blue eyes on the
speaker's face, and answer in so low a tone that his words never reached
me; then he would climb stiffly into his buggy, gather up the reins in
his left hand and drive slowly away in the direction of his farm.

"It was a pretty bad smash-up?" I questioned Harmon, looking after
Frome's retreating figure, and thinking how gallantly his lean brown
head, with its shock of light hair, must have sat on his strong
shoulders before they were bent out of shape.

"Wust kind," my informant assented. "More'n enough to kill most men. But
the Fromes are tough. Ethan'll likely touch a hundred."

"Good God!" I exclaimed. At the moment Ethan Frome, after climbing to
his seat, had leaned over to assure himself of the security of a wooden
box--also with a druggist's label on it--which he had placed in the back
of the buggy, and I saw his face as it probably looked when he thought
himself alone. "That man touch a hundred? He looks as if he was dead and
in hell now!"

Harmon drew a slab of tobacco from his pocket, cut off a wedge and
pressed it into the leather pouch of his cheek. "Guess he's been in
Starkfield too many winters. Most of the smart ones get away."

"Why didn't he?"

"Somebody had to stay and care for the folks. There warn't ever anybody
but Ethan. Fust his father--then his mother--then his wife."

"And then the smash-up?"

Harmon chuckled sardonically. "That's so. He had to stay then."

"I see. And since then they've had to care for him?"

Harmon thoughtfully passed his tobacco to the other cheek. "Oh, as to
that: I guess it's always Ethan done the caring."

Though Harmon Gow developed the tale as far as his mental and moral
reach permitted there were perceptible gaps between his facts, and I had
the sense that the deeper meaning of the story was in the gaps.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940012299529
Publisher:
SAP
Publication date:
04/10/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
0 MB

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >