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所属教程:书虫三级 伊桑·弗罗姆





3.A visit to the doctor

The next morning was cold and bright. Ethan was down at his saw-mill early because he had to take some wood to the village builder that day. The winter sun burned red in a clear sky, and the sunlight danced over the bright, snowy fields, leaving deep blue shadows under the trees.


Ethan's thoughts were always clearest when he was working in the quiet morning air. Last night, after the bedroom door had closed behind them, Zeena had taken her medicine and gone to bed without a word. Ethan lay next to her, watching the light from under Mattie's door, and thinking. Why had he not kissed her on the walk home? He remembered her soft lips in the moonlight. Now, in the clear morning sunshine, he could still see her face. He could see it in the red sky and in the bright shining snow.


Mattie was the daughter of Orin Silver, a cousin of Zeena Frome's. Silver's medicine company had seemed successful, and he had lived like a rich man. But when he died, his wife and daughter had a terrible surprise. They discovered that he had borrowed thousands of dollars which he could not pay back. This awful news killed Mrs Silver immediately. He had also lost money which belonged to his brothers and sisters, so there was nobody in the family who wanted to help poor Mattie. The twenty-year-old girl was alone in the world, without money and without friends. She was not strong, and she had never studied or learnt to do a job. So Mattie came to Starkfield to work, without pay, in her cousin Zeena's home. At first Zeena often complained about the girl's work. Then, as the months went by, Mattie grew stronger and found the work easier. Zeena had more time to think about her illnesses, and life under the Fromes' roof became more peaceful.


But now, Zeena's strange silent looks, the warning in Mattie's eyes last night... Ethan was sure that something was wrong. By midday the wood was all loaded, ready to take to Andrew Hale the builder. But Ethan decided to go home. If there was going to be trouble, he wanted to be there. So Ethan and Jotham Powell, his hired man, walked through the fields back to the house.


When they entered the kitchen, Mattie was making coffee. Zeena was sitting at the table, wearing her best brown dress and a tall hat. A suitcase stood beside her.


Where're you going, Zeena?' asked Ethan, surprised.


My pains are getting really bad. I'm going over to my aunt's in Bettsbridge for the night, and tomorrow I'll see that new doctor,' she answered. 'If you're too busy, I suppose you can let Jotham Powell drive me to the station.'


Ethan said nothing. He was lost in his own thoughts. He realized that, for the first time, he and Mattie would be alone for the night. He looked at Mattie. Was she thinking the same thing? Then he looked at his wife's thin, lined, bloodless face. Zeena was thirty-five, only seven years older than he was, but she was already an old woman.


Of course Jotham'll take you,' he said at last. 'I can't do it myself, because I've got to get the money for the wood from Andrew Hale.'


This was a lie. Andrew Hale never paid immediately, but Ethan really had no wish to make the long, slow journey to the station with his miserable wife at his side.


Zeena made no reply, and soon afterwards she left with Jotham. Ethan picked up his coat and stood for a moment in the doorway. 'See you later, Matt,' he said.


It was warm and bright in the kitchen. The sun shone in on the flowering pot plants by the window, and the cat sleeping in a chair. Mattie looked up from her housework. 'See you later, Ethan,' she said happily.


All the way down to the village Ethan thought of his return to Mattie that night. Without Zeena, his house seemed more like a home. And as he drove through the snowy fields, this usually silent man began to sing.


Ethan Frome had not always been so quiet and lonely. As a student he had liked being among happy, friendly, young people. He had enjoyed his science studies and wanted to become an engineer. But after his father's accident and death, Ethan had to leave his studies and return home. Life was hard for him, working alone on the poor farm and unsuccessful saw-mill. Then his mother fell ill, and became more and more silent. Sometimes she used to say a few crazy words, but for most of the time she refused to speak at all. So with each long, cold Starkfield winter, the silence and loneliness round Ethan grew deeper.


As his mother came towards her last illness, Ethan's cousin Zeena arrived to take care of her. It was wonderful to hear another person's voice in the house again, and Zeena was an excellent nurse and housekeeper. Old Mrs Frome finally died on a dark winter's day, and the idea of being alone again filled Ethan with fear. He was grateful to Zeena for all that she had done, and he asked her to stay and marry him. They had at first planned to sell the farm and move to the town. But it was hard to find a buyer, and Ethan soon realized that his wife could not live in a place where she was not someone 'important'. In less than a year her 'sickliness' appeared; then she too fell silent. Her strange, wordless looks worried Ethan. Was she going a little crazy, like his mother? What thoughts and plans were hidden behind her cold eyes?


But that afternoon, as Ethan drove to the village with his sleigh full of wood for the builder, he felt less afraid. Zeena had gone away to Bettsbridge, with all her thoughts on her own health. And tonight he had an evening alone with Mattie. But there was still one worry — the lie about the money from Andrew Hale. He knew that Zeena would want to know where it was.


When Ethan arrived at the builder's, Hale invited him into his office to sit down and get warm. He was a large, red-faced and likeable man, an old friend of Ethan's family. Ethan did not know how to begin, but at last he managed to ask Hale for the first fifty dollars towards this winter's wood. The builder was surprised. He always paid at the end of three months, never before. He refused in his warm, friendly way, and then asked:


Look, you ain't got money problems, have you?'


No, not at all,' replied Ethan, very embarrassed.


The afternoon had turned into a cold grey evening by the time Ethan left the builder's. He heard the sound of sleigh-bells, and Denis Eady drove past, shouting 'Hello, Ethe!' Eady was going towards the Frome farm. Did he know that Zeena had gone? Was he going there to spend some time alone with Mattie? Ethan felt wildly jealous, then moments later was ashamed of his feelings.


By the Varnum house Ethan saw two figures standing together under the trees. He heard a kiss, and a surprised 'Oh!' as he passed by. Two happy lovers, kissing where he had stood with Mattie the night before. But unlike him, Ruth Varnum and Ned Hale didn't need to hide their feelings. How lucky they were!


As night fell, Ethan passed by the Frome gravestones and drove up to the farmhouse. A light shone in a room upstairs.


She's getting herself ready for supper,' he thought.


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