1 It seemed to him as if the shattered fragments of their evening lay there.
2 And he pictured what it would be like that evening, when he and Mattie were there after supper.
3 A rapid calculation showed Ethan that Zeena could not be back at the farm before the following evening.
4 When he re-entered the kitchen the lamp lit up the same scene of shining comfort as on the previous evening.
5 Now her departure for Bettsbridge had once more eased his mind, and all his thoughts were on the prospect of his evening with Mattie.
6 The words had been on his tongue all the evening, but now that he had spoken them they struck him as inexpressibly vulgar and out of place.
7 A crooked tree-branch crossed it, a branch of the apple-tree under which, on summer evenings, he had sometimes found Mattie sitting when he came up from the mill.
8 But their evening together had given him a vision of what life at her side might be, and he was glad now that he had done nothing to trouble the sweetness of the picture.
9 Frome was in the habit of walking into Starkfield to fetch home his wife's cousin, Mattie Silver, on the rare evenings when some chance of amusement drew her to the village.
10 So strange was the precision with which the incidents of the previous evening were repeating themselves that he half expected, when he heard the key turn, to see his wife before him on the threshold; but the door opened, and Mattie faced him.
11 The pitch of the Corbury road, below lawyer Varnum's spruces, was the favourite coasting-ground of Starkfield, and on clear evenings the church corner rang till late with the shouts of the coasters; but to-night not a sled darkened the whiteness of the long declivity.
12 Nevertheless he sat still a moment, straining his eyes down the long hill, for it was the most confusing hour of the evening, the hour when the last clearness from the upper sky is merged with the rising night in a blur that disguises landmarks and falsifies distances.
13 The commonplace nature of what they said produced in Ethan an illusion of long-established intimacy which no outburst of emotion could have given, and he set his imagination adrift on the fiction that they had always spent their evenings thus and would always go on doing so.
14 When his wife first proposed that they should give Mattie an occasional evening out he had inwardly demurred at having to do the extra two miles to the village and back after his hard day on the farm; but not long afterward he had reached the point of wishing that Starkfield might give all its nights to revelry.