Ethan walks upstairs to their bedroom, where Zeena is sitting by the window. She tells him that she has fatal "complications" and that the doctor has suggested that they employ a hired girl so that she will no longer have to slave around the house. Ethan tells Zeena that he does not have enough money to pay to keep a hired girl around the house, but Zeena reminds him that he had told her that he would be receiving the lumber payment from Andrew Hale and that she had hired the girl because she had thought that Ethan would have had some extra money with the lumber payment. Zeena also told him that the hired girl would supplant Mattie, who would be sent back to Stamford, where she would have to fend for herself financially. She insists that she had never agreed to take care of Mattie for the rest of her life, and even though Ethan tries to point out to her that her relatives will be furious with her for stabbing Mattie in the back, she simply reminds him that they had probably never even expected her to take care of Mattie for such a long time.
Zeena refuses to come down to dinner, and Ethan, furious but speechless, can do nothing. Even though great hatred and anger well up within him, he cannot stand up to Zeena and tell her that he does not want Mattie to leave. He sees Zeena as an alien, evil force in the house that had completely mastered him, and he could not stop from clenching his fist against her. But he says nothing more to her about Mattie and goes downstairs for dinner.
While he and Mattie are sitting at the table, with Zeena upstairs in bed, Ethan suddenly explodes with passion and tells Mattie that she cannot go but does not explain to her the reason for his explosion. Mattie slowly realizes that Zeena means to send her away, but Ethan promises that he will not let her go. Zeena surprises them by coming down to dinner, and she discovers that her prized red pickle-dish has been broken. Ethan tries to tell her that the cat had broken it, but she does not believe him because the pieces had been placed together perfectly, as if the plate had never been broken. Mattie finally confesses to taking the pickle-dish down to make the table pretty, and Zeena completely lambasts her. She declares that she had always known that Mattie was a bad girl and darkly tells her that if she had listened to the sage advice of others, she would never have taken Mattie in to live with them.
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