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Ethan and Mattie settle down for a quiet night by the fire, Ethan with his pipe and Mattie with some sewing. Ethan can't see Mattie from his position by the fire, so he invites her to sit in Zeena's rocking chair. When she sits there, Ethan thinks for a moment that he sees Zeena's face in place of Mattie's. Mattie also seems uncomfortable with the spot, and she soon returns to her place at the table, pleading that the firelight is not bright enough for needlework. At first, the conversation seems to go easily. They talk about the goings-on in town, and they discuss the possibility of sledding ("coasting") some night. Ethan pulls his chair up to Mattie's table.
The conversation becomes awkward; Ethan brings up Ned and Ruth in hopes that talk of the young couple will somehow open up a chance for a soft touch. It doesn't work; the conversation turns to Mattie leaving someday, and Mattie worries that Zeena is displeased with her. She worries that Zeena will force her to leave. Ethan expresses his dismay at the idea of Mattie's departure, and his earnestness makes Mattie blush.