The stream crept along by the road unseen by any one. Sticks and leaves caught in the frozen grass. The sky was sullen grey and the trees of black iron. Uncompromising was the severity of the country. At four o’clock the snow was again falling. The day had gone out.
A window tinged yellow about two feet across alone combated the white fields and the black trees .... At six o’clock a man’s figure carrying a lantern crossed the field .... A raft of twig stayed upon a stone, suddenly detached itself, and floated towards the culvert .... A load of snow slipped and fell from a fir branch .... Later there was a mournful cry .... A motor car came along the road shoving the dark before it .... The dark shut down behind it....
Spaces of complete immobility separated each of these movements. The land seemed to lie dead .... Then the old shepherd returned stiffly across the field. Stiffly and painfully the frozen earth was trodden under and gave beneath pressure like a treadmill. The worn voices of clocks repeated the fact of the hour all night long.
Jacob, too, heard them, and raked out the fire. He rose. He stretched himself. He went to bed.
The Countess of Rocksbier sat at the head of the table alone with Jacob. Fed upon champagne and spices for at least two centuries (four, if you count the female line), the Countess Lucy looked well fed. A discriminating nose she had for scents, prolonged, as if in quest of them; her underlip protruded a narrow red shelf; her eyes were small, with sandy tufts for eyebrows, and her jowl was heavy. Behind her (the window looked on Grosvenor Square) stood Moll Pratt on the pavement, offering violets for sale; and Mrs. Hilda Thomas, lifting her skirts, preparing to cross the road. One was from Walworth; the other from Putney. Both wore black stockings, but Mrs. Thomas was coiled in furs. The comparison was much in Lady Rocksbier’s favour. Moll had more humour, but was violent; stupid too. Hilda Thomas was mealy-mouthed, all her silver frames aslant; egg-cups in the drawing-room; and the windows shrouded. Lady Rocksbier, whatever the deficiencies of her profile, had been a great rider to hounds. She used her knife with authority, tore her chicken bones, asking Jacob’s pardon, with her own hands.
“Who is that driving by?” she asked Boxall, the butler.
“Lady Firtlemere’s carriage, my lady,” which reminded her to send a card to ask after his lordship’s health. A rude old lady, Jacob thought. The wine was excellent. She called herself “an old woman”—“so kind to lunch with an old woman”—which flattered him. She talked of Joseph Chamberlain, whom she had known. She said that Jacob must come and meet— one of our celebrities. And the Lady Alice came in with three dogs on a leash, and Jackie, who ran to kiss his grandmother, while Boxall brought in a telegram, and Jacob was given a good cigar.