Charlie listened to the football thudding against the wall then sliding across the surface of the yard. He heard Jakes voice and the reply of his father. But today Charlie could not get out of bed. So he asked Hannah if she was willing to go to the window and describe what she saw.
Hannah looked out across the fields with their deep winter covering of snow, she could see the tracks in the snow where the postman had made his way up the winding lane to deliver their mail. She saw the indentations made by her mother going to feed the chickens. She saw the faint trails left by a pair of hares as they had made their way across the snow covered meadow. She even saw where a fox had burrowed into the snow then lain in wait hoping to catch his breakfast. She also heard the faint sound of the church bell calling people to Sunday service.
Then she saw the broken branches and the deep depressions made in the snow where two children had fallen. There was a trace of pale crimson left from where her father had gently picked up Jake’s limp body. How could she tell Charlie that he had been dreaming, that Jake had died. That would be as hard as when the doctor had told them that Charlie would never walk or see again. When the ancient tree in the farms court yard had spilt asunder during the storm it had robbed the family on its two sons. Then Hannah had questioned God, why had he let it happen, what had Jake and Charlie done to deserve Gods wrath. But she had vowed to keep the farm in the family, she would do what was needed.
When the snow had gone she would visit Jacob at Carletonbrigg Hall. If he still wanted her hand in marriage this time she would say yes. But for now he would have to wait, she turned and placed a cooling compress on Charlie’s fevered brow, as she heard her fathers body being racked by a coughing fit. The falling tree had not only robbed the family of its two sons, it had signalled the return of her father severe bronchitis. Being so badly gassed in the trenches had left its mark on him and all the family. The boys had only been out in the yard to help their father move some hay onto the sled, so that he might feed the sheep. Now her mother was struggling alone to dig out the sheep and feed them.