It is winter in the prairie again, and the ground is frozen over. It seems possible that life and fruitfulness will be extinct forever. Alexandra has settled back into her old routine, receiving letters from Emil once a week. She has not seen her other brothers since Carl left and has started attending a different church in order to avoid them.
The land has settled into winter, and Alexandra, who is deeply connected to the land, settles down too into a kind of functional coldness, a hibernation of sorts. She is back in her old routine, minus the visits from her brothers and her more loving relations with Emil and Carl.
Mrs. Lee had been afraid that she would not be able to visit Alexandra’s this year, due to the family quarrel, but on the first day of December, Alexandra informs Annie that Ivar will be picking up Mrs. Lee the next day. Mrs. Lee enjoys the liberty Alexandra gives her, allowing her to live in a comfortable, old-fashioned way and to keep up her favorite habits, including a little drink of brandy before bed.
Mrs. Lee, like Mrs. Bergson before her, misses her habits from the old country, and she cherishes the fact that Alexandra allows her to observe these habits when she visits. Alexandra seems to understand this nostalgia for the Old World, as she has also felt homesick before and understands the sacrifices that must be made in pioneering or immigrating to new land.
A week into Mrs. Lee’s visit at Alexandra’s, Marie calls to invite them over. Frank has gone to town for the day. Mrs. Lee wears her new cross-stitched apron, and when they arrive at the Shabatas’, Marie runs out to greet the old woman. She exclaims that Mrs. Lee’s apron is beautiful, flattering her. She asks Alexandra whether she has heard from Carl, and Alexandra replies that he got to Dawson before the river froze, but she’ll likely not hear anything more from him until spring. Alexandra adds that she has brought a bundle of Emil’s letters for Marie to read, before commenting on Marie’s perpetually rosy cheeks—the same ever since she was a young girl.
Marie’s warm nature wins over Mrs. Lee. She comments on Mrs. Lee’s apron, knowing that this will please the old woman, and she asks Alexandra about Carl, knowing that Alexandra likely misses her old friend. Marie’s gift for empathy and for general warmth causes people to gather around her—this is partly what instigates Frank’s jealousy.
Marie asks whether Alexandra has sent out Emil’s Christmas box yet, and when Alexandra responds that she hasn’t, Marie asks to add a silk necktie she knit for him. She says that Emil should wear it when serenading the Spanish girls, which makes Alexandra laugh, since Emil hasn’t shown any interest in the Mexican women. Marie pulls out the apricot rolls she has been baking in the oven, and Alexandra compliments Marie on the variety of different breads she is able to bake, while Mrs. Lee appraises the rolls. Alexandra asks whether Marie had been crying when she called the night before, since she sounded like she had a cold, and Marie admits that she had been—Frank had been out late, and she had gotten lonely. Alexandra worries what will become of the rest of the town if even Marie gets down.
Marie continues to make Alexandra and Mrs. Lee feel at home. She presents them with a variety of breads and rolls she has baked, recipes from the old country, and Mrs. Lee is pleased with them. Marie is very forthright as well—when Alexandra asks her whether she’d been crying, she admits to crying without trying to deflect the conversation. It seems that almost all the characters in the book are lonely—Alexandra misses Carl and Emil, Emil misses Marie, Marie misses Emil, Mrs. Lee misses the old country, etc. Relationships are difficult to form or maintain in the New Country.
After Mrs. Lee declares that she’s tired, Marie and Alexandra head upstairs to look for some crochet patterns for the old woman to borrow. As Alexandra looks for the patterns, she comes across Frank’s old yellow cane, and Marie exclaims at the finding. She says that Frank used to be very cheerful and happy and continues to reflect, saying that he would have done better with a different kind of wife. Marie says that she is too giddy and sharp-tongued, and Frank needs someone who will think only of him. Alexandra is surprised by Marie’s frankness and changes the subject once she finds the crochet patterns they had been looking for.
When Marie sees Frank’s yellow cane, she grows reflective. She believes that she and he are a bad match, but they’re married now, so she must be resigned to her fate. Alexandra feels that she shouldn’t encourage this kind of talk, since it might lead to temptations—maybe the temptation for Marie to split from Frank, to find somebody else, or just to wallow in her discontent.
After Alexandra and Mrs. Lee head off in the snow, Marie sits down with Emil’s letters, examining the foreign stamps. Marie is aware that Emil’s letters are meant more for her than for Alexandra, and she imagines the types of adventures he might be having in Mexico. Marie feels sorry that Frank can’t have those kinds of adventures any longer—she feels that she has brought out the worst in him by marrying him.
Marie feels that both she and Frank are sacrificing—or being punished—in this relationship. It is important to note that Frank is not portrayed as evil—just as someone who is unsuited for his situation, who needs to be free but who, in marrying, lost that freedom. Marie seems to be growing more accustomed to the idea that Emil cares for her too, since she accepts that his letters are more for her than for Alexandra.
Alexandra later remembers this visit as the last satisfactory visit she has with Marie, who continues to withdraw into herself. The harsh winter weather also prevents the two friends from visiting each other very often, and it even cuts the telephone wires for three weeks. Marie turns to the church, finding more comfort in religion than ever before. She tries to be patient with her husband, but she longs for her orchard and the outdoors—she senses that deep beneath the snow, the life is still safe and will appear again in the spring.
The harsh winter separates Marie and Alexandra, even disconnecting the telephone wires. It causes a rift in their friendship, allowing Marie to withdraw further into herself. Marie senses that spring will return, however, no matter how bleak the winter season seems or how dark her mood is. Nature continues to move forward, and in Marie’s thoughts is the implication that just as spring will once again bloom so tool will emotions that are now frozen.