The day after Robert ships off for England, Mrs. Ross’s friend Miss Davenport accompanies the rest of the family to church. Mrs. Ross refuses anyone’s help as she treks through the snow. She is annoyed that there is a military regiment on church parade that day, and that the sermon will therefore be “militant” and “blood-thirsty.” Inside the church, she is struck by the fact that she and the rest of the crowded, stuffy congregation had once been children together.
Mrs. Ross’s refusal to let anyone help her implies that she is still harboring guilt over Rowena’s death and wants to punish herself. Her unsettled reaction to the military presence at the church is likely because she is worried about Robert and feels that it is distasteful to glorify the war when so many young soldiers like her son are risking their lives.
In his sermon, the bishop compares the troops fighting in World War I to holy wars and ancient Empires, and Mrs. Ross leaves in outrage when he speaks about Christmas. Accompanied by Miss Davenport, Mrs. Ross goes to outside to sit on the church steps, smoke a cigarette, and drink from a flask. Weeping, she asks Davenport what it means to kill your children and then sing about it.
Mrs. Ross’s reaction to the sermon goes against the societal norm of prioritizing a sense of duty to one’s country over the wellbeing of individuals. While the bishop and others glorify battle, she cannot reconcile the war with Christian morality. In the midst of such senseless violence, Mrs. Ross is unsure of where to place the blame—on others, on herself, or on God.
Mrs. Ross notices a little girl staring at her as she weeps. Realizing that she should not scare her, Mrs. Ross composes herself and invites the child back into the church with her and Miss Davenport. The congregation sings a hymn together and Mrs. Ross can only think of how she was married in this same church. She smiles at the snow melting beneath everyone’s feet.
Though she is emotionally distraught, Mrs. Ross composes herself because she does not want the trauma of the war to spill over onto an innocent child. Rather than focusing on her troubles in the present, she loses herself in thoughts of the past, demonstrating the human tendency to cling to youthful memories in the midst of tragedy.