At last Helen rose and began to dress herself, selecting for the day a fawn outfit. She pulled on her Wellingtons and stowed away her town clothes in the wardrobe. Then she went to the window and drew up the Venetian blind. Looking out she saw clouds passing in a leisurely way over the hills. Cattle wandered across Mangan’s long field, breathing out vapors into the freezing air. All was as it had always been, variations apart (the passing of her parents, the death of Emily), in the immutable order of events. She left the bedroom, stepping down onto the cold landing.
In the bathroom she ran water into the washbasin, dabbing water over her cheeks and eyes, which refreshed her a little. Then she dried her face and hands, put the towel away, found a comb. With the greatest care she began combing. Long white strands came away in the teeth. The washbasin was covered with them, hers and other darker strands from Imogen’s head. Lily was moulting too, but she combed her hair near the window, at father’s shaving mirror, and it came out there. Helen had held onto her teeth for as long as possible, until they too had to go; and now her hair, at one time so thick and lustrous, was coming out in fistfuls. Soon they would all be bald as old men, sitting around the fire at night, holy shows. From the window she could sec the overgrown tennis-court and the high beech hedge along which Emily had trodden her path, and the dark knotty branches in the orchard beyond, so still. She left the bathroom, walking on linoleum, descended onto the main stairs. Where the banisters turned at right angles, leading to the main bedrooms, she turned away, stopping outside a door. She rapped on the door of the small spare room into which Imogen had recently moved. Silence of the grave. Helen knocked again, louder.