The setting contributes to the foreshadowing of Walter's demise. As the hours tick by with no sign of Elizabeth's husband, darkness settles increasingly heavily into the house. Young Annie watches a red fire, noting its beauty. Both the darkness and the fire in the absence of Walter are foreboding.
Elizabeth's reaction to the smell of chrysanthemums also foreshadows an unfavorable outcome for her husband. Chrysanthemums often symbolize devotion, yet when Annie notes their beautiful scent to her mother, Elizabeth replies that she no longer enjoys their fragrance, because chrysanthemums were present at her wedding to Walter.
The children are sent to bed, and their father still has not returned from work. Elizabeth's anger causes an outburst, yet it is noted that "her anger was tinged with fear." This sense of "fear" settling in foreshadows that Walter is not simply out at the pubs this time and that she realizes something is actually wrong.
Finally, Elizabeth is vexed enough to search for her husband's whereabouts, and she heads to the home of another miner and his wife. Jack Rigley tells Elizabeth that he had "left 'im finishin' a stint" and offers to return to the mine to check on him. Since no one has seen Walter since Jack left him in the mine, this is certainly an ominous moment.
As Elizabeth waits at home for her husband's return, her anxiety grows. There is one final moment of hope for Walter, which is quickly dashed:
At a quarter to ten there were footsteps. One person! She watched for the door to open. It was an elderly woman, in a black bonnet and a black woollen shawl—his mother.
When these footsteps at such a late hour turn out not to be Walter, it seems that all hope is lost. This is compounded by the fact that Walter's own mother has shown up in the traditional color of mourning, shrouded in black in the dark of night. She seems to have arrived already prepared for her son's death, which is the final touch of foreshadowing before his death is announced.