Story Snip from Larksong: Chapter 23, Finland, and IWSG Day


inland, Finland, Finland!

It's the country where I want to be!

As Monty Python once sang...

In my last post, I did my annual travel roundup and mentioned our Christmas trip to Finland and the 100+ photos I had to share; I'm posting them today!

But first, it's Insecure Writer's Support Group Day!

And I have a new snip from Larksong!

Last year's travel roundup is here.

Then there was our Christmas trip to Finland! I have a LOT of photos to share from that, so I'll put them in the next post. Teaser photos here!

January: Annecy, France

March: Olympic Museum in Lausanne

August: Zurich!

And James Joyce's grave

September: Lausanne aquarium

And the Swiss Vapeur Parc (mini trains!)

October: Rath Museum in Geneva

And various autumn photos

November: Manchester, to see Rhys Darby!

Insecure Writer's Support Group

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Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer -- aim for a dozen new people each time -- and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.


The awesome co-hosts for the February 7 posting of the IWSG are Janet Alcorn, SE White, Victoria Marie Lees, and Cathrina Constantine!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. Remember, the question is optional.

February 7 question: What turns you off when visiting an author's website/blog? Lack of information? A drone of negativity? Little mention of author's books? Constant mention of books?

I love the variety of websites and blogs out there!

The one thing that makes me sad is if I fall in love with the stories of a new-to-me author and visit their website only to find that it hasn't been updated in a months and months. Even just a brief check in is nice to see!

Larksong is set in Montreal, July 1914.

In chapter 1, Alice, after her grandmother's funeral, arrived at the family cottage to take care of her grandmother's aviary, only to find that her parents had already leased the cottage to another family for the summer.
The only way she could have one more summer in her favourite place was to surreptitiously take on the role of governess to the two young girls...

In chapter 2, we met George, laid up at the hospital with a broken leg. Instead of joining his friends on a Grand Tour of Europe, he's being sent off to recuperate at a rented cottage in the country...
In chapter 3, we returned to Alice's point of view, and saw her bonding with George's younger sisters. Then she got a surprise -- George was arriving at the cottage that very day!

In chapter 4, we had a hint that Alice finds George attractive and interesting -- but also unbearably rude.

In chapter 5, they had their first argument.
In chapter 6, they argued once more, but the stakes were higher: war is on the horizon.

In chapter 7, George attempted a rapprochement. The chapter ended with him asking, "Why don't we both go sit in the parlour?"

In chapter 8, Alice had some feelings stirring...
In chapter 9, during their first evening together, they began to suss each other out over a card game.

In chapter 10, we reached the end of the evening, with harsh words from George, but a détente of sorts before they went their separate ways for the night.

In chapter 11, we started the next morning in George's point of view, with his dawning realization of his attraction to Alice.
In chapter 12, we saw that this realization did not lead to greater friendliness.

In chapter 13 (which I mistakenly also labelled as 12!), a new complication arose, in the form of the arrival of George's rather rude brother.

In chapter 13 (hopefully I won't make any further numbering errors!), George was busy with inappropriate (as he thinks) thoughts of Alice.
(I've skipped a scene where Alice takes the girls down to the lake and needs to pretend with a neighbour, Mrs Chase, that she is not a governess, but simply helping out with the girls. Then, while Alice is distracted, trying to spin her web of half-truths and discussing the threat of war on the horizon, Lucy gets up on a rickety boat tied up at the dock and fell off into the water.)

In chapter 14, on returning from the lake, Alice and the girls overheard an argument that ended with this outburst from George to his brother Albert: "I don't need your tales of self-pity. The question is, what are you going to do about it, now that you've f***ed it all up?"

In chapter 15, we witnessed the fallout from the argument, then shared a moment between Alice and George in the garden.
In chapter 16, Alice left George and resumed her governess role, and decided not to join George and Albert that evening in the parlour.

In chapter 17, Alice went out early the next morning, to find George rowing on the lake, and joined him.

In chapter 18, we viewed the early morning idyll from George's point of view and considered the age-old art versus artist dilemma.
In chapter 19, we closed the morning with Alice's point of view.

In chapter 20, we finally had a rapprochement. Alice, making up her mind in an instant, called out to George's sisters: "We're going on an expedition with your brother."

I've decided to skip the rest of chapter 20, in which we take a trip through the woods with Alice, George, and his sisters. There are friendly chats, the girls sign their brother's cast, and George begins work on a sketch of Alice. When they return home, the girls help Alice feed the birds in the aviary and clean it in preparation for the arrival of Mr Palmer, a prospective buyer visiting from Boston. Mr Palmer says he will make his decision on purchasing the aviary and return the next day. Throughout the day, there are hints of the gathering storms of war.

In chapter 21, as Alice sees Mr Palmer off at the gate, a new complication emerged, in the arrival of Albert's friends from university.

In chapter 22, we saw Alice and George's reactions and they were close to admitting their attraction, but then George unwittingly insulted the birds and the aviary and Alice's affection for her grandmother's pets.

In chapter 23, I've omitted a bit of George's reflections on Alice, and his feelings for her (as well as memories of unfavourable reactions from his parents about his hobby of sketching and painting); at the end, he decides that it might be a lark to try to lure Pixie away from his brother. He proceeds to do just that before dinner as she plays up her role of nurse and guides George through some exercises in the front parlour. This leads to an arm wrestling match between all the boys, involving both wagers for a few coins--and kisses for the winner from Pixie. That evening, they all gather in the front parlour, and agree to attend the ball and bonfire at the Hatley Manor hotel the next night. George catches Albert and Pixie canoodling in the kitchen, but decides he's in no position to say anything because he was ready to embrace Alice the governess.

The next day, the crowd sleep in, all except Alice, who takes her charges into the village to watch a magic lantern show. On their return, George decides to show them his secret...

"I've been busy here," George said, then paused, as if deliberately creating an air of mystery. "Would you like to see what I've been doing? Come on out to the garden."

"But what about dessert?" Lucy asked and Alice laughed along with her brother.

Their gazes met across the table and she decided in that moment that she would tell him the truth. It wasn't fair to criticise his actions when he was labouring under a misapprehension. "We'll take the cake and some lemonade with us," she said and wondered if the lingering smile on George's lips was meant for Lucy's antics or an indication that he was pleased Alice would be joining them.

He consented to be wheeled across, so they could set the picnic basket on his lap. He even let Lucy wheel him when she asked, though Alice, who'd brought his crutches just in case, made sure Eleanor helped, so he wasn't jostled overmuch.

She saw his work directly they'd turned the path towards the garden; his painting was still on its easel, half-turned in their direction. Lucy dropped the handlebars and ran forward with her sister.

"You shouldn't have left your paints out here," Alice murmured, taking over control of the chair. "Weekenders sometimes find their way into the garden."

"No one wants half-used tubes of paint," he said, matching her calm tone. "And I'd rather not keep them in the house," he added darkly.

Before she could ask him to elaborate, he wheeled himself forward to where his sisters had crowded around his easel. A second painting rested at its foot.

"You've been painting? You painted these?" Eleanor asked. Her voice was strangely quiet compared to its usual ebullience. Alice even thought she detected a note of malice, but that was absurd.

She stepped closer, meaning to cast a critical eye over the paintings and offer up a bit of governess' teachings, but her lecture flew from her mind at sight of George's subject: herself.

The painting on the easel was of her grandmother's house, and even after only a brief acquiantance, he'd seen and he'd captured its secretive, calming look, the way the house offered warmth and refuge to all who could unlock its doors. He'd imcluded only one bird, a small yellow budgie on a far windowsill.

The second painting, on a larger canvas but drawn in more detail, with a finer brush, was of the lake and the dock. The thin strokes somehow enhanced the wideness of the water and gave a feeling of endlessness to the woods beyond. There was no mistaking the figure he'd placed on the docks; it was her grey skirt that rippled on an unseen breeze, her hat with the peonies held in one slim white hand, as the other waved to an impossibly tiny boat in the distance. He'd removed himself from the moment––unless it were he in the boat rather than Eleanor––but there she was for everyone to see, pointed nose and unruly curls and all.

She glanced at George, to see whether he was watching for her reaction, but he and Eleanor appeared tangled in a silent battle of wills, glaring at each other over the top of a sketchbook open on the bench.

"Can I paint something?" Lucy chirped. She'd left the easel to poke among his pots and brushes.

"Take this off my lap and I'll show you what to do."

Lucy leapt forward and relieved him of the basket, and George wheeled himself directly up to the easel and the palette he'd rested on one side.

Elsie must have helped him carry his supplies over early that morning. Alice wondered why the realisation should make her envious. She had no wish to be his dogsbody. And now half her mind was occupied with speculation as to the source of friction between the siblings.

At George's direction, Eleanor, still sporting a frown, set aside both his canvases, leaning them against a packing crate from which she took two sheets of drawing paper. He pinned them to the easel and, selecting one of the tubes, squeezed some green onto the palette, blending it with a finger into the colours already smudged on the silver. Then he pulled a fatheaded brush from a jar of turpentine, wiped it, and handed both palette and brush to Lucy.

Alice shifted her gaze from Lucy's eager face as she grasped the tools to Eleanor's––and surprised a look of longing in the older girl's eyes. "Did you want to paint, too, Eleanor? I'm sure you can both share the easel."

The change that came over the girl's face was startlingly quick. Her lids dropped and her brows drew together. "No, thank you. I'm sure there's something more worthwhile we could be doing."

George sat up straight, drops of turpentine flicking off the narrower brush he'd just picked up. "Such as what, Smelly-Elly? Perhaps you'd like to practice some Latin conjugations? Or work on your French grammar? Do some sums? What did you have in mind? Anything'll do, right, as long as it's something Father would approve of?"

"I didn't say––" Eleanor began hotly, but Lucy cut her off. "George! You're getting me all wet and icky!"

They stopped shouting. Alice went among them, wiping Lucy's face with her handkerchief, plucking the brush from George's fingers and handing it to his sister, then drawing Eleanor aside.

"Painting is a very worthwhile enterprise, Eleanor, dear," she said into the stony sour face. "I wish I could draw, myself. If you can, that is a worthy talent indeed and not one to be hidden." She did not look at George as she spoke, but felt his eyes on her, and heard his sharp intake of breath. "How lovely to be able to immortalise a scene or an emotion with a quick sketch of charcoal or to bring out the exact colours of a sunset or daybreak across the lake, with exactly the right shade of paint. I wish––" She stopped, for Eleanor had already lost the flushed tinge to her cheeks and grown calm.

She reached into George's crate and pulled out a few more sheets of drawing paper and two sticks of charcoal. She set them on the bench and Eleanor followed her, slowly sitting down and taking up one of the sticks, glancing from side to side as though something might spring out of the grass or from behind the bench to stop her before she could begin.

Alice unpacked the basket and handed out slices of cake to the girls and then to George. He held her hand for a brief instant as he accepted his slice, the faintest of warm pressure on her fingers. When she sat down with her slice, her hand smelled faintly of turpentine.

George ate his share in three quick bites, brushing his hands together to shake off the crumbs. He leaned back in his chair with a contented sigh and glanced from one busily preoccupied sister to another, then gave Alice a nod of approval.

Lucy, one hand smeared with icing, was happily slapping paint around in an approximation of trees and a lake. A sun with stick-straight arms shone down from the top edge of the paper.

Eleanor hunched over her lap with her hair falling forward over her eyes, and her charcoal moved swiftly over the surface of the paper.

Alice met George's eye again and realised he'd been watching her as she absently ate her cake while observing the girls. Hoping she hadn't taken any large unladylike bites, she swallowed the last piece and nibbled a crumb off her thumb.

George shifted in his chair, as if he'd grown sore from sitting in the same position. His gaze was focused on her hand at her mouth, and he ran his fingers through his hair, scratching at the crown, as though to dislodge whatever thoughts he had. He turned aside and called across to Eleanor, "What are you working on, Smelly-Elly?"

"Don't call me that," she muttered without looking up, as if she spoke from habit rather than having actually heard him. She scribbled furiously, hardly lifting the charcoal from the paper, as though one of them might take away either tool at any moment before she could finish.

"I painted the lake!" Lucy crowed, tossing aside brush and palette. George winced, and Alice sprang to her feet and hurried over. "It's a beautiful drawing, my dear. But you must remember that an artist always takes care of her materials. Dip the brush in the turpentine, please. And, er––"

"Leave the palette," George said. "I'll take care of it." He glanced around him suddenly, as if he'd forgotten they were out in the garden, and expected to find a sink nearby or a servant to be commanded. Yet his expression was furtive, as one who has emerged from hiding and feels exposed, and she wondered why he should feel so vulnerable in a place where no one knew him.

Yet the look did not abate; he wheeled himself around the easel and began packing away his paints and brushes into the crate. He tossed Lucy a rag with which to wipe her hands.

Alice was about to admonish him for the filthy state of the rag when Eleanor sat up.

"There. I've finished." She slid the sheet across the bench towards them, still clutching the stub of charcoal in the tips of her blackened fingers.

Lucy crowded closer as Alice sat down to look, effectively screening the drawing from George unless he wheeled right over. Which was just as well, because it hid from him Alice's first, open-mouthed reaction.

The girl had talent, there was no doubt about that. In a few lines and some discreet smudges, she'd captured the rose bush, the bench, Alice seated at one end, and George in his chair.

She'd caught them at the very moment when they'd been licking off the cake crumbs, and the angle she'd used meant there was no mistaking the fact that they had been––were, as immortalised by the sketch––gazing with longing into each other's eyes.

Lucy looked back and forth from the drawing to George, as if to confirm that the man in charcoal was really her brother. Then she turned her piercing gaze on Alice.

"It's lovely," Alice managed to say, as George wheeled forward, nudging Lucy aside with one hand, and took up the sketch.

"That's a rather inadequate assessment," he barked. His voice came out hollow, and he did not lift his eyes from the drawing.

Eleanor was dividing a stare between them, absentmindedly rubbing the end of the charcoal. Her fingertip was all blackened.

"Your brother's right," Alice said, ignoring the subject of the drawing in order to give Eleanor her due. "You have a true talent, dear. Have you taken lessons at all?"

"Only at school with Miss Seath. She teaches the older girls. But she saw––She lets me go up to the art room during break."

"I'm not surprised she does," George said, and now he was looking not at the drawing but at his sister, as though seeing her for the first time after a long absence. Casting a quick glance at Lucy, who'd wandered away and was poking at the brushes in the turpentine jar, he said quietly, "Keep it from Father. But don't let your talent go to waste. Promise me!"

Eleanor flinched at the sudden vehemence in his tone. But she replied just as fiercely, "I promise. Thank you, George." She leapt up and flung her arms about her brother's neck, kissed his cheek, then just as suddenly pulled back. "You can keep the sketch, if you'd like. Oh dear." She indicated his collar, where her fingers had left all sorts of smudges.

"No bother. I'll have to change for dinner anyhow," George said. Brother and sister smiled shyly at each other.

"What about the dance?" Eleanor asked, diverted. "Is the dinner before or after? May we go too, Miss Alice?"

Lucy dropped the brushes and bounded over. "May we, may we? Please? We'll be very well behaved."

There was no doubt she'd heard every word of the conversation. But perhaps she didn't need her brother's warning to keep her sister's secret safe.

Alice made a show of packing more items into the crate, so the girls wouldn't see her smile at their eagerness. "We shall see," she said in a put-on, prim governess voice. "If you're to stay up that late, it might be best if you had a nap now."

It was a mark of the girls' eagerness to attend the dance that neither protested at this, even though she'd phrased it as a suggestion rather than a command.

Rising, Alice offered to return and help George with his crate. He nodded absentmindedly, now running his fingers in the air along the lines and planes of Eleanor's sketch, and Alice herded the girls back to the house.

She delivered basket and thermos to Elsie, saw the girls upstairs and washed and tucked in with books, then headed out, pausing to inspect herself in the hall mirror.

She'd gained a bit of colour in her cheeks from spending the last few days outdoors. Otherwise, she was still drab with mourning, though she'd put on the second of her two suits that morning, the one with a touch of lace at cuff and hems, rather than the plain one she'd worn to the funeral.

None of the Cunnicks––or anyone of the others––had remarked on her attire. Perhaps they though black was a suitable shade for a governess.

She'd broken her mourning already when she'd donned her swimming costume, so it might only be equally wrong to wear another dress tonight. Last year's fashions, since she had only a few dresses left behind in an upstairs cupboard from the previous summer. But that was hardly a matter of concern; the most important consideration was ensuring there would be no one at the hotel who might recognise her.

And perhaps succeeding in impressing those she had so recently met.

Straightening her hat, she went down to the garden.

George sat as they had left him, in his chair, with his foot propped up. He had Eleanor's sketch on his lap still and stared down at it, possibly through it, chin in his hand.

"Which do you prefer?" he asked, as Alice perched on the bench beside him. "My painting or Eleanor's sketch?"

"They're not comparable, are they? Yours is––" She struggled to define what his image of her meant without referring outright to the impossible––the two of them, depicted as they might be in dreams. It was difficult to be objective. "A lonesome figure, yet not, for she is watched by the artist. And Eleanor's is..."

She leaned over, to look again at the girl's sketch. George's hand came around to rest on her back.

Her breath hitched, but she caught it, and tried to speak stoically. "It's ethereal because it tries to capture one moment in time and yet it––I––"

She lost track of her thoughts. His face was close enough for her to count the whiskers on his chin, to trace she curve of his lower lip if she but lifted a finger. Hadn't she promised to not let him come so near, to maintain a professional distance as long as he was ignorant of her identity?

Yet she was unable to stay apart from him, and certainly had not the strength to move away from the warmth of his possessive hand on her back.

He laid his cheek against hers. "It hints at something more," he said quietly, completing her thought. "Before, when you were talking to Eleanor about the art of painting, you said 'I wish' but did not go on. What was it you wished for, Alice? Can I grant your wish?"

And now, Finland!

Blueberry juice, various desserts, the natural history museum, different varieties of local beer,
the Santa Claus express overnight train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, Santa’s Village at the edge of the Arctic Circle!,
Moomins, reindeer meat, bear soup, the Olympic Training Centre, churches and cathedrals,
a reindeer sleigh ride!, petting huskies, basking in the heat of the sauna,
addressing Christmas cards in cosy warmth while it was -15 Celsius outside, knitting,
pirate-y restaurants (and some other Our Flag Means Death connections),
and that six-fingered hand on the train door... A wonderful trip!

Where have you travelled to recently, near or far?

Are you an artist?


Hi Deniz - I loved the story snippet - different sisters and characters ... while the love story (perhaps) is developing. You obviously had loads of fun in Finland ... I quite liked the idea of the Finnish menu - I'd eat bear and reindeer ... as they were the local specialities. No cold for me thank you! You saw and did lots ... lovely photos ... cheers Hilary
Some cool shots. Lots of snow!
Rajani Rehana said…
Please read my post
Love your pictures! Finland is a country I'd love to visit, but it must be extra-amazing at Christmas time.
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks, all, I';m glad you enjoyed the photos!
I wish I'd had time to label them a bit better, but it was really just a lot of good food, warm drinks, pretty snow, and fun!