Story Snip from Larksong: Chapter 32 and Photos of Springtime

Lo! Spring has sprung!

I've got a slew of photos, but before that...


Here's the next story snip!

Larksong is set in Montreal, July 1914.

  • In chapter 1, Alice arrived at the family cottage to take care of her grandmother's aviary, following her grandmother's funeral, 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 chapters 3 and 4, 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! We saw a hint that Alice finds George attractive and interesting -- but also unbearably rude.
  • In chapters 5 to 10, they had their first argument, then argued once more, but the stakes were higher: war is on the horizon. Then George attempted a rapprochement. Alice had some feelings stirring... During their first evening together, they began to suss each other out over a card game, and they reached a détente of sorts before going their separate ways for the night.
  • In chapters 11 and 12, we started the next morning in George's point of view, with his dawning realization of his attraction to Alice. Yet 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 Albert, George's younger, and rather rude, brother. Meanwhile, George was busy with inappropriate (as he thinks) thoughts of Alice. (I 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 chapters 15 to 19, we witnessed the fallout from the argument, then shared a moment between Alice and George in the garden. Alice left George and resumed her governess role, and decided not to join the brothers that evening in the parlour. Then, early the next morning, Alice went out, only to find George rowing on the lake, and joined him.
  • In chapter 20, following their early morning idyll, we finally had a true 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 skipped 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 chapters 21 and 22, as Alice saw Mr Palmer off at the gate, a new complication emerged, in the arrival of Albert's friends from university. Alice and George came 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, following omitted scenes (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 slept in, all except Alice, who took her charges into the village to watch a magic lantern show. On their return, George decided to show them his secret--the full extent of his artistry. It was revealed that Eleanor is also a budding artist, and the siblings agreed to continue to develop their talent and to hide it from their disapproving parents.
  • In chapters 24 and 25, the girls returned to the house, and Alice and George, alone in the enclosed garden, sat side by side on the bench... They kissed, and Alice revealed her true identity to George. They talked, perhaps all too briefly, about what they would do with their newfound feelings.
  • In chapter 26, George watches her with Mr Palmer (who's returned to inspect the aviary and agree on its purchase) and thinks about how he's actually looking forward to the big party at the fancy hotel that night, now that he'll have Alice on his arm. I've skipped this bit, and a bit where they discuss Alice's attachment to the cottage and the birds, as well as the fact that Alice isn't really a governess and what they might have to tell his family, if anything. Also a part where, seated side-by-side and hand-in-hand on the porch, they talk of George's hopes and plans for his future career, in despite of his father. Then she asked him if he meant to return to England, but Albert interrupted.
  • In chapter 27 and 28, in the evening, they all made their way to the banquet and dance at Hatley Manor. Alice juggled her governess duties with advances from Albert--and affairs of the heart (I've left out a bit of conversation with other partygoers from the village and the interlude when Elsie arrives to pick up the girls)
  • In chapters 29 and 30, Alice and George returned to the house together (I've left out the bit of their conversation about Albert and his friends, and their journey to the house, with George in his chair--but his crutches have been lost), and they grew closer than ever before, until Albert interrupted them! I've omitted the argument between George and his brother, Albert's unwanted advances on Alice, and an interlude in which George and Alice, in his bedroom, take their relationship further than they have before, until George says the wrong thing and Alice storms upstairs to bed.
  • In chapter 31, Alice woke the next morning to find all the birds gone from the aviary! Now, in chapter 32, she goes out seeking them...

"Who left the door open?" Alice asked, but she was already running out of the bedroom, past a startled Pixie on the landing, and barrelling down the stairs.

Even as she ran, the thought came to her that it wasn't one door, it was both, for the outer door would have to have been opened as well. They hadn't been left open, they'd been opened, full stop.

Someone had deliberately broken up the aviary.

Elsie stood in the doorway off the veranda. Alice skidded to a stop beside her. She'd passed the empty dining room, where a tea tray had been laid out. None of the others, save Pixie, whom she could hear mincing down the stairs, with Eleanor and Lucy jabbering away at her, appeared to have arisen.

Could Pixie have done this?

What possible reason might she have to sabotage the aviary of a house she was merely spending a weekend in? Especially as she could not know of its true connections.

Yet if it hadn't been her, it meant that whoever had left the doors wide had done so the night before.

The birds had been gone for hours already and might be lost, or hurt–or worse.

She leaned past Elsie and looked in.

Peter the parrot, whom Lucy had heard outside the window, had returned.

Perched on a makeshift branch, he alternately squawked and fluffed his wings.

Molly, the white-winged dove with broken wing, hopped across the floor, pecking for stray seed. The cage of myna birds had been opened as well. Their swing moved back and forth in the morning breeze, without a rider.

A sudden gust of a cross current slammed the far door closed.

Peter and Molly squawked.

Tears stung her eyes. Alice blinked them away with a returning sense of purpose that shook her from the momentary immobility that had caught her at the sight of the forlorn branches and perches.

"I'm going into the woods," she announced and strode to the pantry. The group that had huddled behind her watched her movements without comment. Lucy knelt to tempt Molly with a fleck of something. Pixie edged away into the dining room.

Gathering seeds and treats, she returned to the bereft aviary and unhooked a cage from the nearest branch.

"How will you recognise them?" Elsie asked.

I've known them all my life, Alice thought. Aloud she merely said, "I'll do my best. I'll bring them back one by one."

"Can we come too?" Eleanor asked.

Lucy jumped up at that, bouncing on the balls of her feet.

She considered it for half a second. "You girls stay and have your breakfast. Once I've brought a few back, then you can help me search for any birds that have flown further afield. There are twenty in all, counting these two. I need to have them all back in the aviary before Mr Palmer arrives this afternoon."

And before I break down and start bawling, she added in her mind.

She'd been resigned to their sale, to having them removed to a home in which they'd be cared for, and from where she would receive news of them. Where she might even contrive to visit them once or twice. Gran had tended to them in the aviary for years, and the thought of them out in the countryside, facing all sorts of dangersother birds, predators, children with slingshotswas too difficult to handle.

She pushed such gruesome imaginings out of her mind, focusing on recalling the birds' colours and particular features, and left the house, stalking around to the back, scanning the treeline as she went.

She tried to emulate Gran's calls and chirps, but the best she could do was to start by calling the myna birds by name. "Dora! Roger! Where are you?"

Her voice rose and fell and she turned onto the track they'd taken for the picnic, a bare two days before, when the day had been full of hope. She kept going, now calling, now stopping to rake the trees with her gaze. And now and gain, dashing away tears with the back of the hand holding high the treat-filled, empty cage.

Photo time!

Which season are you in?

 Please share photos!


Hi Deniz - to answer your question 'cold Spring'!! Wet too ... perhaps not so bad on the coast. Your pictures would suit us here - even with the snow ... but you'd need to rush north for our snow-capped peaks.

I hope she finds her birds ... at least some of them ... another interesting snippet - cheers Hilary
Love your spring - and look forward to ours when it arrives. And thanks for the snippet.
debi o'neille said…
I don't have any spring photos yet, but there's no flowers out here yet anyway. The buds on the trees are just opening. But we do have the enjoyment of the return of many birds that come to our feeders each year. Beautiful.
Nice snip you posted. You've got your readers invested in where the birds are. I hope she finds them.