Story Snip from Larksong: Chapter 33, Lynne Reid Banks RIP, and Springtime and OFMD Photos

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 to 32, 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) and, the next morning, Alice woke to find all the birds gone from the aviary! She went out seeking them, speculating as to who might have released them (I've omitted a breakfast interlude in which Pixie pretends to perform nursing duties towards George)...c

  • Alice headed out again after a hurried lunch, leaving Lucy with Elsie and taking Eleanor along. They each carried a cage with a layer of seed spread on its base, and she allowed Eleanor to take a different path through the woods, one she knew converged with her own some distance ahead. It was a risk, as it was Sunday and the place would be crawling with weekenders, untrustworthy types, and she hadn't yet alerted anyone in the village that the aviary had been broken into. They wouldn't know to keep an eye out for them, or for Eleanor, wandering by herself. Though if the girl did not stray, she should remain in hailing distance, Alice reassured herself.

    She hadn't gone far down the new path when George hailed her from behind. She stopped in the centre of the trail and held the cage aloft as she looked back.

    He'd found his crutches somehow -- one of the hotel staff must have delivered them -- and was making short work of the dry, hard-earth path. As he came closer, she realised he had a bag of seed knotted to his belt. Aiding her in seeking the birds seemed an effective way to disguise the fact that he'd let them loose in the first place.

    "I'd like to help," he said, stopping under an oak a few paces away. He indicated the bag with a nod of his head.

    "Is that so?"

    He flinched, and she was pleased that her curt manner might hurt him a little. There were only a couple of hours left before Mr. Palmer arrived. She was running out of time, and George, playing at gallantry, was holding her back.

    "In that case," she added, "you should have taken a different path, so we can cover more ground."

    "I can't take a separate path. How am I meant to hold any of the birds that might come to me?"

    She hadn't merely been harsh in tone, but once again called attention to his limitations. If he'd set the birds loose, a tongue lashing was no more than he deserved. Yet there was still a niggling doubt in her mind. Someone else might be responsible.

    "Perhaps you shouldn't have come at all, then. I mean," she added hastily, as his expression grew darker, "you'll be more helpful in the chair than on your feet. You might sit at the edge of the woods, with a bowl of seed in your lap. If you wait, as quietly as possible..."

    She scanned the treetops even as she talked, peering through the tangles of leaves, still holding up the cage with its open door.

    "They are tame birds, after all," she added. "They're used to accepting food from our hands. They'll be more likely to approach you than any wild birds, so you needn't worry about that."

    He let out a bark of laughter. "I'm not worried. It's only --" He stared at her straight on, as though measuring her against something in his mind's eye. "The others'll see me."

    "They know the birds are lost; won't they help?"

    "They know, but...they're only birds, aren't they? That's what they said," he added hastily, almost imploring, she thought, as though doing his best to make her believe he wasn't siding with his friends.

    Thoughts whirled in her mind like scattered seeds. If it hadn't been George who'd left the doors open, knowing exactly what the aviary meant to her, then perhaps... But if Albert -- she knew such a callous remark as "they're only birds" couldn't have come from anyone else -- did not care in the slightest one way or another, then perhaps he hadn't been responsible either. Had Pixie opened the door, perhaps as a prank out of envy for George's continued attentions to Alice? Yet Pixie had chosen to leave him, in order to frolic at the lake with the others. It was baffling; none of their possible motives made sense.

    "Where's Eleanor?" George asked, interrupting her thoughts.

    She lowered the cage and shook out some seed into her hand. If they were going to stand here she might as well move into the trees. "She's on the other path, the one we took together this morning. I thought I saw the budgie there earlier."

    "You let her go alone?" George spun on his crutches, digging their points into the mud, and craned his neck, as though he would be able to see through the tree trunks and spot Eleanor in the distance.

    "She'll be fine. There was no one else on the trail."

    "You're the one who talked of weekenders."

    "Sure, but they're as predictable as punch." Perhaps if she convinced him, she might convince herself. As soon as George returned to the house she'd go after Eleanor. "They sleep late and then head straight for the lake. Only hunters and the occasional hikers enter these woods."

    He stopped peering into the trees long enough to cast her a dark look. "They may be familiar to you, but my sister's never walked a woodland trail in her life. What if she were to veer off at the sight of one of your birds and become lost? How would you begin to search for her? Crumble some muffins on the forest floor instead of seeds?"

    "How dare you insinuate that I have no regard for those under my care?"

    "It seems to me you care a damned sight more for a bevy of birds than you do for anyone not sporting feathers." He dug his crutches into the ground once more and made his loping way back down the trail.

    Alice tossed the seeds in her hand all over the ground, heedless of where they went or which creature might come eat them.

    Supposing he was in the right, and she cared no more for anyone else except in how they might aid her? Had her own lies about her identity, and her singleminded focus on the house and aviary, blinded her to everyone else's needs?

    She tramped up the trail, still making an effort to be silent, still stopping every few feet to peer upwards through the branches, but she no longer had any hope, or any certainty, that finding all the birds was a matter of importance.

    Yet surely she hadn't been mistaken about Pixie. The girl was a gold-digger, pure and simple.

    Only none of it seemed simple all of a sudden. No one, save George, knew Alice's true name, and now it occurred to her to wonder what they all made of her curt and outspoken ways. Even George, who knew, thought her callous and cold-hearted. He'd rejected her last night for not being cold-blooded, yet accused her now of that very trait. If she had been straight with the family from the start, then none of this might have happened. What good had she gained from a few extra weeks in Gran's house, given they'd all been fraught with turmoil?

    Should she find Eleanor and go back, give up? Or keeping searching?

    I found out over the weekend that author Lynne Reid Banks has passed away. I'm surprised that I haven't blogged about her more often; I loved her YA as a child, and really love her adult series The L-Shaped Room. I mentioned her once as part of the BookADay meme! Someday, I'll have to collate all the RIP posts I've shared over the years...


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    Hi Deniz - I am enjoying your story snippets and you have the right idea to stop each snippet at a moment of intrigue ... it's great - cheers Hilary
    Deniz Bevan said…
    Aww, thank you!

    I wish I knew why the snips keep showing up in italics, though, I'm not doing it on purpose!
    debi o'neille said…
    You are coming right along with this story. Good for you! I'm enjoying it.
    Deniz Bevan said…
    Oh! Thank you so much! :-)