After the picnic, a picture of Alex with the Chase sisters appears in the local paper. Reenie is irritated, but Laura is fascinated, and asks the journalist who published it if she can learn to develop photos. Laura begins helping Elwood Murray in his darkroom and learns to add color to photos by hand-tinting. Laura steals some supplies and adds color to photos at Avilion. When Laura isn’t working on photographs, she devotes herself to religious matters and charity work. Laura is particularly interested in helping with relief efforts for the many men left unemployed by the Depression. Meanwhile, Iris is reluctantly educated about the workings of the Chase factory.
One day, Elwood Murray tells Reenie that he has seen Laura with Alex Thomas. When Reenie confronts Laura about what she considers to be inappropriate behavior, Laura insists that she and Alex are simply friends who enjoy talking with one another. Reenie and Iris are at a loss as to what to do and are reluctant to tell Norval in case that makes the situation worse.
In the autumn of 1934, there are rumors of outside agitators stirring up the workers and advocating for the possibility of unions. Meanwhile, the Chase factory struggles economically, and by December, it has come to a shutdown. Norval is angry and embittered, and when he and Callista get in a fight about his business decisions, the relationship ends. A general strike is declared and leads to riots and violence in town. A fire breaks out, leading to further injuries. After military forces are called in to quell the violence, Laura is questioned about the whereabouts of Alex Thomas. The officers tell Laura that Alex is a radical accused of political agitation.
Laura refuses to say anything to the officers, but she admits to Iris that she is hiding Alex in the cold cellar. Iris speaks with Alex, who assures her that he is grateful to Laura for hiding him but that he sees her as a child. Alex also asserts he had nothing to do with setting the fire at the factory.
Iris moves Alex from the cellar to the attic, and she and Laura sneak food and other necessary supplies to him. There is an increasing public outcry against Alex as the person blamed for all the violence and unrest. One day, Alex kisses Iris when she comes to the attic. Unsettled, she becomes convinced that she needs to get him out of the house. Although Laura is hesitant, Alex also wants to get away, planning to travel to Toronto and then cross the border to America. In early January, the sisters send him off. After he leaves, Laura gives Iris a photo she has cropped. The photo now shows only Iris and Alex with the only trace of Laura being a hint of her hand in the corner. Laura explains that she has also cropped a different version for herself, which shows her and Alex together with only a hint of Iris’s hand.
In the winter months of 1935, Iris and Laura drift further apart. Norval is preoccupied with finding the money to reopen his factory and seems to be negotiating some sort of business deal with Richard Griffen. When he travels to Toronto to meet with Richard, Norval sometimes brings Iris along with him. Eventually, Norval explains that Richard is going to propose marriage to Iris. Without explicitly telling his daughter that she must accept, Norval implies that the financial security of the business and family rests on Iris accepting the proposal. Although she feels some trepidation, Iris agrees to marry Richard.