Day Five: Worldbuilding Excerpt
Most of my scenes were too long or too short, but this one seems to be the right length and do the job required:
"Edward and I have our most heated discussions over whether Mary Queen of Scots could ever have stayed in the Lodge." Kate led Linda up the stairs of the guest quarters to the third floor. "Of course there are papers in the archives that support my view on the subject, but Edward disputes their authenticity." She pushed open a door marked West Bedroom. "If he would only find the money to have the wallpaper taken down, so we can see what's underneath."
"But the wallpaper's in such good condition." Linda guessed it dated back to the late Georgian era, or was a very good later imitation. It was only peeling from the wall in one very small portion of an upper corner, and it was the same shade of blue as the less faded portions of the curtains.
"That's why I want to spend money having it taken down properly. Imagine how many more visitors we could attract if she had stayed, and we could always have the wallpaper put back if what's underneath proved disappointing."
The portrait was at the far end of the room; Linda approached it slowly, mindful of the age and value of the carpet she was walking across. The windows she passed looked down on the stable yard, hidden by the Lodge and the slope of the land from most viewpoints. In the centre of the yard she could see her car, bonnet open and front wheels raised up on a pair of portable ramps. There was no sign that anyone was working on it
"Edward had to go to Matlock." Kate was right behind her. "He said to tell you he'd pick up the spares he needed while he was there, and then drop your car off for you when he'd finished."
That made sense: he had indicated that he might need to replace more than just the fan belt. Linda hoped he wasn't going to too much trouble for her. She turned her attention to the painting. A younger, less careworn Julia smiled back at Linda. This was an informally posed picture, in which her face was framed by the heads of two brown horses.
"Those two were her favourites," Kate said. "She originally drove four in hand: always matched Cleveland Bays, but she cut down to a pair after she married Hugh."
The portrait was dated 1959. "It was painted at the same time as he painted the Lodge?" Linda turned to Kate.
"I think so." Kate frowned. "It reminds me very much of a photograph Edward took of her a year or two before that. I'll have to ask him about it for you."
"I'll ask him when he brings my car back." It would be a perfect lead-in to the questions she wanted to raise about Julia and Nicky.
"That's a good idea" Kate gave a thoughtful smile. "What do you think of Edward? He's asked a lot of questions about you."
"He's very charming. He seems like he'd be a lot of fun to spend time with... and how can I say anything bad about someone who came to my rescue last night?" Of course he was also considerably older than her, no matter how young he seemed to think he was, and currently her chief suspect in whatever had happened to Julia.
"I knew you two would hit it off!" Kate beamed. "Now I'll leave you here, if you don't mind There's plenty for me to do in the other rooms, so feel free to make notes on whatever you want to in here, and I'll try to answer your questions later. Or you could always ask Edward," she added, as she bustled out in a less regal fashion than usual.
Linda turned her attention back to the portrait. Julia looked more than six years younger than in her other portrait. Was that because it was based on a photograph, or had events in those intervening years aged her more than time would have by itself? The details of the horses' coats and Julia's hair and eyes seemed too precise to be based on a photograph, and an amateur one at that. Linda was convinced that Nicky had painted Julia after seeing her pose, perhaps on a visit to paint landscapes. What had happened to make Julia leave? Was it because of Hugh's 'not treating her as well as he should have'? Did she regret marrying him rather than Edward? Had Edward disappeared for those missing years because of the argument with his father, or did his reasons have more to do with Julia?
Linda made a note of all her questions at the back of her book, and also jotted down a number of questions about the portrait itself in the front. When Edward brought her car back, she would invite him in for a cup of tea and some of Mrs Ollerenshaw's homemade scones. Never mind what the neighbours might say, she had perfectly valid questions to ask him on art history. If she chose to sneak in a few of a more personal nature, conversationally of course, then that was just how these sort of discussions went off at tangents, wasn't it?
All photos taken at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire.