So I thought it was time I (re)posted a couple of first meetings, now I've revised them a little. One today, and one tomorrow...
"You like them?" The refined voice was accompanied by a faint, almost-familiar scent of tea rose.
Linda turned, and found herself face to face with the woman from the ticket desk. She was tall: Linda had to look up to meet her dark-grey eyes rather than her chin, and dressed in a long green skirt, with a short jacket in matching tweed. Her face had a somewhat horsey look, though she must have been handsome when younger. On the middle finger of her left hand, dwarfing the plain gold wedding band on the adjacent finger, was a red-stoned, masculine signet ring.
"They're amazing." Linda whispered, awed by the artist's work.
"The one on the left is one of my favourites too. Of course the same artist also painted the portrait behind us." The woman waved her right hand in the direction of the final painting in the row. As she did so, her plaited white hair swung between her shoulders.
Linda looked around the woman's shoulder at the portrait entitled Lady Julia, Viscountess Ashover. It was dated 1966, the year after the painting of the town house. Now Linda knew, the artist's identity was obvious. The use of colour was similar, as she had already noted. There was the same attention to detail in the textures of skin and clothing in the portrait, as there was to those of stone and leaves, and fur and feathers in the landscapes. And there was an unmistakable love for the subject of the painting.
"Are there any others in the house?" She hoped there might be, in those rooms not yet open to the public.
"Not on display," the woman said. "Edward hung Julia's favourite by that artist in our private apartments. It's a little difficult right now, with my move to the Turret House, but if you wanted to see it..." She paused, just long enough for Linda to take in the meaning of her words, and to fully appreciate the subject of the portrait next to Lady Julia's.
"Your Grace." She took a breath, wondering whether she was supposed to curtsey. "I'm so sorry. I didn't recognise you."
"You didn't expect me to be selling entrance tickets to my own house." The dowager duchess gave a kindly smile. "It's really Mary Ollerenshaw's job, but she was a little late this morning."
Linda and Edward tomorrow.