The Long Gallery certainly lived up to its name, and was almost exactly as the guide book had promised. Linda made her way slowly along the inner wall, taking in four centuries of Longstone family history. Between the windows, on the wall behind her, hung landscapes. They covered an equivalent period of history, mostly depicting the house and grounds in its various incarnations, and held little interest for her. Until she reached the far end.
There, opposite a portrait entitled simply 'Lady Julia', she found a stylised Serengeti landscape of bright colours, and simple, almost childish depictions of giraffes, zebras and gazelles. It seemed so out of place, yet so right.
The more she looked, the more details she picked out. The way each shadow fell perfectly in line with its owner and with the other shadows around it. The way each leaf, each branch, each blade of grass was never quite static, but seemed to be moving in the wind. The way everything had its own texture, somehow captured by the artist's brushstrokes.
"You like it?"
Linda turned, and found herself face to face with the woman from the ticket desk.
"It's amazing," she whispered.
"It's one of my favourites too. Of course the same artist also painted the portrait behind us."
Linda looked over the woman's shoulder at Lady Julia. Now she knew, it was obvious. The use of colour was similar, although less bold in the portrait. There was the same attention to detail in the textures of skin and clothing. And there was the same unmistakable love for the subjects of both paintings.
"Are there any others in the house?" She didn't remember seeing any, but maybe there would be more further on in the tour.
"Not on display to the public," the woman said. "Edward keeps the rest of the collection in our private apartments. If you wanted to see them..." She paused. "But maybe you haven't received an invitation."
"An invitation?" This must be yet another rural custom that everyone assumed Linda knew about.
"I'm holding my annual charity open day in a fortnight. I'm sure Mary Ollerenshaw would be able to sell you a ticket if you were to ask her."
"I'll ask her tonight." As always, it seemed that the done thing was to play along and find out just what this was all about from someone else later.
"Edward will be home, of course." The Dowager Duchess smiled. "I'm sure he'll be able to tell you everything you could possibly want to know about the collection. We'd love you to visit with everyone else." She turned and walked away.
Linda turned back to the landscape, wondering whether she had just been the victim of an attempt at matchmaking. Surely the Duke was too old, not to mention too titled, for the likes of her? Even if he wasn't, any kind of liaison with him was bound to jeopardise her so-far-successful plan to hide from the world and everyone who had known her before.
Before anyone asks, Edward is not the hero in either the romantic or the action sense of the word. Linda is, however, a detective.