I've been posting excerpts over at the LJ community, but thought I'd put them together here for completeness' sake.
Linda looked up and saw a bird circling, looking for prey. She should buy a book on birds too – an Observer's guide, and maybe one on plants and one on animals – if she was thinking about how to identify nature, then she would have less time to dwell on other less pleasant matters. The bird plunged to the ground, and was lost from view.
Linda started. Was it just the sudden movement of the bird, or had she heard something as well? Not a scream from whatever the bird had caught, but the sound of something – or someone – moving through the wood? She pushed herself upright slowly, making as little sound as possible, straining to hear the noise again.
The Derbyshire Arms was busy with families, couples and a few singletons – all in that latter group older than Linda – sitting at the bar and at tables all around the main bar area. Most were eating, or looked as if they had come with the intention of eating. As Linda walked up to the bar, she caught a glimpse through into the snug, where old men – and a few only into middle-age – sat around drinking and gossiping.
Around the corner of the bar she saw more groups – consisting this time of teenagers and a few younger children – clustered around the fruit machine, the pool table, and a bar billiards game. There was also a juke box, but it appeared to have been switched off.
The barman turned around from his till, and smiled at her. It was the Australian again.
“Here for lunch?” He picked a pint glass up from under the bar, and gave it a wipe with his towel. “I saw Mrs Ollerenshaw drive off earlier, so I expect she's left you to fend for yourself for once.”
She could probably have bought the same boots – not to mention the socks, books and sticks – for less money if she had gone to Bakewell on Monday. Like Mr Wragg who sold the eggs – and who liked a proper Bakewell Pudding at least once a week, Linda had decided that the town would be too busy for a visit on market day. Instead she had gone to Matlock, which she had found to be quiet and quaint, especially when contrasted with its gaudy neighbour, Matlock Bath.
Matlock was an old spa town with narrow streets, cosy doorways and shops selling everything a respectable rustic might need. It was easy to imagine Jane Austen having visited there, and been inspired to write something of Derbyshire in her books, because of it.
Matlock Bath was a facsimile of a seaside town, though as far as it possibly could be from the sea. There were amusement arcades, fish and chip shops, at least one bandstand, and an overly large wooden sandwich board advertising the petrified well, where visitors could leave items of their own to be slowly turned to 'stone'. It was also well known as a haven for bikers, and even on a weekday in spring, Linda had counted twenty motorbikes propped up in groups along the main road through the town.
Stepping through the small wooden door cut out of a much larger arched one, Linda found herself in a high-ceilinged room. Nowhere near as grand as the entrance hall of many stately homes, it still left her wanting to take a deep breath before walking up to the elderly woman who sat behind a polished wooden desk to her right. Light from a double window above the door picked out some details of the tapestry in front of her, while leaving other portions in near darkness. The hanging appeared to show a hunting scene with a hill, very much like the one on which the house stood, depicted in the background.
"Good morning." It was immediately obvious that this woman was no ordinary inhabitant of either of the Pemberleys; her accent was far more refined than that of any of the villagers that Linda had spoken to so far. "Are you visiting by yourself? If so, I'd recommend you take a guidebook as well."
Excerpt Two (where you get to guess which bit of history I've altered slightly):
The Long Gallery certainly lived up to its name, and was almost exactly as the guidebook description promised. Linda made her way slowly along the inner wall, taking in seven centuries of Peveril family history. Between the windows on the wall behind her, hung landscapes, the earliest being a tapestry depicting nearby Peveril Castle – abandoned, according to the guidebook, when William Peverel the Younger had his falling out with King Henry II and the family briefly moved abroad.
After a century of obscurity, the family had returned to Derbyshire, and the newly-appointed Earl of Derbyshire had begun building this house rather than trying to reclaim his ancestral home and other lands. Linda suspected that the change to the spelling of the family name had been a deliberate attempt by the first Earl to further dissociate himself from past indiscretions.
As she made her way slowly down the room, Linda took in the changing styles of both the portraits and the landscapes. She would have to come back on the next day that house was open and make notes; even if she was not officially studying at the moment her ideas would come in useful if she decided to take further courses in the history of art at a later date.
From the first section I wrote (filling in a gap between the two sections I wrote on Day Eleven):
Most of the rooms were laid out as if they were waiting to be occupied. Some attempt had been made to keep each representative of a particular era in the house's history, but with more success in the individual bedrooms than in the library, the dining room, or the kitchen. Linda got the impression that some rooms – those three especially – were still in regular use. Although there was a larder off the kitchen, with artfully displayed fake food and containers, a locked door next to it seemed to be exactly where another food storage and preparation area might be found.
By contrast, the chapel, below one end of the Long Gallery, seemed to be a part of the house that had not been used for some time. The prayer books on each pew were too neatly arranged, the kneelers too well plumped, the brass rails too well polished for Linda to be able to imagine a service having been held there in recent years. Anyone dusting for fingerprints would have had a difficult job tracing anyone who had visited for religious – or other – reasons.
And from the second section I wrote that day(Linda is studying the paintings in the Long Gallery):
One was an obvious companion to the other paintings in the gallery. It showed a view of the house from the far side of the river. In the foreground, to the left of the house, a kingfisher sat on a branch looking down at the water – much like one Linda had glimpsed on her walk the previous day. A fox sat in the grass, its fur dark, almost black, rather than red-brown like most traditional depictions. Did black foxes exist? Linda suspected that some species were that colour, but not any that were native to the British Isles. The fox's expression seemed somehow humanised, without losing its animal nature. It stared up at the kingfisher, not hungrily but with what seemed to be fascination.
The second of the pair showed an urban scene. London, Linda thought. A tall Georgian mansion stood flanked by two similar houses, and at the foot of its steps a fox – the same fox – looked up at one of the windows. Linda followed the fox's gaze. Did she imagine a face at the window? Was that what the artist had intended? An impression of a face, rather than a definite depiction, or a blank window. She definitely needed to come back here and make proper notes.
"You like them?"
Linda turned, and found herself face to face with the woman from the ticket desk.
"She was married to my elder son" Kate turned to look at the portrait. "Then she ran away: shortly after that painting was completed. I knew they'd been having problems; I told him he should treat her better." She sighed. "I did hope Julia would come back after Hugh died, but we've heard nothing from her in so long. Even Edward says he hasn't heard from her, and they were so close as children – while Hugh was away fighting. Of course, I always said Julia married the wrong brother." Kate turned to face Linda once again. "You should come to tea. Once I'm finished with my removals I'll send you an invitation."
"That would be most... kind." Linda had no idea how to respond. She had been trained in interviewing a wide range of people – as suspects and as witnesses – but none of that training had explained how to deal with a member of the aristocracy who insisted on being so familiar with a total stranger.
"It would be my pleasure." Kate turned and swept from the room, in a most regal fashion.
Linda found herself standing in front of Lady Julia once again. The woman was undeniably beautiful – anyone who so much as glanced at the portrait would agree with that assessment – but Linda felt a pull that went beyond mere beauty. The expression that the artist had given her couldn't have been a coincidence, couldn't be something Linda was imagining. Julia had been deeply unhappy – and from what Kate had said, it seemed Julia's husband was to blame – but she had also felt deep love for someone in the room with her. Had it been the artist? The absent, enigmatic Edward? Some third person, whose identity was as yet unknown?
With one last glance around the Long Gallery, Linda left the house, and started to walk back towards the village. On a sudden whim, she turned away from the road and set off up the footpath towards the mysterious, private wood.
Today I also uploaded a lot of photos that may be useful resources for various historical stories. More on that anon.