Here's the round-up of excerpts I posted over at the LJ community from the end of week three up until the final day.
The first shop Linda tried proved to be of more use to her than the library, or the bookshops, had been on her previous visit to the town. None of the books she flicked through had more than a page or two that was relevant, but she purchased the one with the most extensive entry, and took it with her down to the riverside to read more carefully while throwing pieces of her sandwich at the ducks.
Nicky and his sister Bridie had arrived in London in 1954, and had quickly become part of the 'in crowd'. Nicky's early works had been of famous buildings and historic monuments, always with his sister somewhere in the edge of the foreground. He painted from photographs, which he took himself, rather than from life, but his art was popular for a time, and he began picking up increasing an number of commissions for portraits, and for depictions of the homes of the wealthy and successful.
Bridie found work as a photographic model, while continuing to accompany her brother on the majority of his assignments, and always being mentioned in interviews as 'his muse'. The entry ended with vague references to a scandal surrounding Nicky's exit from the art scene, but gave no hint as to where he or Bridie might have gone.
The one photograph of Nicky himself showed a young man in his early twenties, with light brown curly hair and blue-grey eyes. It had been taken in 1964, and left Linda in no doubt that this might well have been someone that Julia could have fallen for, and even run away with.
Day Twenty-three (Linda has come over all emotional, and Kate has rescued her before she could fall into the ornamental pond):
"Time heals." Kate removed her hand, and picked up her teacup. "Especially in a place like this. I remember Brigit." She pronounced the name in the French way, with a slight roll to the 'r' and a softening of the 'g' and the 't'. "When she first came here she was so thin and sad and withdrawn, and Edward just dropped her off with me then took off to America – California, I think he said. It took a while, but she filled out, her skin got its lustre back, and one day she decided she'd had enough of rattling around in the big house with me, and asked if she could move out into an old cottage she'd found in the woods. No one was using it – the gamekeeper has a cottage in Upper Pemberley these days – so I got Edward to have it fixed up for her as soon as he reappeared from whatever he'd been doing in California."
"So Brigit..." Linda was careful to mimic Kate's pronunciation. "Brigit was Edward's friend originally?"
"I suppose she must have been – he never really said how he knew her." Kate studied Linda's expression. "I don't think they were ever friends the way that you're thinking. Not that I'd mind," she added hurriedly, "even though she is a Catholic, but I just never got the impression that Edward thought of her that way."
On the way back to Upper Pemberley, Linda stopped off in Matlock Bath. It seemed an ideal place for her to buy the ice cream she'd promised herself earlier, being the closest thing to a seaside town in at least fifty miles. Glancing at the image reflected by one of the mirrored pillars at the entrance to an amusement arcade, she barely recognised herself. She looked younger, more fashionable, and she had pretty hair that bounced off her shoulders rather than being scraped back into a practical pony tail. She wore nail varnish, blusher, and bright blue eyeshadow. The toes peeking out of her new sandals had nails the painted the same shade of red as her fingernails. She was a new Linda, even if her past was not fully behind her just yet.
As she strolled through the public gardens, her magazine under one arm, the other arm and hand supporting both handbag and cornet, it seemed that more people were looking at her than she would have expected when she was the old Linda. She felt a renewed self-confidence, boosted further when she heard a wolf-whistle from further back along the path.
Linda turned, and a young man barely out of his teens gave her a genuinely appreciative smile. She felt sexy. She was sexy. She didn't need a man to tell her so, and she certainly didn't need a man right now for anything else, but it felt good to be appreciated. She didn't need a man, but it occurred to her that she still had needs.
Finishing her cornet, Linda sat down on a wooden bench and flicked to the back pages of her magazine. There were several companies selling the item she required, so she chose the one with the largest ad. Digging in her handbag, she found a spare envelope and writing paper left over from the previous evening, her chequebook and her purse for the stamps in its pocket. If Mrs Ollerenshaw asked – and there was no reason why Linda shouldn't have a parcel delivered to the place she planned to stay for some weeks yet – then Linda could always say it was a better hot-brush for her new hairstyle than the one she had bought in the salon.
Day Twenty-five (Linda's car is unwell):
Glancing in the mirror, she saw a car approaching, a red sports car, that slowed as it got closer then pulled onto the grass some way behind her. The driver's door opened and a man got out.
Linda switched her attention to the wing mirror, in which to a better view of him.
He wore a white casual suit over black boots with pointed toes, and had the slim hips and broad shoulders typical of a swimmer, although something about the way he moved suggested an interest in tennis or squash as well. His hair was jet black, and long enough at the back to curl around his collar. To go with his expensively styled hair, and a suit that had to have been made to fit him, he wore large, expensive looking sunglasses, which he removed as he leaned down to look through Linda's open window.
"Is there a problem? Anything I can do to help?" His voice was cultured, though not overly so, with an air of sympathetic amusement at Linda's plight.
"It seems to have overheated."
"So I see. Why don't we take a look and see what needs to be done, then work out how to get you home?" His eyes were grey-green, and framed by startlingly-long dark lashes. "In case you were wondering, yes, I'm Edward Peveril, Duke of Derbyshire. Former black sheep of the family, but now lamentably respectable, at least north of Watford."
Having dropped Linda off in good time for dinner, Edward returned a little over an hour after she had finished eating. He had changed into a pair of oil-stained jeans, and a checked shirt unbuttoned to the base of his sternum, on which there were also slight traces of engine oil. A small St Christopher medallion hung from a gold chain around his neck.
"I was right about your car." He wiped his hand down his leg, then leaned against the door frame. "It's going to need a new head gasket as well as a fan belt, and I'll do an oil change for you at the same time. You didn't need the car tomorrow, I take it?"
"No, I..." She had planned all along to spend the day at the house, studying more of the art works and possibly finding out more about Julia while she was working. Are you sure that's all right? You came up here to see your mother, not to work on cars."
"Mother's used to me." Edward grinned. "If I wasn't working on yours I'd probably still end up in the old stable block working on one of mine." He straightened up. "Well, I'd better leave you to your evening. You've probably shocked the residents of Upper Pemberley enough for one day with that delightful nail varnish, without entertaining me unchaperoned."
Day Twenty-seven (Linda is explaining to Kate that she hopes to stay for the whole summer):
"I hope you'll come to Bakewell Show in that case. Maybe you have skills the Upper Pemberley WI could make use of in their competition entry? Lower Pemberley took the trophy away from us last year, so it's imperative we come up with something special this time. A matter of pride, you understand."
"I quite understand." She understood local rivalries, although she was less certain what exactly the Women's Institutes were competing over.
"Good, good." Kate placed a hand on Linda's arm. "I'm getting some of the rooms in the guest quarters ready to become part of the tour. Would you like to see the other portrait of Julia, before anyone else gets to view it?"
Day Twenty-eight (in which Linda studies the other portrait of Julia):
A younger, less careworn Julia smiled back at Linda. This was a much less formally posed picture, in which her face was framed by the heads of two bay 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."
[Kate and Linda talk some more...]
"That's a good idea" Kate gave a thoughtful smile. "What do you think of Edward? He's asked me 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 me rescue last night?" Of course he was also considerably older than her – no matter how much younger he seemed to think he was – and currently her chief suspect in whatever it was that 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 in this picture than she did 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 by itself would have?
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 – so Linda was prepared to believe her second theory to be the more likely answer. What had happened to Julia? Was it just Hugh '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?
"Absolutely no chance of finding a head gasket anywhere before Monday." Edward, dressed impeccably in cream trousers and a paisley-patterned lilac shirt, leaned against the door frame. "If you need the car, and don't mind paying for labour, Andy at the Lower Pemberley garage can fit you in on Tuesday. Always assuming the gasket's on that morning's delivery, of course. Or, if you can wait until next Saturday, we can just leave your car in one of the old stables and I'll replace it as soon as I get up here. They should have definitely sent one over by then."
"I don't mind waiting." Linda wasn't entirely certain she trusted Edward to fix her car, but she knew nothing about this Andy, or what he charged. Edward already had the car, he might as well keep it. Lower Pemberley had a bus-stop, so logically there had to be some sort of bus service to the local towns if she needed anything over the course of the week.
"That's settled then. Now, I've messed you around quite enough for one weekend. What say I take you down to the Derbyshire Arms for a drink, and then on for dinner somewhere?"
When she arrived back downstairs, she found Edward sitting at the kitchen table, sharing a pot of tea with Mrs Ollerenshaw.
"You look stunning." He got to his feet as Linda walked in. "I should have asked yesterday, is that a YSL copy? I can't see the originals having made it as far as Bakewell."
"I never thought to ask." The assistants at the boutique had assured her that black with a flora pattern was the current fashion, and she'd accepted their opinion without further comment.
"No matter. Shall we go?" He turned to Mrs Ollerenshaw. "I should call again when we've more time to chat: no one in London shares my obsession with The Archers."
"Don't forget about Emmerdale Farm too."
"I shall record it next week." He turned back to Linda. "I just got rid of my old VCR machine in favour of the new Betamax recorder. This programme of Elaine's will be a perfect test of its timer's capabilities."
Over the course of the next hour Linda discovered that Edward was very knowledgeable about the whole range of his art collection. He was prepared to admit when he was unsure of his facts and to suggest where they might find out more details: he admitted to being no expert, merely to knowing what he liked, what things were worth, and how to talk items up to potential buyers.
Linda found him less forthcoming when asked about items dating from the current century than when they were discussing the older paintings – and very keen to change the subject when asked about anything relating to Julia. She noticed there were a few grey hairs amongst the darker ones on his chest, although none on his head, and that he had almost certainly shaved immediately before coming to see her. At some point in the past he had worn an earring in his right ear, though not in his left, and Linda spotted what seemed to be the edge of a tattoo inside his unbuttoned shirt.
The more time she spent with Edward, it seemed, the more of an enigma he became. Figuring him out could easily turn out to be a very dangerous game.
"We seem to have finished the bottle." Edward tipped the last few drops into Linda's glass. "And I promised you dinner as well. It's a warm evening, and Mother's bound to have left at least one rug in the Volvo. How d'you feel about a picnic?"
They took their picnic – cod and chips twice, a large bag of scraps, and another bottle of wine from Mr Eyre's cellar – as far up the hill as the Volvo would take them. Edward spread out a large red and blue tartan blanket in front of the car, and opened the wine with the corkscrew attachment of a large Swiss Army knife. Having poured the wine into two plastic cups, he settled himself at one end of the blanket, lying on his side, propped up on one elbow.
Linda lowered herself carefully at the other end of the blanket, smoothed her skirt over her knees, and tucked her feet in close to her side.
"I always miss this view when I'm away." Edward handed one newspaper-wrapped bundle to Linda, opened up the bag of scraps within both their reach, and then began to unwrap his own cod and chips. "If we stay here after sunset, we should be able to pick out the lights over Derby." He speared a chip before continuing. "On clear nights I sometimes take one of the bikes up to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, but it's not nearly as magnificent a sight."
"Do you live near there?" Linda tried to work out the most elegant way to cut up a large piece of battered fish, armed only with a very small wooden fork. "I mean, where do you live when you're in London?"
"What if I thought I saw someone poaching?"
"You'd have to be damn careful before making that kind of accusation. I don't mind if people want to come on my land to shoot a few rabbits. Brigit sets snares, and she'll pick off the occasional injured bird as well – in fact if there was anyone poaching, I suspect she'd be the first one to know about it."
"I thought I saw – but it doesn't matter." Linda wasn't entirely certain what she'd seen Craig carrying. It might have been a rabbit. It might have been an injured bird that Brigit had killed and given to him in return for some other favour. Without evidence there was no need to tell anyone else just yet.
"Appearances can be deceptive." Edward flicked cigar ash onto the grass. "Take Julia for example. If you saw her dressed up for the theatre or the opera, you'd never guess it was the same girl who was still climbing trees the day before her wedding, or who drove four horses at ridiculous paces all over the estate." He took a long drag on his cigar. "Hugh put a stop to that in the end, of course."
"Your mother showed me the painting of Julia and her horses." Linda was relieved that Edward had introduced the topic, rather than having it forced upon him. "She said you took the original photograph."
"I did." Edward pulled a wallet out of his back pocket, and opened it up. "Here." He leaned over and placed a lightly-creased photograph in Linda's hand.
Linda thought she had closed the front door silently, yet she had barely taken a step inside the hall when Mrs Ollerenshaw bustled through from the kitchen.
"I thought I heard a noise." She went to wipe her hands on her non-existent apron, then checked herself. "I was just making a pot of tea. Would you like a cup?"
"A cup of tea would be lovely." Linda followed her landlady through to the kitchen, resigned to the interrogation on behalf of the WI that was bound to follow.
"Edward's taken quite a shine to you." Mrs Ollerenshaw set the tea things on the table, and sat in the chair across from Linda.
"We just went for a picnic..." Linda paused, debating whether a picnic was more or less scandalous than a meal in an expensive restaurant.
"Oh, I don't doubt that. He might not act like a gentleman in many ways, but he does in those that really matter. Would you like a biscuit?"
"No, thank you." Linda pushed the plate away. "What was that you said about Edward's brother?"
"He wasn't quite a gentleman." Mrs Ollerenshaw picked up a custard cream and appeared to study it. "Several of the other girls warned me about him when I went to work at the big house – and there was more than one maid that suddenly up and went to stay with a long-lost aunt in Yorkshire, if you know what I mean."
And coming up, the population of Upper Pemberley go to church for the gossip...
The organist was playing the introduction to the first hymn when Edward slipped into Linda's pew.
"I thought I'd better put in an appearance before I head back to London." He edged closer to Linda, looking down at her hymn book.
Linda nudged him and indicated the board directly in front of them where the hymn numbers were displayed.
"Oh, of course." He opened his hymn book, but showed no sign of moving to a more respectable distance from her. "You're dressed very soberly today." Edward was himself dressed in a light grey suit, with a dark blue shirt.
"Keep commenting on my appearance and people will talk." Linda tried to figure out which verse they were up to.
"Let them talk. You're probably the most exciting piece of gossip they've had in years."
Linda found her place, and joined in with the congregation. If Edward was trying to lead her astray, wouldn't he be better doing it when was actually going to be staying in Derbyshire for longer than the next hour?
The hymn came to an end, and Edward leaned towards Linda again.
"Mother wants you to go for lunch tomorrow. Think you can manage that?"
"Good girl. She said noon, but she's bound to be running late. You may as well aim for half past."
How did everyone else's projects turn out in November?