Laura stood in front of a landscape, flooded with light. Dex knew exactly what time of day that picture had been painted, she’d seen Chester County landscapes in precisely the same light and vague mist.
“Norman told us this was the best picture in the collection,” Laura said. “It’s a William Trost Richards, actually painted near here.”
“Lovely,” said Dex. “I’ve long been a fan of his, there are several pictures in the Museum.”
She could see through the open doors into the big parlor, admiring the purple curtains framing the almost floor to ceiling windows that looked out onto the porch. A woman’s portrait hung over the fireplace, and Dex walked into the room, leaving Laura and Claire behind in the hall.
“Dex?” asked Claire, following.
“Well!” huffed Laura. “I was going to show the other landscapes here in the hall, and there’s a Maud Earl I thought Claire would like to see.”
Claire found Dex staring at the three-quarter pose portrait. The subject was a thin woman, in clothes from a time when substantial women were the fashion; her dark hair was pulled tightly back from a center part and formed into a pile of ringlets atop her head that spilled down to her shoulders. She was wearing a deep red dress that seemed to reflect fiery highlights into her brilliant hazel eyes, brilliance that suggested the artist had captured her expression seconds before she burst into tears. The corners of her mouth seemed to hold back whatever emotion was exposed by her eyes, yet her face was beautiful, and the eyes riveting. Displayed prominently on her right hand which lay face down in her lap, the paleness of her arm acting as an arrow, was a ruby ring, the large red stone sparking crimson fire from its nest of diamonds.
Dex stood before the portrait, mesmerized. The woman in the portrait seemed uncomfortable in her sumptuous dress, adding a suggestion of being on the verge of panic. A skittish woman, likely to bolt at any moment.
“Who are you?” Dex whispered. “And why are you so sad?”