“My Next Door Neighbor”, Edmund Blair Leighton, 1894

His body ached as the horse slowed to a walk down the cobbled street. It had been another long night without reward and the search was beginning to feel futile. He’d seen the dawn for the third time this week and was no closer to discovering the men who were behind the high profile muggings in the heart of London. The ride back from the station after filing yet another report of nothing and more nothing felt like riding to his execution. These crimes had to end but he was no closer to discovering the criminals responsible and his contacts in the underworld were coming up empty. Tugging the hat lower over his brow as the sun edged over the rooftops he tugged the chestnut to a halt.

The townhouse he inhabited was modest by London standards but in a wealthy part of town. It boasted a marble approach and elegant metal railings and was entirely interchangeable with every other house on the street. Swinging down from the saddle he stretched his aching back and tossed the reins to the waiting stable boy. The lad led the chestnut around the side of the house and he watched the procession. That horse had been with him since he began working in the constables nearly six years ago. He’d been told several times to give him up but that felt like a betrayal. The beast had been his constant companion during those long years, it’d be foolish to cast him aside for a younger animal that did not know his ways.

He tugged off his coat and laying it across his arm started up the marble approach, loosening his cravat as he went. Voices rose and fell in the house beside his and he paused; he’d not seen the new neighbors yet. For the past week there’d been a flurry of activity as furniture was removed and new brought in, the home had changed hands due to the unpaid debts of its previous owner, a pernicious fellow with a tic above his right eye. Shrugging he continued up the stairs, he was in no mood for polite introductions at the present. The long nights without sleep did not lend themselves to society manners. His bed was the only object he wished to commune with at present.

The door cracked open and he heard an elegant female voice murmuring within and the yap of a small dog. Well, a matron with a small dog in tow certainly would make for a quieter, if more nosey neighbor than the former. He placed a hand to the handle and drew up short as the edge of a lemon yellow gown and pink coat slid into view. Not the common colors of a matron.

“Do make certain you check with Mrs. Pierce before ordering the supplies Mr. Harris. I’d hate to see more good food go to waste, and be sure my mother is comfortable for when Doctor Hoburn arrives.”

“Yes Miss. All will be done as you wish. Here’s the carriage ma’am.”

“Thank you Mr. Harris. Come along Ellie, we’ll be late if we dawdle.”

He listened to the exchange with vague interest. The voice was soft spoken but commanding. What sort of lady was this new neighbor? He turned the handle to enter his home, there were more pressing matters than new ladies next door but the appearance of her profile drew him up short.

It couldn’t be.

What was she doing here? After all these years how had she of all people found him in this little corner of London, his corner of London?

Jane Darcy, descendent of Baron Darcy’s line from the Lincolnshire region was descending the stairs. That she had descended to London from the midlands and taken up residence beside his home was almost beyond bearing. The hat perched atop her dark hair sheltered that preternaturally pale skin that had so transfixed him as a young man. The small dog he’d heard was tucked under one slender arm and she masterfully controlled the wriggling creature as she did all those within her sphere.

She had not seen him yet and as her head tilted away, hiding that elegant profile he stepped over the threshold and into the house. Bolting the door behind him he set his cane and coat on the side table. Proceeding into the sitting room he poured himself a glass of port from the sideboard and watched as she mounted the steps of her carriage and drove off. Downing the glass he cast himself into a nearby chair and pressed his hands to his eyes. It would be better to have that pernicious fool Hadley back. Jane Darcy was more trouble than any gambler and far more dangerous to him than the criminals he chased. He drew the pocket watch from his waistcoat and flipped open the casing. Her portrait stared back at him; the pert mouth and lively brown eyes mocking him from the canvas.

“My Next Door Neighbor” by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1894

10 thoughts on ““My Next Door Neighbor”, Edmund Blair Leighton, 1894

    1. Leighton is one of my favorites. He’s somewhat obscure but undeservedly so in my opinion. 🙂

      I love using paintings as writing prompts because it allows me build the events of the story around the subject either up to the moment captured or from that point. It’s a really great exercise in world/plot construction.

      I’m really glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Paintings seem quite promising as prompts. I might just try it myself some day 🙂
        Leighton does deserve more credit, each of his paintings already tells a story. But nothing pushes John Atkinson Grimshaw off my throne for favourite 19th century artist 😉


      2. His focus is more on landscapes, which won me over. I love his rather gloomy, rainy cityscapes. Leighton certainly had more experience depicting people, this is more of a preference in motifs on my side 🙂


      3. I know what you mean, the 19th century had some very beautiful art. I love renaissance paintings, but everyday scenes (like Leighton’s) somehow have a stronger appeal. So yup, 19th century it is.
        And I’ll be happy to discuss Goodkind, only he’ll have to wait a bit as I already bought 5 books this month. At least one more week until I’ll permit myself a new one.


      4. Yep. It’s the consequence of reading so much I think. I wouldn’t trade it though, I have learned so much about writing from all of them, even the ones I’ve started to forget pieces of.


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