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  • Writer's pictureAlyssa Maxwell

Research and its Lovely Surprises

This is Beatrice Goelet, niece of Ogden and Mary Goelet, who owned Ochre Court in Newport. When I started my reserach for the Murder at Ochre Court, I didn't know about Beatrice. I went about developing my characters, and nowhere did I plan for a little girl to enter the story. But take another look at this portrait by the brilliant John Singer Sargent. How exquisite is she? Sargent has long been my favorite portrait artist for his unique insight into his subjects and his ability to capture their essence, rather than simply their outward appearance. Here, rather than portraying an idyllic child (and yes, she IS dressed to the nines), Sargent captured something rather ironic and contrary in her expression. Beatrice is THINKING something. We don't know what it is, but we do see qute clearly that her mind is on something other than the fact that she's having her portrait painted. The gleam in her eye and the pout of her lips seem to suggest Beatrice doesn't really feel like being a cooperative, good little girl today, and is waiting for her chance to go do what she wants. And those hands - talk about exquisite! But they also convey a pensiveness or preoccupation with other, and I'm sure in her opinion, more important matters.

I admit to falling immediately in love with little Beatrice and wanting to include her in some capacity in Murder at Ochre Court. It would not be far-fetched, since in the summer weeks she basically lived next door to Ochre Court, in the house pictured below. In my reading, I learned that she died quite young, only about seventeen, of influenza in 1902. That would have made her thirteen at the time of my story. I hope readers will forgive me, but I've decided to take a bit of creative licence in keeping Beatrice the little girl we see in her portrait (I'll of course make a notation in my End Notes in the book). I've already placed her in a key scene. Will she play a role in helping Emma catch a murderer? She just might, but if so, little Beatrice won't know what really happened. The adults will protect her, and she'll just think it's all a game.

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