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Ages Ago

Dialogue following No. 9


Lady Maud:
Am I in the world? And if so, where in the world am I? (Looking round.) A picture gallery! oh, of course, our picture gallery. But the pictures. I don't know them. What extraordinary costumes. They are all strangers to me. They were not there when I died. Died? Then I'm dead! I'm sure I died. But here I am walking about in my own picture gallery. Then I suppose I'm a ghost! My own ghost! I wonder if I ought to be frightened? But who has the castle now? The title deeds disappeared the day before I died in accordance with the wicked compact by which Sir Roger de Bohun obtained possession of this castle a hundred and fifty years ago, and by the terms of the compact it would remain unoccupied for about eighty years after my death. But evidently it is occupied. Then at least eighty years have elapsed. I wonder how my portrait has kept? It was painted many years before I died by Leonardo da Vinci. A rather clever young artist. He sent it to the Royal Academy, but he didn't know anybody on the Hanging Committee, so he didn't get it in. Let me see, where did it hang? (Walks up to frame.) Why, the picture's gone. Faded away. Nothing left but the background. Oh, it's too bad. I paid I don't know how much for it. These modern painters seem quite to have lost the art of mixing colours. Now a Cimabue or a Giotto would be as fresh as if it had been painted yesterday. Oh, it's too bad! (Looks at her dress.) Why, this is the very dress I was painted in! and all my jewels exactly as I wore them. What an extraordinary coincidence! (She has a rose in her hand.) And here is the very rose that Messer Leonardo make me carry because he wanted a bit of colour down here. But I came from there just now! I remember distinctly coming down from that frame. Then I'm only a picture. Well, I'm glad I'm not a ghost. Then I've done Messer Leonardo da Vinci a very serious injustice. (Takes up a hand mirror.) Oh, there's another picture of me here and it moves. Stop — I remember — it's a mirror. I saw one when I was quite a little girl. It was sent over from Venice and cost a mint of money. How exceedingly foolish to leave a valuable object like this about. Now I suppose this is worth about four or five hundred pounds. (Looking at herself in it.) Yes, I'm looking very well — I'm very like — quite a speaking likeness. I wonder whose portraits these are. (Reads tablets on frames.) Dame Cherry Maybud. Lord Poppytop. (Then seeing Sir Cecil.) Oh, how perfectly charming! What a noble face! What magnificent colour! There's a flesh tint! and then such dignity! such expression! I wonder who painted it! (Reads.) Michael Angelo — I never heard of the gentleman. Quite an unknown man. After all, on looking at it again it's very tricky, quite a fourth or fifth-rate production. Date 1602 — Oh, some mistake. They must mean 1502. I died in 1500. I should really like to know whose portrait it is, for with all its faults, there is really a manly dignity about it which must have been strongly impressed on the original. (Apostrophising picture.) You are very handsome — very, very handsome. I'm glad you're only a picture. If you were a real living man, I should be obliged to be rather particular, but as it is I may say what I like to you.

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