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Dialogue Following No. 10


Sir C.:
I am indeed, so are you.
Lady M.:
How do you know that?
Sir C.:
How do I know it? Why, didn't you hang up there during the ten years I occupied this castle?
Lady M.:
Did you occupy this castle for ten years?
Sir C.:
I did indeed.
Lady M.:
But how do you know I'm not the original of whom that picture is a portrait?
Sir C.:
Because there's a limit to the beauties of Nature, there's no limit to the beauties of Art. In other words, you're a great deal too good to be true. Angels are not half as bright as they are painted, and the famous Leonardo da Vinci was a terrible flatterer.
Lady M.:
Famous! Why he was a mere nobody who painted me for a few pounds.
Sir C.:
Ah! but after your melancholy decease, pardon my alluding to that distressing topic, he grew in fame and fortune, and before he died, Europe rang with his fame. Now (looking at Lady M. critically), I should say you are worth at least £2,000.
Lady M.:
Is it possible? And you?
Sir C.:
I'm a Michael Angelo. A very fine example, painted by him five years before I came, quite unexpectedly, into possession of this castle, and six years before his death. I'm worth at least as much as you. Indeed, I'm a much finer picture.
Lady M.:
Sir!
Sir C.:
I am indeed — look here (showing legs). Here's drawing! You are the work of an artist — I am the work of an accomplished anatomist.
Lady M.:
How can you say so? Look at that hand; look at its colour; look at its drawing! (One of Sir Cecil's hands is painted a queer flesh colour.)
Sir C.:
Yes — ah — that's rather a sore point with me, but it's susceptible of explanation. The fact is that this hand of mine has been recently restored by a Royal Academician. In point of fact I've only one hand — this is not mine.
Lady M.:
(with great tenderness). Oh Sir Cecil, forgive my thoughtless remark. Indeed I had not intention of paining you. Believe me that I sympathise deeply with your terrible misfortune.
Sir C.:
That sympathy more than reconciles me to it. Besides, although it's certainly deformed, after all I can use it freely enough. It was awkward at first but I've become quite used to it.
Lady M.:
So I've spent years in this castle with Sir Cecil Blount without ever knowing it.
Sir C.:
Yes, that soft melting gaze of yours has been continually turned on me for ten delicious years.
Lady M.:
(aside). I wonder if he's married! (Aloud.) I'm surprised that Lady Blount allowed it. If I had been Lady Blount —
Sir C.:
Lady Blount? My mother?
Lady M.:
No, your wife.
Sir C.:
Oh, I never had a wife.
Lady M.:
(aside). I though not.
Sir C.:
Shall I tell you a secret? I never married because I had fallen desperately in love with you.
Lady M.:
With me? oh, nonsense!
Sir C.:
I'm perfectly serious. I used to sit opposite you all day long smoking and vowing to myself that I would never take a wife until I found your counterpart. "Maud," I used to say, "my own Maud." (Lady Maud looks indignant.) You were mine you know together with everything else in the Castle. "My own Maud" (takes Lady Maud's hand) with all my heart and soul I love you. I love you with the devotion of a lover who knows his happiness is on the eve of being crowned and with the desperation of a lover who feels that there is not the remotest chance of anything of the kind.
Lady M.:
Sir, you are too bold. (Struggling to free herself.)
Sir C.:
Oh, one may say what one likes to a picture, you know. I gazed all day at those eyes, those cheeks, those lips, and dreamt them all night.
Lady M.:
(looking in mirror). I was just remarking before you — revived — that my lips seem to have lost their colour. Indeed, I almost fancy I can see the canvas through them.
Sir C.:
Ah that's not Leonardo da Vinci's fault, it's mine. For ten years, night and morning, I was in the habit of covering them with kisses.
Lady M.:
Sir! (Indignantly.)
Sir C.:
One may do what one likes to a picture, you know, but if I had had the least idea that we should ever meet under these peculiar circumstances, I need hardly say that I should not have ventured on such a liberty.
Lady M.:
Well, I suppose I must pocket my indignation.
Sir C.:
Besides, remember after all, the offender was not I, but my prototype.
Lady M.:
That's true, you can't be responsible for everything that he did, so say no more about it. Let us shake hands.
Sir C.:
With pleasure. (Offers Lady Maud the restored hand.)
Lady M.:
No, the other.
Sir C.:
I beg you pardon. (Takes Lady Maud's hand and kisses it, and retains it in his.) So I am quite forgiven?
Lady M.:
Quite. A portrait after all is not like its original.
Sir C.:
Very often it is not.
Lady M.:
One may say what one likes to a picture.
Sir C.:
You allow that?
Lady M.:
Yes. (Blushing.

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