Portraits

 

 

Hey! Roughton!

He started. He was alone; yet he could have sworn that somebody had addressed him by his surname. On the other hand—he knew that had been on the point of dozing off. So it could have been a mouse scrabbling across the parquet.

What does a girl have to do to get noticed around here?

This time he was sure he’d heard correctly. The voice came from the portrait of Margaret Wilson, who was usually referred to as “The Martyr of Solway”.

That was the first time it had happened.

His was no ordinary job. It was a unique concept. A museum dedicated solely to portraits.

What he had not bargained for was that the portraits . . . talked! Talked, did I say? Well, actually, It was more like a zillion vibrations, reverberating through his brain.

Soon he learned how to discern what they intended to communicate, so they lowered their tone. In time, the portraits didn’t even whisper; he just heard them inside his head.

Van Gogh coughed, a grimace on his cadaverous face. It’s only humans here, isn’t it? We could do with a couple of Louis Wain’s cats. They would keep away the mice.

Napoleon snorted. Cats! Bleurg. Why not horses? Mine—Désirée, not Marengo or Vizir or any other one of them—Babieca, Dhūljānāh, Matsukaze, Bucephalus, Copenhagen, Shadowless . . .

Why not write a book and make money out of all this? He would camouflage it as fiction—and sell it in the foyer.

And he did.

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