The Fraud

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Authors: Barbara Ewing
almost all of it on paper, and chalk, and pencils.
    ‘I already earn much, much more than that with one Portrait, Francesca ! I earn more than the famous Mr Reynolds - he charges twelve guineas, but I charge thirteen.’
    ‘ Thirteen guineas ?’ She stared. ‘ For just one Portrait?
    ‘Thirteen, and I am sure I earn more than the Purveyor-of-English-Art, Mr Hogarth! I tell you we shall be rich - rich just as our Mother required!’ And at last they laughed together, like conspirators, there in the coach, although neither understood at all what the other was thinking.
    Then his face became more serious. ‘But I mean it: you must learn to copy how I speak in every way, Signorina Francesca di Vecellio. You are the sister of an Italian Gentleman and noble blood courses through our veins! You must listen to me, and copy me. And there is an Italian Chapel in London where you must go and observe. You must watch the people going into the Chapel. They are Italian. You are Italian.’ He amended. ‘Of course, it is not a good idea to go inside the Church very often. We do not want people to think we are Popish: we are a branch of Italians who gave up the Pope long ago.’
    She looked so bewildered at this that he laughed again. ‘There is much to learn, Francesca mia !’
    ‘But I want still to be myself, Philip. Let me be Grace!’ She spoke most stubbornly. ‘My name is Grace. Grace Marshall.’
    ‘No, I have told you.’ He looked at her. She looked at him. ‘Not Grace,’ he said firmly, ‘it is too solid and too English. You are Grace no longer. We hope that you will soon grow into a fine young woman from Italy: Francesca . Signorina Francesca di Vecellio. ’
    She tried the name again tentatively. ‘ Francesca .’ Despite herself she felt something like excitement in her chest. ‘ Signorina Francesca di Vecellio. ’ And this time she rolled the words around her tongue.
    ‘Copy me: Buongiorno Signore ,’ he said very carefully.
    ‘ Buongiorno Signore. What does it mean?’
    ‘It is how you greet a Gentleman. It is really the only thing you must be certain of immediately. Oh, and “thank you”: Grazie .’
    ‘ Grazie .’
    ‘ Arrivederci. That is goodbye. If anything gets too difficult, you merely just say arrivederci and curtsey and disappear. You will be charming.’
    It was easy. ‘ Grazie, Signore. Arrivederci. ’ Her eyes sparkled at him and then she suddenly clapped her hands together also and gave a little bow, as if she too was a magic person.
    ‘Yes!’ he said, pleased with her already, remembering again how quickly she could learn. ‘Yes! We will manage. We will manage easily. And Grace, the whole thing is - I have done it! ’
    ‘Done what?’
    ‘I am a famous Artist!’ he crowed.
    And I will be an Artist too , she thought, and her huge dark eyes gleamed like bright stars in the carriage evening.
     
    They spent the night at a rollicking inn outside Swindon: the best rooms, and roasted duck, and a bottle of French wine which Grace sipped gingerly. She lay awake for most of the night; around and around her head spun all the things that had happened since the foreigner knocked on the door of Mrs Falls that morning, mixing in her head with the unaccustomed wine and the light from the full moon that he had promised shining directly in at her window. She got up finally from the tall wide bed in the large room, so unlike the room at the top of Christmas Steps; she unrolled her precious drawings in charcoal: their father, their mother, their brothers, their sisters - all dead but Tobias, but caught in memory, there with her in the moonlight. But I will think how to leave a message in Bristol for Tobias, if Tobias comes back he must not be left alone. And a painting of Philip himself, the handsome brother she thought she had lost, and something there of the devil in his eye that she had always remembered. But - there was something else there now. Something different. A stone in his eyes. She

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