Suddenly all is clear. The filthy wretches! I understand now. It is unbelievable. The magnitude of their villainy leaves me aghast. I discovered the truth today. Victor Darius is nothing but a swindler, a confidence trickster. There was his name, right in the article. They called him “the London expert, renowned for his skill in detecting the spurious.” Renowned for his infamy would be more exact. What a spider the man is! He has woven a web of such intricacy that I cannot see the beginning or even imagine the end, but I am truly snared in its glittering filaments. What fantastic knavery.
It was all in this magazine. I have gotten into the habit of looking at the magazines on the newsstands because of the poisoning stories they have lately carried. Today, when I glanced at the display, I was staggered by what met my eyes. I have gone completely insane, I thought. There, on the cover of the most successful weekly in the country, was my painting of Lisabeta! I nearly fell to the sidewalk. It can’t be, I thought. But it was.
This English gangster, this British brigand, has passed off my picture as an original Leonardo! Yes, it’s what he’s done. My Lisabeta of Maine is now the grand Lucrezia Crivelli of fifteenth-century Milan. There is no shortage of fools in this world, that is certain.
I must calm myself. It will do no good to lose my mind. I am so filled with rage that I could explode into a million pieces. But I must hold myself in. Restraint, will power, discipline and, above all, lucid thinking — that is what is needed. But oh, those thieves — the two of them, in it together. I’ll get them both. I will crush them; I will granulate them. But no. I must be calm. Calm and canny.
Here is the article with a dozen photographs. The lovely Lisabeta is here before me, just as I did her — the hand before her breast, the inclination of her glance, that transcendent jaw. A Leonardo, they have proclaimed it. Why, the portrait is scarcely five years old. Are they all mad?
Faber isn’t home. He’s giving a lecture in Albany but he’ll be back tomorrow. I must contain myself. I haven’t eaten anything and my hands tremble like those of a palsied old man. I must compose myself. I will take two of those pills tonight, otherwise I’ll get no sleep.
What scorpions! Is it possible? I must regain my self-possession.
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