Second after second, minute upon minute, day after day, year following year, she had been stuck here. Here, in the centre of the picture, watched over by Grumpy Moon.
She could see a quill pen, ink, parchment and a brush within reach just outside her round window. And she was not allowed to reach out to touch them. She could pick the grapes that grew on the vine around the window. But put her hand all the way outside? No, not even a finger length.
Grumpy Moon told her of many dire things that would happen if she dared. For a long time, she believed him. But for several nights now, she had seen others from the picture moving around. Some even dropped off and went away, out of sight, returning just before sun-up. And they were unharmed, happy, and chatting about all the thngs they saw.One had even come to borrow her candle!
She had found some time ago, that if she sang, Grumpy Moon would pull a cloud over his face and go to sleep. Did she dare? The one thing that worried her was his assertion that she would age if she stepped outside. She had never aged, didn't know exactly what that meant, but he told her that aging meant getting wrinkled and ugly. And she would lose her strength. But those who had gone were the same when they came back. Yet still she hesitated.
Then, one evening, a man in a top coat and hat came by, saw her, and stopped to stare. "You are most beautiful!" he exclaimed. "Would you honour me, and come exploring with me?"
"No!" shouted Grumpy Moon. "She is the Guardian, she is not allowed to leave her post! Go away!" and he scowled fiercly.
Morna Meredith held up her finger to her lips, telling the man to wait. Then she started to sing. Her song was beautiful, full of peace and love, and the sound of waves on the shore. Soon Grumpy's eyes closed, and he reached for a cloud. Five minutes later, he was snoring peacefully.
"Now, sir, if you will help me climb out, I would gladly go with you. Do you know what aging is? Moon said I will age, if I leave my post."
The man took her hand and helped her climb out. "Yes, I know about aging. It happens to all humans. It starts the day they are born, and goes on throughout their lives. Some live for many decades. The longer they live, the more likely they are to develop wrinkles, and lose strength. But for us in this picture, it doesn't happen. Perhaps, when we leave out places and wander, we may age a bit. A few minutes if we are only gone for and hour, or half an hour, if we are gone for the night. But it would take centuries, going out every night, before we showed any signs of aging."
"Oh, thank you. That eases my mind a lot. Now, I can enjoy my adventure. My name is Morna Meredith. What are you called?"
"I'm The Great Detective." he answered. "Do you have any place special to you? Or shall I take you to see some places I like?"
"I don't know what there is to see," she said. "Why don't you just show me around?"
He offered his arm, and she rested her hand on it. "We can start by visiting Comedy and Tragedy, the theatrical masks," he suggested. So off they went, exploring the picture.
Morna Meredith was entranced by the big butterfly, and very afraid of the dragon lying atop the big clock.
"Hello," said the clock." Don't worry about him. He won't hurt you. But do remember, you must be back in your place before the sun comes up."
They nodded, and promised to keep that in mind, and wandered
on. As they passed by the parrots,she heard the faint sounds of music.
"Oh, I hear music!" she gasped. "I do love music!"
"Then, my dear," said the detective," we shall go down and listen."
Down they went, and for a while they just stood listening. But soon he took her in his arms, and they started dancing. And so the night passed, bodies swaying to the rhythm, and she was happy.
But at last he said that they had to go. The sun would soon be rising. It wasn't long before he was helping her climb back through her window. She turned and smiled,and thanked him fo the lovely time she'd had. He replied that it had been his pleasure, and left.
She is beautiful, she is graceful, but no longer sad. Now she has wonderful memories of her great adventure.