Does Virginia Gov. Mills E. Godwin wander through the halls of the State Capitol here, talking to the portraits of his predecessors?

Has a painting of Patrick Henry, the colonial patriot and the first governor of the independent state, faded recently?

Probably not. But those - curiously enough - are among the latest allegations in the state's campaign for governor being traded between Godwin and Democrat Henry E. Howell, who would like to succeed Godwin.

Godwin, who is supporting Republican gubernatorial nominee John N. Dalton, said in a letter to Howell, released today, that the portraits that line a balcony outside his third-floor Capitol office "have been communicating with me." A portrait of Patrick Henry in Godwin's office "seems to have turned pale," Godwin said, since Howell placed himself "on a par with Patrick Henry."

Howell earlier had complained that Godwin should stop "talking to the portraits" and worrying about whether Howell's picture might hang there one day. "However, Mills, if you feel that you can really communicate in some way with the portraits of the former governors, I want you to concentrate on Patrick Henry, for there are many people in Virginia who feel it is time for another Henry to be governor," Howell had said in a letter to Godwin on Monday.

Godwin himself had opened the issue suggesting in a Danville speech Friday that the distinguished Virginians who had served as the state's chief executive would be uncomfortable with Howell's portrait nearby.

Actually, Howell's portrait already hangs in the Capitol, in the second-floor Senate chamber where he presided over the 40-member body as lieutenant governor.

Godwin said he had checked the paintings of other lieutenant governors in the chamber and found "they are all studiously looking the other way (from Howell's painting) except for one stern-faced man "whose expression clearly reflects his feelings about the association."