Authors: Wendi Sotis
I am afraid this must be a short letter, Lizzy, but I wished to answer yours quickly so that I could relieve you of a falsehood you are living under. I do not know why you thought I sent you a drawing, but I assure you, I did not. I gave up on ever developing the skill necessary for that accomplishment long ago—soon after meeting your uncle, in fact. Your father must remember that my abilities were sorely lacking, for he teases me on this count whenever the subject presents itself. You may ask his opinion if you think I am simply being modest.
I will write again soon, my dear.
It was obvious to Elizabeth that this was in answer to her first letter to her aunt. She had to read over the second paragraph several times before she could comprehend its full meaning.
If it is not Aunt Madeline sending me the drawings, then who is?
She crossed to her dressing table and opened the drawer, removing all the drawings she had received thus far. Examining each closely, she realized for the first time that the artist had not signed them, which was strange in itself; that each one prophesized something that
occur was overwhelming.
Can this actually be happening? Perhaps I have gone mad! If so, have I been making these drawings myself after the fact and only imagine receiving them before these events transpired?
But, no... being an admirer of drawing and painting, she had made several attempts through the years at both. Whilst she had made some improvements over time, she never had any talent for either. She could never draw
Suddenly feeling extremely tired, Elizabeth refolded the pages and tied the ribbon, then placed them in the drawer, closing it quite forcefully. Once upon the bed, she closed her eyes, but her mind was so full, she could not rest.
Shall I tell father that I am receiving letters from an unknown person? The impropriety of the situation is clear.
It would not serve to worry him unnecessarily. After all, the drawings were not harmful in any way. If he became alarmed and wished to see them, her madness might be somehow proven.
No, I cannot tell him! After hearing stories about the madhouse, I would rather throw propriety to the wind than to risk being sent there. But have not I already shown him one of the drawings?
After thinking on it, she realized,
had shown him only the handwriting on the outside, which he confirmed was not that of my uncle, either.
She had once read about the method that some used to “predict” the future to those who would buy their services. They told naive people of occurrences that would eventually happen to everybody. True, her family gathered around the dining table was an event that could be predicted accurately by anyone, and perhaps she was only assuming the plate on the table was filled with marzipan. However, Lydia spilling wine on her favourite gown, Charlotte requiring an antidote for poison, and her mother sitting on the ground covered with mud with a broken wheel beside her were
events that were inevitable.
Should I stop opening the letters?
Elizabeth shook her head.
Charlotte would be dead if I had not opened that particular drawing of the plant—Mr. Jones said so, in his own way.
Maybe these sheets of paper are blank and, in a state of lunacy, I am only imagining the drawings?
After spending some time contemplating the last, Elizabeth decided that she would write in her journal the details of what she saw in any further drawings that she should receive and how they made her feel—including anything that entered her mind as she looked at them, even if the thought seemed disconnected from the event represented there.
If the happenings I see there do come to pass, I will have proven to myself that the pages are not blank.
Either that or they
blank, and, along with madness, I have acquired the ability to predict the future accurately!
June 13, 1811
Always having been someone who looked forward to keeping up correspondence with a number of people, Elizabeth found it odd when, over several days, she felt a wave of tranquility pass over her whenever the post arrived and there was nothing for her—until the morning that Jane received a letter from their Aunt Gardiner. Although Jane had been discreet in her surveillance, and nobody else seemed to detect it, Elizabeth herself could not help but notice
that Jane had been looking in her direction more often than usual, her customary serene countenance marred by a slightly odd expression. Elizabeth was torn between relief that Jane had not had an opportunity to discuss what she had read and curiosity about what Aunt Gardiner could have told her.
The afternoon post arrived. Elizabeth received a letter bearing the handwriting she had come to recognize as that of the artist—whomever that may be. Elizabeth excused herself to her room. Upon breaking the seal, she was not surprised to find another drawing, but she
stunned that it did not show anyone that she knew. Instead, she found an illustration of a remarkably handsome man whom she did not recognize. Noting that it was more like a portrait, she thought it seemed unfinished without any background. By the cut of his clothing, she could tell that he was a gentleman, and the quality of the buttons on his coat indicated that he must be quite wealthy.
Is this gentleman sending me the drawings?
Feelings and opinions came unbidden, and she found it difficult to look away. Instinctively, she knew he was intelligent, kind, and generous. A sensation welled up within her to the point where it was almost overwhelming. She gasped.
I love him—with all of my heart and soul, I love this man, on whom I have never before laid eyes!
Her eyes filled with tears.
I do not understand.
How can this be?
A knock sounded at the door, and Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut, spilling her tears so that she could blot them from her cheeks.
“Just a moment, please,” she called out. Reluctantly folding and placing this illustration in with the others, she closed the drawer and then opened the door.
Elizabeth smiled. “Jane—come in.”
Still plagued by a half-probing, half-worried expression, Jane entered. Elizabeth closed the door.
“Lizzy, I must speak with you.”
Elizabeth hid her dread by busying herself with smoothing the wrinkles from the covering of her bed and settling herself upon it. “I can tell that something is bothering you, Jane. Will you tell me what it is?” She patted the bed near her, and Jane sat on the edge.
“Aunt Madeline is concerned about you, Lizzy. It seems she has received several notes from you concerning drawings that you have been receiving by post.” The last came out as if it were a question.
“Yes, it is as I thought.” Elizabeth sighed, furrowing her brow.
Jane will not judge me harshly. She will not betray my secret.
Elizabeth rose and removed from the drawer a folded stack of paper tied with ribbon, leaving behind the sketch she had received today. Elizabeth turned towards her sister, and, handing the pile to Jane, she said, “I thought they were from Aunt Madeline, but she wrote to say that she did not send them to me.”
Jane placed the stack on the bed and took up one of the ends of the ribbon, looking up at her younger sister first for permission to open it. Elizabeth nodded, and Jane proceeded to unfold each one and examine it before moving on to the next. Elizabeth’s heart hammered against her ribs as she waited to hear her sister’s pronouncement.
After several minutes, Jane observed, “It must be someone who knows us well. Some of these moments are fairly private.”
Elizabeth let out the breath she had been holding and then smiled widely. “Jane! Tell me that you see something on those pages!”
“Why, yes, of course,” Jane answered, and then asked, “Did you doubt they existed?”
Elizabeth sat cross-legged across from Jane. “I was almost convinced that I was going mad!”
“But why, Lizzy?”
“I received the drawings
those events took place!”
Jane opened her eyes wide. “I do not understand.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “Neither do I! I receive each drawing, and then eventually it happens. It is not as if I
them to happen... they just
Jane looked down at the pages once again. “Lydia’s wine stain could have been caused by you, but I plainly remember that you had nothing to do with it. The others... no, you could not have caused these to happen, Lizzy.” She was silent for a minute before saying, “Are you
that you receive them
“Yes, I am quite certain.”
Still examining the drawings, Jane said, “Whoever is sending them is talented. They have caught our family’s and friends’ likenesses remarkably well. The only person who would know about all these things and has any particular talent towards drawing is Kitty.”
“I, too, had thought that, but as we both well know, Kitty is influenced too much by Lydia, and Lydia does not think much of that particular accomplishment. I had wondered if Kitty had been practicing but keeping it a secret so that Lydia would not tease her—but why would she send them through the post to me? How would she know about Charlotte being poisoned in the North, and which herb would be the only curative? Or that Mr. Jones’s gig wheel would break?” She shook her head and turned one of the drawings over, pointing at the address. “This is not her handwriting. It cannot be Kitty.”
“I do not recognize this hand at all.” Jane’s beautiful brow wrinkled into a frown. “It is all a bit frightening.”
“Yes, I agree. There must be a reason that, of all people,
was chosen to receive these.” Elizabeth looked through the drawings and held one up. “This picture of the plant for what ailed Charlotte did save her life. It caused me to seek out exactly where it could be found
Mr. Jones asked about it. When it was needed, I was well-prepared with an answer to his query—although I must admit I almost fainted when he showed me the picture from his book.” Elizabeth chuckled, but Jane was not amused.
Jane took her sister’s hand and squeezed it. “Lizzy, you treat this lightly, but this must have been difficult for you to manage alone.” She hesitated a moment. “Can you change what will happen in the drawing?”
Elizabeth blinked several times in quick succession. “I do not know. I had not truly believed that this was real, and so I had not thought about it before in that way. I guess I can try it to find out, but we will have to wait until I receive another drawing.”
“You did not receive one today?”
“I did, and I am not certain what it means. If I
prevent these events from happening, I do not think I would like to prevent this one.” Elizabeth blushed.
“Will you show it to me?”
Elizabeth hesitated a moment and then retrieved the drawing.
“Is this the person sending the drawings?” Jane asked.
“I do not know, but I must admit that I have very strong feelings when I look at this.”
Jane giggled. “He
A slow smile spread across Elizabeth’s face. “I agree, but it is more than that. I feel as if I
him. I cannot explain it.” Her smile faded. “Jane, this entire affair has been weighing heavily on me. I cannot tell you how much better I feel for having shared this with you. I fear that telling anyone else... well, I think their responses would have made me feel silly.”
“You are welcome, Lizzy. You do know you can tell me anything?” When Elizabeth nodded, she continued, “You
share the next with me as soon as it arrives?”
“I promise that I will.”
As Jane made ready to leave, Elizabeth said, “Before you go, will you tell me just what Aunt Madeline said to cause you such concern?”
Jane blushed. “She said that you sounded a bit hysterical in your last letter, and she was hoping that you had not inherited Mama’s nerves.”