The Gypsy Blessing
By Wendi Sotis
Summer 1810 ~ Hertfordshire, England
Elizabeth Bennet strolled into a clearing, spying a woman lying along the bank of a stream, in a most unnatural position—one arm twisted beneath her body and her face covered with mud. Throwing her sack over one shoulder, Elizabeth hoisted her skirts and rushed to the woman’s side. The woman’s breath came too quickly for sleep, though her eyes were closed.
“Miss? Are you well?” Elizabeth shook the woman’s shoulder, but she received no response. Blood pooled on the ground, prompting a more thorough examination of the lady’s condition. Straightening the woman’s arm, Elizabeth felt the bone, finding it to be sound. Further assessment revealed a lump the size of a goose egg at the back of her head and a red stain slowly spreading across the lower portion of her skirt.
“Please excuse me, madam, but I must do what I can to assist you,” Elizabeth murmured before she lifted the lady’s skirt, uncovering a nasty gash upon her calf.
Covering her patient with the blanket she had brought along to sit upon when she reached her destination, Elizabeth cared for the wounds. The bleeding now halted, she retrieved the healing herbs that the housekeeper always packed in her sack, knowing Elizabeth had a tendency towards collecting scratches and bruises during her rambles about the countryside. Wrapping the woman’s leg in the cloth that had been holding her mid-day meal, she moistened her handkerchief in the stream and washed the mud from her face, then wound the lady’s scarf around her head.
Even whilst treating these painful injuries, she has not awakened. I should go for help, but the nearest household is a half-hour’s walk. Elizabeth decided to stay a while longer to assess the situation further before seeking help.
Elizabeth looked about for a place to sit but saw nothing close by. Kneeling to help this lady, my gown is already ruined—adding a few grass stains will make any difference now. She sat on the grass, and her eyes wandered over her patient. Her style of dress is peculiar; perhaps she is a gypsy.
Although the lady was of middle age, she wore her long, dark hair loosely, unlike any female of her acquaintance. The long sleeves of her white blouse billowed around her arms and the tight blue vest worn over the blouse seemed to act as a corset. Her skirt, made of a sturdy brown material almost as coarse as sackcloth, was frayed about the hem, possibly due to the lady’s going barefoot.
To walk barefoot in the grass—how glorious that must feel! If Elizabeth had not serious business at hand, she would have removed her boots and stockings and tried it.
The woman moaned and brought her hand to her head.
“Oh, thank the good Lord you have awakened. I was so concerned for you. How are you feeling?”
The woman made no answer and rolled away from Elizabeth, pushing herself from the ground. She cried out in pain as the arm that was twisted earlier gave way.
Elizabeth moved quickly to assist her.
Startled by her sudden action, the woman pulled away from Elizabeth’s helping hands and fell to the ground.
Elizabeth gasped. “Did I frighten you?”
The woman sat up once again. Leaning her elbows on her knees, she took her head into her hands.
“I promise I will do you no harm, miss.” Elizabeth hesitated. “I tended your wounds before you awoke. You have suffered a cut on your leg and a nasty bump to the head.”
The gypsy looked up and stared at her in response.
Does she not understand English?
“Were you wearing a cloak? I found one downstream during my walk.”
The lady nodded. At least it indicated that she understood.
“I will fetch it. Wait for me here; I am afraid you may come to additional harm if you try to walk without assistance.” Elizabeth took a step away, then turned back, pointing at the blanket which was now discarded on the ground. “Please use my blanket, so you do not catch a chill.”
The woman wrapped the blanket around her shoulders and bowed her head in thanks.
Elizabeth rushed to the weeping beech tree where she had seen the cloak caught among the roots that jutted out of the stream. Upon her return to the lady’s side, she folded the cloak and placed it on the ground next to the lady, explaining, “I had hung it to dry, but it remains very wet.”
The gypsy nodded.
Elizabeth reached into her sack, removing the cup, bread, and cheese Mrs. Hill had packed for her luncheon. “Will you take nourishment to help you to gain some strength?”
The lady shook her head.
Elizabeth arched one brow and took a bite of each, then offered it to the lady again. This time, the gypsy took the food from Elizabeth’s hand.
Is it fear that I mean her harm or a sign of respect that causes her to behave in this manner?
Elizabeth filled the cup with cool water from the stream. This time, the lady took the offering without hesitation. When Elizabeth took a drink from the same cup after she had done so, the gypsy looked at her with wide eyes.
“Are your people nearby? May I help you home?”
The gypsy nodded.
Elizabeth stood close by and smiled when the lady managed to stand without assistance. As Elizabeth bent to retrieve her sack, the cloak, and the blanket, which had fallen to the ground when the gypsy stood, she heard a grunt. Turning, she found the lady was again on the ground.
“Ah, I see you are as stubborn as I! I would not like to remain idle if I believed I could do for myself either, but, in truth, I do not think you can manage alone.” Elizabeth moved slowly, holding out her hand to offer assistance.
The woman eyed her cautiously for a few moments and then nodded, taking advantage of the proffered aid. After rising, she attempted to walk alone but began to sway.
Elizabeth quickly took hold of the gypsy’s arms. “I fear the blow to your head must be making you dizzy. Please, allow me to assist you.”
While steadying the lady with one hand, Elizabeth reached down to retrieve their things, draping the blanket around the gypsy’s shoulders and handing the lady her cloak. “Truly, you have nothing to fear from me. I promise not to tell a soul where your camp is located.”
After a minute or two, the woman placed one arm around Elizabeth’s shoulders, and Elizabeth wrapped one of hers around the lady’s waist. The lady indicated the direction she wished to go.
A few minutes later, the woman asked, “Your name?”
Elizabeth smiled widely, happy she had won a small portion of the lady’s trust. “Elizabeth Bennet. And you?”
Elizabeth was curious about gypsies, but she did not wish to offend and kept her questions to herself as they made their way through the woods. Without warning, Simza began to whistle a melody resembling a birdsong, startling Elizabeth.
Several yards ahead, a dark-haired man of medium height stepped out from behind a tree. His blouse was similar to the gypsy lady’s, open at the neck, and he wore no neck cloth. Elizabeth hid her blush at his immodesty by lowering her head as she bobbed a slight curtsey. The man only eyed her with suspicion in return.
Simza spoke a few words in what must have been her native tongue, and the man’s apprehensiveness visibly decreased, waving Elizabeth away from her. Simza said a few more words in an authoritative tone, and the man ran off into the woods.
When the man was out of sight, Simza gestured that Elizabeth should sit beside her. “He gets Rom Baro, my man.”
“I look forward to meeting him!”
Simza began to hum a song. Intrigued by the tune, so different from any she had heard before, Elizabeth was content to sit and listen.
A few minutes later, the man returned with another, who spoke to Simza for a minute or two in their own language before he turned to Elizabeth. “Thank you for helping my wife, Miss Bennet. We are forever grateful.” He bowed.
Elizabeth noted he sounded much more comfortable speaking English than his wife. “There is nothing to thank me for, Mr. Baro. Of course, I could not leave Simza in her condition.”
He chuckled. “Rom baro means I’m the leader of our tribe, but you can call me Fonso. We know the general opinion of us, Miss Bennet—most would have run away from Simza in fright or disgust, no matter her injuries. Your assistance was… unique.”
He turned back to Simza, handed her a small satchel, and helped her to rise. Looking at Elizabeth, Simza uttered a few sentences in her own language and removed a pendant on a chain from the pouch, placing it over Elizabeth’s head.
Elizabeth took the necklace in her hand and gasped. A magnificent oval-shaped sapphire was surrounded by intricate, layered silver filigree. The overall shape of the outermost layer of filigree reminded her of a five-pointed star. The sapphire had a tiny dark mark in the centre. She was certain it was a flaw in the stone, but the odd placement of the stone—the oval was sideways—and spot made her think it looked a little like an eye.
Fonso told her, “I have given permission for my Simza to grant you a blessing for helping her. If you accept this gift, her blessing will bring you love and great happiness. The charm is for good luck.”
“Truly, you are much too generous.” She turned to Simza. “It is lovely, but perhaps you will need the charm yourself.”
Simza shook her head and said in an agitated tone, “No! Belongs Elizabeth Bennet.” She pronounced the name carefully, and then spoke in her own language to her husband.
“Simza has the gift of sight. She has been saving this for you for a long time.”
“For me?” Confusion made Elizabeth’s head spin.
Simza nodded and crossed her arms across her chest, indicating she would brook no resistance.
Would a refusal signify an insult to these people? Elizabeth tried to think of what she had with her that she could gift the woman in return, but there was nothing. A little embarrassed, she replied, “I thank you. As your cloak is still wet, please keep the blanket.”
Simza bowed her head in thanks. She spoke a few words to her husband.
Fonso said, “Simza says ‘A happy life it will be, Elizabeth Bennet—but you must believe.’”
Elizabeth made her goodbyes, and then Fonso himself escorted her the short distance to the main road. As she made her way home from there, she could not help but wonder what Simza meant by her odd statements.
May 30, 1811 ~ Longbourn Estate, Hertfordshire
“Happy Birthday, my Lizzy!”
Elizabeth had stopped on the first step of the stairs, and for once, Mr. Bennet did not have to stoop to kiss his daughter’s forehead. “Twenty years—it is hard to believe it has been that long since the day of your birth.” Mr. Bennet blinked a few times in rapid succession. “So much has changed in that time.”
“Thank you, Papa. Changes for the better, I hope?”
Mr. Bennet stared off at nothing and furrowed his brow just a bit. “Some are better, my dear.” He looked at her again and smiled. “You have changed much, and without a doubt, for the better…” his voice trailed off again. After another moment’s reflection, he seemed to remember where he was. “The post has arrived. I have a letter for you.”
Elizabeth took the missive from her father’s hand and turned it over. “I do not recognize the handwriting, and there is no return address. I wonder whom it is from.”
“There is only one sure way to find out. Open it!”
She chuckled, watching her father continue down the hall and enter his study. Her mother would want her to read the letter aloud if she joined her in the breakfast room. Instead, Elizabeth slipped it into the pocket of her gown and donned her pelisse and bonnet, wishing to take a walk before breaking her fast. When she arrived at one of her favourite locations on her father’s grounds, she sat on a tree stump and broke the seal on her letter.
The page now unfolded, she realized it was not a letter at all, but a drawing depicting her family settled around their dining table. In the centre of the table was a plate filled with marzipan, a treat she had enjoyed immensely whilst visiting her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in London the previous winter.
Aunt Madeline never told me that she could draw! She must have sent the recipe to Mama so that Mrs. Hill could serve it on my birthday. How thoughtful of her! Two gifts in one, she thought as she turned the page over to look at the direction. But, this is not her handwriting.
For the ladies of Longbourn, the day progressed much as any other Thursday, which meant returning calls to their neighbours, whenever the weather allowed. The last of their visits was usually to their closest neighbours at Lucas Lodge. Elizabeth always looked forward to that call with great pleasure—a visit with her intelligent, good-humoured friend Charlotte Lucas was always a welcome relief after being forced to listen to her mother discuss the same bits of gossip with one matron after another. Alas, today it would not be since the Lucas family was on holiday, visiting relatives in the North. They had been gone more than a month already, and Elizabeth found herself missing Charlotte more as every week passed.
Upon arriving home again, Mr. Bennet stepped into the hall and asked that Elizabeth join him in his study. “You are very popular today, Lizzy,” he said after she closed the door behind her and approached his desk. “You had another letter delivered in the afternoon post.” He handed her the missive. “This, too, has no return address.”
“It must be another from Aunt Madeline. She is making me feel quite guilty by sending me three letters before I have answered her first. I was going to ask you to post a letter from me today but felt I should acknowledge the drawing I received this morning, at least in postscript, and held it back. Now here is yet another letter. It is strange, though, Papa. See here—it is the same handwriting as the one from this morning, but it is not Aunt Gardiner’s.” Elizabeth handed him the letter.
“It is not your Uncle Edward’s hand either,” Mr. Bennet replied, returning it to her. “Perhaps Madeline had a servant write the direction.”
“But why? It could not be that she injured her hand or she would not have been able to draw so beautifully.”
“Beautifully?” He chuckled. “Then Madeline’s talents have improved quite drastically. When I last saw a drawing of hers, I felt the subject would have been more recognizable had she done it in stick figures! She must have retained an instructor.”
“I seem to remember you said something similar when you saw one of my drawings, Papa.” Not at all insulted as some ladies might be, Elizabeth laughed when he nodded. “It is a good thing my vanity did not lie in how well I perform in the arts, or I would be disappointed. Aunt Madeline is modest, to be sure, and she does enjoy attending museums and art displays, but I do not believe she has ever mentioned that she possessed a talent for drawing or painting. In fact, I can remember once she said she was not at all fond of those employments.”
Mr. Bennet nodded. “There are only two reasons I can think of that would cause her to have someone else address the letter. Either she had left it with her instructor to examine, and he posted it for her, or mayhap she had an accident after she finished making the drawing but before she wrote the direction.”
“Either is possible, I suppose, though I hope it to be the former. Maybe I will find out when I read her latest letter.”
A knock at the door interrupted their conversation. “Come!” Mr. Bennet called out.
Mrs. Hill entered and curtsied. “Beggin’ your pardon, sir, but the mistress asks that Miss Elizabeth attend her at once.”
“Thank you, Hill.” Mr. Bennet waited until the housekeeper left the room to speak again. “Did you not just spend most of the day with your mother?”
“Yes, but with the date of the assembly ball quickly approaching, upon our return home, we were to choose the ribbons and lace to be used to remake one of my gowns.”
Her mother’s voice could be heard faintly through the study’s thick wooden door, screeching, “Lizzy! Lizzy? Where is that girl?”
Mr. Bennet’s eyes widened. “Off with you now.”
Elizabeth pocketed her letter and left her father to himself.
Later that day, Elizabeth retreated to her room. After locking the door behind her, she leaned against it, and, closing her eyes, she sighed deeply. Between all of Mama’s fussing and criticizing, and Kitty and Lydia’s giggling and chattering, it would have been a miracle had I not developed a headache. At this moment, I think I am about as fond of lace as is my father.
Her hand brushed against the pocket of her skirt whilst removing her work apron, and she heard the distinctive crinkle of paper, reminding her of the letter she had received. Opening her letter, she found another drawing and examined it. Her sister Lydia stood alone, her face crimson, her fury displayed in her eyes to perfection. The most likely cause to the outburst was what looked to be a large wine stain across the front of her favourite gown.
Elizabeth shook her head. Why on Earth would Aunt Madeline send me this?
After the evening meal, Elizabeth sat down at the writing desk in the sitting room to add a postscript to the letter to her aunt:
My mother has told me of your kindness in forwarding the recipe for the dessert I enjoyed during my last visit to London. Thank you, dear aunt—it was delicious and relished by all! I pray that you will understand that if you should repeat to Mama or Mrs. Hill what I am about to say, I will deny it with considerable enthusiasm. However, you do have my permission to pass on to your cook my compliments by telling her today’s treat was not quite so tasty as it was at your house in January. I look forward to sampling hers again the next time I visit.
Now, Aunt, I must also thank you for the two drawings you have sent to me. From what I understand, this is a late-blooming accomplishment of yours, and I must say you have met with splendid success! These likenesses are so true to the originals, it is difficult to believe that you did not have them pose for you.
May 31, 1811
The following day, as Elizabeth’s sister Kitty was speaking to the family with ample animation, an odd awareness overtook Elizabeth’s senses, and she became exceptionally aware of what was happening around her.
Kitty’s speech sounded slurred, and Elizabeth looked up from her plate to find that all around her were moving rather slowly. Kitty’s arm extended, eventually striking Lydia’s wine glass and spilling the contents in the oddest manner. Lydia’s countenance changed gradually, and at the precise moment her face contorted into the exact expression depicted in the drawing, time seemed to stand still. After what felt like several heartbeats, all began to move slowly once again.
In a sluggish manner, Lydia screeched, her mother seemed to scold Kitty, and Kitty began to cry. Jane unhurriedly rose from her seat and moved halfway around the table before she looked across at Elizabeth. Jane’s expression changed to one of increased distress. Elizabeth blinked several times and all movement regained normal speed once again.
Over the din, Jane’s voice was laced with considerable concern when she asked, “Lizzy? What is wrong? Are you well?”
“I am not at all certain. I feel very strange.”
“You do look pale, Elizabeth. Why do you not retire early this evening?” her father leaned in and suggested quietly.
Elizabeth nodded and did as she was told.
June 1, 1811
After a sleepless night spent tossing and turning, Elizabeth left her bed before the sun rose, dressed herself, and made her way to the drawing room. Her hand shook as she placed her candleholder on the writing desk. So distracted was she that she came close to injuring herself with her penknife as she used it to mend a quill well enough to write another letter to her aunt.
My dear Aunt Madeline,
I am sorry to be the cause of additional expense by writing again so soon, but I am most perplexed. My mind is all in an uproar and will not be still until my curiosity is satisfied. I know that my sister is not the most graceful of ladies, but you must tell me—how did you know that Lydia would spill the wine on her dress?
Elizabeth placed her letter on the tray that lay on a table by the front door, where any servant would understand it should be posted immediately. After doing so, she felt well enough to take a walk in an attempt to clear her head, but her thoughts continued to dwell on the pictures.
Upon her return home, as she went to unfasten the tie at the neck of her pelisse, she froze, spying a letter on the table near the front door. She did not have to read the direction; the handwriting was distinctive and immediately recognizable, even from this distance.
Elizabeth startled when Mrs. Hill said, “Havin’ trouble, Miss Lizzy? Here, let me help with that.”
Mrs. Hill looked up from her duty when Elizabeth spoke, “Hill… my letter to Mrs. Gardiner is still here; the post has not come yet?”
“Why, no, ma’am, it hasn’t.”
“Then where did this letter come from?” Elizabeth barely touched the edge of the paper with her fingertip. “It is addressed to me.”
Mrs. Hill raised her eyebrows high upon her forehead. “The master must’ve had it on his desk and forgot to give it to ye yesterday, miss, and then put it here so ye’d see it first thing this mornin’.”
Elizabeth’s expression was thoughtful for several moments, and then she nodded. “That is as good an explanation as any.”
After completing her task of assisting Elizabeth, Mrs. Hill curtsied and seemed about to walk away when she stopped and asked, “Are ye sure ye’re well, miss? Ye look a bit peaked this mornin’, if you don’t mind me sayin’ so.”
Elizabeth looked away. “Actually, my stomach is unsettled at the moment. I doubt any food would sit well; perhaps I should remain in my room this morning. Will you inform my father, please?”
When she felt Mrs. Hill had progressed far enough down the hallway not to notice, Elizabeth snatched up the letter and headed directly up the stairs.
Why would father give me two letters and keep this one from me? Elizabeth pondered the question before turning the letter over to examine it for what must have been the tenth time. This letter was thicker than the other two. She had never received a letter containing more than one sheet of paper, but she was certain this one would hold at least three. It does not make sense. Hill would have known if the post arrived this morning—she holds the household cash that usually pays for such things. But if not the post, from where could this have come? Had there been an urgent need, perhaps Aunt would use a private messenger to send a letter to my father, but not to me.
Finally working up the nerve to break the seal, she did so. Like before, it contained not one written word, but this time there were three drawings.
The first was of the Lucas family coach arriving at Lucas Lodge.
But they are visiting relatives in the North and will not return for another month complete.
The second showed a drawing of a plant that Elizabeth had seen growing on her father’s property during her rambles.
What could be the meaning of sending me this?
The third shocked her completely. Mrs. Bennet was sitting sprawl-legged on the ground, covered in mud!
Stranger and stranger still. I will be impatient to hear from Aunt Madeline again.
During their mid-day meal, a great deal of noise erupted from the direction of the front hall. Mrs. Hill entered the dining parlor and crossed the room to speak to Mr. Bennet. “Sir, Mr. Jones is here—”
Mrs. Bennet interrupted, “Tell him that he must wait, Hill.”
“Yes’m, I did, but he says it’s urgent he speaks to Miss Elizabeth right away.”
Mr. Bennet looked at Elizabeth. “To Lizzy? Whatever for?”
His daughter only shrugged her shoulders slightly.
“He didn’t say, sir,” Mrs. Hill answered.
“Well, Lizzy, let us find out what the apothecary might need from you.” Mr. Bennet rose from the table and moved to help Elizabeth with her chair.
“If you ask me, it is very rude to show up uninvited in the middle of our meal and break up our family party!” Mrs. Bennet commented.
Mr. Bennet responded, “My dear, you know that Jones would not do such a thing unless it was particularly important. Come, Lizzy.”
A few moments later, Mr. Bennet approached Mr. Jones with his hand extended in greeting. “Mrs. Hill says you need to speak to my daughter?”
“Good day, Mr. Bennet. Yes, the Lucas family has returned home early from their visit to the North due to Miss Lucas coming down with a host of alarming complaints. The family was turned out of their relatives’ home due to a midwife, of all people, saying that she has the plague.” He shook his head. “It is not the plague—not even close to it—and after travelling so far, she is particularly unwell. I require the nectars from the roots of a certain plant to help her. It is rarely used, and I have found that my stock is tainted. Miss Charlotte’s life depends upon finding more. I was hoping that since you are so fond of nature, Miss Elizabeth, you might have seen the plant growing somewhere nearby.”
“Of course, Mr. Jones. I would do anything to help Charlotte. Can you describe the plant in detail?” Elizabeth braced herself, suspecting that she already knew exactly what it looked like from the drawing her aunt had sent her.
“I can do better than that!” Mr. Jones exclaimed, reaching into his pocket, and retrieving a piece of paper that he immediately unfolded. “I tore this page from one of my books so there would be no mistake.”
Mr. Jones’s handing her the page seemed to take an extraordinarily long time. She swallowed hard—it was happening again, just as it had in the dining room with Lydia’s gown and the wine stain. What confused her most was that when she reached out to take the page from Mr. Jones, her hand moved slowly, as well. Was her mind working extremely quickly? She looked down at the page.
It is the same drawing that Aunt Madeline sent me.
As her eyes moved away from the page to Mr. Jones, his movements became normal in speed. Elizabeth reached out and leaned on her father’s arm.
Mr. Bennet supported his daughter. “Elizabeth, are you well? You have become so pale.”
Mr. Jones said, “I am very sorry to have shocked you with such serious news about your friend, but it is absolutely necessary that you tell me if you have seen this plant.”
Elizabeth straightened her back as she released her father’s arm. Clearing her throat, she stated firmly, “I know where this plant grows aplenty. Give me a moment to retrieve my pelisse and bonnet from above stairs, and I will lead you there at once.” Elizabeth hurried to her room.
I am glad I went out again directly after receiving the drawing to find the plant!
“I will come along, as well.” Mr. Bennet turned away and called out, “Hill? Ah, there you are. Inform Mrs. Bennet that Lizzy and I will be going with Mr. Jones. We shall return as soon as is possible.”
After leading Mr. Jones to the patch of plants where she helped him gather what he needed to tend Charlotte, she and her father had returned to Longbourn only to deal with Mrs. Bennet’s anger at their leaving during their meal. Her father quitted the drawing room soon after, saying that he should not be disturbed for the remainder of the afternoon—unless there was news of Charlotte. Elizabeth was left to explain.
“Well, well! Most likely Lady Lucas has told Charlotte to pretend to be ill to gain sympathy at being turned out of their relatives’ home,” Mrs. Bennet declared.
Amidst her two youngest sisters’ giggling, Jane sat dumfounded by their mother’s comment.
Elizabeth spoke up, “Mama, Mr. Jones would not have been so concerned about Charlotte had there not been such a serious illness.”
Mrs. Bennet would not hear her argument, and Elizabeth excused herself to her room with yet another headache.
Elizabeth closed her chamber door and leaned heavily against it, closing her eyes. A feeling of having done this before came over her, and momentarily she feared that the same phenomena were happening again, even though she had received no drawing of this scene. She sighed when she realized she actually had acted in a similar manner the previous day. This had been a difficult day so far, and it was not over yet.
When she moved her hand, the sound of the crinkling of paper in her pocket once again brought back the feeling of having done this before. Elizabeth’s eyes snapped open. She took out the page that Mr. Jones had given her, and rushed across the room to where the drawings were kept. Once the ribbon that was tied around the increasing stack was loosened, she unfolded both depictions of the herb to compare the two.
They were identical in every way, other than the paper. She could see the drawing she had received by post was on sketch paper whilst the other was a different quality and thickness—clearly a page from a book, as Mr. Jones had indicated. Had her aunt traced the plant from a duplicate book her uncle had on a shelf at Gracechurch Street?
Elizabeth stared at the first drawing that had been in this lot: the Lucas family’s return home.
All these sketches were high quality; the artist must have taken quite a bit of time to accomplish the task, and the drawing must have been begun long before the Lucas family had returned home. How did her aunt know Charlotte would be ill and require the aid of that particular herb? How did she draw so many details of the Lucases’ coach and house without setting up a stool on the drive to make the sketch? As far as she could remember, Aunt Madeline had not been to Lucas Lodge more than twice. Could she have that detailed a memory?
Elizabeth held her head between her hands. The endless string of questions running through her mind and no way of finding immediate answers made her head ache further. She placed the drawings on her dressing table and lay down to rest her eyes, but she could not sleep.
An hour later, Elizabeth slipped down the stairs unnoticed and made her way to the writing table in the sitting room to write a short letter.
Dear Aunt Madeline,
Your drawings are beautiful, but I must ask—no, I must beg you—please, do not send any others!
She wrote the direction on the outside and placed the note with her father’s outgoing mail. Not long after returning to her room, Elizabeth was fast asleep.
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