The Portrait of Demise

Beitragsbild: © Jan Mateboer auf Pixabay

von Katherina S.

Years ago, a small family lived in a cottage near a small village in the north of Glasgow. The children of the nice farmer couple grew up in poverty, until one special day. Mama and Papa farmer had five children: three sons and two daughters. However, the youngest daughter Cassandra, had a very special skill. Cassandra was once cursed by a witch, and everything she drew and painted on paper or canvas grew to be something else, something beyond reality and fiction, something beyond life and death, something the other children of the village should have been afraid of. Yet, Cassandra had an undeniable talent for sketching the fine lines of her elder sister’s face. Florence, Cassandra’s nineteen-year-old sister, was to be wed to a Mr. Harrington in early spring, although as the two had never seen each other before Mr. Harrington commissioned a portrait of Florence’s beauty. Due to the poverty of the farmer family, none of the parents could afford an actual painter to do the work. Young Cassandra, as the most inspiring and creative member of the poor family had an idea that would once change the events of a cold winter night.

As the firewood was cracking in the old fireplace, illuminating the small and dark living room of the cottage, Cassandra sat at the old wooden desk on her small chair, sketching the outlines of the pale and heart shaped face of her sister – drawing the long and pointed nose, the full red lips, the big green eyes, and the sharp cheekbones of her older sister with a precision only an old and well-trained artist could bring to paper. It was indeed a talent that could have brought Cassandra riches and fortune in her later life if the witch had not cursed her years before she had even been born. Florence turned her slim head from time to time, to give her sister a better look at her fragile feminine features.

Hours and hours passed as little Cassandra drew the lines of her slender sister’s silhouette among her long raven hair with a small burned wooden piece on a sheet of paper, which the family had bought days ago at the weekly market. When the sun was about to rise again in the early morning hours and introduce another day of work and misfortune to the small village, little Cassandra set her makeshift pen aside and exhaled loudly.

Florence turned toward her sister and asked, “And my little one? How does it look?” For Florence, this was about more than a simple drawing from the sister, this was about the acceptance of her future husband and the fortune of the whole family. Mr. Harrington was not considered particularly wealthy, nevertheless, he had an exceeding amount of assets compared to the poor farmer family. With the money, Florence could support her family and perhaps even grant Cassandra a future of great riches and a glorious reputation.

The little sister took another look upon her work of art before she handed it over to Florence, who studied the lines of the dark pencil for a few minutes, tracing them with her slim and alabaster fingers before handing it back to Cassandra. “It’s a masterpiece, my dear, Mr. Harrington will love it!” Florence told her sister in a ray of joy, before dancing through the fairly lit room whistling an old song, traditionally sang by the other farmers.

The father built a frame with the help and support of his youngest son, crafting the dark wood of a walnut tree into a handmade picture frame, decorated with engraved flowers and roses. As the portrait was finished and safely protected by the beautifully carved frame, they wrapped it in a small package for Mr. Harrington to enjoy the elegance and beauty of his future wife.

The portrait was sent away with the mail, starting a journey through the mountains of Scotland, until it finally arrived at the red entrance door of Mr. Harrington’s townhouse in Dundee. Anticipation mirroring in the young man’s features, he carefully opened the package, letting his elongated fingers glide around the engraved flowers until they reached the soft and yet sharp lines of Florence’s face, tracing them along until he found himself touching the exquisite woodwork again. He hung the portrait of his future wife right over the fireplace, which was keeping his living room warm on such a cold winter evening.

Monday, nearly a week after Mr. Harrington had received the exceptional handywork of young Cassandra, a fateful letter found its way to Florence’s family, informing them about the early passing of the only twenty-year-old Mr. Harrington. Florence was devasted when she read the letter over and over again, her future destroyed in only a few days, leaving her with no perspective or opportunity to marry wealthy and grant her family and herself a better life. Tears streamed down her face, yet this would not be the last misfortune coming to Great Britain.

As Mr. Harrington had no children or family his assets were auctioned and the portrait, capturing young Florence’s beauty, left Dundee to hang in the office of a rich magistrate in Birmingham. The magistrate and his wife loved the sharp lines and pictured the youth of the model up until their house burned down due to an accident on a cold night in February. With the Mr. Magistrate and his Mrs. Magistrate now dead their only son inherited the remains of his parents’ fortune. Nothing remained of the burned down house, other than a few bricks and surprisingly the drawing of Florence.

The son of the magistrate didn’t pass away automatically after receiving the drawing – he lived for more than twenty years until he caught tuberculosis at the end of the 18th century. After his demise, his granddaughter, Marie de Matière, born to a French noble woman, was left with the drawing.

And that’s how I, Marie de Matière, came in possession of this supposedly cursed witchery. At least that was what they all told me, that the curse of little Cassandra would eventually get to me, not only taking my life but the life of all my loved ones as well. Yet being the careless adventurer I am, I do not think that the worth of this story is any less than my life.

So, as I go to sleep tonight, we will see whether I meet the dawn of the day tomorrow or the darkness will surround my closed eyelids in peace and everlasting silence. Should I find death on this cold night, I do not want for this story to remain a secret. The world needs to hear about the portrait of demise.

Friday, 09th of January 1798
We are saddened to report the early death of the young and talented author Ms. de Matière. Thus, we will publish her last and latest work in our next issue this Wednesday to remember her art.
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