I came into being along with the concept of A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words. I was Westerleigh’s support outside the Hartford family. Someone who wasn’t detatched from his idol, yet could see her with clearer eyes than ‘Leigh. I’d see this obsession before, in the journals left behind by my ancestor Judith Cross, the artist who painted Elizabeth Hartford’s painting. Judith was closer to Elizabeth than anyone, her lover and confidant. Elizabeth broke her heart, leaving Judith herself a broken woman. Perhaps whatever is left of Elizabeth can smell Judith’s blood in me. That’s why her undead corpse lingers around the window at night, even if Elizabeth’s soul is bound to her painting. I wonder if that soul isn’t also bound to ‘Leigh, that ‘Leigh welcomed a sinister ghost into her heart and soul, one that’s feeding on ‘Leigh’s love, his very life force. The object of ‘Leigh’s obsession is a danger to both of us. A danger we must fight. I’d burn Elizabeth’s portrait, but I fear I’d burn Westerleigh’s soul along with it. Nor am I sure that this would stop Elizabeth Hartford’s walking corpse. Pray that ‘Leigh and I will find a way to stop her in A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words. Pray that ‘Leigh will want to stop her.
For every portrait of legend, there is a pair of worshipful eyes drinking in the legend, taking into their hearts and mind, giving it new life.
Our scribbler has always been fasciated by movies, books, or TV series where a portait has mesmerized its viewers. When the mesmerization becomes the plot of the story, giving the portrait life, sometimes in an unearthly fashion. She herself wanted to write such a story. Only she didn’t want it to be a romance so much as an idealization, a veneration for the portrait’s subject. She has venerated many a person over the years, only to be disappointed herself.
Perhaps I’m an expression of that idealization and disappointment. Perhaps our scribbler is channeling some of those feelings into me in A Portrait is Worth a Thousand Words, making them a major part of a ghost story and a gothic vampire tale. I was originally going to be a gothic heroine, worshipping my idol, my ancestor Elizabeth Hartford, the subject of the portrait I’m mesmerized by. Only I evolved into a cross-dressing boy, pretending to be a long-lost Hartford heiress so Fiona will let me into Hartford Hall. Mine is an unveiling where Elizabeth’s spirt and I gradually reveal the truth to each other.
Will we ever forgive each other for our deceptions? Especially when Elizabeth’s bloodthirsty corpse has risen from her grave without her spirit to stalk the one person dearest to me?
Our scribbler finished a short version of A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words, but it didn’t tell the whole story. Not the story we were trying tell. I keep hoping our scribbler will steal the time to expand it, finding opportunities to flesh out the feelings waiting to be released inside us both. Pray that she will.
Once upon a time there was a picture of a composed and elegant woman in a roleplaying game sourebook. Her name was Fiona.
Our scribbler saw this image. It almost cast a spell upon her imagination, mingling with other impressions of portraits she’d seen in castles and manors in Europe. All of these elements bubbled in the cauldron of her imagination, coming together in the Work in Progess A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words.
Needless to say it wasn’t my concept. No, my dead mistress and a ghost of an ancestor, Elizabeth Hartford got to be the elegant woman in the portrait on my family estate’s wall, luring other descendents to their doom.
No, I got to be the crazy caretaker of the haunted house. The woman who wears a white labcoat, but is no scientist. Why not? I find them comfortable, white labt coats. Plus I can just bleach them if they get stained. Everyone gets scared when they see me in that coat with my messed-up tangle of red hair, and my mad eyes. All right, almost everybody. They don’t scare my dead mistress, more’s the pity.
What was I saying? Ah, yes, my conception. I’m the heir to Hartford House, although I’m really just waiting for the rightful heir. My mistress’s chosen vessel. Don’t ask me what that means. The less I know about what Lady Elizabeth Hartford wants, the happier I am.
I’m relieved to be a disappointment, really. I wouldn’t want to to be worthy of my mistress’s dreams for the future. They make me shudder. You might say I’m a natural outgrowth of A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words’s theme of disillusioned dreams, of fallen idols and ideals. They’re part of our ghost story, why the ghost of Elizabeth Harford cannot rest. Why she’s not letting her descendents rest of either. It’s not like this ghost isn’t quite tiresome when she isn’t terrifying with all her demands after death. I’m living proof of this.
Maybe our scribbler is acknowledging the pitfalls awaiting her for attaching such expectations of the name Elizabeth and redheads who remind her in some way of Elizabeth I, along with redheaded matriarchal dynasties. Maybe she’s trying to humanize her ideals through us, the Hartfords. I don’t fully understand the scribbler’s motivations. It’s exhausting enough trying to figure out my mistress’s, let alone my own. You try it sometime.
Elizabeth is a name the scribbler associates with grandeur and why wouldn’t she? It was the name of a queen who became as much a myth and legend as a powerful part of history, creating a revolutionary part of herstory.
Of course it is my name.
Of course the scribbler gave this name only to characters of some splendor even if they were monsters. Any concept she thought of as Elizabeth, even in roleplaying game required some stature. It’s a name associated with greatness, someone who has an impressive estate. It’s the name of someone whose portrait you cannot walk by without being mesmerized by her eyes. It’s a name which inspired awe.
Thus the concept of A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words. It’s all about me. The story idea was born at the same time I was.
Some people cower before greatness. The scribbler is one. Perhaps that’s why she trembles at finishing my story. Why shouldn’t someone great make great mistakes? My misteps match my stature in all things.
The scribbler should take heed of this. She will not be able to ignore my story. Greatness cannot be ignored. Nor will it be denied.