The following morning, after the food had been cleared from the breakfast table and Mrs. Bennet ordered the school things brought out for the little ones, Jane, Elizabeth, and Kate made their way to Mr. Bennet’s library. He had been asked by the steward to pay a call on a tenant, and so the girls occupied themselves in his absence.
“Did any of you suspect we were witches or that they even existed?” Jane asked.
Elizabeth vehemently shook her head. “No, never! I am not known for a sweet temper, but I had never guessed that I was secretly a pyrotechnic!”
Kate chewed her lip. “I had forgotten entirely about the dreams I used to have until yesterday. In fact, I haven’t dreamt at all in years until last night. I suppose that is why it seemed so unusual to me.”
Elizabeth surveyed her sisters. Like her, Jane seemed to feel no apprehension about their new powers, but Kate appeared less content. Elizabeth wondered if Jane could use her empath powers on Kate. Jane had always been very conscientious of the feelings of others. Perhaps she had retained a bit of her powers all these years. Elizabeth gasped at a sudden memory. “Jane, do you remember that time when Lydia took my ribbon and would not give it back? I singed her hair when I ripped it out of her braid and Mother scolded me like never before.”
Jane laughed. “Now that you mention it, I do. What about when my favorite barn cat disappeared for days, and I was inconsolable? I cried so much I made myself sick!”
Elizabeth smiled. “Then the dratted thing turned up a few days later with six kittens?”
“I named them “happy” in different languages.”
Kate’s eyes grew wide. “How old were you?”
“Seven or eight?” Jane glanced at Elizabeth, who nodded, for confirmation. “Tell us a story, Kate.”
Elizabeth smiled at Jane’s thoughtfulness and hoped it might make Kate feel more at ease. Elizabeth and Jane had immediately accepted Kate, and all the others, into their family but in the last few months, their relationship with Kate had changed. She always wished to tag after them, but being nearly four years younger than Elizabeth, was not in company until only a few weeks ago. Now, it was difficult for Elizabeth to see Kate as a young woman and not as a child. No matter the differences in their ages, it seemed like now there were constant reminders that Kate was a step-sister and not blood. She was now formally “Miss Morland” rather than “Miss Catherine” when in public.
Kate screwed up her face as though she was trying very hard to remember something…anything. “Besides the dreams I told you about last night, I always knew when my brother James would prank us on April Fool Day.”
Elizabeth exchanged glances with Jane. For as long as she had known James he could never keep a secret. He would drop hints about his plans, and in the end, only a true fool would be left unaware.
“Lizzy!” Jane scolded although Elizabeth had said nothing.
Elizabeth tried to look apologetic as she realized Jane must have sensed her thoughts. However, she would not apologize for the truth. Besides, she felt proud of her sister’s abilities and could not hide an expression of pride.
“What?” Kate looked between the two.
“Nothing,” Elizabeth said too quickly, and Kate raised her eyebrows expectantly. “I had a sarcastic thought — but did not say it — and Jane must have sensed it. Well done, Jane!” Lizzy beamed.
“I hardly see why you need to be so excited over being sarcastic at my expense,” Kate frowned.
“Don’t be silly!” Elizabeth said. “I’m happy to see how quickly Jane is learning to use her powers. At least you two can practice and learn without potentially harming someone. I hope Father returns soon so he might begin teaching me.”
Jane nodded. “Let us forget about magic for a few minutes. What did you think of the ball?”
Inwardly, Elizabeth smiled as Jane was once again the peacemaker. Kate immediately filled with nervous fluttering like a butterfly. The blush on her cheeks confirmed what Elizabeth guessed. Catherine was infatuated with her dance partner from the night before. Elizabeth wished the blush she felt rise in her was from such pleasant thoughts. As thunderous thoughts filled her mind, her skin grew hot.
“Lizzy!” Jane quickly grabbed wine from her father’s cabinet and thrust a glass into her sister’s hand. “Lizzy, calm yourself.”
Steam rose from the glass as Elizabeth brought the drink to her lips.
“That’s it,” Jane encouraged another sip. “Now take a deep breath.”
“Thank you,” Elizabeth said, her voice shaking. “I did not expect… I didn’t know how to stop it,” she said quietly.
“Kate,” Jane said in a voice that was higher than normal. “Tell us about Mr. Henry Tilney. I did not speak with him last night, but I saw you two dancing.”
“I do not quite know what to think of him.”
“He’s very handsome,” Elizabeth said still more subdued than usual.
“He is,” Kate beamed.
“And I thought I saw you laughing?” Jane asked.
Kate giggled and then pressed her hand to her lips in an attempt to muffle the unladylike reaction. “We were having a genuine conversation, and he interrupted it for silly nonsense about if I like music and the theater. Things like that.”
Skepticism flared in Elizabeth, and hot tingles returned. “Does he think that such things are nonsense—”
“It was the way he said things,” Kate spoke over her sister. “The tone and expression… He was making a joke of things.”
“Oh!” Elizabeth calmed and smiled.
“I believe I am indebted to him for bringing up more usual topics of conversation for new acquaintances,” Kate said with a frown. “I quite forgot them and am afraid I was nearly impertinent.”
On the subject of impertinence, Elizabeth had to tell her younger sister what Mr. Darcy had said. Surprisingly, Jane’s expression turned dazed, and soon she closed her eyes as though concentrating. It reminded Elizabeth of attempting to make out a noise in the distance.
“Jane?” Lizzy called sharply.
Jane opened her eyes as Kate waved a hand in front of her face. “Are you ill? Did you hear us?”
“I’m perfectly well,” she smiled at them. “I was only lost in thought. What did you say?”
Elizabeth’s dark feelings returned, but not as unchecked as before. “I told Kate what I heard Mr. Darcy say.”
“Do attempt to forget it,” Jane said. She took Elizabeth’s’s hand in hers. “Do not judge him by one evening.”
Elizabeth’s nostrils flared. “Is not one evening more than fair when he judged me with a mere glance?”
“It was very wrong of him to say such things, and if you were merely finding his looks at fault, I would not reproach you. But you attack his character when you do not truly know it.”
“He attacked mine too. It is not only beauty that attracts dance partners. He supposed I did not make good conversation or was not a good dancer — ”
“You are leaping to conclusions!” Jane interrupted.
“Besides,” said Kate, “how does poor dancing mean bad character?”
“Perhaps — perhaps it would mean I was unintelligent or too arrogant to pay attention during my lessons or lazy or —” Elizabeth broke out in laughter and defeat as she recognized the ridiculousness of her claims.
“What has my girls in such a good mood?” Mr. Bennet said as he came into the room.
The sisters said nothing but grinned at him, and he sat behind his desk.
“I suppose you have many questions,” the ladies nodded their heads in unison. “I have worked up a schedule for each of you. You will have time to learn magical theory as well as practical application. I must warn you,” he gave them each a stern look, “most of Meryton does not know about our magical heritage or of the wizarding world at all. It is imperative they do not learn of it. As of now, everyone in our community is cleared with the High Council and the Quorum as trustworthy, but jobbards are not screened. You must guard your secret.”
The smiles slipped from the girls’ faces, and Elizabeth did not need empathic or telepathic abilities to know the thoughts and feelings of her sisters. Someone had killed their parents. They understood the high cost.
Elizabeth was the first to break the silence. “Only say we will not need to go shopping for funny hats and brooms.”
Mr. Bennet shook his head and chuckled. “You have much to learn,” he said and handed out their schedules.
Later that day, Lady Lucas and Charlotte visited. Elizabeth was surprised to learn that her best friend’s family were magical. They did not have demonstrative powers. Instead, they were proficient in medicines and cookery. Elizabeth smiled at the pride Lady Lucas had as she talked about Charlotte’s abilities with tonics.
Charlotte grinned and then turned to Elizabeth. “Perhaps I should not mention Mr. Darcy, knowing your power is the gift of fire, Eliza. However, now that you know the truth would you like me to give him a “tonic”? I could momentarily turn him into a goat!”
Elizabeth laughed. “That was your thought all along last night when you suggested one for his eyesight! I confess many things in the past now make sense. Mrs. Long was once an oracle was she not?”
“Yes, but now you know her predictions are usually wrong.”
“Why would that be?”
“The Council told us by hiding the existence of the Bewitching Sisters,” Mrs. Bennet explained, “it might affect the strength of magic for the entire area.”
“Like a cloaking,” Elizabeth suggested, and the elder ladies agreed. “Now there ought to be an increase of magical abilities for everyone,” she concluded.
“In that case, I shall turn Mr. Darcy into a hawk. His eyesight does need improving,” Charlotte said.
Elizabeth laughed again. “Unless there is a spell to cure his pride, I am afraid there is nothing to be done.”
The conversation was soon interrupted by the arrival of Mrs. Allen. It was revealed that although she was not magical at all, her mother had been. She had the opportunity to learn spells and potions but chose not to. Elizabeth sighed in relief that they did not need to hide their abilities from so many of their close friends.
Mrs. Allen had called to ask if the girls would like to walk with her into town. Kate quickly agreed. Elizabeth had no desire to stay in the house lest Mr. Bingley and his friend call on them.
“I should like to stay home, Mama,” Jane said.
“You do not wish to stay home as well, Kate?” Elizabeth asked with a teasing smile.
“I feel urged to go,” was her reply.
“Have you had a premonition?” her mother asked.
“I do not think so. Not like before, that is. I did not see a scene unfold. Perhaps before I regain the ability to see I have the talent to sense?”
The other ladies looked at each other, hoping one may have the answer. Lady Lucas, at last, suggested, “It may be impossible to know since powers come to most as children, and they likely could not express it so well if it began in such a way.”
“I know before the ceremony last night I awoke to a burning feeling in my limbs, but I have yet to create fire,” Elizabeth said then sipped her tea. “Not that I have tried or would know how if I wished it.”
Mr. Bennet spoke from the doorway. “Go on with Mrs. Allen, Kate. When you return, if we do not have visitors, we will begin your lessons. You are all bright enough girls and had your powers for many years before the binding, so I have no doubts you shall catch on fast. Elizabeth, I request that you stay here.”
The ladies all agreed, and Kate set out with Mrs. Allen while Elizabeth and Jane continued their visit with Lady Lucas and her daughter. Elizabeth wondered why her father had asked her to remain at home, but her father did not stay in the room. Determined to enjoy herself while she could, she returned her attention to their guests.