Life At Babcock Manor – Episode 04

“I like this room very much,” Emily commented. She kneeled on the window seat and, pulling back the lace curtain from the window, gazed out across the kitchen gardens and the stable yard to the open countryside beyond.

“It is so light and you can see for miles. You can even see the railway line from here, like an illustration in a book.”

She had found the Cravens’ house fascinating. Lizzie had shown her the morning-room with its swags of pink velvet curtains and striking fireplace, and she had admired the blue Delft scriptural tiles, which echoed the colours of the extensive collection of Chinese and English porcelain in the walnut cabinet.

From there they had moved on to the library. Emily had run her fingers along the spines of the leather-bound books and wondered whether she might borrow one to read in the long hours after dinner.

Now they were in the nursery, a long room with a bookcase at one end, a small writing table and a day bed.

“What a wonderful doll’s-house,” Emily said, examining the miniature rooms of a replica of the larger house.

“Father made it for me. I don’t play with it anymore.” Lizzie closed the front of the house and took a book from the case.

Emily smiled.

“That is a shame. The furniture and the figures are exquisite. What book do you have there, Lizzie?”

Lizzie held it out to her.

“‘Nicholas Nickleby’. One of my favourites, and a perfect text to study. We shall begin tomorrow, shall we?”

Lizzie smiled and nodded her agreement.

“I think I shall like our lessons,” she said. “My other tutor never smiled and her hair was like a porcupine’s.”

Emily smoothed down her chestnut hair, which was caught in a neat bun at the nape of her neck, and laughed.

“Was it now? Fancy that!”

Lizzie spun the globe that stood next to her on the table with a gentle finger.

“Tell me about your home, Miss Osbourne. I love to hear of other places.”

“Where shall I begin?” Emily asked. A picture of her beloved home was etched in her memory. “Morsley, where I was born, is a beautiful place. The river runs through the village and, across the fields from the house I shared with my father, the canal lies flat, mirroring the trees.”

She told of the brightly coloured barges that bobbed on the water and described her little cottage with its stone walls and thatched roof.

“Why did you leave, Miss Osbourne, if you love it so much?”

“My father died, Lizzie, and my job here with you promised a higher salary. But Morsley will always be in my heart, as this place must surely be in yours.”

“Yes, I love this house, but sometimes it can be lonely. Papa is away a lot tending his patients or working up at the hospital, and Mama . . .” There was a catch in her throat and Emily noticed the young girl’s eyes had filled with tears.

“What is it, Lizzie? Is your mother unwell?”

Lizzie shook her head.

“Mother likes to be by herself a lot. She doesn’t like me to disturb her.” She took a breath and continued. “She wasn’t always like that. I remember when we used to play games together or she would read to me when it was my governess’s afternoon off. On sunny days, we would take a kite up to the top of Babcock Hill, or she would ask Mrs Banbury to make a picnic and we would eat it in the orchard.”

“Maybe it’s because you have grown up that she doesn’t do these things.”

Lizzie shook her head sadly.

“She stopped doing them after Freddie died.”

“Your brother?”

“Yes, he was only five, but he died of the typhoid.”

“You poor child!” Emily stood up from the window seat and folded the girl in her arms, and as she did so she wondered how long it was since her mother had done so.

“Was it long ago?” Emily asked, stroking her hair.

“It was two years ago,” Lizzie replied. “He was buried in the churchyard in Wenton.”

For a moment they stood in silence, until the sound of horses’ hooves on the cobbles of the courtyard below broke into the silence of the nursery.

“That will be Uncle Lewis,” Lizzie said, drying her eyes. “I’m sure you will like him, Miss Osbourne. I have heard Mama say that he has a way with the ladies.”

Emily moved to the window once more and looked down upon the young man giving orders to the footman who had taken the reins.

“Yes,” she said. “I am sure that he has.”

Lizzie took Emily’s hand and pulled her to the door.

“Let’s go and meet him.”

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.