Life At Babcock Manor – Episode 10


For a while they sat in silence, but Emily found she could not banish the picture of Mrs Craven from her mind.

Glancing at the young man beside her, his dark hair so like his sister’s, she knew she could not keep what she had seen to herself.

“I was wondering, Mr Jupp,” she said, unsure of how to begin. “Have you seen Mrs Craven since your return?”

Lewis looked up.

“I have not. Why do you ask?”

Emily wondered how much she should tell the young man, but the older woman’s actions had disturbed her.

“Mrs Craven is in the library.” As she spoke, Emily thought she saw a shadow pass across his face.

“I see.”

“Mr Jupp, your sister –”

The young man’s answer was abrupt.

“Say no more. I am only too aware of what she might have been doing.”

Rising from his seat, he started to pace the room and it was a while before he spoke again.

“It is the month you see, Miss Osbourne. For most of us, June is a time of beauty, the blush of a rose or the dart of a dragonfly on the lake, but for my sister, it is a time of hell.”

Emily put a hand to her throat.

“I suppose you saw what she was doing?” Lewis stopped in front of her.

She nodded, afraid of what he might say.

“They are Doctor Craven’s medical books. My brother-in-law thought that he had removed them all, but he must have missed some, the library is so vast. She rips the pages from their spines, you know.”

Emily caught her breath.

“I saw . . . but why?”

“Because they could not save her son, Miss Osbourne – my nephew. It was on a beautiful summer’s day in June that she heard that little Freddie died of typhoid.”

Emily’s heart went out to the woman.

“Is there nothing that Doctor Craven can do to help her?”

“He knows she should see someone.” He paused as he looked for the words. “Someone more experienced in dealing with disorders such as my sister’s.”

“I think you are right, Mr Jupp, but will she go?”

Lewis shook his head.

“That is not the problem, my dear lady. It is Doctor Craven who holds back.”

Emily raised her eyebrows.

“But why? Surely nothing will be resolved if she doesn’t seek help.”

“He is afraid that she might be . . .” he lowered his voice to a whisper “. . . committed.”

Emily stared at him, but as she pictured the red-bricked building with its high windows that the coach driver had pointed out on the morning of her arrival, there was a knock at the door.

“Ah, the coffee at last.”

She watched as Jenny backed through the door, a silver coffee pot and two porcelain cups balanced on a silver salver. Her cheeks were pink as she placed the tray on the table by the window, and as she started to pour the coffee, Emily noticed the shake of her hands.

“Thank you, Jenny. We will pour our own,” she said, wondering at the girl’s discomfort.

Lewis gave a barking laugh.

“The poor girl must be cold; she is shaking so much. Here, let me warm you up.” He made to grab the young maid’s waist, but Emily’s voice stopped his hand.

“Jenny, you will go back to the kitchen now. Mr Jupp and I have things to discuss.”

As the girl left the room, Lewis grinned.

“Something troubling you, Miss Osbourne? If there is, I should love to hear it.”

The cause of Jenny’s distress at the fair and Lewis’s black mood in the carriage was easy to guess at. The young man’s behaviour could not go unheeded, but for now she would hold her tongue.

Emily held his gaze as she poured the coffee.

“It will wait, Mr Jupp.”

****

“So, what do they call you, then?” Mrs Banbury looked the girl up and down. Her dark hair was escaping from her cap and the bib of her apron strained across her chest.

She looked up at the cook through dark lashes.

“I’ve been called lots of things in me time, but you can call me Elsa.”

Jenny smiled to herself – the new girl would get nowhere with that attitude. But she was surprised when Mrs Banbury just gave a throaty laugh.

“You’re a rum one, and that’s the truth of it.”

Robert was busy checking the silverware and Jenny caught his eye, thinking they could have a giggle about her later, but instead of winking, as he usually did, the young footman drew himself up to his full height and smiled at Elsa.

“It’ll be good to have a laugh in the kitchen. Some days it’s like a morgue in here.”

A dimple appeared in the maid’s cheek as she giggled. Poking Robert in the ribs, she turned towards Jenny.

“We’ll have fun all right, won’t we, Jen?”

Crossing her arms across her chest, Jenny narrowed her eyes.

“Fun won’t get the work done. And my name’s Jenny.”

“Well, pardon me for speaking,” Elsa said, giving a little curtsey. “I didn’t know the queen lived ’ere.”

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 aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.