Life At Babcock Manor – Episode 20


Lizzie was fond of the older girl and was obviously excited about the visit.

“I wonder if she is as pretty as when I last saw her, Miss Osbourne. Belinda has the most beautiful blonde hair and she knows all about the latest fashions.” The young girl clapped her hands together. “Oh, I am looking forward to seeing her again! Do you think she would like to go riding with me?”

“I don’t know, Lizzie. You will have more than enough time to ask her when she arrives.” Emily listened to the distant church bells chiming the hour. “Your father is meeting her from the stagecoach after he has done his rounds, and it won’t be long before she is here.”

“I hoped that she would share my room, but Mother says she is too old now and is to have the rose room.”

“Your mother is right, Lizzie. Belinda is nearly nineteen – a young woman. Tell me, Lizzie, did Belinda ever live here with you at Babcock Manor?”

“No,” Lizzie said sadly. “Her father was at medical college with mine and remained his greatest friend. When her mother died of cholera, Father promised him that she would want for nothing should anything happen to him.”

“What happened?”

“He died in a riding accident and Father thought it would be best if she stayed with Aunt Margaret in London. Belinda is at Queen’s College now, although I do believe she hates it.”

Emily nodded. The young woman seemed an interesting addition to the household and she was looking forward to meeting her.

“Now, enough of this idle chatter as you still have this passage to learn, but I will let you finish your lessons early today so that you might greet her when she arrives.”

Hugging her book of sonnets to her chest, Lizzie walked to the window and looked across the fields to where Clarence Hall could just be seen, its great belvedere tower stark against the sky.

“Will Mother let me go to the autumn ball, do you think? I should so like to go.”

The autumn ball, held in the ballroom of Clarence Hall and presided over by John English and his wife, was something to be talked about for weeks afterwards, Emily had heard.

The servants of the guests had their own merry-making in the large barn behind the house and already Jenny and Charlotte were talking about what ribbons they would wear in their hair.

“I shall ask your mother if you may go, Lizzie. She might like me to attend as chaperone to Belinda.” From what Emily had heard, the young woman might be in need of a watchful eye.

“Then you must teach me to dance, Miss Osbourne, for I am sure you are very accomplished.”

Emily smiled, thinking of the village dances she had attended in Morsley, where she had grown up. There, her partners had led her in little more than a jig.

“I shall try,” she said.

****

Jenny put down the spoon she was polishing and looked out of the dining-room window. The girl who stepped out of the phaeton was the prettiest she’d ever seen. Her fair hair was parted in the middle, falling in ringlets either side of her ruched silk bonnet, and her velvet travelling coat was the colour of the master’s claret.

As Dr Craven leaned into the carriage to pick up the girl’s travelling bags, Jenny noticed that his face was grave with no sign of the usual laughter in his eyes.

“The master looks serious today,” Charlotte said, joining Jenny at the window.

Jenny looked at the young woman’s delicate heart-shaped face.

“It can’t have been something Miss Belinda has done. She looks like an angel.”

“I wouldn’t say that. I’ve heard that one’s a little wild. Not surprising, I suppose, poor thing. If it weren’t for Doctor Craven, the poor girl would have been destined for the workhouse when her parents died, of that I’ve no doubt.”

Jenny watched the girl pick her way across the driveway, taking care not to muddy her shoes in the puddles. She didn’t look like someone to be pitied.

As she walked towards the house, Belinda seemed oblivious to her benefactor’s sombre mood and was chattering happily. Dr Craven nodded and smiled, but Jenny could see that he was not really listening.

She jumped as Mr Thomas entered the room and the two girls moved away from the window as one, dropping the lace curtains.

The butler frowned.

“Am I to think that you have been idling when you should have been polishing the silver?”

Jenny bowed her head.

“Sorry, Mr Thomas. We only looked for a moment. We were that excited about Miss Belinda arriving.”

“Be that as it may, there are jobs to be done and I believe, Jenny, that Miss Belinda has asked to have a maid to dress her as she has not brought her own. I have told Mrs Peters that you will take on the duties of lady’s maid when it is needed.”

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”.