Life At Babcock House – Episode 25

Emily walked across the room to where Dr Craven was standing. It was a fine day and the late afternoon sun cast long shadows across the manicured lawn.

“I wondered if we might turn it into a croquet lawn.”

“Doctor Craven, I think –”

“My dear Miss Osbourne.” Dr Craven’s voice was stern. “I understand that you are concerned about my wife, but I can assure you that you do not need to worry yourself. When she realises that Lizzie is quite well again, she will feel better. What she needs is peace and quiet to recover her humour. Her maid will see she has all that she needs.”

Emily was about to reply, but the look on Dr Craven’s face made her bite back her words. She had tried her best, but the older man did not want to hear of the haunted look in his wife’s eyes as she’d stared into the cold embers of the fire.

With a nod, the doctor turned and walked out of the room, leaving Emily with her thoughts. Maybe he was right. Maybe more time was all that Mrs Craven needed to heal her pain.

Now, though, she had more pressing matters to attend to; there were preparations to make for John English’s ball at Clarence Hall.

In Mrs Craven’s absence, it had been agreed that she would chaperone Belinda and Lizzie, and she had to admit she was rather looking forward to it.

Emily wandered to the bookcase and ran her fingers across the leather spines, stopping at a book of poetry. Taking it off the shelf, she sat down upon one of the leather settees.

As Lizzie was still convalescing from her illness, Dr Craven had insisted that in the afternoons the girl rest, so the time were her own.

“Miss Osbourne. I have been looking for you.”

Emily was so engrossed in the poem she was reading that she had not seen Belinda come in. The young woman approached and looked at the small book in Emily’s hands.

“‘Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard

Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on’.”

Emily smiled.

“You know it?”

“Oh, yes, Miss Osbourne. John Keats is the most romantic of all the poets, don’t you think? I can almost believe he knows what is in my heart.”

“He is indeed a very fine poet, Belinda,” Emily said, wondering at the brightness of the girl’s eyes and the happiness in her voice. “But what is it you wished to speak to me about?”

“It is about the ball. I am grateful that you shall be escorting us and I just wanted to . . .” She stopped, embarrassed.

“What is it, Belinda?”

“I have a gown, Miss Osbourne. One that I have only worn once. It is rose pink and very becoming, but has become a little tight on me and I was wondering whether you might like to have it for the ball. It would suit your complexion very well.”

Emily thought of her one plain blue afternoon dress; it would indeed seem drab amongst the silks and satins of the other guests, but she didn’t want to accept charity.

“My dear, that is very kind of you, but I couldn’t possibly.”

“Oh, but you must. Elizabeth told me you don’t have a ball gown and you would look so lovely in it.”

Belinda looked so earnest that Emily softened.

“Well, maybe I could try it on to see how it fits.”

“Oh, I am so pleased.” Belinda clapped her hands. “I know it will suit you very well indeed. I wonder who else will be going to the ball.”

“I have heard that most of the county has been invited. There will be many eligible men there, if that is what is on your mind.”

Belinda blushed.

“Oh, no, Miss Osbourne. You are very wrong. There is no-one in this county that has my interest.”

“Maybe not,” Emily said, wondering at the assured tone of her voice. “But you will not be short of partners for the dances, I am sure.”

Belinda smiled and took Emily by the hand.

“Come, Miss Osbourne. Let me show you the dress and then maybe you can tell me how I should wear my hair.”

With a sigh, Emily agreed. It was clear there would be no peace for her that afternoon until she did as she was bid.

Rising from the settee, she followed Belinda out of the library and up the stairs, smiling at the girl’s excited chatter. Belinda might be skittish, but inside there beat a heart of gold and it would not do to offend her.

As they reached Belinda’s room, and she held the beautiful silk dress against her, Emily couldn’t help wondering whether Dr Upton might be one of the guests.

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”.