Life At Babcock Manor – Episode 05


They rounded the bend in the stairs and Emily saw a gentleman standing in the hallway. He was of medium height and slim build, and beneath his cutaway coat Emily could see he was wearing a silk waistcoat with four small pockets of the type she had seen the society men wear in the newspapers.

She watched as he nodded curtly to the butler, then bent to breathe in the scent of lilacs from the vase that stood next to the grandfather clock.

When he heard their feet on the stairs he looked up and smiled, and Emily had to concede that Mrs Craven’s brother was very handsome.

“Uncle Lewis!”

Lizzie picked up her skirts and ran down the last few steps. She threw herself into his arms and the young gentleman hugged her to him. It was clear to see he was fond of the child.

“Well, Lizzie, how you’ve grown!”

As he straightened up again, he caught sight of Emily. With a slow smile curling his lips, he gave a deep bow.

“I bid you good afternoon, dear lady.”

Emily forced her face to remain impassive as she gave a small nod. At the rebuff, his face fell and Emily realised that the young man was obviously unused to his smile being so disregarded.

Lewis tried again.

“How fortunate of me to be received by two such beautiful creatures. Lizzie, would you do the honour of introducing to me to your fine companion?”

Lizzie smiled at Emily.

“This is Miss Osbourne, my new governess.”

“Is that so?” Lewis said, bending to kiss her hand. As he did so, he held on to it a little longer than necessary. “Then we will be seeing more of each other, as I am to stay for a few weeks.”

“I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr Jupp. Your niece has made me very welcome, as has your sister.”

“Ah, my sister.” He turned to Lizzie. “How is your mother?”

“Mother is well,” Lizzie said simply, but Emily could tell by the way Lewis narrowed his eyes that he knew it was a falsehood.

“That is good.” As he spoke, Mr Thomas came out of the drawing-room followed by Mrs Craven. “Now, if you will excuse me, I must bid you good day and hope to see you after dinner. We can get better acquainted.”

 ****

“What kept you, girl?” The cook looked up from the copper she was stirring as Jenny let herself in. “I thought the wolves had got you.”

“I’m sorry, Mrs Banbury. It won’t happen again.”

She hung up her coat, not wanting to admit to having fallen asleep or to the uncomfortable encounter she’d had with the gentleman outside the Dog and Duck.

“You’ll be pleased to hear that Mr Thomas has said that you and Charlotte may take the evening off tomorrow to go to the fair. I’m afraid that young Robert won’t be able to go, though, as Doctor Craven requires him to help Mr Thomas with his packing. He has a meeting with the medical board in London.”

“Oh.” Jenny couldn’t hide her disappointment. There would be no promise from Robert tomorrow night, of that she could be sure.

“Now, change into this clean apron and spruce yourself up a bit. The Cravens and their guests will be taking coffee and brandy in the drawing-room.” She handed Jenny a plate of sweetmeats. “Make sure you don’t stand and gawp when you get there.”

As she reached for her apron, Robert came into the kitchen, a scowl on his face.

“What’s up with you?” Mrs Banbury asked, setting the kettle on the range. “You’ve a face on you that would scare the birds in the fields.”

“It’s that man. Mr Jupp, the mistress’s brother. Talks to me like I’m something he brought in on his shoe. Hard to believe he’s from the same family.”

The cook nodded her agreement and spooned tea into the pot.

“He’s one to watch. Used to get into all sorts of scrapes when he was younger, so I hear. Doctor Craven was always having to bail him out and from what I hear nothing’s changed.”

“What do you mean by that, Mrs B?”

“He had some sort of misunderstanding with the milliner over a bonnet he’d ordered for some young woman. Doctor Craven had to make things right. That young scoundrel’s very much indebted to him. Seems he and his landlady have parted company, too. Owed her two months’ rent.”

“There’s too many that think themselves above the rest of us, just because they have a fancy frock coat and a pocket watch,” Robert replied.

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”.