Life At Babcock Manor – Episode 11


Mrs Banbury stifled a laugh and Jenny stared. It seemed that everyone had fallen under the girl’s spell. Raising her chin, she undid her apron and marched to the kitchen stairs.

“Well, do you want to see your room or not?”

“Course I do,” the girl replied. “Got to make meself at home.”

She picked up her carpet bag and followed Jenny out of the room, stopping only to blow Robert a kiss.

They climbed the steep servants’ staircase and Elsa was panting by the time Jenny led the way along the narrow corridor at the top of the house. She opened the door and gestured towards the small room.

“This is it.”

Elsa sniffed and walked inside, looking around her.

“Bit cramped, ain’t it?”

Jenny ignored her and pointed to a bed pushed up close to the wall nearest the door.

“This one’s yours. Be warned, the housekeeper inspects the bedrooms twice a week and she don’t like it messy. There’s a box under there with a key if you’ve got anything special.”

“Good. I shall put me crown jewels in there.”

Elsa sat on the edge of her bed and emptied her bag out on to the counterpane. There wasn’t much: just a plaid day dress and a gingham one which Jenny supposed was for Sunday best, a grey shawl and a pair of woollen stockings.

Opening the bag wider, Elsa took out a picture in a simple wooden frame and placed it on the small bedside table.

“Me mam. I drew it meself.”

Jenny looked at the simple portrait and then away again. She had no picture of her own family – only the one in her head. On her days off she would try to visit, but the journey over Babcock Hill was a long and tiring one, and she often wouldn’t arrive until after midday.

As she unlatched the little gate, though, her brothers and sisters would come tumbling out of the small cottage, wrapping their skinny arms around her knees and clutching at her hands to drag her inside.

Once through the door, the sight of her mother beside the fire, with the baby on her knee, would lift her heart and her weary legs would soon be forgotten.

Elsa’s voice pulled her back to the musty air of the attic bedroom.

“I said, is there something going on between you and that lovely footman?”

Jenny stared at the new maid’s enquiring face. She didn’t want her prying into her business. Better to keep her guessing.

“He’s all right, I suppose. What’s it to you?”

“Oh, I just wondered. It seems a shame to let such a handsome face go to waste, that’s all.” She patted her hair under her cap then ran a hand down her skirts to straighten them.

Jenny gritted her teeth.

“Mrs Banbury will keep you too busy for any shenanigans. Now, I’m going back down and I suggest you do, too, if you want to keep in her good books.”

Leaving Elsa sitting on the narrow bed, Jenny took the back stairs two at a time, and it wasn’t until she came to open the kitchen door that she realised her hands were clenched into fists.

****

The household was busy preparing for Dr Craven’s return home. The fires had been lit in the hearths, even though the June weather was favourable, and the windows had been cleaned to a shine.

Outside in the gardens, the butler was supervising the gardeners, his face a mask of importance as they showed him the topiary they had begun on the box hedges.

Emily turned back from the window and pointed to the map in front of Lizzie.

“Now, this is where the war is being fought, Lizzie,” she told the girl. “Our country, together with France, is disagreeing with the Russians over who should control this small channel of water in Turkey.”

She tapped her finger on the map.

“I would like you to label each of the countries on your page.”

Lizzie looked up from her book.

“I think that war is silly, Miss Osbourne. All those men fighting and dying.”

“Sometimes we must stand up for what we believe is right,” Emily replied, staring at the map. “It might not seem so to you now, but at times it is necessary.”

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”.