Life At Babcock Manor – Episode 12


“Will Father have to fight in the Crimea? I can’t bear the thought of him fighting,” Lizzie said.

Emily shook her head.

“No, Lizzie, your father is a doctor, not a soldier.”

On hearing that, the young girl smiled.

“I am glad of that. Where would the people of Wenton be without Father’s help? He is the only doctor for twenty miles.”

Emily placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder.

“And I’m sure that he is a very good one, too, Lizzie. Now, I see you have almost finished, so I think we shall take a stroll outside. We will go to the pond in the orchard and see what insects we can find for our nature studies.”

Lizzie clapped her hands excitedly.

“Oh, yes! I would like that very much.”

As they made their way downstairs, Emily heard voices. Mrs Craven and Mrs Peters, the housekeeper, were standing in the hallway.

“The silver hairbrush, you say, madam?”

Lizzie’s mother touched the brooch at her throat.

“Yes, Mrs Peters. The one that I keep on my night stand. It is missing.”

“Are you sure that the undermaid didn’t put it back in a different place, madam? You know what she’s like – such a scatterbrain.”

Mrs Craven shook her head.

“I saw Charlotte place it next to the candlestick. She commented on how beautifully it caught the light, but this morning it was gone. I would be grateful if you would have a word with the staff, Mrs Peters. I should not like to think that we have a thief in our household.”

“Good gracious, no, madam. I shall speak to them straight away. I am sure there will be an explanation for its disappearance.”

“I hope so,” Mrs Craven said.

Her eyes scanned the room before alighting on a portrait of her husband. She walked over to it and stroked the heavy gilt frame.

“Especially with Doctor Craven due home at any moment,” Mrs Craven added. “We wouldn’t want to worry him.”

“Very good, madam.” Mrs Peters gave a small curtsey and walked away, leaving Mrs Craven standing alone in the hallway.

****

As Emily and Lizzie turned the corner of the staircase, Mrs Craven stretched out the hand that had been resting on her husband’s portrait and grasped at the dancing dust motes in the sunlight that fell through the mullioned window.

After a moment, she opened her palm again and stared at it, as if surprised to see nothing there.

“Mama!” Lizzie ran down the last of the stairs and did a little pirouette in the hallway. “We are going to see if the tadpoles in the pond have turned into frogs. Please come.”

As if a spell had been broken, Mrs Craven lowered her hand to rest on her daughter’s head. She smiled down at Lizzie and for a moment it was as if the woman Emily had just been watching – the same one who had sat in the library surrounded by torn pages – had been just a figment of her imagination.

Just as quickly, though, the smile was gone and her eyes took on the faraway look that Emily had seen on the day of her arrival.

Emily walked over to them.

“Come, Lizzie. Do not worry your mother. I’m sure that when we find a frog we can bring it back to the house to show her.”

“Can we, Mother?”

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”.