Life At Babcock Manor – Episode 13


When Mrs Craven didn’t answer, Emily took Lizzie’s hand and gently led her towards the study, where the wide French windows opened out on to the gardens. As they reached the door, Lizzie turned her head to look at her mother, and as she did, Emily saw the sadness in her eyes. She turned to her brightly.

“We may see dragonflies by the pond. Won’t that be fine? I have brought your sketch pad. Maybe you could draw one for me.”

When Lizzie nodded and gave a small smile, Emily was relieved. In the short time she had been at Babcock Manor she had grown fond of the child and did not like to see her unhappy.

The afternoon was proving to be a fine one, with white clouds drifting across a pale blue sky.

As they crossed the lawn Emily caught sight of Jenny walking towards the kitchen garden, a wooden basket hanging from her arm. She was walking quickly, looking behind her as if to make sure that no-one was following.

She pointed to a stone bench under the rose arbour.

“Wait here, Lizzie. I won’t be a moment.”

Picking up her skirts, she took the gravelled path towards the gap in the box hedge which led into the kitchen garden. As she entered, she saw the young maid, her back stooped as she bent to pick peas off the wooden frame.

When Jenny heard her, she stood up and gave a small curtsey.

Emily smiled at her.

“I just wanted to tell you that you have no need to be afraid of Mr Jupp.”

At the mention of Lewis’s name, Jenny looked round as though he might be lurking somewhere in the raspberry canes or behind the potting shed.

Emily put a hand on the girl’s arm.

“I know the type of man he is, Jenny. I have seen them before. He is weak and vain. I shall make sure that he doesn’t trouble you again, and if he does, he shall wish that he hadn’t.”

“I’m scared I’ll lose my job, miss.”

“I don’t suppose you have anything to fear. From what I hear, Mr Jupp’s reputation is not the finest, and he will not want to do anything to tarnish it further. He knows I have my eye on him.”

Jenny let out a breath.

“Thank you, Miss Osbourne, I’m that grateful to you.”

“You’re welcome, Jenny. Now I’ll leave you to your work before Mrs Banbury tells me off for interrupting you in your duties.”

****

There was laughter coming from the scullery when Jenny returned, her basket full of plump green pods. The kitchen was empty and she presumed Mrs Banbury must be in the housekeeper’s room, discussing the evening meal with Mrs Peters.

She emptied the peas into a metal colander and then went to see what was going on.

As she peered round the wooden door, she saw Elsa at the washtub, her sleeves rolled up to her elbows. Robert was leaning against the copper and as she watched, the new maid scooped some suds from the white basin and flicked them in his direction.

“’Ere!” Robert laughed. “Mind my eyes!”

“Serves you right for staring, then, don’t it?”

“No law to say a man can’t look at something pretty.”

As Elsa giggled, Jenny felt a lump form in her throat. It wasn’t that long ago that Robert had teased her in this way.

She cleared her throat and the pair turned towards her, and saw Mrs Banbury standing in the doorway.

“Mrs Peters wants to see everyone in the kitchen. She says it’s important,” she said.

Robert cocked his head.

“She doesn’t usually talk to us in the middle of the day. Hope you haven’t been putting salt in the puddings instead of sugar, Jenny.”

As Elsa’s laugh rang out in the stone scullery, Jenny turned away, feeling the tips of her ears redden, glad that her cap covered them.

“We’d best go quickly,” she mumbled. “She doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”

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”.