Life At Babcock Manor – Episode 14


The household staff stood in a line behind the large kitchen table. Charlotte dug Jenny in the ribs.

“Any idea what this is about?”

Jenny shook her head. In front of them, Mrs Peters, the butler, Mr Thomas, and the cook stood waiting, their faces grave.

“There is an item missing from Mrs Craven’s room,” Mrs Peters began. “A silver hairbrush. Does anyone know anything about it?”

The housekeeper’s stare roved across each of them in turn.

Elsa turned to Jenny.

“Charlotte told me that you sometimes clean the grate in Mrs Craven’s room if Charlotte’s busy. Ain’t that so?”

Jenny’s mouth fell open.

“Are you saying it’s me what took it?”

The young maid looked back at Mrs Peters.

“Only saying.”

“Now, now, girls. This is not the time for speculation, but if the hairbrush is not found, I shall have to search all the staff’s rooms.”

Jenny scowled at Elsa. The girl had only just arrived but already she was causing mischief. She would have to keep an eye on her, of that she was certain.

****

Lewis’s bags were in the hallway when Emily came back from the garden. Lizzie had stayed behind to draw one of the dragonflies that patrolled the pond and Emily had told her she would collect her when supper was ready.

“Going so soon, Mr Jupp?”

“Oh, it will only be for a while, don’t you worry. I have things to attend to in London.” He smiled and straightened his cravat in the mirror next to the hat stand. “Rather pretty things, if you must know.”

Emily took a deep breath. It would do no good to rise to the young man’s bait.

She thought of the smog and grime of the city and was glad that her profession meant that she could stay in her beloved village by the canal. Even when she had found it necessary to become a governess and leave her home, she had judged the fields and hills around Wenton to her liking.

“Then I wish you a pleasant journey, sir. Will you not wait until Doctor Craven returns before you leave? I believe he will be here by six.”

Lewis took his top hat from the stand, his eyes flicking from the face of the grandfather clock to the window, and as he did so, Emily noticed a nerve twitching under his eye.

“I am afraid that won’t be possible,” he said, placing the hat on his head and bowing. “I will bid you good day, Miss Osbourne.”

He picked up his cane and left the house, leaving Emily to wonder as to the true purpose of his visit to the city.

Making her way to the kitchen to discuss Lizzie’s supper, she saw the unmistakable figure of Mrs Peters coming towards her in the dimly lit corridor. She was followed by Jenny and the new maid, and as they passed by she noticed the half smile on the new girl’s fresh face.

Although Elsa had only been at Babcock Manor a week, Emily was surprised at her confidence. Her bobbed curtsey if she met one of the Craven family on the stairs was not quite as low as the others, and there was something in the tone of her voice that lacked the proper respect.

Still, she thought, as the trio made their way towards the back stairs, it was nothing to do with her, and she was sure that Mrs Banbury would be able to keep her under control; the cook certainly ran a tight ship below stairs.

“Miss Osbourne.” Mrs Peters had turned, her eyebrows raised in a question. “I wonder whether you might accompany us upstairs. An item of Mrs Craven’s has gone missing and it has become necessary for me to search the rooms of the under staff. I think it only proper to have someone of good standing to oversee the task with me, if you wouldn’t mind.”

Emily looked at the two girls. Jenny stared at the floor while Elsa whistled softly under her breath. How different they were, and there appeared to be no love lost between the two of them.

“Of course, Mrs Peters. I will come as soon as I have spoken to the cook.”

She found Mrs Banbury stirring a sauce at the range and gave her the instructions for Lizzie’s supper, then took the back stairs up to the attic bedrooms where the maids slept. As she was walking down the narrow corridor towards the room Jenny shared with Elsa, she heard an angry cry.

“I didn’t put it there! I never took it!”

Behind the open door, Emily saw Jenny. She was kneeling beside her bed, her face in her hands.

Elsa looked down at her from her position on the edge of the bed and Emily noticed that her face held a look of triumph.

“Look what Mrs Peters found under Jenny’s mattress, Miss Osbourne.”

As she spoke, the housekeeper stepped forward, a frown on her face. In her hands was a silver hairbrush.

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”.