Life At Babcock Manor – Episode 15


“I’m sure there must be some explanation for this,” Emily said, walking into the attic bedroom. She sat on the narrow bed next to the young maid. “Did you take this hairbrush, Jenny?”

Jenny looked up at her, her face wet with tears.

“Why would I take it? I love it here at Babcock Manor. I’d lose my job.”

There was something in the earnest way she spoke that made Emily believe her. She glanced at Elsa, who was leaning against the wash stand, a smile on her lips. If she wasn’t mistaken, the new maid had played a part in this.

“What time did the theft occur, Mrs Peters?”

The housekeeper opened the little notebook she kept in her pocket and looked at it through the spectacles on the end of her nose.

“The mistress says she rose early to attend to some urgent matters that had been on her mind, and when she returned to her room the hairbrush was gone.”

Emily thought of the morning she had seen Mrs Craven in the library and wondered if, once again, she had been moved to search for her husband’s medical journals.

“What do you say, Jenny?” she asked.

The girl rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand.

“I wasn’t there, Miss Osbourne.” She sniffed. “I was in Wenton.”

“Are you sure?”

“Mrs Banbury sent me out to the flower market in the village to buy lilies. Doctor Craven has a liking for them and the ones in the garden have been eaten by beetles. The mistress wanted flowers to fill the vases in the hallway ready for Doctor Craven’s return today.”

Mrs Peters tapped her pencil against her notebook.

“The girl is right, Miss Osbourne. I recall seeing her leave with her basket as I was checking the linen cupboard on the landing.”

A shadow crossed the new maid’s face and her smile wavered.

“Elsa,” Emily said, standing up from the bed and walking over to the girl. “Could you tell me what you and Charlotte were doing this morning?”

The girl’s eyes widened.

“Why, we was blacking the stove.”

“Both of you?”

Elsa looked wary.

“Yes.”

Emily glanced at Mrs Peters; the frown on her face told her that she already knew what the governess was going to say next.

“Well, that is strange. Have you forgotten that Mrs Craven gave Charlotte the day off to visit her mother, who has just had a baby? She left on the drayman’s cart before daybreak.”

The colour had drained out of Elsa’s face. For the first time since she had arrived at Babcock Manor, the girl did not look so confident.

“It was you who took the silver hairbrush and left it under Jenny’s mattress for Mrs Peters to find, wasn’t it?” Emily’s voice softened. “Why did you do it, Elsa?”

The girl bowed her head.

“I don’t know.”

“I think you had better come with me,” Mrs Peters said, taking Elsa by the arm and steering her towards the door. “Mrs Craven will decide what to do with you, but I expect you’ll be packing your bags by the end of the morning.”

“I can’t lose me job, Mrs Peters!” The girl pulled her arm away. “I need the money.”

“You should have thought of that before you started out on your prank.”

There was a look of desperation in the young maid’s eyes. She turned to Emily.

“Can’t you say something, miss? If I get thrown out, I won’t be able to pay . . .”

Elsa looked as though she was about to say more, but instead shrugged her shoulders.

“What, Elsa?” Emily asked. “What won’t you be able to pay?”

But the girl just turned away, and without looking back, followed Mrs Peters out of the room.

“It don’t matter. It’s done now.”

On the narrow bed beside the window, Jenny wiped her eyes with her apron and glared at Elsa’s back as it disappeared down the corridor.

“Good riddance,” she said.

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”.