Life At Babcock Manor – Episode 21


Jenny’s jaw dropped.

“Me, Mr Thomas?”

“That is what I said. Mrs Banbury has agreed that you may work upstairs after you have lit the fires in the kitchen and heated the coppers.”

Jenny bit her lip to contain the happiness inside her. Lady’s maid, just like Elsa. That would show her.

She couldn’t wait to tell Robert. He had been a bit distant lately, but now she was not just a kitchen maid, he would be bound to be sweet on her again, she was sure.

****

The bed creaked as Emily leaned over and touched a hand to Lizzie’s forehead. She was very hot, but she could see the girl was shivering. Although she had complained that her legs and arms ached, Lizzie had insisted on accompanying Emily to meet Belinda on her arrival.

As soon as she had seen her, the young woman had taken both of Lizzie’s hands in hers, exclaiming at how much she had grown and how pretty she had become. Emily had been pleased to see the genuine affection between the two girls and liked Belinda’s guileless face and easy smile. It would be good to have another younger person in the house, and she would be lively company for Lizzie.

But as Belinda had left them to rest after her long journey, Emily had noticed how clammy Lizzie’s hand felt in hers and how listless she seemed. She had taken her up to the nursery and made her lie on the embroidered coverlet.

“How are you feeling, Lizzie?”

The young girl closed her eyes.

“My head pains me.”

Emily stood up and walked to the door.

“I will fetch your father. It seems you are coming down with a cold and I am sure he will have something that will make you feel better.”

She left the nursery door ajar and hurried down the stairs. Dr Craven was in the library, a book open on the table in front of him. It was one of his medical journals.

He looked up as she walked in.

“Miss Osbourne.”

“Doctor Craven. I do not wish to concern you, but Lizzie has a temperature and I think it would be best if you went up to see her.”

The doctor’s reaction was not one she had been expecting. Pushing the chair away from him so quickly it overturned, he rushed past her into the hallway and up the stairs, taking them two steps at a time.

Emily hurried after him. When she got to the nursery, she found Dr Craven kneeling beside his daughter, a stethoscope to her chest. His brow was furrowed.

Looking up at Emily, he shook his head.

“Doctor Craven. What is it?” Her heart was beating faster.

“I went to see Jenny’s brother today. He is suffering from a fever, but I fear it is no ordinary malady.”

Emily felt a coldness creep down her spine. Night was closing in and the room was shadowed. The doctor rested a hand on his daughter’s head, and as Emily’s eyes met his, she saw the fear in them. In that darkening room, neither of them noticed Mrs Craven standing in the doorway, her hand to her throat.

The doctor spoke again and as he did, Emily could hear the catch in his voice.

“I’m afraid, Miss Osbourne, that my diagnosis was that young Jed Brooker has typhoid.”

****

Robert is on his way to fetch Doctor Upton from his lodgings,” Emily told Dr Craven, crossing the room and kneeling down beside Lizzie’s bed.

Dr Craven nodded.

“My colleague knows more about childhood illnesses than I, Miss Osbourne. I shall be glad of his second opinion.”

“How is she?”

The girl’s face was flushed and damp strands of hair stuck to her cheeks.

“She suffers from chills. See how she shivers? I have sent for more blankets and we must close all the windows. Lizzie needs to be kept warm.”

Emily leaned over and touched a hand to the girl’s forehead.

“She feels hot to the touch, though. Are you sure?”

“Typhoid manifests itself in strange ways. I have consulted my journals for this type of rigor and the proper thing to do is to administer a hot drink, apply warmth to the feet and cover her body well.”

The air in the room was stuffy and fetid, and Emily longed to throw open the window and let in some of the gentle night air, but she knew better than to go against Dr Craven’s wishes. He did, after all, have more knowledge than she did in matters of illness.

“Don’t you think we should tell Mrs Craven that Elizabeth is ill? She is her mother and should be with her.”

Dr Craven’s voice was sharp.

“No!” he said, turning his head to the dimly lit corridor outside the room. “My wife must not be told.”

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”.