Life At Babcock Manor – Episode 24


“Tell me how you feel, Elizabeth,” James said. “Do you feel nauseous? Does your stomach hurt?”

Elizabeth gave a small shake of her head and pushed the heavy blanket away from her. Dr Craven went to pull it back but Dr Upton stayed his hand.

“The child has influenza. I am sure of it. Typhoid takes one to two weeks to show itself, and it has only been a few days since she was in contact with the Brooker boy. Jed’s his name, isn’t it? Influenza comes on more quickly.”

“I am happy to bow to your judgement, James, but it is still serious.”

“Of course, but as long as we keep her temperature down I have every reason to think that Lizzie will make a good recovery in a few days.”

He stood up and drew back the curtains, then he opened the window. A small breeze entered the room and on it a breath of jasmine from the delicate plant that climbed the walls outside Elizabeth’s room.

“But she needs to be kept warm . . .”

“No, Cedric. That is the old way. She shivers because her temperature is high, not because she is cold. When Miss Osbourne returns with the water, she must sponge her down until her body has cooled. It is the only way.”

“I could not bear to lose another child, James.”

Dr Upton rested his hand upon the older man’s arm.

“I shall not let that happen, Cedric. You have my word. Here is Miss Osbourne now with the water. I shall ring for the maid to bring us some strong coffee, for we are all very tired.”

As Emily came into the room, a china basin in her hands, Doctor Upton stood up from the bedside and went over to her. He touched his fingers to the water.

“It is tepid. That’s perfect.”

“Why is that, Doctor?”

“If we use water that is too cold the vessels will constrict.” When he saw Emily’s puzzled expression, he continued.

“It will prevent heat loss and her fever will rage on. When her skin feels cooler to the touch, cover the child with a light sheet.”

Emily squeezed out the sponge and pressed it against Lizzie’s forehead. The girl closed her eyes and leant back against the pillows. The breeze rippled the curtains and the tassels on the velvet light shade.

The young doctor turned to Dr Craven.

“I think your governess would make a good nurse. She has a steady hand and an enquiring mind.”

“I should love to be able to help people, as the two of you do,” Emily said. “I love being a governess, but sometimes I wonder if there might have been another path to take.”

Dr Upton stood up and smiled.

“I would be happy to speak to you another time of the new developments in medicine. These are exciting times indeed.”

“I would like that very much. Here is Jenny now with the tray. Come in, please, Jenny, don’t be shy.”

Jenny stood in the doorway, a pot of coffee on a silver tray. She took a step forward and then stopped. As she looked at Lizzie in the bed, her hand began to tremble and the cups rattled.

“Please, sir. My brother, Jed . . .”

Emily was about to speak when Dr Upton came across the room towards the maid and took the tray from her hands.

“Now, now, child. I know what you must be thinking, for Doctor Craven here has told me all about his visit to your family yesterday. Your brother has influenza, but his temperature was abating and from this I deduce he is past the worst. To put your mind at rest, I shall visit him myself on my way home.”

“Oh, thank you, sir.” Jenny’s voice betrayed her relief. She covered her face with her apron, then, as the others looked on, turned and ran from the room.

****

Three weeks had passed and as Dr Upton had promised, Elizabeth had made a full recovery. Despite her relief, Emily was troubled and she found herself playing her conversation with Mrs Craven over in her head.

She had not spoken to Dr Craven about his wife’s words, not wanting to worry him more than necessary. Mrs Craven’s brother, Lewis Jupp, had long since left, so Emily was unable to discuss such matters with him.

Since the night of Lizzie’s fever, Mrs Craven had taken to lying in her room, the door firmly closed, and would only allow Elsa to attend to her.

Emily found Dr Craven in the library. He was standing at the tall windows, his back to her, looking out across the lawns.

“Doctor Craven. I wondered if I might have a word.”

The older man did not turn.

“Of course.”

“It is about your wife.” Emily stopped. It was important she find the right words. “I fear the death of your son might have affected her more than you might have realised.”

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”.