Life At Babcock Manor – Episode 28


Belinda picked up her skirts and was soon lost in the sea of people.

Emily saw Dr Craven on the other side of the room; he would not approve of his ward wandering unescorted around the dance floor – maybe she should have gone instead.

When, after several minutes had passed, Belinda had still not returned, Emily stood up and anxiously looked up and down the room. It wasn’t long before she saw Belinda. She was standing at the side of the room with a young gentleman. Her hand was on his arm and he bent low to hear what she was whispering in his ear.

“Lizzie, stay here. I won’t be long.”

Trying not to attract attention, Emily hurried over to the two young people. As she reached them, Belinda looked up, her face flooded with happiness.

“Oh, my dear Miss Osbourne. I want you to meet my fiancé.”

As she spoke, the gentleman turned round and Emily gasped, for she knew his face very well.

She put a hand to her mouth.

“Mr Jupp!”

“Why, Miss Osbourne.” Lewis Jupp smiled in amusement. “I was not expecting to see you here.”

Emily looked at Mrs Craven’s brother. He was certainly very handsome in his cutaway jacket with its silk collar and revers. Since she had seen him last, his hair had grown longer and he now sported a moustache.

“That is quite obvious, Mr Jupp.”

Belinda’s hand was still upon his arm. The young girl’s face was flushed with happiness as she looked from Emily to the man beside her.

“Do you know each other, Miss Osbourne? Mr Jupp and I met at a ball in London. He owns several properties and it was necessary for him to visit some of them.”

Emily raised her eyebrows. The young man had obviously been weaving a web of lies to bewitch the girl.

“Yes, we have met.”

Belinda clutched her hands to her chest.

“How wonderful! Now we can all be friends.”

It was becoming clear to Emily that Belinda had no idea who her fiancé was. She needed to get her away from him while she thought of her next course of action. Dr Craven would never allow his ward to become betrothed to a man such as his wife’s brother.

“Come, Belinda, for Elizabeth will be wondering where we have got to.”

“But Miss Osbourne, Mr Jupp has promised me the next dance.”

The band had started to play the music for a Lancier and couples were taking to the floor once more.

“I did indeed,” Lewis said, putting an arm around the girl’s waist.

Emily noticed that the people nearest them on the edge of the dance floor had started to look their way with curiosity. The way Lewis was behaving was not how manners at a ball dictated, and from the look in his eyes she knew he was challenging her.

Fighting to control her dismay, Emily lowered her voice so that only he could hear.

“Mr Jupp, I’m sure you would not want me to divulge your real purpose for visiting the city.”

Aware that Emily was referring to his debts, Lewis dropped his arm from around Belinda’s waist.

“I was just thinking of taking some light refreshment. If you will excuse me. I shall take my leave.”

“But Mr Jupp . . .” Belinda said in dismay.

Lewis took Belinda’s hand and kissed it, then, taking a step back, he bowed low.

“It’s been a pleasure, Miss Carmichael.”

He turned to Emily, his eyes steely.

“Miss Osbourne, we shall meet again, of that you can be sure.”

****

Elsa sat in the kitchen stitching a piece of lace on to the collar of one of Elizabeth’s dresses.

The grandfather clock in the hallway at the top of the kitchen stairs struck the hour. She yawned, then with a quick look over her shoulder she felt in her pocket and brought out a small, white bonnet. She walked over the window and touched the cloth to her lips.

“Dear Bertie.” She sighed.

Beyond the window, the moon shone down from a clear sky. It was the same moon that would be shining down on her baby son. She had left him in the care of her mother and the money she sent each week from the big house was enough to keep him in food.

As she stared into the darkness, a bell rang on the wall next to the kitchen door. It was a summons from Mrs Craven.

With a sigh, she stood up and stretched her shoulders back to ease them, then, taking the lamp from the table, she took the back stairs to the hallway.

All was quiet in the house as Elsa climbed the stairs, and her only company was the eyes that gazed down at her from the portraits on the landing. She reached Mrs Craven’s bedroom and knocked on the door.

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”.