Life At Babcock Manor – Episode 32

Jenny was coring apples for one of the pie dishes that Mrs Banbury had just lined with pastry. A copper of water was boiling on the range and the windows were steaming up.

Lifting a finger, she traced a letter R on the cold pane. She missed Robert more than she could have imagined and, since he had gone to work at Clarence Hall, it was as if a light had gone out in her life.

Just as she was wondering what the young footman might be doing, the back door opened and Elsa came into the kitchen. Her shoes were wet and under her arm she clutched a large carpetbag. She walked straight past Jenny, dipping her head as she hurried by. As she reached the back stairs, Mrs Banbury turned around.

“Good lord, Elsa. Look at the state of your dress!”

Elsa looked down at the wet hem of her skirt then started to climb the stairs.

“Just one minute, young lady!”

The young maid stopped, her foot poised on the second step.

“How about telling me where you’ve been.”

Elsa clutched the bag more tightly to her.

“The mistress wanted me to get something from Wenton.”

“You mean to tell me you’ve gone all the way to town?” Mrs Banbury’s eyebrows soared. “You must have been up with the lark.”

“I done all me chores early, Mrs Banbury.”

“So, what have you got there?” Jenny pointed to the bag.

“None of yer business. It’s between me and Mrs Craven.” Picking up her skirt with her free hand, Elsa ran up the stairs before anyone was able to question her further.

“Don’t know what’s got into the girl recently. Always creeping around the house, and in and out of the mistress’s room like you’ve no idea. Mrs Craven must have a soft spot for young Elsa, despite her being so much trouble.”

Jenny put down her paring knife and frowned.

“She’s forgotten to take the mistress’s cordial up with her.”

“You take it up, Jenny, but don’t hang about – there’s work to be done.”

“I’m always having to do Elsa’s jobs,” Jenny grumbled, wiping her hands on her apron. “Since she’s been lady’s maid to Mrs Craven, she doesn’t seem to have any time for her other work.”

“Well, that’s between the girl and the mistress, Jenny. All I know is that there’s an oven waiting for the pies, so get a move on.”

Reluctantly, Jenny picked up the jug of cordial and left Mrs Banbury rolling out a second batch of pastry.

It was still early and there was no-one else about in the main house. Belinda had not yet risen and Miss Osbourne was taking breakfast with Elizabeth in the nursery.

Jenny climbed the large staircase, then moved quickly down the landing to Mrs Craven’s room, mindful of the cook’s warning.

Raising her hand to knock at the door, she froze. She must have been mistaken, for surely that was the sound of a child’s laughter? Putting her ear to the door, she strained to listen, but the only sound she could hear now was the voice of Mrs Craven. She seemed to be singing a lullaby.

Jenny was about to walk in when she heard footsteps approaching from the other end of the landing. Ducking behind a bookcase, she saw it was Elsa.

Upon reaching Mrs Craven’s door, she put down the carpetbag she was carrying to open it, and as she did, the clasp undid and the bag fell open. Inside was what looked like a wooden train and some brightly painted building blocks.

Hardly daring to breathe, Jenny watched as Elsa looked both ways along the corridor then, happy that there was no-one there to see her, opened the door and went in.

She closed it behind her, but not before Jenny saw, sitting on the floor of her mistress’s room, a small boy. His hair was curled around his face and when he laughed the dimple in his cheek was as fetching as Elsa’s.

Picking up her skirts, Jenny ran down the corridor, leaving the tray of cordial on the floor beside the bookcase. Her thoughts were in turmoil. Who was the child in her mistress’s room and what had Elsa to do with it?

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 tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.