Life At Babcock Manor – Episode 33

At the bottom of the stairs, Jenny almost ran into Elizabeth’s governess.

“Why, Jenny, whatever is the matter? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”

Jenny glanced over her shoulder, up the curving staircase.

“I don’t rightly know, Miss Osbourne.”

“My dear, you’re shaking like a leaf. Come into the kitchen and I shall get Mrs Banbury to make you some tea.”

She took Jenny’s arm and led her to the kitchen where the cook was cutting small leaf shapes from the pastry to lay on top of the pies.

Mrs Banbury looked up.

“Where’s the tray, girl? Don’t say you’ve gone and left it in the mistress’s room.”

“I’m sorry, Mrs Banbury, but I . . . I didn’t want . . .”

“Now, now,” Emily said, taking Jenny’s hands. “You must tell me what it is that is troubling you. Would you mind pouring the girl some strong tea, Mrs Banbury? She’s as white as a sheet.”

As Jenny drank her tea and told Miss Osbourne about the child in Mrs Craven’s room, the older woman’s brow creased with concern. Mrs Banbury laid down her rolling pin and came and sat beside her.

“Now, there’s a pretty story you’ve weaved and that’s a fact.”

“I think the girl is telling the truth, Mrs Banbury. It would explain a lot of things that have been going on in this house recently. Did you know that Elsa had a child?”

The cook scratched her head.

“I heard rumours in the town, miss. Heard her husband ran off as soon as the little ’un was born, but I don’t like listening to tittle-tattle and Elsa never said a word about it.”

“I must ask you not to speak a word of this to anyone until I have had a chance to speak to Doctor Upton. With Doctor Craven away again, he might know what to do.”

“It’s all the same to me. No business of mine anyway – not unless it interferes with the girl’s work.”

“Thank you, Mrs Banbury. I am very grateful.”

As Emily was getting up to leave, there was a knock on the kitchen door.

“Must be the butcher with his delivery,” Mrs Banbury said, heaving herself out of her chair. “See to it, would you, Jenny?”

Jenny went over to the door and unlatched it. Her hand fell to her side in surprise, for Robert stood before her on the doorstep, his cap in his hand and a bag by his feet.

“Robert! What are you doing here?”

The young footman kicked a stone, sending it skittering across the yard.

“I hated it there,” he said, glaring at the tall chimneys of Clarence Hall, which could just be seen in the distance. “The other footmen were stuck up and the master made me clean out the stables. That’s the stable boy’s job.”

Jenny stared at him, unable to hide her pleasure at seeing him.

“Mr Craven will give you your old job back, I’m sure. I never thought I’d hear you say you missed blacking the master’s boots.”

“Oh, I did, Jenny, but that’s not all I missed.” He took Jenny’s hands. “I’ve been a clod. It was you I missed most of all.”

“I’m glad you told me, Miss Osbourne.” Dr Craven’s voice was weary. Resting his elbows on his knees, he balled his fists and leant his forehead against them. “If only I had not been called away these last two weeks.”

Outside the conservatory window, a blackbird hopped between the red and gold leaves on the lawn, pecking at the soft earth, for the days had been damp and mild that week.

James leaned forward in his chair.

“I fear it would have made little difference. In your absence, I took the liberty of speaking to your wife, Cedric. She has accepted that the child is not hers. I don’t believe she ever really thought it was.”

There was a gentleness in the young doctor’s voice which moved Emily. Since she had spoken to him of her concerns for Mrs Craven, James had been a regular visitor to Babcock Manor and had spent many hours speaking with his colleague’s fragile wife.

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”.