That Would Be a Fairy Tale - By Amanda Grange

Chapter One

‘Are you sure?’ asked Mr Weedon. ‘It’s still not too late to change your mind.’

Miss Cicely Haringay braced herself. ‘Quite sure.’ Picking up the pen she signed the document. As she did so she felt a sinking sensation. With the signing of the document she had sold her beautiful manor house, and for the first time in its four-hundred year history it had passed out of Haringay hands.

‘If I could just ask you to date it?’ Mr Weedon prompted her.

Cicely roused herself. ‘Of course.’ She added the date - 25th June, 1904 - before handing back the document to Mr Weedon.

‘May I say what a pleasure it has been doing business with you?’ said the solicitor politely as he took the proffered document and put it away.

Cicely forced herself to smile. ‘Thank you. And thank you for all your help in arranging the sale.’

‘Not at all.’

Cicely turned to the door, her business concluded. Then, on a sudden impulse, she looked back at Mr Weedon. ‘Mr Evington plans to take up residence at the start of next month, I think you said?’

‘He does.’

Cicely nodded, thankful that at least she would have some time to get used to the idea of someone else living at the Manor before actually seeing him there.

She was glad that her beloved father had not lived to see it. He would have been horrified at the very idea of selling the Manor, and he would have been even more horrified at knowing that it had been bought by a businessman, or a cit, as he had called them.

If there had been time, she would have waited for a country family to buy it, people who would have fallen in love with the beautiful old house and treated it with the affection it deserved. But her father’s death had left her with such pressing debts that she had had to accept the first offer she had received. A generous offer, it was true, but one made by a man who had bought her beloved Manor house without even seeing it, as though any house would do.

However, there was no use dwelling on things. She was fortunate to have found a buyer, and she comforted herself with the thought that at least she had not had to sell the Lodge.

Thanking Mr Weedon again she pulled on her gloves and left the office, descending the stairs and reclaiming her bicycle, which she had left propped against the wall outside. Her flat straw hat, calf-length divided skirt, bolero jacket and short boots were ideally suited to bicycling, and she threw one leg expertly over the saddle before setting off back to the Lodge.

She soon left the town of Oakleigh behind her. As she cycled along the peaceful country lane she felt her spirits begin to rise. Selling the Manor had been difficult but it was over now, and she had much to be thankful for. She had paid all her father’s debts, and she still had enough money left over to enable her to live in modest comfort.

She turned left at the crossroads and headed towards Little Oakleigh. The summer afternoon was a beautiful one. The rain of the morning had given way to bright sunshine, and she found herself enjoying the ride. High hedges grew at either side of the lane. Grass verges, covered in wild flowers, ran in an untidy profusion alongside, and a rabbit hopped out from a neighbouring field and twitched its nose, before hopping along the verge and disappearing under the hedge again.

She began to draw near the village of Little Oakleigh. Only a mile more to go and she would be at the Lodge. Which was a good thing, she thought, as she heard the chimes of the church clock ringing out over the countryside, because she had invited Alice to tea.

She began to pedal more vigorously. Then, turning a corner, she started the descent to the forge. She had almost reached the bottom when, coming round the corner, she saw a motor car. The sight was so unusual that for a moment she was transfixed. Then, recovering herself, she swerved, only to find that she was now hurtling towards the duck pond instead. She tried to turn again, but it was too late, and she found herself careering into the water, tumbling from her bicycle and landing with a soft, wet thud on the thick mud at the bottom.

She hit the water in frustration and then picked herself up, looking at her filthy wet