The Enchanted Cove Extract from Chapter 1 How it All Began
Delighted to receive the final PDF of The Enchanted Cove today, due for publication this year–final date to be confirmed. So to get in the mood, here are a few extracts from the book...
How It All Began
About 100 years ago, in a quiet part of London stood Number 43 Hanwell Street. It was a tall narrow building, part of a long terrace of smart red brick houses with whitewashed steps up to the door and pink geraniums bursting out of their window boxes. The pavement outside these rather prim houses was a pale gleaming grey as though it had been polished. At the far end of the street was a small grocer’s shop selling everything from cucumbers to umbrellas. It faced a sweet shop with a bay window holding giant sized jars of brightly coloured sweets. Sometimes a motorcar would take a short cut along the street causing the local children to peek out of the windows, or even run out into the street and chase after the clanking and spluttering vehicle.
But for most of the time it was a very ordinary street, where nothing extraordinary happened. So nothing very extraordinary had happened to the four children who lived happily with their mother and father at number 43.
The eldest child of this large family was Rose, a tall girl with long dark hair that trailed over her thin shoulders, and an amused expression as if she were always thinking of a new joke. Next came George, a lively boy with unruly black hair that resisted his mother’s attempts to comb it neatly. His imaginative ideas and pranks delighted the others, particularly their shy younger brother Freddie, who could never build up the courage to misbehave. Last came little Mabel. She had a round rosy face and untidy straw coloured plaits, her dresses usually stained or patched because of an adventurous game.
It was a peaceful Sunday afternoon, a few weeks before the summer holidays and at number 43 it was so quiet that for once, all the children could hear was the Cuckoo Clock that their uncle had brought back for them from one of his travels ticking high on the nursery wall.
George sat with his knees pulled up in front of him at the window seat; staring at a dog he could see scrabbling after a discarded scrap outside the grocers. Mabel and Freddie were carefully arranging an army of toy soldiers into rows across the wooden floorboards. Rose was thoughtfully turning the pages of a book, but was interrupted when all of a sudden George swung his booted feet off the window seat and started to pace up and down restlessly.
‘I’m so bored!’ He grumbled, shoving his fists into the pockets of his knee length shorts, ‘nothing interesting ever happens in this house’.
George peeped over Rose’s shoulder to see what she was reading. As she frowned and turned the book away from him, he caught a sight of an illustration of a ship.
‘I wish I could run away to sea or join the circus.’
‘Oh George, don’t be so silly!’ sighed Rose.
Freddie looked up from his game. ‘Well at least it’s the school holidays soon,’ he said reassuringly, ‘I wonder where Mother and Father will take us this year?’
‘That’s a stupid question,’ snapped George, ‘we ALWAYS go to the same old place, to stay with those terribly old relatives of Father’s, where we can’t even BREATHE in case it gives them a fright!’ He picked up an umbrella and began to hobble around the room as though he were an old man, waggling his finger in their faces to indicate that they should ‘hush’.
The others laughed so loudly at this nonsense that they didn’t hear the bell to call them for supper. It wasn’t long before their mother appeared at the nursery door. ‘Goodness it sounds like a zoo in here! What have you been doing? Hurry up and wash your hands before supper, I’ve got some news for you.’
A few minutes later as the children sat around a large table in the parlour munching hot buttered toast and jam, their mother seated herself beside little Mabel and pulled a letter out of the pocket of her skirt.
‘I received this letter today from a relative of mine, Aunt Alice’.
The children looked blankly at their mother and then at each other.
‘Oo's she?’ said George, his mouth full of bread. I thought we'd met all our Aunties?’
‘I do wish you wouldn't speak with your mouth full,’ said Mother disapprovingly before continuing, ‘Aunt Alice is MY Aunt, your grandfather's sister. You haven't met her because she lives ever so far away from London, right across the other side of the country in West Cornwall. I haven't seen her since I was your age.’
Rosie put down her glass of milk, eyes shining with excitement. ‘I read about Cornwall in a book, it's where King Arthur lived!’
‘REALLY?’ Freddie piped up innocently.
‘Anyway dears,’ continued Mother, ‘since my Uncle Ralph died, Aunt Alice finds her house quite lonely and far too big for one old lady and a cat, so she has written to invite us to stay for the summer. We're catching the first train from Paddington station next Tuesday morning at dawn.’
‘Three cheers for Aunt Alice!’ cried George rising from his chair and raising his glass, ‘perhaps this summer won't be so boring after all!’
The last few hot days of the summer term dragged on like heavy boots until finally the time came to pack their suitcases. Mother had asked Sally the housemaid to help her pack, but the children had each been presented with a small suitcase by Father, which he had bought from a market for them to pack with some treasured possessions. Rose had packed a stack of books into her suitcase before she realised it was far too heavy to lift and had to limit herself to packing ‘The Arabian Nights’ and her diary. Freddie's suitcase was neatly packed with tin soldiers, marbles, a model train and a magnifying glass.
Mabel was too young to decide, so Rose helped by packing her favourite threadbare stuffed animals. As for George, his suitcase contained a compass, a penknife and some cakes he'd ‘borrowed’ from the larder whilst Sally was sweeping the front steps.
The next morning at six o'clock the bleary eyed family, surrounded by luggage, were waiting to board the steam train to Cornwall. A jolly guard loaded their belongings into the luggage compartment, whilst they hurried along the side of the train to find their carriage. After a short squabble over who should have the window seats, the children sat back to enjoy the journey. As the train pulled out of the station with a roar of steam and metal, Freddie pressed his nose against the cold misty glass and watched as the familiar view of London seemed to twist and turn and then shrink smaller and smaller until it disappeared into the distance.
The chugging rhythm of the train and the early hour soon caused Freddie's eyelids to droop. Before long he and Mabel had fallen asleep, Mabel lying with her head on Father's shoulder as he studied a newspaper. George peeked into his suitcase and was disappointed to discover that the contraband food he'd packed had been removed by Sally and replaced with a miserable looking cheese sandwich. Rose was miles away in her imagination, dreaming of the exotic lands in her book.
By the time Freddie awoke, the landscape outside the window had changed from row upon row of small houses and chimney pots, to open countryside where low farmhouses and grazing animals flashed past the window as the train sped on. As evening drew in tiny yellowish pinpricks began to dance in the windows of the buildings they passed. By now everyone was hungry so Mother handed out some buns and hot chocolate from a flask. A full stomach and the orange glow of the lamps in the carriage made everyone drowsy. George tried to fight it, but before long all the children had drifted into to a heavy sleep.
Woken abruptly, as the train shuddered to a standstill, for a moment George wondered if he was still asleep. All he could see through the window was pitch-blackness. He rubbed his eyes and blinked furiously. Just as he was beginning to wonder if this was part of a strange dream, a light flickered in the carriage and he could see the outline of Father's bearded face and then heard his voice gently encouraging the others:
‘Wake up children, Mabel, Freddie, Rose we're here.’
With legs that seemed to have turned to jelly and still half asleep, Rose, Freddie George and Mabel (with a little help from Father) clambered out of the carriage and assembled on the platform. The damp air was chilly and had an unusual salty, yet sweet smell.
Rose pulled up the collar of her woollen coat and watched as father spoke to a shadowy figure standing by a cab. Aunt Alice had arranged transport for the family, a horse drawn cab which wove through the darkness until at long last they reached their destination, the silhouette of a large cottage, surrounded by trees and with welcoming lights in the downstairs windows. And there at the door to greet them, arms outstretched, was Aunt Alice.