I was reminded of this short story when I saw friends showing photos of their gardens on social media. Part 1 today, Part 2 to follow on Sunday.
I was looking for a new home when I came across a small village complete with pub, river and Post Office/general store. Mabel, the friendly lady in the Post Office, told me she had the keys to a cottage which was up for sale.
‘Mystic Mary,’ the previous owner, had died a few weeks before at the grand old age of one hundred and one. She had never married and her only relative was a niece who now lived in Australia, and wanted to sell the property to get her inheritance in cash.
The outside of the cottage was chocolate box perfect although I noticed the garden was overgrown and needed some TLC. Inside, although it needed a lot of work I could see the possibilities if I renovated it, and I loved it.
The garden although extensive was a nightmare. The grass of the lawn was shoulder-high and weeds were everywhere, which made it difficult to see its true potential. Nevertheless I had already determined that if the price was right this was to be my new home.
Two months later I had bought the cottage and moved in. I employed some builders to carry out essential repairs, and needing to keep out of their way I decided to start tackling the garden. It was hard work but eventually I cut a path through to the end of my property. Moving the debris out of the way I uncovered what I thought was a rockery.
Intrigued, I delved further into the scrub and was amazed to find a small stream running alongside. Lining both banks was a host of tiny flowers in all colours of the rainbow. Pinks and mauves blended with yellow and blues, purples and whites, all sparkling and shining in the early spring sunshine.
Carefully I cleared away some fallen branches and discovered a chain of toadstools, lined up like a row of miniature houses. I was amazed they hadn’t been broken by the weight of the undergrowth, but they stood tall and sturdy. Close to the brook was a fallen log which seemed to be home to a host of ladybirds. Dusk was now falling, and the setting sun glinted off the fireflies dancing over the water and gave a magical glow to the whole area.
As I prepared for bed that night my attention was caught by lights reflecting off my mirror. I glanced out the window, and opening it fully could just see the outline of the rockery and the stream. The whole area was bathed in a gentle coloured light, and I could not believe a few insects could be responsible for such an aurora. The next morning the area at the bottom of the garden was brightly lit, but it was nothing more unusual than daybreak.
Perhaps it had only been a dream or my imagination running riot. Whatever it was, I put on my gardening gear and set out to finish the job I had started the day before. As I uncovered more of the rockery I could see that it was covered with beautiful shells. Getting down on my knees I peered beyond the entrance to the miniature caves inside. Although it was dim I thought I could see movement, and assumed it was the home of various small nocturnal creatures.
When my eyes became accustomed to the gloom I was sure I saw the fluttering wings of little Angels. Berating myself for being an imaginative fool I returned to the back-breaking task of clearing the garden. Within a few days the jungle was under control and began to take on the appearance of any normal garden, although I kept the mystical area as it was. Apart from clearing the debris and watering the flowers, my only involvement was to sit on the bench I had installed and watch the activity as night fell.
Spring turned to summer, and with the repairs in the house finished I was able to enjoy every minute of my home. Unless it was pouring with rain, I got into the habit of going into the garden each evening as the sun went down and watching the activity. One night when it was nearly dark I saw a winged creature fly out, and sit on a toadstool preening.
I tried to convince myself it was an insect but in my heart I knew it was a fairy. Remaining motionless so as not to scare her off I couldn’t help my face breaking into a smile as she turned to look at me. She regarded me steadily for a few minutes then with a flutter of her wings took off and disappeared from sight.
I stayed where I was a bit longer before going back into the cottage to try to make sense of what I had seen. The next evening I resumed my previous position on the bench and sat down to wait. For a long while there were only the fireflies dancing over the water, and I was on the point of giving up when I noticed activity in the entrance to the grotto.
Suddenly Titania, as I had named her appeared, closely followed by a host of other fairies, who taking their lead from her danced and preened in the gathering dusk. Time passed as I sat enchanted by their antics until I realised it was already dark. For a moment I wondered how I was still able to see them, until I noticed the moonlight reflecting off their wings illuminating the area like Chinese lanterns. After that I went down every night at dusk and they accepted my presence without fear. I never mentioned my new friends to anyone; after all who would believe me?
Then out of the blue I received a phone call from an old school friend. Actually, Gloria had never been my friend. In fact I remembered her as a nasty, spiteful girl always trying to cause trouble. Somehow she had found out where I lived, and being in the area announced I could put her up for the night. Despite my reluctance she turned up on my doorstep the following evening. To make matters worse she was accompanied by an overweight, vicious cat who immediately tried to scratch my eyes out.
I had always considered myself an animal lover, but this one obviously disliked me as much as I disliked him. I missed my usual trip to the bottom of the garden but Gloria was the last person I would want to learn my secret. I woke early the next morning to find the back door wide open. Gloria told me ‘Pussykins’ had wanted to go out so she had got up in the night to let him into the garden.
I was glad to see the back of both of them. As she left she told me I should be thankful Pussykins had caught the bug at the bottom of my garden, but I slammed the door without really listening to her.
I drove to the garden centre, where the sweet smell of the flowers helped to restore my bad mood. Whilst browsing I came across an area selling garden ornaments, and couldn’t resist buying a beautiful statue of a tiny angel with outstretched arms, which would look perfect on the rockery. As I was heading for the check-out I spied a miniature gnome family and added them to my basket. The smile back on my face, I headed for home and went straight to the garden to arrange my new treasures.
Although the sun had gone down I thought it was too early for my fairy friends, and I intended to come back later to catch up with them. Just as I turned to go indoors I thought I heard a tiny sound, and stopped for a minute perplexed as to what it could be. It had sounded almost like a human voice calling ‘Help Me,’ but so softly it was at the limit of my hearing. Blaming my imagination I started walking away but then heard it again, ‘Help me.’ A flash of colour caught my attention, and bending down I saw it was reflecting off something lying in the grass.
It was Titania.