Exclusive Excerpt from The Cottingley Secret:
Fairies will not be rushed. I know this now; know I must
Stiff and still in my favourite seat, formed from the
natural bend in the bough of a willow tree, I am wildly
alert, detecting every shifting shape and shadow; every
snap and crack of twig. I dangle my bare feet in the beck,
enjoying the cool rush of the water as it finds a natural
course between my toes. I imagine that if I sat here for
a hundred years, the water would smooth and round
them, like the pebbles I collect from the riverbed and keep
in my pockets.
In the distance I can see Mr Gardner, the man they sent
from London, with his round spectacles and bow tie and
endless questions. He peers around the trunk of an oak
tree, watches for a moment, and scribbles his observations
in his notebook. I know what he writes: remarks about
the weather, our precise location, the peculiar sense of
something different in the air.
Elsie stands on the riverbank beside me, her camera
ready. ‘Can’t you ’tice them?’ she urges. ‘Say some secret
I shrug. ‘They’re here, Elsie. I can feel them.’ But like
the soft breath of wind that brushes against my skin, the
things we feel cannot always be seen.
I know that the best time to see them is in that perfect
hour before sunset when the sun sinks low on the horizon
like a ripe peach and sends shafts of gold bursting through
the trees. The ‘in between’, I call it. No longer day, not
yet night; some other place and time when magic hangs
in the air and the light plays tricks on the eye. You might
easily miss the flash of violet and emerald, but I – according
to my teacher, Mrs Hogan – am ‘a curiously observant
child’. I see their misty forms among the flowers and leaves.
I know my patience will be rewarded if I watch and listen,
if I believe.
Tired of waiting, Elsie takes her camera and returns to
the house, where Aunt Polly is waiting to hear if we
managed any new photographs. The others soon follow:
Mr Gardner, the newspaper reporters, the ‘fairy hunters’
who come to snoop and trample all over the wildflowers
and spoil things. My little friends won’t appear just to
please these onlookers. They move according to the patterns
and rhythms of nature, not the whims of so-called experts
from London. Fairies, I understand. These men, I do not.
Glad to be alone again, I watch the pond skaters and
dragonflies, listen to the steady giggle of the water, sense
the prickle of anticipation all around me. The sun dazzles
on the water and I squint to shield my eyes as the heat
at the back of my neck makes me drowsy and tugs at my
eyelids, heavy with the desire to sleep.
I press my palms against the bark, smoothed from
decades of weather and countless children who have sat
here. How many of them have seen, I wonder? How many
of them have known? I wait and I wait, whispering the
words from my picture book: ‘“There shall be no veil
between them, / Though her head be old and wise. / You
shall know that she has seen them, / By the glory in her
And then . . .
The lightest ringing at my ears. The slightest movement
of fern and leaf.
My heart flutters. My eyes widen with excitement.
A flash of vibrant emerald. Another of softest
I lean forward. Draw in my breath. Don’t make a sound.
They are here.
The Cottingley Secret is published on 7th September in TPB and ebook format. You can order your copy via amazon link below:
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