“Good afternoon, Mrs Reynolds, I’m Robin Matthews. Fiona Collins, from Fenshaw & Adams, phoned to say I would like to view the property.”
Alice Reynolds looked in surprise at the young man standing on her doorstep. Early thirties, smartly dressed, quality car at the gate, he looked like a rising young executive, not the sort of buyer she thought would be interested in a run-down eighteenth-century cottage.
“Yes, please come in.” Alice led the way into a long living room. “Please sit down.”
Alice indicated a shabby armchair, facing the window, on one side of an open fireplace. She seated herself in its twin on the opposite side.
“Forgive me, Mr Matthews, but are you sure this is the kind of place you’re interested in? I mean, it’s so old fashioned. Eric and I bought it forty years ago, it was just what we wanted and we never did anything to it. The bathroom is very basic. There are old-fashioned gas water heaters over both the bath and wash basin, same over the kitchen sink. No central heating. No plumbing for an automatic washing machine. The plumbing needs a complete replacement. The place needs re-wiring and additional power sockets. None of the doors and windows fit, when it is windy the whole place rattles, creaks and groans, icy draughts sweep under the doors, and the wind howls in the chimney.”
Robin laughed. “Mrs Reynolds, all you have left out is the resident ghost.”
“Oh yes, there is supposed to be one, though she is resident outside. This place was once the lodge of Hebthorpe Hall. After the family died out the estate was bought by a property developer, the Hall was demolished but the Lodge was sold separately.
“The story is that about eighteen hundred, the lodge keeper had a very beautiful young daughter, called Millie, who was seduced by His Lordship’s son. One morning she saw him coming from the Hall on horseback, the father went to open the gate, Millie ran out, grabbed the horse’s bridle, told the young man she was pregnant and begged him to help her. He angrily told her to get out of the way and lashed out at her with his riding crop. Millie stumbled and fell, just as the young man urged his horse forward. She was trampled to death under the hooves. Ever since people have claimed to have heard her dying screams and seen her ghost at the gate or wandering round the garden, but Eric and I lived here forty years and never heard or saw anything unusual.”
“Poor Millie, what a tragic story,” said Robin. “Mrs Reynolds, you’ve been very honest, and you are right, I don’t want a place that needs so much work. I won’t waste any more of your time, especially as I can see your granddaughter waiting to come in.”
“Yes, the pretty young girl standing under the apple tree. I must say she makes a very beautiful picture in her lovely vintage dress, with apple blossom behind her.”
Alice got up, went to the window and looked out. She shook her head.
“There’s no-one there, Mr Matthews - and Eric and I never had any children.”