Sophie, aged seven and her brother, Toby, aged nine, were in the third week of the school Summer holidays and had started to get bored. Today was different though, they had had an unexpected telephone call from Auntie Margaret, who lived on a farm in the country, and she had invited them to stay for a couple of weeks. They were so excited as they packed their bags, they could not think what to take with them. Good old Mum saved the day, as usual, and made sure nothing they might need was omitted. Sophie took her diary, as she was determined not to miss a single thing that happened during their stay, so that she could tell her friends when they all went back to school.1
The journey seemed to take forever, but they finally arrived at "Fallow Farm" and were greeted by Benny, Auntie Margaret's lovely boxer dog. Benny was four years old and Sophie couldn't remember a time when he wasn't arround to greet her. Auntie Margaret followed with the widest smile. The children loved her very much, she was so kind and cuddly, a typical farmer's wife, with a lovely rosy complexion. They also loved the smell of baking that always filled the big farm kitchen. Auntie Margaret was Mum's older sister and sadly did not have children of her own, so she always made a special fuss of Sophie and Toby.2
It was a very hot day and Auntie Margaret's home made lemonade was very welcome, as was the the home made bread with thick farm butter and home made plum jam. After tea the children wandered around the farm and said "Hello" to all the animals, old and new. It had been a long day and they felt tired and decided it would be a good idea to have an early night so that they would be up bright and fresh for a full busy day tomorrow.3
Toby's room was on the first floor of the old Farmhouse - it was a lovely bright room, but definitely decorated with a boy in mind, whereas Sophie, who was on the second floor, had a very pretty pink and white room, fit for a Princess she always thought. Soon both children were fast asleep and dreaming of what a great time they had in store in the coming next two weeks.4
Sophie woke very early. The birds were singing and the sun was pouring through the window. The smell of bacon drifted up from the kitchen. Uncle Bert always had a full English breakfast, as he called it, after he had milked the cows and dealt with all the other early morning chores. Sophie crept down the stairs to be greeted by Benny - his bed was on the landing and he was never allowed in the kitchen at mealtimes. Sophie made a fuss of him and proceeded downstairs. Auntie Margaret had her usual lovely smile and Uncle Bert was busy drinking his giant mug of tea and reading the newspaper. Soon Sophie was joined by Toby, and Auntie Margaret gave them both a a glass of fresh milk - it had a taste of it's own - nothing like that in the cartons that Mum had delivered by the milkman at home. They had boiled new laid eggs for breakfast with fresh home baked bread. "What a lovely start to the day" thought Sophie.5
After having a bath and getting dressed - Sophie and Toby went to see the horses. They were all lovely, but Sophie couldn't help having a favourite, a little pony called Charlie. Charlie was very small and very gentle and she loved it when Auntie Margaret let her have a ride on Charlie's back. She wasn't allowed to ride him unless Auntie Margaret was with her, so this morning she had to settle for a stroke and making a fuss of him, as Auntie Margaret was very busy.6
After a lunch of Tuna and Salad, the children went into town with Uncle Bert - he had to go to the bank and various other places and Auntie Margaret was baking cakes for the Church Fete. They loved riding in Uncle Bert's old Landrover and on the was back he stopped at a neighbouring farm to see Farmer Jolly about some farming matters. Farmer Jolly's grandson, Gerald, was visiting his grandfather for the school holidays and asked if Toby could come over the next day to play with his garage that his grandfather had made for him. It was arranged that Uncle Bert would drop Toby off there at 10.30 am the next day. Sophie was reluctantly invited by Gerald, but she wasn't interested in cars and she didn't particularly like Gerald very much anyway. They had played together the last time they visited Auntie Margaret and she found him too bossy for her liking.7
The next morning Toby was up very early and he was quite excited to be spending the day on Gerald's grandfather's farm. He always gave them a ride on his tractor and let them help him with the animals.8
Uncle Bert took Toby off at 10.00am Auntie Margaret was busy in the house, so Sophie decided to have wander round the farm. After she had said "good morning" to all the animals, she noticed a little pathway that she hadn't noticed before. It was made of red brick with trees either side. She was very inquisitive and decided to explore. As she walked along the path she noticed a small thatched cottage at the far end. It was avery pretty cottage with pink roses round the door and green lawns to the front, with lots of different coloured flowers around the borders. The windows gleamed and had little lace curtains at each of them. The door was black with a big brass horseshoe for a knocker, with a matching brass letter box. There didn't appear to be anyone around, but she decided to walk up the path anyway.. As she peeped in the kitchen window, she heard a voice say "Hello, can I help you?" She jumped back, blushing - she felt so guilty and started to apologise profusely. "I didn't mean to be nosey" she said "but I have visited my Auntie's farm so often and have never noticed the red brick path or this cottage before. "Don't worry" said the voice, which belonged to one the the prettiest girls she had ever seen. She had long auburn hair that hung way down her back, her eyes were of the brightest violet and so big they looked like saucers. Her skin was like peaches and cream and her nose and lips were so perfect that she looked like a china doll. She wore a very pretty blue and while long velvet dress with a matching headband in her hair - Sophie thought her clothes were pretty but rather old fashioned. Sophie always wore jeans and t-shirts, unless she was going somewhere special, but this girl looked as though she was a bridesmaid or, at least, she was going to a very special party.9
"I'm Molly" said the girl "who are you?" "Sophie" said Sophie still feeling awful for being so nosey. "I am staying with my Auntie Margaret at the farm - does your Father work on the farm?" she asked. Molly didn't really answer, but said how pleased she was to meet Sophie and said that she had seen her and her brother arrive and had hoped they would meet. Molly was so nice that Sophie soon forgot about feeling awkward and proceeded to tell her how she lived in a town and loved to visit the farm whenever she could, usually at school holidays and sometimes Christmas. Molly and Sophie chatted for what seemed hours - until Sophie heard Auntie Margaret calling her. "I must rush" said Sophie "but can we meet again tomorrow?" Molly agreed and said she would meet her by the pond. She pointed to her left and Sophie saw a beautiful pond with ducks and swans. She hadn't seen the pond before and hadn't noticed it whilst talking to Sophie, but she would have a good look tomorrow. As she said goodbye to Molly and skipped up the path, she felt on top of the world, and waved to her new found friend until she was out of sight.10
Auntie Margaret looked a little cross, but it was only because she was worried - she had searched the farm, she said and could find no trace of Sophie. Sophie said how sorry she was and proceeded to tell her about the little red brick path and the thatched cottage and her new found friend, Molly. Auntie Margaret wasn't really listening - she had left the bread baking in the oven and was just relieved to have found Sophie. Fortunately the bread wasn't burnt and very soon Auntie Margaret had lost her cross look and was her usual happy self.11
When Toby returned home Sophie started to tell him about her day and her new friend Molly, but he was too excited about his day with Gerald to listen properly. When she told him about the red brick path and the thatched cottage he assumed that she was day dreaming and that Molly was just an imaginary friend. He had stayed at Auntie Margaret's many times and had wandered all over the farm and he had never seen a red brick path or cottage. Sophie must have felt lonely and made up a secret friend, he thought, and he felt very guilty for leaving her on her own all day, especially as he had had such a wonderful day.12
Next morning, after breakfast, Auntie Margaret said they could play on the farm, as long as they stayed within calling distance, because after lunch she had planned a trip into town and for themto have acream tea in their favourite teashop. Usually, Sophie would have been thrilled, but today she would rather have spend time with Molly, but she didn't want to appear ungrateful by saying that to Auntie Margaret. "What shall we do while we are waiting for Auntie Margaret?" said Toby. "Well, I have to meet Molly by the pond" said Sophie "why don't you come too?" Toby thought he would play along with Sophie's littlegame and agreed. "Where is this red brick path then?" said Toby. "At the back of the stables" Sophie told him and after a quick"Hello" to the horses and a cuddle for Charlie, she beckoned Toby to where she found the path yesterday. There were lots ot trees behind the stables and as they walked through them Sophie was a little puzzled, the path was nowhere to be found. It was all very overgrown and despite searching for ages, the path just wasn't there. Toby still played along with Sophie, he didn't want her to feel silly. "Perhaps it wasn't there" he said "perhaps it was on another part of the farm?" "No", said Sophie "it was definitely here - I had just said goodby to Charlie, when I looked up and noticed it". Toby didn't feel he could go along with this silly game any longer and said he was going off to help Auntie Margaret gather the eggs. Normally Sophie would have loved to help also - the feel of the lovely warm eggs always seemed so special, but today was different, she had arranged to meet Molly and she just had to find the path. She searched and searched, even calling Molly's name, hoping she would hear her and come to find her, but nothing. It started to rain and Toby came to say that Auntie Margaret had said they must come in. She didn't want to but she had made Auntie Margaret cross yesterday and thought it unwise to do that again today. Auntie Margaret suggested that they go into the study where there was a vast collection of books, and have a read until she was ready to take them into town.13
The study was only small but was packed full of books. Uncle Bert may have been a big tough farmer, but he loved music and art and reading was his passion. Sophie couldn't concentrate on reading as she was still puzzling how she found the little red brick path so easily yesterday and yet today, despite searching and searching, she hadn't been able to find it. She would ask Auntie Margaret on the way to town later.14
As Sophie flicked through the pages of the big old book that was lying on the table, a familiar scene flicked passed. Her heart beat faster, could she have really seen what she thought -THE RED BRICK PATH AND THE COTTAGE!! She quickly flicked back the pages and there iwas before her, exactly as she had seen it yesterday. She eagerly looked at the picture. It was amazing, the book was so old and yet this picture could have been taken yesterday - the roses round the door, the big black door with it's brass horseshoe knocker and matching letter box. Even the lace curtains were exactly the same. A weird feeling came over Sophie as she read the article on "Rose Cottage". It told how the cottage was built in the 1800's for living accommodation for farm employees. It told how Tom and Mary Cooper were the last people to live in the cottage, with their daughter Molly, in 1909 - but when Molly was tragically drown in an adjoining pond at the age of eight, Tom and Mary moved away. The pond was filled in and the cottage was closed up and never used again. The article also said that the farmer, at the time, had asked Tom and Mary if they would like the cottage pulled down, but they asked for it to be left, but that the trees and shrubs around it left and to never be trimmed back so they could grow and swallow up the cottage so it would never be seen again. This was agreed, the article said, and to this day the cottage cannot be seen for the brambles and the shrubs. As she turned to the next page there was a picture of the Cooper family and sure enough, there was Molly - wearing the same blue velvet dress that she wore yesterday. "What's is wrong with you?" asked Toby "you look as though you have seen a ghost". Sophie handed Toby the book, she couldn't speak, she just pointed to the article. Toby read it and looked at the picture andhe realised thatit was exactly as Sophie had described everything. "Perhaps you read this book before" said Toby. "Maybe it stuck in your memory and perhaps you were so bored yesterday that you fell asleep and had a vivid dream". "You could be right" she said "but it seemed so real". Auntie Margaret entered to room and saw the book in Sophie's hand. "My dear" she said "do take great care and put that book away carefully as your Uncle had a lot of trouble getting a copy of that book - it is about all the old cottages in the area and their history. He only managed to get that copy this morning and hasn't even looked at it himself yet". Sophie looked at Toby and he looked back at her, both knew what the other was thinking - that Sophie couldn't have read the book before so she couldn't have known about The Red Brick Path, the Cottage and Molly. It seems that for a few hours, yesterday, she went back to another time and place and made a very special friend. She hoped that one day she would be able to go back again, but if not, she would always have felt priviledged to have met Molly.15
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