by: Elizabeth Goudge

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This magical tale, written for children, is washed through with such a rare, spiritual quality that we recommend you don?t miss reading it - however old you are! We ourselves have read it loads of times, and it never fails to enthrall and inspire us. The beautiful valley of Moonacre is shadowed by the memory of the Moon Princess and the mysterious little white horse. To her surprise, Maria Merryweather, a stranger to Moonacre Manor, finds herself involved with what happened to the Moon Princess so many years before. Not at all deterred by the fact that none before her have succeeded, nor by any discouragement that crosses her path, she is determined to restore peace and happiness to the whole of Moonacre Valley. This beautiful hardback edition, reproducing the four original colour plates and line drawings of the first edition of 1946, is so lovely that you just want to hug it! What a beautiful joy to share.
292pp, 148mm x 230mm, illustrated, hardback, 2008

The next morning Maria's waking dream was that the carved sickle moon over her head had flown down like a butterfly and kissed her on the nose. And when she woke up she saw that her riding-habit had been put ready for her, so it must have been Loveday who had kissed her. At breakfast Sir Benjamin noticed that she was wearing her habit and smiled broadly.

'Lovely day,' he said. 'Grand day. Too good to waste over lesson books. Give her the day off, Miss Heliotrope. Let her run wild today - go where she likes - do what she likes. You might take a look at the orchard, Maria. I've turned some sheep in there, and they're a pretty sight.' Then he sighed gustily. 'I'm going to keep more sheep than I did, now that owing to your meddlesome ways those on Paradise Hill are a dead loss.'

But when Maria looked at him she saw that he was not really cross with her about the sheep, because his eyes were twinkling. She was a little surprised, though, that he should be in such a good mood, because there had been a minor tragedy this morning. Marmaduke Scarlet had left the larder door open and Wrolf had gone in and devoured the whole of the leg of mutton intended for dinner, the whole of the beefsteak and kidney pudding intended for supper, and the whole of the ham intended for tomorrow's breakfast... He had never been known to do such a thing before.

Miss Heliotrope agreed about the day off, and as soon as she had finished her breakfast Maria with Serena, Wiggins, and Wrolf, went to the stable to saddle Periwinkle, for she thought she would take her pony into the orchard too, and afterwards she would ride to - wherever it was she was supposed to ride to today. Then, leading Periwinkle and followed by the other animals, she went through the tunnel into the kitchen garden, where all the fruit-trees were just coming into blossom and the great mulberry-tree was robed in green. She paused on one of the narrow paths, between the box hedges, and looked up at the window over the tunnel, and as before it was a blaze of salmon-pink geraniums. 'I'll look into it later,' said Maria to herself. 'After I've finished with the Men from the Dark Woods.'

Then she went on to the door in the east wall, unlocked it, and went though into the orchard. She had not been here for some while, and she gasped in delight when she saw the pink-and-white blossom that made a canopy fit for a queen over her head. It had been so warm lately that the fruit blossom was out much earlier than usual, and there were still clumps of primroses growing about the gnarled old trunks of the trees.

A rollicking spring wind was swaying the apple blossom, and carried to Maria a thread of merry music from the other end of the orchard. She followed it, and found Robin sitting on the grass beneath the largest and loveliest of the blossoming trees, his back against the trunk, playing his pipe. The branches above him were crowded with birds, robins, blackbirds, thrushes, tits, wrens, finches, all singing away fit to burst themselves. There were several rabbits skipping about, looking as though they were dancing in time to the music, and Serena began dancing too, and Wiggins rushed round and round, chasing his tail as he had done when he was a puppy. Wrolf and Periwinkle were too dignified to dance or skip, but Wrolf wagged his tail and Periwinkle whinnied on a high note of delight.

'Robin, you're a kind of enchanter, like Orpheus,' said Maria. 'I believe animals and birds would follow your music anywhere.'

'Yes they do,' said Robin. Then he smiled up at her, and asked, 'Well, are you ready?'

Maria's heart began to beat. 'Today?' she whispered.

'Yes,' said Robin. 'Now. I've spent the last few days exploring the pine-woods with Wrolf. He showed me where the castle is, and I found out the way to get inside it. It won't do to ring at the door in the ordinary way, of course. They wouldn't let us in. We must get inside secretly.'

'But, Robin,' whispered Maria, 'what do we do when we are inside?'

'I don't really know,' said Robin. 'I suppose we just walk up to the Men and tell them not to be wicked any more. We could try that, anyway.'

Maria thought this plan, though simple, sounded dreadfully dangerous, and she went prickly all over with fright; but she answered his cheerful grin with a merry smile.

From The Little White Horse (Collector's Edition), ?2011 by Elizabeth Goudge, published by Lion Hudson.