Clara has lived a life of solitude, home schooled under her mean uncle's strict regime . . .
Her uncle's house has been losing staff and furniture as his fortunes fail, and finally he disappears himself, leaving Clara all alone in the giant manor with nothing but a wedge of 'guilt money'.
Luckily, streetwise Peter has been sent to stay . . . at least he has some experience of the real world and how to survive.
And the children are far from unhappy with their newfound freedom: a life of sliding down bannisters, making dens in Uncle's study, warming themselves by a fire of text books, playing sardines with the village children and living off nothing but boiled eggs and mashed potatoes has its appeal!
But then an interfering grown-up turns up with the unwelcome news that the house is to be sold.
Perhaps the mysterious ballet shoe that Stockwell the cat befriends has the answers to Clara's unknown past . . . a past that might hold the key to a better future . . .