SE­RIAL The Mys­tery Of Macgre­gor’s Cove by June Davies

Should Kit con­front Sandy about what he knew? He turned to Pene­lope for advice . . .

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HUSH had set­tled upon Had­don­sell Grange. The house­hold was abed, save for Pene­lope wait­ing alone in her sit­ting-room.

This was her spe­cial corner of the Grange: the walls lined with shelves bear­ing books and mu­sic, paint­ing and draw­ing ma­te­ri­als, and hung with wa­ter­colours, oils and sketches from lo­cal artists.

Only the framed pen­cil like­ness of Colin Unsworth was by Pene­lope’s own hand. She’d sketched it dur­ing their very last sum­mer to­gether.

It stood on the corner of her desk, along­side her friend Ly­dia’s let­ter, ask­ing to visit the Grange.

It was mid­night be­fore Pene­lope heard the front door open­ing.

Hur­ry­ing into the hall­way, she con­fronted Adam as he was cross­ing the thresh­old.

“You’re home!” she ex­claimed in a low voice, mind­ful of dis­turb­ing the house­hold.

“What’s hap­pened?” Adam de­manded, shrug­ging off his coat. “Is it Fa­ther?”

“No, Fa­ther’s had a good day and is sleep­ing easy,” Pene­lope re­as­sured him. “I’ve waited up be­cause I must speak with you –”

“What­ever it is will wait,” he in­ter­rupted dis­mis­sively, strid­ing past her to the stair­case. “It’s been a weari­some day, and I’ve en­dured a dis­ap­point­ing night when the cards were cru­elly against me. I’m for my bed.”

“This won’t wait.”

The light but firm touch of her hand upon his arm stopped Adam, and Pene­lope’s de­ter­mined eyes met his steadily.

“It con­cerns your bailiff’s be­hav­iour to­wards the Mac­gre­gors. We can’t talk out here.”

Clos­ing the sit­ting-room door be­hind them, Pene­lope con­sid­ered her brother as he pulled a chair side­ways and sank into it, care­lessly lean­ing an arm across the desk’s sur­face and scat­ter­ing her writ­ing tablet, pens and let­ters.

“Have you been drink­ing?”

“I’ve dined at my club and it has a splen­did cel­lar,” Adam replied, look­ing every inch the defiant, re­bel­lious youth he’d been be­fore Fa­ther packed him off to In­dia. “I own this even­ing their claret was ex­cep­tion­ally fine!”

“What­ever it was,” Pene­lope snapped, “you’ve clearly im­bibed far more than is good for you.

“Per­haps if you spent less time at your club and more over­see­ing your bailiff, he would not ac­cuse the Macgre­gor sis­ters of tres­pass and or­der them from our land . . .”

Pene­lope re­lated ev­ery­thing Mathilda Macgre­gor had told her.

“I’d for­got­ten the Mac­gre­gors went to the pri­ory,” Adam re­marked. “I wasn’t aware Gerrard had been out there, ei­ther.”

“That hardly sur­prises me. What rea­son has he for go­ing to the ru­ins? And who on earth is this armed fish­er­man?”

“I’ve no idea of the fish­er­man’s iden­tity,” Adam re­sponded with a shrug. “As for why Gerrard was at the pri­ory . . . He’s the Grange’s bailiff. Over­see­ing the Whit­lock es­tate – in­clud­ing the pri­ory ru­ins – is his re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“Given that Gerrard’s new to the sit­u­a­tion, how could he pos­si­bly know the Mac­gre­gors have per­mis­sion to tres­pass?”

Pene­lope held her tongue, frus­tra­tion and con­cern deep­en­ing. Adam would not hear a word said against Gerrard!

Plainly, it would serve no pur­pose to ex­press her fears and sus­pi­cions of the bailiff’s ma­lign in­flu­ence over her brother.

“Al­though no harm was done and Gerrard did not exceed his author­ity,” Adam con­tin­ued evenly, “I un­der­stand how up­set­ting the af­fair was for the Macgre­gor girls. Apolo­gies and amends must be made.

“You need worry your head not a moment longer, Pen. I’ll set all to rights on the mor­row. Now, I’m go­ing to my bed!”

Ris­ing from Pene­lope’s desk, Adam’s gaze fell upon Ly­dia Unsworth’s let­ter and he glanced over the hastily penned lines.

“Ly­dia’s com­ing to visit, is she?” he mused, grin­ning across at Pene­lope. “You know, be­fore I sailed to In­dia I was hope­lessly in love with your friend Ly­dia.

“Of course, I was very young. Still too much a boy for her then.” Adam strode from the sit­ting-room, cast­ing a wry back­ward glance at his sis­ter. “It’ll be good see­ing Ly­dia again.”

****

“Are you com­ing with us?” Amaryl­lis ex­claimed when, wear­ing her best bon­net and cape, Dor­cas ap­peared in the door­way of the bed­room her younger sis­ters shared. “You haven’t been to the ru­ins since we were chil­dren.”

“Well, I’m go­ing to­day!” Dor­cas de­clared air­ily. “It was most hand­some of Adam to call of­fer­ing hum­ble apolo­gies for what oc­curred. His in­sis­tence not only on ac­com­pa­ny­ing us, but also on pro­vid­ing trans­port and a win­ter pic­nic, is ex­ceed­ingly gen­er­ous.”

Amaryl­lis was unim­pressed.

“He’s the only rea­son you’re go­ing, isn’t he?”

“What if he is?” Dor­cas re­turned, glanc­ing coldly at her sis­ter. “You’re a sour lemon, Am.”

Amaryl­lis turned from braid­ing Betsy’s hair, nod­ding to Dor­cas’s footwear.

“You’ll spoil your best shoes.”

“I shall take care not to,” Dor­cas snapped, mov­ing across to the win­dow and perch­ing on the linen ch­est there. “I’m not about to wear ugly great clod­hop­pers like those aw­ful boots you have on.”

Se­cur­ing Betsy’s braids with neat bows, Amaryl­lis smiled at the lit­tle girl.

“You’re done. Mr Whit­lock will be here soon. Are you and Flossie ready?”

“Nearly.” Betsy scram­bled down from the bed on to her knees be­side Flossie on the rug, and be­gan brush­ing the dog’s silky white fur. “I wish Noah was com­ing, Am­mie.”

“Yes, it’s a shame,” Amaryl­lis agreed, gath­er­ing mit­tens and scarves from the tall­boy. “But Noah’s away with the packet.”

“He’ll be back to­mor­row,” Betsy per­sisted. “Can’t we wait un­til then? He’d take us in the wagon and we could have our pic­nic to­gether, just like al­ways.”

“Mr Whit­lock has or­gan­ised ev­ery­thing for to­day,” Amaryl­lis replied. “It’s kind of him and I’m sure we’ll have a grand –”

“Adam’s here!” Dor­cas cried ex­cit­edly, peer­ing through the win­dow.

A wagon drawn by a pair of sturdy horses was turn­ing into the Bell’s yard.

“And he has your Si­mon with him!”

“He’s not my Si­mon!” Amaryl­lis mum­bled, vexed at the hot colour flood­ing her face.

“Not for the want of wish­ing he was, is it?” Dor­cas re­torted, sweep­ing from the sis­ters’ bed­room. “You’ve been mak­ing cow-eyes at Si­mon Bald­win for years, Am. Per­haps one day he’ll start notic­ing you.”

****

Al­though dull and over­cast, the weather was dry with lit­tle wind and not par­tic­u­larly cold for the sea­son, so they’d spent a pleas­ant day in Pri­ory Woods, gath­er­ing Ad­vent ev­er­greens and choos­ing the yule log.

Adam had pro­vided an abun­dance of de­li­cious food, and when the party set­tled at the foot of St Agnes Falls for their pic­nic, un­ex­pected shafts of bright win­try sun glim­mered down be­tween branches to warm them as they ate.

Well fed and weary, even­tu­ally they had to start pack­ing up if they were to reach home in day­light.

“Does Flossie want a drink be­fore we set off?” Amaryl­lis asked, bring­ing a bowl of wa­ter to where Betsy and the dog were scat­ter­ing crumbs for robins and black­birds. “Had a nice day, Bets?” Her young sis­ter nod­ded. “But it’s not the same with­out Noah.”

Amaryl­lis smiled, ruf­fling the girl’s hair. Betsy was right. Al­though it had been an en­joy­able day, some­how it hadn’t felt nearly as merry and fes­tive as usual.

Like Betsy, Amaryl­lis had missed Noah Pendle­ton’s cheery pres­ence, but spend­ing a whole day with Si­mon was won­der­ful.

She’d been sur­prised to see he and Adam were such firm friends, and dur­ing the drive back to the Bell she asked Si­mon how that was.

“We were at school to­gether.” Si­mon laughed, his arm slipping around her shoul­ders. “Hadn’t seen each other for years, un­til quite re­cently.

“We met across a card ta­ble in Liver­pool – a dis­as­trous ex­pe­ri­ence for us both.” He gri­maced, shak­ing his head good­hu­mouredly. “While drown­ing our sor­rows, we got talk­ing and found we have quite a few com­mon in­ter­ests and am­bi­tions.

“Adam is a use­ful friend to have,” he fin­ished firmly.

Some­how it hadn’t felt nearly as merry and fes­tive as usual

****

The York-bound coach com­ing apace from the di­rec­tion of the Bell rat­tled past Kit Ch­ester­ton as he was rid­ing along the coast to­wards Macgre­gor’s Cove.

Turn­ing into the inn’s yard, he saw Sandy and his brother Iain,

grap­pling with a mighty gnarled log – and from where Kit was sit­ting, the huge log was clearly get­ting the best of the con­test.

Nearby, Mrs Macgre­gor was shak­ing her head in ex­as­per­a­tion, while Betsy watched wide-eyed, perched on the corner of the stone horse trough with Flossie at her side.

Lead­ing Patch into the sta­ble and re­mov­ing her sad­dle and bri­dle, Kit left Betsy rub­bing down the piebald mare while he sprinted out into the yard and joined the fray.

When the yule log was finally ma­noeu­vred into the Bell’s great hearth, the three men gath­ered round ad­mir­ing their hand­i­work.

“We did a good job there,” Iain de­clared to Sandy and Kit.

“You did,” Ethel agreed crisply, com­ing up be­hind them. “But we’ve no time for stand­ing gaw­ping.

“You’re tall, Mr Ch­ester­ton,” she said, look­ing up at Kit. “You might want to lend Am a hand.”

Kit joined Amaryl­lis at one of the inn’s bay win­dows, where she was bal­anc­ing pre­car­i­ously on a three-legged stool, as­sorted ev­er­greens spilling from her arms.

“Does it sit along the top of the win­dow?” he asked, tak­ing the in­ter­twined holly, ivy and lau­rel from her. “On this lit­tle ledge?”

“Yes, and try twist­ing it as you go so it makes a nice thick garland. That’s lovely!” she ex­claimed. “There will be pine cones go­ing up there, too – if Flossie leaves us any!”

Kit fol­lowed the di­rec­tion of Amaryl­lis’s glance to the chim­ney corner, where Betsy was sort­ing through a heap of pine cones.

Even as Kit watched, Flossie rum­maged amongst the cones and chose one, toss­ing it into the air be­fore catch­ing it and dash­ing from sight.

“She likes hid­ing them.” Amaryl­lis laughed as she and Kit moved to the next win­dow. “This must be very dif­fer­ent from your Christ­mas prepa­ra­tions in Ja­maica, Mr Ch­ester­ton.”

“Al­though I do have hazy mem­o­ries of Christ­mas at home when I was a boy, I’ve ac­tu­ally spent most in Eng­land.”

“How so?” She handed up an­other bun­dle of green­ery.

“My brother and I went away to school when we were young,” Kit replied, step­ping back to en­sure the garland lay evenly. “We grew up here.”

“Does your brother live in Eng­land, too?”

Kit shook his head. “Af­ter school, he re­turned to Ja­maica. But I de­vel­oped an in­ter­est in en­gi­neer­ing and begged my fa­ther to al­low me to stay, so here I am.”

Soon the inn was be­decked for Christ­mas­tide, fra­grant with rose­mary and pine, and Sandy was help­ing Betsy light the fes­tive can­dles in their sconces when Ethel hur­ried through from the inn-house.

“Sup­per’s ready. I’m dish­ing up, so don’t dally!” she an­nounced and, turn­ing back into the pas­sage­way, looked across at Kit, who was al­ready on the stairs to his room. “I’ve set a place for you, Mr Ch­ester­ton. You’ll join us for sup­per?”

“It’s kind . . .” he be­gan, re­luc­tant to in­trude upon the fam­ily.

“Come through,” Sandy chipped in warmly, clap­ping Kit on the shoul­der. “You’re wel­come at our ta­ble!”

****

Progress on the Aken­side

Cut con­tin­ues, Kit wrote, sit­ting at the writ­ing ta­ble in his rooms at the Bell.

De­spite it be­ing al­most noon, the win­try day was dark and gloomy. The can­dle he’d lit cast light across his let­ter, and upon the carved wooden St Christo­pher medal­lion.

Since sail­ing from Ja­maica months ear­lier, Kit had car­ried Ma­ri­etta’s keep­sake in his pocket, and now, as he wrote home to his el­der brother, it lay at the corner of his page.

I’ve re­moved from lodg­ings in Aken­side and taken up res­i­dence at a cliff-top inn over­look­ing Macgre­gor’s Cove, the same cove men­tioned in

Alexan­der’s let­ters to Ma­ri­etta.

Alexan­der – Sandy – Macgre­gor is the innkeeper. I be­lieve Sandy is my fa­ther. He lives here with his wife and three daugh­ters.

Al­though the Bell is a busy inn with trav­ellers overnight­ing or stay­ing a day or two, I am their only lodger. I find my­self drawn into their daily ac­tiv­i­ties and am com­ing to like the Mac­gre­gors very well.

Sup­pose I speak out. What, then, the con­se­quences for him and his fam­ily? Oft times, I be­gin to be­lieve I should re­main silent and leave Macgre­gor’s Cove.

Kit wrote a while longer be­fore seal­ing his let­ter. Deep in thought, he snuffed the can­dle, reached for his coat and strode from his rooms on to the land­ing.

Amaryl­lis was hur­ry­ing up­stairs car­ry­ing a bas­ket of brushes, pol­ish­ing cloths, beeswax and vine­gar, and greeted him with her usual friendly smile.

Turn­ing into Kit’s rooms, Amaryl­lis set down her bas­ket and spot­ted some­thing ly­ing on the floor be­neath the writ­ing ta­ble.

Stoop­ing, she re­trieved a carved St Christo­pher and gasped in as­ton­ish­ment. It was Pa’s!

“You’ve found it!” Amaryl­lis spun round as Kit rushed into the room.

“Thank good­ness,” he went on, com­ing for­ward to re­ceive the medal­lion. “I was in the sta­ble sad­dling Patch be­fore I re­alised it wasn’t in my pocket.”

“It’s yours?” she queried. “How did you come by this, Mr Ch­ester­ton?”

“It’s a fam­ily heir­loom, I sup­pose,” Kit replied, tak­ing the St Christo­pher from her. “Thank you for find­ing it, Miss Amaryl­lis. I couldn’t bear to lose this.”

He hes­i­tated, adding with a small smile, “It be­longed to my mother.”

****

Dur­ing a lull be­tween chores and coaches com­ing in, Amaryl­lis squeezed into her fa­ther’s shed. It was crammed with all man­ner of tools and ob­jects Pa re­fused to throw away.

Rum­mag­ing amongst the dusty, cob­webbed shelves, Amaryl­lis finally un­earthed a bat­tered old to­bacco tin.

She hadn’t set eyes on it since she was a lit­tle girl, and had been in here with Pa while he was look­ing for some­thing.

Open­ing the to­bacco tin, he’d tipped it up­side down, spilling out a heap of long-for­got­ten odds and ends – amongst them a small St Christo­pher.

Fash­ioned from wood, it was very un­usual, and quite un­like any­thing Amaryl­lis had ever seen.

She re­mem­bered pick­ing it up, tak­ing it to the light so she might bet­ter see the prim­i­tive carving, and ask­ing Pa about it.

He’d replied that the medal­lion was a sou­venir brought home from his Navy days, and he’d put it back into the to­bacco tin.

Now, Amaryl­lis held the St Christo­pher to the light ex­actly as she had all those years ago. It re­ally was dis­tinc­tive.

Surely this and the keep­sake be­long­ing to Mr Ch­ester­ton’s late mother must have been carved by the same hand?

****

Amidst a flurry of dry, pow­dery snowflakes, Ly­dia Unsworth ar­rived at Had­don­sell Grange.

Pene­lope and Dorothy were on the front steps with Kit, who was about to take his leave, when the Unsworths’ car­riage, laden with lug­gage, bowled up the beech drive.

Ac­com­pa­nied by her lady’s maid and abi­gail, Ly­dia dis­em­barked, her ap­prais­ing gaze sweep­ing Kit Ch­ester­ton.

Pene­lope made the in­tro­duc­tions be­fore Kit rode away, and he was barely out of earshot when Ly­dia widened her eyes, star­ing at her friend.

“Who is that fiendishly hand­some man?” she de­manded, link­ing her arm through Pene­lope’s as they started up the steps and in­doors. “Wher­ever did you find him?”

“I didn’t.” Shak­ing her head, Pene­lope

ex­plained. “Kit – Mr Ch­ester­ton – is in­volved with Fa­ther’s canal-build­ing and has be­come a fam­ily friend.”

“Tell that to the pix­ies,” Ly­dia hissed, eye­ing her friend mis­chie­vously. “There were so many sparks fly­ing be­tween you and Mr Kit Ch­ester­ton, mine eyes were fair daz­zled by their bril­liance.”

****

Pene­lope’s sit­ting-room was at the rear of the old house, over­look­ing Elias’s flower gar­dens and bee hives.

Drap­ing a shawl about her head and shoul­ders, Pene­lope went through the French win­dows and across the ter­race into the gar­den.

There was scarcely a breath of wind now. Snowflakes were set­tling upon her shawl and the dark earth for barely a moment be­fore they melted and were gone.

Pene­lope moved about the gar­den, seek­ing out a hand­ful of hardy flow­ers to fash­ion into a posy for her fa­ther’s room.

She hadn’t yet dis­cov­ered what had brought Ly­dia to Had­don­sell with such ur­gency, for upon ar­rival Ly­dia had gone di­rectly to her rooms to rest af­ter the lengthy jour­ney.

How­ever, it wasn’t Ly­dia who was presently oc­cu­py­ing Pene­lope’s thoughts. It was Kit.

He was wor­ry­ing about some­thing, of that she was con­vinced. Were there prob­lems at the Aken­side Cut prey­ing on his mind?

“There you are!” Ly­dia ap­peared at the French win­dows.

“Thank you for giv­ing me refuge.” Ly­dia sighed when they were en­sconced in the sit­ting-room. “I couldn’t have borne be­ing at Sk­il­beck an­other day.”

“You’re as fam­ily, Ly­d­die,” Pene­lope replied warmly. “We’re glad you’ve come.”

“You’re doubt­less won­der­ing what dread­ful cir­cum­stance has driven me from my home.” Ris­ing from the fire­side sofa, she paced the com­fort­able room in a rest­less man­ner.

At the writ­ing ta­ble, Ly­dia’s gaze lin­gered upon the pen­cil like­ness of her brother, and she touched a fin­ger­tip to its frame.

“How dif­fer­ent ev­ery­thing would be if Colin had lived,” she mur­mured. “You and he would be mar­ried with a horde of chil­dren, while I would be free to con­tinue liv­ing my life as I choose. Not as duty dic­tates!”

“What­ever’s hap­pened?” Pene­lope queried, star­tled by Ly­dia’s ve­he­mence. “How may I help?”

“Short of wav­ing a wand and mak­ing the an­i­mos­ity be­tween my fa­ther and his nephew dis­ap­pear,” Ly­dia re­turned bit­terly, “there’s noth­ing that will set this catas­tro­phe to rights.

“It’s so un­fair, Penny!” she railed. “Af­ter Colin died, Papa named his only nephew as heir to the es­tate. Ev­ery­thing was fine un­til re­cently. They ar­gued vi­o­lently and are now es­tranged.

“Papa’s cut my cousin from his will, and in­sists I marry with­out de­lay. I feel so help­less!” Ly­dia de­clared in des­per­a­tion, sit­ting down and meet­ing Pene­lope’s eyes. “Once I’m wed, a hus­band will con­trol my whole life.

“Since I am Papa’s only sur­viv­ing child, my hus­band will also come into the en­tire Unsworth es­tate.”

“Oh, Ly­d­die.” Deeply trou­bled by her friend’s dis­tress, Pene­lope put her arms about Ly­dia’s shoul­ders, seek­ing to re­as­sure her, but keenly aware there was noth­ing she could say or do.

“I’m to be forced into a mar­riage with whomever my fa­ther deems suit­able to in­herit the es­tate,” Ly­dia de­clared, striv­ing to re­gain her com­po­sure. “I’m ut­terly pow­er­less to pre­vent it. Un­less . . .

“I must find an ac­cept­able hus­band with haste!” she de­clared, re­solve spark­ing in her eyes. “Be­fore Papa finds one for me!”

****

“She’s al­ways been a very bright girl,” Amaryl­lis was say­ing while she walked home from St Agnes.

Kit was at her side, lead­ing Patch and car­ry­ing Amaryl­lis’s heavy bas­ket of pro­vi­sions to­gether with an arm­ful of books. “Betsy’s al­ways loved read­ing.

“I’ve no­ticed.” Kit smiled, glanc­ing at the books. “She has a good se­lec­tion here. Are they from Miss Macgre­gor’s shop?” Amaryl­lis nod­ded. “Af­ter Betsy’s ill­ness, she couldn’t go back to school so Great-aunt be­gan teach­ing her at home.”

They had reached the Bell and Amaryl­lis broke off in sur­prise, see­ing Si­mon emerg­ing from the inn and strid­ing to­wards them.

“I’ve been here for ever!” he ex­claimed, his glance dart­ing from Amaryl­lis to her com­pan­ion. “Where is ev­ery­body?”

“Ma, Betsy, Great-aunt and I have been in church ar­rang­ing ev­er­greens. I’ve no idea where Dor­cas is,” she replied dis­tract­edly. “I’m sorry, Si­mon. I wasn’t ex­pect­ing you.”

“I’m presently away down to Liver­pool,” he went on, pass­ing the time of day with Kit be­fore of­fer­ing Amaryl­lis his arm. “You’ll ex­cuse us, sir?”

“Of course,” Kit replied. He saw Amaryl­lis look­ing to the bas­ket and books he car­ried, and added with a smile, “I’ll take these inside, Miss Amaryl­lis.”

Nod­ding her thanks, Amaryl­lis re­turned his smile, but was aware of Si­mon draw­ing her nearer, his head bowed so his lips were against her ear.

“You re­alise,” he be­gan in a low voice, “every time I come here you’re to­gether with the Ch­ester­ton fel­low?

“I don’t like see­ing you in ca­hoots with that stranger,” he con­cluded. “Ch­ester­ton’s too old for you to be step­ping out with him.”

“Step­ping out?” Amaryl­lis echoed.

She couldn’t tell if he were teas­ing her or in earnest.

“I was walk­ing from St Agnes when I met Mr Ch­ester­ton rid­ing from Aken­side,” she ex­plained. “He car­ried my parcels and ac­com­pa­nied me home. Mr Ch­ester­ton’s a very con­sid­er­ate gen­tle­man.”

“If you say so.” Si­mon laughed, draw­ing her nearer. “A man’s en­ti­tled to be jeal­ous about his sweet­heart, is he not?”

Amaryl­lis gasped, look­ing up sharply, and sud­denly her face was close to Si­mon’s. Her heart was thump­ing and she could scarcely breathe.

Since child­hood they’d been friends, never any­thing more, and yet Si­mon was jeal­ous! He’d called her his sweet­heart!

Turn­ing to­wards him, she drew breath to speak. No words came.

In that moment, Amaryl­lis knew Si­mon was about to kiss her.

****

Dur­ing the hours af­ter Si­mon left for Liver­pool, Amaryl­lis hugged a new­found hap­pi­ness, day­dream­ing through her chores at the Bell.

It had been a long and event­ful day, yet that night, up in the room she and Betsy shared, Amaryl­lis re­mained wide awake.

Be­side her in the high bed, Betsy slept soundly, with Flossie curled up in the hollow of her knees, also fast asleep.

The dog stirred when Amaryl­lis slipped from bed, yawn­ing be­fore set­tling her head on to her paws and sleep­ing once more.

Pad­ding across the room, Amaryl­lis took her shawl and went to the win­dow, sit­ting on the linen ch­est.

She leaned upon the win­dow’s ledge and gazed up into the sky. There was no moon this chill night, and only the spars­est scat­ter­ing of pale stars pierced the dark­ness.

Amaryl­lis no­ticed nei­ther the dark nor the cold. Her thoughts and her heart were filled with Si­mon.

****

That same moon­less night, some eight miles north of Macgre­gor’s Cove, a fore-and-aft rigged ves­sel show­ing no lights lay at an­chor broad­side to the ragged coast­line.

On the beach, Had­don­sell Grange’s bailiff and the armed Manx fish­er­man, Kil­lip, stood watch­ing row-boats heavy with con­tra­band

edg­ing into the shal­lows. Shad­owy fig­ures waded out to meet them, haul­ing the cargo ashore, load­ing casks, bar­rels, chests, boxes and jars on to a train of docile pack-ponies.

The ponies were led along the shore­line, dis­ap­pear­ing into a war­ren of caves and tun­nels deep be­neath the pri­ory to­wards the store­house vault.

Gerrard and Kil­lip were last to quit the beach and fol­low the train. Not a word had been spo­ken.

Con­cealed amongst the plan­ta­tion pines fring­ing the high ground above the beach, a lone horse­man had ob­served the suc­cess­ful land­ing.

Turn­ing about, he rode sound­lessly on the soft, sandy earth be­tween the tall pines and away in­land.

****

“Our first call will be Quig­gin’s, the con­fec­tioner.” Pene­lope con­sulted the shop­ping list while she and Kit were driv­ing north. “Mother has asked me to get a tin of Fa­ther’s favourite Mabyn taffy as a Christ­mas treat . . .”

She broke off, cross at her thought­less­ness. Christ­mas would be a poignant time for Kit, be­ing so far from fam­ily and home.

Touch­ing her hand to his sleeve, Pene­lope said as much, but Kit shook his head be­fore re­turn­ing his at­ten­tion to the nar­row, wind­ing road ahead.

“It isn’t that.”

“Then what is it? I don’t wish to pry,” she con­tin­ued qui­etly. “Some­thing is weigh­ing upon your mind, Kit. Can’t you tell me?”

“You’re not pry­ing,” he replied, meet­ing Pene­lope’s eyes. “And you’re the only per­son I can tell . . .”

She lis­tened while Kit poured out the whole story of find­ing Ma­ri­etta’s let­ters and the carved St Christo­pher; of ar­riv­ing in Macgre­gor’s Cove on the day the yawl sank; of meet­ing Sandy and his fam­ily; of com­ing to know and care for them.

“If Sandy were alone, I wouldn’t hes­i­tate ask­ing about Ma­ri­etta,” he con­cluded as they jogged along the win­try lanes. “But Sandy has a wife and daugh­ters. I don’t want them hurt on my ac­count.”

She nod­ded, un­der­stand­ing the tur­moil of emo­tions Kit was strug­gling against.

He looked at her, an­guish in his dark eyes.

“What­ever am I to do, Penny?”

“You be­lieve Sandy is your fa­ther,” she mur­mured, clasp­ing Kit’s hand within her own. “You owe him the chance to know his only son.”

****

Kit and Pene­lope had had a good day amongst the fes­tive bus­tle of Castle­bridge, and af­ter­wards en­joyed a quiet sup­per to­gether at Had­don­sell Grange.

Pene­lope was in Kit’s thoughts while he rode at an un­hur­ried pace from the Grange to the Bell. It was late when he turned into the cob­bled yard.

Ev­ery­where seemed silent. Only Sandy was still up and about, re­pair­ing a har­ness in the lantern’s steady light.

He turned from his work when Kit led Patch into the sta­ble. Kit thought he looked weary, and very old. He’d never be­fore no­ticed that about Sandy.

“Had a nice time at Castle­bridge? It’s a grand town,” Sandy be­gan. “Ethel’s left a cold plate in case you’re hun­gry.

“The fam­ily’s got used to you hav­ing sup­per with us,” he went on, adding a shade awk­wardly, “We missed you tonight.”

Feel­ing an un­ex­pected rush of af­fec­tion for his fa­ther, words failed Kit.

Reach­ing into his pocket, he out­stretched his hand to­wards Sandy. Ma­ri­etta’s keep­sake lay on his palm.

“I be­lieve this be­longed to my mother.”

To be con­tin­ued.

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