SE­RIAL The Mys­tery Of Macgre­gor’s Cove

Pene­lope had never felt so happy, espe­cially now that Kit was ask­ing her to marry him . . .

The People's Friend - - This Week - by June Davies

SHOCKED and hu­mil­i­ated, Ethel stood stock still. Pass­ing the tip of her tongue across dry lips, she was scarce able to draw breath.

Snatch­ing her shop­ping list from the counter, she turned on her heel and marched from the store.

Once out­side, Ethel’s trem­bling hand flew to her mouth, her com­po­sure crum­bling as she scur­ried blindly along the mar­ket town’s busy high street.

“Ma!” Emerg­ing from Great-aunt Macgre­gor’s book­shop, Amaryl­lis caught sight of her mother and ran to her side. “What­ever’s wrong?”

“They all know,” Ethel mum­bled. “The whole of St Agnes is tit­tle-tat­tling about us!”

“I’ll fetch Noah to drive you home,” Amaryl­lis was say­ing. “Wait here, Ma. I shan’t be long!”

She found Noah in the

chan­dler’s, hur­riedly ex­plain­ing while they sped back across town.

“Will you take Ma home, please?” Amaryl­lis fin­ished as they ap­proached the cart and she turned away.

“Of course, but aren’t you com­ing with us?”

Amaryl­lis shook her head.

“There’s some­body I must see in town. I’ll make my own way home.”

“What an un­ex­pected plea­sure!” Si­mon beamed, ris­ing to greet Amaryl­lis with hands out­stretched. “To what do I owe –”

“When I told you Kit was my brother, you gave your word it would go no fur­ther,” Amaryl­lis cried, step­ping clear of his em­brace. “Yet all of St Agnes knows. Only you can be re­spon­si­ble, Si­mon!”

“I had no idea peo­ple were gos­sip­ing.” He slapped his head with the heel of his hand. “I was play­ing cards in town with some of the chaps. We were hav­ing a rare night, talk­ing as fel­lows will . . .”

Si­mon ap­peared gen­uinely abashed and reached out, touch­ing Amaryl­lis’s hand.

For the first time, she did not re­spond to his touch.

“You haven’t any no­tion of the dis­tress you’ve caused, have you?”

“I’m sorry, but the truth was bound to come out sooner or later, wasn’t it?” he mur­mured per­sua­sively.

With­out an­other word, Si­mon moved nearer.

“I never want to see you again.” Amaryl­lis stood fast be­fore the man she’d be­lieved her­self in love with, meeting his gaze. “It is over be­tween us, Si­mon.”

As soon as the hand­fast­ing cer­e­mony bound Adam and Dor­cas as man and wife, the cou­ple set off for Har­ro­gate.

In con­trast, Kit and Pene­lope weren’t in any hurry to re­sume trav­el­ling. They chose to put up at the vil­lage inn, cross­ing the Scot­tish bor­der the next day and set­ting out upon the long road south.

“I’m de­clin­ing the Birm­ing­ham in­vestors’ com­mis­sion,” Kit said as he and Pene­lope rode. They’d de­cided to break their jour­ney and rest the horses at the Tar­leton Hall Ho­tel. “I’ll write with my de­ci­sion di­rectly we’re home.”

“You’re an en­gi­neer,” Pene­lope con­cluded sim­ply. “You must go wher­ever work takes you.”

“I de­sign and build things.” Kit shrugged. “I’ll find some­thing to de­sign and build in Lan­cashire.

“That’s where I want to be, Penny.” He turned, gaz­ing into blue eyes that seemed even bluer in the bright­ness of this morn­ing. “I want to be with you, help­ing you with your work as you’re sup­port­ing me.”

“My work?” Pene­lope echoed, an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic flash of anger and re­sent­ment flar­ing. “When Adam was set­ting off for Har­ro­gate, did you hear what he said to me?”

“Not re­ally. I guessed he was dis­cussing your man­ag­ing Whit­lock’s dur­ing his lengthy wed­ding trip.”

“My brother told me to en­joy queen­ing it over the pot-works, be­cause this is the last chance I’ll have!”

Read­ing Kit’s dis­qui­eted ex­pres­sion, she went on.

“I as­sumed it was his way of say­ing he’d no longer al­low me to be there, but now I can’t help sus­pect­ing it’s far more than that.

“Some­thing con­cern­ing Whit­lock’s that Adam knows. Some­thing that’s pleas­ing him, be­cause he never stopped smil­ing.” Pene­lope’s brow creased into a frown. “I don’t trust my brother, Kit. Adam’s up to no good!”

Snow con­tin­ued fall­ing for much of the day, and when they ap­proached Tar­leton Hall, it was to dis­cover a lively ice party in full swing on the lake.

Fiery torches and lanterns il­lu­mi­nated its banks; fid­dlers played reels and jigs, while re­lays of ho­tel ser­vants slith­ered back and forth keep­ing guests sup­plied with roasted chest­nuts, ne­gus and hot cho­co­late.

“What will you do af­ter Aken­side?” Pene­lope queried when they were emerg­ing from the ho­tel with their bor­rowed skates.

“Oh, there will be plenty of engi­neer­ing chal­lenges close to home,” Kit re­as­sured her, in­di­cat­ing a bench where they might put on their skates. “Have you heard of John Smeaton?

“He built canals, but he was also re­spon­si­ble for bridges, har­bours and light­houses,” Kit fin­ished, ac­cept­ing two mugs of cho­co­late from a maid bear­ing a tray. “Per­haps I’ll build a light­house.”

They sat with their drinks, cup­ping cold hands about hot mugs and watch­ing the skaters.

“The waters along our coast­line are known to be treach­er­ous,” Pene­lope be­gan, sip­ping her cho­co­late.

“Many a ves­sel comes to grief mak­ing its way to or from Liver­pool. A proper light­house would be a god­send.”

“That’s it!” He laughed, set­ting aside his mug. “As soon as the Aken­side Cut is nav­i­ga­ble, I’ll build a light­house at Macgre­gor’s Cove.”

Af­ter don­ning his skates, Kit dropped to his knees in the snow and be­gan lac­ing up Pene­lope’s.

He looked up at her. Their faces were on a level, and Kit’s dark eyes were danc­ing.

“While I’m down on one knee, Miss Whit­lock,” he mur­mured softly, tak­ing both her hands, “may I tell you I love you and ask you to marry me?”

Pene­lope ut­tered not a word, merely lean­ing closer and touch­ing Kit’s lips with her own.

Af­ter spend­ing those spe­cial days alone with Pene­lope, part­ing from her was more of a wrench than usual.

Leav­ing her at the Grange, Kit rode out to Macgre­gor’s Cove. The Bell’s yard was empty, and ev­ery­where was still.

Af­ter sta­bling Patch, Kit went into the inn. Sandy was alone, seated be­fore the fire with a tot of rum, con­tem­plat­ing glow­ing logs and en­joy­ing a pipe.

“I’m glad you’re keep­ing busy,” Kit de­clared, tak­ing off his hat and coat.

“You should have been here an hour since,” Sandy mut­tered grimly, adding with a sigh, “I’d best fetch you sum­mat to drink, see­ing as you’ve come all the way from Scot­land.”

“Stay put. I’ll help my­self.”

Kit brought his glass to the fire­side.

“What’s been hap­pen­ing here?”

“Bak­ing. Ethel and the girls have made Dor­cas’s mar­riage cake. Huge, it is. We got an­other let­ter from her to­day,” he went on, sip­ping his rum. “They’re in Har­ro­gate.”

Kit nod­ded.

“What do you make of Adam?”

“I like him fine well,” Sandy replied. “Adam’s a good man – but he’s not our class.

“Adam’s gen­try; she’s the daugh­ter of a coun­try innkeeper. I don’t want her hurt, or to be ashamed of who she is and where she’s from.”

Sandy swirled the dregs of the Ja­maican dark rum around his glass.

“I just hope our Dor­cas never re­grets mar­ry­ing above her­self.”

“I don’t trust my brother. Adam’s up to no good!”

Pene­lope slipped ef­fort­lessly back into the rou­tine of man­ag­ing Whit­lock’s.

Win­try days were length­en­ing into spring, and Pene­lope sensed the mood around the pot­tery chang­ing. Folk went about their work with a will again. Just like old times.

Yet she never was free of ap­pre­hen­sion for Adam’s re­turn, nor the name­less, nag­ging

sus­pi­cions she couldn’t quite dis­miss.

Work upon the Dorothy de­sign pro­gressed apace, and one evening af­ter com­ing home from the pot­tery, Pene­lope car­ried a small wooden crate into her fa­ther’s room.

“Is that what I think it is?” Elias’s pale face lit up.

Care­fully pris­ing open the lid, Pene­lope re­vealed a cup, saucer and side plate, to­gether with the sugar bowl, milk jug and teapot from the Dorothy hand­painted flo­ral set.

“It’s beau­ti­ful!” Elias mum­bled, over­come. He’d hoped to throw the set him­self, but ill­ness had put paid to that.

“You and ev­ery­one at the pot-works have done a grand job, Penny.”

“We know how much the Dorothy means to you,” she re­sponded, a lump com­ing to her throat.

“You wanted to sur­prise Mother on her birthday last year.”

“It can go into full pro­duc­tion as soon as fits with what­ever else is on the books,” Elias de­clared, en­thu­si­as­tic as ever when it came to the pot­tery. “We’ll sur­prise Dotty on this year’s birthday. Bet­ter late than never.

“She’s get­ting ready for Adam bring­ing Dor­cas home,” he went on. “Even though they’ll not be here long be­fore they move – to Rish­ton Place, no less!

“I’m right proud of Adam,” Elias re­flected. “I sent the lad off to In­dia with next to nowt in his pock­ets, but he worked hard and made his for­tune.

“It wasn’t fair of me, ex­pect­ing Adam to give up ev­ery­thing in In­dia to come home,” he ad­mit­ted, frown­ing. “I wouldn’t blame him if he re­sented it.

“But he’s never com­plained! He’s knuck­led down and got on with it. That’s not easy for an am­bi­tious man with his whole life in front of him, Penny. Not easy at all.”

“Now the ex­cite­ment is over and, for the time be­ing, Dor­cas and her hus­band are set­tled at Had­don­sell Grange,” Mathilda Macgre­gor was telling Amaryl­lis while they planted shal­lots in the Bell’s kitchen gar­den.

“I’ve de­cided to pay our Manx cousins a long over­due visit. I sug­gest that you and Betsy ac­com­pany me.

“I’ve spo­ken to Noah,” she con­cluded. “Pas­sage is ar­ranged aboard the packet’s next sailing.”

Amaryl­lis stared in as­ton­ish­ment.

“Betsy and I can’t pos­si­bly go away!”

“These past months haven’t been the eas­i­est for your par­ents,” Mathilda coun­tered. “Nonethe­less, they’ve kept the fam­ily and the inn run­ning like clock­work. I doubt they’ve had any time to­gether to think and take stock.”

“But with Dor­cas gone, too,” Amaryl­lis protested, “how­ever will Ma and Pa man­age?” Mathilda smiled. “Child, your mother and fa­ther ran the Bell long be­fore you and your sis­ters ar­rived in this world,” she re­marked. “I dare­say they’ll mud­dle along with­out you for a wee while.”

On the morn­ing the girls were sailing to the Isle of Man, Ethel came from the inn-house, a bas­ket over her arm, and crossed the yard to the stable where Kit was sad­dling Patch.

“I’ve made a batch of goos­nargh for Am and Betsy’s jour­ney. I thought you might like to take some to work,” she be­gan, of­fer­ing the par­cel. “It’s a pity you can’t go with the girls.”

Kit thanked her for the short­bread rounds.

“I’d like to have gone, but I can’t be away from the Cut just now. We’re due to start pud­dling the wharf.”

“You must go next time. Per­haps take Miss Whit­lock with you?” Ethel met his eyes awk­wardly, be­fore rush­ing on.

“Kit, I never did thank you for what you and Miss Whit­lock did for our Dor­cas. You were a true brother. I’ll not for­get it.”

With a smile and bob of her head, she hur­ried away.

“I’d best make sure the girls are pack­ing what’s needed.”

Ethel and Sandy stood on the quay­side be­yond the Bell, wav­ing off the packet.

“You’re wear­ing your new gansey,” Ethel re­marked. “I’ve not seen it since I gave it to you at Christ­mas.”

“It didn’t seem right putting it on,” he mum­bled, fid­get­ing with the rib­bing on the sleeve. “It’s a grand gansey. Best I’ve seen.”

“Aunt Mathilda found the pat­tern for me. It’s been in your fam­ily for gen­er­a­tions. Came down from Scot­land with the Macgregors.” They fell silent.

“I’m sorry I never told you about Ma­ri­etta,” Sandy blurted out, stum­bling over his words. “When I heard they were dead, I came home. I didn’t tell any­body what had hap­pened. Not even Iain. I couldn’t.

“No­body ever knew.” He shook his head, avoid­ing her gaze. “Years went by, and when you and me started walk­ing out, it was eas­ier not look­ing back.”

“I can un­der­stand,” she ac­knowl­edged soberly. “And we have been blessed with a good life.”

“I don’t want to lose you,” he mut­tered. “Are we all right, Ethel?”

“Aye. We’re all right, Sandy.” She nod­ded, her fea­tures soft­en­ing into a smile.

With the packet fad­ing from sight on the swell of the tide, they turned from the quay­side and started up to­wards the inn-house.

“Penny sug­gested it and I’ve given the no­tion con­sid­er­able thought.” Kit paused, wait­ing while Elias made his move on the chess­board be­tween them.

“A per­ma­nent light would as­sist safer nav­i­ga­tion through the ap­proaches and on into Liver­pool.”

“I’ve ap­proached sev­eral ship­ping com­pa­nies in Liver­pool, but none were forth­com­ing with sup­port for con­struct­ing a light­house.”

“But you are stay­ing in Lan­cashire?”

“There’s no doubt about that.” Kit raised his face. “What po­si­tion is Penny to have at Whit­lock’s?”

Elias glanced up, per­plexed.

“How do you mean?” “Penny’s been run­ning the pot­tery,” Kit replied. “When Adam re­turns, what is she to do?”

“Come home, of course. And be­fore you start ar­gu­ing her cor­ner,” Elias put in hastily, rais­ing a hand as Kit drew breath to dis­sent. “Penny does a grand job and if I had no son, things would be dif­fer­ent.”

“De­spite Penny’s abil­i­ties and hard work, she’s to be ex­cluded from her fam­ily’s firm?” Kit in­ter­rupted. “You must un­der­stand how much the pot­tery means to her.”

“Of course I do. It’ll be hard on the lass,” Elias con­ceded. “But once she’s wed, she’ll have other things to think on.

“Whit­lock’s is Adam’s birthright, Kit,” Elias fin­ished im­pa­tiently. “There’s nowt more to be said on the mat­ter.”

“Your ma said to tell you all’s fine,” Noah re­lated.

While Amaryl­lis was vis­it­ing her cousins, when­ever he sailed across to the is­land, Noah had taken to go­ing up to the Macgregors’ croft and call­ing upon her with mes­sages from home.

“They’ve taken on a girl. Widow Watkins rec­om­mended her, and she’s do­ing well. She’s the daugh­ter of one of Widow Watkins’s friends.”

“That is good news!” Amaryl­lis ex­claimed. Af­ter Dor­cas mar­ried, the Bell had needed an­other pair of hands. “I’m glad she’s set­tling in.”

It was a fine sum­mer’s day and they’d been up to the an­cient kirk where the first Macgregors to set­tle on Man had wor­shipped.

“Is there a chance you and Si­mon will make up?” he asked un­ex­pect­edly.

“Cer­tainly not,” Amaryl­lis replied. “You were right about him. I’m sorry for the things I said, Noah – and for our fall­ing out.”

“We had words

right enough,” he agreed with a smile. “But we never fell out. You and me, we’ve been pals far too long for that ever to hap­pen.”

Hold­ing on to Noah’s hand, Amaryl­lis edged along the split oak-bole bridg­ing the stream.

“If Betsy and Cousin Lach­lan were with us,” she said, her voice not quite steady, “they’d tell us be sure and wish the fairy-folk good morn­ing while we’re cross­ing the burn!”

“Moghrey mie!” Noah laughed, slip­ping an arm about her as they tra­versed the deep, clear wa­ter.

Amaryl­lis and Noah hadn’t long re­turned to the Macgregors’ croft when Flossie’s bark­ing drew them to the open door.

Betsy, Lach­lan and Flossie were hurtling up the path, while Great-aunt Mathilda and Morag Macgre­gor fol­lowed at a more dig­ni­fied gait.

“I have my clogs!” Betsy cried, proudly show­ing off her new footwear. “They’re ex­actly like Lach­lan’s!”

“They’re beau­ties,” Amaryl­lis said ad­mir­ingly. “I’ll ask Mr Wat­ter­son to make pairs for Ma and me, too.”

“You’ll not go wrong with Wat­ter­son’s clogs,” Morag opined. “I’d be lost about the croft with­out mine.”

“While we were in the vil­lage,” Betsy went on, fetch­ing a dish of wa­ter for Flossie, “we saw those men who chased us from the ru­ins at Christ­mas­tide.”

“Kil­lip and Ger­rard?” Amaryl­lis asked. “What­ever are they do­ing here?”

“I’ve of­ten spot­ted Kil­lip. He’s a Manx fish­er­man, so that’s only to be ex­pected,” Noah said. “But what rea­son would Adam’s bailiff have to be on the is­land?”

“He’s been here be­fore, but I know noth­ing of him,” Morag put in. “I know plenty about the other one, though.

“He may call him­self Kil­lip, but he’s a Faragher. One of five broth­ers, and they make their money smug­gling.

“If you’ve seen Faragher around Macgre­gor’s Cove, Amaryl­lis,” she warned, “you’d best pray he does no worse than bring ashore con­tra­band. Set­ting false lights is his evil trade.”

The in­stant Pene­lope rode through the gates of Whit­lock’s, she re­alised some­thing was wrong.

A knot of grim-faced work­ers stood in the yard, talk­ing in low voices to the fore­man; oth­ers scur­ried about their du­ties, heads bowed and eyes fixed upon the grimy cob­bles.

“What’s go­ing on, Mr Doyle?” she asked when the watch­man hur­ried from his hut. “Has there been an ac­ci­dent?”

“It’s not that –” Be­fore the watch­man could fin­ish, Al­bert Th­waite came to her.

“I need a word, Miss Penny.”

Once within the mas­ter’s house, she led the way into her of­fice.

“What­ever’s wrong, Al­bert?”

“There’s talk Whit­lock’s is sell­ing up to a firm bring­ing in its own work­ers,” the fore­man re­turned. “Is it right we’ll all be out us jobs?”

The ques­tion struck Pene­lope like a blow.

Far worse was be­ing un­able to quash the ru­mour and set ev­ery­body’s mind at rest, for this was the first she had heard of it.

Her brother had not been into Whit­lock’s this week. Since re­turn­ing from his wed­ding trip, Adam was de­vot­ing less of his time and in­ter­est to the pot­tery.

Pene­lope rarely en­tered Adam’s of­fice, but now she did so, set­ting about a thor­ough search.

The cor­re­spon­dence from Syd­ney Parker & Sons was burn­ing a hole in Pene­lope’s pocket, but there was no chance to con­front Adam un­til af­ter din­ner, when she sought him out in their fa­ther’s study.

The door was ajar. She could hear her brother speak­ing with Ger­rard, and waited un­til the bailiff quit the study be­fore en­ter­ing.

Adam was stand­ing over by the side­board, pour­ing brandy from one of the heavy crys­tal de­canters.

Pene­lope crossed the room and set Parker’s let­ters down be­fore him.

“You’ve stolen those from my of­fice!” Adam cried.

Rather than be­ing an­gry, a grin of amaze­ment creased his face.

“You rise in my es­ti­ma­tion, old girl!”

“You in­tend sell­ing Whit­lock’s to this cot­ton man­u­fac­turer?”

“Since those let­ters are ev­i­dence, there’s lit­tle point deny­ing it,” he re­marked. “Thanks to Fa­ther bring­ing the canal to Aken­side, prop­erty and land are as gold dust. Park­ers made an ex­cel­lent of­fer. Only a fool would refuse.”

“Fa­ther doesn’t know about this deal, does he?”

“I planned upon wait­ing un­til pro­ceed­ings were more ad­vanced.” He shrugged. “Ah, but if I don’t tell Fa­ther at once, I’m sure you will.”

“What were you think­ing of?” she chal­lenged an­grily. “Our work­ers’ liveli­hoods are at stake! And have you even con­sid­ered Fa­ther? He built Whit­lock’s from noth­ing to pass to you! It’s his life’s work –”

“His, not mine!” Adam cut in, no trace of hu­mour in voice now. “I don’t want it. Never did.

“You can’t un­der­stand that any more than Fa­ther does, can you?

“I made a for­tune in In­dia and had a good life there. I’m not about to spend the next forty years run­ning a pot-works!”

“Fa­ther will never agree to your sell­ing Whit­lock’s.”

“You think not?” he coun­tered. “Our fa­ther is a shrewd man of busi­ness. He’ll recog­nise the of­fer as one far too good to refuse.” “You’re wrong.”

“Am I?” Adam swept up the cor­re­spon­dence and strode out into the hall­way. “I’m about to prove there’s no sen­ti­ment in busi­ness.”

“Leave us for a bit, will you, lass?”

Pene­lope had no choice but to re­spect Elias’s re­quest.

She trailed down the stairs to wait in her sit­tin­groom, pray­ing her fa­ther would not be dis­tressed and his re­cov­ery suf­fer a set­back.

“Fa­ther wants to see you.” Pene­lope started, springing to her feet and rush­ing past Adam up to her fa­ther’s room.

To her re­lief, Elias ap­peared well and com­posed.

“The pot­tery will not be sold, Penny.” He looked at her. “Mind, it’s a ster­ling of­fer. Park­ers are a canny firm. Adam struck a hard bar­gain. I see now why the lad did so well in In­dia.”

Pene­lope stared at Elias in­cred­u­lously.

“You sound as though you ad­mire Adam!”

“I do. If this of­fer came from a pot­ter who’d keep on our peo­ple, I’d give the sale my bless­ing.

“As it is, Park­ers have no use for pot-work­ers and I’ll not be re­spon­si­ble for turn­ing out our own folk and rob­bing them of their jobs.”

“You would have sold Whit­lock’s?” She shook her head in dis­be­lief. “I don’t un­der­stand, Fa­ther. The pot­tery means ev­ery­thing to you.”

“But not to Adam,” he replied sadly. “I’ve been think­ing back, Penny. My fa­ther was a miner, from a long line of min­ers.

“Da ex­pected me to fol­low him down the pit, but I was hav­ing none of it! I upped sticks and went to Liver­pool.”

“That was dif­fer­ent,” Pene­lope chipped in, wish­ing to com­fort him. “The pot­tery be­longs to our fam­ily. To be passed down to Adam and –”

“He’s de­ter­mined to go his own way. Didn’t I do the same?” Elias fin­ished, adding with a rue­ful smile, “Hap­pen Adam is more like me than he knows.”

“Here we are!” Dor­cas cried proudly when the pair of car­riage horses slowed to a halt and the women alighted be­fore an im­pos­ing house. “This

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