The Mys­tery Of Macgre­gor’s Cove by June Davies

It had taken a long time, but Amaryl­lis was at last be­gin­ning to re­alise her true feel­ings for Noah . . .

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DUR­ING the dark­ness of a hot sum­mer’s night, the mer­chant­man Wil­helmina,

bound for her home port of Liver­pool, was wrecked north of Macgre­gor’s Cove and her valu­able cargo pil­laged.

Come morn­ing, Amaryl­lis Macgre­gor and Noah Pendle­ton dis­cov­ered a life­less stranger upon the sands; his were not the only re­mains to be borne ashore dur­ing that day, nor to be washed up amongst the break­ers of sub­se­quent tides.

“Sol­diers found the mak­ings of the false light that drew Wil­helmina into shal­low wa­ter and broke her over Gib­bett Rocks,” Sandy Macgre­gor was re­lat­ing when he called at Had­don­sell Grange the fol­low­ing evening. “There had been pas­sen­gers as well as crew aboard.

“Them who didn’t drown were mur­dered, Elias. Cut down as they strug­gled ashore. Ev­ery last one of them stripped of their valu­ables.”

The el­derly man pushed a gen­er­ous tot of rum to­wards his old friend, and Sandy downed it grate­fully.

“We’ve had Wil­helmina’s owner up from Liver­pool to­day,” he went on grimly. “Man called Protheroe. He’s stay­ing at the Bell. Marched right in, ask­ing ques­tions. De­mand­ing to know ev­ery­thing.

“It was Protheroe who put a name to the body Am and Noah found. He was a Dutch­man,” Sandy fin­ished, frown­ing.

“Wil­helmina’s en­tire cargo was plun­dered, yet the only thing Protheroe quizzed Am and Noah about was them find­ing the Dutch­man. He asked them over and over if they were sure they saw none of his be­long­ings nearby.

“I reckon that Dutch­man was car­ry­ing sum­mat par­tic­u­lar, and Protheroe’s des­per­ate to get it back.”

“Hap­pen you’re right,” Elias opined shrewdly. “If the Dutch­man was his agent – car­ry­ing who knows what? – it’s small won­der Protheroe’s posted a hefty re­ward for the cap­ture of the wreck­ers.”

“His brass would be bet­ter spent in­vest­ing in Kit’s light­house. A per­ma­nent light would make this coast safer all round.”

Sandy rose wearily, tak­ing his bat­tered hat from a highly pol­ished ta­ble.

“Wil­helmina’s cargo and what­ever the Dutch­man car­ried are long gone, Elias. Like the thieves and mur­der­ers who lured that ves­sel and ev­ery soul aboard her to their graves!”

****

“Af­ter ap­ple-pick­ing,” Pene­lope replied, beam­ing at Kit as they rode to­wards the Bell. “It was Betsy’s idea. Septem­ber’s a beau­ti­ful month.”

It was to be a quiet, old-fash­ioned wed­ding at the lit­tle church of St Agnes. Upon this the cou­ple were al­ready de­cided.

Rid­ing at a leisurely pace and con­vers­ing about their plans, Pene­lope and Kit reached the Bell as a mail coach was de­part­ing.

Alerted to their ap­proach by Flossie, Betsy raced across the cob­bles, bran­dish­ing a cou­ple of let­ters and car­ry­ing a laden fruit bas­ket.

“What have the pair of you been gath­er­ing, Betsy?” Pene­lope asked, bend­ing to fuss Flossie and peek into the trug. “Oh, my – they’re beau­ties!”

“I know. We’re bak­ing a big goose­berry tart for sup­per.”

“May I help?”

“You can help Am­mie and me top and tail the goose­gogs while Ma makes pas­try.” Betsy nod­ded.

Turn­ing her at­ten­tion to Kit, she held out one of the let­ters.

“This is yours. The other is Am­mie’s. It’s from Dor­cas. I recog­nise her writ­ing.

“I’ll tell Ma and Am­mie you’re here, Penny!” Betsy called over her shoul­der, run­ning back to the innhouse. “We’ll be in the kitchen.”

Pene­lope turned to Kit, and he met her eyes ap­pre­hen­sively.

“This is from Ja­maica,” he mur­mured. “Tabby’s re­ply.”

She touched a re­as­sur­ing hand to his arm. Kit spoke of­ten with deep­est af­fec­tion of Tabitha War­bur­ton, the el­derly Ja­maican woman who’d been part of his life for as long as he could re­call.

“I’ll tend the horses while you read her let­ter.”

When Pene­lope emerged from the sta­bles, Kit of­fered her Tabby’s let­ter and she be­gan read­ing the neat, old-fash­ioned writ­ing.

Warmth and love shone from ev­ery word, as did Tabby’s de­vo­tion for the Chesterton fam­ily, and es­pe­cially for Clara, the mis­tress to whom she’d been lady’s maid, friend and com­pan­ion since both were young girls. Clara had loved chil­dren, Pene­lope read, but af­ter the dif­fi­cult birth of her son, Ge­of­frey, doc­tors told her she would never bear an­other child. My sis­ter Bathsheba,

Tabby wrote, was a laun­dress down in Jobert Town. When Ge­of­frey was al­most two years old, fever broke out in Jobert and many peo­ple were dy­ing.

Bathsheba wrote me that her friend Ma­ri­etta had per­ished, but Ma­ri­etta’s in­fant son still lived. Bathsheba wanted to get you away from the town to some­where there was no fever.

She brought you up here to Florence and came to the villa. She asked me to go with her to the or­phan­age and beg them to take you in – but your mama over­heard Bathsheba and me talk­ing.

Be­fore she set eyes on you, that sweet lady said you’d be go­ing nowhere, be­cause you were al­ready home.

And that’s how you came to be fam­ily, child.

“What a beau­ti­ful let­ter, Kit.”

“One day, Penny, when time and our work per­mit,” he said emo­tion­ally, “you and I must sail for Ja­maica and visit my old home in Florence. I want you to meet my fam­ily, and get to know Tabby, Ge­of­frey and Su­san.”

“I’d like that very much.” “You go in­doors and help Betsy top and tail those goose­gogs.” Kit leaned across and kissed her cheek. “I need to show Tabby’s let­ter to Sandy.”

****

Amaryl­lis dis­tract­edly skimmed the open­ing para­graphs of Dor­cas’s let­ter.

Her sis­ter was writ­ing proudly about an in­vi­ta­tion to a sum­mer ball at the coun­try es­tate be­long­ing to one of Adam’s old school friends, who was the cap­tain in com­mand of Castle­bridge Gar­ri­son.

His fam­ily are among the grand­est in Lan­cashire, and Adam promised to present me with some­thing spe­cial to wear at the Fen­wick ball.

As you know, I’ve no pa­tience with sur­prises, so when Adam was away in Ch­ester I went into his dress­ing-room and hap­pened to look in the tall-boy. There amongst his shirts was the most glo­ri­ous neck­lace!

Huge di­a­monds and sap­phires, Am! It took my breath away and must be worth a king’s ran­som – it’s cer­tainly fit for a queen! The ladies at that sum­mer ball will be green with envy.

With a rush, Amaryl­lis’s long-held sus­pi­cion that Adam Whit­lock reg­u­larly pur­chased con­tra­band en­gulfed her.

Un­bid­den, the per­sis­tent ques­tions Wil­helmina’s owner had asked con­cern­ing the Dutch­man – to­gether with Noah’s reck­on­ing he might have been a gold­smith, gem mer­chant or some such from Am­s­ter­dam – flooded her mind.

Was Dor­cas’s neck­lace plunder from the wrecked mer­chant­man?

****

“This is the hap­pi­est birth­day I’ve ever had, Penny!” Dorothy Whit­lock ex­claimed.

They were on the ter­race at Had­don­sell, putting the fin­ish­ing touches to a ta­ble set with the del­i­cate, flo­ral-pat­terned and gilded Dorothy tea ser­vice.

“I don’t like look­ing back to my last birth­day,” Dorothy re­flected, gaz­ing across the gar­dens to where Kit was sit­ting with Elias. “Your fa­ther was so ill, I thought we were los­ing him – and now look!

“He’s back in his beloved gar­dens with his flow­ers and his bees, and the pair of you have made this grand tea set for me!”

“Fa­ther planned it long ago.”

“It’s so lovely,” Dorothy mur­mured, ad­mir­ing the clear, bril­liant glaze of the richly hand-painted creamware. “We’re hav­ing a fine day, aren’t we? It’s a shame Adam and Dor­cas couldn’t come.”

“I’m sorry Adam chose to quit the pot­tery,” Pene­lope said af­ter a mo­ment. “If I hadn’t con­fronted him, he might have had a change of heart.”

“It wasn’t your fault, lass,” Dorothy cut in firmly. “Adam was bound to go his own way again sooner or later. He never cared for the pot-works.

“But you al­ways have, Penny. And you’re good at run­ning it, so Whit­lock’s is in the best hands.”

The lit­tle party made short work of feather-light cakes, melt­ing pas­tries and mor­eish dain­ties, and were lin­ger­ing over third cups of tea when a maid ap­peared bear­ing Cyril Protheroe’s card.

“He said he’s on his way back to Liver­pool, sir.” She gave the card to Kit. “Wants to see you most ur­gent.”

Unim­pressed, Kit con­sid­ered the card and glanced around the ta­ble to Pene­lope and her par­ents.

“Protheroe is among the wealth­i­est shipown­ers I’ve ap­proached,” he re­marked drily. “In com­mon with the oth­ers, he agreed the con­struc­tion of a light­house was a wor­thy en­deav­our, then promptly showed me the door.”

“I’ve never met Cyril Protheroe, but I’ve heard plenty about him,” Elias re­marked. “It’s no se­cret he has po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions.

“He’s been tak­ing up char­i­ta­ble works and good causes around the town. Fan­cies him­self sum­mat of a phi­lan­thropist.”

“Does he now?” Kit mused, ris­ing from the ta­ble. “Maybe our Mr Protheroe is hav­ing sec­ond thoughts about in­vest­ing in a light­house.”

Was Dor­cas’s neck­lace plunder from the wrecked mer­chant­man?

****

“Flossie and I will miss you,” Betsy said, watch­ing Kit pack a small valise.

“We’ll only be gone for three days.” Kit smiled.

He and Pene­lope were at­tend­ing Ly­dia Unsworth’s wed­ding in York­shire.

“Have you cho­sen a best man for your wed­ding?” Ethel en­quired.

“I haven’t even thought about it.”

“Why not ask Sandy? You’re his only son,” she went on warmly. “He’d be very proud to be stand­ing with you on your wed­ding day, Kit.”

Dor­cas Whit­lock ar­rived at the Bell in a flus­ter of an­gry out­rage.

Sweep­ing into the inn, she found Amaryl­lis on her knees pol­ish­ing the oak set­tle, a bas­ket of rags, brushes, cloths and beeswax be­side her.

“You and I have never been close,” Dor­cas be­gan. “I wouldn’t be here if I had any­body else to turn to, but you’re the only one I can tell.

“You must never breathe a word about this. I will not be pub­licly hu­mil­i­ated and made to look a fool!”

“What’s wrong?” Amaryl­lis asked, not un­duly con­cerned be­cause Dor­cas was prone to ex­ag­ger­a­tion. “This!”

She flung a slen­der, glit­ter­ing bracelet down on to the bas­ket of pol­ish­ing cloths.

“Adam promised me some­thing spe­cial for the Fen­wick ball, and this trin­ket is what he gave me!”

“It’s very pretty.”

“It isn’t my ex­quis­ite di­a­mond and sap­phire neck­lace, though, is it?” “Well, no –”

“Af­ter Adam went out, I searched his dress­ing-room and his study,” she cut in bit­terly. “There’s no sign of my neck­lace any­where!

“Where is it, Am? Who’s he given it to?” Amaryl­lis’s jaw dropped. “Surely you can’t be­lieve –”

“Don’t be naïve!” Dor­cas sneered. “Adam’s given my neck­lace to an­other woman. Mar­ried gentle­men may take mis­tresses, but I’m one wife who will not be made a laugh­ing stock.

“I in­tend find­ing out who the bag­gage is, and putting a stop to Adam’s dal­liances once and for all!”

“Fa­ther or­gan­ised it while Kit and I were in York­shire,” Pene­lope was ex­plain­ing. “Af­ter we re­turned and I went to the pot­tery, there was a new sign above the gates: Whit­lock And Daugh­ter, Mas­ter Pot­ters.”

“You de­serve it, Penny!” Amaryl­lis ex­claimed. “Great-aunt Mathilda was only say­ing . . .”

She broke off when the chaise neared the inn-house and Ethel called from the kitchen gar­den.

“A mes­sage has come from Dor­cas. It’s on the man­tel-shelf.”

Read­ing the note, Amaryl­lis was alarmed. Dor­cas had fol­lowed Adam!

He’d taken pri­vate rooms at an es­tab­lish­ment called Thorn­ton’s Ho­tel. She hadn’t seen his mis­tress yet, but . . .

“Is any­thing wrong?” Amaryl­lis fal­tered. “I’ve no idea what to do, Penny.”

Pene­lope drew the chaise to a halt a car­riage length from the Whit­locks’ im­pos­ing res­i­dence.

A young groom was wait­ing di­rectly out­side, hold­ing his mas­ter’s favourite bay.

In hor­ror, Pene­lope watched her brother march­ing fu­ri­ously from the vestibule, al­most knock­ing Amaryl­lis aside and mut­ter­ing a gruff apol­ogy.

“What’s go­ing on here?” Pene­lope de­manded, step­ping into his path.

“None of your con­cern,” he re­torted brusquely, snatch­ing the reins and dis­miss­ing the groom with a cur­sory wave of his hand. “Make your­self use­ful by en­sur­ing Dor­cas doesn’t fol­low me.”

“Why on earth would your wife wish to fol­low you?”

“What I’m about is dan­ger­ous,” he con­fided un­ex­pect­edly. “I be­lieve the ring­leaders be­hind the smug­gling and wreck­ing are reg­u­lar card play­ers at the King’s Arms.

“I’ve taken rooms at the ho­tel op­po­site and have been keep­ing a watch upon var­i­ous com­ings and go­ings at the tav­ern.

“Why haven’t you taken this in­tel­li­gence to the gar­ri­son?”

“I can’t. Not yet. Gerrard is one of the card play­ers – along with Si­mon Bald­win and a Manx fish­er­man – but Gerrard is my friend, Pen. He once risked his own life to save mine.

“I owe him the ben­e­fit of doubt,” Adam con­cluded. “I won’t call in the mil­i­tary un­til I’m ab­so­lutely cer­tain Gerrard is in­volved.”

Adam glanced down at her from the bay’s sad­dle, his im­petu­ous grin broad and con­fi­dent.

“This time, I’m on the side of an­gels.”

Once in­doors, Pene­lope hur­riedly ex­plained.

“I was wrong about him!” Dor­cas gasped, re­lief rapidly be­com­ing fear. “But what if Adam gets hurt?”

“Has he told the gar­ri­son?” Amaryl­lis chipped in. Pene­lope shook her head. “But I in­tend do­ing so im­me­di­ately.”

“I’ll come with you, Penny.”

“So will I,” Dor­cas snapped. “I’ll have Groves bring round the car­riage.”

“There’s no time to be lost.” Pene­lope started into the hall­way. “We’ll use the chaise.”

Long shad­ows were fall­ing when the three women emerged from their in­ter­view with Ni­cholas Fen­wick.

“Pene­lope, it was ex­ceed­ingly rude of you,” Dor­cas ad­mon­ished, step­ping up into the chaise. “Re­fus­ing Cap­tain Fen­wick’s gal­lant sug­ges­tion that an of­fi­cer es­cort us home.”

“We aren’t go­ing to Rish­ton Place,” Pene­lope re­sponded tartly, glanc­ing over her shoul­der at 12 mounted and armed Red­coats thun­der­ing from the gar­ri­son. “We’re fol­low­ing the sol­diers.”

Turn­ing into Mount Pleas­ant, she ma­noeu­vred through a noisy, jeer­ing crowd con­gre­gat­ing about the King’s Arms.

Mus­ket-bear­ing Red­coats were march­ing four men in chains from the tav­ern to­wards the wait­ing gaol wagon.

“Adam!”

Dor­cas scram­bled from the chaise, and in her des­per­a­tion to reach her hus­band would have flung her­self at the pha­lanx of sol­diers guard­ing the pris­on­ers had not Pene­lope forcibly held her back.

“Take her to Had­don­sell.” Adam Whit­lock’s hand­some face con­torted with rage as he twisted round in the gaol wagon, yelling at his sis­ter. “And stay there!”

“Adam Whit­lock turned up at the Grange as though naught was amiss?” Noah ex­claimed next morn­ing.

Amaryl­lis nod­ded, her shoul­ders bowed to the task of row­ing up the pre­cious hay crop in the long field be­yond the Bell.

“Adam told us since he was with the sus­pects at the King’s Arms, the Red­coats ar­rested him, too. Once at the gar­ri­son, the mis­un­der­stand­ing was speed­ily re­solved and he was re­leased with pro­fuse apolo­gies from Cap­tain Fen­wick.”

“De­spite the yarn he spun his sis­ter,” Noah re­marked, “I think Whit­lock was go­ing to that tav­ern to meet Gerrard and his other ac­com­plices.”

“No!” Amaryl­lis spun round, star­ing at him in hor­ror. “That can­not be so!”

“We’d had nei­ther smug­gling nor wreck­ing along our coast for twen­ty­odd years un­til he came back from In­dia.”

“Adam was spy­ing on those men, Noah. He in­tended re­port­ing them to the au­thor­i­ties in due course,” she rea­soned qui­etly. “Why would he do that if they were in ca­hoots?”

“Maybe there had been a fall­ing out amongst thieves, or Bald­win and Kil­lip were get­ting greedy and tak­ing more than their fair share,” he spec­u­lated with a shrug. “But he’d never risk turn­ing them into the law.

“They know too much. Be­sides, we only have his word he in­tended re­port­ing them. I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.”

The two old friends laboured on through­out the morn­ing, speak­ing lit­tle.

It was al­most din­ner­time when Sandy strode past the field to meet an in­com­ing coach.

“Thanks for of­fer­ing to help, Noah,” he called, squint­ing up at the cloud­less sky. “We need to get it in be­fore this weather breaks.”

He’d no sooner gone on his way than he was back again, stick­ing his head around the hedgerow and shout­ing.

“News just come with the coach. Them vil­lains Adam put in gaol es­caped dur­ing the night! Like as not bribed the turn-key, if you ask me.

“Red­coats killed two of them mak­ing a run for it,” Sandy went on, hur­ry­ing back to­wards the inn’s yard. “But Gerrard got clean away!

“By now, he’ll be down to Liver­pool and aboard the first ship leav­ing Eng­land.”

Amaryl­lis’s mind was sud­denly rac­ing, her heart thump­ing.

“Do you sup­pose Pa is right, Noah? About Gerrard, I mean?”

“I do. And it’s surely not mere chance Whit­lock’s right-hand man is the one who’s gone free, while Bald­win and Kil­lip have been si­lenced,” Noah con­cluded gravely.

“Dead men tell no tales, Amaryl­lis.”

The Au­gust af­ter­noon was warm and balmy, and Dorothy Whit­lock ar­ranged a fam­ily get-to­gether in the gar­dens at Had­don­sell to bid farewell to Adam and Dor­cas.

Af­ter the pic­nic, Dorothy and Ethel plumped for set­tling down on the ter­race with fresh cups of tea.

“When Adam came home from In­dia,” Dorothy mused, “I never thought he’d up sticks again so soon. Es­pe­cially with him and Dor­cas only newly wed.”

“I know,” Ethel agreed. “And fancy giv­ing up that beau­ti­ful house in Rish­ton Place! It came right out of the blue, too. When Dor­cas told us and I asked her where they were go­ing, she said they hadn’t de­cided yet.

“She said they wanted to see the world; have you ever heard the like?”

Dorothy turned to her com­pan­ion.

“Do you think they’ll ever come back, Ethel? Come home again, I mean?”

“I don’t know.” She sighed, look­ing across the gar­dens to her daugh­ter.

These past few weeks, Ethel hadn’t been able to quell the dread she might never see Dor­cas again; nor ever see the grand­chil­dren who would surely come along in time.

“We’ve no say about it, have we?”

With a shake of her head, Dorothy gazed out upon the gar­den, to the fur­thest cor­ner and the old swing be­neath the horse chest­nut tree.

“Adam loved that swing when he was a lit­tle lad,” she mur­mured. “It’s nice see­ing some­body swing­ing on it again.”

“Why aren’t Dor­cas and Adam stay­ing for Kit and Penny’s wed­ding?” Betsy asked, stretched out be­neath the horse chest­nut’s great, leafy um­brella.

Amaryl­lis slid from the swing and dropped down on to the grass be­side her young sis­ter.

“I ex­pect they’re im­pa­tient to set off on their trav­els.”

“They don’t even know where they’re go­ing,” Betsy de­clared in­dig­nantly. “Kit and Penny have de­cided to go to Scot­land on their trip.”

Amaryl­lis tried to look aghast.

“They’re not se­cretly elop­ing to Gretna Green, are they?”

“Of course not!” Betsy laughed. “Penny asked me to tell her about how our fam­ily came from a Scot­tish vil­lage to Macgre­gor’s Cove, and I showed her the map I’d drawn of their jour­ney.

“She and Kit are trav­el­ling by road up to the vil­lage and stay­ing in Scot­land for their hon­ey­moon.

“Af­ter­wards they’ll sail down to the cove ex­actly like the old Mac­gre­gors did.”

“Kit’s asked me to be his best man,” Sandy re­marked, of­fer­ing his tobacco pouch to Elias.

“Aye, Penny said. You and me’ll need to smarten our­selves up.” He grinned, help­ing him­self to the strong, dark tobacco.

“Are you all right go­ing this far?” Sandy queried.

They’d left the gar­den and were walk­ing at a snail’s pace through Had­don­sell’s wood­land.

“Now I can get out un­der my own steam,” Elias re­turned, in­di­cat­ing his stout stick, “I’m mak­ing the most of it!”

Sandy nod­ded, light­ing his pipe.

“How’s work on the canal go­ing?”

“It’ll be fin­ished early next year,” Elias replied proudly. “Then that lad of yours will be full speed ahead build­ing his light­house.”

“A per­ma­nent light can’t come soon enough to the cove,” Sandy com­mented soberly.

“God will­ing, we’ve heard the inn’s tolling bell ring out for the last time, Elias. Too many lives have al­ready been lost.”

They turned, slowly re­trac­ing their path through the wood.

“You were right about that Dutch­man aboard the

Wil­helmina car­ry­ing sum­mat par­tic­u­lar,” Elias re­lated breath­lessly, lean­ing heav­ily on the stick. “Yes­ter­day, an old pal from Liver­pool vis­ited me. He’s very thick with Cyril Protheroe.

“Harry told me Protheroe com­mis­sioned a jew­eller in Am­s­ter­dam to make a neck­lace for his wife. That’s what the Dutch­man was bring­ing to Liver­pool. A di­a­mond neck­lace, with sap­phires big as robins’ eggs.”

On the morn­ing of her mar­riage, Pene­lope rose and dressed hours be­fore the house­hold stirred, slip­ping out for her daily walk.

Start­ing across the gar­den, she caught sight of Kit sit­ting be­neath the lime, his back lean­ing against the grey­ish ridged bark and his hat drawn down over his eyes.

“Have you been here all night?”

“Feels like it.” He rose stiffly, flex­ing his shoul­ders. “I wanted to see you be­fore our wed­ding, Penny. Be with you. Is that all right?”

She kissed him and smiled.

“That’s all right.”

At the Bell, Ethel had for­bid­den any­body to go near the inn-house pantry, lest some mishap be­fall the richly fruited and dain­tily dec­o­rated Lan­cashire mar­riage cake be­fore it was pre­sented to the newly wed cou­ple.

She and the other wom­en­folk were in a flurry of prepa­ra­tions when Betsy spot­ted Kit and Pene­lope down on the beach.

“They’re never to­gether to­day!” Widow Watkins ex­claimed, rush­ing to the big bay win­dow, closely fol­lowed by Ethel.

The far shore was swathed in drift­ing wisps of hazy Septem­ber mist, the tide qui­etly ebbing, and with arms en­twined, Pene­lope and Kit were me­an­der­ing along the damp, shell-strewn sand.

“Not right, is it?” Freda Watkins tut­ted. “And it’s bad luck an’ all, bride and groom see­ing each other be­fore the wed­ding.”

“Fool­ish su­per­sti­tion,” Ethel re­buked, frown­ing. “It’s not seemly, though, is it? Be­ing down there to­gether like that.”

Amaryl­lis hadn’t joined them at the win­dow. She re­mained at the iron­ing ta­ble, press­ing Betsy’s best rib­bons.

Her trou­bled mind was brood­ing over a few lines from Dor­cas’s let­ter, which had ar­rived with the day’s first coach.

We’ve taken a di­vine villa here and Adam ar­ranged a most el­e­gant party to cel­e­brate my twenty-first birth­day.

You’ll never guess what he gave me, Am – a cer­tain neck­lace. Adam must have kept it hid­den away all these months as a sur­prise for my spe­cial birth­day.

“Am, stop wool gath­er­ing and fin­ish press­ing those rib­bons,” Ethel scolded.

Her stern ex­pres­sion soft­ened when she glanced once more from the bay win­dow.

“Kit and Penny do make a lovely cou­ple, don’t they?”

Ap­proach­ing the Bell, Amaryl­lis felt a surge of hap­pi­ness at the sight of Noah Pendle­ton. He was on the beach, mak­ing ready Starfish.

As though sens­ing her gaze upon him, Noah turned to see Amaryl­lis en­ter­ing the inn’s cob­bled yard.

“Hurry up!” he called cheer­fully. “Time and tide wait for no-one.”

“I know,” she re­turned, shift­ing the weight of the heavy bas­kets. “We’ll put this fruit away and be right out.”

With heart singing, Amaryl­lis headed to­wards the inn-house’s kitchen door.

She paid scant at­ten­tion to Betsy mak­ing a bee­line for the pump and draw­ing fresh wa­ter for Flossie; didn’t no­tice Ethel scur­ry­ing from the Bell to have a few con­spir­a­to­rial words with the child, much less Betsy’s de­lighted re­sponse.

Ab­sorbed in thoughts of Noah, Amaryl­lis sped across the cob­bled yard to­wards the beach and didn’t at first re­alise Betsy wasn’t fol­low­ing her.

Glanc­ing back, she saw the lit­tle girl stand­ing on the steps of the Bell, Flossie at her side.

“Aren’t you com­ing, Betsy?” she cried in as­ton­ish­ment.

“Betsy will go next time,” Ethel in­ter­rupted firmly, join­ing her youngest daugh­ter on the steps. “Away you go.”

Leav­ing Starfish bob­bing in the shal­low surf, Noah sprinted across the sands to meet Amaryl­lis.

His plea­sure at see­ing her was undis­guised.

“Isn’t Betsy com­ing sail­ing?” he asked. Amaryl­lis shook her head. “It’s just us, then?” “Yes.”

From their van­tage point at the Bell, Ethel and Betsy had a clear view of Amaryl­lis and Noah Pendle­ton.

“It’s been a long while hap­pen­ing,” Ethel re­marked with sat­is­fac­tion, her arm about the child’s shoul­ders. “But thanks be, hap­pen it has. Those two are a match made in heaven, Betsy.”

Cu­ri­ous, Sandy am­bled over from the sta­bles and joined them on the steps.

“What are you pair so pleased about?”

“Am­mie and Noah.” Betsy beamed. “Look, Pa.”

The young cou­ple were con­vers­ing qui­etly, walk­ing so close their arms oc­ca­sion­ally brushed.

When Noah of­fered his hand, Amaryl­lis linked her fin­gers through his and to­gether they wan­dered on down the gen­tly slop­ing sand to Starfish.

Hoist­ing the sail, Amaryl­lis glanced side­long up to the Bell. See­ing her fam­ily, she raised an arm, wav­ing joy­ously.

Noah cast off, clam­ber­ing aboard and tak­ing his place be­side her in the trim lit­tle craft.

Can­vas bil­lowed and

Starfish ran be­fore the fresh wind, catch­ing the rush of a swift, au­tum­nal tide as Amaryl­lis and Noah sailed across the deep, clear wa­ter of Macgre­gor’s Cove.

Ashore, Sandy Macgre­gor turned to his wife and daugh­ter.

“Aye.” He nod­ded sagely. “Hap­pen the pair of you will be bak­ing an­other mar­riage cake afore we know it.”

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