The Mystery Of Macgregor’s Cove – Episode 07

Cast of characters dressed in 18th Century clothing stand in front of white cottage

“Ammie, come and see!” Betsy called to her sister.

She and her dog, Flossie, had clambered on the blanket chest beside the window on the inn’s top landing.

“Uncle Iain’s putting out his boat, and that new man with the spotted horse is going with him.”

“What new man?” Amaryllis queried distractedly, turning from the linen cupboard and darting to her sister’s side.

“The man who was on the cliff when you rang the bell,” Betsy explained, pointing out into the gathering darkness. “Uncle Iain’s rowing and the new man has a lantern.”

Amaryllis could barely make out Iain Macgregor’s row-boat striving against the ferocity of an incoming tide, nor the two shadowy figures aboard.

“Will you take these towels downstairs while I get blankets?” she asked, shepherding Betsy towards the stairs. “Everybody will be coming back to the inn, and we must be ready for them.”

Alone on the landing, Amaryllis gazed from the window. She could no longer see Iain’s boat.

Only the beam of his companion’s lantern held aloft, swinging back and forth across the black water searching for survivors, was visible.

Another two boats were setting out now, and in a moment they, too, were swallowed up into the moonless night with only their lanterns pinpricking the darkness.

Laden with heavy blankets, Amaryllis reached the foot of the steep staircase as her mother scurried towards the passageway through to the inn-house.

“Good, you’ve got the blankets. Put them to warm with the towels. Your pa and Joe have taken the wagon to bring back the rescued folk.

“I’m nipping next door to fetch Betsy’s drawing book and pencils,” Ethel related rapidly. “She had a fright seeing that boat going down. Once I get her warm and settled with Flossie and a hot drink and her drawing, she’ll be grand.”

Amaryllis could hear Dorcas talking to Widow Watkins as she hurried past the inn’s big kitchen.

The Bell Inn’s low front door was flung wide open. Betsy and Flossie were out on the doorstone, peering into the night.

“It’s freezing out here! Come in.” Amaryllis slipped her arm about Betsy’s shoulders. “Pa won’t be back for a while yet.”

“We’re not waiting for Pa,” she replied, looking up solemnly. “We’re watching the horse. She’s running round the yard, Ammie.”

*  *  *  *

Amaryllis had rubbed down the piebald mare, settled her into a stall and fed her when she heard the wagon’s wheels rumbling over the yard’s cobbles.

She dashed outside, the feed pail still in her hands.

“All’s well!” her father called, driving on to the inn.

She glimpsed six people from the stricken yawl huddled into the wagon bed. Following on foot were her uncle and the man who Betsy said owned the stray horse, together with several other local men who’d put out rescue boats.

She fell into step beside Uncle Iain and the stranger.

“Is the piebald yours, sir? She found her way into our yard. I’ve tended her and she’s in the stable yonder.”

“Thank you kindly, miss,” Kit returned, shaking his head ruefully. “When I heard that bell tolling, I’m afraid I abandoned poor Patch on the clifftop.”

“And ran down to help me launch the boat,” Iain chipped in heartily. “Glad I am of it, too.

“The yawl’s lad took a bit of a battering. The rest of ’em are walking wounded. But no lives were lost to the sea this night.”

* * * *

Ethel moved noiselessly about the snug, where the badly injured young sailor had been carried.

“I thought you might be ready for this, Ma,” Amaryllis whispered, tiptoeing inside with a cup of tea. “How is he?”

“In a bad way. Your pa reckons the current must have thrown him against the yawl’s broken timbers.

“I’ve given poppy syrup for the pain but there’s naught more I can do,” Ethel said bleakly. “He needs proper doctoring.”

“Doctor Baldwin will surely have heard the bell tolling,” Amaryllis reassured her. “He’s likely on his way.”

“I expect you’re right.” Ethel sighed. “How are the others?”

“Dorcas put the womenfolk upstairs in one of the rooms and found them dry clothing. The old man had a nasty gash so Widow Watkins tended him,” Amaryllis said quietly. “The rescuers are all safe. Everybody’s getting dry around the fire now, and Widow Watkins is dishing up soup and bannocks.”

“Don’t let Freda overdo it. She isn’t as young as she was,” Ethel remarked.

Widow Watkins had helped her at the inn for more years than either of them cared count. The elderly woman lived in, with a room at the top of the back stairs directly above the inn’s big kitchen.

“Noah will be bringing in the packet shortly,” Ethel went on. “We’d best get a move on. There will be passengers needing attention.”

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.