The Mystery Of Macgregor’s Cove – Episode 12

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

Penelope Whitlock was about to set out for St Agnes when her maid brought in a letter.

“Not bad news, I hope,” Margaret murmured, watching her mistress’s forehead creasing into an anxious frown. “The letter is from Miss Lydia, isn’t it?”

The Unsworth and Whitlock families had been close friends for years. Penelope and Lydia had grown up together, and to this day remained as close as sisters.

Lydia Unsworth was a gay, spirited soul, but she certainly was not given to melodrama, yet . . .

Penelope’s worried gaze returned to the letter.

My dear friend,

There’s been the most shocking row. Everything here has changed.

I must get away from Skilbeck, Penny.

May I come to Haddonsell for a while? I will confide all when I see you.

Affectionately yours, Lydia.

“Lydia is coming to stay, Mag. Will you please prepare her usual room?” Penelope began, hurrying to her writing slope and taking up her pen.

Within the hour, Penelope’s response to Lydia was aboard the fast mail coach.

She fulfilled several errands before crossing the town square to Mathilda Macgregor’s stationer and bookshop.

“Good afternoon, Miss Macgregor.” Penelope smiled. “I wondered if the novel you recommended for Father has arrived?”

“Good afternoon. Yes, it came this morning.” Mathilda Macgregor was not a woman to mince words. “Miss Whitlock, the church will look extremely bare without its St Agnes evergreens!

“Amaryllis went with Noah Pendleton and Doctor Baldwin’s son to gather Advent greenery from the priory’s woodland as they do every year, only to be accused of trespassing and ordered from the ruins by Haddonsell’s bailiff and a fisherman who was armed.

“If you’ll forgive my bluntness,” she continued, meeting the younger woman’s horrified gaze stonily, “it’s nothing short of disgraceful!”

“I know nothing of this, Miss Macgregor. Nor does my father.” Penelope gasped. “It’s appalling! My father wouldn’t –”

“Mr Elias Whitlock certainly wouldn’t, but . . .” Mathilda left the sentence unfinished.

“My brother would neither order nor countenance such conduct, Miss Macgregor,” Penelope returned severely. “I assure you of that!”

Mathilda inclined her head slightly.

“Then that new man of his appears to be taking the law into his own hands, Miss Whitlock, does he not?”

*  *  *  *

Hurrying homewards through the chill rain, Penelope dwelled upon her conversation with Mathilda Macgregor.

She had never trusted Gerrard. Since he’d arrived at Haddonsell Grange, a vague uneasiness had frayed at the edges of Penelope’s consciousness.

While Gerrard might well have been Adam’s agent in India, there was nothing of the master and subordinate about their association.

Neither were the two men friends, for Penelope had witnessed no camaraderie between them. But there was something. Something that didn’t seem quite right.

Why had Adam brought Gerrard from India and installed him as bailiff at Haddonsell?

He’d once told her Gerrard had saved his life in India. Did her brother’s sense of being beholden explain his offering the older man not only a situation of authority, but also a home at the Grange? Or was it something more sinister?

A chilling suspicion was taking shape in Penelope’s thoughts.

Before he’d left England as a youth, her brother had been wild and reckless. But Adam was still very young – only five and twenty. Had he foolishly committed further misdeeds or indiscretions in India, of which Gerrard had knowledge?

Did this man possess intelligence that could bring down scandal, dishonour and shame upon Adam and the Whitlock family?

Penelope’s heart was hammering as she entered the gates of Haddonsell and hurried towards the house.

Was Gerrard blackmailing her headstrong, vulnerable brother?

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.