The Mystery Of Macgregor’s Cove – Episode 17

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

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!” 

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.