The Mystery Of Macgregor’s Cove – Episode 22

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

The first batch of Goode’s Day buns were in the oven when Penelope heard Adam and Lydia returning from wherever it was they’d been together. 

Dusting her hands upon her apron, she hurried out into the hallway. 

Lydia had gone upstairs, but Penelope caught Adam as he was disappearing into the study. 

“I must tell you –” 

“Oh, no, Pen!” Adam groaned, turning around. “What is it now? You’ve got flour on your face! Why are you rigged out like a servant?” 

“Mother and I are baking the Goode’s Day buns,” she replied and, seeing her brother’s blank expression, explained. “We distribute them to folk at the pottery along with their Christmas boxes. 

“Actually, that’s what I wanted to remind you. Organising the Christmas boxes,” Penelope went on amiably. “Would you like me to make a list of our workers’ names for –” 

“There will be no Christmas boxes this year,” Adam interrupted, striding into the study and leaving her in the doorway. “It’s an unnecessary expense. The workers already get a good wage out of us.” 

“That’s beside the point!” Penelope protested. “The festive buns and boxes are our family’s way of thanking everybody for their hard work throughout the year, Adam. 

“The tradition means a lot to the pottery folk – and a deal to Father and Mother, too. You can’t –” 

“I’ve made my decision. There’s nothing more to be said,” Adam interrupted dismissively, reaching for a cut-crystal decanter on the mahogany sideboard. 

“Whitlock’s pottery and its affairs are my business, Pen – not yours.” 

*  *  *  * 

The horses’ breath was steaming in the crisp morning air and bright sunlight dazzled upon a crust of frost lying along the shoreline when Kit and Sandy set off from the Bell. 

This trip to collect the inn’s flour was the first real opportunity the two men had had to be alone. 

Kit had returned Sandy’s letters to him. The bundle of faded, dog-eared pages lay on the bench between them while the wagon trundled the track up the coast towards Pendleton’s Mill. 

“We were some weeks out of Jamaica when I fell from the rigging and got this,” Sandy was saying, indicating his maimed arm. “Most shipboard sawbones would have taken it off, but the man we had reckoned it was worth trying to save the arm. 

“I was taken bad after. Burning up, but shivering cold. Out of my senses, most of the time,” he admitted. “Soon as we put into port for fresh supplies, they left me ashore at a mission-house. 

“I was laid up for months before I came round enough to ask them to send a letter to Marietta and tell her where I was and what had happened to me. 

“She wrote back and told me about you. I hadn’t even known Marietta was with child. If I’d known, happen I wouldn’t have left her alone like I did . . .” His words petered out, and they drove on without speaking. 

The only sounds were the cries of seagulls, the rasp of the horses’ hooves as their shoes struck the ground, and the crunch of the wagon’s wheels spinning and grating against deep ruts of frozen mud. 

Sidelong, Kit considered his companion. Sandy’s weathered features were taut, his gaze steadfast upon the icy cliff-top path winding away before them, an unlit clay pipe clamped between his teeth. 

Kit’s thoughts returned to the bundle of letters. He’d read their content only once, but recalled each of Sandy’s letters to Marietta was filled with declarations of love, of promises and of plans. So many plans. 

He’d come back to Jamaica as soon as he could. They’d get wed. He’d fetch her and their son home to Macgregor’s Cove and they’d be together. But that hadn’t happened. 

Kit broke the silence that had stretched for a mile and more of their journey. 

“Did you ever return to Jamaica?” 

“I was too late.” Sandy Macgregor’s answer was bitter. “It was two years since I’d sailed from Jobert Town before I got passage back. There was hardly anything left. It was horrible.” 

He shook his head, remembering. 

“The town was stricken with fever. They’d burned a lot of it to the ground to stop the fever spreading. 

“Graves were everywhere. Some bore scraps of wood or stones scratched with names, but most were unmarked.” Sandy turned now, and Kit saw anguish in his eyes. “I was told you and Marietta had perished.” 

Kit stared at Sandy. During the terror and chaos of an epidemic, small wonder if record-keeping was unreliable. 

The same thought struck both men. 

But it was Kit who whispered, “What if Marietta is still alive?” 

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.