The Mystery Of Macgregor’s Cove – Episode 38

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

Penelope had chosen carefully an opportunity to show Adam her sketches and designs for the Dorothy teaset, explaining how their father’s plans for Whitlock’s to produce the hand-painted line had been set aside upon his falling ill. 

She and Adam hadn’t had much to say to one another of late. He’d been furious after discovering Penelope had gone ahead with the family tradition of giving Christmas boxes to the pot-workers, and left her in no doubt he would not tolerate interference in the pottery’s affairs. 

Thus, Penelope had been astounded when Adam approved the Dorothy and gave his permission to manufacture the line. 

That this teaset would be dedicated to their mother had perhaps made the difference to his attitude. 

Watching her brother riding from the Grange with his bailiff, Gerrard, at his right hand, Penelope hoped she and Adam might now be able to set aside their differences and work harmoniously together at their family’s pottery. 

*  *  *  * 

The tall chimneys of Whitlock’s enormous brick-built, bottle-shaped kilns rose up into the grey, smoke-streaked sky above Akenside, and were a landmark for miles around the industrial town. 

Manoeuvring narrow, winding streets congested with wagons, carts, drovers and pack-horses, Penelope passed Lathom’s Dyeworks. 

It was one of the largest factories in Akenside, but its yards were empty and there was neither sound nor sign of activity from the huge building itself. 

She rode on through the town and into the gates of Whitlock’s, the cocky watchman hurrying from his hut to meet her. 

“Top o’ the mornin’ to you, Miss Penny.” 

“And the rest of the day to yourself, Mr Doyle.” She laughed, returning the greeting they’d exchanged since she was a girl. “I’ve just passed Lathom’s and it looks deserted.” 

“It is,” he answered with a sniff. “They’ve gone. Packed up.” 

“Lathom’s have closed down?” she exclaimed. “Lathom’s was here long before even Father set up in Akenside.” 

“Three generations of ’em.” Mr Doyle nodded sagely. “It’s grandsons run the works now. Talk is they sold to Frazer’s and made a fortune on the deal.” 

“Frazer’s? They have dyeworks across county in Gorsey, don’t they?” Penelope asked. 

“Aye, but they’ve got no canal over their way, so they’re moving their works lock, stock and barrel here because of the Akenside Cut,” he declared. “Lathom’s may be the first to sell up, but they’ll not be the last. 

“Times in Akenside are changing, Miss Penny. Right before our eyes.” 

*  *  *  * 

Having stabled Sorrel, Penelope walked around past the bottle-kilns to the master’s house and went inside to her father’s old office. After almost a year’s disuse, it was a sorry sight. 

She was tackling the dust and grime when the pottery’s foreman stuck his head around the door. 

“Grand news about the Dorothy, Miss Penny. And better yet that you’re back with us.” 

“I’m here only to work on the teaset, Albert. In no other capacity,” she stressed, adding, “but it is a beginning, isn’t it?” 

“It is that. By, you’ve a right job on here,” he remarked, taking in the long-neglected office. “I’ll send over a couple of lasses to clean this up for you.” 

“Thanks, Albert,” she replied with a smile. “But I want to do it myself.” 

“Aye.” He nodded, understanding. “Anyhow, if you need owt, you know where to find me.” 

Although it would take more than one session’s sweeping, scrubbing and dusting to restore Elias’s office to orderliness, by late afternoon Penelope was satisfied with her efforts. 

Removing her apron and rolling down her sleeves, she settled behind her father’s desk, adjusting the ink wells and pen tray to better suit her reach, and took up the Dorothy sketches once more. 

She was deliberating upon handle shapes when the door of her office swung open and Adam strode in. 

“I see you haven’t wasted any time getting your feet under the master’s desk,” he announced heartily. “My sincere wishes for success with your teaset, Pen.” 

The sudden interruption startled her, and Penelope glanced up sharply from her work. Adam was standing over her, grinning broadly. 

She met his gaze and witnessed not warmth and welcome, but something akin to a warning in her brother’s shrewd eyes. 

“Whitlock’s is mine now,” he murmured softly. “You’ll do well to remember that.” 

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.