The Mystery Of Macgregor’s Cove – Episode 47

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

The instant Penelope rode through the gates of Whitlock’s, she realised something was wrong. 

A knot of grim-faced workers stood in the yard, talking in low voices to the foreman; others scurried about their duties, heads bowed and eyes fixed upon the grimy cobbles. 

“What’s going on, Mr Doyle?” she asked when the watchman hurried from his hut. “Has there been an accident?” 

“It’s not that –” 

Before the watchman could finish, Albert Thwaite came to her. 

“I need a word, Miss Penny.” 

Once within the master’s house, she led the way into her office. 

“Whatever’s wrong, Albert?” 

“There’s talk Whitlock’s is selling up to a firm bringing in its own workers,” the foreman returned. “Is it right we’ll all be out us jobs?” 

The question struck Penelope like a blow. 

Far worse was being unable to quash the rumour and set everybody’s mind at rest, for this was the first she had heard of it. 

Her brother had not been into Whitlock’s this week. Since returning from his wedding trip, Adam was devoting less of his time and interest to the pottery. 

Penelope rarely entered Adam’s office, but now she did so, setting about a thorough search. 

*  *  *  * 

The correspondence from Sydney Parker & Sons was burning a hole in Penelope’s pocket, but there was no chance to confront Adam until after dinner, when she sought him out in their father’s study. 

The door was ajar. She could hear her brother speaking with Gerrard, and waited until the bailiff quit the study before entering. 

Adam was standing over by the sideboard, pouring brandy from one of the heavy crystal decanters. 

Penelope crossed the room and set Parker’s letters down before him. 

“You’ve stolen those from my office!” Adam cried. 

Rather than being angry, a grin of amazement creased his face. 

“You rise in my estimation, old girl!” 

“You intend selling Whitlock’s to this cotton manufacturer?” 

“Since those letters are evidence, there’s little point denying it,” he remarked. “Thanks to Father bringing the canal to Akenside, property and land are as gold dust. Parkers made an excellent offer. Only a fool would refuse.” 

“Father doesn’t know about this deal, does he?” 

“I planned upon waiting until proceedings were more advanced.” He shrugged. “Ah, but if I don’t tell Father at once, I’m sure you will.” 

“What were you thinking of?” she challenged angrily. “Our workers’ livelihoods are at stake! And have you even considered Father? He built Whitlock’s from nothing to pass to you! It’s his life’s work –” 

“His, not mine!” Adam cut in, no trace of humour in voice now. “I don’t want it. Never did.  

“You can’t understand that any more than Father does, can you? 

“I made a fortune in India and had a good life there. I’m not about to spend the next forty years running a pot-works!” 

“Father will never agree to your selling Whitlock’s.” 

“You think not?” he countered. “Our father is a shrewd man of business. He’ll recognise the offer as one far too good to refuse.” 

“You’re wrong.” 

“Am I?” Adam swept up the correspondence and strode out into the hallway. “I’m about to prove there’s no sentiment in business.” 

*  *  *  * 

“Leave us for a bit, will you, lass?” 

Penelope had no choice but to respect Elias’s request. 

She trailed down the stairs to wait in her sitting-room, praying her father would not be distressed and his recovery suffer a setback. 

“Father wants to see you.” 

Penelope started, springing to her feet and rushing past Adam up to her father’s room. 

To her relief, Elias appeared well and composed. 

“The pottery will not be sold, Penny.” He looked at her. “Mind, it’s a sterling offer. Parkers are a canny firm. Adam struck a hard bargain. I see now why the lad did so well in India.” 

Penelope stared at Elias incredulously. 

“You sound as though you admire Adam!” 

“I do. If this offer came from a potter who’d keep on our people, I’d give the sale my blessing.  

“As it is, Parkers have no use for pot-workers and I’ll not be responsible for turning out our own folk and robbing them of their jobs.” 

“You would have sold Whitlock’s?” She shook her head in disbelief. “I don’t understand, Father. The pottery means everything to you.” 

“But not to Adam,” he replied sadly. “I’ve been thinking back, Penny. My father was a miner, from a long line of miners. 

“Da expected me to follow him down the pit, but I was having none of it! I upped sticks and went  

to Liverpool.” 

“That was different,” Penelope chipped in, wishing to comfort him. “The pottery belongs to our family. To be passed down to Adam and –” 

“He’s determined to go his own way. Didn’t I do the same?” Elias finished, adding with a rueful smile, “Happen Adam is more like me than he knows.” 

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.