A Time To Reap – Episode 32

A Time To Reap

“Doesn’t one of Alec Mackay’s lads owe us two days’ work?” Rodney Shaw’s grey, clipped moustache bristled with anger. “That was the understanding, wasn’t it, for the loan of our baler?”

“One of them sprained his ankle,” Elizabeth said. She crossed her fingers behind her back. “He’ll be better by corn-harvest time.”

Mr Shaw made a harrumphing noise.

“Don’t make these kind of arrangements again, Mrs Duncan. If Mackay can’t afford a baler it’s nothing to do with the estate. He’s taking advantage of you because you’re related to his wife.”

“I offered,” Elizabeth said coldly, prepared to argue the matter, but the factor moved on. He shuffled papers on his desk.

“When I was doing my rounds this morning it seemed to me that that prize bull of yours was limping. Were you aware of that?”

“Tam hasn’t said anything. I’ll investigate. Is that all, Mr Shaw?” Elizabeth couldn’t wait to leave his office.

He didn’t look up.

“Shut the door behind you.”

Tam Morrison looked concerned when Elizabeth sought him out.

“I haven’t seen the bull this morning,” he said. “I’ll come with you to the field.”

The bull had been purchased by Lord Mannering on Matthew’s advice, and had cost a great deal of money, so Elizabeth was dismayed to see that the fine animal her husband had nicknamed Bonnie Boy was indeed limping.

“What’s the matter with him, do you think?” she asked Tam. “Has he stood on something?”

The dairyman scanned the field.

“Lucky he’s in by himself, if that’s the case. You set Jimmie to mend the barbed wire fence yesterday. He wouldn’t have dropped some, would he?”

“He would be mending it from this side – there was no reason for him to go into the field,” Elizabeth said. “Tam, you get on with your work. I’ll phone the vet. I’ll let you know when he comes – it will take the three of us to get Bonnie Boy into a pen so Andy can examine him.”

She did so and Andy Kerr was there within minutes, having been close by.

Bonnie Boy was generally docile, but today he was an angry Ayrshire bull. He allowed Andy to thread a chain through the steel ring in his nose and to clip it around the base of his horns, but when it came to walking to the pen he refused to co-operate.

“I’m going to put on another chain,” Andy said, suiting actions to his words. “Take one each and hold him steady. We’ll see if he lets me close enough to have a look.”

Elizabeth was within inches of Bonnie Boy’s red-brown and white face. His large eyes were usually benign but now had a malevolent stare. She could see the sheen of sweat on Tam’s forehead and felt it on her own as she gripped on to the chain, unable to spare a hand to wipe her face.

“It’s a deep cut,” Andy said. “It needs stitches – we’re going to have to get him into that pen.”

“Come on, boy,” Elizabeth urged. “Shall we try leading him again, Tam?”

Andy slapped the bull on his flank and this time Bonnie Boy moved forward, but as Andy moved to shut the gate of the pen he suddenly roared and kicked out with his back leg, catching the vet off guard.

Tam moved quickly and slammed home the bolt. Elizabeth kneeled by Andy, whose eyes were closed.

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.