Living By The Land – Episode 02

LOUISA had taken turns nursing her with her father and her two brothers, David and Alexander, their usual boisterous ways curbed by the spectre that had taken over their precious mother. The little farmhouse had felt like a shell without her strong, cheerful presence holding the rest of them together. It had sounded so empty without her singing and chivvying and the happy chink of the dairy equipment she had tended with such care.

Every night Louisa had prayed to God to bring her back, but God had had other plans and she had faded so fast that, in the end, Louisa had turned her prayers to a request for the Lord to take her dear mother to himself and spare her any more pain.

This time, God had listened.

Through the soft squirt of milk into the pail and the background noise of Amelia herding the cows out to graze, Louisa recalled her grief, still almost as strong now as on the day her mother died. The boys had cried in loud, uncontrollable sobs. Little Betsy, at only five, had begged to know when Mummy was coming back. Worst of all had been her father’s silence, the sound of a grief too great to be released. There were still times now, half a year later, when Louisa feared that the dam of his sorrow had yet to burst, but he’d been so brave and he slowly seemed to be getting both himself and the farm back on to their feet.

Louisa sighed. Was it any wonder she’d been reluctant to leave home? She’d wanted to help her father and, if she was honest, had almost felt hurt that he didn’t seem to need her any more. She knew, however, that he just wanted the best for her and that he felt she would find that at Lower Meadow. His sister, a lovely woman who had been widowed some time back, had moved in to help him keep house, so Louisa knew that both her father and her siblings would be cared for, but still she felt pangs of guilt, as if she had stepped out of the sadness and left them to bear it alone.

She knew, however, that much as she missed her family, she owed it to her father to make the most of the opportunity he was offering. Farmer Robert had so much modern equipment and so many ideas. Her dear mother would have loved Lower Meadow’s fancy dairy, for she had put her soul into her cheeses, for ever trying out new recipes and flavour combinations.

Bumptious Martha couldn’t be more different from the gentle woman who had taught Louisa her craft, but her passion was the same and she’d already promised Louisa that, once the royal visit was out of the way, she could experiment all she wanted. Louisa couldn’t wait for the chance to try out some new ideas – her chance to stand testimony to her mother’s memory – but for now there was Martha’s floor to mop. Blinking, she fought to raise herself from her bittersweet daydream of times past.

Alison Cook