Living By The Land – Episode 05

“THE gate’s open on the bottom field.” Gilbert was gasping. “And the cows are loose. All of them!”

Louisa glanced, horrified, at Amelia who’d reappeared from the dairy looking decidedly pink and with Tiernan suspiciously close behind her. Not that that mattered right now. She quickly explained what had happened.

“But I checked the gate myself!” Amelia protested. “Before we brought the milk across. It was fine then and that was only, what, ten minutes ago?”

Louisa nodded. It couldn’t have been more, but the cows would have been close to the gate and feeling lively without the heavy drag of full udders. It wouldn’t have taken them long.

“Who could have . . .?” Amelia started to say, but Callum cut across her.

“That doesn’t matter now. What does matter is that the King’s representatives will be here at any time and there are cows all over the farm. We have to round them up.”

The farmhands nodded but hesitated, unsure where to begin. At that moment the farmer strode into the yard, Silas in tow. A big, broad-shouldered man with bright eyes and dark brow, Robert commanded the space from the moment he arrived.

“What’s going on?” he demanded of his worried staff but just then, with a nonchalant “moo”, two cows turned into the yard behind him.

“Saints alive!” Robert looked from his men to his cattle and back again, then took a deep breath.

“I don’t care how it happened,” he said, “just get them back where they belong. Silas, you and Isaac take the back fields, Joshua the front ones, Callum the driveway and yard. Tiernan, can you go up to the road and keep an eye out for our visitors? Stall them if you have to – I’m not letting a few dopey cattle spoil today for us. Now, go!”

And they went. Within moments the sound of low calling and the slap of hands on cowhide could be heard all over the farm.

“Girls, you’d better get inside,” Robert said, starting to move away.

Before she could think, however, Louisa had darted forward.

“I can help, sir. I’m good with cows.”

“You are?” He blinked down at her. “Well, yes, I suppose you would be. All right, thank you, er . . .”

“Louisa, sir.”

“That’s right. Samuel Harris’s daughter, isn’t it? Good, well done. Amelia?”

But Amelia was gone already, off up the drive after Tiernan.

“Ah, well,” Robert said with a trace of a grin, “if anyone can distract the King’s men, it’ll be that one. Now, let’s catch cows.”

And catch them they did. The beasts had spread themselves across the farm, most of them heading for the forbidden front fields, but with everyone working together they were soon confounded. Within a miraculously short time most of the animals, confused by the fuss and already wearying of their freedom, were safely back in the bottom field, with no sign yet of the King’s men. As Callum and Louisa shooed a last recalcitrant beast down through the yard, however, a loud whistle from the road indicated that the visitors were on the horizon.

“Just in time!” Louisa gasped, turning to scan the yard.

“Just in time,” Callum agreed with a grin, but then stopped as Louisa, shyness forgotten, clutched at his arm.


“What is it?”

“Callum, look!” Louisa pointed to the far corner of the yard where a beefy chunk of a beast was eyeing them from behind the well – a beast with horns and a wicked look in his dark little eyes.

Alison Cook