Living By The Land – Episode 09

“WHO would do something like this?” Louisa wailed as they were all drawn back to her desecrated bed.

She felt sickened now. The contentment of the evening had been sucked away by this poor dead little creature.

“And why?” Amelia asked. She put an arm around Louisa’s shoulder and guided her away, flicking the blankets back over the mouse as she went. “Do you think it was just to scare us all or meant for you specifically?”

Louisa shuddered.

“But what have I done?”

The others rushed to reassure her.

“Perhaps it’s just someone who got jealous of the attention Farmer Robert was paying you at dinner?” Rose suggested.

“Jealous enough of such a small thing to creep up here and put a dead mouse on my pillow?”

“Maybe,” Esther suggested slowly, “it was the same person who let the cows out. Maybe they were cross because you saved the situation.”

Louisa shook her head.

“Surely not, Esther? I hardly did it on my own.”

“That’s true, but why else would you have an enemy?”

Louisa paled. An enemy? Amelia saw her distress and rushed to defend her.

“You’ve not got an enemy – don’t be ridiculous, Esther. Who could dislike Louisa? Now don’t fret, my love.” She looked at Louisa in concern. “Perhaps we should get Martha?”

“Oh, no,” Louisa said hastily. “No, we mustn’t disturb her. It’s just a silly prank by one of the lads, probably.”

The others looked sceptical but none of them relished waking Martha.

“I could get Tiernan,” Amelia said, perking up.

“No!” It was a resounding chorus from the other girls.

“At least he might get the thing out of here for us.”

“That’s true,” Rose conceded.

“It is a bit creepy,” Esther admitted but Louisa had had enough fuss for one day.

“It’s just a mouse,” she said firmly. “It can’t hurt us. Let’s get some rest and we can decide what to do in the morning.”

“But Louisa,” Esther said, “where will you sleep?”

She had a point; Louisa had no desire to share her bed with the little creature, however harmless it might be. She looked helplessly round but Amelia came to her rescue.

“You can sleep with me, sweetheart. I promise not to try to kiss you!”

She winked and, despite herself, Louisa couldn’t help smiling. Thanking her friend, she snuggled in beside her and after some nudging and giggling, Amelia dropped heavily off to sleep. Louisa was grateful for the warmth and feeling of safety that her friend’s slumbering body offered – it was almost like being back home with her little sister, Betsy, at her side – but she still couldn’t sleep.

Despite her refusal to make a fuss, she had to admit that the spectre of death in her bed had upset her and, as she lay with the moonlight illuminating her new friends, Esther’s words kept echoing around her mind. Louisa had never had an enemy in her life and she didn’t want to start now. The warmth and fun of the evening’s meal had faded into a dull loneliness and a fear for what the next weeks at Lower Meadow would bring. It was a long time before Louisa could find the blessed oblivion of sleep.

Alison Cook