Living By The Land – Episode 11

“THAT would be lovely!” he gasped. “I mean, I’d be honoured to take you to see the cows out in the field.”

“Thing is, I’m very busy in the day. Martha’s a tyrant, you know! It might have to be an evening. But you’d be tired.”

“No, no, not at all.”

“I suppose we could always rest out there.”

Now Louisa’s eyes widened and she quickly shooed a cow forward to hide her from Amelia’s view. Had the girl no shame? What would Tiernan think?

Tiernan, however, didn’t seem to be thinking at all, just stuttering out agreement. Embarrassed, Louisa focused on her milking. Her pail was nearly full now. One more cow and she could head back to the dairy.

Martha had promised to give her use of the best press today to try out a new recipe and she couldn’t wait. Her mother had always made a lovely rich cheddar with chives, and she was keen to try it out here. Putting Amelia’s dalliances from her mind, she milked the cow into the bucket and then stood up.

“I will take this one over now, if that would be all right?” she said to Amelia, who was watching Tiernan’s departing back.

“What? Oh, yes, of course. I will finish here and join you. Take care on the cobbles.”

Amelia dipped her head back to her cow, singing softly to herself, and Louisa felt a rush of fondness.

“You will be careful, Amelia?”

Her friend’s head shot up.

“Careful? In what way?”

“With Tiernan.” Louisa blushed furiously at her own words but Amelia just laughed.

“Don’t you worry about me, Louisa. I can take care of myself. I have done since I was nine years old.”

Louisa stared at her.

“What do you mean?”

Amelia shrugged and busied
herself milking.

“My mother died. Dad didn’t like it and took comfort in the alehouse. Sometimes my brother and I didn’t see him for days. You soon learn to look after yourself.”

“Oh, Amelia!” Louisa took a step towards her friend but Amelia held up a hand.

“I’m all right, really. You just get on with it, don’t you?” She gave Louisa a quick smile before adding fiercely, “I don’t want that for my children, though.”

Louisa nodded. So that was why Amelia was so keen to find a rich husband. And who could blame her?

“Tiernan’s very nice,” she offered weakly.

“Too nice for me?”

“No! I didn’t mean . . .”

“Louisa, I’m joking.”

She laughed to prove her point but Louisa wasn’t convinced and moved out into the yard, deep in thought. She missed her own mother very much, but at least she was old enough to cope and her father was staying strong. She felt a rush of longing to see them all and determined to ask Farmer Robert for permission to ride home next Sunday.

In the meantime, she had cheese to make. Picking up pace, Louisa stepped out across the farmyard. The bucket was heavy and halfway across she stopped to switch hands. As she did so, however, the wooden handle gave a sickening crack and splintered in two. The pail swung
loose and all of Louisa’s hard-won milk escaped across the cobbles in creamy rivers.

Louisa looked down, aghast. The pail hung limply in her hand, empty of all but a few drops.

Alison Cook