Living By The Land – Episode 17

LOUISA moved aside to look at Farmer Robert’s face and was so struck by the anguished fury she saw on it that she didn’t even notice how close she’d got to the next person until they nudged her.


She flushed instantly and he looked a little pink-faced himself. He nodded down at his foot and she saw, to her mortification, that she’d trodden on it, and in her muddy riding boots, too.

“I’m so sorry.”

He smiled as she pulled her foot away but he didn’t move and Louisa felt a rush of heat run through her body at the proximity of his. She cast round for something to say but the master had noticed her.

“Ah, Louisa, you’re back.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you know what this is about?”

“Yes, sir.”

He pounced.


Louisa cringed.

“Amelia just told me, sir, that’s all.”

“Humph. Did she impress on you how serious this is?”

“I can see that for myself, sir.” Louisa’s voice shook in front of everyone, but she felt too much sympathy for the farmer to care. “It must be a terrible blow to your breeding programme.”

“It is, Louisa, it is. A terrible blow.” His eyes flashed around the room. “A blow we will all have to correct. I am due to visit the King at midsummer to discuss our new breed of sheep, and he isn’t going to be impressed by some weedy beast of a type he’s seen often and often.”

Over his head the clock struck out the hour of ten.

“It’s late. Get to your beds. We meet at six tomorrow. I’ll be talking to each of you individually and I will get to the bottom of this. Now, go!”

His employees needed no second command. They scattered as fast as they could and streamed across the yard to their sleeping quarters, all talking in low voices. Louisa caught anger at the extra work, though it wasn’t directed at Robert as much as at the perpetrator of this calculated act of agricultural sabotage.

But who had done it?

Louisa felt Amelia take her arm as the girls headed up the steps to their own room.

“Nice day at home?” she asked quietly.

Louisa thought of Betsy, small and pale in her bed, and swallowed.

“Better than you had here,” she managed.

Amelia nodded.

“Someone’s really got it in for the farm.”

“Yes,” Rose agreed from behind them, “and what’s worse, it has to be someone here.”

They glanced at each other and hurried inside, drawing the bolt behind them. Each one pulled back their sheets nervously but there were, thankfully, no mice tonight.

Louisa felt glad that she hadn’t been singled out this time, but it was small comfort in the grand scheme of things. First Betsy being ill, and now this! She was starting to love Lower Meadow but clearly not everyone felt the same way, and until they found out who that was, none of them would be able to rest easy in their beds.

Alison Cook