Living By The Land – Episode 18

“WILL you lace me up, Louisa?” Amelia asked, hitching the bodice of her best dress into place.

“Of course.”

Louisa took the scarlet ribbons from her friend and pulled gently, taking care to keep their shape. It was Saturday night and the girls of Lower Meadow Farm were getting dressed up for a barn dance to be held in the village that evening. They were all very excited and preparations had been going on for some time.

“Tighter than that!” Amelia admonished. “I want my waist to be tiny when Tiernan gets his hands round it later.”

She winked and blew a kiss at her friend.

Louisa yanked harder on the ribbons and had the satisfaction of making Amelia gasp.

“That will do, Louisa. It won’t be much use if I stop breathing, will it?”

“Perhaps, Amelia,” Esther teased, “Tiernan might like you better that way. Stop you prattling on, at least.”

Amelia pulled herself up tall.

“Tiernan says he loves to hear me talk. He says he could listen to me all day.”

“And all night, too!”

“Esther! I’m not that sort of girl.”

Louisa looked round at her new friends. They were for ever saying things like this and she had no idea how to take it. Rose, noticing the bewildered look in her eyes, leaped across the room in her petticoats and hugged her.

“There, now, Louisa, don’t mind us. We’re all talk, you know.” She kissed her roundly on one cheek. “Well, nearly all. There’s nothing wrong with a quick kiss or two, is there?”

“Nothing wrong at all,” Esther agreed, combing out her hair for the umpteenth time. “Don’t say you haven’t thought of it, Louisa? I’ve seen the way Callum’s been looking at you. Nice-looking lad. A bit earnest for me, maybe, but he has a twinkle in his eye.”

Louisa blushed even more furiously. Certainly something lit up Callum’s eyes when they met hers, as they’d seemed to do increasingly often in this last week. She did have to admit that she was hoping to get a dance with him tonight – not that she’d tell this lot.

“Callum seems a lovely man,” was all she trusted herself to say.

“He’s a younger son, Louisa,” Amelia warned as Louisa tied her ribbons, adding an extra knot to take the tension.

“What of it?”

Amelia put her hands up.

“He won’t inherit, that’s all I’m saying.”

“No,” Louisa agreed easily. “Tiernan will.”

Amelia grinned and rubbed her hands mischievously.

“Absolutely. Mind you, I expect Callum will help Tiernan run their farm. It’s two thousand acres, you know, all across great hillsides!” She suddenly spun round and grabbed Louisa’s shoulders. “Just think, if Tiernan marries me and Callum marries you we could live there together. How perfect that would be. I’d run the farmhouse and you could have the dairy. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? I’d let you make all the odd cheeses you wished.”

Louisa was touched by Amelia’s enthusiasm. She hugged her friend and muttered approval, but in truth it wasn’t her idea of fun at all. She wanted to be mistress of her own farm. It didn’t need to
be anywhere grand, but she wanted it to be hers. Could she get that with Callum? She feared Amelia might be right about him being stuck as second-in-command all his life and, much as she loved Amelia as a friend, she wasn’t sure she would be bearable as a mistress. Suddenly she heard her own thoughts.

“Hark at you,” she told herself crossly, turning away from the others. “Acting as
if you have the choice! Why would Callum want you?”

Nonetheless, she took special care with her dress. Her hair had been in rags beneath her cap all day and when she took them out it fell around her shoulders in soft ringlets.

“My, look at you!” Rose said.

“You do look very pretty, Louisa,” Esther agreed. “Doesn’t she, Amelia?”

Alison Cook