Living By The Land – Episode 21

“SAM Harris? Goodness, yes!” Frances laughed. “It must be some time ago now that young Sam was about. Didn’t he get caught climbing Farmer Dixon’s apple trees at midnight? And wasn’t a certain someone else caught with him?” Frances dug an elbow into Ambrose’s side and he grinned sheepishly.

Louisa turned to him.

“You and Dad?”

“’Fraid so. We were young and, er, spirited.”

Louisa tried to imagine her father up to such tricks. So that was where her brothers got it from!

“Are you not spirited now?” Frances was asking Ambrose coquettishly.

He winked.

“Not young, though, I’m afraid. I’d not make it up an apple tree these days! I could manage a dance, though. Shall we?”

Louisa saw Frances look longingly at the dance floor as people lined up for a country reel, but she shook her head.

“I can’t at the moment, Ambrose. I need to be hostess for a while yet.”

He nodded glumly, then his soft eyes lit up again.

“Looks like it’ll have to be you, then, young Louisa! Will you dance with an old man?”

He held out his muscular arm and Louisa took it with a giggle.

“I’d be honoured, sir.”

Ambrose might not be young, but he was energetic on the dance floor and Louisa found herself relaxing into his competent lead and enjoying the feeling of being whisked around the big barn. Every time she turned she could see familiar faces from Lower Meadow, mixed in with the villagers she had yet to get to know.

She saw Esther firmly locked in Gilbert’s arms and Rose laughing up at Benedict. Edgar was at the bar, drinking noisily with a group of village lads, but Louisa noticed even his stiff legs moving to the insistent beat of the band.

Farmer Robert, however, was the real revelation. The normally serious farmer seemed to be everywhere, chatting to people, buying drinks and looking relaxed and content. Even his sickly wife, who had been brought down by carriage, seemed to be enjoying herself, holding court from a hay bale in one corner, her legs covered with a tartan rug but her hair prettily dressed and with plenty of friends in attendance.

Amelia was dancing with Tiernan, their eyes locked on to each other as if the crowded barn held no-one else. As the dance turned, however, they were forced to relinquish each other and Louisa found herself with the young farmer from the north.

“You look very nice, Louisa,” Tiernan said as they danced, though she was pleased to see his eyes drifting across the circle to her friend even as he spoke.

“Thank you. Amelia’s dress is very pretty, isn’t it?”

“Very,” he agreed. “But Amelia would look good in a sack!”

Louisa smiled. It didn’t seem as if Amelia was going to have any problem securing her wealthy young husband. He was smitten.

“Are you enjoying your time at Lower Meadow?” she asked as he fell silent in contemplation of Amelia, now being partnered by Ambrose.

“Very much so. Robert is a fine master and I’m learning so much. I do miss the hills, though.”

Louisa was puzzled.

“There are hills here.” She waved towards the open doors and the rolling countryside beyond.

Tiernan laughed.

“Those aren’t hills, Louisa! Those are barely lumps compared to Northumbria. You must visit some time.”

Louisa wasn’t sure how to respond to this and was glad when the dance separated them briefly.

“Will you be returning home soon?” she asked when they came back together.

“Within the month, I think. Father isn’t well and he’ll need us back before harvest comes in.”

Louisa swallowed and glanced around the barn, automatically seeking Callum’s tall figure. She caught a glimpse of him at the bar, cornered by a couple of burly farmers, but now partners were moving on again and she was claimed by a bright-eyed young lad.

She smiled politely at him but her thoughts were racing. It was one thing for Amelia, but Louisa had barely even had a chance to exchange a few sentences with Callum. How was she to get to know him in a mere month? Ah, well, it had been a silly dream, anyway!


Alison Cook