Living By The Land – Episode 24

“WHAT on earth?” Callum gasped.

The crowd were parting to reveal two men angrily squared up to each other. Louisa was horrified to spot the bulky figure of Ambrose and opposite him Edgar, looking defiant, if a little scared.

“How dare you?”

The fiddlers had fallen silent and Ambrose’s voice boomed out around the barn.

“I dare,” Edgar retorted, his own voice shaking slightly, “because I believe it to be true. The rest of us were in the farm and your precious smithy is only yards from the sheep field.”

Louisa glanced up at Callum but he shook his head in bewilderment.

Ambrose’s next words, however, made it all clear.

“I did not let the ram out. Why would I?”

Edgar’s eyes narrowed.

“Because Farmer Robert commissioned his new plough from London, not from you, that’s why.”

The crowd gasped as Ambrose flinched back, his lips set.

“I told Robert to do that, you fool! The technology he wanted is beyond me at the moment. I hope to study the new machine once we have it at Lower Meadow. I’m learning, just like the rest of us.”

“Maybe,” Edgar conceded, “but are you learning fast enough? Perhaps, Ambrose, you’re becoming as obsolete as your old tools!”

Ambrose turned purple. Louisa saw Robert pushing through the crowd.

“That’s enough,” he was calling. “Edgar, Ambrose is a dedicated and valued worker. He . . .”

But the farmer’s words came too late. With one powerful swing Ambrose’s fist connected firmly with Edgar’s chin and sent him staggering back to the ground, scattering the fascinated onlookers.

“Ambrose, no!”

Louisa saw the big smith turn as if in a daze and look into the horrified face of his hostess –the woman whose opinion he most valued. Frances Clarke’s hands had flown to her face as she watched her dance descend into a brawl.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Ambrose looked from Frances to Robert and then fled from the barn.

Louisa glanced at Callum.

“I have to go after him.”

He nodded, gave her hand a last squeeze and released her. Her fingers felt cold without his around them, but Ambrose needed her.

Louisa caught up with him at the bottom of the field. It was dark now and the lanterns flickered magically in the night, not that either of them noticed.


Louisa caught his arm and he flinched, but as he saw who it was he softened a little and stopped.

“That was stupid, wasn’t it?” he said, his voice hoarse.

“Edgar was being very provocative,” Louisa offered, consoling.

“He was.” Ambrose turned away, grinding his hands together in anger. “How dare he? As if I’d ever do anything to damage Lower Meadow, after all Robert’s done for me!” He looked to the sky as if seeking answers in the stars, then spun back. “What if Robert asks me to leave? He might, you know; I wouldn’t blame him.”

Louisa took his big hands, prising them apart.

“Robert seems very fair, Ambrose. I’m sure, if you explain . . .”

“Maybe, but hitting a man – it’s not me!”

“I know that, and I’m sure Robert does, too.”

“And Frances!” Ambrose seemed to be fighting tears. “I was going to ask her tonight, you know. I was going to ask her to be my wife and she’d have said yes, I’m sure she would, but now . . .”

Alison Cook