Living By The Land – Episode 25

AMBROSE shook his head bitterly and glanced back at the barn, where the music was picking up again. Louisa saw two large farmhands emerging from the big doors with Edgar’s skinny figure between them. They pushed him out into the night, where he staggered a little then found his feet and stood looking around. Spotting them, he began to move their way. Louisa felt Ambrose tense beside her and moved towards Edgar, hoping to head him off before he could provoke the smith further.
Edgar, however, held up a hand.

“I’m not here to fight.” He stared at the ground for a moment then forced his head up again. “I’m here to apologise. I’m sorry, Ambrose. I should not have said those things. I’ve had too much ale – no excuse, I know. I thought maybe you had . . . I was wrong. You’re a good man and I should not have doubted you.”

Louisa glanced back at Ambrose, who shifted awkwardly.

“Ah, well,” he managed. “What’s done is done, eh?”

“Maybe not.”


Louisa peered at Edgar. He was even paler than usual in the moonlight, and his eyes were dark in their sockets. She was grateful to see Callum emerging from the barn and heading towards them.

“Maybe it’s not all done,” Edgar was saying, his voice shaking. “Maybe it’s only just starting.”

“What do you mean?” Ambrose demanded, his deep voice sharp.

“I’ve been working at Lower Meadow for nigh on seven years,” Edgar said, “and I’ve never known anything like this. If you ask me, someone has a deep grudge against the master, and if it isn’t you, Ambrose,
then who is it?”

Ambrose had no answer. Louisa shivered in the night air and instinctively put out a hand as Callum drew close. He clasped it tight and instantly the strange new mood seemed less scary.

“Stop spouting nonsense, Edgar,” Callum said crisply. “You’re drunk. Go home and sleep it off.”

Edgar glared at him.

“I may have had a few, my northern lad, but I’ve never been more sober and you’d do well to listen. Someone wants to bring Lower Meadow down, and if we don’t find out who, we could all be in deep trouble.”

With that, he stomped off into the darkness beyond Frances’s lanterns.

Ambrose, Callum and Louisa watched him go.

“What rubbish,” Callum scoffed. He turned to Louisa. “Will you come back inside? You promised me a dance.”

Louisa glanced at the rainbow lights spilling out of the barn and felt the pull of the playful music from within. She looked anxiously at Ambrose.

“You go, lass. Last thing I want is to spoil anyone else’s evening. Enjoy yourself. Please.”

Louisa glanced up at Callum, who was looking down on her so eagerly that her heart turned. She nodded, then darted forward to give Ambrose a quick kiss on the cheek before allowing Callum to lead her back towards the vibrant barn. Their time together could be very precious and she wanted to make the most of it, but however hard she tried, some of her joy in the evening had gone.

They danced and they talked and finally, as the music dropped to a slower beat, they kissed, but even at that magical moment, Louisa just couldn’t stop the niggling thought.

What if Edgar was right? What if there really was big trouble at Lower Meadow Farm?’

She fell into bed late that night, with the other girls giggling and whispering happily around her, but her own thoughts still in a whirl.

“We all know what you’ll dream about tonight, young Louisa,” Esther teased.

Louisa just nodded, knowing better than to rise to the taunt. But her dreams, when they did come, were filled not with Callum’s tenderness but with rams and bulls and newly dead mice. She didn’t know whether to be grateful or apprehensive when morning finally came to Lower Meadow Farm.

Alison Cook