Living By The Land – Episode 26

“GO in peace, to love and serve the Lord.”

Louisa bowed her head as the ancient village vicar intoned his final blessing and prayed with all her heart that today would, indeed, bring peace to Lower Meadow. Edgar’s outburst at the dance last night had unsettled everyone, but in truth nothing sinister had happened at the farm all week so perhaps it had just been a run of bad luck? Either way, with Farmer Robert’s Court visit to plan, surely everyone would be too busy for mischief?

It certainly felt so this morning with the spring sun shining down as if God was indeed blessing them. Louisa thought of her family worshipping in their own little church across the hills and hoped that Betsy was well enough to attend. Her little sister would certainly hate being cooped up in her bedroom on a beautiful day like this.

“Lord,” she whispered, “keep my Betsy safe, please, and keep . . .”

“Come on, dozy!”

Amelia’s sharp elbow in her side jolted Louisa out of her prayer.

She blinked and turned to her friend.

“Can’t a girl say a prayer?” she demanded indignantly.

“You can pray all you like, but I want to get outside before a certain gorgeous farmer heads for home without me. You can get a deal done with a man in a mile.”

She winked and Louisa had to laugh, despite her friend’s irreverence. She started to rise but then glanced to the end of their pew where Ambrose’s bulky figure blocked their way.

The blacksmith was kneeling forward, his hands clasped urgently before him and his eyes closed, and Louisa’s heart went out to him. It was clear to her, even on so short an acquaintance, that Ambrose was not normally a violent man, and she felt certain God would forgive last night’s momentary transgression.

And Louisa was not, it seemed, the only one who felt that way for as Ambrose slowly opened his eyes, someone touched his shoulder and his head spun round.


Frances Clarke smiled softly at him from the aisle.

“I’m sure the Lord will be merciful, Ambrose,” she said.

“I hope so.” He sighed shakily. “But will you?”

Frances laughed then, a chiming sound, younger than her years.

“Me, Ambrose? Who am I to judge another, least of all you?”

Louisa stood frozen, holding back a jigging Amelia to give the older couple space.

“Then . . . then you don’t hate me?”
the blacksmith asked.

“Hate you? Oh, Ambrose, you silly, silly man, how could I hate you? I love you!”

Frances made no attempt to keep her voice down and, as one, the departing congregation turned to absorb the precious moment unfolding in their midst. Only Edgar, still wrapped up in deep private prayer at the front of the church, took no notice as Ambrose stared disbelievingly up at her.

“Really?” He cleared his throat, squared his shoulders and shifted so that he was kneeling, not before God, but before the lady farmer.

“In that case, Frances – my dear, wonderful Frances – will you marry me?”

A cheer from the village community muffled the reply but there could be no doubt what it was.

Ambrose drew Frances into his arms and the old vicar, his hearing clearly still sharp enough at times, rushed forward, beaming.

“The Lord be praised, a wedding! I love a wedding.” He patted the couple on their heads as if they were children in the school yard. “I shall marry you before I retire,” he proclaimed excitedly to fond groans.

Reverend Merryweather had been on the verge of retiring for years but was touchingly reluctant to leave his calling. He led the way down the aisle now as if escorting royalty and everyone parted happily before him to let Ambrose and his newly betrothed leave the church.

Louisa turned to Amelia.

“Isn’t it romantic?”

“Very,” her friend agreed dreamily, adding a more caustic, “and catching, I hope! Now, come on, girl, let’s get out of here.”

Alison Cook