Living By The Land – Episode 27

FONDLY shaking her head, Louisa let Amelia drag her from the church into the sunlit graveyard where everyone was gathering in chattering groups.

Louisa caught the occasional whisper about last night’s fracas, but the latest news clearly eclipsed the dance and the village was merry with the upcoming wedding.

Louisa saw Farmer Robert approach Ambrose and clap him heartily on the back, waving away his attempts at an apology until the blacksmith finally relaxed enough to beam round at his friends and fellow workers.

She waited until the crowd of well-wishers had subsided a little and sidled up to him.

“Congratulations, Ambrose.”

“Louisa, lass, thank you.”

Impetuously, Ambrose swept her up in a big hug, then seemed to remember himself and set her swiftly back down.

Louisa kissed his cheek.

“Told you it would all be well.”

“That you did, lass, that you did. You’re a wise one, you are, and I might have to thank young Edgar, too.”

He left off a moment to gaze at Frances.

“Turns out my intended here rather admired my show of manly strength.”

“Ambrose!” Frances batted at his arm. “I did not say that and you must never do it again.”

The blacksmith sobered instantly.

“Never,” he agreed solemnly, adding, “but where is Edgar, anyway? I’d like to make sure things are straight between us.”

Louisa looked around. The villagers were starting to head for home now and the farm folk were gathering by the lych gate to walk back up the hill together.

She spotted Amelia cuddled up against Tiernan and, with a leap of her heart, saw Callum standing slightly apart watching her.

But there was no Edgar.

“There he is!” Ambrose cried suddenly. “He’s talking to Reverend Merryweather. I’ll be needing to speak to him, too. Excellent.”

Louisa looked over as Ambrose led Frances across to the old vicar. The poor man seemed to be stooping more than usual under the intensity of Edgar’s urgent conversation, and Louisa found herself wondering what the farmhand was up to now.

Edgar clearly wasn’t discussing the finer points of theology. There were high spots of colour in his hollow cheeks, he was waving his long fingers in agitation and he looked up angrily as Ambrose interrupted him.

“Louisa, come on! Hurry up or you’ll be walking to Lower Meadow on your own.”

Amelia’s voice snapped Louisa out of her thoughts and she spun round and all but ran towards the group of farm workers as they stepped out into the lane that would take them home.

She slowed her pace as she approached, however, noticing with pleasure that Callum was hanging back with Tiernan and Amelia, and the four of them fell comfortably into step together as they left the churchyard and moved out into open countryside.

“Such wonderful tidings for Ambrose,” Amelia said, plucking a primrose casually from the hedgerow and twirling it in her fingers. “A wedding is such a happy event, isn’t it?”

She turned her big eyes up at Tiernan.

“Especially when the couple has chosen to be together,” he agreed huskily.

Amelia paused to gather more flowers and Tiernan paused with her. Louisa looked at them but, receiving an urgent signal from beneath her friend’s lashes, she moved away, daring as she did so to take Callum’s arm.

Instantly he placed his own hand over hers, drawing her in against his side, and for a while they walked in easy silence, enjoying the birdsong and the fresh, sun-laced breeze.

“A beautiful day for a walk,” Callum remarked as Lower Meadow came into sight at the top of the hill. “Seems a shame we’re nearly back.”

“It does,” Louisa agreed, meaning it with all her heart. She felt as if she could walk all the way into the next century with Callum at her side.

He stopped suddenly and she was jerked back against him.

“Perhaps you would step out with me this afternoon, Louisa? There’s a very nice tearoom in the next village. We could walk over the hills, if that was not too far for you?”

“No, that’s not too far at all,” Louisa said hastily. “I’d love to, Callum.”

“Good. That’s good. Very good.”

He was looking so intently at her that she thought he was going to kiss her there and then, in the middle of the lane – in the middle of the day! She wondered if she would object, and had the delicious feeling that she would not.

Voices behind them, however, showed that Amelia and Tiernan were catching up, so Callum contented himself with saying, “I shall look forward to it very much,” and they moved on to the farm together.

Alison Cook