Living By The Land – Episode 30

CASTING a look at her weary brother, Louisa recognised the wisdom of Martha’s words. With a nod she darted for her room and began throwing clothes into a small bag, not really caring what she took but only that she was occupied – that she was doing something to get closer to Betsy.

Within minutes she was back downstairs and in the yard. All was quiet. Most people would be taking the chance to sit quietly before lunch or checking on the animals, for farmers could rarely afford to rest, even on a Sunday. Farmer Robert and his wife had gone to a local squire’s house for their dinner and there was only Amelia in the yard.

“Is the pony recovered?” Louisa demanded of her friend.

“Not really, but he’ll carry one of you.”

“But . . .”

“Silas says to take Blackie. He says Farmer Robert would want you to.”

“I couldn’t possibly, not without asking!”

“Just do it, Louisa, please. Family is the most important thing in the world, isn’t it?”

Louisa caught a dewdrop of a tear on Amelia’s dark lashes and nodded sombrely.

“It is,” she agreed. “Thank you, Amelia.”

“What are friends for?”

Amelia grabbed Louisa in a surprise hug that almost knocked her off her feet with its force. Touched, she hugged her friend back. She had the feeling Amelia was about to say more, but Martha was bustling out now with David behind her, clutching a bulging basket of provisions. Amelia broke free to fetch the horses for them.

“There’s food for you two on the journey,” Martha told Louisa, nodding at the basket. “Make sure you eat some, even if you don’t stop to do it. You’ll be no use to that sister of yours if you’re weak as well. There’s more for her when you get there, and some of my tonic, too. Best medicine in the world, that is – saw my Tilly through a terrible fever one winter. You give that to Betsy, a spoonful three times a day, and she’ll be up and skipping to church by next week.”

Her voice rang with conviction and though Louisa knew somewhere deep down that it was a show to buoy her up, she felt lighter for her words all the same.

“Give my apologies to Farmer Robert,” she said urgently to Martha.

“And to Callum?” Amelia suggested slyly.

“Oh!” For a second Louisa’s heart squeezed in pain, and then she remembered Betsy and dismissed her selfish desires with a disgusted shrug. “Yes, please, Amelia.”

“We’ll see you soon.”

Louisa nodded as David led the way up the drive, already urging his pony into a trot, and hoped it was true. She wanted to return to Lower Meadow so badly. But if
Betsy . . .

She closed her eyes on the painful thought, and was then half thrown when someone leaped out on to the driveway and Blackie reared in fright. It was Edgar. He clutched at her pony’s bridle and pulled her safely down.

“What are you doing?” Louisa snapped at him.

“I could ask you the same, rushing around like a hoyden on the Lord’s day.”

Louisa glared at the farmhand, furious at him for delaying her, but still he held on to Blackie’s bridle.

“My sister is sick,” she threw at him. “I have to go to her. Edgar, please.”

Her voice broke with fear and Edgar stepped back, startled. He started to speak but Louisa had had enough delays. Kicking Blackie into a trot, she turned and rode away from Edgar and the rest of Lower Meadow’s occupants and made for her own home.

Alison Cook