Living By The Land – Episode 33

LOUISA felt the fresh spring breeze tug at her skirts the moment she stepped through the door of Home Farm and laughed out loud in delight and relief. Everything looked so much better in the brisk morning sunlight and she felt foolish for her indulgent weeping last night. What was she doing, wasting tears on a man who had shown no more than a passing interest in her, and that probably only because he was bored away from home?

She stifled the little voice saying Callum wasn’t like that. How was she to know what he was like, on so slight an acquaintance? She was starting to sound as ridiculously over-romantic as Amelia. Shaking herself, she stepped further into the yard and took in several deep breaths of the deliciously familiar air of her childhood.

Betsy had slept the whole night through and had woken this morning looking brighter than in weeks, saying she was hungry. Even now Aunt Helena was helping her to eat porridge, rich with Martha’s best cream, and Louisa had taken this chance to come outside and stretch her stiffened limbs after a night cramped up with her little sister. Not that she minded. She’d been delighted to be there for her, and glad they’d had a chance to talk. Betsy, it seemed, wasn’t the baby they’d all been thinking her.

Mind you, her two brothers were growing up fast, too. Louisa could see David now, his shirt clinging to him as he laboured to repair some fencing at the far side of the yard. Home Farm had been sorely neglected over the last year as they’d all struggled with grief, but now Louisa could see signs everywhere that the farm was recovering. The yard was neatly swept, pails were lined up outside the milking shed and the freshly painted pigsties were alive with the sound of wriggling, snorting piglets.

Up on the hill she could see Xander driving the cows down for milking and she smiled to see how competently he was controlling them. Even old Primrose, never the most biddable of beasts, was staying with the herd. Yes, Home Farm was moving forward again on the surface, even though, after her midnight conversation with Betsy last night, Louisa knew the wounds still ran deep for all of them.


Her father’s voice broke through her thoughts and she turned and waved as he emerged from the cowshed.

“All well?”

He nodded and beckoned her over, so she picked up her skirts and followed him into the shed. A newborn calf was staggering to its feet, big eyes dark with concentration whilst its mother licked dotingly at the damp little body.

“Oh!” Louisa gasped. “Oh, Dad, it’s beautiful. A girl?”

He nodded contentedly.

“A girl. A new one for the herd. I shall call her Louisa, after you.”

A thought sprang into Louisa’s head and, taking a deep breath, she dared to speak it aloud.

“Or Grace, after Mother?”

Samuel sucked in his breath and Louisa feared she’d gone too far, but this was important. She placed a soft hand on his arm.

“I spoke to Betsy last night, Dad. She’s missing Mother – of course, we all are – but I think she’s also struggling to come to terms with the loss. I think, maybe, if you could bear it, she needs to talk about Mother more. She needs to hear us all talk about her. After all . . .” she paused to swallow back her own sadness “. . . she is still here, isn’t she, in our hearts?”

Her father didn’t look at her but just stood, shoulders stiff and eyes fixed rigidly on the now upright calf. Louisa withdrew her hand, terrified she’d offended him, but suddenly he seemed to rouse himself and turned to face her. Louisa saw his brown eyes were shimmering with tears, but he was smiling through them.


Alison Cook