Living By The Land – Episode 36

LOUISA was on the road at first light the next day and caught her first glimpse of Lower Meadow just as the cows were being driven down to the milking shed. Betsy had woken her early by getting up from the bed they shared and making for the window.

“Betsy?” she’d asked, on instant alert, but her sister had just smiled as she’d opened the catch and leaned out.

“Don’t the birds sound wonderful, Louisa? Like angels on earth.”

What could she do but smile and agree, delighted to see Betsy so vibrant once more.

“You shall come and visit me,” she had promised, scrambling out of bed to dress.


“Soon. As soon as you are strong.”

“But I am!”

“Properly strong. Drink lots of milk and keep taking Martha’s tonic. Promise?”

“I promise, and then?”

“Then you can come to Lower Meadow. I will speak to Farmer Robert about it tonight.”

Betsy had clapped her hands in delight and shared the idea with their brothers as they saddled Blackie in the yard a little later. Both had looked pleased at the prospect.

“You should see the food there,” David had told Xander keenly.

“I’d rather see the breeding stock!” Xander had retorted.

Samuel had laughed.

“We will see it all, if Robert is agreeable. It’s a long time since I’ve seen the place properly myself. It was a fine farm before and I hear it’s finer yet.”

A fine farm it was, Louisa thought proudly as she crested the last hill and could look down on the vast sprawl of Lower Meadow. At least 10 times bigger than Home Farm.

It was a misty morning and the ground was wet with overnight rain, but the sun was creeping between the lightening clouds and glinting in the moisture, making the fields seem to shimmer like lakes. Louisa smiled and urged Blackie into a trot as she turned down the great driveway and into the yard.

“Louisa! You’re back!”

Louisa’s heart leaped as Callum came running up and offered her his hand to dismount. She took it and felt joy rise at his touch however hard she tried to suppress it.

“How is your sister?”

“Better, thank you. Much, much better. It was a worrying time the first night.”

“But you were there for her.”


Callum, she noticed, had not let go of her hand and his eyes were looking straight into hers, deep with concern.

“She thought I was our mother!” she blurted out. “She misses her very much.”

“Enough to make herself ill?”

“Perhaps enough to make it hard to want to get better. Grief is a powerful beast.”

“As is love.”

Still his hand held hers. Still his eyes sought her own.

Louisa battled to look away, but his attention was too sweet to resist.

“I hope love is not a beast,” she managed lightly, and he smiled.

“I hope not, too. I have missed you.”

Louisa’s whole body thrilled at those words and she had to fight to retain her composure.

“I am so sorry about our walk. I wanted to find you, but . . .”

“It’s all right, Louisa. You had to go to your sister. Is your home far?”

“Some two hours’ ride. Not so far.”

“No,” he agreed. “It’s over two days to my home.”

It was as if a raincloud had returned, though the sky was blue above them. Louisa pulled her hand away and turned to fuss over Blackie.

“You must be tired.” He frowned. “Why don’t you go and change? I’ll stable the pony.”

“Will you?” Louisa did feel weary and she was also aware of the cows moving into the shed for milking. “That would be kind, thank you. I’ll just let Martha know I’m here.”

She made to move to the safety of the dairy but could not resist turning back. Callum was holding Blackie’s reins but his eyes were still on her.

“Thank you,” she said again and he bowed a little.

“My pleasure, always.”

Louisa still felt flustered as she let herself into the dairy and was grateful when Martha and Amelia fell on her, dragging her inside and asking for news of her sister so loudly that she had no chance to dwell on the intense exchange with Callum. She reassured them as to Betsy’s health and was just going on to ask Amelia if she had any news of her own when the door of the dairy flew open to reveal the head cropsman, his eyes afire with fury.

“Silas! Whatever’s the matter?” Martha flew to her husband but he was so prickled up with indignation that he threw his hands up to ward her off.

“It’s the whole drainage system on the lower fields. Blocked! Blocked right up at the main gate and the whole fields are flooded!”

Louisa recalled the shimmering effect she’d seen as she rode in a little while back, and guiltily remembered how beautiful she’d thought it.

“Is that a big problem?” Amelia asked.

Silas spun around and glared at her.

“It’s enormous! It could drown the corn saplings if we don’t move fast.”

Alison Cook