Living By The Land – Episode 41

THROWING his chair back, Silas stalked from the kitchen, leaving a stunned silence behind him. Louisa hastened to Martha’s side as Farmer Robert stepped up to Edgar.

“I hope you’re satisfied, young man. These sort of petty accusations are what’s driving Lower Meadow into the mire – exactly where whoever is doing this wants us! Get out to your work and don’t let me see you again today or I won’t answer for the consequences!”

Head down, Edgar left.

“As I said,” the farmer told the others icily, “I will investigate this in my own way. Finish your food and get to work. There’s more than ever to be done now, and I don’t want time wasted in idle gossip and speculation. Understood?”

It was, and the ruined meal was choked down swiftly, in miserable silence, before they all thankfully escaped to their various duties about the farm.

Martha was still visibly shaken and she swiftly set Louisa and Amelia to churning a fresh batch of butter before excusing herself to go and find Silas. Louisa watched her large form scurrying off across the yard and sighed.

“That was romantic, wasn’t it?” Amelia said behind her.

Louisa turned, puzzled.


“What Silas said, about Martha always being the one for him.”

“Oh. Yes.”

That wasn’t the bit of the cropsman’s speech that had stuck in Louisa’s mind, but Amelia’s thoughts seemed to run on a single course at the moment.

“Very romantic,” she agreed carefully. “No doubt they knew they were suited from the moment they met. A bit like you and Tiernan.”

“Mmm,” Amelia agreed dreamily.

“Amelia, when you met him last night, in the field . . .”

“What did we do? Why, Louisa, that’s none of your business!”

“No! I just wondered, where did you meet him?”

“Up in that little coppice in the far corner of the back field.”

“Near the top sluice?”

Amelia crinkled her nose.

“I’m not sure. I wasn’t exactly studying the drainage, was I, now?”

“So Tiernan was there when you arrived?”

“Of course. He’s a gentleman – he wouldn’t let a girl run around unprotected, not with it near dark. Oh, but it was so pretty! The sun was setting over the hills all red and orange and Tiernan was glowing like an angel.”

“Isn’t it devils that are red?” Louisa commented darkly, but Amelia just giggled.

“He’s certainly wicked!”

“Oh, Amelia.”

The giggling stopped instantly.

“Don’t you ‘oh, Amelia’ me, Louisa. Girls like me, we’ve got to take our chances where we find them.”

“Girls like you? You’re a decent girl, a good dairymaid, and . . .”

“It’s all so simple to you, isn’t it?”

Louisa stopped at the bitterness in her friend’s voice.

“My mum’s dead and my father’s in his cups from dawn until dusk. Mine’s hardly the sort of family a decent man would want to align himself to, so if I have to offer a couple of kisses by way of encouragement, then I will!”

She stuck her chin up fiercely and Louisa, on a sudden impulse, hugged her tight.

“What’s that for?” Amelia protested, though she didn’t resist.

“For you. I don’t think you know how wonderful you are. Tiernan would be lucky to have a smart, capable, pretty wife like you.”

“Get away with you!”

It was true. Losing her mother had been tough for Louisa, but it had clearly been ten times tougher for Amelia. Despite her hard exterior her friend was even more fragile beneath the surface than Louisa had previously thought.

“What you need to be sure of,” she went on fiercely, “is that he is good enough for you!”

At that Amelia laughed and pulled away to apply herself to the churning handle.

“He is,” she said stoutly, and Louisa understood the conversation to be at a close. She just wished she could be as certain as Amelia that Tiernan’s motives were honourable.


Alison Cook