Living By The Land – Episode 46

“GOOD morning, Louisa.” The soft voice in her ear almost made Louisa drop her boiled egg. It bounced in its china cup and she caught at it, not caring that it scalded her fingers.

“Good morning, Callum.”

She saw, to her huge relief, that he was smiling at her. No foolish gossip had reached him, then, thank goodness. She’d been awake half the night going over what Amelia and Esther had said to her, fretting how even a jest might be misconstrued. Yet here Callum was, easing her into a seat at his side. As she reached for bread, she felt pleasingly foolish for having made so much of their poor joke.

“You saw Silas home safely, then?”

Callum grinned, his brown eyes lighting up.

“I did, and oh, Louisa, you should have heard the scolding Martha gave him!”


“Oh, Silas, you wicked man!” Callum’s voice, though low, was a perfect imitation of Martha’s. “How could you keep me worrying so? I had you dead in a ditch, so I did, and I’m not ready to be a widow yet. I love you too much, you old idiot.” He dropped suddenly back into his own voice. “On and on like that it went, until the poor man was nigh-on drowned in loving anger. And then there was Silas. ‘I’m sorry, sweetheart. I was a fool, a silly fool, throwing myself down badgers’ holes without a thought for you. Can you forgive me, my love?’”

“And did she?”

“She did. The pair of them barely even noticed I was there. I tell you, Louisa, I hope I marry a woman I still love so very much thirty years down life’s line.”

His eyes grew serious and held hers, and Louisa longed for the room to empty so he could kiss her as he’d kissed her in the meadow yesterday.

Even now, though, the door was banging back to let more people in and Amelia was bumping down heavily on her other side. All privacy was gone. Amelia’s amiable shove, however, threw Louisa closer against Callum and her heart pounded at the delicious contact.

“Goodness, Louisa, what’s wrong with you?” Amelia asked. “You’re hacking that poor egg to bits. Here!”

She leaned over and sliced cleanly through the shell with her own knife.

“Thank you,” Louisa mumbled.

She thought she heard Callum chuckle at her side but did not dare look at him again for fear of showing her longing to the whole table. How could she feel so strongly about someone she’d only known a few weeks? And how did it seem so impossible to imagine her life without him? Perhaps Amelia’s ridiculous romanticism was catching!

Trying to stay calm, Louisa tore off a strip of crusty bread and dipped it into her egg, but before she could raise it to her mouth she heard herself being addressed. She looked up to find Farmer Robert standing over her.

“You haven’t forgotten our conversation of last night, I trust?”

To Louisa his voice seemed to boom around the busy kitchen.

“No, sir,” she mumbled.

“Call me Robert, Louisa, as I told you. Now, I’ve been thinking and I believe this Saturday and Sunday are relatively free, so I thought we could ask your family down then? I’ll have the maids clear the guest room for your father. I’d enjoy seeing him again very much. And your brothers and sister, too, of course. I’m sure we can make them all very welcome.”

Everyone, it seemed to Louisa, was staring at her now. She felt Amelia tense on one side of her and Callum looked curiously up at the farmer.

“Thank you,” was all she could stutter out.

“Excellent. Joshua and I are off to market this morning, so I’ll go into the postmaster with a letter to them. Should get there in plenty of time, I’d have thought, and then we’ll just have to hope they can make it. Dear Samuel and I will have much to talk about.”

With that, the farmer patted Louisa on the shoulder and headed out of the door, Joshua in tow.

Alison Cook