Living By The Land – Episode 47

“WHAT was that about?” Callum asked when they’d gone.

Louisa shrugged as nonchalantly as she could.

“My father and Farmer Robert are old friends – that’s why I was placed here. He wants them to come and visit.”

“So I gathered, but why so urgently?”

“Our master likes Louisa,” Amelia said, leaning across her. “In fact, I’d say she’s quite a favourite. After all, she rescued his precious bull when the King’s men were coming, didn’t she?”

“Amelia, please!”

“And she found Silas for him last night. She’s quite the little angel around here, isn’t she?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Louisa protested uncomfortably, glancing around. “Anyway, it was Benedict who found Silas, and Callum who got him home.”

“Leaving you having a nice chat with Farmer Robert, eh? Must have been gone midnight when you were coming out of his rooms last night.”

“Really?” Callum asked, and Louisa flushed furiously.

“Because I’d been there with you.”

“But I left not long after eleven.”

“Robert wanted company whilst he finished his tea,” she said.

It sounded unconvincing even to her and she wasn’t surprised when Callum stood up, muttering something about feeding the cows, and strode from the kitchen.

She rounded on Amelia.

“That’s not funny, Amelia!” she barked. “Our employer does not favour me in any way and such foolish talk is disrespectful to him.”

Amelia blinked, stunned at her normally mild friend’s fiery complaint, but before she could respond Louisa, too, was gone, desperate to catch Callum and explain. She hated the idea of him thinking badly of her.

She tumbled out into the sunny yard, blinking in the glare as her eyes sought Callum. When she found him, however, he was on the far side of the yard deep in conversation with a travel-stained young man leading a sweating horse. Tiernan was back, and Louisa stood helplessly as the two brothers moved off together. She would have to wait to talk to Callum now.

“Is that . . .?”

Amelia had come out behind her. To apologise? Louisa would never know, as her friend’s attention was instantly caught by the shapely figure of her returning beau as he disappeared around the side of the hay barn.

“Tiernan!” She gasped and, untroubled by Louisa’s scruples about interrupting the men, she lifted up her skirts and ran after them.

Within moments all three were gone. Sighing, Louisa turned towards the dairy, hoping at least to lose herself in milking.

Routine did, indeed, soothe her a little, as did the placid warmth of the familiar herd. Louisa rested her head against the strong sides of her cows as she milked and wondered uneasily what her dear family would make of Lower Meadow at the moment. She’d love to see them and to show them around, but she had to admit to being scared of wagging tongues.

How dare Amelia talk about her like that in front of everyone? Just because she worked hard and tried to help out didn’t mean she was trying to be anything special.

Still furious at her careless friend, Louisa was grateful Amelia had not yet made an appearance in the cowsheds. But when Amelia did sidle in some time later, her red eyes and drooping shoulders melted most of Louisa’s anger instantly.

“Amelia, what’s wrong?” She drew her into the privacy of the cows’ protective bulk. “What’s happened? Is it Tiernan?”

Alison Cook